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Persons in Chinese History - Gongsun Hong 公孫弘

Gongsun Hong 公孫弘 (200-121 BCE), courtesy name Gongsun Ji 公孫季 or Gongsun Ciqing 公孫次卿, was a high official of the mid-Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE). He came from Xue 薛 (modern Tengxian 滕縣, Shandong) and was a jail overseer (yuli 獄吏) in his younger years. Inspite of his poor economic situation he began studying the Confucian Classic Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" at the age of 40 and was selected as professor (boshi 博士 "erudite") for this classic during the reign of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE). He later retired from this post because he did not consent with the Emperor's politics against the steppe federation of the Xiongnu 匈奴. In 130 he was again appointed professor and then transferred to the post of Left Chamberlain for the Capital (zuo neishi 左內史). Emperor Wu highly esteemed him for his compliant character. In 126 he appointed him Censor-in-chief (yushi dafu 御史大夫), to years later to Counsellor-in-chief (chengxiang 丞相). Gongsun Hong was concurrently enfeoffed as Marquis of Pingjin 平津侯. He was thus the first person of humble origins that had acheived such a high status. From then on it became a rule that the Counsellor-in-chief was enfeoffed as a marquis. Other court official did not like him much because he was a very upright and incorruptable person and esteemed inner values higher than pageantry and money. His retainers all came from his home town, and he did not allow excessive spending for clothes and food. When Liu An 劉安, the Prince of Huainan 淮南, rebelled, Gongsun Hong asked to be allowed to retire, yet Emperor Wu refused. He died in office. His posthumous title is Marquis Xian 獻侯.
The imperial bibliography Yiwenzhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 lists a book Gongsun Hong with a length of 10 chapters. It is lost.

There is another person of the same name, the strategist Gongsun Hong, who was a retainer of Lord Mengchang 孟嘗君 during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE).

Source: Wang Huxua 王煦華 (1996). "Gongsun Hong 公孫弘", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史, vol. 1, p. 254. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.

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September 16, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail