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Book of the Later Han/Hou Han Shu后汉书 – Top 100 Books in China

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Biographical historical works focusing on the history of the Eastern Han Dynasty


Chinese Name: 后汉书

English Name: Hou Han Shu, Book of the Later Han, History of the Later Han

Author: Fan Ye范晔, Sima Biao司马彪

Originally Published: 432-445 A.D

Genre: History

Brief Introduction of the Book of the Later Han

The Book of the Later Han后汉书,also name as Hou Han Shu, is a historical literary work compiled by Fan Ye范晔, a historian in the Southern Song Dynasty. It is one of the “Twenty-Four Histories二十四史”. The book of the later Han Dynasty, together with Shi Ji史记the Book of the Han汉书 and the Records of the Three Kingdoms三国志, is called the “First Four Histories前四史”.


The Book of the Later Han is divided into 10 Ji纪, 80 LieZhuan列传 and 8 Zhi志 (from the Han Shu Sequel续汉书 written by Sima Biao司马彪). The book mainly describes the historical events of 195 years from 25 A.d to 220 A.D.

Most of the Book of Later Han follow the ready-made styles of Shi Ji史记 and Han Shu汉书, but in the process of writing, Fan Ye innovated and changed according to the specific characteristics of the history of the Eastern Han Dynasty.

Hou Han Shu has a rigorous structure and orderly arrangement. For example, the 80 biographies are roughly arranged according to the order of the times. The first three volumes are the men of the moment in the Han Dynasty, and the next nine volumes are the imperial princes and important generals in the Guangwu Era光武时代.

hou han shu后汉书

The progress of the Book of the Later Han is also reflected in the courage to expose dark politics, sympathize with and praise justice. On the one hand, it exposes the powerful people, on the other hand, it commends those middle and lower class people who are strong and upright and are not afraid of violence.


The Book of the Later Han not only affirms the order of royal power, praises the loyalty and integrity of Confucianism, but also praises the Taoist metaphysics of seclusion and unrestrained openness, as well as criticizing the Buddhist thought.


Author of Book of the Later Han

Fan Ye范晔 (A.D. 398-A.D. 445), a historian of the Southern Song Dynasty, was born in Shunyang (now Xichuan County, Nanyang, Henan).

In 432 ad, Fan Ye began to write the book of the later Han Dynasty. In 445 ad, Fan Ye was killed for conspiracy. He completed 10 Ji纪 and 80 Liezhuan列传, and the 10 Zhi志 originally planned was not completed.

范晔 Fan Ye
范晔 Fan Ye

Today’s eight Zhi in the Book of the Later Han was taken out by Liu Zhao of the state of Liang in the Southern Dynasty from Sima Biao’s book of Han Shu Sequel续汉书.


Fan Ye was born in a famous official family in Nanyang, Henan Province. His family has an authentic family tradition. Under the influence of his family, Fan Ye was eager to learn from childhood, coupled with his natural talent and intelligence. Therefore, he was not yet an adult, so he was famous for his extensive knowledge of classics and history and good at writing articles.

Fan Ye was wild and uninhibited all his life. He was quite dissatisfied with the imperial court. In his later years, he finally reached the peak and joined the rebellion camp of King Pengcheng. Later, the rebellion failed. Soon, Fan Ye and others were executed.

In prison, Fan Ye wrote an article summarizing his research experience in literature, history, music and calligraphy. When he was about to die, he hoped to have a bosom friend in the future to understand the value of Hou Han Shu.

Excerpts of Hou Han Shu


Only in the strong wind can we know which grass is strong.


Setting goals can not pursue simple and easy, and never avoid difficulties in doing things.


Smart people give up their weaknesses and give full play to their strengths in order to achieve success.


Like a person, you will not be aware of his fault; If you hate a person, you won’t know his advantages.

Evaluation of Hou Han Shu

After Shi Ji and Han Shu, Hou Han Shu should be the first.

Zhang Taiyan章太炎

With large volume and fine thought, it is worthy of being called an excellent history book.

Chen Yinke陈寅恪

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