Wang An-shih

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Wang An-shih

(wäng än-shûr), 1021–86, Chinese Sung dynasty statesman. As a chief councilor (1069–74, 1075–76) he directed sweeping administrative and fiscal reforms that drew strong conservative opposition. His aim was to strengthen the central government, but the poor also benefited from reforms such as the graduated land tax, cheap government credit, and reduction of the forced labor levy. Wang revived government price and commodity controls, local police administration, and the militia system. Followers of Wang competed with conservative bureaucratic opponents for high office after his resignation.
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wang An-Shih


Wang Chieh-fu. Born 1021; died 1086. Chinese statesman, reformer, scholar, and writer.

Wang An-shih was a district government clerk. In 1069 he was court counselor, and from 1070 to 1074 and 1075-76 he was prime minister. Beginning in 1069 he proposed and partly effected several reforms: for example, he organized the tax system by introducing a new cadastre, tried to regularize market prices, introduced a system of state credit extension for peasants, introduced exemption from state conscription, and replaced mercenary troops with an army of drafted recruits. These reforms were carried out chiefly in the interest of petty and middle landowners, but they also benefited the peasants. As a result of the opposition of the big landowners and usurers, most of the reforms were abolished in 1085.

Wang An-shih wrote works on the theory and history of Chinese literature, commentaries on several canonical books, and several poems and prose pieces. He was a master of rhythmical prose. His letters, pamphlets, and essays became standard reading. As a philosopher, he was a materialist, but he was not free of mechanism.


In Russian translation:
In the book Antologiia kitaiskoi poezii, vol. 3. Moscow, 1957.
Kitaiskaia klassiehe skaia proza, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1959.


Lenin, V.l. Poln. sobr. soch., 5th ed., vol. 12. Page 253. (Footnote.)
Ivanov, A. I. Van An’-shi i ego reformy XI v. St. Petersburg, 1909.
Shtein, V. M. “Kitai v X i XI vv.” Sovetskoe vostokovedenie, 1945, no. 3.
Ch’i Hsia. Wang An-shih Peinfa. Shanghai, 1959. (The reforms of Wang An-shih.)
Liu, James T. C. Reform in Sung China: Wang An-shih (1021-1086) and His New Policies. Cambridge, Mass., 1959.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.