|Fan Zhongyan (范仲淹)|
a block print portrait from Sancai Tuhui (1609)
|Chancellor of Song Dynasty|
September 5, 989|
Wu, Sū Prefecture, Song Dynasty
|Died||June 19, 1052
Xú Prefecture, Song Dynasty
|Resting place||in modern Yichuan County, Henan, China
|Mother||Lady Xie (謝)|
|Posthumous name||Duke of Wénzhèng (文正公) and Duke of Chu (楚国公)|
|Fan Xiwen / Zhu Xiwen|
|Chinese||范希文 / 朱希文|
Fan Zhongyan (Chinese 范仲淹) (5 September 989 – 19 June 1052) from Wu County 吴县 of Suzhou 苏州 (Jiangsu Province, China), courtesy name Xiwen 希文, ratified as the Duke of Wenzheng 文正公 posthumously, and conferred as Duke of Chu 楚国公 posthumously, is one of the most prominent figures in the history of China, as a founder of Neo-Confucianism, and a great statesman, philosopher, writer, educator, military strategist, and philanthropist. Fan lived almost 1,000 years ago during the Song Dynasty, when China was at the peak of its economic, social, and cultural development, with the world’s largest economy and biggest population at the time. Fan rose to a seat of Chancellor over the entire Chinese empire, after serving the central government of China for some years. Fan’s legacy has exerted profound and indelible impact on the Chinese civilization, and his philosophies and advocacy have become a core and significant component of the Chinese culture. While Fan spent most of his time governing China, his teachings, including "Be the first to bear the world's hardship, and the last to enjoy its comfort" (先天下之忧而忧，后天下之乐而乐), have been inspiring Chinese people for a thousand years. Fan is considered a Saint in China by some people, after the other two Saints Confucius and Mencius from almost 2,500 years ago.
Fan Zhongyan is a descendant of Emperor Yao (帝尧). Emperor Yao is a 5th generation descendant of Emperor Huang (or Yellow Emperor，黄帝), and the second son of Emperor Ku (帝喾). Often extolled as the morally perfect and intelligent sage-emperor, Emperor Yao became the founding father of the “Power Bestowing System” (禅让制), by abdicating his throne and bestowing the Emperor-hood to Sun (舜) instead of his own children to make Sun the Emperor Shun (帝舜), an act appraised by Confucianism as “Power Bestowing” for several thousand years. Emperor Yao's benevolence and diligence served as a model to future Chinese monarchs and emperors.
During the Zhou Dynasty (周朝), Dubo (杜伯), a 51st generation decedent of Emperor Yao, the monarch of the TangDu Kingdom and a Marquis by hereditary, exhorted the then King Zhou Xuan, and was killed by King Zhou Xuan. His family left Kingdom Zhou to other Kingdoms subsequently. Shihui (士会), a descendant of Dubo, later became the grand marshal and governed the Jin Kingdom (see Jin dynasty) （晋国）. Shihui is the first person to have “Fan” (范) as family name. He was conferred the name Fan with the territory of Fan (in Henan Province today) by the King of the Jin Dynasty, and has been called Fan Wuzi (范武子，BC 660 - BC 583, see Fan Clan) since. From there, the Fan Clan became one of the most prominent governing families in the Jin Dynasty, and the No.1 of the six controlling families of the Jin Dynasty at the end of the Spring and Autumn period.
Among Fan Zhongyan’s famous ancestors, there is Fan Li (范蠡) from the Spring and Autumn period, who was a prominent statesman, military strategist, and the founding father of the Chinese commercial business who is worshiped as the "God of Wealth" by the Chinese. Fan Li was the lover and husband of Xi Shi (西施), the No.1 of the renowned Four Beauties of ancient China, and said to be the most beautiful Chinese woman of all time. Fan Zhongyan is also a descendant of Fan Lübing (范履冰), a Grand Chancellor (see Grand councilor) of the Tang Dynasty. Fan Zhongyan’s close ancestors all served as officials in the imperial governments. His grandfather Fan Zanshi (范赞时) famously passed the Imperial examination at age nine as a child prodigy.
All four sons of Fan Zhongyan served as officials in the imperial government of the Song Dynasty, and two of them Fan Chunren and Fan Chunli also became Chancellors of China. Among Fan Zhongyan and his sons, and the families married with Fan Zhongyan's family, together there were eight Chancellors, indicating the powerful influence of Fan zhongyan's family on the Song Dynasty at the time.
- Fan Mengli 范梦龄: Fan Zhongyan's great grand father, conferred as Duke of Xu 徐国公 posthumously
- Fan Zanshi 范赞时: Fan Zhongyan's grand father, conferred as Duke of Cao 曹国公 and Duke of Tang 唐国公 posthumously
- Fan Yong 范墉: Fan Zhongyan's father, conferred as Duke of Su 苏国公 and Duke of Zhou 周国公 posthumously
Fan Zhongyan, from Wu County of Suzhou, was born in Xu Prefecture (of Jiangsu Province) at a government residence. His father Fan Yong had been serving as an official of the government at different locations, and died in Xu Prefecture the subsequent year after Fan Zhongyan was born. Fan Zhongyan's mother Lady Xie returned to Suzhou and buried her husband at Fan Clan's ancestral burial ground Tianping Mountain. Two years later, due to poverty and no financial means, Lady Xie remarried Zhu Wenhan (朱文翰), a government official at the Wu County. Fan Zhongyan's name was subsequently changed to Zhu Yue (朱说). Fan Zhongyan moved with step-father Zhu and mother Lady Xie to different places where Zhu took governmental posts. Always feeling grateful to step-father Zhu's kindness, Fan tried to pay back to Zhu's family after becoming very successful.
Fan Zhongyan studied in residence at Changbai Mountain Jiuquan Temple as a young boy. It's said he lived in hardship with very little food everyday, but he never cared about it and instead persisted on learning. He read almost all the books available at the Changbai county.
After learning his Fan family origin as a young adult by accident, Fan Zhongyan bid farewell to his mother Lady Xie. He traveled far away to today's Shanxi province, befriended Taoist priests Zhou Debao, Qu Yingyuan, and other intellectuals such as Wang Zhu. The experience broadened Fan's views about the world. In year 1011, Fan started schooling at the Yingtian Institute (应天书院, in today's Henan Shangqiu 河南商丘), the head of the Big Four Institutes (四大书院, similar to today's big four universities). He lived an austere lifestyle but studied very hard days and nights. After several years, he had mastered different classics books, and established his aspiration of being generous and taking the world as his responsibilities.
Early official career
In the 1020s, Fan served a variety of regional posts, including as magistrate for the Jiqing Army (in modern-day Bozhou, Anhui), and as a salt store inspector in Taizhou. He then became the county magistrate of Xinghua County (in modern-day coastal Jiangsu), where with his colleague and friend Teng Zongliang he engaged in a series of dyke-building activities along the coastal counties. Not long after the completion of this project, Fan's mother died and he resigned his post for filial mourning.
In the 1030s, Fan served as the prefect of Kaifeng. While there, he took on a young Ouyang Xiu as a disciple; a partnership that would become very important a decade later. However, after criticizing the Chief Councillor of the Song state when he submitted a proposal to reform criteria used in the advancement and demotion of officials, he was demoted to regional government.
In 1038, faced with the revolt of Li Yuanhao, the court dispatched Fan along with Han Qi to Shanxi, to inspect the defences; they rendered effective support to the ending of the revolt. Fan was recalled in 1040 when the Liao and Western Xia once again threatened Song borders from the north. Fan, who had long favored a strong defense, was brought back to devise a response to the northern threat.
After the Song granted Western Xia indemnities similar to those granted the Liao in the Treaty of Shanyuan, Fan, along with other advocates of Confucian ideals, sought reform at the court. He presented a ten-point proposal covering various aspects of government administration, including reforms to the recruitment system, higher pay for minor local officials to discourage corruption, and wider sponsorship programs to ensure that officials were drafted more on the basis of their intellect and character. However, many of the reforms that he introduced met with the opposition of conservative ministers who felt the system did not need drastic changes (and who felt threatened by the prospect of change halfway through their careers as state bureaucrats). The emperor rescinded the reforms in 1045, after Fan and his friend and colleague Ouyang Xiu had been charged with forming a faction, which was considered subversive by definition. Nevertheless, his idealist approach to governance inspired others, like the later Chancellor Wang Anshi.
Fan also began educational reforms in the 1040s. In the early Northern Song era, prefectural schools were neglected by the state and were left to the devices of wealthy patrons who provided private finances. While Chancellor, Fan Zhongyan issued an edict that would have a combination of government funding and private financing to restore and rebuild all prefectural schools that had fallen into disuse and abandoned since the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms (907-960). Fan attempted to restore all county-level schools in the same manner, but did not designate where funds for the effort would be formally acquired and the decree was not taken seriously until the later Emperor Huizong of Song who expanded the county-level school system dramatically. Fan's trend of government funding for education set in motion the movement of public schools that eclipsed private academies, which would not be officially reversed until Emperor Lizong of Song in the mid 13th century.
Fan Zhongyan's most famous work of literature is Yueyang Lou Ji 岳陽樓記. The descriptive prose piece was composed at the invitation of Teng Zongliang, who was then the local prefect and had rebuilt the famed ancient tower. Yueyang Lou, a city gate by the side of Dongting Lake, was known as one of the three great towers in Southern China, due to their association with famous literary works (the others being Huanghe Lou 黃鶴樓 and Tengwang Ge 滕王閣).
This commemorative Ji was written in prose, with extensive usage of phrases in four, and culminates in the oft-quoted "先天下之憂而憂，後天下之樂而樂" (translated as "Feel concern for others under heaven before others, and rejoice after others under heaven have rejoiced" or "Be the first to feel concern about the country and the last to enjoy oneself" or "Bear the hardship and bitterness before others, enjoy comfort and happiness after others")
寧鳴而死，不默而生 (Better remonstrate and die, than keep silent and live) is also a quotation. This quote comes from Ling Wu Fu 《靈烏賦》 in 1036, which was written in reply to a friend (Mei Yaochen 梅堯臣)'s advice. This friend, Mei Yaochen, tried to persuade him to stop bearing so much concern for others "under heaven" (tianxia) and to start caring for his own career and life. In response, Fan told a fable about a spirit bird, using the metaphor to express his aspirations. It embodies the moral integrity, sound conscience, and responsibility for others required of a Shi Da Fu, called "The Moral Responsibilities of Intellectuals".
Fan Zhongyan was known for his ci (詞賦) poetry. Among the most famous are Su Mu Zhe (蘇幕遮) and Yu Jia Ao (漁家傲). Together with Su Shi (蘇軾), he was considered one of the founders of the haofang (豪放) school of ci.
Fan Zhongyan had four sons, all of whom also entered the government:
- Fan Chunyou 范纯佑 (1024—1063)
- Fan Chunren 范纯仁 (1027—1101), Chancellor of the Song Dynasty, prominent member of the conservative faction during the Wang Anshi Reforms, ratified as the Duke of Zhongxuan 忠宣公 posthumously
- Fan Chunli 范纯礼(103l一1106), Chancellor of the Song Dynasty, ratified as the Duke of Gongxian 恭献公 posthumously
- Fan Chuncui 范纯粹 (1046—1117)
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- Yuan, Zheng. "Local Government Schools in Sung China: A Reassessment," History of Education Quarterly (Volume 34, Number 2; Summer 1994): 193–213.
- (Chinese) Toqto'a et al., History of Song, vol. 314 (Fan Zhongyan)
- 第六届中国范仲淹国际学术大会在岳阳召开 http://media.people.com.cn/n1/2016/1017/c14677-28784807.html
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