The third paragraph of the first chapter in Romance of the Three Kingdoms (translation by R. Moss), states:

On the fifteenth day of the fourth month of the second year of the reign Established Calm [Jian Ning A.D. 169], the Emperor arrived at the Great Hall of Benign Virtue for the full-moon ancestral rites.

What is "Established Calm"? Is that a euphemism for the beginning of emperor Ling of Han's reign? What is the Great Hall of Benign Virtue? And what are the full-moon ancestral rites?

  • 1
    I'm not a scholar of the period, but see Wikipedia:ChineseEraName. I think you are correct that the Great Hall of Benign Virtue refers to a building and the Full Moon Ancestral rites refers to a ceremony. So the sentence unpacks to the emperor arrived on a given date at a specific building with the intent of celebrating a ritual. Possibly one like this one I wish I could defer to @semaphore, whose Oriental history skills are far better than mine.
    – MCW
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 15:30

1 Answer 1


The "Established Calm" refers to the jianning (建寧) era, from the first years of the reign of Emperor Ling. The actual meaning is closer to "establishing peace".

The "Great Hall of Benign Virtue" refers to the wēndédiàn (溫德殿), a hall in the imperial palace. The name means "palace of gentle virtues".

The "full-moon ancestral rites" is a mistranslation for wangri (望日), which is the name for the 15th of the month.

This is the original sentence:


My translation would be:

On April 15th of the second year of jianning, the Emperor held court at the wēndé palace.

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    I don’t think 四月 should be translated as April?
    – dROOOze
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 21:00
  • @dROOOze Why not? It's the 4th month.'
    – Semaphore
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 21:08
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    I guess I've never seen 農曆 months being translated with January, February, etc. It seems that such a way of translation would turn e.g. 二月晦日 into "February 30th".
    – dROOOze
    Commented Feb 25, 2021 at 21:40
  • @dROOOze Fair enough, I think it's just a stylistic choice.
    – Semaphore
    Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 5:46
  • I also have reservation using April here since it is more associated with Gregorian calendar. If we consider the traditional Chinese calendar, the 15th day of the 4th month would be closer to middle/end of May, I think? Commented Feb 26, 2021 at 12:28

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