Ji Yun

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Ji Xiaolan
Ji Yun.jpg
Minister of Warfare
In office
5 July 1796 – 13 November 1796
Preceded byZhu Gui
Succeeded byShen Chu
Personal details
Born26 July 1724
Died14 March 1805(1805-03-14) (aged 80)
Spouse(s)Lady Ma (died 1795)
ChildrenJi Ruji (born 1743)
Ji Ruxi (born 1766)
Ji Ruyi (born 1784)
ParentsJi Rongsu (father)
Educationjinshi degree
Posthumous nameWenda 文達
Chinese name
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Traditional Chinese
Simplified Chinese
Guanyi Daoren
Traditional Chinese道人
Simplified Chinese道人

Ji Yun (Chinese: 紀昀; pinyin: Jǐ Yún;[1] 1724–1805), also known as Ji Xiaolan (Chinese: 紀曉嵐; pinyin: Jǐ Xiǎolán) or Ji Chunfan (Chinese: 紀春帆; pinyin: Jǐ Chūnfān) was a Chinese philosopher, politician, and writer. He was an influential scholar of Qing dynasty China and many anecdotes have been recorded about him. Ji Yun left behind a book entitled Notes of the Thatched Abode of Close Observations,[2] and another book named Wenda Gong Yiji (Collected Works of Lord Wenda, i.e. Ji Xiaolan), which was edited by later generations. He was often mentioned with Yuan Mei as the "Nan Yuan Bei Ji" (Chinese: 南袁北紀; literally: 'Yuan of the south and Ji of the north').[3]


Ji Yun was born in Xian County of Hebei Province. When he was young, he was deemed intelligent. His father Ji Rongsu was a civil minister and archaeologist.


In 1747, Ji Yun rose to intellectual prominence after winning the highest distinction in the provincial examinations. Several years later, in 1754, he attained the jinshi degree, whereupon he entered the Hanlin Academy.

Ji Yun's career was not, however, smooth sailing. In 1768, he became an accessory in a bribery case after he tipped off a brother-in-law about the severity of charges pending against him, for which crime he was banished to Dihua in Xinjiang Province.[4] He was also a rival of one of the most powerful officials in Qianlong's court, Heshen.

On his return from Xinjiang, Ji was received by the Qianlong Emperor in 1771 when the ruler happened to be returning from Jehol to Beijing, and he was ordered to write a poem on the return of the Turgut Mongols from the banks of the Volga. Ji's rendition of the inspiring tale of the return of the exiled Mongols, later celebrated in English by poet Thomas de Quincey (1785–1859) in his epic Revolt of the Tartars, delighted the emperor, for whom he became an unofficial poet laureate. The job of compiling the Siku Quanshu was his dubious reward.[4]

One year later, Ji Yun was pardoned from his sentence, and, on his return journey in 1771, he wrote a travel account distilled into 160 poems titled Xinjiang zalu (Assorted verses on Xinjiang). This remains one of the most useful sources in Chinese on life in Xinjiang Province in the late-eighteenth century.

Late life[edit]

In the first year of the Jiaqing Emperor's reign, he was appointed as the secretary of defense. However, Ji Yun died of illness at the age of 82 in 1805.

In Ji Yun's late life, he was inspired by Pu Songling's Liaozhai Zhiyi to compile his own collections of remarkable tales, many of which were held to be satirical portraits of prominent Neo-Confucian scholars.


  • 1747- Ranked number one provincial graduate (鄉試解元)
  • 1754- Ranked number one graduate of the palace examination (中進士)
  • 1773- Chief editor for the Siku Quanshu, the largest collection of books in Chinese history
  • 1796- Minister of war (兵部尚書)
  • 1797- Minister of Personnel (吏部尚書)

Between 1789 and 1798, Ji Yun published five collections of supernatural tales, and in 1800 the five volumes were produced under the collective title Yuewei Caotang Biji (閱微草堂筆記; Jottings from the grass hut for examining minutiae).

In addition, Ji Yun was also well known as magnum opus of Qing editorial achievement, Siku quanshu (The Complete Library in Four Branches), where he edited this massive work together with Lu Xixiong, in compliance with an imperial edict issued by the Qianlong Emperor.


One poem by Ji Yun is shown below:

"A Sail in the Glass"[edit]

Countless welcoming good mountains along the river,
My eyes are lit up as soon as I'm out of Hangzhou,
Misty river banks with mixed sky and green,
A sail in the glass.[5]


The mansion in which Ji Yun lived for the last thirty years of his life was originally the residence of General Yue Zhongqi (1686–1754), the twenth-first generational descendant of the renowned anti-Jurchen, Song dynasty loyalist and general Yue Fei, who is one of the most renowned figures in Chinese history. General Yue fought alongside General Nian Gengyao in quelling Tibetan rebels in what is today Qinghai, and was highly honoured in Beijing. He never lived for very long in the capital, his base being in Sichuan and Gansu. However, he was rewarded for his service to the throne by the Kangxi Emperor and raised to the position of duke of the third class.

Ji Yun lived in the mansion for thirty years and several features of the dwelling that the visitor can still see today are associated with him. A tree in the garden is said to be more than two hundred years old. Few original items from the time of Ji Yun remain in the house but the caretaker claims that the desk and mirror in the main study are original items. The glass mirror in the zitan timber frame is one of the earliest mirrors produced with lead paint in China.

After Ji Xiaolan's death, his descendants rented half of the mansion complex out to Huang Antao (1777–1847), a jinshi scholar, Hanlin scholar and poet, like Ji Yun. Huang was a renowned calligrapher; several of his calligraphic pieces are in the collection of the Palace Museum.[4]

Popular culture[edit]

Ji, portrayed by Zhang Guoli, is the titular character in the mainland Chinese TV series The Eloquent Ji Xiaolan. The series mainly revolve around Ji, his rival Heshen (portrayed by Wang Gang), the Qianlong Emperor (portrayed by Zhang Tielin), along with court events in the Qing Dynasty.


  1. ^ According to the Wang Li Character Dictionary of Ancient Chinese the character 紀 is given the Middle Chinese fanqie pronunciation 居里切, resulting in an expected Mandarin reading of . However, the character, when used to mean 'records; annals' has been read as (Mandarin Tone 4) since the 20th century, with (Mandarin Tone 3) given as an obsolete literary reading. As a surname, the old reading continues to be used.
  2. ^ Ji, Yun. "Fantastic Tales by Ji Xiaolan", New World Press, 1998.
  3. ^ 26岁官至正处级,33岁辞职做网红,这个清朝吃货不简单. apdnews.com (in Chinese). 2017-09-26.
  4. ^ a b c "A Non-Princely Mansion from Ginq-dynasty Beijing | China Heritage Quarterly". chinaheritagequarterly.org. Retrieved 2014-01-22.
  5. ^ http://www.janushead.org/7-2/Yu.pdf


  • Pollard, David (trans.). Real Life in China at the Height of Empire. Revealed by the Ghosts of Ji Xiaolan. Hong Kong: The Chinese University Press, 2014. ISBN 978-962-996-601-0 . A recent (as of 2015) translation of selected notes from the Yuewei caotang biji.

External links[edit]