Wang Anshi (Dictionary of World Biography: Middle Ages)
Article abstract: A writer and statesman during the Northern Sung Dynasty, Wang Anshi introduced sweeping reforms in government, affecting particularly the state financial system and the bureaucracy.
Wang Anshi was born in south central China in what is now Kiangsi Province, an area noted as a center of tea producers and merchants. His family first prospered in farming, although on a small scale, but later generations produced scholars, several holding the doctorate degree. Wang’s father was a minor official who served in a variety of local government posts. His family thus instilled in Wang traditional Confucian values of education and of government service.
In 1042, Wang earned a doctorate, and for the next eighteen years, he served in local government posts. His experience, especially a year spent as a district magistrate, gave him insight into the conditions of the poor in the countryside and of the workers in the growing urban centers. His experience with incompetent bureaucrats led him, in 1058, to present to Emperor Jen-tsung (1023-1064) a memorial, the basis of his later reform proposals. In it, Wang showed how a well-trained, well-controlled bureaucracy could serve as the chief tool in bringing about a Confucian moral society.
Wang urged, among other things, that the emperor give highest consideration to the character and ability of candidates for government office. Further,...
(The entire section is 1865 words.)
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