Sīmǎ Lǎng appellation Bódá was a Hénèi Wēn man. (1)
- Sīmǎ Biāo’s Xùzhuàn states:
- Lǎng’s grandfather [Sīmǎ] Juàn appellation Yuányì was extensively learned and liked the ancient, was elegant and easy and had great magnanimity. He was eight chǐ three cùn [~1.9m] tall, his belt ten wéi, strong and stalwart in ceremony, unique among all others, and all the local groups and clansmen all attached around him. His office reached Administrator of Yǐngchuān.
- [Sīmǎ Lǎng’s] father Fáng appellation Jiàngōng was by nature upright and just. Even when at a banquet, his authoritative presence did not change. He enjoyed studying the biographies of the important officials in the Hànshū, and could recite several tens of thousands of words. When young he was an official in the province and prefecture, served as Magistrate of Luòyáng and Intendant of Jīngzhào, and due to old age was transferred to Cavalry Commandant. He maintained his will and went home, closed the door and kept to himself. All of his sons, though they were capped and adults, if they were not ordered “go forward” they did not dare go forward, if they were not ordered “sit” they did not dare sit, and if they were not directed to be heard they did not dare speak. The solemnness between father and son was like this. Aged seventy-one years, Jiàn’ān twenty-fourth year  he ended. He had eight sons. Lǎng was the eldest, and next was Jìn Xuān Huángdì [Sīmǎ Yì].
Aged nine, there was a visitor who used his father’s appellation. Lǎng said: “To be casual of another man’s parents is to be disrespectful to one’s own parents.” The guest apologized to him.
Aged twelve, he was tested in the classics and became a Child-Cadet. The examiner because [Sīmǎ Lǎng] had a strong and large body suspected that Lǎng had lied about his age, and interrogated him. Lǎng said: “My [kinsmen] inside and out are all of the sort to grow large. Though I am young, I do not have the manner of relying on my height. To denigrate age in order to mature early is not my intention.” The examiner was impressed with him.
Later soldiers rose up East of the Passes. Former Inspector of Jìzhōu Lǐ Shào’s family resided in Yěwáng, near rugged mountains, and he desired to move to reside at Wēn. Lǎng said to Shào: “Does the analogy of teeth [being cold without] lips only apply to Yú and Guó? Wēn and Yěwáng are like that [teeth and lips]. Now if you leave to reside here, that is only to postpone destruction to another time and that is all. Moreover you sir are one who the people of the state look toward. Now the bandits have not yet even arrived, so [if you go] the counties about the mountains will certainly be alarmed, and this will disturb and displace the people’s hearts and open the way for traitors and rebels. I on behalf of the prefecture worry for you.” Shào did not listen. The people near the mountains indeed rebelled, or fled inland, or were plundered by bandits.
At the time Dǒng Zhuó forced Heaven’s Son to move the capital to Cháng’ān, while Zhuó remained at Luòyáng. Lǎng’s father Fáng was Censor Managing Documents and was to move west [with the Emperor], but as the Four Corners of the realm were in upheaval, he sent Lǎng to lead the family and retainers to return to their home county. Someone reported that Lǎng wished to run away, so he was seized and brought to Zhuó. Zhuó said to Lǎng: “You sir and my deceased son are the same age, yet you turn your back on me!”
Lǎng therefore said: “You wise lord rely on the virtue of high times, and when encountering many conflicts all at once, can clearly remove from the masses the lowly, and widely raise up the virtuous. This is truly to think things over thoroughly, and will lead to the restoration of order, with authority and virtue to lead to prosperity, and achievement and work to lead to renown. But the problem of soldiers daily increases, and the provinces and commanderies are in chaos. Within the suburbs and borders the people cannot peacefully work, and abandon their homes and property, and flee to hide in exile. Even though gates on all sides are shut and forbidden, and punishments are increased to executions, yet it still does not stop it. That is why I am in this city. May you wise lord clearly consider past events, slightly think things over. Then your honored name will be like the sun and moon, and Yī [Yǐn] and Zhōu[-gōng] could not compare.”
Zhuó said: “I also understand this. Your words sir are meaningful.” (1)
- Your Servant Sōngzhī comments: Lǎng in this answer only praised and narrated Zhuó’s merits and virtues, and did not warn or advise and nothing more. In the end he did not explain things, and yet Zhuó so easily said “I also understand this. Your words sir are meaningful”! Such words between guest and host do not solve problems.
Lǎng knew that Zhuó would certainly be destroyed, and feared he would be detained, so he divided his property to bribe Zhuó‘s officials and asked to return to his home town. When he arrived he said to the [town] elders: “Dǒng Zhuó rebels, and has become the enemy of all Under Heaven. This is the time for loyal officials and righteous soldiers to rise up. This commandery borders the land of the capital, east of Luò[yáng] is Chénggāo, and the northern border is the great [Yellow] River. If the righteous troops rising up cannot advanced, then they will undoubtedly be stopped here. Therefore this is a land that will be torn apart by war, and those here will not be at peace. It is best that now while the roads are still clear to bring all our clans and go east to Líyáng. Líyáng has camps and troops. Zhào Wēisūn formerly wed into our hometown, commands a camp and leads troops and horses, and can be our leader. If later there is a change, we can still look around and it will not be too late.”
The elders were nostalgic [for their hometown], and none followed him. Only Zhào Zī of the same county led his family and retainers and went with Lǎng.
After several months, all the provinces and prefectures east of the Passes raised troops, the armies numbering several hundreds of thousands, and all gathered at Xíngyáng and Hénèi. The Generals could not unite together, and let their troops plunder and rob, and half of the people died. Afterward, the soldiers East of the Passes scattered, Tàizǔ [Cáo Cāo] and Lǚ Bù fought one another at Púyáng, and Lǎng therefore led his family back to Wēn. That year there was a great famine, and people ate each other. Lǎng gathered and cared for his clansmen, educated his younger brothers, and would not because of the difficult times neglect his duties.
Aged twenty-two, Tàizǔ summoned him to join the office of the Excellency of Works, and sent him out as Magistrate of Chénggāo. He resigned due to illness, and returned as Chief of Tángyáng. In his government affairs he was generous and kind, he did not use whip or cane, yet the people did not violate laws. Before this, there were people who moved to live in the capital. Later the county was recruited to build boats, and the people who moved were afraid it could not be done [with only the people remaining] and therefore secretly returned to assist them. The love he received was like this.
He was transferred to Magistrate of Yuánchéng, he entered [Court] as Registrar to the Chancellor.
Lǎng believed: “The reason the realm Under Heaven collapsed was because Qín had abolished the Five Ranks [of nobility] system, and because the commanderies and states no longer made preparations for hunting and practicing warfare. Now though the Five Ranks cannot yet be restored, the provinces and commanderies could be ordered to together prepare troops, outside guarding against the foreigners in the four directions, and inside establishing authority against the errant, and this plan was best.”
He also believed: “It is appropriate to again use the well-field [land distribution system]. Previously the people had each accumulated estates for many generations, and it was difficult to take them away, so things reached to the present. Now after the great chaos, the people were scattered, the land and property has no owner, and all could become public fields, and so it is suitable to at this time to restore it [the well-field land distribution].”
Though his suggestions were not implemented, later the provinces and prefectures prepared troops, and this was Lǎng’s original idea.
He was transferred to Inspector of Yǎnzhōu, his government had great effect, and the people praised him. Even when with the army, he always wore plain clothes and ate coarse food, acting frugally to lead his subordinates. He liked ancient books on human relations. People from his hometown Lǐ Dí and others obtained great reputation, but Lǎng always disparaged them. Later Dí and the others were discredited, and the people of the time admired [Sīmǎ Lǎng’s foresight].
Zhōng Yáo and Wáng Càn published an opinion: “Without sagely men there cannot be grand peace.”
Lǎng believed: “Though the sort of people as Yī [Yǐn] and Yán [Yuān] are not sagely men, if there are many of them working together, then grand peace can be reached.” (1)
- (1) Wèishū states: Wén-dì enjoyed Lǎng’s opinions, and ordered to secretly copy and record his writings.
- Sūn Shèng states: Though Yáo was wrong, Lǎng also was not right. In the past: “Tāng appointed Yī Yǐn, and those who were not benevolent were removed.” The Yì[jīng] says: “The Yán family’s son, was he not close [to reaching perfection]? If there was something not good he was never unaware, and once aware he never did it again.” By these words, to be a sagely man and take part in great worthiness, maintain principle when coming and going, be the same when relaxing or preparing, resist the degradation of customs over time, and in reason never surrender to the heterodox. To ascend to greatness, how can one wait for generations to pass? “If good men govern for a hundred years, they would be able to overcome violence and end killing.” It is also said: “Do not tread footsteps and do not enter houses.” In the discussions of many generations, it was like this! The coming of great worthiness is intrinsic to the situation.
Jiàn’ān twenty-second year , he went with Xiàhóu Dūn, Zāng Bà, and others on the campaign against Wú. Arriving at Jūcháo, there was a great epidemic among the army soldiers. Lǎng personally toured among them distributing medicine. He fell ill and died, at the time aged forty-seven years.
His Will specified only plain clothes and head-cloth [instead of headdress], and restriction to everyday clothes, and the people of the province mourned him. (2)
- (2) Wèishū states: Lǎng was near death, and said to the officers and troops: “I the Inspector have deeply received the state’s favor and kindness. I managed [land covering] ten thousand lǐ, but though my small achievements are not yet achieved I encountered this illness, and cannot save myself, and have failed to repay the state’s kindness. After I am gone, there is to be only plain clothes and head-cloth and restriction to everyday clothes. Do not disobey my wish.”
When Míng-dì [Cáo Ruí] ascended, he gave title to Lǎng’s son Yí as Marquis of Chāngwǔ precinct, with fief of 100 households. Lǎng’s younger brother Fú also gave his son Wàng [adopted over] to continue Lǎng’s lineage. Yí died, and Wàng’s son Hóng succeeded. (3)
- (3) Jìn zhūgōng zàn states: [Sīmǎ] Wàng appellation Zǐchū was Fú’s eldest son. He had ability and insight, and early had reputation. During Xiánxī [264-265] his rank reached Excellency of Works, and when Jìn ascended he was given fief as King of Yìyáng, was promoted to Grand Commandant and Marshal-in-Chief. At the time Fú was Grand Minister. Father and son both occupied rank above the Excellencies, and since the past dynasties this has never happened before. Hóng appellation Kǒngyè had fief as King of Héjiān.
Previously Lǎng had always traveled together with Zhào Zī, whose office reached Minister of Ceremonies, and was a great scholar of the age. (1)
- (1) [Zhào] Zī appellation Jūnchū. His son Fēng appellation Zǐzhòng was a Jìn General of Elite Cavalry with fief as Duke of Dōngpínglíng. For both see the Bǎiguānmíng Zhì “Treatise on Bureaucracy Members.”