Encyclopedia: Chen Shou

Chen Shou (Chengzuo); Ch‘ên Shou (Ch‘êng-tso); 陳壽 (承祚)

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You are viewing the profile of Chen Shou (陳壽), styled Chengzuo (承祚), born in Anan Prefecture, Baxi Commandery of Shu. “Served Shu and later Jin. Author of the highly-respected Three Kingdoms history, Sanguozhi.” Chen Shou was affiliated with the Shu Kingdom and the Jin Dynasty. Return to the Three Kingdoms Encyclopedia to learn more or explore our Encyclopedia Directory to browse by kingdom or category.


Chen Shou (Chengzuo) 陳壽 (承祚)

Lived: AD 233–297

None Available

Served: Shu, Jin

Served Shu and later Jin. Author of the highly-respected Three Kingdoms history, Sanguozhi.

Officer Details

Wade-Giles: Ch‘ên Shou (Ch‘êng-tso)
Simplified Chinese: 陈寿 (承祚)
Pronunciation: Chen2 Shou4 (Cheng2zuo4)

Birthplace: Anan Prefecture, Baxi Commandery of Shu

Rank and Titles

Master of Records for the Generals of the Guards; Gentleman Librarian in the Eastern Library; Cavalier Gentleman-in-attendance of the Yellow Gates; Assistant Gentleman Editor, Gentleman Editor, Chancellor of Pingyuan Marquisate; Administrator of Changguang Commandery; Secretary-preparer of Documents; Palace Cadet of the Heir Apparent.

Fact vs. Fiction

Differences Between Fact and Common Fiction

  • Some confusion exists about Chen Shou’s agenda while portraying events in the Sanguozhi. Briefly, in serving Jin, he had to be careful in portraying certain families (particularly Cao, Sima and Xun), but he carefully inserted truths in other areas. Wei and Wu details drew on associated kingdom histories, but the Shu section, with no official history, was more a critical compilation (perhaps leaving it more accurate, though shorter).
  • All said and done, Chen Shou was a first-class historian.
  • Pei Songzhi’s annotations helped extensively to bridge the work’s omissions and inconsistencies.

Literary Appearances

Jin Shu: 82

Search Results

Chen Shou/SanguoZhi Sources
Date: 07/19     Replies: 11
Chen Shou
Date: 01/12     Replies: 29
Do You Agree with Chen Shou on Jiang Wei?
Date: 04/08     Replies: 24
How Long Did It Take Chen Shou to Write SGZ?
Date: 10/03     Replies: 8


JS Biography of Chen Shou (translation)
Date: 03/17     Replies: 5

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Chen Shou, styled Chengzuo, was from Anhan county, Baxi commandery.

It is said Chen Shou initially started as a subordinate official to Zhuge Dan, but that he was constantly belittled by him. He later served as an official in the Shu government, but because he refused to pander to the powerful eunuch Huang Hao, he was demoted and even expelled several times.

When Wei conquered Shu in late 263, Chen Shou did not serve it. Wei itself was soon overthrown by Jin. Chen Shou was recommended by Luo Xian (羅憲) and/or Zhang Hua to the emperor, Sima Yan. Henceforth, Chen Shou served the Jin government. After Wu fell in 280, Chen Shou published three separate books, the Book of Wei, the Book of Shu, and the Book of Wu, which later generations coalesced into the Records of the Three States. He authored several other history books and collected the writings of Zhuge Liang. His books were well-received by Zhang Hua and Xun Xu, who both thought that Sima Qian and Ban Gu, who were famous historians, could not compare to Chen Shou. He was also praised for trying to be historically accurate in his book. Xiahou Zhan, who was also writing a history dedicated to Wei, burned his manuscript upon reading his books.

The fortunes of Chen Shou would change, however. Xun Xu later changed his opinion, and either because he thought Chen Shou was too close to Zhang Hua or that the history of the Book of Wei was not written well enough for him, had Chen Shou leave the capital as Grand Administrator of Changguang. Chen Shou was summoned back after Du Yu recommended him. He later died in Luoyang.

The Book of Jin merely states that Chen Shou died in 297 at the age of 64, but the Huayangguozhi goes further to state that Chen Shou was considered for a promotion to be one of the Nine Ministers by Zhang Hua during the rule of Jia Nanfeng, but that Zhang Hua was killed in a purge of high ranking ministers by Sima Lun in 300 before any of this could be realized. This wording implies Chen Shou died in or after 300.

Chen Shou, his famous book, and his commentaries therein, along with the annotations added on by Pei Songzhi, would go on to influence the Romance of the Three Kingdoms, and thus, Chinese popular culture.



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April 10, 2023