He was born in 1019 in today's prefecture-level city Yuncheng (southern Shanxi Province ), the son of a wealthy family. Early on, he made himself as a scholar and officer a name. After he had acquired at the age of 20 years in the civil service exam the highest academic title (Chinese进士, Pinyin Jinshi, doctor similar degree '), he took on a civil servant.
Sima Guang worked at a more mature age, especially as a historian. His goal was to record the Chinese history from the beginnings of the Jin State in the 11th century BC until his presence. In 1064, he handed Kaiser Yingzong a five-volume comprehensive work (历年 图, Lìniántú, map the following years '), which the Chinese history of the years 403 BC ( the start of the time of the Warring States ) to 959 AD ( the beginning of the song Dynasty ) pointed out. Two years later, he put eight more volumes before (通志, Tongzhi, Comprehensive records '), which BC marked the time of the Warring States Period 403-207 with many details. Given this success was the emperor issued an edict in which he supported the continuation of the work. He granted Sima Guang unlimited access to the Imperial Library and took over the cost of paper and writing instrument to the research assistance provided by experienced historians such as Liu Ban (刘 攽, 1022-1088 ), Liu Shu (刘 恕, 1032-1078 ), Fan Zuyu ( 范祖禹, 1041-1098) and Zhao Yunxi (赵 郧 西), who became his assistant.
After the emperor's death in 1067 Sima Guang Yingzong presented in November his work the successor Shenzong ago. The new emperor was so impressed by Sima Guang's work that he gave to the honor him about the perks at work also, even to write a preface for the historical work and its title to " Combined time mirror to help in the government" (Chinese资 治 通鉴to change Pinyin Zizhi Tongjian ). Sima Guang presented his history in 1084, finished.
Modern historians understand Kaiser Shenzongs support for the work of history as a turn to science. The Emperor recognized the teaching character of the history of science and its value to the government. At the same time he prevented the writing of history would be made about his secret, by giving the name " mirror " (鉴) the work and thus emphasizing its metaphorical character.
Through his work and the remarkable favor and loyalty of the Emperor Sima Guang arrived in time at the head of the conservative faction in the imperial court, despite the declared opposition to the minister Wang Anshi, who criticized him continually. In protest, he resigned in 1070 from the government for several years and moved to Luoyang as the official retirement home; there he found time and resources to complete its lexicons. From 1085-1086 Sima Guang, Wang Anshi was peeling off, chancellor of the imperial government. In this role, he made the progressive reforms of his predecessor reversed.
Sima Guang was in addition to his political activities and lexicographer ( writer of dictionaries and encyclopedias ) and spent decades composing his " Leipian " (类 篇, Arrayed characters ') called dictionary of 1066. It was based on the extensive 9,000 characters first Chinese dictionary Shuowen jiezi of Xu Shen (121 AD under Emperor Han Andi, Eastern Han Dynasty) and includes 31 319 Chinese characters, many of which were minted in the Song and Tang Dynasty. He should also have the Jiyun (集 韵) of Ding Du (丁 度) from the year 1067 with 53 525 characters edited.
The Sima Guang's grave is on the list of monuments of the People's Republic of China since 1988.