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 Welcome to Introduction on Sima Xiangru & Zhuo Wenjun in Seeraa International, New and Updated Content as Below:

Sima Xiangru
Portrait of Sima Xiangru

Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun --- The Model of Couple for Thousands of Years Sima Xiangru(司马相如, approximately BC169 - BC118), whose courtesy name was Changqing(长卿), was born in today's Chengdu, Sichuan province. Sima Xiangru belonged in Han Nationality. Sima Xiangru was the most famous and leading poet, literary master, writer of prose, essay, lyrics and rhythmical verse, expert of Chinese characters, musician and politician during the reign of Emperor Jingdi and Wudi in West Han Dynasty. His contribution to literature was in creation of Fu(赋, a kind of composition between prose and poem blooming in Han Dynasty). The masterpiece of his fu works was named Zi Xu Fu(子虚赋), which is highly highlighted with the perfect words and sentences as well as the grand layout. Sima Xiangru was the representative of Chinese ancient literature in Han Dynasty, and the late generation called him Fu Sheng(赋圣, The Sacred Saint of Fu). In fact, Sima Xiangru was quite short and not handsome at all, besides, he was also a stutterer. He was a common man in appearance but full of talent in heart. But his most famous story was his elopement with Zhuo Wenjun(卓文君), a widow and daughter of Zhuo Wangsun(卓王孙), and later became Sima Xiangru’s wife. Lu Xun(鲁迅), said to be the greatest literature master of modern China, introduced and commented Sima Xiangru and Sima Qian in the same chapter in his academic masterpiece named Han Wen Xue Shi Gang Yao(汉文学史纲要, The Outline of Literature History of Han Dynasty). Lu Xun said that in the reign of Emperor Wudi Sima Xiangru was the No.1 of fu creation and Sima Qian was the No.1 of articles. For his life experiences and stories, they are all available in two most famous historical books written in Han Dynasty: Shi Ji(Records of the Grand Historian) and Han Shu(Book of Han or History of the Former Han Dynasty )

Why was he named Sima Xiangru?

According to some historical records, the original name of Sima Xiangru was Sima Changqing. Due to adoring Lin Xiangru(蔺相如), the famous Prime Minster of Zhao State in Warring States Period, he changed his name to Sima Xiangru at last. As for his hometown, in academic circle, some scholars thought he was born in Pengan of Nanchong, and some said he was born in Chengdu. In childhood, he preferred to reading and practicing technique of swords. At the age of 20, Sima Xiangru acted as the constant attendant of Emperor Jingdi. But Emperor Jingdi did not like prose at all, Sima Xiangru felt absolutely unsatisfied. During Xiao King of Liang Kingdom’s pilgrimage in Changan, Sima Xiangru made friends with Zou Yang(邹阳), Mei Cheng(枚乘) and Zhuang Ji(庄忌), all of who were all the famous and outstanding masters of prose at the time. Later, he resigned for disease, and he lived in Liang Kingdom with those who were congenial to literature. During this phase, he created his historically famous article: Zi Xu Fu(The Ode to Nothing).

The Romantic Love Story between Sima Xiangru and Zhu Wenjun

Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun
Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun

The love story between Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun is quite widely known in China. And the influence and extension of this love story are not inferior at all to other four love stories in China: Legend of Liang Shanbo and Zhu Yingtai, The Legend of Lady White Snake, Dong Yong and Qi Xiannv and Story of Mengjiangnv. Espeically, in the circle of scholars and literature, this love story is the most famous and influential in fact. Even in some authoritative historical books, this story is also recorded in details. The story is like this:

After Liu Wu, the King of Liang Kingdom, died, Sima Xiangru left Liang Kingdom to his hometown, Linqiong of Sichuan province, and led a poor life. The governor of Linqiong named Wang Ji got along with Sima Xiangru. And he told Sima Xiangru:” Changqing, you have been to the outside for being an official for a long time, but it was not smooth at all. And now, you come back and would you please take a visit to my administrative region. ”. Since then, Sima Xiangru resided in Duting of Linqiong, and Wang Ji visited Sima Xiangru everyday, but Sima Xiangru refused to meet him via being ill as an excuse, and Wang Ji more respected him. A local rich man named Zhuo Wangsun got known that the governor had a distinguished guest, and he wanted to make friends with Sima Xiangru as well by way of inviting him to a party. But Sima Xiangru was reluctant to attend, while Wang Ji called on him to welcome him to the party. Sima Xiangru had no choice but to go with Wang Ji. During their drinking, Sima Xiangru played a music in Quqin, also his favorite guqin named Lvqi(绿绮). The music he played was called Feng Qiu Huang(凤求凰, male phoenix shows love to female phoenix), a famous but extinct music of ancient China, and the exact content is as below:

The Video Themed with Ancient
Music of Feng Qiu Huang


And this music moved Zhuo Wenjun. Who was Zhuo Wenjun? It is necessary to give an additional explanation. Historically, the historian said Zhuo Wenjun was a new widow and the daughter of Zhuo Wangsun. Zhuo Wenjun was the favorite daughter. Zhuo Wenjun in history boasted the First Beauty of Bashu Region( roughly today’s Sichuan and Chongqing) In some books, at the age of 17, Zhuo Wenjun had been quite famous for its beauty and talent; the writers described the beauty of Zhuo Wenjun as a fairy with the slender eyebrow, lotus-like face and cream-like skin. Moreover, Zhuo Wenjun was good at playing guqin, painting and chess, and also her literary talent was quite high. Originally, she was betrothed to a grandson of prince, but unfortunately, this man with blue blood had a short life and died before their marriage. So Zhuo Wenjun became a widow and stayed at home. On this occasion, they were quite easy to get a heart-to-heart connection via music. It in Chinese is called Zhi Yin(知音, uderstanding the music played by someone who has the same bosom or mood, or bosom friend).

So, hearing his playing, Zhuo Wenjun slinkingly stared at Sima Xiangru through the leak of the door. He was attracted by Sima Xiangru’s air, grace and talent. She began to love him. After the dinner, Sima Xiangru expressed his affection to Zhuo Wenjun via the maid of Zhuo Wenjun. And then Zhuo Wenjun eloped with Sima Xiangru from Zhuo Wangsun’s family at midnight to Chengdu. Zhuo Wangsun was furious as heard this piece of news and claimed his daughter disobeyed the rules of rites of Confucianism, but he did not have the heart to penalize his daughter to death, also he took the measure of economic blockade to penalize them, and did not give a tiny penny to them as assistance.

Sima Xiangru had a quite poor family. When returned to Chengdu, they even could not maintain their daily basic life. Zhuo Wenjun said to Sima Xiangru: frankly, as long as we went to Linqiong, we could borrow some money from my brothers, sisters or relatives, and we could maintain our life. Sima Xiangru agreed and they moved to Linqiong. They sold their carriages and horses and opened a small restaurant. Zhuo Wenjun sold wine against the cob wall and managed the whole restaurant. Sima Xiangru as a counterjumper was busy with washing the bowls, cups and crockery all the day.

Zhuo Wenjun
Portrait of Zhuo Wenjun

Zhuo Wangsun was deeply ashamed of them when heard of this piece of news. He did not dare to go outdoors and stay at home. His brothers and elderships advised him:” You just have one son and two daughters, and you are not short of money at all. Today, Wenjun are willing to marry Sima Xiangru. This is a truth, although Sima Xiangru is temporarily unwilling to be an official outside and his family is poor, after all, he is a talented man and husband of Wenjun, also he is also the distinguished friend of our local governor. How do you face our local governor and this couple? ”.Zhuo Wangsun had no choice but to give them a lot of money and servants. And then, Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun returned to Chengdu and bought a lot of land. Their life was changed overnight.

Nowadays, the themed relics like Well of Wenjun and Platform of Qin are still well preserved. Du Fu(杜甫), the greatest poet of Tang Dynasty created a poem named Qin Tai or Platform of Qin when he resided in Chengdu, the famous words of the poem are: 酒肆人间世,琴台日暮云(The restaurant is in the earthly world, and the platform of Qin is in the cloud of dawn and dark). Today, in the garden of Wenjun Garden where the platform of qin is located, there is also a themed couplet on Platform of Qin:井上疏风竹有韵;台前古月琴无弦(The sparse wind on the well but the surrounding bamboos show elegance; The ancient moon before the platform while the Qin does not have strings). These poem and couplet record the romantic story of Zhuo Wenjun and Sima Xiangru.

This story was quite touching and well known in China. But this story was not complete. As the time went, Sima Xiangru became the authority of government and valued highly by Emperor Wudi. This result witnessed what the brothers and eldership’s words to Zhuo Wangsun were right. Zhuo Wangsun felt lucky and quite satisfied eventually.

The Maintenance of Their Love

After Sima Xiangru became famous and authoritative nationwide, Sima Xiangru wanted to take a woman of Maoling(茂陵, a region name and later became the name of mausoleum of Emperor Wudi) as his concubine. According to the record of Xijing Zaji(西京杂记, the miscellanea about west capital, and the west capital is Xian at present, because this book was written during East Han Dynasty when the national capital was Luoyang, and Xian or Changan as the former capital of West Han Dynasty located in the west side of Luoyang was considered as West Capital), Zhuo Wenjun created a poem to show her mind when heard this piece of bad news, and the content of poem is:

The Video Themed with Song of
Bai Tou Yin


After receiving this poem, Sima Xiangru stopped his plan at once. This poem is named Bai Tou Yin(白头吟, The Poem of White Hair, has been famous for thousands of years). From Feng Qiu Huang to Bai Tou Yin, this couple experienced a lot and believed in each other more, though many literary scholars think this poem is not created by Zhuo Wenjun after some strict research or study.

There was a letter story between Sima Xiangru and Zhuo Wenjun, and it also shows Zhuo Wenjun’s love to Sima Xiangru. Later, Sima Xiangru was valued by Emperor Wudi, and he had to leave Zhuo Wenjun to Changan, as the time went, it was five years since his departure from hometown. During this five years, Zhuo Wenjun missed Sima Xiangru day and night and looked forward to the letter from Sima Xiangru. But unfortunately, one day, she really received a letter from Sima Xiangru. But the content made her in despair: The content is comprised of 13 numbers: One, Two, Three, Four, Five, Six, Seven, Eight, Nine, Ten, Hundred, Thousand, Ten Thousand. At first, Zhuo Wenjun was also confused absolutely by the content, she did not understand the meaning what Sima Xiangru wanted to express. Via her repeated reading and thought, she knew finally the meaning of her husband. In the content, there was no the number of 100 million, which in Chinese is Yi(亿) having the same pronunciation as Yi(意,Love, Affection or Wish), and it meant that Sima Xiangru did not love her any more. The whole content expressed a meaning like this: the whole environment changed from the beginning to today, we had better return to the beginning when we started our love. Zhuo Wenjun knew he had changed and she was heart-broken and wrote back in a form of numbers as well.


Zhuo Wenjun
Zhuo Wenjun Playing Guqin
Sima Xiangru
Portrait of Sima Qian

Sima Xiangru read this letter for many times and felt quite ashamed of what he wrote in letter and felt he let down his wife. Finally, he prepared the carriages and returned to hometown to meet Zhuo Wenjun, and they came back to capital together.

It was said that Sima Xiangru died of diabetes mellitus, and his funeral article(anciently called诔文) was created by Zhuo Wenjun, and this article is also widely spread in the world. Their love has been a classic remembered by Chinese people and recorded eternally in history of China and continually passed down from generation to generation

Valued by Emperor Wudi of West Han Dynasty

Sima Xiangru known in the whole country began at Emperor Wudi’s reading of his fu named Zixu Fu. Emperor Wudi quite liked his article and mistook this was created by an ancient person, and he sighed he could not live with the author in the same period. At this time, Yang Deyi(杨得意), the royal hound supervisor from Sichuan as well, said to Emperor Wudi: this is my countryman called Sima Xiangru. Emperor Wudi was quite happy and instantly summoned Sima Xiangru to capital. Sima Xiangru interpreted this article and said to Emperor Wudi:”Zi Xu Fu is just themed with the hunting of princes, lords and kings, and it is nothing, ands please allow me to create another article”. And this article is named Shanglin Fu, which is the twin of Zixu Fu. Both of the articles were themed with paying a tribute to the unexampled authority and prestige of Han Empire and also giving some suggestions to the imperator in the aspect of maintaining the oneness of the country and rejecting extravagance of emperor’s life. This was an eternal theme of literature in Han Dynasty. Soon, Sima Xiangru was assigned to be an official.

In BC 135, Sima Xiangru acted as an official in central government for several years. During this year, Tang Meng(唐蒙) was ordered to open the western region of Yelang(夜郎), Jizhong(僰中) and other places. Tang Meng enslaved the local officials and people and also killed the general of the troops, the local people was shocked and scared. Emperor Wudi learnt of this case and sent Sima Xiangru to blame Tang Meng and formally declared that what Tang Meng did was not what Emperor wanted and expected. And Sima Xiangru also posted a proclamation named Yu Ba Shu Xi(谕巴蜀檄), which got a quite good effect.

During this time, many remote tribes like Qiong, Zuo, Ran and Mang heard that the Nanyi(south minority) had been connected with Han government and also got a lot of rewards, and majority of them were also willing to be one part of Han, but the treatment should be equal to Nanyi and they were also assigned to be the related officials in the Han governmental system. Emperor Wudi consulted this thing to Sima Xiangru, and Xiangru said: these tribes are quite near to Chengdu, and the accesses are also easily opened. In Qin Dynasty, there were the local governments, but in Han government, the local authorities were abolished. Today, if we open it and set up them as the local authorities, the value of them will be beyond that of Nanyi. Emperor Wudi agreed him and assigned Sima Xiangru as the Zhonglangjiang(中郎将) to go there. Sima Xiangru at this time owned the superiority to command the local authorities of Sichuan, where included Chongqing in ancient times. When arrived in Sichuan, Sima Xiangru with his long team was warmly and highly welcomed by local officials and people, and the local governors opened the way for him. The local people were all proud of Sima Xiangru. Sima Xiangru succeeded in completing this task. Sima Xiangru also specially wrote an article named Nan Shu Fu Lao(难蜀父老, The Dialogue with Residents of Sichuan). This was his glory in his official life. But unfortunately, someone prosecuted him that he accepted the bribery, and he was dismissed, and roughly a year later, he was reassigned to be a high official.

Sima Xiangru got a bad stammer but he was good at composition. He caught the diabetes. He became rich after marrying Zhuo Wenjun, and he also wanted not to discuss the national affairs with other officials after he acted as an official in government. He used to stay at home with the excuse of being ill. Sima Xiangru used to accompany Emperor Hudi to hunt in Changyang Palace. Emperor preferred to hunt the bear and pig and chase after the wild animals. Sima Xiangru wrote articles to advice emperor. Sima Xiangru always advised Emperor to learn the lessons from the failure of Hu Hai, the second emperor of Qin Dynasty. Emperor liked things like immortals, fairies and the way to be immortal. Sima Xiangru on the basis of the Shanglin Fu and Zixu Fu, created another famous article named Daren Fu(大人赋), which mainly depicted the place where the immortal lived in and the appearance of these immortals. Emperor Wudi liked it most.

In BC118, Sima Xiangru resigned due to disease and since then he lived in Maoling. Emperor Wudi said: Sima Xiangru got a serious disease; you had better take all of his books back; if not, these books will be dissipated. When the servants arrived at the house of Sima Xiangru, Sima Xiangru had died. They questioned Zhuo Wenjun whether there were some books left. Zhuo Wenjun answered: Changqing did not leave any book except some handwritings about Fengshan(封禅, a ancient national ceremony). They took these handwritings back to palaces, and Emperor Wudi was surprised greatly.

The Relevant Stories and Anecdotes to Sima Xiangru

The origin of Quan Zi(犬子, Son of Dog translated literally). Quan Zi is a humble and informal name of a boy generally called by his father when the boy is introduced to other elder people. This has been an idiom to call the sons of people. But originally, Quan Zi was the humble name of Sima Xiangru. According to the depiction in The Records of Grand Historian, Sima Xiangru liked to read and exercised the technique of swords in childhood, and his parents called him Quan Zi. Perhaps, his parents were illiterate, so his first name was not a formal one, which just like today’s children’s nickname such as Er Mao(二毛), Xiao Pang(小胖) and so on. But, calling him such a name also shows Sima Xiangru;s parents expected to raise him easily, so gave him a nidering name. After grew up, he felt his name was not good, and he changed it to be Xiangru due to his admiration to Ling Xiangru. As Sima Xiangru became quite famous, and his humble name was also widely known in the world, and a lot of people were willing to call their sons to be Quan Zi so as to hope that their sons could be as talented and successful as Sima Xiangru.

Lvqi(绿绮), the name of a famous guqin. King of Liang admired Sima Xiangru’s talents in literature and requested him to write article. Sima Xiangru wrote an article named Ruyu Fu(如玉赋) to present King of Liang. This article was extraordinarily great, and King of Liang was quite happy and presented Sima Xiangru a famous guqin called Lvqi, which King of Liang preserved for a long time, Lvqi was a time-honored guqin, and the inside of the guqin, there was a engraved inscription”桐梓合精”(The essence of tung and catalpa). Sima Xiangru took this guqin as treasure, and he also quite excellent in playing guqin, and since then, his talents in music and the name of Lvqi were widely famous. Later, Lvqi became the symbol of guqin. Today, in Chinese ,there is a renowned idiom---Hong Fu Lv Qi(红拂绿绮), which is used for praising the ancient respectable women who had the talents to find the real talented man and dared to pursue their own happiness in the earthly world. And, obviously, the Lv Qi in the idiom was the guqin that Sima Xiangru used to show his love to Zhuo Wenjun.

The Representatives of Sima Xiangru’s Literary Masterpieces

playing guqin
A beauty is playing guqin
which has been one of UNESCO's
masterpieces of the oral and
intangible heritage of humanity

The major contribution of Sima Xiangru in literatue is his fu creation, according to the records of Book of Han, there were 29 most famous fu creations, but today, the famous and reachable masterpieces of Sima Xiangru include: Zixu Fu(子虚赋), Shanglin Fu(上林赋), Daren Fu(大人赋), Meiren Fu(美人赋), Changmen Fu(长门赋), Tianzi Younie Fu(天子游猎赋). Aiqinershi Fu(哀秦二世赋), and some we just know their name and lose the content like Li Fu(梨赋), Yuju Fu (鱼葅赋) and Xinshan Fu(梓山赋).

Mostly, Sima Xiangru was famous for his Zixu Fu and Shanglin Fu, but some insist that his Changmen Fu was the most one among his literary masterpieces. This fu creation was initially available in Zhaoming Wenxian(昭明文选). According to the explanation in this book, this fu was created for the disfavored Empress Chen who bribed Sima Xiangru a great deal of gold. Emperor Wudi was quite moved after reading, and then Empress Chen was favored again. But in the explanation, the peacock was firstly mentioned, and in fact, during the reign of Emperor Wudi, peacock was not available in China. Furthermore, Changmen Fu was not recorded in Records of Grand Historian. So many also believe this creation belonged to pseudograph.

Besides, Sima Xiangru also made a strong position in creation of prose and essay, these articles perhaps partially brought some negative influence in the history. But in the aspect the language form and layout development, Sima Xiangru created a great contribution. These articles include: Weipinglinghoushu(遗平陵侯书), Yuwugongzi Xiangnan(与五公子相难), Caomushu(草木书), Yu Bashu Xi(谕巴蜀檄), Nan Shufunao(难蜀父老), Jianlieshu(谏猎疏) and Fengshanwen(封禅文). Also there are also some additional shows of Sima Xiangru in Records of Grand Historian and Book of Han like his prose and odes for National rites.

More in details about his literature masterpieces in Chinese

Achievement and Influence of Sima Xiangru in Literature

The most famous and important literary style is Fu in Han Dynasty, and Sima Xiangru was widely considered to be the master of Fu creation and fu theory. Also he was also a master of literature and aesthetics. Sima Xiangru was the founder of Fu in Han Dyansty. Yang Xiong(who was another greatest master of masterpiece in later West Han Dynasty) once highly commented his masterpieces: Sima Xiangru’s fu creation was not from earthly world but presented by god. Over the two thousand years, Sima Xiangru has enjoyed a high reputation and influenced Chinese literature deeply. The writers in Han Dynasty comprised of West Han Dynasty and East Han Dynasty mostly admired him, and the representative was Sima Qian, who was the greatest historian in Chinese history. In his book, Records of Grand Historian, there were just chapters themed with literature masters, and one was about Sima Xiangru. And the content in this chapter is six times more than that in another one themed with Qu Yuan and Jia Yi(贾谊),the earlier master of Fu creation in West Han Dynasty. In this way, Sima Qian believed that the literary achievement and influence of Sima Xiangru were larger than those of Jia Yi.