An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Ji Tan 籍談

Mar 2, 2019 © Ulrich Theobald

Ji Tan 籍談, also called Ji Fu 籍父, courtesy name Shu 叔, was a nobleman in the state of Jin 晉 in the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE). He lived during the reign of Duke Zhao 晉昭公 (r. 532-526), under whom he served as a grand master (dafu 大夫). The family name is derived from the office of archiving the canonical records (dianji 典籍) in the ancestral temple of Jin, a function still carried out by Tan's father Ji You 籍游.

In 537, Ji Tan participated as member of Shu Xiang's 叔向 (Yangshe Xi 羊舌肸) entourage in the mission sending a Jin princess to the state of Chu 楚.

Ten years later, Queen Mu 穆后 died, and Xun Li 荀躒 and Ji Tan were sent to the royal capital Chengzhou 成周 (Luoyang 洛陽, Henan) to participate in the burial as representatives of the state of Jin, but without taking presents with them. King Jing 周景王 (r. 545-521) asked why, Ji Tan replied that in ancient times, all regional rulers had received lavish gifts from the king of Zhou for their investitures, barring Jin. Moreover, he argued that Jin was a located in mountainous terrain far away from the royal residence and threatened by the wild Di 狄 and Rong 戎 tribes. The king contradicted him and answered that King Wu had once presented Tang Shu 唐叔, the ancestor of the house of Jin, with armour, as an expression of his duty to defend the royal house against wild tribes. The king warned him had Ji Tan, as an archivist of the ducal genealogy, had forgotten about their ancestors (shu duan wang zu 數典忘祖).

Yet Xiang Shu, hearing of this, remarked that the king had begun with the royal banquet before the mourning phase for his spouse had been ended - a behaviour likewise not corresponding to his duties as Son of Heaven, and Xiang predicted disaster for the royal house. In 520, a succession crisis broke out, and the noblemen of Jin led an alliance (meng 盟) of regional rulers bringing Prince Meng 猛 to the throne (King Dao 周悼王, r. 521-520). After less than a year, King Dao died, and Ji Tan and Xun Li enthroned King Jing 周敬王 (r. 520-476).

During the reign of Duke Ding of Jin 晉定公 (r. 512-475), Ji Tan took over the siege of the city of Handan 邯鄲 (today in Hebei) during the quarrels of the noble houses of Zhao and Xun. xxx

Zhang Ke 張克, Huang Kangbo 黃康白, Huang Fangdong 黃方東, ed. (1991). Shiji renwu cidian 史記人物辭典 (Nanning: Guangxi renmin chubanshe), 208.