7 Best 9th Century Authors: Journey Back in Time With a Book

Discover our comprehensive guide with the best 9th century authors and gain timeless wisdom from their most pivotal works. 

During the Middle Ages, religion significantly influenced art, poetry, and writing. Paintings and statues featured the major stories and characters of the bible, Cathedrals were built, and artisans created golden chalices and tapestries for ceremonial use. However, the 9th century also ushered in a new interest in learning, language, and preserving knowledge and history.

Whether written in Persian, Chinese, or Latin, the literature of the 9th century primarily consisted of religious texts, poetry, historical accounts, and instructive stories. Though their daily experiences were vastly different than ours, the literature of 9th-century societies reveals that the essence of humanity remains essentially the same.

Like our own, their stories are humorous, tragic, full of victories and defeats, loyalties and betrayals, desire and wisdom. If you’re interested in this topic, you might also enjoy our round-up of the best 17th century authors.

Here Are The Best 9th Century Authors

1. Einhard, 775 – 840

Einhard
Einhard via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Einhard was born in the Frankish kingdom to a family of wealthy landowners. When he was a young child, they sent him to the monks of Fula to receive his education. Einhard was small in stature and, therefore, not well suited to sword-fighting or riding, so he concentrated his efforts on more academic pursuits. Reportedly, he was proficient in Latin at a young age. 

Upon graduation, Einhard earned a position as a scholar and courtier to Charlemagne. While serving in this capacity, he established a school and was responsible for overseeing the completion of several palace-building projects. As a writer, Einhard is remembered for his compiled history of Charlemagne and his rule, an account that many consider invaluable to medieval studies. 

The Life of Charlemagne is a personal account of Charlemagne’s battle strategies, personal habits, friends, enemies, and political prowess. It is a singular reference for anyone interested in the era and its celebrated warrior king and “Father of Europe.” You might also be interested in our list of the best 16th century authors.

“These were the wars that that mighty king waged with great skill and success in many lands over the forty-seven years he reigned. In those wars, he so splendidly added to the Frankish kingdom that he nearly doubled its size”

Einhard, The Life of Charlemagne
The Life of Charlemagne
  • Einhard (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 32 Pages - 03/24/2015 (Publication Date) - CreateSpace Independent Publishing Platform (Publisher)

2. Duan Chengshi, -863

Duan Chegshi was born to a wealthy family in present-day Zibo, Shandong. Because his father was a high official of the Tang Dynasty, he earned a position with the court without having to pass the Imperial exams. He served as a provincial governor in addition to being a writer. 

In his time, Duan Chegshi was a renowned poet, and he also documented slavery and ivory trade in modern-day eastern Africa. Today, he is most well known for writing one of the earliest versions of Cinderella, Ye Xian. Scholars believe this story was the first part of the Chinese oral storytelling tradition. 

Ye Xian is the story of a young woman who is half-starved and overworked at the hands of her brutal stepmother. Her only friend in the world is a fish with golden eyes, but it soon falls victim to the evil stepmother’s hunger. Though the fish’s bones are all that remains, they are full of magic that will change Ye Xian’s world. 

“When Yeh-Xian came to the pond that evening, she found her pet had disappeared. Overcome with grief, the girl collapsed to the ground and dropped her tears into the still waters of the pond.”

Duan Chengshi, Ye Xian
Ye Xian: The Chinese Cinderella Story In Simplified Chinese and Pinyin, 450 Word Vocabulary Level
  • Pepper, Jeff (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 107 Pages - 10/25/2020 (Publication Date) - Imagin8 Press (Publisher)

3. Asser, birth date unknown – 909

Asser was a Welsh monk who served as Bishop of Sherborne and rose to prominence when King Alfred asked him to join the circle of learned men at his court. In this position, Asser assisted the king in his translations of medieval literature and compiled his history of the king and his rule. This account has provided scholars with far more information about King Alfred than they have on any other early English ruler. 

Asser’s The Life of King Alfred was originally written in Latin and was compiled from first-hand accounts and observations as well as Asser’s study of existing texts. Because he takes pains to detail the geography he refers to, many believe that he wrote the account for the Welsh who had recently been acquired into the kingdom. The theory is that he attempted to instruct Alfred’s new subjects in his qualities and reconcile them to his leadership. 

As a court member, Asser’s account of Alfred the Great is most certainly a one-sided version of history. Even so, it is an important primary source. King Alfred lived over a thousand years ago and was largely responsible for defending England against the Vikings and sparking a resurgence of religion and learning in his kingdom. 

“The king, during the wars and frequent trammels of this present life, the invasions of the heathen, and his own daily infirmities of body, continued to carry on the government, and to practice hunting in all its branches; to teach his goldsmiths and all his artificers, his falconers, hawkers, and dog-keepers; to build houses, majestic and rich beyond all custom of his predecessors.”

Asser, The Life of King Alfred

4. Nennius 

Nennius, also referred to as Nemnius or Nemnivus, is reported to have been a Welsh monk who wrote the historical account of the Britons from which much of Arthurian legend is derived. Because there is little information about the man or his life, some believe that he is merely a legend. Nennius’s History of the Britons is widely accepted as a mixture of fact and fiction. Even so, it is important to historians and scholars because it references earlier, now nonexistent texts and serves as a record of how Britons saw themselves, their culture, and their history at the time.

In the History of the Britons, Nennius traces the nation’s roots back to the Celts and Romans, recounts great battles, gives detailed descriptions of landmarks, and ascribes them with mystical qualities. Some scholars believe that the sense of nationalistic pride with which these stories are told indicates that they are knowingly embellished tales meant to legitimize Britain and its people. 

“For it is better to drink a wholesome draught of truth from the humble vessel than poison mixed with honey from a golden goblet.”

Nennius, History of the Britons
The History of the Britons: Historia Brittonum (Forgotten Books)
  • Nennius, Nennius Franklin (Author)
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 60 Pages - 10/15/2008 (Publication Date) - Forgotten Books (Publisher)

5. Han Shan  

Very little is known about the Chinese Buddhist monk who named himself after the cold mountain on which he lived, wrote, and meditated. What little is known about him has been derived from his poetry. Scholars believe that he was initially a gentleman farmer and perhaps a minor government official before becoming a hermit and devoting his life to meditation and writing. 

Han Shan and his sidekick and travel companion, Shih Te, are said to have written their poetry on rocks, bamboo, farmhouse walls, and the sides of monasteries. It is believed that there were once more than 600, but only 320 have survived. Han Shan’s poetry was popularized in the west by beat poets Gary Snyder and Jack Kerouac. 

Before settling on his cold mountain, Han Shan and Shih Te traveled extensively. Shan was troubled by the poverty and family discord he encountered, observations that made their way into his poetry. His simple verses reflect both the struggles and joys of the ordinary person. 

“Thirty years ago I was born into the world.
A thousand, ten thousand miles I’ve roamed.
By rivers where the green grass grows thick,
Beyond the border where the red sands fly.
I brewed potions in a vain search for life everlasting,
I read books, I sang songs of history,
And today I’ve come home to Cold Mountain
To pillow my head on the stream and wash my ears.”

Han Shanh, Collected Songs of Cold Mountain
The Collected Songs of Cold Mountain (Mandarin Chinese and English Edition)
  • Cold Mountain (Han Shan) (Author)
  • Mandarin Chinese (Publication Language)
  • 320 Pages - 06/01/2000 (Publication Date) - Copper Canyon Press (Publisher)

6. Huang Po, -866

Huang Po
Huang Po via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Huang Po, also known as Huang Bo, was an influential master of Zen Buddhism during the Tang Dynasty. Beyond the records of his teachings, very little is known about his life. There are reports that he was extraordinarily tall and that, as was the custom, he traveled around seeking wisdom from other Zen masters before beginning his monastic life. 

Huang Po’s primary teacher, Baizhang Huaihai, bestowed upon him the Dharma transmission, which is essentially a declaration that one is a member of a spiritual bloodline of sacred teachers whose lineage flows backward to the Buddha. Before his own passing, Huang Po named 13 successors. 

At the center of Huang Po’s teaching is the idea that enlightenment is not something to be attained but something that already exists inside man because Buddha exists in all sentient beings. Huang Po’s teachings continue to be studied by those seeking to learn the ways of Zen. 

“To awaken suddenly to the fact that your Mind is the Buddha, that there is nothing to be attained or a single action to be performed – this is the Supreme Way.”

Huang Po, The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind
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The Zen Teaching of Huang Po: On the Transmission of Mind
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 144 Pages - 01/18/1994 (Publication Date) - Grove Press (Publisher)

7. Lü Dongbin

Lü Dongbin
Lü Dongbin via Wikipedia, Public Domain

Lü Dongbin was a scholar and poet during the Tang Dynasty. His life has become the stuff of legends, and scholars are not sure how much of what has been recorded about him is accurate and how much is lore. He is said to have achieved the status of one of eight immortals. He is widely accepted to have been a practitioner of a series of mental, physical, and spiritual Daoist practices thought to prolong life. 

Legend has it that though Lü Dongbin was a respected scholar and poet, he was also a well-known womanizer and a quick-tempered, fun-loving heavy drinker. He is often depicted in the robes of a scholar, wielding a sword with which he fights off evil spirits. Most of the stories associated with Lü Dongbin are tales of his kindness and mission to teach others the way of Tao. 

Lü Dongbin’s Secret of the Golden Flower is intended as a manual for meditation and spiritual practice. It directs readers to turn their consciousness inward to free the mind of limitations. It is not an easy read but has been revered for centuries as a meditative practice and source of wisdom. Richard Wilhelm, a German scholar of Chinese language and culture, first translated the text from its original Chinese. Looking for more? Check out our round-up of the best 10th century authors!

“One must not content oneself with small demands but must rise to the thought that all living creatures have to be redeemed. One must not be trivial and irresponsible in heart, but must strive to make deeds prove one’s words.”

Richard Wilhelm, The Secret Life of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life
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The Secret of the Golden Flower: A Chinese Book of Life
  • English (Publication Language)
  • 176 Pages - 07/21/1962 (Publication Date) - Harcourt Brace Jovanovich (Publisher)
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