An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Lu Jia 陸賈

Mar 8, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Lu Jia 陸賈 (d. 170) was a minister and political writer during the early years of the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE).

He hailed from the region of Chu 楚 (approx. modern Hubei and Hunan) and soon became a follower of Liu Bang 劉邦, the founder of the Han dynasty. As a strong disputer of politics, he was appointed superior grand master of the palace (taizhong dafu 太中大夫). During the reign of Liu Bang, known as emperor Gaozu 漢高祖 (r. 206-195), he was to times envoy to Zhao Tuo 趙佗, who had established his own rule in southern China, in an empire called Nanyue 南越. He persuaded Zhao Tuo to give up the title of emperor and to accept the rule of the Han dynasty, without giving up his own sovereignty.

During the reign of Empress Dowager Lü 呂太后, he retired from office but suggested that Counsellor-in-chief Chen Ping 陳平 might unite his wits with Commander-in-chief Zhou Bo 周勃 in order to get rid of the Empress Dowager's powerful relatives after her eventual death. He thus helped restoring the Han dynasty after the disturbance of the Lü family.

As a political theorician, he created the theoretical background of Liu Bang's rule. It was not sufficient, he stressed, to have conquered the empire from horseback, as Liu Bang believed, but an empire needed competent scholars that would be able to run a administrative apparatus with a lot of techniqual knowledge whose foundations were lying in the Confucian Classics. A benevolent government was likewise important as military competence. The most effective way to remedy the effects of the exploitation of the empire by the Qin dynasty 秦 (221-206 BCE) and the suffering of the people during the wars after the demise of the Qin was a government of non-action (wuwei er zhi 無爲而治), meaning not to engage in activism but relying on a soft attitude of relaxing the economy.

Lu Jia was ordered to collect all writings that had survived the literary "inquisition" of the Qin dynasty and thereby started compiling an imperial library. Lu Jia's own writings are assembled in a book called Xinyu 新語 "New talks" that was praised by contemporarians as a sequel to the Confucian books Mengzi 孟子 and Xunzi 荀子.

He has at least laid the foundations of political theory during the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) that were to blossom under Jia Yi 賈誼 and Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒.

Bao Zunxin 包遵信 (1992). "Lu Jia 陸賈", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Vol. Zhongguo lishi 中國歷史 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 60.