Zhang Jie Poem: The Pit Where Emperor Qin Burned the Classics – 章碣《焚书坑》









[1] 焚书坑:旧址在今陕西省西安市临潼区东南的骊山上,据传是秦始皇时焚书的一个洞穴。秦始皇三十四年(前213),采纳丞相李斯的奏议,下令在全国范围内搜集焚毁儒家《诗》《书》和百家之书,诏令下发之后三十日不烧者,罚做筑城的苦役。这是一场文化的浩劫,使得汉代承担了传统文化复兴的艰巨任务。

[2] 竹帛:西汉蔡伦发明纸以前,中国的书籍大多刻或写在竹简上,还有一些刻在帛上。因为帛质料好价格高,所以所写书籍较少。

[3] 关河:指函谷关和黄河,是秦国可以凭借的天险。

[4] 祖龙:秦始皇自称。祖,“始”的意思;“龙”,皇帝的象征。

[5] 山东:战国时指秦国函谷关以东的六国,此处是指秦末山东农民起义。

[6] 刘项:指刘邦、项羽,他们是秦末农民起义最大的两支力量,后来经过楚汉之争,刘邦胜利,建立汉朝。

The Pit Where Emperor Qin Burned the Classics

Zhang Jie

Smoke of burnt classics gone up with the empire’s fall;

Fortresses and rivers could not guard the capital.

Before the pit turned cold, eastern rebellions spread,

The leaders of revolts were not scholars Well-read.

The poet satirizes the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty who burned up all classics for fear his empire be overthrown without knowing the rebel leaders were not well-read.


The Burning of Books is a poem written by Zhang Jie, a poet of the Tang Dynasty. The first line of the poem takes the historical fact of burning books and burying Confucian scholars by Qin Shi Huang as the starting point, and uses a slightly exaggerated technique to reveal the contradiction between the burning of books and the fall of the state. The second sentence follows the first one and reveals the lesson of the fall of the Qin Dynasty from another angle, that even a favorable sky danger cannot keep the foundation. The third sentence, while punctuating the theme, further comments on the burning of books. The last line concludes with an argument, expressing the sentiments of Liu Bang and Xiang Yu who did not read. This poem is a unique approach to the historian’s style, linking the seemingly unrelated events of “book burning” and “the fall of the kingdom” together, advancing layer by layer, naturally rounded, exaggerating the words, saying what others have not said, cleverly satirizing the absurd behavior of Qin Shi Huang’s book burning.

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