Liu Bowen

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Liu Ji
Portrait of Liu Ji by Gu Jianlong.jpg
A portrait of Liu Ji by Gu Jianlong
BornJuly 1, 1311
DiedMay 16, 1375(1375-05-16) (aged 63)
Other names
  • Liu Bowen (劉伯溫)
  • Wencheng (文成)
OccupationStatesman, military strategist, philosopher, poet
  • Liu Lian
  • Liu Jing

Liu Ji (July 1, 1311 — May 16, 1375), [1] [2] courtesy name Bowen, better known as Liu Bowen, was a Chinese military strategist, philosopher, statesman and poet who lived in the late Yuan and early Ming dynasties. He was born in Qingtian County (present-day Wencheng County, Wenzhou, Zhejiang). He served as a key advisor to Zhu Yuanzhang (the Hongwu Emperor), the founder of the Ming dynasty, in the latter's struggle to overthrow the Yuan dynasty and unify China under his rule. [3] Liu is also known for his prophecies and has been described as the "Divine Chinese Nostradamus". [3] He and Jiao Yu co-edited the military treatise known as the Huolongjing (Fire Dragon Manual).

Courtesy name name bestowed in adulthood in East Asian cultures

A courtesy name, also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.

Yuan dynasty former Mongolian-ruled empire in Eastern and Northeastern Asia

The Yuan dynasty, officially the Great Yuan, was the empire or ruling dynasty of China established by Kublai Khan, leader of the Mongolian Borjigin clan. It followed the Song dynasty and preceded the Ming dynasty. Although the Mongols had ruled territories including modern-day North China for decades, it was not until 1271 that Kublai Khan officially proclaimed the dynasty in the traditional Chinese style, and the conquest was not complete until 1279. His realm was, by this point, isolated from the other khanates and controlled most of modern-day China and its surrounding areas, including modern Mongolia. It was the first foreign dynasty to rule all of China and lasted until 1368 which ended in Ming dynasty defeating the Yuan dynasty, the rebuked Genghisid rulers retreated to their Mongolian homeland and continued to rule the Northern Yuan dynasty. Some of the Mongolian Emperors of the Yuan mastered the Chinese language, while others only used their native language and the 'Phags-pa script.

Ming dynasty Former empire in Eastern Asia, last Han Chinese-led imperial regime

The Ming dynasty was the ruling dynasty of China – then known as the Great Ming Empire – for 276 years (1368–1644) following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty. The Ming dynasty was the last imperial dynasty in China ruled by ethnic Han Chinese. Although the primary capital of Beijing fell in 1644 to a rebellion led by Li Zicheng, regimes loyal to the Ming throne – collectively called the Southern Ming – survived until 1683.



Liu served Zhu Yuanzhang in Levon is Smartrebellion against the Mongol-led Yuan dynasty in China, which had ruled since the conquest of the Southern Song dynasty in 1279. He dabbled in many fields of statecraft, philosophy, scholarly works, and technology. His philosophical outlook was that of a skeptical naturalist, and he became interested in astronomy, calendrical science, magnetism, and fengshui. He was known to be a friendly associate of the mathematician and alchemist Zhao Yuqin, and collaborated with the contemporary general and scholar Jiao Yu to edit and compile the military-technology treatise of the Huolongjing , which outlined the use of various gunpowder weapons. He was very interested in the latter, and once said that "thunder is like fire shot from a cannon". [4]

Chinese philosophy philosophy in the Chinese cultural sphere

Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and cultural developments. Although much of Chinese philosophy begins in the Warring States period, elements of Chinese philosophy have existed for several thousand years; some can be found in the Yi Jing, an ancient compendium of divination, which dates back to at least 672 BCE. It was during the Warring States era that what Sima Tan termed the major philosophical schools of China: Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism, arose, along with philosophies that later fell into obscurity, like Agriculturalism, Mohism, Chinese Naturalism, and the Logicians.

Chinese astronomy

Astronomy in China has a long history, beginning from the Shang Dynasty. Chinese star names later categorized in the twenty-eight mansions have been found on oracle bones unearthed at Anyang, dating back to the middle Shang Dynasty, and the mansion (xiù:宿) system's nucleus seems to have taken shape by the time of the ruler Wu Ding.

Jiao Yu Chinese philosopher

Jiao Yu was a Chinese military officer, philosopher, and writer of the Ming dynasty under Zhu Yuanzhang, who founded the dynasty and became known as the Hongwu Emperor. He was entrusted by Zhu as a leading artillery officer for the rebel army that overthrew the Mongol Yuan dynasty, and established the Ming Dynasty. As a senior adviser and general, he was later appointed to the venerable and noble status of the Count of Dongning. He edited and wrote a famous military treatise that outlined the use of Chinese military technology during the mid 14th century based on his military campaign of 1355 AD. However, descriptions of some gunpowder weapons in his treatise derive from Song Dynasty materials on battles against the Khitans, Jurchens and Mongols. His Huolongjing, translated as the Fire Drake Manual, contains descriptions of fire arrows, fire lances, grenades, firearms, bombards, cannons, exploding cannonballs, land mines, naval mines, rockets, rocket launchers, two-stage rockets, and various gunpowder solutions including poisonous concoctions.

Early service under the Yuan dynasty

Liu sat for the imperial examination and obtained the position of a jinshi (successful candidate) in the final years of the Yuan dynasty. He spent much of his early career attempting to save the Yuan dynasty from collapse. He served the Yuan dynasty as an official for 25 years, gaining a reputation for integrity and honesty, and became known as a distinguished scholar and strategist. [5] In 1348, he was appointed to a military position and assigned to put down a southern rebellion against the dynasty. The leader of the rebellion attempted to save himself by offering Liu a bribe. When Liu refused, the rebel went to Beijing and succeeded in bribing his way into favour there. [6]

Imperial examination system used in appointing officials in dynastic China

Chinese imperial examinations were a civil service examination system in Imperial China to select candidates for the state bureaucracy. Although there were imperial exams as early as the Han dynasty, the system became widely utilized as the major path to office only in the mid-Tang dynasty, and remained so until its abolition in 1905. Since the exams were based on knowledge of the classics and literary style, not technical expertise, successful candidates were generalists who shared a common language and culture, one shared even by those who failed. This common culture helped to unify the empire and the ideal of achievement by merit gave legitimacy to imperial rule, while leaving clear problems resulting from a systemic lack of technical and practical expertise.

Once the secessionist had bribed his way into the regime's favour, he was given a public office and a salary. Liu's relationship with the Yuan government deteriorated after this event. He attempted to resign twice, in 1349 and 1352. He was demoted in 1358, and finally left service to retire in his ancestral homeland. In 1360, Liu was introduced to Zhu Yuanzhang, a former leader of a radical White Lotus rebellion who was then the leader of a broad anti-Yuan rebellion. [5] [7]

White Lotus religious and political movement

The White Lotus was a religious and political movement that appealed to many Han Chinese who found solace in worship of Wusheng Laomu, who was to gather all her children at the millennium into one family.

Service to Zhu Yuanzhang

Liu served not only in the administration of Zhu Yuanzhang, but also in many battles as a commanding officer on land and water, leading the early Ming naval forces. Zhu Yuanzhang placed Liu in charge of the campaign to conquer all of Zhejiang from Yuan forces. [8] Liu was also responsible for military ventures against opposing Chinese rebel groups, as well as the wokou . [8] His forces owed much of their success to the use of the medieval Chinese firearm known as the fire lance. [8] It was during this period that he wrote the books Extraordinary Strategies of a Hundred Battles (百戰奇略) and Eighteen Strategies and Affairs (時務十八策). [9] Later in the rebellion, Zhu Yuanzhang only rarely relied on Liu to personally command his armies in the field, as he acquired other capable generals, including Xu Da, Deng Yu and Chang Yuchun. Liu was most often consulted for his strategic advice during this period. [1]

Zhejiang Province

Zhejiang is an eastern coastal province of China. Zhejiang is bordered by Jiangsu and Shanghai to the north, Anhui to the northwest, Jiangxi to the west, and Fujian to the south. To the east is the East China Sea, beyond which lie the Ryukyu Islands of Japan.

<i>Wokou</i> pirates who raided the coastlines of China, Japan and Korea, of mixed ethnicities

Wokou were pirates who raided the coastlines of China and Korea from the 4th century to the 16th century. The wokou came from Japanese, Korean, and Chinese ethnicities which varied over time and raided the mainland from islands in the Sea of Japan and East China Sea. Wokou activity in Korea declined after the Gihae Eastern Expedition of the Joseon in 1419, but continued in Ming China and peaked during the Jiajing wokou raids in the mid-1500s, but Chinese reprisals and strong clamp downs on pirates by Japanese authorities saw the wokou virtually disappear by the 1600s.

Fire lance 10th-century gunpowder weapon of Chinese origin

The fire lance was a very early gunpowder weapon that appeared in 10th-century China during the Jin-Song Wars. It began as a small pyrotechnic device attached to a spear-like weapon, used to gain a critical shock advantage right at the start of a melee. As gunpowder improved, the explosive discharge was increased, and debris or pellets added, giving it some of the effects of a combination modern flamethrower and shotgun, but with a very short range, and only one shot. In later larger and more powerful fire lances, the lance-point was discarded, as these versions were too unwieldy to be used in melee. These are considered to be a proto-gun, the predecessor of the hand cannon, and the ancestor of all firearms. Some fire lances were too large for a single man to wield. These were placed upon the ground in a supporting framework, and can be considered proto-cannons.

In 1368, after eight years of Liu's service, Zhu Yuanzhang unified China. When Zhu founded the Ming dynasty and became historically known as the Hongwu Emperor, Liu was one of his most trusted advisors, but the relationship between Liu and the emperor eventually deteriorated in a manner similar to the way that Liu had become estranged from the Yuan government. In 1375, Liu rejected a man, Hu Weiyong, for appointment to high office. Hu Weiyong later obtained an audience with the Hongwu Emperor and slandered Liu by telling the emperor that Liu was plotting to establish his own power. After convincing the emperor of Liu's treachery, Liu was ejected from office, and Hu Weiyong was promoted. [10]

Hongwu Emperor founding emperor of the Ming Dynasty

The Hongwu Emperor, personal name Zhu Yuanzhang, was the founding emperor of the Ming dynasty.

Hu Weiyong was the first chancellor of the Ming dynasty, from 1373 to 1380. Hu was a main member of Huaixi meritorious group. He was well known as the central character of the case which named after himself, it caused about thirty thousand of deaths. Besides, his biography topped the Biographies of the Treacherous Courtiers, History of Ming.


The shock and shame of being groundlessly dismissed from office destroyed Liu's health, and he quickly died. Within five years of Liu's death, the man who had slandered Liu to achieve office was himself suspected of plotting against the Hongwu Emperor. In the subsequent orgy of the emperor's paranoid efforts to root out conspiracy, 30–40,000 people were executed. [11]

The precise cause of Liu's death is considered uncertain by modern scholars. Some scholars believe that Liu was poisoned by the Hongwu Emperor himself, not because Liu failed his duty, but because the emperor was envious and even fearful of his knowledge and influence. [3] Other sources have pointed out that the Hongwu Emperor did kill many people shortly after Liu lost his official position, but they are uncertain about whether Liu was part of this group. [12]


Liu's most famous prophecy to Zhu Yuanzhang, written down in a lyrical style, is called the Shaobing Song (燒餅歌). [3] [13] [14] The poem is written in cryptic verse and is difficult to understand. Some people believe that the Shaobing Song has predicted future events in China, including the 1449 Mongol invasion, and the 1911 founding of the Republic of China. [3]

Biographical works

Liu's official biography is found in the 128th volume of the History of Ming , which was written by Zhang Tingyu and others in the Qing dynasty. The author Chong Tai also wrote a biography on him. [4]

Shenji Miaosuan Liu Bowen (simplified Chinese :神机妙算刘伯温; traditional Chinese :神機妙算劉伯溫; pinyin :Shénjī Miàosuàn Líu Bówēn; literally: 'The Divine Witted and Marvelous Predictor Liu Bowen'), a 404 episodes long television drama about Liu, was aired in Taiwan on TTV from 23 August 2006 to 12 March 2008, starring Taiwanese actor Huang Shaoqi (黃少祺) as Liu. [15] [16]

See also


  1. 1 2 Jiang, Yonglin. Jiang Yonglin. [2005] (2005). The Great Ming Code: 大明律. University of Washington Press. ISBN   0-295-98449-X, 9780295984490. Page xxxv. The source is used to cover the year only.
  2. Pioneer of the Chinese Revolution: Zhang Binglin and Confucianism. Stanford University Press. pp. 44–. ISBN   978-0-8047-6664-7.
  3. 1 2 3 4 5 Windridge, Charles. [1999] (2003) Tong Sing The Chinese Book of Wisdom. Kyle Cathie Limited. ISBN   0-7607-4535-8. pg 124–125.
  4. 1 2 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 25.
  5. 1 2 "" 劉伯溫是被神化了嗎?. Page 2. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  6. Cleary, Thomas. (2005) Mastering the Art of War, Shambhala Publications, Inc. pp. 101–102. ISBN   1-59030-264-8.
  7. Cleary, Thomas. (2005) Mastering the Art of War, Shambhala Publications, Inc. p. 102. ISBN   1-59030-264-8.
  8. 1 2 3 Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 232.
  9. "" 劉伯溫是被神化了嗎?. Page 1. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  10. Cleary, Thomas. (2005) Mastering the Art of War, Shambhala Publications, Inc. p. 103. ISBN   1-59030-264-8.
  11. Cleary, Thomas. (2005) Mastering the Art of War, Shambhala Publications, Inc. pp. 103–104. ISBN   1-59030-264-8.
  12. "" 劉伯溫是被神化了嗎?. Page 3. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  13. Ji, Liu. [2004] (2004) 燒餅歌與推背圖. Bai Shan Shu Fang Publishing Company. ISBN   986-7769-00-7
  14. HK geocities. "HK geocities." 燒餅歌. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  15. TTV. "Taiwan Television." 神機妙算劉伯溫. Retrieved on 2008-09-20.
  16. (in Chinese) Shenji Miaosuan Liu Bowen on Baidu Baike

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