Yi Zhongtian (born 1947) is a Chinese writer and historian. He is also a professor and PhD supervisor at the Department of Chinese Language and Literature of Xiamen University’s School of Humanities.

TV celebrity and best-selling author Yi Zhongtian will write a series of books on Chinese history that are already predicted to be publishing sensations.

Yi, 66, is a retiree from the department of Chinese literature at Xiamen University. He became a household name after he appeared in the CCTV program Lecture Room in 2005 and performed a unique, humorous retelling of the history of the Three Kingdoms (AD 220-280). The program was so popular that his book on the topic sold nearly 6 million copies.

His other books sell an average of 700,000 copies.

Yi’s new series has the ambitious title Yi Zhongtian’s Chinese History. The 36-volume series recounts 3,700 years of Chinese history from the primitive era to the end of the 20th century.

-From an introduction in China Daily by Sun Ye & Mei Jia

Yi Zhongtian is well-known to Chinese people. The CCTV programme “Lecture Room” invited Professor Yi Zhongtian to lecture on the Three Kingdoms, which was very warmly received by the audience thanks to his unique point of view and witty exposition. However, what is attractive about him is not found just in his approach and his way of presenting. The roots of his popularity and fame lie in his contribution to popularising what was thought to be “highbrow literature” among ordinary people and stimulating an interest in “National Studies” across the nation.

Yi Zhongtian´s special way of interpreting history closely mirrors his industriousness in his daily studies. It is his solid cultural foundation and profound understanding of history which has captured the interest of the academic world.

During a broadcast of “Elite Forum” on Phoenix TV, the host once asked Yi Zhongtian, “You have been developing your thinking and your perceptions for 50 years; how would you sum yourself up?” The much-honoured professor responded very humorously, “Well, I guess I´m a funny kind of person”.

-Abstract from Xiamen University Website

Yi’s grandfather, Yi Silin (1885–1983), graduated from the Hunan Law School (; now part of Hunan University) and served as the acting county magistrate of Dao County, Hunan Province. He became a self-taught physician after leaving office. Yi’s uncle, Yi Rengai (; 1908–1990), graduated from Tsinghua University’s Department of History in 1935. Yi’s father, Yi Tingyuan (1919–2011), was an accountant.

Yi spent his childhood in his birthplace, Changsha, Hunan Province, before moving to Wuhan, Hubei Province, at the age of six. He attended Yuemachang Primary School and No. 1 Middle School attached to Central China Normal University .

Between 1965 and 1975, Yi went to Xinjiang to join the Xinjiang Production and Construction Corps. From 1975 to 1978, he taught at a middle school for the children of employees at a steel production firm in Urumqi, Xinjiang.

Yi studied ancient Chinese literature in Wuhan University under the tutelage of Hu Guorui and graduated in 1978 with a professional degree. In 1981, after obtaining a MA degree from Wuhan University, he became a lecturer at his alma mater. He is currently a professor and PhD supervisor in the Department of Chinese Language and Literature at Xiamen University’s School of Humanities.

  • From Wikipedia


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