Xu Ci (fl. third century), courtesy name Rendu, was an official and scholar of the state of Shu Han in the Three Kingdoms period of China.[1] An outsider to the province, he and Hu Qian's disorderly conduct would hamper a scholarly project and see his superior put on a play mocking the poor conduct of those involved.

Xu Ci
Empress's Chamberlain (大長秋)
In office
? (?)–? (?)
MonarchLiu Shan
Personal details
Nanyang, Henan
ChildrenXu Xun
OccupationOfficial, scholar
Courtesy nameRendu (仁篤)


Xu Ci was from Nanyang Commandery (南陽郡), which is around present-day Nanyang, Henan. He was born sometime in the late Eastern Han dynasty and had studied under the tutelage of Liu Xi (劉熈). He specialised in the teachings of the Confucian scholar Zheng Xuan, the Yijing, Book of Documents, Etiquette and Ceremonial, Book of Rites, Rites of Zhou, Mao Commentary and Analects of Confucius. Sometime between 196 and 220, he met Xu Jing and others in Jiao Province (covering parts of present-day Guangxi, Guangdong and northern Vietnam) and later accompanied them to Yi Province (covering present-day Sichuan and Chongqing).[2]

At the time, among the non-native scholars living in Yi Province, there was one Hu Qian (胡潛), whose courtesy name was Gongxing (公興). Nobody knew why he left his home in Wei Commandery (魏郡; around present-day Handan, Hebei) and travelled all the way to Yi Province. While Hu Qian was not as well-read and knowledgeable as the others, he was intelligent and had a very good memory. He memorised and knew by heart everything about Confucian rites, rituals, procedures, protocol, etc., ranging from ancestral worship to the five types of mourning attire.[3][a]

In 214,[5] after the warlord Liu Bei seized control of Yi Province from its governor, Liu Zhang, he saw that Confucian customs and education in the province were very disorderly due to years of neglect. He wanted to revive Confucianism in Yi Province and establish a set of rituals and procedures for the region, so he set up an education office to oversee this project. Apart from building up a library of Confucian texts, Liu Bei also appointed Xu Ci and Hu Qian as academicians (博士) and ordered them to work with other scholars such as Meng Guang and Lai Min on this project.[6]

While the project was still in its initial stage of development, bitter disagreements and quarrels broke out among the scholars due to differences in opinion. Xu Ci and Hu Qian started making accusations and taking petty revenge against each other including withholding books. They bickered among themselves and constantly sought opportunities to provoke each other. They also praised themselves and scorned their colleagues.[7] When Liu Bei heard about it, he came up with an idea to urge them to put aside their differences and cooperate with each other. He gathered all the officials for a feast and had actors put up a skit parodying the conflict between Xu Ci and Hu Qian, showing how a war of words between them led to them using weapons to attack each other.[8] Despite Liu Bei's efforts, the project ultimately turned out to be a failure.[1]

Hu Qian died before Xu Ci in an unknown year. Following the end of the Eastern Han dynasty in 220, Xu Ci served in the state of Shu Han, founded by Liu Bei in 221, during the Three Kingdoms period. After Liu Bei's death in 223,[9] Xu Ci continued serving under Liu Shan, Liu Bei's son and successor. During Liu Shan's reign, he held the appointment of Empress's Chamberlain (大長秋). He died in an unknown year.[10]

Xu Ci's son, Xu Xun (許勛), inherited his father's legacy and served as an academician (博士) in Shu.[11]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ The historian Sun Sheng pointed out that Chen Shou embedded Hu Qian's biography in Xu Ci's biography in the Records of the Three Kingdoms because there were too few notable scholars in Shu (and too little information about them),[4] so it did not make sense to have individual biographies for all of them.


  1. ^ a b de Crespigny (2007), p. 902.
  2. ^ (許慈字仁篤,南陽人也。師事劉熈,善鄭氏學,治易、尚書、三禮、毛詩、論語。建安中,與許靖等俱自交州入蜀。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  3. ^ (時又有魏郡胡潛,字公興,不知其所以在益土。潛雖學不沾洽,然卓犖彊識,祖宗制度之儀,喪紀五服之數,皆指掌畫地,舉手可采。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  4. ^ (孫盛曰:蜀少人士,故慈、潛等並見載述。) Sun Sheng's annotation in Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  5. ^ Zizhi Tongjian vol. 67.
  6. ^ (先主定蜀,承喪亂歷紀,學業衰廢,乃鳩合典籍,沙汰衆學,慈、潛並為博士,與孟光、來敏等典掌舊文。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  7. ^ (值庶事草創,動多疑議,慈、潛更相克伐,謗讟忿爭,形於聲色;書籍有無,不相通借,時尋楚撻,以相震攇。其矜己妬彼,乃至於此。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  8. ^ (先主愍其若斯,羣僚大會,使倡家假為二子之容。傚其訟䦧之狀,酒酣樂作,以為嬉戲,初以辭義相難,終以刀杖相屈,用感切之。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  9. ^ Zizhi Tongjian vols. 69–70.
  10. ^ (潛先沒,慈後主世稍遷至大長秋,卒。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  11. ^ (子勛傳其業,復為博士。) Sanguozhi vol. 42.
  • Chen, Shou (3rd century). Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi).
  • de Crespigny, Rafe (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms 23-220 AD. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004156050.
  • Pei, Songzhi (5th century). Annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms (Sanguozhi zhu).
  • Sima, Guang (1084). Zizhi Tongjian.