Lu Ji, 陸機, 字:士衡

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Ji Shiheng, 字:士衡 Lu 陸

Chinese: 【(吳郡吳縣)】 陸機(四) (士衡)
Death: 303 (41-43)
Immediate Family:

Son of Lu Kang, 陸抗, 字:幼節 and Zhang 張
Father of 陸蔚 and 陸夏
Brother of Lu Yan, 陸晏; Lu Jing, 陸景, 字:士仁; 陸氏; Lu Yun 陸雲; 陸庭 and 4 others

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Immediate Family

About Lu Ji, 陸機, 字:士衡

Lu Ji 陸機 (261–303), zi Shiheng 士衡, Western Jin writer.

Lu Ji’s ancestral home was Wu 吳 of Wu commandery 吳郡 (modern Suzhou in Jiangsu). He was a member of a prominent family of the Wu state. Lu Ji’s grandfather Lu Xun 陸遜 (183–245) served as prime minister of Wu, and his father Lu Kang 陸抗 (226–274) was minister of war. He is the older brother of Lu Yun 陸雲 (262–303).

Lu Xun was an early supporter of the Wu founder Sun Quan 孫權 (r. 222–252). He was married to Sun Quan’s sister. In 219, Lu Xun led the Wu army to a decisive victory over the Shu general Guan Yu 關羽 (d. 219), and as a reward Sun Quan enfeoffed him as Marquis of Huating 華亭. Huating then became the Lu family estate. It was located west of modern Shanghai (modern Songjiang 松江 county, Shanghai city). Although many scholars refer to Huating as Lu Ji’s ancestral home, his ancestral home was Wu commandery. In the third century, Huating was a scenic area that included a large valley and meandering river. It was also famous for its colony of cranes, whose crunkling could be heard from a great distance. Lu Xun was one of Sun Quan’s most able generals, and he was appointed prime minister of Wu in 244, one year before his death. In 245, Lu Xun became embroiled in a political struggle at the court between two of Sun Quan’s sons. Displeased with Lu Xun’s handling of the matter, Sun Quan repeatedly sent palace emissaries to admonish him. According to Lu Xun’s biography in the Sanguo zhi (58. 1345), Lu Xun died of “indignation” at the age of sixty-three.

When Lu Xun died in 245, Lu Kang took command of his father’s army. Lu Kang was the leader of the forces that fought against the Wei armies led by Sima Zhao 司馬昭 (211–265). While a number of the Wu commanders surrendered to the Wei, Lu Kang remained loyal to Wu, even after Sima Yan 司馬炎 (236–290) established the Jin dynasty in 265. In 272, the Wu commander Bu Chan 步闡 (d. 272) surrendered to the Jin. Lu Kang occupied Xiling 玲陵 (modern Yichang 宜昌, Hubei) to prevent it from falling into the hands of the Jin. After capturing Xiling, Lu Kang ordered the execution of Bu Chan and his family. Probably as a reward for this achievement, in 273 Lu Kang was named minister of war and governor of the large and important province of Jingzhou 荆州 (administrative seat Xiangyang 襄陽, modern Xiangfan city, Hubei), which seems to have been an area traditionally assigned to members of the Lu family. However, in autumn of 274, Lu Kang died of illness.

Lu Kang had six sons: Lu Yan 陸晏 (d. 280), Lu Jing 陸景 (249–280), Lu Xuan 陸玄 (n. d. ), Lu Ji, Lu Yun, and Lu Dan 陸耽 (d. 303). The oldest son Lu Yan succeeded his father as head of the family, but all of the sons except for the youngest, Lu Dan, shared in the command of Lu Kang’s army. Lu Ji was only fourteen years old at the time, but he was given the rank of yamen jiangjun 牙門將軍 (general of the banner gate). In December 279, the Jin sent a large army of over 200, 000 men to attack Wu from the west. Just before his death, Lu Kang had warned the Wu emperor to prepare for such an invasion. In the face of this overwhelming force, many of the Wu commanders surrendered without a fight. However, Lu Ji’s two older brothers Lu Yan and Lu Jing both were killed in battle with the Jin general Wang Jun 王浚 (206–285).

According to the traditional account summarized in the Jin shu, after the Jin conquest, Lu Ji and his brother Lu Yun retired to the family estate in Huating. They reputedly lived here for nearly ten years, engaging in scholarly pursuits and writing poetry until 289 when they received an invitation from the Jin court to take up office in Luoyang. However, there is good evidence that Lu Yun immediately entered official service under the Jin. Lu Ji entered the service of the Jin later than Lu Yun. Shortly after the Jin conquest, Lu wrote a long two-part expository essay, “Bian wang lun” 辨亡論 (Disquisition on the fall of a state) in which he discusses the reasons for Wu’s defeat.

There is some confusion about when and under whom Lu Ji first served when he went to the capital. According to the conventional account, Lu Ji remained in Wu until 289 when he was invited to join the staff of the grand tutor Yang Jun 楊駿 (d. 291). However, based on the evidence of Lu Ji’s “Xie Pingyuan neishi biao” 謝平原內史表 (Petition expressing thanks for the post of administrator of Pingyuan) dated 301, in which he says he had been serving in office at Luoyang for nine years, he must have taken his first position in Luoyang not in 289, but 292. Thus, he could not have served Yang Jun, who was killed in 291. However, Lu Ji may have traveled to Luoyang some time before this. He could have met Yang Jun, who summoned Lu Ji to office, but Lu Ji may not have taken up the position. At this time he also met Zhang Hua 張華 (232–300), who introduced him to prominent men at the court. Lu Ji’s first position in Luoyang probably was attendant to the heir designate, Sima Yu 司馬遹 (d. 300), also known by his posthumous name Minhuai taizi 愍懷太子 (Crown Prince Mournfully Recalled). The heir designate’s Eastern Palace was the center of social activity in the capital, and prominent men attended the numerous gatherings that took place there. A frequent visitor to the Eastern Palace was Jia Mi 賈謐 (d. 300), who was the nephew of Empress Jia 賈后 (d. 300), the chief consort of Emperor Hui 惠 (r. 291–306). Lu Ji wrote several poems for gatherings hosted by the prince. One of these pieces, titled “Huang taizi yan Xuanpu Xuanyou tang you ling fu shi” 皇太子宴玄圃宣猷堂有令賦詩 (Poem composed on command for the August Heir Designate’s Banquet at the You Hall in the Xuan Garden), is contained in the Wen xuan.

In 294, Lu Ji accepted a position on the staff of the Wu prince Sima Yan 司馬宴 (281–311), who was stationed in the southeast. In 296, Lu Ji was summoned back to the capital where he was appointed gentleman of palace writers. To celebrate Lu Ji’s return, Jia Mi commissioned Pan Yue 潘岳 (247–300) to compose in Jia Mi’s name a long poem in tetrasyllabic meters titled “Wei Jia Mi zuo zeng Lu Ji” 為賈謐作贈陸機 (Presented to Lu Ji, written on behalf of Jia Mi). This poem consists of eleven eight-line stanzas and is included in the Wen xuan. Lu Ji replied with a poem in the same meter and length titled “Da Jia Changyuan” 答賈長淵 (Replying to Jia Mi). While serving in Luoyang, Lu Ji was a member of the literary coterie centered about Jia Mi called the Twenty-four Companions.

In 300, Empress Jia instigated the assassination of Crown Prince Minhuai. Sima Lun 司馬倫 (d. 301) then deposed Empress Jia and ordered her and Jia Mi put to death, along with her associates Zhang Hua and Pan Yue. After declaring himself prime minister of state, Sima Lun appointed Lu Ji as his aide. Having observed the death of numerous family members and friends during this turbulent period, Lu Ji then composed “Tan shi fu” 歎逝賦 (Fu on lamenting the departed) to express grief at their passing.

In 301, Sima Lun plotted to seize the imperial throne for himself. After Sima Lun’s army was defeated by Sima Jiong 司馬冏 (d. 303) and Sima Ying 司馬穎 (279–306), Lu Ji was arrested and put on trial. Through the intercession of Sima Ying, Lu Ji was able to have his capital punishment sentence reduced to banishment to the frontier. However, before Lu Ji could depart for his exile, he was released from his punishment by a general amnesty. To express his gratitude to Sima Ying, Lu Ji composed two “Yuan kui shi” 園葵詩 (Poems on the garden mallow). One of them is included in Wen xuan. It was also about this time that Lu Ji composed his famous “Wen fu” 文賦 (Fu on literature).

Lu Ji then joined the staff of Sima Ying, who appointed him administrator of Pingyuan 平原 (administrative center south of modern Pingyuan, Shandong). The petition thanking Sima Ying for granting him this post is contained in Wen xuan 37. In 303, Sima Yong 司馬顒 (d. 306), prince of Hejian 河間, and Sima Ying joined in a military campaign against Sima Yi 司馬乂 (d. 303), prince of Changsha, who had killed Sima Jiong. Sima Ying appointed Lu Ji commander-in-chief of the vanguard. During the ensuing battle, Lu Ji’s army was defeated outside one of the gates of Luoyang. Accused of plotting revolt, Lu Ji was put to death along with his two sons and brothers.

A large portion of Lu Ji’s writings has been lost. In the Eastern Jin period Ge Hong 葛洪 (283–343; alt. 283–363) reported that he saw a collection of the writings of Lu Ji and his brother Lu Yun that consisted of “one hundred and some juan.” He also added that this collection was not complete. The monograph on bibliography of the Sui shu records a Liang dynasty catalogue that listed Lu Ji’s collection in forty-seven juan with a table of contents in one juan. This was lost already in the early Tang. The version seen by the compilers of the Sui shu had only fourteen juan. Both Tang histories record a fifteen-juan version. Scholars believe the extra juan may be the table of contents. By the Southern Song Lu Ji’s collection is reduced to ten juan. This probably is a reconstructed collection. The only known Song printing is the Jin erjun wenji 晉二俊文集 done by Xu Minzhan 徐民瞻 (fl. 1200). This probably was the basis for the earliest extant printing of Lu Ji’s collection, the Lu Shiheng wenji 陸士衡文集 issued by Lu Yuanda 陸元大 in 1519.

The Lu Yuanda version of the Lu Shiheng wenji contains 25 fu, 106 shi to 75 titles, and 20 prose works to 19 titles (one of which, the “Liu chushi Shen qi Wangshi lei” 流處士參妻王氏誄 is not by Lu Ji). It also includes the “Yan Lianzhu” 演連珠 (Linked-pearls expanded) which consists of fifty pieces. Scholars have discovered other pieces, including 3 fu, 50 poems to 30 titles, and 5 prose pieces that were left out of the Lu Yuanda version.

Lu Ji is considered one of the most distinguished early medieval Chinese writers. Zhong Rong placed his poems in the upper grade of his Shi pin. The compilers of the Wen xuan selected a large number of pieces in various genre groups. His fifty-two-poem corpus is the largest in the Wen xuan. Seventeen of Lu Ji’s poems selected for the Wen xuan are yuefu. Lu Ji’s extant collection contains an additional thirty-two pieces in twenty-one titles. The vast majority of the pieces are written to Han or Wei period yuefu titles, and some of them are close imitations of earlier poems. For example, “Duan ge xing” 短歌行 (Short song) follows both the prosodic form (tetrasyllabic line) and theme of Cao Cao’s yuefu by this same title. Lu Ji also is well-known for his set of twelve “Ni gu shi” 擬古詩 (Imitating ancient poems) in which he composed his own versions of all but one of the pieces that the compilers of the Wen xuan selected for the set known as “Gu shi shijiu shou” 古詩十九首 (Nineteen ancient poems). Lu Ji’s poetic corpus also includes a goodly number of poems on travel. One of his best known pieces is “Fu Luo dao zhong zuo” 赴洛道中作 (Written on the road to Luo), a two-part poem he composed when he was traveling from Wu to take up office in Luoyang. Lu Ji exchanged poems with a number of his contemporaries, including his Wu compatriot Gu Rong 顧榮 (270–322), his younger brother Lu Yun, Pan Ni 潘尼 (ca. 247–ca. 311) and Pan Yue. One of the distinguishing features of Lu Ji’s verse is his extensive use of the parallel couplet, even in his yuefu.

Lu Ji is also an accomplished fu poet. He is best known for his “Wen fu,” which is an important work of medieval Chinese literary thought and criticism. The piece primarily concerns the process of literary composition. Lu Ji first examines the sources of literary creation, which he attributes to the writer’s emotional response to the cosmos, nature, and the passing of the seasons, as well as his experience with other literary works. To Lu Ji writing is a contemplative, spiritual act in which the writer, much like a Taoist sage, suspends his sight and hearing to embark on a spirit journey for his literary inspiration. Thus, he is able “to view past and present in a single instant, /And touch the entire world in the blink of an eye.” Lu Ji also touches on the relationship between thought and language, a subject that was often discussed by the xuanxue thinkers of his time. One of the most important sections of the “Wen fu” sets forth the norms that Lu Ji associates with ten genres. His statements on the shi and fu were especially influential in the Chinese literary tradition. Lu Ji also establishes criteria for judging good writing notably harmony (he 和), resonance (ying 應), dignity (ya 雅), beauty (yan 艷), and strong feeling (bei 悲).

A number of Lu Ji’s fu pieces are on personal subjects. For example, in such pieces as “Si qin fu” 思親賦 (Fu on longing for kin) and “Huai tu fu” 懷土賦 (Fu on yearning for my home) he expresses homesickness for his native Wu. Like other Western Jin poets, Lu Ji also wrote a number of fu on yongwu themes, including two pieces on clouds, one on the clepsydra, and a delightful piece on the melon.

Lu Ji’s prose corpus includes the famous “Bian wang lun” that he wrote while still residing in Wu. In this essay he discusses the reasons for the fall of the Wu state. He attributes the Wu defeat not to a lack of good military leaders or strategies, but to its failure to make use of the talented men it had. The work is a model of parallel prose of which Lu Ji is an acknowledged master.

Another of Lu Ji’s famous prose works is “Yan lian zhu” 演連珠 (Strung pearls expanded). This is a set of fifty carefully crafted aphorisms, each of which begins with the phrase “I have heard.” It is the only example of this form included in the Wen xuan.

Lu Ji was also a distinguished calligrapher. One example of his calligraphy, the “Pingfu tie” 平復帖 (Recovering from illness) has survived. It is now in the collection of the Palace Museum in Beijing. The piece is a short eighty-six-character note that he composed in draft cursive to his friend identified as Yanxian 彥先, who had been ill. The most likely person to whom this refers is He Xun 賀循 (260–319).

David R. Knechtges


Lu Ji 陸機 [33671] Zhou Jiayou, 2.302. Jinshu, 54.1467-1481.

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