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Liu Ji (14th century): Wikis


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Liu Ji

Born 1 July 1311(1311-07-01)
Died 16 May 1375 (aged 63)

Liu Ji (traditional Chinese: 劉基simplified Chinese: 刘基pinyin: Liú JīWade-Giles: Liu Chi, July 1, 1311 — 16 May 1375)[1], courtesy name Bowen (伯温), posthumous name Wencheng (文成). Born in Qingtian County (modern-day Wencheng County, Zhejiang Province), he was a Chinese military strategist, officer, statesman and poet of the late Yuan and early Ming dynasty. He was the main advisor to the Yuan Dynasty era rebel Zhu Yuanzhang (1328-1398), who later became the first Ming Emperor (r. 1368-1398).[2] Liu Ji is also known for his prophecies, as he has been described as the "Chinese Nostradamus".[2] With his contemporary general and scholar Jiao Yu, he was one of the co-editors of the military treatise known as the Huolongjing, as well as co-edited Zhuge Liang's Mastering the Art of War book. He eventually became the grand chancellor at the imperial court.





Liu Ji served Zhu Yuanzhang in his rebellion against the Mongol-led regime of the Yuan Dynasty in China, which had ruled since the conquest of the Southern Song Dynasty in 1279. Liu Ji dabbled in many fields of statecraft, philosophy, scholarly works, and technology. His philosophical outlook was that of a skeptical naturalist, and he became interested in astronomy, calendrical science, magnetism, and fengshui. He was known to be a friendly associate to the mathematician and alchemist Zhao Yuqin, and collaborated with his contemporary general and scholar Jiao Yu to edit and compile the military-technology treatise of the Huolongjing, which outlined the use of various gunpowder weapons. He was very interested in the latter, and once said that "thunder is like fire shot from a cannon".[3]

Liu Ji served not only in the administration of Zhu Yuanzhang, but also in many battles as a commanding officer on land and upon the water leading the flagship of the early Ming naval forces. Liu Ji was placed in charge by Zhu Yuanzhang of the campaign to conquer all of Zhejiang from 1340 to 1350, in their rebellion against the Yuan Dynasty.[4] He was also responsible for the military ventures against opposing Chinese rebel groups, as well as coastal Japanese pirates.[4] His forces owed much of their success to the use of the medieval Chinese firearm known as the fire lance.[4] Other books he wrote also included the (百戰奇略) and (時務十八策).[5] Though overall emperor Zhu did not rely on Liu on military affairs, as he had other generals available such as Xu Da, Deng Yu (1337-77) and Chang Yuchun to expand his territory. Liu was mostly consulted on for intellectual issues.[1]


Liu was a Yuan official for 25 years. He first became a chancellor in 1340. He quit multiple times in 1349 and 1352.[6] In 1358 he was also demoted.[6] He then became a Ming official for 10 years. By the age of 60 he no longer saw any more advancement or promotion.[6]


Liu Ji's most famous prophecy to the Zhu Yuanzhang emperor was written down in a lyrical form called The Shaobing song (燒餅歌).[2][7][8] The poem is written in cryptic form and is difficult to understand. It is generally known to have predicted the future of China including the 1449 Mongol invasion, the 1911 founding of Republic of China and many more.[2]


The death surrounding Liu Ji is quite uncertain. Some say he was executed by emperor Zhu Yuanzhang himself, not because Liu failed his duty but because the emperor was envious and even fearful of his knowledge and influence.[2] Some sources have pointed out that the emperor did kill a number of people, but Liu may or may not have been part of that group.[9]

Biographical works

Liu Ji's biography is found in the 128th chapter of the Chinese Ming Shi historical text, while the author Chong Tai also wrote a biography on him.[3]

Popular culture

A 400+ episode TV series about Liu Ji was released in Taiwan's TTV titled Shen ji miao suan liu bowen (神機妙算劉伯溫).[10]

See also


  1. ^ a b Jiang, Yonglin. Jiang Yonglin. [2005] (2005). The Great Ming Code: 大明律. University of Washington Press. ISBN 029598449X, 9780295984490. Page xxxv. The source is used to cover the year only.
  2. ^ a b c d e Windridge, Charles. [1999] (2003) Tong Sing The Chinese Book of Wisdom. Kyle Cathie Limited. ISBN 0-7607-4535-8. pg 124-125.
  3. ^ a b Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 25.
  4. ^ a b c Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 232.
  5. ^ "" 劉伯溫是被神化了嗎?. Page 1. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  6. ^ a b c "" 劉伯溫是被神化了嗎?. Page 2. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  7. ^ Ji, Liu. [2004] (2004) 燒餅歌與推背圖. Bai Shan Shu Fang Publishing Company. ISBN 9867769007
  8. ^ HK geocities. "HK geocities." 燒餅歌. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  9. ^ "" 劉伯溫是被神化了嗎?. Page 3. Retrieved on 2008-09-19.
  10. ^ TTV. "Taiwan Television." 神機妙算劉伯溫. Retrieved on 2008-09-20.


  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Part 7. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd.


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