Wushuang Pu. (Pictorial album of unique persons) 無雙譜. by Jin Guliang. ca. 1670.
This work contains a collection of beautiful illustrations of forty famous historical figures from the Han dynasty to
the Song dynasty (3rd century BC to 13th century AD). The preface by 宋俊 Song Jun, the author's friend, is dated 1690. It is a single fascicle, woodblock printed, in a traditional stitched binding with soft covers.
The forty figures depicted in the book:
Zhang Liang (ca.250-189 BC) courtesy name Zifang, formally Marquess Wencheng Liu (Liu Hou) was a statesman of the early Western Han period. He came from a long line of royal officials. In 208 BC he joined Liu Bang in rebellion against the rule of Qin. In retirement he became a practitioner of Taoism. Alongside the grand-general of the Han forces, Han Xin, and the first Prime Minister of the Han Dynasty, Xiao He, he is considered one of the three founders of the Han Dynasty.
Xiang Yu (232-202 BC) was a descendant of Xiang Yan, a general of Chu nobility, and was himself a prominent general who led the rebel forces that overthrew the Qin Dynasty. Although he enjoyed military success, his struggle with Liu Bang over supremacy of China was unsuccessful, as he failed to gain and hold the loyalty of the people. He gave himself the title of Xichu Bawang, “the Conqueror”.
Fu Sheng (ca. 260-170 BC) was a Confucian scholar. He participated in the revival of classical learning during the early Han dynasty, and was famous for saving the Confucian classic Shangshu (Book of documents) from the book burning of the First Emperor of Qin.
Dong Fang Shuo (154-93 BC) was an official and wit at the court of the Emperor Wu. He is sometimes depicted carrying an immortal peach and is a legendary figure in Chinese folk tales.
Zhang Qian (164-114 BC) was an imperial envoy during the Han Dynasty. He travelled the Silk Road, bringing back information on the western regions to the imperial court, and played a key role in the conquest and colonization of the region now known as Xinjiang. His accounts of his travels are recorded in the early Han historical chronicles.
Su Wu (140-60 BC) was a statesman and diplomat of the Han Dynasty, with a reputation for faithfulness to the empire.
Si Ma Qian (ca. 145-85 BC) wrote a history of China covering more than 2000 years, The records of the grand historian, and is regarded as the father of Chinese historical writing.
Dong Xian (23-1 BC) was a politician of the Han Dynasty, whose meteoric rise to power has been ascribed to his personal relationship with Emperor Ai.
Yan Zi Ling (ca. 0-75) studied alongside the man who was later to become Emperor Guang Wudi. He declined high office, preferring to live as a hermit in the mountains.
Cao E (ca. 25-220) was venerated as an example of filial loyalty. According to legend, after her father was drowned and his body was lost, the grieving fourteen-year-old Cao too jumped into the river and drowned. Her body resurfaced five days later with her father’s body in her arms. A river is named after her in Shao Xin, Zhejiang Province.
Ban Chao (33-103) was a successful cavalry commander and general in the Western Regions during the Eastern Han Dynasty. He put down numerous rebellions. His military prowess and diplomacy ensured long-lasting peace along the Silk Road.
Ban Zhao (45-116) was the first woman historian and the greatest female scholar in Chinese history. She completed her father’s manuscript of the Book of Han, and wrote works of her own, such as Lessons for women, which continued to be read for centuries after her death.
Zhao E (ca. 220-280) famously avenged her father’s death, then handed herself in to the authorities for justice to be done. Rather than being executed, she was pardoned, in recognition for her sense of duty and justice, and for the courage she displayed.
Sun Ce (175-200) was an accomplished military general who laid the foundation of the early Kingdom of Wu.
Zhu Ge Liang (181-234) was Prime Minister of the Shou Dynasty. He was a scholar and inventor as well as being a renowned military strategist.
Jiao Xiao Ran lived during the Warring States period (481-221 BC). He was born in Hedong, and lived as a hermit, pretending to be mute, wearing no clothes, sleeping on the floor, and eating little. He is said to have lived to be over a hundred years old.
Liu Chen (220-265), Prince of Beidi, was the fifth son of Liu Shan, the second ruler of Shu Han during the Three Kingdoms period. He tried to persuade his father to fight for the honour of Shu, but was thrown out of court. He killed his wife and children before killing himself.
Yang Hu (ca. 221-278) was a general of the Jin Dynasty, known for his humility and foresight. The Emperor Wu followed Yang Hu’s ideas to conquer the Eastern Wu, but their author did not live to see his plans implemented.
Zhou Chu (242-297) was orphaned young. He was unusually strong and a keen huntsman, who took little heed of others. Local villagers called him one of the “three harms” along with a fierce tiger and ferocious dragon. When he learnt of this, Zhou Chu shot the tiger and fought the dragon for three days before eventually killing it.
Lu Zhu (ca.250-300) was the favourite concubine of the wealthy Shi Chong. She was coveted by a general, who demanded that she be given to him, and when Shi Chong refused sent troops to take her by force. Rather than submit, Lu Zhu threw herself to her death from a high building.
Tao Yuan Ming (365-427) is considered to be one of the greatest poets of the Six dynasties period. He lived in the country as a relative recluse, taking inspiration from the beauty of the natural world.
Wang Meng (325-375), formally Marquess Wu of Qinghe, was prime minister to the former Qin Emperor Fu Jiān. He presided over an expansion of the empire and is regarded as a great statesman.
Xie An (320-385), formally Duke Wenjing of Luling was a statesman who despite his lack of military ability led the Jin Dynasty through a major crisis, and is greatly honoured.
Su Ruo Lan (351-381) was the wife of the official Dou Tao. Her jealousy of her husband’s concubine caused him to break off all contact with her. She wove a rich cloth of multi-coloured silk, and wrote over 200 poems on it to record her sorrow and regret.
Hua Mu Lan (ca. 400-500) was a legendary female warrior, who disguised herself as a man to take her aged father’s place in the army. She fought undiscovered for more than a decade, returning to normal life after the end of the war.
Xian Fu Ren (512-602) was a political and military leader.
Wu Ze Tian (624-705) was the only woman in the history of China to take the title Empress Regnant, reigning from 690 to 705.
Liang Gong (607-700) was a palace secretary and general of the Tang Dynasty under Wu Zetain. His career suffered a reverse after he tried to dissuade the empress from having a costly statue of Buddha made, but he was later rehabilitated, and was very popular with the people.
An Jin Cang (ca. 620-680) was a high ranking officer during the Tang Dynasty, who saved the life of the future emperor. Whilst defending Li Dan to the empress Wu Zetian, he slit open his own stomach to prove that his words were pure. She summoned doctors to attend him and dropped all suspicions against the heir.
Guo Zi Yi (697-781) was a highly revered general who ended the An Shi Rebellion and participated in expeditions against the Uyghur Khaganate and Tibetan empire. After his death he was immortalized in Chinese mythology as the God of Wealth and Happiness.
Li Bai (701-762), literary name Qinglian Jushi, was a Chinese poet. Over a thousand of his poems survive to this day. He is known for his extraordinary imagination and striking Taoism imagery, as well as his fondness for drinking.
Li Bi (722-789), formally the Prince of Liye fief, was a trusted advisor to four emperors. Historians disagree over whether he is eccentric or a genius.
Zhang Cheng Ye (874-925) was a high-ranking officer during the Tang Dynasty. When Li Cunxu, later Zhuanzong, proclaimed himself emperor and embarked on an extravagant lifestyle, Zhang Cheng loyally refused to serve him.
Feng Dao (882-954) has been compared to Gutenberg for his huge contribution to the improvements in the block-printing process.
Chen Chuan (871-989) was a legendary Taoist sage credited with the creation of the kung fu system ‘Liuhebafa’ (“six harmonies and eight methods”), a method of cultivation, and a system of exercises designed to prevent diseases that occur along with seasonal changes. Little is known about his life.
Qian Liu (852-932) was a warlord who founded the Wuyue Kingdom.
An Min (ca. 1050-1125) was a stonemason from Chang’an, who was ordered by the notorious minister Cai Jing to carve a traitor’s pillar to be erected in every province; he did so under duress, but refused to put his name to the work.
Chen Dong (1086-1127) was a civil servant who presented patriotic petitions to the emperor to remove officials from their posts. In the end he was condemned to death. He is seen as a patriot and national folk hero.
Yue Fei (1103-1142) was a famous general in the Song Dynasty who fought against the invasion of the State of Jin. His attempts to recover all lost territories were prevented by a peace faction, and he was imprisoned and executed, having been framed by his opponents.
Wen Tian Xiang (1236-1283) was a renowned scholar and prime minister during the Song Dynasty. He is considered one of the three heroes of the Song’s last years.