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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Jiao-si Songs of the Han Dynasty

Vol. 41 No. 3   06/2011    


The Jiao-si Songs of the Han Dynasty


Xu, Yun-he  









Key words

Jiao-si Songs 郊祀歌, order of musical ceremonies, lucky omen poems, worship of heaven and earth, search for gods


     This essay rethinks several parts of the nineteen chapters of the Han Dynasty Jiao-si Songs 郊祀歌 (songs for worshiping the heaven and the earth), based on descriptions found in Historical Records 史記 and History of the Former Han Dynasty 漢書. Parts I reconsider include when they were written; who their authors were; how they were arranged; the musical ceremony; the phrasing; and the relationship between the lucky omen poems and Emperor Wu 武帝’s worship of heaven and earth and his prayer to the god for blessing. The paper comes to the following conclusions: the songs for sacrificing to the gods in Chapter 10 was written in the 6th year of the Yuanding Reign 元鼎, while the lucky omen poems in the same chapter were written between the 1st year of Yuanshou 元狩 and the 3rd year of Taishi 太始. The authors were a group of scholars that were still alive in the 6th year of Yuanding—when Emperor Wu was ruling—whose names have all been lost except that of Zou-tsu 鄒子. The songs for sacrificing to the gods in Chapter 10 were composed by Li Yannian 李延年, while the lucky omen poems were composed by either Li Yannian or other contemporary musicians in the conservatory. The nineteen chapters are currently in a particular order, but it is certainly not the original one, because Ban Gu 班固, in his History of the Former Han Dynasty, simply collected the songs over twenty-nine years which had been written and played for sacrificing during Emperor Wu’s reign. After researching the gods and the priority in rank for sacrifices during the Han Dynasty, this essay discusses the shape of the sacrificial altar, and then reveals the original order of the songs in Chapter 10. The original xi  characters in the poems were deleted by Ban Gu when recording. In other words, the phrasing was not changed from the sentence type in the Songs of Chu 楚辭. The lucky omen poems were used mainly as a display of power throughout Emperor Wu’s worship of heaven and earth and his search for gods. 



Author: Xu, Yun-he
Genre: Article
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