An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Shenjian 申鑒

Nov 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Shenjian 申鋻 "Reaching out [into history] for a mirror" is a political treatise written during the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE) by Xun Yue 荀悦 (148–209 CE), who is better known as author of the history book Qianhanji 前漢紀.

The Shenjian was written during the reign of Emperor Xian 漢獻帝 (r. 189-220), when the mighty warlord Cao Cao 曹操 (155-220) controlled the state. Xun's book was intended to serve as a kind of handbook for a ruler how to avoid such circumstances. It has a length of 5 juan. The first chapter describes the fundaments of government, chapter 2 is dedicated to examples of concrete politics. In chapter 3, Xun Yue criticizes the prevalent magic and sorcery of his time which might lead to a situation in which decision-makers of the state overlooked reality. In the last two, "miscellaneous" chapters, the ways of self-cultivation are explains, an the nature of man is defined in a theoretical framework.

There is a commentary on the Shenjian written during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by Huang Shengzeng 黄省曾 (1496-1546). The Shenjian was printed in 1525 by Master Huang from the Wenshi Studio 黄氏文始堂. The series Sibu congkan 四部叢刊 reproduces this print.

There is an English translation by Ch'i-Yün Ch'en (1980), Hsün Yüeh and the Mind of Late Han China (Princeton: Princeton University Press).

Table 1. Contents of the Shenjian 申鋻
1. 政體 Zhengti Essence of Government
2. 時事 Shishi Current Affairs
3. 俗嫌 Sujian Common Superstitions
4.-5. 雜言 Zayan Miscellaneous Dialogues 1-2
Chen Jinsheng 陳金生 (1987). "Shenjian 申鋻", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhexue 哲學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), 772.