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Persons in Chinese History - Ruan Xian 阮咸

Periods of Chinese History
Ruan Xian 阮咸, courtesy name Ruan Zhongrong 阮仲容, was a musician of the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). He was one of the Seven Worthies of the Bamboo Grove ((zhulin qixian 竹林七賢). Ruan Xian came from Weishi 尉氏 (modern Weishi, Henan) and was a nephew of the famous thinker and writer Ruan Ji 阮籍, and he was therefore also called Xiao Ran 小阮 "Lesser Ruan". During the reign of Emperor Wu 晉武帝 (r. 265-289) he was appointed gentleman cavalier attendant (sanji shilang 散騎侍郎), later governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Shiping 始平. He was known for his love of the Daoist writings Laozi 老子 (Daodejing 道德經) and Zhuangzi 莊子 and his inclination to a libertine lifestyle that was influenced by the Daoist refusal of the Confucian rules of social propriety. His only love was music and banquets. At one instance he was so free to drink water from a pig's bowl in presence of his family. At another occasion he spread open his large trousers with the help of bamboo sticks, in order to ridicule the extravagance at the court. On the other side, his friends and colleagues highly estimated him for his skills in the style of "pure conversation" (qingtan 清談) that flourished among scholars and writers of his times. Ruan Xian was known for his natural and simple behaviour and his honest and upright speech. He once lent out a horse to pursue a fugitive slave, and when he got him, he allowed the exhausted servant to mount his horse that both ride back home together. Ruan Xian was famous for his art of playing the lute (pipa 琵琶) and used a special type of this instrument, with two sound-holes, that was later, to honour its creator, called ruanxian 阮咸 or simply ruan 阮.
Of his writings, only fragments are preserved, namely the Lüyi 律議 and the Ni Tianwen 擬天問, the former a treatise on musical scales, the latter a commentary to the poetry collection Chuci 楚辭. Both fragments are recorded in the Tang period 唐 (618-907) encyclopedia Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚.


Sources: Li Zhonghua 李中華 (1992), "Zhulin xiqian 竹林七賢", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chuabanshe), vol. 3, p. 1613. ● Gao Riguang 高日光 (1996), "Ruan Xian 阮咸", in: Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升 (ed.), Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), p. 77.

February 27, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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