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Yu Shinan
Updated:2017-12-08 10:09:00

Yu Shinan (558-638), of Han nationality, was born in Yuyao County, Yue Prefecture (currently Minghe Town in Cixi City of Zhejiang Province). With courtesy name as Boshi, Yu was a well-known calligrapher, litterateur, poet and statesman in the early Tang Dynasty, and was also one of the 24 meritorious officials of the Tang Dynasty enshrined in the Lingyan Pavilion. His father Yu Li and his elder brother Yu Shiji served as government officials in the Chen Dynasty and Sui Dynasty respectively.
Quiet in nature, he spent much of his time on learning and acquired extensive knowledge.  During the Chen Dynasty (part of Southern Dynasties), he once served as an adviser of the army; In the Sui Dynasty, he worked as an official in the Department of Palace Library and an Imperial Diarist in succession. After the fall of Sui, he was appointed the Vice Minister of the Chancellery by Dou Jiande. After Li Shimin eliminated the forces of Dou, he asked Yu to be the adviser of his office. After ascending the throne with the title of Emperor Taizong of Tang, Li appointed Yu as Scholar of the Institute for the Advancement of Literature where he and Fang Xuanling, one of the Eighteen Scholars in the Tang Dynasty, were together in charge of imperial writings. Later, Yu also assumed other official posts in succession. Delicate as he looked, Yu Shinan was a strong-minded minister in fulfilling a minster’s obligation, brave in criticizing errors of the government and even the emperor, which won him great praise from Emperor Taizong. During the “Reign of Zhenguan”, Yu Shinan was conferred Yongxing County Viscount and Yongxing County Duke. He passed away at the age of 81 in the 12th year of Zhenguan Period (638). Upon his death, he was allowed to be buried in Zhao Mausoleum, the imperial mausoleum for royal families and meritorious ministers, with the title of minister of the Board of Rites and posthumous honorary title of Duke of Wenyi conferred on him. In the 17th year of Zhenguan Period (643), his life-sized portrait was displayed in Lingyan Pavilion.
Emperor Taizong praised Yu Shinan as “a man of five absolute merits”, which were virtue, loyalty and uprightness, erudition, writing skills and skillful calligraphy. He was regarded as one of the four greatest calligraphers in the early Tang Dynasty along with Ouyang Xun, Chu Suiliang and Xue Ji. He also edited Beitang Shuchao (Documents in the Northern Hall), boasting the reputation as one of the four encyclopedias and also one of the earliest extant now. Originally this book consisted of 30 volumes, but later many of them were lost. Zhang Shouyong, a prominent scholar in the Republic of China, edited four volumes of this book into Yubijianji (Collection of Yu Mijian’s Works), which was later compiled into Siming Congshu (Anthology of Worksof  Siming).


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