Sima Guang

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  • Born: 1019
  • Died: 1086
  • Chinese/Japanese: 司馬(Sīmǎ Guāng / Shiba Kô)

Sima Guang was a Chinese scholar-official and historian. He is credited with authoring The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government (Zīzhì Tōngjiàn), a history of China up to 959, which is regarded as the first history of China to incorporate differing accounts or interpretations of events rather than presenting a single official narrative.

Originally from Shaanxi province, he passed the highest level of the Chinese Imperial examinations and became a member of the Hanlin Academy.

As a political official and advisor, Sima Guang advocated incremental reforms, and policies based on those of the preceding Tang Dynasty and of the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. He found himself the head of a powerful conservative faction at Court, and opposed a classicist faction led by Wang Anshi, who advocated more radical reforms, and a fuller return to the ways of the classical Sage Kings of old.


  • Arai Hakuseki, Joyce Ackroyd (trans.), Told Round a Brushwood Fire, University of Tokyo Press (1979), 285n105.
  • Valerie Hansen, The Open Empire, New York: W.W. Norton & Co. (2000), 269.