Sima Biao 司馬彪 was a historian of the Jin dynasty.

Sima Biao was a cast out of the Sima family. He devoted himself to academic work and authored various historical texts such as Xu Han shu 續漢書 (History of Han Continued) and the Jiuzhou chunqiu 九州春秋 (Spring and Autumn Annals of the Nine Provinces).

History of Jin biographyEdit

 Sima Biao, style name Shaotong 紹統, was the eldest son of Sima Mu 睦 (d. 291?), [later] the Prince of Gaoyang. He became the step-son of Sima Min 敏, the youngest brother of Emperor Xuan [Sima Yi].[n 1] Since childhood, Biao was a bright child and a diligent student. However, he was somewhat of a womanizer and behaved frivolously. Therefore, he was usually reprimanded by his father Sima Mu, who stripped him of the status as heir. Although he was adopted by Sima Min, he actually lost his entitlement to the hereditary status as prince [, he was cast out]. As a result, Biao gave up social life. He committed himself to academic work wholeheartedly. He thus became a voracious reader of various books, as well as a prolific author. His first official title was Chief Commandant of Cavalry (jí dūwèi 騎都尉).

 In the Taishi 泰始 years,[n 2] he worked as Gentleman Attendant (shūláng 書郎), and later as Assistant Director of the Imperial Library (mìshū chéng 秘書丞).[n 3] He wrote a commentary to the Zhuangzi 莊子, and was the author of the Spring and Autumn Annals of the Nine Provinces (Jiǔzhōu chūnqiū 九州春秋). He believed that the reason why the ancestral monarchs ordered official historians to keep historical accounts was to educate the people by encouraging the good and condemning the evil. Therefore, when the Spring and Autumn Annals was not well edited, Confucius had it done. When there was not a consistent version of Guanju 關雎,[n 4] Shi Zhi 師摯 remedied the problem. Was it true that the ancestral scholars preferred complexity? Probably not so, they had no better options. When the House of Han prevailed again and ended after the Jian’an 建安 years,[n 5] loyal courtiers and righteous people had shown remarkable feats and virtues. However, there were no outstanding historians at the time. The historical accounts of the period were complex and messy. Though Qiao Zhou 譙周 did some editing work, but his work was not enough. There were usually omissions in the accounts of the period after Emperor An and Emperor Shun. Therefore, Sima Biao studied the works by a few hundred historians, took reference from unofficial accounts. With the accounts he managed to collect, he wrote eighty chapters, consisting of ji 紀 (annals), zhi 志 (treatises), and zhuan 傳 (biographies), to record the two hundred years of history from Emperor Guangwu to Emperor Xian, twelve generations of the dynasty. He named his book History of Han Continued (Xù Hàn shū 續漢書).

 In the first year of Taishi, Emperor Wu [Sima Yan] was to perform the sacrifice in the Southern Suburb in person. Sima Biao submitted a memorial to the throne to plan the ceremony. The record can be found in the treatise on ceremonies 禮.[n 6] He was later appointed as Cavalier Gentleman-in-Attendance (sànjí shìláng 散骑侍郎). He died in his sixties in the last year of Emperor Hui of Jin (306 AD).

 Earlier, Qiao Zhou considered that Sima Qian’s Records of the Grand Historian’s (Shǐjì 史記) dealings with the matters before Zhou and Qin sometimes adopted vulgar expressions and sayings from all philosophical schools without exclusive reliance on correct scriptures. For that reason, he wrote Corrections of the Investigation into Ancient History (Gushikao 古史考) in twenty-five pian 篇. It relied completely on old canons to correct Sima Qian’s mistakes. Sima Biao found, in turn, that Qiao Zhou’s work still lacked perfection, so he made a list of 122 incorrect items in Gushikao that in great part was based on words in the Annals from the Ji tumulus (Jízhǒng jìnián 汲塚紀年) from the Ji tomb. This [commentary on Qiao’s work] became known in [Biao’s] time.

See alsoEdit


  • Sima Biao has been quoted 60 times by Pei Songzhi for his annotations to Records of the Three Kingdoms.
  • In Records of the Three Kingdoms a quote from Xuzhuan 序傳 (“Autobiographical Memoir”) can be found, with Sima Biao mentioned as its author. The Xuzhuan is most likely not an independent work (and therefore not listed under ‘bibliography’ in the infobox above) but a closing chapter to the Xu Han shu. It was customary that the closing chapter of a history work contained an autobiography of the author.
  • Sima Biao’s Xu Han shu is not completely lost; its treatises-section has been incorporated into the History of the Later Han.
  1. GJCM notes: Sima Yi was an uncle of Biao’s father Sima Mu, and thus a granduncle of Sima Biao. Sima Biao was therefore a second cousin of Jin dynasty founder Sima Yan.
  2. GJCM notes: the Taishi years were from 266 - 275.
  3. GJCM notes: mentioned as just chéng 丞 in the original Chinese text.
  4. GJCM notes: the first poem in the Classic of Poetry.
  5. GJCM notes: the Jian’an years were from 196 - 220. They were the final years of the Han dynasty.
  6. GJCM notes: a set of three chapters (19, 20, 21) in the History of Jin.


  • Fang Xuanling 房玄齡 (578-648). Jin shu 晉書 “History of Jin”. Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 1974.

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