Words of Ancient Chinese Wisdom

In Chinese history, Sima Qian (145 BC ~ 86 BC) was well known by the inhabitants, as he created an item that changed the way people viewed time. Joining him in this exploration of ancient quotes is the I Ching, one of the oldest texts in Chinese history, which delivers a wealth of quotes that display the wisdom and train of thought of a culture during the 12th century.

Sima Qian (145 BC ~ 86 BC)

This Chinese historian became well known in history as the Prefect of the Grand Scribes that thrived during the Han Dynasty. With a reputation for producing fine work, the man earned the nickname as the father of Chinese historiography. This all came after his acclaimed work titled “Records of the Grand Historian,” which offered an overview of the history of China that covered more than 2,000 years of information that touched upon the Yellow Emperor to the Emperor Han Wudi. His work was used as a measure of Chinese historiography to come in the future.

Qian tackled the topic of astrology, as he and his father had earned the honor as court astrologers during the Former Han Dynasty. During this time, the astrologer was looked upon as an important character in the court, who was responsible for interpreting and predicting how the government would evolve based on how the Sun, Moon, and stars interacted with one another. Solar eclipses and earthquakes were just some of the phenomena that astrologer would play a role in predicting.

Qian also created an important calendar in history, which was called Taichuli (that translates into ‘the first calendar’). This was one of the most advanced calendars of the time. With its creation, the revolution in the Chinese calendar tradition was born, where it began at 365.25 days in a year and consisted of 29.53 days in a month. He also adopted a new method of sorting out historical date and produced a new way of writing down historical records where a bond between heavenly law and men were created. One of his things was to locate patterns and principles regarding the development of human history. He stressed the role of men upon the changes that took place in the history of China.


Other significant features of the man include the denouncing of Emperor Han Wudi, who held superstitious beliefs and would excessively pray to gods. It was also Sima that began the traditions of writing in a journalistic manner. He was so revered that a minor planet was named in his honor , 12620 Simaqian. A quote to remember Qian by is listed below:

“Though bitter, good medicine cures illness. Though it may hurt, loyal criticism will have beneficial effects.”

I Ching (12th century BC)

The “Book of Changes” (or “Classic of Changes” as it is referred to in other circles) is considered one of the oldest classic texts in China. Here, a great deal of quotes that touch upon philosophy and ancient cultural beliefs are mentioned within the text. The book also deals with an array of symbols, poems, and commentary. Quotes include:

“A person in danger should not try to escape at one stroke. He should first calmly hold his own, then be satisfied with small gains, which will come by creative adaptations.”

“Great effort is required to arrest decay and restore vigor. One must exercise proper deliberation, plan carefully before making a move, and be alert in guarding against relapse following a renaissance.”

“He who possesses the source of enthusiasm will achieve great things. Doubt not. You will gather friends around you as a hair clasp gathers the hair.”

“Change is certain. Peace is followed by disturbances; departure of evil men by their return. Such recurrences should not constitute occasions for sadness but realities for awareness, so that one may be happy in the interim.”

“Creativity comes from awakening and directing men’s higher natures, which originate in the primal depths of the uni- verse and are appointed by Heaven.”