Formation of Chinese Humanist Ethics (4)

(13) The Three Books of Rites (Li)
Confucian doctrine characteristically emphasizes the signi?cance of rites and respect for them. The category of rites (li) plays a central role in ancient culture. There was never a real book about rites in the con?rmable historical literature before the Han. The rites as real practices differ from the “Rites” as the written book of principles and rules, although the single character “li” could be understood in both ways in ancient times. According to the historical records, the ?rst Book of Rites initially appeared in the Wu-ti era. In the entire Han period, there appeared three different books about rites. All of the three books were included in the system of the Five Classics.
Because of the semantic ambiguity of the concept “li,” scholarly confusion connected with this series of rites is connected with semantic confusion about the basic concepts of li and li-learning. The historical authenticity of the descriptions of ritual practice in the books is also doubtful. Concerning the details of ancient rituals, as Ch’ien Mu points out, “the ancient writings about rituals are mostly the result of pure fabrication. The more detailed the descriptions, the more unfounded they are.” (Ch’ien 1958, 294) Consequently, this classic, more than the others, has constantly evoked the question of its historiographical reliability.
1. Li-Practices and Social Reality in the Former Han Period
As we explained before, the character “li” has the several senses of manners, rites, institutions, moral psychology and principles and both private and of?cial moral teaching. In the ?rst place, it means customs and patterns of social behavior. When the Ch’in conquered China in its entirety, it was far from a barbarian state, for it was already highly developed and had well-organized social systems. After unifying the country, the Ch’in immediately disseminated its own system and customs all over China. The ?rst united country was established on the original Ch’in system with its traditional patterns of rites and manners, although the original systems of rites in the six conquered former Chou states remained in place to various local extents.
The ?rst Han emperor, Liu Pang, who defeated the Ch’in empire along with his other rivals, rose from the lower ranks of society without advantage of educational training. He accepted most of the Ch’in institutions with the exception of its central administration. Liu relied on former of?cial Ch’in scholars, for example, the academician Shu-sun T’ung, for organizing the various Han rites. The Han ritual systems and related instructions were under constant improvement and reform. Patterns of rites and manners were formed through social customs and habits which naturally changed. They were not produced according to any special doctrine. Besides ritual social practices, there was almost no systematic description of the li-practices in the early Han time. For this reason, the ?rst Han emperors and of?cials were not in agreement about the “correct” rites for the royal ceremonies. Thus, from the very beginning there was a divergence between the li-practices and the li-discourses.
As we explained before, among the traditional Six Arts or six cultural items, only the Odes and the Documents had oral or written texts. The sections of Music and Rites existed merely as socio-cultural practices. All of the sections were later understood as written “classics” compiled by Confucius. Han scholars attempted to make the nominal set of six classics textually realized. In distinction from the vain attempt to compile a classic of music, the compilation of the classic of Rites seemed to be feasible. There were a great number of ritual social practices containing hundreds or even thousands of rules and habits. The ?rst available book about rites was a collection of descriptions of these customs in the late Chou. Although such a compilation of ritual texts contained both historical fact and ?ction, the descriptions were connected with actual current and past customs and habits. When such descriptions are said to be “untrue,” this means they were not completely in accordance with related historical customs and that contemporaries would not perform rites according to such rules. From the Confucianist point of view, however, such a written book was useful enough to explain li-learning with its historical data. The arranged materials can indeed present convincing “historical records” about various ritual rules.

2. The I-Li: The Book of Etiquettes and Manners
Such a book was the “I-Li (ceremonious rites). When the Five Classics were established in the reign of Han-Wu (136 B.C.), the classic about li (rites) had a single character name “li” (as the Records of History calls it), which was later changed to the “I-Li” in order to distinguish it from the names of the two other li-books which appeared later in the Han. It has been generally recognized that the book is a collection of texts about the rites used in various Chou states rather than in the Chou central court. It consists of 17 texts concerning popular local rites of betrothal, marriage, adulthood, mourning, burial, archery, table manners, meeting and paying respects. When the book ?rst appeared, it was rumored to have been written by the Chou Prince or Confucius. Although the author or compiler of the book is unknown, the descriptions of the rites conform more with the social reality of the Warring-States period. In distinction from other two books of rites, it was regarded as the only historically reliable ritual texts of ancient times. Chu Hsi said that “only the I-Li is the true old book” and “the book is the foundation of the li classic.” (Chu 1986, 2186-2187) It is impossible, however, to prove that the book contains real ritual practices of ancient times. The Sung scholar Hsü Chi even criticized it for its unreasonable regulations (Cf. Ku 1990, 3339). Nevertheless, the book originated before the Ch’in-Han. The motive of its compilers was much simpler than the utilitarian aims of the Han scholars.[1]
In the former Han, the I-Li enjoyed high esteem as the only ancient text about rites. It was rumoured to have been ?rst passed on by Kao Tang-sheng in the early Han. No scholars specialized in the I-Li were noted during this time. It is certain that no one in the Han learned ritual practice from the book. Respect for the sacred nature of the book had nothing to do with its social acceptability. The only reason for its identity as a classic in Confucianist academics lies in the fact that it is a rare book about li and its authorship could only have been ascribed to Confucius. It was the only possible candidate for the classic text of li in the Former Han. Consequently, it played a more symbolic than substantial role in the Han, presenting a system of detailed descriptions of ritual practices. There are three different aspects of “li”: current li practices, current texts about historical li-practices and li-doctrine.
Concerning the role of li-practices and texts about them, the book carries a double meaning: it is the physical embodiment of the Confucian li-idea and it is a written document of li-practices. It blends a historical document with the li-spirit. These two traits allow it play the required role in the Confucianist classic system. The essence of li-learning lies in its emphasis on correct behavior and spiritual respect according to the system of li rules. The book textually presents sets of ritual rules contained in historical material. Compared with the other two more in?uential books on li, the I-Li, because it is historically more reliable, is sociologically more interesting. It was also especially attractive to Han literati. Ancient material was highly valued in former ages, even if it was only a collection of fragments. The textual authenticity based on the historical remnants could separately arouse respect for and faith in the moral codex. Historical material of any kind “substantially” supported the moral spirit. For this reason, the Sung philosopher Ch’eng asserted that, “learning about daily manners can help one to grasp morality.” (Ch’eng 1981, 669)
We can guess why few scholars of Former Han were interested in commenting on the book: it lacked interesting content about Confucianist teachings. Because of its accepted position in the system of classics, it aroused intellectual respect, but its content evidently was devoid of theoretical interest. Similar to the Book of Documents, however, it also contains some reliable historical material which functioned by itself. Because of the signi?cance of the li-conception in both Confucian and Confucianist doctrines, the intellectually more effective texts with the name “li” were created later to enrich the classic section of the li.
3. The Chou Li: The Ritual System of the Chou
The Chou Li is a completely different book from the I-Li, although both contain the character “li” in their book titles. In the edition of the 13 Classics of the Sung, this book occupied the ?rst position among the three books of rites, although it ?rst appeared at the end of Former Han or the beginning of Later Han and was accepted as an authorized classic during the reign of Wang Mang. The book was declared by Liu Hsin to have been written by the Chou Prince. Even in the Han time, many scholars did not believe this story. The Ch’ing historical critic Yao Chi-heng judged that it was created in the late Former Han. (Yao 1937, 11) In distinction from the I Li or the traditional conceptions of li as rituals and manners, the book addresses political and social institutions. Fascinated by the imaginary old Chou systems, Wang Mang was said to have attempted to realize the systems of the book in Han society. It was presumed that the book was fabricated by Liu to serve Wang’s political ambition. (Kang Yu-wei, 1990, v. 1, 723) Its historical authenticity has been denied by modern scholars owing to obvious reasons. The uniqueness of the book lies in its systematic descriptions of the of?cial organizations which hardly predate the Ch’in-Han. Although its origin can be traced back to the Warring-States period, it must have been completed much later. The content could have been borrowed from several contemporary books, particularly the Kuan tzu and some Yin-Yang books. (Cf. Ku Chieh-kang 1990, v. 4, 2445) Of course, details of the formation of the book cannot be suf?ciently con?rmed. A historiographical dif?culty is that other contemporary books also borrowed material from the Chou Li. They con?rm each other through their overlapping. The doubtful parts in all of them might have been fabricated or compiled by Ch’in-Han scholars.
1) The Content and Character of the Book
The pseudo-scienti?c tendency of the Chou Li appears in its detailed classi?cation of political and social phenomena. The classi?catory criteria are a mixture of Yin-Yang theory and actual political functions. In fact, it uses a system of six sections including all of?cial organizations and their working elements. The sections are named Heaven, Earth, Spring, Summer, Autumn and Winter. In essence, they involve matters of government, education, ritual, the administration and economic production. There are 360 of?cials in the six sections, according to the Yin-Yang theory modelled on the lunar calendar. For the ?rst time, Chinese scholars tried to classify social and administrative phenomena partly in terms of practical functions. Their insuf?cient logical coherence and precision, however, is evident. General and particular subjects are not consistently organized. Nevertheless, it outlines the ideal institutional system based on the Yin-Yang framework, shifting the focus from the plane of rites to that of institutions, which did not appear in written literature before this. The Yin-Yang conception provides a classi?catory framework for the institutional descriptions in the book.
Concerning detailed items at the lowest level of the administrative hierarchy, most of them could have been easily imagined on the basis of current social life, although many socio-political relations are the result of pure imagination. On the whole, the book is clearly not based on positive observations of objective social phenomena. The basic framework consisting of six sections based on the Yin-Yang conception symbolizes the li-order. The administrative details can be accepted as empirically true. The related symbolic classi?cation accords with an empirically functional classi?cation and is convincing.
2) The Historical Authenticity and Theoretical Form of the Book
It is ironic that the theoretical re?ections in the Chou Li need not conform with actual phenomena of the historical process. It is highly interesting that this more logically arranged book was not accepted by many Han Confucianist scholars because of its unknown origin. Instead, it was more widely appreciated by post-Han Confucianist scholars – particularly Sung scholars – because of its theoretical mode.[2]
Confusion about the authenticity of the book was clearly caused by four different factors: historiographic evidence about its appearance, the theoretical attraction of its textual construction, its being a theoretical model for political reform and a certain correspondence between its content and historical phenomena.
a) Doubt about the authenticity of the book in history
First, the historical origin of the book cannot be ascertained. One of the traditional legends is that it was kept at home or hidden in the mountains. As we pointed out above, there was great doubt even when it ?rst appeared. In any case, as the modern classics expert Chang Tai-yan pointed out, neither Mencius nor anyone else in Former Han ever saw the book. Its basic idea, while differing from that of the article about the Chou system called “the Royal System” (wang-chih) in the more reliable I Li, resembles the related discussion in the Hsün-tzu. (Cf. Chang 1965, 32)
b) Historical attempts at political reform after the model of the book
It is well known that Wang Mang made use of some doctrines to carry out institutional reforms during his short reign. (Cf. the “Biography of Wang Mang” in Er-shih-Wu-shih, v. 1, 379-381) According to Kang Yu-wei, the book was fabricated by Liu Hsin and later used by Wang Mang to accomplish his ambitious ends. (Kang 1990 v. 1, 736-7) The case of Wang Mang indicates the ideological utility of the book. Another important example of the actual signi?cance of the book appears in its use by the Sung premier Wang An-shih, the famous political reformist of the Northern Sung. Despite the failure of his politico-economic reforms because of the dogmatic programs in?uenced by the Chou Li, Wang, a practical politician, learned only the general spirit of the ancient li system rather than concrete regulations. The pragmatic use of the book had nothing to do with its historical authenticity.

c) Correspondence with the historical development of political systems
Another positive judgement of its historical authority is shown in the historical in?uence of the book upon Chinese political institutions. The six-ministry system of the Ming and Ch’ing dynasties was supposed to be organized partly according to the principles of the book. The connection between the book and the institutional evolution is also dubious, for the latter had its own historical pragmatic reason. There were no records of the six main of?ces in pre-Ch’in-Han documents. The establishment of the six general administrative sections was based on Yin-Yang thought, such as that contained in the article “Yüe Ling” subsequent to the Records of History. (Cf. Ku 1990, v. 5, 2801) The functional foundation of the six-part classi?cation can be traced to the beginning of the Ch’in-Han imperial system. The exact number of basic functions is ?exible because primitive classi?cation was not so precise. The number “6” is evidently connected with Yin-Yang theory. Actual political systems of various periods and reigns were organized according to practical requirements rather than by a quasi-scienti?c book. The only similarity between the book and the Ming-Ch’ing systems is only the number “6,” the number of ministries at the ?rst administrative level. The concrete content of and reason for bureaucratic compartmentalization evidently differ from those given in the Chou Li, which contains a number of absurd, ?ctive details of royal life. As Ku Chieh-kang asserts, the institutions were mostly the results of exaggerating existent materials to accord with the numerical and calendric systems. (Cf. Ku 1990, v.7, 5707)
d) The quasi-theoretical framework replacing historical descriptions
The fact that most Han scholars did not appreciate the systematic form of institutional classi?cation and organization of social phenomena indicates the general lack of interest in theoretical constructions in the Han. For them the historical originality of the documents was more relevant to their valuation than the ef?ciency of classi?catory knowledge. Both the advocates and the opponents of the Chou Li pay attention merely to the historical rather than the theoretical aspect of the book. Despite the retarded development of historiographical rationality in China, a primitive theoretical sensibility evolved after the Han and especially after the Sung. We ?nd then another appreciation for the purely formal regularity of the book. Because the Chou Li is the only Han book systematically describing ancient institutions, it has been regarded as an extremely valuable record of ancient social institutions. This unique feature allows for any number of approaches.
There are three different criteria for judging its merit: the scienti?c reliability of the descriptions of historical facts of the Chou; its value in terms of intellectual history; and its historically founded parts. No doubt, the last two will be accepted even by modern historians. The point lies in whether we can accept it as classical canon set by the earlier Chou ruler or whether its basic structure is original. First, there is a practical attitude towards the book. The Ch’ing scholar Mao Ch’i-ling accepted the fact that the book was not written by the Chou Prince, but he raised another reason for accepting it. “The li-rules of the Chou almost completely disappeared and it is fortunate that the book contains some material for later examination. If it were excluded from the literature, there would be no more books about li.” (Cf. Ku 1990, v. 9, 6621) Such a practical attitude towards the authenticity of Chinese historical literature is not uncommon among Chinese historians. Many ancient books have dubious origins and historical content, but they still contain useful material for our study of their production.
In the Chou Li, a number of details were taken not from actual observations, but solely from pure imagination. The theoretical construction itself lacks historical truth. For this reason, there are a number of descriptions which are mere fabrications. Ku noted the following interesting example: despite the fact that the royal hunt was mainly held in winter, there are reports of hunting in four seasons in the book, which conforms with the Yin-Yang theory of calendar. Only the part referring to the winter contains substantial details provided by actual experience, while the parts to the other seasons seem much too simple, enumerating only some instruments used in hunting to ?ll out the scheme. (Ku 1990, v. 5, 2802) Following the binary Yin-Yang principles, there are even a number of female of?cials listed as belonging to the government. Evidently, it was not a positive study of real political and social systems, but rather a product of various sources made to accord with a circulative Yin-Yang pattern.
There was only a single famous expert in Later Han, Cheng Hsüan, who was noted for his learning of li; he systematically annotated three books of li.-classic On the whole, there are few li-scholars in Chinese intellectual history. As Fu Ssu-nien points out, “there were no books about li in history. li is not something recorded in texts. The early Han literati used the Warring-States ritual records to represent the Chou Li.” ( Fu 1980, v. 1, 137) Chu Hsi also says, “most li-learning can not be checked,…most li-scholars were impractical and pedantic…[and] the so-called rules in the Chou li are mostly mere names.” (Chu 1986, 2177). On the other hand, as a rationally inclined thinker, he appreciated the systematic organization of the book and even believed its original author to be the Chou Prince. The reason for this seems to be that the system itself is grandly conceived and nobody but the Chou Prince would have been capable of designing it. “The book is very interesting and important. It contains all of the systems of the Chou dynasty. It is the canon handed down to us by the Chou Prince.” (ibid.,2178) For this reason, Ch’ien Mu ?nds that “despite extensive doubt about the authenticity of several classics, Chu still was quite sympathetic towards the Chou Li” (Ch’ien 1971, v. 5, 279) Chu’s reaction to the book re?ects not only his interest in systematic scholarship, but also his inability to distinguish between a logico-positive approach and unfounded imagination, either from a philosophical or from an historical point of view. The strong desire for the logical in Sung philosophy led him to relax positive historical requirements. For the same reason, we can understand why Chu accepted the superstitious Taoist text “Akinness of the Trio in the Chou-Changes,” which is full of shallow speculation on the Changes.[3]
3) The Symbolic Role of the Theoretical Framework
The Chou Li is a unique mixture of the historical, social, superstitious, ?ctive and theoretical elements in the ancient Chinese intellectual world. The systematic model of the book aroused quasi-theoretical interpretations and applications. It is interesting in many aspects, although it has nothing to do with the alleged historical sources. In distinction from all other ancient Chinese books, the Chou Li presents a systematically organized “theory” of socio-political phenomena as early as the Han, although its theoretical mode does not result from a scienti?c viewpoint. Compared with other Han books organized in terms of a metaphysical system like that of Lui’s Annals, the Chou Li is more systematically formulated, resembling more descriptions of social reality. Moreover, because of its quasi-theoretical nature, it does not make clear whether it is a description of historical facts or a theory of social program. It shared with many other books common ideas about the social li, in addition to other utilitarian motives. Despite its apparent systematization, the book contains little that is of social interest. On the whole, its role in the Confucianist system remains more symbolic than substantial. Even its theoretical structure plays only a symbolic role. To the non-theoretical Chinese mind, the book offered a horizontal system of institutional political programs.
A more important role of the book can be seen in the history of the reaction to it over two thousand years. Despite its useless fabricated details, the formal regularity of the textual organization played an independent role in displaying the grand spirit of the original program set forth by the Chou Prince for the nation. In fact, the book was regarded as a symbol of the Chinese socio-political order. In the preface of the T’ang edition, the exegete Chia Kung-yan points out that the ruler has an obligation to avoid social disorder and a need to have the ministers to carry out routine matters. Therefore, “when Heaven and earth are in order, the Tao about kings and ministers is established.” (Cf. the Chou Li, in: Juan Yüan, ed. 1980, v. 1, 633) The preface of the Ch’ing royal edition of the Chou Li summarizes the Sung scholars’ eclectic opinion that although the book was written by the Chou Prince six years after his regency, result was only an outline to be ?lled out through the readjustments of administrative details in subsequent eras. (ibid., 631) This explanation has a double aim: overcoming the divergence between the written contents and the known historical facts and maintaining the theoretical framework as a symbol of the sacred historical origin.

4. The Li-Chi: the Records and Commentary of Rites
There is a third book in the classic Rites in the Han having the name “Li Chi” (Records of li-Learning). It is a set of ritual records and interpretations comprising 49 articles. It was said to have been written and compiled by the students of Confucius. (Cf. Juan Yüan 1980, 1226) It is widely accepted by modern scholars that it was put together by Ch’in-Han Confucianist scholars. This miscellany contains the following parts: general discussions and teachings of Confucian and Confucianist ideas in ?ctive dialogues among the Confucian literati, including Confucius himself; commentaries of the classic I-Li; and descriptions of ancient ritual practices. It was ?rst taken as the commentary to the classic I-Li, which was viewed as more original in the Han. Later, it was accepted as an independent classic itself because of its rich moral teachings. Gradually, owing to several important articles about Confucianist doctrines which it contains, it was accepted as the most important book among the three li-books. The other two books contain fewer intellectual discussions. According to the original Confucian doctrine of li, the moral implications of ritual practice should be stressed more than the practices themselves. While its annotations to the I-Li stem from the late Chou, several long articles in the book must have been written by literati of the late Chou, the early Han or even the late Han. The book became increasingly important because of its ethical emphasis, which all other classics lack.[4] In the T’ang, the new version of the Five Classics accepted only the Li-Chi as the main version of the li classic. As a matter of fact, only this book has played an active part in Chinese intellectual history in disseminating and inspiring Confucianist morality. The detailed descriptions of real and imaginary ancient rituals and institutional regularities in the other two li books had no such stimulating effects.
Several of the most famous chapters among the total of 49 became authoritative documents of Confucianist morality, such as the Li Yuen (the Movement of li), the Ta Hsüeh (the Great learning) and the Chung Yung (the Mean). Because of a number of fabricated words and actions of Confucius and his disciples, the book was valued and used much more than the other two Li-books. Many so-called Confucian teachings recorded in the book, however, are not intellectually or historically consistent with original Confucian thought. Instead, they re?ect the political situation of the Han. The book is more useful than all other Confucianist texts in illustrating Han-Confucianist morality and ideology, which we shall later elaborate. Nevertheless, any article in the book can be accepted as a Confucianist interpretation and development of original Confucian thought under a despotic political system. According to Ch’ien Hsüan-t’ung, the book was recognized, as early as the Tang, as having been compiled by the great Confucianist scholars Ma Jung and Lu Chih. Their contemporary Cheng Hsüan annotated it later. (Cf. Ku 1990, v. 5, 53) [5]
5. The Special Status of the Li-Chi
Among the Five Classics, the li-classic contains the fewest ancient parts. Despite their nominal importance, the detailed descriptions of ritual practices are not scienti?cally attractive. This contradiction in the construction of the Confucianist classics was overcome by the compilation of the Li-Chi, originally a commentary rather than a classic.[6] Because of practical requirements, it was quickly promoted to classical status. This book expresses many Confucianist ideas consistently and theoretically. Therefore, despite the shortcomings of its constitution, it offers an effective theoretical Han-Confucianist message. For this reason, several of its articles presents an important introduction to Confucianist doctrine and principles. Other classics play a symbolic role in Confucianist indoctrination, but the Li-Chi offers a spiritual guide to this historical movement. For this reason, Chu Hsi and other Sung scholars chose two articles from the book: the Great learning and Doctrine of the Mean, as the systematic program of Confucianist doctrine.
The Li-Chi was a Han book, a collection of articles about Confucianist doctrine by Han literati. There were several sorts of classi?cation of its content. Chiang Po-ch’ien gave a simple one containing three categories of cultural and historical descriptions (34 pieces), the talks and activities of Confucius and his disciples (5 pieces) and the introduction to Confucianism (10 pieces). (Chiang 1983, 370) The second category is completely fabricated, while the ?rst is closer to the “historical” facts of the records of the historical rites of the Chou era. In brief, the book consists of two major parts: the historical material and the theoretical elaboration. The former offers historiographical evidence of the latter, although their connection subsists only through their having been edited into one book.
It is important to note that, as in other classics, there is little that is genuinely religious in this Han book. Even sacri?cial rituals are treated from a humanist perspective. As Ch’ien Mu says, “the point of sacri?cial rituals for ancestors does not lie in belief in the existence of their souls, but in a psychology of the sacri?cing agent which makes the dead actually reappear in his mind.” (Ch’ien 1980, 10) The irreligious inclinations of the Chinese mind have been remarked frequently by many Western observers. Granet points out that the “Chinese mind is closed to any purely spiritual existence; they are concerned with behavioral patterns and realize a behaviorally related ethics.” (Granet 1985, 301; Cf. ibid., 293) Western missionaries were surprised to ?nd that the Chinese had no idea of original sin, which is ethically linked to religion. (ibid., 301, 318)
1) The Ta-Hsüeh (Great Learning)
The Great Learning presents a reasonable sequence of learning for shaping the Confucianist personality. Its clearly formulated procedure for attaining Confucianist goals combines individual effort towards the ethical personality with national objectives. The Confucian individual goals embodied in the terms “virtue” (te) and “good” (shan) are tied with the Confucianist national goals of various social collectives such as “family,” “state” and “world.” Individual concentration on ethical realization is employed to contribute to the solidarity of political organizations. This program builds up a pragmatic tie between original Confucian ethics and the despotic political mission. An individual effort is guided and organized along collective lines, the Confucian individual being effectively transformed into a member of the Confucianist collective through a scholarly procedure. The central step in this pragmatic program lies in the doctrine of ?lial piety, which develops the natural emotional tie between parents and children into an expanded emotional tie between the emperor and his subjects. For attaining this double goal, psychological training of sincerity and loyalty (ch’eng) is strengthened. As the ethical energy of the agent, Confucianist “ch’eng” is politically and practically programmed towards ?xed collective goals.
This article, which was later selected by the Sung philosophers as a classic of equal importance to the Analects, placed the earlier steps of Confucian cultivation into a teleological sequence, thus enhancing consciousness of the collective goals and the process of developing oneself. The ?nal goals of “governing the country” and “peace in the world” fall within the political program of the ruler. The selection of political goals means immersion in an externally regulated program of individual life and therewith the cancellation of the determinative stage of individual choice in Confucian ethics. According to Hu Shih, this article marks a period of introspective Confucianism. (Cf. Hu 1930, 285) As a matter of fact, the earlier steps of Confucian cultivation are used to serve the externally imposed objective, which is taken as a ?xed goal. Introspection is put under the strict control of established power. Thus, subjective effort becomes disconnected from its original spontaneous ethical condition. This destroys the Confucian spontaneity of individual choice.
The Japanese scholar Kumaigiro Ugino asserts that the Great Learning exhibits the basic doctrine of Confucianist political teleology, namely, that cultivation exists for the purpose of governing others. He holds this to be consistent with the basic principle of the Six Classics, especially the Annals. He also criticizes the “individualist” distortion of original Confucian thought which holds that cultivation is fundamental and that governing others is secondary. (Ugino 1948, v. 1, 256-257) In his opinion, there is an innate political teleology in Confucianist thought which presupposes that “….cultivation does not exist by itself but is promoted within the great aim of governing the world; the governing of the world is the absolute aim, and cultivation is a practical means towards this aim.” (ibid., 258) This conclusion cannot be justi?ed solely through referring to the Six Classics. With reference to the Analects, as we explained before, the ?rst principle can exist by itself under certain conditions. There is, however, no “absolute” aim in the political domain according to original Confucian thought. Moreover, as we pointed out before, serious confusion is caused by the ambiguous identity of the agent as the ruler or as the ruled literati. The level of the original choice of Confucian literati is degraded to the practical or “technical” level of attaining a ?xed goal which itself is no longer the object of Confucian choice. Cultivation itself becomes a mere “means” employed by the despotic power-holders to shape quali?ed agents for their own goals.
2) The Chung Yung (The Doctrine of the Mean)
This article was taken by early Sung scholars as another important Confucianist doctrine and included by Chu Hsi in the basic system of the Four Books. It consists of three separate parts: the doctrine of the Confucianist Tao as “the mean” or the middle way; the doctrine of ?lial piety; and ch’eng as the basic virtue of Confucianist ethics. Its author and the author of the Great Learning were thought to be Confucius and two of his distinguished disciples. Nevertheless, the content was created only after the later Chou, when Yin-Yang doctrine became popular. Despite several contradictory remarks in the text indicating its miscellaneous origins, its importance lies in its combination of pragmatic stylistics (the middle way of the Confucianist practice) with moral psychology for training the subjective virtue “ch’eng” (sincerity, earnestness).
The mean or the middle means a well-balanced choice according to both Confucianist norms and acceptable tactics selected in view of the current situation. In fact, the word consists of two characters: “chung” and “yung.” The ?rst means “center or middle” and the second means “normal” or “constant.” The concept “chung-yung” denotes the constant practical norm of the middle way, combining the norm (standard) with the practicable (method). The middle or center in practice refers to that which is “suitable or well-balanced” in choice in various situations ranging from the internal to the external and from the individual to the interpersonal. It is similar to the Confucian concept “ch’üan” (measuring), which is also connected with practical wisdom. A more remarkable aspect of the Mean lies in its emphasis on developing the subjective potential to maintain the principle of the mean (combining the norm with the method). Accordingly, the mean consists in the art of operating with virtues in a way which combines the theoretical norm with the historical situation. Among the many virtues, the fundamental one remains “ch’eng” (sincerity), which is also the leading virtue of the Great Learning. The theoretical combination of virtuous, psychological and behavioral elements in this concept has been widely accepted as a useful Chinese practical philosophical guide.[7]
It should also be pointed out that this article treats the social hierarchies based on imperial systems such as the Han. The spiritual training of ju-agents is directly tied to the political orientation represented by the three main relations or poles (San kang) of emperor-subject, father-son and husband-wife. This is evidently contrary to the original Confucian view, since it asserts that only the emperor is in a position to establish the li-system (chapter 27). Despite several inconsistent paragraphs frequently pointed out by scholars, the main themes of the doctrine are consistently used. The central term “mean” is employed to associate Confucian ethical cultivation with Confucianist political commitment. The general ethical idealism serves the established political system.
3) The Li-Yün (the Movement of li)
The most important developments in the Confucianist idea of li or the ritual program in the Han lay in its systematic performance and well-de?ned principles at various socio-political levels. The article “Li Yün” (the movement or circulation of li) provides a utopian politico-ethical Confucianist program.[8] More practically, it makes a basic division between the remote past represented by the two legendary kings Yao and Yü and the past represented by the rulers of the Hsia, Shang and Chou periods. What is important is the fact that li-learning is especially tied with the later “better” stage rather than with the former “best” one, which functions as the utopian political moral ideal, in which the social restraints of li are unnecessary. The li-system and its measures are taken by the author as instruments for saving a deteriorating world, rather than as the doctrine of ideal social conditions. More than social manners and faith, li also includes the political system and its social direction. In the Han, socio-political systems became the object of a despotic li-operation. “li is the great instrument of the emperor for governing the country and insuring the place of the emperor.” (Ssu-shu Wu-ching 1985, v. 2, 124).
The typological division of social moral conditions allegedly by Confucius is mentioned in several Han books, but it is more clearly given in this one. In distinction from Confucius’ original dichotomy between the good (the Three Generations of antiquity) and the bad (recent history), it divides the good into the ideal (“ta-t’ung,” grand unity or permanent peace) and the better or practically desirable (“hsiao-k’ang,” minor peace). The Confucian contrast can be reduced to an empirical comparison between the ideal and the real. There are more detailed descriptions of the original utopian state. The reports of completely utopian golden age before the ?rst dynasty, the Hsia, or the “Three Generations,” and the better periods starting with the beginning of the Three Generations were created for ideological purposes. Thus, we see an important paradoxical development in Han thought. The Chinese began to grasp political morality in a general form, theoretically relativizing the existing system and its historical origin. The ideal requirements of political morality, however, were excluded from practical consideration and current political practice. The li-norms replaced the moral ideal in order to make the present system more reasonable.
All ideal requirements of a fair and just society were ascribed to the utopian age, which was taken as a remote myth as well as a distant goal. More attainable and feasible political ideals were ascribed to the historical period of the Three Generations, especially the early Chou (which was Confucius’ real model), as well as the Han. The interesting trait used to distinguish the “best ideal” and the “better real” stages is interpersonal equality, which was only obtained in the former. This means that according to this practical ideal of socio-political reality, inequality was regarded as a reasonable. state of things. In this period of inequality due to both objective and subjective reasons, the li-system was especially needed for regulating and controlling social order. (Cf. Ssu-shu Wu-ching, v. 2, 120-121)
The tripartition of socio-historical development is based on a prevalent idea of the Warring-States period. In the Li-Yün, however, two theories were raised. First, the traditionally accepted ideal politics of the three ages was reduced to the second grade of social quality. It helped reconcile the contradiction of the political ideal and the existent fact of interpersonal inequality. The latter had been increasingly perceived since the Warring-States period. Legalist thought highlighted the social facts of universal human egoism and interpersonal con?ict. Second, li-theory is only associated with the second type of society, aiming to justify an unfair system bene?ting the majority through its respect for the privilege of the minority. “To privilege the emperor in order to bene?t the people” and “the people gain various bene?ts through the established system privileging the imperial clan” were two important mottos. (ibid., 125).
The same article organizes several other prevalent ideas in the new ideological system. First, li learning or the political philosophy of the Han is logically linked with Heaven, which was regarded since the later Chou as the origin, reason and guide of the human li system. li became a universal system shared by both mankind and Heaven. Therefore, li is embodied in “the ten dimensions of the world”: Heaven and earth, Yin and Yang, the four seasons, the sun and stars, the moon, the spirits and the gods, the ?ve elements, human rituals, human emotions and the four spiritual animals. (ibid., 127). Second, a conceptual distinction appeared between li (ritual) and i (propriety). The latter became the principle of li-performance directly rooted in Heaven. “i” was viewed as constant, but the corresponding li was thought to be changeable. The principle of i and the practice of li (rituals) were distinguished. The strategical change in li-philosophy,[9] which was no longer based on the imperial lineage, had two meanings: a reasonable explanation of social requirements and politics for the Han literati and a plea for more totalitarian measures. There was a more useful three-fold relation among Heaven, i and li. (ibid, 130, 133-5) As a result, the political, social and ideological systems symbolized by li obtained a more systematic metaphysical foundation.
Ironically, the conception of the non-historical state of the ethical ideal of “grand unity” (ta-t’ung), denoting interpersonal equality and justice provided an image of a universally valid ideal society which rejected the historical forms of despotism. This stimulated some modern revolutionaries such as K’ang Yu-wei and Sun I-hsien to challenge the repressive system. The theoretical dichotomy of social conditions raised in the article functions in double fashion. First, it presents an absolute ideal weakening the theoretical authority of the prevailing political idealism represented by li-learning, one which replaces the existing authoritative tradition. Second, the two-fold division, under despotic control, can also theoretically parenthesize the absolute ideal, making the practical ideal of the li-model the only valid one and limiting the politico-ethical imagination to the present system. This conforms with Confucianist political dogma. The practical control of power used the theoretical invention to lead the Han literati to accept the realistic principle of the Han system.
6. The Typology and Ideological Functions of li-Learning
The essential part of the books of li is usually supposed to be its descriptions and interpretations of ritual practice. It is just this part, however, which had no active in?uence on the Confucianist ideology. For this reason, there were fewer li-scholars of this work than of other classics. Chu Hsi recognizes, that “in the Sung no scholars are specialized in the li learning” (Cf. Ch’ien Mu 1971, v. 4, 131), although Chu himself as a theoretical master of cosmological and anthropological principles promoted the study of li-learning. (ibid., 152)
1) The Typology of li-Learning
There was a basic ambiguity in the term “li-hsüeh-chia” (li-scholars), which wavered between li-practice and li-scholarship. This semantic ambiguity, however, has a practical utility. Being determined by actual social conditions, politicians of various periods organized their institutional and ritual rules according to feasibility and ef?ciency. On the other hand, they paid their respects to the original records of ancient ritual practices and Confucian teaching for ideological reasons. Thus, a peculiar combination of ritual documents and moral doctrine was created through these articles which became part of the grand Confucianist political manifesto. Accordingly, the three li-books contain two matters. One is related to the Confucianist moral doctrines of the Han system. The other involves historical records of institutional and ritual practice which play a symbolic role in describing ritual details. The Han moral ideology is symbolic; it functions through symbolic historical devices. In this sense, the records of ancient ritual practices and rules are signi?ers and their signi?eds are the functions and effects of ritual practice. The three books of the li-classic have maintained their symbolic functions despite the historical gap between the earlier and the later modes of ritual practice.
Concerning Confucianist li-learning, there are four different matters combined in the same academic section: the original li-texts—the historical records; the symbolic representation of li-discourse; the actual li-practices in contemporary society; and intellectual discourses based on the li-texts. Each part has its own group of problems. All of them share the same character, “li,” as the general name of a cultural category. Accordingly, there are several categories of people involved in li-learning.
a) Literati maintaining the spirit and rites of the li-tradition (moralists such as Confucius and Mencius)
b) Of?cials specialized in the practice of the li-tradition (of?cials such as Shu-sun T’ung)
c) Politicians maintaining the visual symbolism of the written material (political agents such as Wang Mang and Wang An-shih);
d) Scholars focusing on the philological annotation of the li-texts (historical scholars such as Cheng Hsüan);
e) Scholars taking up the ideological elaboration of the li-texts (ideological scholars such as literati addressing the sacredness of the historical texts as such);
f) Philosophers constructing the philosophical theory of the li-texts or associated with the li-texts (philosophers such as the authors of some articles in the Li-Chi and K’ang Yu-wei). All functions are based on the historical li-texts. The latter is the “medium” employed for different purposes ranging from the scholarly to the revolutionary. The Chinese term “hsüeh” (learning, scholarship) contains two different aspects: study and practice;.They have different objects and objectives.
2) li-Ideology
The Chinese term “li” is the most functional operator of traditional Chinese culture because its ambiguous semantic potential includes dimensions such as manners, rites, rules, principles, ideals, psychology, practice and learning. All Confucianist classics involve li, expressing and realizing it in different ways. Both Confucian thought and Confucianist learning share this crucial, synthetically formed symbol. Only the relevant context shows it to be a valuable index or a mere ideological tool. The ideational core of the term li underlies all aspects of the concept of li and li-learning and has a moral image. The original ideal and its physical medium of “polite gesture or paying respects” mark a general moral orientation. We have to recognize its positive role in Chinese civilization. Nevertheless, however, the semantic ?exibility and pluralism of this term are also the source of its ideological function. The essential distinction between the Confucian li-spirit and the Confucianist li-institutions is the key point in understanding the essence of Han li-ideology. Through the implicit translation of the alternative semes of the same word, the noble ideal was substantially transformed into crude social means. Its ambiguity itself facilitates repressive ideological operations. As a result, ethical self-restriction can be ideologically applied to the despotic system.


[1] Concerning the originators of the pre-Ch’in rituals contained in the book, even the radically skeptical scholar Ch’ien Hsüan-tung partly accepted Kang Yu-wei’s supposition that those rituals were created by Confucius. Ch’ien holds that, “at least part of the rituals were created by Confucius, such as the ‘three-year-long funeral’” (Cf. Ku 1963, v. 5, 45) His argument is based on several consistent talks about the subject. As we explained, no historical con?rmation about Confucius’ career can be scienti?cally given. As regards the authenticity of the recorded rites, Ku says that “all available old rites were derived by the scholars of the Warring-States, the Ch’in and the Han.” The main ways of derivation include: from one season to four seasons; from locality to ubiquity; from one kind of people to all kinds of people; and from one generation to several ones. (Ku 1990, v. 4, 2407) Thus, the classic of rites were a mixture of fact and ?ction.
[2] Many modern historians think the book appeared in the late Chou. Ch’ien Mu is one of them (Ch’ien 1958, 328). Its content and style, however, show that such a systematic text could hardly have been produced before the establishment of the despotic Ch’in regime. Believing in its earlier inception, Ch’ien placed it in the late Chou, for then Taoist thought had already merged with the Yin-Yang school, the guiding thought of the Chou Li. This evidence might be better used to prove that the work was produced in the Han.
[3] It is interesting to note that even this leading Chinese philosopher did not ?nish a systematic work. Chu hsi was an excellent compiler and annotator, critically and creatively working on others’ texts. We ?nd in him a combination of the historiographical and the theoretical. The Chinese way of thinking is highly restricted in its historiographical contexts.
[4] Both the Changes and the Chou Li have only a formal theoretical status. The more intelligible part of the Changes is about utilitarian wisdom. The Records of Rites, however, presents a number of discussions about moral philosophy which seem closer to the Confucian teaching. On the other hand, it still maintains a formalist link through its commentaries to the “old records of the rules” of the Chou era. This mixed composition allowed it to play a double role.
[5] Ku points out that 90% of the book was written by Han scholars. The process could have been the following. Two academic posts were established for the two versions of the Li-Chi (the ta-tai and the hsiao-tai). The Han scholars continued producing supplements under these rubrics. Finally, their texts were compiled to form the present book. (Ku 1990, v. 4, 2336)
[6] It is important to note that ancient Chinese thought was frequently organized on the basis of historical texts or adopted a modest mode of commentary. The connection and separation between the original text as the historical basis and the commentary as the intellectual reconstruction constitute the particularly Chinese way of scholarly thinking.
[7] The Great Learning and the Mean provide an educational link between of?cial political service and training of subjective virtuous potential. For this process of cultivation, the psychological formation of sincerity: “ch’eng” itself, marks the ?nal stage of self choice. External practice as a mechanical process becomes a projection of internal goals. Moral training is likened to the training of the means of power. As Wei Cheng-tung says, “...after the Han, the ju-literati accomplished only two matters: cultivation of self and others. The governing of states and control of the world was left exclusively to emperors like Ch’in Shih-huang-ti and Han-wu-ti.” (Li I-yüan/Yang Kuo-shu (ed.), 1991, 24)
[8] This article can be regarded as the most eloquent text of Confucianist political morality. Its paragraphs were viewed by Sun I-sien, the founder of the Republic of China, as the political ideal for modern China and the world.
[9] This new political philosophy was ?rst raised by Hsün-tzu (Cf. Ch’u Tzu Chi Ch’eng, v. 2, 233), the Huai Nan-tzu (ibid.,"Huai Nan-Tzu”, 119), Lü Pu-wei (ibid., the Lü Shih Ch’un-ch’iu, 31), Tung Chung-shu (Tung 1990, 65) and many other Han scholars.
(14) The Book of the Odes (Shih)
For many modern scholars the Book of the Odes, or simply the Odes, is the most reliable, authentic and valuable book among the Five Classics. Ku Chieh-kang even asserts that among the Confucianist classics, Confucius can only be directly connected to the Odes, although he did not edit or compile it, as traditionally rumored. (Ku 1963, v. 1, 56) The Odes as a complete book had not appeared in Confucius’ time, but he often mentioned poems which might belong to the same source of the traditional poems later included in the book. In distinction from the other classics, most of the poems of the Odes are lyrical expressions less connected with Confucianist dogmatism. Because the Odes is a collection of oral texts, its ideological use differed from that of other classics.
1. The Composition of the Odes
There are 305 pieces of poetry in the book, which has four main divisions: a) 160 poems or folk songs of 15 Chou states; b) 74 poems of the Chou Kingdom (the Minor Part of Ya); c) 31 poems of the Chou kingdom (the Greater Part of Ya); and d) 40 poems of the royal temples. A number of legends about the source and compilation of the book have emerged in the past 2500 years, but very few of them can be con?rmed by modern scholars. The rumor that the original compiler was Confucius has been rejected since ancient times. Chu Hsi asks, “how can we con?rm whether the sage preserved this and cancelled that…?” (Chu 1986, 2065) The rumor is based on the words “three hundred poems” in the Analects, which is close to the number of the poems in the book: 305. There are at least two kinds of confusion to the rumor. First, in Confucius’ time, the character “shih” (poem or poetry) was only a general term referring to poetry as a cultural category; afterwards, when the Book of Odes appeared, the same character referred especially to this book. Second, it was customary in ancient times to use a de?nite number to mean “many” or “some,” and later generations tended to understand the number literally. Similarly, there were expressions such as “three thousand kinds of common rites and three hundred kinds of royal rites,” “Confucius’ three thousand disciples and his 72 close disciples” and “1800 states in the early Chou.” When referring to “three hundred poems,” Confucius may simply have been mentioning a number of popular poems then prevalent. In any case, there is an indication that he mentioned a de?nite book consisting of three hundred poems. It is possible, however, that the later compiler of the Odes selected 305 pieces according to the number mentioned by Confuicus in the Analects. Concerning the origins of the poems in the book, there are many other debates which cannot be settled.
1) Authors and Compilers
Many ancient hypotheses about the authors of some of the poems in the book have been shown by modern researchers to be completely unfounded. In its present format, however, the book must have been compiled by a single hand, although this cannot be con?rmed. Ku Chieh-kang estimates that it was made in the period between Confucius and Mencius, since there are poetical sentences quoted by Confucius in the Analects which are not included in the “Odes,” while those quoted by Mencius do appear in it. Hence, the book was probably compiled in the Warring States period (Ku 1963, v. 3, 372) In fact, we cannot ?nd any direct mention of the book in pre-Ch’in literature. The confusion is due to uncertainty about the alleged time of the events depicted and the time of its writing and uncertainty about the existence of concrete poems (called “shih”) and the existence of the compilation (also called “shih”).
The only version of the book we have available today was originally annotated by two scholars called Mao. The Mao-version of the Odes ?rst appeared in Later Han. There were other annotated versions of the book. Historically, references to the existence of the book can be traced to the early Han. We maintain that the Han-versions of the Odes comprised almost the same collection of poems. It is generally accepted that the oral transmission of the rhythmic texts accounts for why the book was almost completely preserved despite political turmoil and the poor material conditions of the Chou books. Against the general background of the production of books in the Han as well as certain special reports handed down to us, we can judge that the present arrangement of the book was ?nally ?nished in the Han. A more positive presupposition is that the person who wrote the prefaces in Later Han ?nally ?nished the book available today. At this time, the texts, the exegesis and the prefaces were rearranged.
2) Originality of the Poems and the Book of the Odes:
Traditionally the Book of Odes and the Book of the Documents have been regarded as the most authentic and reliable among the classics. Due to the structural character of the poetic texts, there was less possibility of later insertions into the ?nished poems, as we ?nd in the Book of the Documents, the Analects and other pre-Ch’in texts. The originality of most poems is multiply guaranteed by the structure of the texts, their oral transmission and the respect of the ancients for the antiquity of the original texts. It is generally accepted that most of the poems originated in the early and middle Chou. The earliest poems in the book are those about the royal temples of the Chou, rather than those about the earlier Shang dynasty. The traditional saying that the earliest poems about the Shang in the last part of the book were written by Shang of?cials has been disproved by modern historians such as Wang Kuo-wei.[1] Therefore, the distinction between the time of the stories and that of the production of the texts is necessary for our understanding the content. Concerning the “temporal authenticity” of the poetry, a distinction should ?rst be made between the time of historical composition, the declared time of composition and that of the depicted historical story. The time of the writing of a poem is related to the distinction between its ?nal version and its possible former versions. We do not deny that there may have been a long period of frequent rearrangement of an original textual body.

3) The Content and Form of the Odes:
Traditionally, there are three or four main divisions of the Odes into the above-mentioned categories a), b), c), and d), called respectively “Feng,” “Ya” and “Sung”. The “Ya” division is further divided into two parts. They include folk songs, the poems by the literati of the courts and those made for ritual dance and music in the temple and court. The ?rst class is more lyrical, the second more narrative and the last more ceremonial. Geographically, the poems refer to events in the area around the Yellow and Huai rivers of central China; the content involves stories of the Shang and Chou dynasties. It is evident that the original poems were only words for songs with de?nite patterns. Originally, all of the poems were made to be sung. Afterwards, their melodic patterns were lost and the verbal part became more important. After the compilation of the book, later annotators and researchers began to pay attention chie?y to the verbal parts, and the meaning of the poems was seen to reside purely in the verbal texts.
The most remarkable aspect of the arrangement of the book is that the poems are organized into groups containing about ten pieces, each poem for the most part consisting of three or more chapters. We are not sure whether the present patterns stem from the original oral form or only from later rearrangements by the compilers of the written text. Ku Chieh-kang stresses the signi?cance of the original musical and practical backgrounds, holding that the forms were shaped through the original musical patterns. Concerning the written content, we can distinguish two major classes among the poems dealing with the popular and of?cial backgrounds connected with the contents and original authorship, especially the elements of music and dancing in the poems. There were two types of musical performance in ancient times: that for the common people and that for the nobility, each of which had different forms of verbal and musical expression. Furthermore, following the growth of interest in the moral interpretations of the poems, all of them were said to offer ironic criticism and moral praise through hidden meanings. Each division of the Odes was given a special title with an associated meaning. On the whole, there were three processes in the formation of the book: the selection of the poems; the compilation of the book; and the arrangement for purposes of moral instruction. Apart from the insertion of a few possible poems fabricated later, most were ?nished before the ?nal compilation. The compilation was a separate arrangement from the formation of the compiled poems.
4) Examination of the Structural Organization
Although we do not know how many poems existed before the end of the Chou, the poems chosen were consciously arranged by the compilers between the later Chou and the later Han. As regards the poetical form of the texts, it is dif?cult to distinguish the temporal order of the texts. We can, however, focus on the extent of complication of their semantic and textual organization in order to distinguish the earlier from the later in the formative process. Most poems in the ?rst division of lyrical folk songs are structurally simple. The folk origin also proves their earlier source, for they were popular and easily memorized.
In divisions b) and c), or the traditional part “Ya” (the character means the upper class of society), there are many scenes about the life of the nobility and military activities. The original compiler attempted to arrange two different classes of poems about the general populace and the nobility, although there are many overlapping themes. Moreover, in this division we ?nd complicated organizations in both length and the topics described. In distinction from the structure of three or four chapters for each poem in the ?rst division, there are longer poems consisting of over six chapters. The expanded narrative form means that there are more descriptions about expeditions, banquets and re?ections. There is an important distinction between the Minor and Greater Ya-. In the Greater Ya, there occur more names of historical ?gures. The same traits appear in the Chou Sacri?cial Songs of the last division. In fact, in the two parts of the Greater Ya, namely the second part of Ya, and the Sung, we ?nd the clearer historical background of the poems, including the longest poem of the book: “Pi Kung” (solemn temple), consisting of 120 sentences praising the achievements of the Lu-ruler, the Hsi-Prince of the sixth century B.C., in reconstructing the state. (Cf. Legge 1991 v. 4, 620-629) The historical consciousness in the mind of the poet suggests the intellectual progress of later times.
The last division, whose topics involve a history earlier than that of the poems in other parts, including stories of the Shang, also proves to have been made in the Chou. We pointed out before that according to Wang Kuo-wei, the earliest part of the Shang poems were made in the Sung state of the Later Chou (ca. 7th century B.C.; Cf. Ku Chieh-kang 1963, v. 1, 62, 67). We have reason to doubt whether many poems in the last two divisions were ?nished much later than this supposition. Traditionally, the part of the Chou Sacri?cial Poems (in the Sung) was believed to have been arranged in the early Chou, conforming with the time of the stories it contains. Doubt about the statement is grounded in the fact that little original written texts of the Chou have been handed down to us. How then did we obtain so many well-composed poems of the sacri?cial rites of that period? Since they were used in court and temple ceremonies, they could hardly have been on the lips of the people like folk songs. The ancient topics depicted in the poems could of course have been composed later. It is quite possible that all of the poems or ceremonial songs were composed in the later Chou, when the time was ripe for preservation of documents, the complex formulation of sacri?cial songs and historical expression through poetical narrative. What happened to the Shang poems could also have happened to the Chou poems: they were composed later. The poems in the last part include ceremonial songs and prayers performed in the courts and temples of the Shang and early Chou. They indicate a strong mentality in praising ancestors. All of the poems in the last three divisions about of?cial or noble themes are arranged in groups of ten. This composing way points to interest in displaying historical sequence.
If we divide all poems of the Odes into two sections, the ?rst containing a) and b) and the second c) and d), then the ?rst section has an earlier formation, a more lyrical style and a simpler form. By contrast, the second section has more narrative, ceremonial and historical content. Poems in the second section are generally better formed or more textually developed. The transition from the ?rst to the second section corresponds to the development of ancient Chinese textual organization. As we discussed before, only after the Warring-States period were textual works, oral and written, substantially formed. The point does not lie in the existence of the written texts but in the texts as such, even in their oral form. Development was connected more with textual organization than written forms. The Ch’ing historian Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng judged that before Confucius and Mencius, there were no actual written texts and that important messages were handed down orally. After the Warring States period, when the ancient tradition of oral transmission disappeared, people familiar with the old stories began to write down the texts on the bamboo and silk tablets. (Chang 1985, 63) His conclusion also supports our statement about the originality of the poems of the Odes. The poems of the ?rst division were more easily transmitted in oral form than those of the second division, which could only have been recorded in written form in the later period.
In order to understand Confucianist exegesis, the division between the production of individual texts and the compilation of these texts must be clearly made, for they have different signi?cations. In general, the compiling process and the annotating process suggest pragmatic moral intention. Most moral and historical interpretations of the poems in the ?rst division, Feng, are historically unfounded. They are simply primitive folk songs. We can even question the relations between the content of the poems and their presumed geographical background. It seems quite possible that the compiler paid more attention to the index of demarcation itself than to the actual sources of the poems in order to exhibit a geographical perspective and therefore the nationwide circulation of the poems collected by royal of?cials. The geographical arrangement was also intended to show the hierarchical relation between the dynastic center and localities. Thus, the ?rst two groups of poems called Nan (“south”) were aligned with the imperial domain, marking their leading postition in the textual hierarchy of the classic. Another 13 states occupy secondary posts. The arti?cial frame of the editing was ideologically constructed in combination with the inclusion of genuine historical poems.
2. Functions of Pragmatic and Moral Criticism
The pragmatic origin of Chinese rhythmic expressions is linked to the heuristic function of Han ideological poetics.
1) The Pragmatic Tradition of the Chou Poems
In ancient Chinese cultural life, spontaneous expressions of feeling and ideas through the rhythmical sentences of folk songs existed as they did elsewhere in the world. Only after the ?rst half of the later Chou period were the poems mentioned, for example, in the Analects. Besides their expressive function, the poems played a practical communicative role. The poems were used for the ceremonial purposes in interpersonal meetings in private, of?cial and diplomatic situations. Socially and politically, interpersonal contact in ancient China tended to be arranged in aesthetic or ritual gestures, one of which was the poetical. The poetic texts were used in musical settings, dance and recitations during ritual performances.
In the earlier period of Chou poetry, poetical sentences were more frequently employed in interpersonal communication. Later on, the poetry began to separate from its original practical function in ritual situations. In the earlier stage, when it was connected with music and dance, the musical or rhythmical factors played an important synthetic symbolic function. Later, the verbal level became central. Although in Confucius’ time poems were used mainly for aesthetic, diplomatic and ceremonial purposes, in Mencius’ time poems were used in political and moral arguments. Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng also notes that the eloquence of the political debates of the literati of the Warring-States period springs from the ancient poems. (Chang 1985, 61) Diplomatic of?cials tended to employ the poems in order to convey the complex ideas of their rulers. There are different pragmatic roles of the ancient poems in different periods; and a “poetical pragmatics” existed since the early Chou. Confucius himself highly valued the Chou poems for their pedagogical moral utility. (Cf. Ku Chieh-kang 1963, v. 1, 54; v. 3, 346) Poetical resources were practically employed in the ancient Chinese cultural world, especially for the sake of moral praise and admonition. Poems were thus a communicative instrument in ancient China.
2) The Ideological Process of the Historical Use of the Odes
Consequently, there was a developmental link between pre-Ch’in pragmatic poetics and Han-Confucianist poetical ideology. There was a connection between the earlier pedagogical usage and the later Confucianist usage with respect to the reading and application of the Odes. There was also a difference between the socio-cultural functions of the poems under different social conditions.

a) The stage of pedagogical-moral usage
It is generally accepted that due to its existence in oral form, the content of the Odes was completely preserved after the cultural disaster of the Ch’in reign. It was one of the books accepted in the pre-Han-Wu period as of?cial learning. There were three different local versions of the text or the teaching tradition about the book (in the states of Ch’i, Lu and Han). Because of this historical background, the of?cially accepted versions of the Odes belonged to the Modern-Script School. The early Han shared the same traditional pedagogical poetics with the pre-Ch’in period.
b) The stage of the earlier Confucianist movement
By the establishment of the Five Classics in the Han-Wu period the book was included as one of the original texts presumed to have been made by the early Chou rulers and compiled by Confucius. Because of its literary nature, there was no serious competition between the different versions of the book. Another reason was that the Han was more familiar with oral texts of the book, which did not allow for fabrication.
c) The stage of intensi?ed Confucianist treatment of the poems
The ideological function of the book became clearer after the appearance of the Mao-version in Later Han, which contained special prefaces unifying the poetical texts. The prefaces were written by Wei Hung of Later Han (Cf. “Biography of Wei Hung,” in Er-shih-wu-shih 1986, v. 2, 267), although for a long time the authorship of the prefaces was ascribed to Confucius even by the Sung premier Wang An-shih. There was a “long preface” (“ta-hsü”) offering the general introduction to the Odes; and there were also explanatory sentences placed before each poem called “small prefaces” (hsiao-hsü). The fabricated prefaces further ideologically uni?ed the book. They provided the entire book and each poem with a Confucianist ethical interpretation and ?ctive historical backgrounds. Thus, the book of the Odes resembled more a pedagogical moral text book. As Ku Chieh-kang asserts, however, “over 90% of the content of the prefaces are false analogies contrary to the proper meaning of the poems.” (Ku 1963, v. 3, 388) The two leading groups of poems were ideologically manipulated. Their leading position in the book was even compared with the two foremost hexagrams of the Changes, which played a central role in the textual hierarchy. As a result, the folk songs about free love in the groups were misinterpreted as moral admonitions and praise of female chastity in the court of the early Chou. Historical backgrounds were created for the poems through far-fetched geographical and historical associations. All of the poems were said to have been written for pedagogical-moral purposes. (Cf. Ku Chieh-kang 1990, 346)
d) The establishment of the Confucianist tradition of poetic exegesis
After the development of learning in the late Han, the Confucianist classics attained the well-formed and well-annotated versions of great scholars such as Ma Jung, Lu Chih and Cheng Hsüan. Based on the earlier commentaries in the Modern-Script School and the more philological version in the Old-Script School, a synthetic version of the Odes was created which turned out to be the only version handed down to us. The new version maintained a special balance between ideology (through the added prefaces) and scholarship (through the philological commentaries) which has allowed the Odes to play a two-fold role. The ideological part kept its validity. Even many critical scholars who doubted the originality of the texts and their authorship regarded the book as being full of political and moral discussions. This includes Chu Hsi and the Ch’ing historical critic Ts’ui Shu, who was noted for his doubt about ancient books, who read the Odes as political in nature. Ku Chieh-kang criticizes its moral exegesis. The ancient interpreters accepted simple procedures such as fortune-telling, combining the poetic situations with related moral meanings. When the situation was bad, the poem was interpreted as a direct criticism based on an ideal standard; and when the situation was good, the poem was read as an ironicacontrast to evil reality. (Ku 1990, 354) The fabricated prefaces of the book, like the Changes and the Documents, have neither historical nor literary worth. (ibid., 392) Certainly from a historiographic point of view, these introductions indicate the ideological tendency of the Han and re?ect the historical reality of the Han mentality.
3. The Functional Mixture in Reading the Odes
The ?nished book of the Odes was a textual compound stimulating plural reactions of readers, producing different signi?cative effects, including the aesthetic, the volitional, the imperial-historical and the moral Confucianist. The combination of the four functions in reading the Odes led to pragmatic Confucianist poetics.
1) The Aesthetic
In the ?rst place, this is an anthology of ancient poems containing different subjects and styles. It is an amazing literary book enjoyed by Chinese for over 2000 years. No matter the approach to the texts, their literary content remained important in Chinese culture. It has indeed been the prototype and spiritual source of Chinese culture and literature. Despite the ideological motive of its original compilation, the book has preserved the most valuable early literary records. Its aesthetic quality composed a natural emotional substratum for a sympathetic reading. In this sense, the Odes was not less functional in Confucianist ideology than were other classics. On the other hand, the ideological compiling scheme helped to preserve poetical texts which play a separate role as literary works.
2) The Historical
The Odes also contains an historical aspect. It is a record of the thought, feeling and stories of Chou history. As a genuine historical record, the Odes provided for powerful historical inspiration. Second, because of the arrangement of the historical background of the poems, the book also presented an historical perspective. Thus, the Odes became the rhythmical document of historical and lyrical accounts of the imperial lineage.
3) The Emotional-Volitional Performative
In China as a literary country the poems become expressive means of social communication. Created in ancient times for various practical purposes, the poetic texts played an emotional-volitional role in social contact. Traditionally, “poetry” functioned as the direct expression of will and emotion. As pre-Ch’in-Han texts, the Odes were at distance from the era of the written world with its new intellectual patterns. Accordingly, the poems in the book offered original patterns of will, emotion and behavior for regulating human relationships. The Odes were then an instrument for arousing morally required mental states.
4) The Morally Signi?cative
The Book of Odes was compiled for pedagogical moral purposes. Literary records were used in a special “moral poetics.” Praise and sarcasm of de?nite historical or legendary ?gures and events were fabricated. As we ?nd in the small prefaces, the names of princes, gentlemen, loyal subjects, females etc. are employed freely to refer to historical material. Emotional expressions about happiness and sorrow are associated with random moral af?rmations and negations. The moral exegesis in the learning of the Odes is different from the natural moral implications of the poems.
All of the above functions are performed by the same textual body. The basic division is between the poetic and the pragmatic. The Confucianist way of reading the Odes emphasizes their interaction. The poetic, pragmatic-behavioral and ideological levels of the text interact with and augment each other. The synthetic way of reading the classic poems has been formally disorganized since the beginning of the modern era, when Chinese intellectual life underwent radical change. The poetic essence and the ideological pragmatics of the Odes function synthetically in ancient times.
4. Confucianist Poetic Exegesis
In addition to the cultural tradition of Chinese poetics initially formed in the post-Han era, a morally directed poetic exegesis was ?rmly established in the Han. The Book of Odes was used as a textual instrument for expounding Confucianist morality. The exegetic device consists of four parts: special interpretations of individual poems through philological, historical and moral annotations; special themes given to each poem through the small preface (hsiao hsü); the general introduction added to the entire book through the long preface (ta hsü); and the symbolic outline of the book formed through historical and geographical ?ctions. The poetical texts became the rhythmical substratum of additional moral associations. Following the natural progress of Chinese rationality, the last three parts decreased in in?uence. The ?rst part, however, remained very signi?cant until the start of modern times. The crucial point is that moral admonitions and sarcasm are expressed in the poems which manifest a traditional pattern of feelings and wishes whose origins can hardly be traced. In general, there are two kinds of morality in the Odes: the natural feeling of ordinary moral experience in ancient life and ideological ?ctions. Normal expressions of moral feeling are teleologically arranged into the pedagogical device of moral indoctrination.
There were three kinds of commentaries on classical literature in the Han: the philological, the historical and the moral or moral— ideological. The academic scholarship of the Han was mainly based on the ?rst two kinds, with a focus on linguistic and historical interpretations which became the basis of the Chinese historico-philological tradition. In the present discussion, we shall only focus on the arbitrariness of the last kind of exegesis of the texts of the Odes, namely, the mechanical process for decoding of the moral implications of the poems in order to establish a Confucianist poetics. This poetics involves a curious connection between the traditional poetic technique of “hsing” (allusion) and moral implication through arbitrary concretization of the described items.
1) Free Association in Interpretation through Allusive Poetics
According to the Han poetics in the long preface of the Odes, there are three methods for composing poems. These are the descriptive (“fu”), the metaphorical (“pi”) and the allusive (“hsing”). (See Legge, 1991, 34) The former two are clearly understandable, but the third one is more complicated. It is not only allusive but, more importantly, directly stimulative. According to Legge’s explanation, “the allusive piece commences with a couple of lines, which are repeated often through all the stanzas….Often the allusive lines convey a meaning harmonizing with that of the lines which follow….The difference between an allusive and a metaphorical piece is that in the lines following the allusive lines the author states directly the theme he is occupied with, whereas the lines of the metaphorical piece are all of the same character.” (ibid., 35) Thus, hsing is a synthetic method consisting of thematically allusive, metaphorically associative and emotional-volitional stimulation. Because there is no ?xed criterion for reading the allusive metaphor, thematic suggestions and moral connotations can be arbitrarily drawn. This tendency promoted the establishment of Confucianist poetic analogy.
We shall attempt to explain this poetic method through the example of the poem “Hoh Ming” (The Cry of the Crane), which was praised by Chu Hsi for expressing the essence of Confucianism. (Ssu-Shu-Wu-Ching (Four Books and Five Classics) 1985, v. 2, 82) It consists of two chapters which contain similar forms and ideas.
The crane cries in the ninth pool of the marsh,
and her voice is heard in the distant wilds.
The ?sh lies in the deep,
And now is by the islet.
Pleasant is that garden,
In which are the sandal trees;
But beneath them are only withered leaves.
The stones of those hills,
May be made into grind-stones.
The crane cries in the ninth pool of the marsh,
And her voice is heard in the sky.
The ?sh is by the islet,
And now it lies hid in the deep.
Pleasant is that garden,
In which are the sandal trees;
But beneath them is the paper-mulberry tree.
The stones of those hills
May be used to polish gems.
(Legge 1991 v.4, 296-7)
Despite the differences among several interpretations, most ancient scholars accepted the original Han interpretation of the metaphors in the text. The small preface declares the poem to offer advice to the Chou Hsüan-king. Chu, who dismisses the original surmises about the concrete object in the poet’s mind, offered the following interpretation of the text:
i) The crane is a simile of the character of the “chün-tzu” (“gentleman”);
ii) To cry is to express inner sincerity;
iii) The distant ninth pool means the depth of the gentleman which is not accessible to the king;
iv) Hearing the cry from a distance refers to the feeling of the gentleman, who was not yet appointed or promoted, yet well known and unable to keep silent.
v) The places (the deep and the islet) where the ?sh appears designate the favorable and the unfavorable conditions of the gentleman. There are always two possibilities. More exactly, the gentleman escapes from disorderly society and reappears in orderly society. (Cf. Juan Yüan 1980, 433; Ssu-Shu-Wu-Ching 1985, v. 2, 82) Only capable ?sh can enter the deep water; incapable ones must stay in the shallow water (of the islet). This means that only the gentleman can escape to the deep wilds; but a man cannot leave society, so the king should search for the hidden gentleman.
vi) The fact that the beautiful tree and its fallen leaves exist together means that the gentleman and the base-man (hsiao-jen) always exist together. The court should promote (make higher) the gentleman and expel (make lower) the mean man. (ibid.)
vii) The gemstones compared to the gentleman can be polished into jade by the grind-stones, which are compared to the base man. The moral man can take the immoral man as a means to improve himself.
From this example of the moral reading of the poem, we can see that its images can be interpreted quite freely in order to serve any association with the allusive topic and its moral implication. In general, there are three levels in reading a poem: the literal (L), the metaphorical (M) and the allusive or connotative (A). In this piece, the crane is an L, the Hsüen-king or some historical minister is an M and the unknown gentleman is an A. The most absurd interpretations occurred at the second level, M. As Chu Hsi asks, “how can we know to which man the poem refers?” (Chu 1986, v. 6, 2074, 2077) Nevertheless, exegetes, despite their different treatments of M, could still share the same A, namely, the moral implication. In this piece, Mao and Cheng Hsüan in the Han, the T’ang exegete Kung Ying-ta and the Sung exegete Chu Hsi share the same interpretation at the level A: there is a hidden gentleman to be sought by the king.
2) The Fixation of the Emotional-volitional Orientation through the Confucianist Reading
All of above reactions could emerge among ancient Chinese readers. First, the literary qualities implied in the poems could be grasped intuitively by both modern and ancient people. Second, historical imagination based on the poetic texts had various forms. The poem were the means for obtaining historical knowledge of the royal lineage and the royal events. Third, the moral meanings of the historical stories and literary metaphors formed the determinative factors guiding the reading. Under their ethical guide, the ideologically irrelevant parts, such as the erotic and personal, were suppressed. The three levels of reading existed separately or in combination. With one level ?xed as the center, the other two became secondary. We have then the levels of the literary, the historical and the moral, which are produced respectively from poetic, historiographic and ethical perspectives. The three levels existed in the exegesis of all other Confucianist classics, but the Odes possesses a characteristically stronger literary function which at least in an unconscious way emotionally and volitionally stimulated the reader. It was used to augment the subjective potential required by the Confucianist pedagogy.



[1] Wang Kuo-wei denied the historical authenticity of the earliest part of the Shang poetry for the following reasons: the content of the archaeological documents of the Shang is devoid of poetry; the names of persons and places in the poems do not agree with those found in the Shang documents, but are similar instead to those in the Chou; the poetical phrases do not resemble those of the early Chou but instead those prevalent since the middle Chou; and, more obviously, the capital in the poetry is sometimes named “Yin,” a name which was only used after the fall of the Shang. (Wang 1983, v. 2, 21-22)
Part Four: The Historiographic and Exegetic Patterns of Han Academia
(15) The Stereotype and Function of Exegetic Han Research
The distinction made by the Ch’ing historian Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng between textual and institutional aspects has an important semiotic signi?cance. His emphasis on the different functions of the Chou Prince and Confucius, regardless of its historical authenticity, touches upon the identity of the classic texts. (The Chou Prince was said to be the original organizer and creator of Chinese cultural traditions and Confucius their transmitter and teacher.) According to his logic, the Chou Prince held the of?cial post which put him in position to create the cultural institution of the classic “ching”; while Confucius did not have this position. (Chang 1985, 121) For Chang, the original identity of “ching” consisted of the material institutions rather than merely verbal texts. The main texts of the classics were about social institutions and customary rules, while the “ching” contains original historical facts (words and deeds). These compose the background of the classic texts, but the situation underwent a thorough-going change after the establishment of the system of the Five Classics.
According to Ch’ien Mu, the title “Five Classics” was derived from the title “Six Classics,” which itself was derived from the earlier title “Six Arts.” He asserts that the name “Six Classics” was not formed before the Han. (Ch’ien 1956, 83) The title “Six Classics” appeared in the early Han. (ibid., 88) Later, the set phrase “the Six Arts” was also used to refer to the Six Classics in order to hint at the earlier existence of the classic texts. Thus, the title “Five Classics” was especially associated with the Confucianist movement launched by Han Wu-ti. As we described in chapter 7, this movement consisted of several stages, the ?rst of which covered a period of about 100 years ranging from Wu-ti to Hsüan-ti. During this ?rst stage, academic and institutional contents were basically established. The second part can also be divided into several grades of signi?cance with different names. Each classic consists of one principal text and several commentaries stemming from different times. The difference between the titles of the classical texts re?ects different associations. The number 6 refers to their historical origin, while the number 5 refers to the Han academic system.
In Later Han, technical progress and educational development promoted scholarship. The quality of the study of the Confucianist texts was even better than in many other subsequent dynasties. In the late Later Han, there appeared typical scholars such as Yü Fan, Ma Jung and Cheng Hsüan, who studied all Confucianist texts of both the Old- and the Modern-Script schools, paying attention to their scholarly merit as such. The development of the philological studies of traditional texts was partly counteracted, however, by current superstitions and the ossi?ed academic system. Still, the achievement of Later Han scholarship served the general progress of Confucianism.
The purely academic success attained by philological means founded the traditional approach to studying Confucianist texts in China. The subjects, academic approach, scholarly purposes and operative procedures of classical scholarship were systematically ?xed. Intellectual labor was directed towards the ?xed system of authoritatively chosen classics, which themselves became objects of research. Studies of the classics meant to provide the original texts with further annotations and notes. These intellectual efforts could be only realized within the ?xed textual system. Traditional scholarship, which has continued until today, was above all limited to the ideologically constrained framework. The purpose of research was to explain and deify the classics in order to highlight the sacred implications of Confucianism. Within this scholarly framework, purely philological work was separately performed, becoming the ?rm foundation of the traditional Chinese humanities. An independent academic dimension emerged from the historically and ideologically arranged system with its scholarly techniques. Technical and ideological dimensions interacted in the Confucianist system.
In Later Han, there were an extremely vulgar superstitious exegeses of the Confucianist classics alongside reasonable philological interpretations. The former type inhered in the notorious “wei-shu” texts (apocrypha or the appendices to the classics) which were said to have been received from Heaven and to convey special instructions.[1]
Although the history of Chinese scholarly research began in Former Han, its basic structure was set in the late Han. Purely “technical” (philological) scholarship and “quasi-technical” (exegetic) scholarship appeared simultaneously. The so-called “minor studies” (philology) were valued from the very beginning of Confucianist scholarship.[2] It is dif?cult to make a distinction between linguistic study and Confucianist exegetic study.
The two kinds of study closely interacted. With this philological focus, the absence of philosophical or theoretical re?ection and historiographical examinations is evident. There emerged a stereotype of research into the classic texts, including ?xed patterns at various levels.
1. The Symbolic Ideological Framework
The content of the classics does not involve theoretical reasoning. As Ku Chieh-kang points out, “the classics are an academic idol. In fact, several classic texts involve mere daily matters treated by ancient kings and ministers; their meaning is simple and unsophisticated.” (Ku 1963, v. 4, 10) The essential spirit and function of Confucianist classics consists in the following traits:
a)   antiquity or originality: the material remainders of historical events;
b)   authority or power: behavioral and institutional moral standards and constraints set by the power-holders;
c)   Tao or regularity: the absolute rules and course set up by Heaven;
d)   ethnicity or history: the quasi-religious worship of ethnic ancestors;
e)   lineage or national continuity: manifold systems of the transmission of power according to the national Tao;
f)    symbolism or dogmatism: scholarly ideology.
Despite a variety of substantial and functional classical compositions, the Confucianist system played an unifying, organic and consistent role in maintaining con?dence in the despotic system. All the above points contained in the classics and the related commentaries created an ideological framework which determined both social and individual thought and conduct. On the other hand, the classic texts presented only historical records and behavioral norms. The two parts were the results of historical development according to Heaven-Tao. Even moral maxims and institutional norms were historically factual phenomena. For this reason, there is a saying that “the six classics are all manifestations of history.” They are only historical material.[3]
The more interesting point lies in the fact that the classics, as historical records of the original kings, were not really manuals containing the principles and rules of political and moral behavior and institutions. In general, they only played a symbolic guiding role. The actual rules and organizations of public and private life were formed through actual and practical consideration with respect to actual situations. In other words, socio-political systems, policies and measures, ritual patterns and political and private tactics were regulated mainly through the actual conditions, with the classics providing the source of faith and spiritual inspiration. The latter, however, function as the ideological preconditions of and framework for Confucianist research.
2. The Aim and Objective of Research
The identity of the object: the sacred texts, determined the Confucianist academic approach. The classics were ?rst of all not the object of critical and rational re?ection and examination, but instead of emotional adoration and worship. Technical methods were used for augmenting this feeling and the sacred worth of the object; they were not a tool of rational analysis. Scholarship was merely an instrument for strengthening the foundation of political power. The relationship between the object and the researcher in Chinese scholarship was dogmatically ?xed from the outset. The role of the scholar was already determined before the development of his scholarship. Research was intended to deepen spiritual adoration for the sacred textual heritage.[4]
3. The Rigidity of the Scope of Objects of Research
During the Chou-Ch’in period, of?cial knowledge expanded beyond the historical records. In a sense, the intellectual activities of individual thinkers in various ?elds were also organized by the political rulers. The pre-Han textual world contained historical records, individual thought and technical knowledge.
Before Wu-ti, the Han rulers did not systematically organize cultural activities and academic of?cials were only consuls who were not appointed as political of?cials. (See “ju lin chuan” (“Biographies of Han scholars”), in Pan Ku 1964, 3592) The establishment of the Five Classics changed the identity of traditional scholarship. Since then, the procedure of Confucianist research has been ?xed. First, the scope of the objects of research was of?cially limited to strictly chosen historical texts taken as the sacred heritage and the intellectual center of Chinese culture. The chosen books about the words and events of past rulers became the central objects of subsequent Chinese intellectual efforts, despite the uneven seriousness of their treatment in various dynasties. The classics were widely regarded as records of the imperial, national and spiritual traditions composing the national identity and the spiritual source of individual existence. The object of scholarship, however, was not historical reality itself, but rather its records, namely, verbal texts of various kinds which were the product of scribal practices. The scope of the textual constructions was also guided by Confucianist moral values. The Confucianist texts incorporated the spiritual treasures of the Chinese nation.
The objects of Confucianist scholarship are texts about practical matters and moral dogmas embodied in historical narratives rather than philosophical argumentation. The objects of Confucianist intellectual endeavors are practical matters woven in the moral framework; and the mode of intellectual attention is affectional (adorational) and technical (philological). The content of the classical texts includes historical material about practical matters. Theoretical and philosophical topics were excluded from the Confucianist classics. The core of the Chinese national spirit was restricted to a non-theoretical dimension. This academic inclination led to the great victory of the Confucianist apparatus in the absolute domination over the Chinese mentality for 2000 years. The academic foundation should be seen in historiographically pragmatic terms. The classical texts are only historiographic records of imagined historical facts or symbols.
4. Methodological Patterns
The main objective of investigation lay in ?nding effective methods for understanding the direct and indirect meanings of words and sentences in order to grasp the “innate” meaning of the classics. The precise reading of the linguistic meaning of the texts has remained the central task of Confucianist scholarship. Particularly since the decay of Yin-Yang superstition in scholarship, philological study has become the main task. The content of the texts is the “common sense” which is constant and clear. As the Ch’ing scholar Ch’ien Ta-hsin says, “beyond the linguistically exegetic meaning no other meaning exists in the texts” (Cf. his “Exegetic Glossary of the Classical Texts,” in Juan Yüan 1982, v. 1, 1). The highly praised Ch’ing Confucianist exegesis employs scienti?c methods for discovering the correct way to read the ancient words in the classic texts, which have been widely misread by past scholars. The main reason for linguistic exegesis is the extreme irregularity of the ancient writing system.[5]
It is curious to note the link between the original ideological orientation of scholarship and its philological turn in subsequent eras. There were three different factors determining the philological tendency of Chinese scholarship. The historiographic factor was due to the necessity of returning to the original situations recorded in the historical ?gures; the philological factor was due to the irregular evolution of ancient Chinese characters; and the ideological factor implicitly led to the exclusion of intellectual interest from scholarship.
Thus, regarding the methods of Confucianist exegesis, there are two categories: the philological and the moral-hermeneutic. The former contains two main parts: the phonetic de?nition of characters used in the classic texts and that of the meaning of the characters through analysis of their phonetic rules and stroke structures. The latter is a mechanical pattern for ideological-moral interpretations gained through reading the hidden meanings of the texts, this is, for determining the moral-philosophical implications of the words and deeds of kings in the classic texts. Confucianist scholarship with these two patterns continued through to the end of the Ch’ing (1911) without any substantial Changes.[6] The initially linguistically oriented study was linked with the requirement of precisely understanding the classic texts. The second philosophically oriented study was limited to the original moral interpretations, which were constrained by the scope of the classic texts. The two academic directions were centered on the single aim of closely mingling with the ideology of the original lineage.
5. The Modelling of the Personality of the Confucianist Scholar
In addition to symbolic and pragmatic functions, the system of Confucianist classics became an institutional power for organizing and controlling the activities of literati and of?cials. They formed the stereotype of the Chinese intellectual. The establishment of the academic institution provided intellectuals with opportunities for honor and pro?t. Academic activities and of?cial promotions were combined. On one hand, the intellectual potential was effectively stimulated; and on the other, the direction of the literati’s efforts was held under control by the emperors. Academic power provided both the energy and the direction of the Chinese philosophy of life. The original Confucian motivation for ethical learning was transformed into that for the individual’s advancement along imperially controlled channels. For this reason, pre-institutional Confucian thought is essentially different from the institutionalized Confucianist classics. The character and behavioral patterns of subsequent Chinese intellectuals was then permanently ?xed. Even independent and critical thinkers such as Wang Ch’ung talked about how to keep oneself satis?ed when not selected for high-ranking of?ce. The Confucian-Mencian heroic ambition for ethico-political commitment was changed to the expectation for the recognition of and promotion by the rulers. For the Han elite, two kinds of ambition mingled. The original pre-Ch’in uncertainty of moral-political life was institutionalized in the form of authoritatively de?ned self-advancement along an externally regulated course. This institutional limitation was decisive for the formation of the character of the Han literati. The original Confucian-Mencian spiritual independence from power was distorted into the Confucianist spiritual dependence on power.
Because Legalism was an historical actuality or practice, the so-called expulsion of the “Hundred Schools,” including Legalism, actually led to the stop of the open discussion of Legalism, including Legalist tactics for interpersonal struggle, among the people. Empirical Legalism was left for the use of the power-holders; and a quasi-metaphysical dogmatism bolster the con?dence of the people. A double ideological system of “internal Legalism and external Confucianism” was constructed which became one of the main reasons for the stability of the repressive Chinese system.62[7]
The dominance of the Confucian school led to the exclusion of the Legalist discussion (although Legalism was the very basis of Han Power), and the literati were pulled further away from the preconditions of actual politics. This purpose could be solidi?ed through encouraging stereotyped research of the classic texts. The personality of the Confucianist scholars was shaped by the desired effects of reading and studying the texts.
1) Volitional Inspiration
From a scholarly point of view, the level of traditional learning about the classics remains elementary. Ku Chieh-kang observes: “Ancient people were strong in belief, but weak in thinking; the Confucianist school established its educational patterns over two thousand years, although it completed no good research on the classics.” (Ku 1963, v. 3, 6) From a pragmatic point of view, however, the establishment of the Confucianist classics and related institutions represents a huge socio-cultural achievement and had great effects in Chinese civilization.
Philological attainments technical in nature gradually accumulated around the ?xed objects, objectives and methods. Within such an academic framework, few intellectual achievements can be expected. The highest motive and objective remained the same: deference to and respect for the spiritual heritage behind the sacred texts. Not many Modern intellectual results were obtained through Confucianist research. The intellectual content of the Confucianist texts was completely known when they were initially formed. The academic activities keep active the understanding of and belief in the texts. The stagnation in research was primarily due to objects which were not commensurate with the current and historical realities which they represented. In essence, the Confucianist classics were not intellectually employed. They were arranged for pragmatic political purposes, rather than being used as a basis on which people could develop observations and theories.
Therefore, the reading of the classic texts is equivalent to the reading of poetic or religious texts. The goal is inspiration rather than knowledge. The intellectual reactions to scholarship mainly occurred at the emotional and volitional planes alongside the philological. In other words, the Confucianist classical texts are an apparatus more for stimulating emotional and volitional admiration than intellectual reactions. As instruments of moral inspiration, the Confucianist classics encouraged the adoration of the reader for the sacred heritage and stimulated the emotional and volitional mechanism of the agent for Confucianist morality. In general, the Confucianist texts comprised two kinds of discourse. One is that about the dogmatic material of historical legends taken as traces of the sacred; the other are those traditional moral ideas conforming with the traditional system. The traditional emotional-volitional patterns were further stereotyped and oriented in a teleological system.
2) Training the Personality through Performing Academic Rituals
The linguistical learning, mechanical memorization and dogmatic understanding of the classic texts shaped a highly stereotyped intellectual life. These academic activities became part of the Confucianist li-system as a whole. The external procedure of research and participation in academic organizations resembled ritual processes. The effects of the two processes were the same: externally strengthening the social order and internally enriching moral consciousness. Academic rituals used the textual systems and related research system to realize the same li-goal. The commitment to Confucianist research brought immediate contact with the sacred traces embodied in the textual material. The reading of the sacred texts was considered equal to dialogue with the ancient kings and sages and thus to obtaining their spiritual instructions and absorbing their inspiration. Scholarship became a spiritual ladder for climbing the sacred mountain. Eventually, it was a spiritual activity leading to the formation of the Confucianist moral personality, which was to be used by the power-holder according to a ?xed schedule.
Philological orientation helped shape the above psychological effect in a two-fold way. The philological and the pragmatic moral functions supported each other. The technical character of philological studies never hampered the moral psychology linked to the classic texts. For the past 2000 years, most efforts have been spent in overcoming the linguistic hardship caused by the historical gap and the natural irregularities of the original writing system. The denotational content of the texts has been largely understood. A complicated set of national epics was read constantly and effectively without any increase in information. The classic texts, like the poetic ones, were a pragmatic means for shaping the national mentality and did not provide any epistemological stimulation.
3). The Technical and Utilitarian Direction of Philological Research
Historically speaking, the establishment of Confucianist scholarship was a great leap forward in Chinese intellectual history. For the ?rst time, the texts became the objects of research and re?ection. A purely academic activity gradually formed, particularly in the Later Han period. When the superstitious philosophical scholarship of the Modern-Script School receded, the serious philological scholarship of the Old-Script School began to spread.[8] The academic progress of late Han scholarship can be compared with the intellectual progress of late Chou thought, although the one was scholarly and the other intellectual. It was the authoritarian system of the Han which led to the construction of Chinese academic life. Generally speaking, it is widely recognized that most Han scholars were less quali?ed in both scholarship and personality. Base motives led to the lower quality of scholarship. As Ku remarks, “Most of scholars of the classics in the Han were at a lower academic level, without any de?nite scholarly purpose and systematic methods. Their interpretations and arguments were inclined more to telling stories and opinions at random than to seriously searching for the signi?cant meanings of the texts. They purported to use the classics for obtaining bene?ts rather than for attaining historical truth.” (Ku 1964, v. 5, 5) While a few late Han scholars (such as Cheng Hsüan) improved their scholarly integrity and capability, separating scholarly motives from utilitarian ones, they still lacked a mind for historical truth.[9]
4) The Composition of the Scholarly Personality
Mixed motivation in searching for pro?t and satisfying historico-philological curiosity led to the scholarly type of the Chinese literati. For a Confucianist scholar, the possible effects in treating the classic Confucianist texts include the following:
a)   philological, historical, cultural and moral knowledge; (historical knowledge);
b)   contact with the ancient, sacred spirit through the historical traces of the nation; (spiritual contact);
c)   moral inspiration through reading the sacred texts; (moral inspiration);
d)   philological techniques. (technical practice).
Alongside the traditional literati, there appeared a Modern type of Chinese intellectual: the researcher or scholar. This Modern type shared the ?rst three kinds of scholarly results with the literati, but differed from them in the mental state of intellectual concentration on the research procedure. The philological direction of Confucianist research was determined from the beginning by the object and objective stipulated by Confucianist ideology. Academic activity then became an intellectual ritual performance separate from active thinking.
Accordingly, the mental pattern of the Confucianist researcher was rigidi?ed into a technically-stereotyped framework. The spiritual inspiration obtained through reading the sacred texts promoted seriousness in the mind of the researcher, who was concomitantly engaged in a technical task. The solemn sensibility and the technical operation were constantly separated, each offering the other the false impression of mutual support. Through the practice of intellectual repetition, rationality was not substantially advanced. The potential of Confucianist researchers was accordingly restrained over two thousand years. The thinker without research and the researcher without thinking co-existed and interacted. In addition, both kinds of literati were concerned only with practical problems, even after philosophical thought developed later.[10]
Han-academic ideology created a framework for research shaping the mentality of re?ecting on and investigating textual objects. Just as the actual political lineage provides a framework for organizing historical narratives in Han historiography, so, too, does the ideological textual system provide a framework for analysis and interpretation. Nevertheless, Confucianist ideology had a profound impact on Chinese literati. This ideological mechanism functions at three levels: direct worship of the lineage of power through the textual body; indoctrination through reading the words of the ancient kings; and establishing stereotypes of research at the technical level. The last one is the most in?uential because of its penetration into the mental practice of Chinese intellectuals.



[1] When the absurd fashion of interpretation began to disappear at the end of Later Han and the philological movement in classical scholarship was gradually established, the wei-shu superstitious fashion, especially the appendix to the Classic of Changes, was absorbed into the developed religious Taoism and then later once again into Sung-Confucianist metaphysics, especially in Shao Yung’s speculative numerical theory. (Cf. Fung Yu-lan 1970, 830)
[2] The earliest Chinese book about words, the Er-ya, edited in Former Han, was separated from Confucianist scholarship. (see Hu P’u-an 1968, 15) The connection between the old and contemporary meanings of characters was explored according to phonetic links. It also helped to start Confucianist exegesis in general, especially about poetics. According to Ku Chieh-kang, despite its lower level in the academic system and a number of mistakes, it remains a valuable book in Chinese scholarly history. (Ku 1990, v.2, 1127-32; also v. 7 (A), 4785-6). An expanded book of Er-ya and the ?rst Chinese dictionary, “Shou Wen” by Hsü Shen, also appeared in Later Han.
[3] The statement made famous by Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng has two different meanings today: the content of the classics is only the record of the historical practices of the early kings (Chang); the content of the classics is only historical material (Ku).
[4] A vivid example appears in the proposal of Hsiu Fang of Later Han. For the sake of strengthening the tradition of precisely following the technique of the masters and preventing unnecessary scholarly debate during state examinations, Hsiu thought that scholarly focus ought to lie on linguistic explanations of and quotations from the classic texts. Opinions different from the masters’ explanations were judged as mistakes in examinations. For this reason, he added, the Analects should not be the object of state examinations. (Er-shih-wu-shih, v. 2, 175) The reason might be that the Analects was a book about actual life likely to lead to serious debates useless for scholarly aims. The more direct reason for the technical focus might have been that the aim of research did not involve any intelligible objective.
[5] Traditional Chinese exegetic scholars never complained about the technical shortcomings of the primitive writing conditions, but viewed them as natural and even justi?ed. They often said that the “ancients tended to use words in such and such a way” and that modern readers had to work hard to overcome the irregularities of usage in ancient writing. What they respected were not only original ideas but also original ways of expressing these ideas, despite the fact that the latter contained technical weaknesses. (It seems that anything historically transmitted was valuable in and of itself.) The dif?culty in decoding the meaning of words was therefore linked to irregularities in the ancient writing systems. The exegetic achievements were linked to purely technical dif?culties in traditional scholarship. As a result, the scholarly level remained at a practical linguistic level.
[6] After introducing the brilliant achievements of Ch’ing exegesis, which is the developmental apex of Han learning, the contemporary linguist Wang Li points out three basic shortcomings: 1) it is parasitic on the traditional scholarship of the classics; 2) the object is limited to the classic texts; 3) there is loose application of a semantic method based on sound in reference to the meaning of characters. (Wang Li 1981, 172)
[7] One of the strategical successes of Han ideology lay in the separation between the Legalist practice of the ruler and the Legalist thought of the ruled. The latter was purposely excluded from scholarly discourse, while the former was systematically institutionalized. Political science and political tactics were institutionally ostracized in Chinese intellectual history.
[8] There are two different levels of scholarly con?ict: the historical source of the texts of one school and its intellectual inclination. The former is hardly con?rmable, but the latter is easily con?rmed. The questions of their nominal titles, such as the Old-Script and the Modern-Script, and their alleged relations to Confucius are not important for understanding their nature.
[9] Most Confucianist literati in Later Han, like those in other periods, were of?cials mainly looking for pro?t through learning. As Ch’üen Tsai-chih of the Tang says, many “big ju-literati” (great Confucianist) in Later Han, such as the premieres Chang Yü and Hu Kuang, were only concerned about how to gain a great reputation and maintain the post “by dint of Confucianist tactics and a hypocritically diplomatic style.” (Cf. Kao Pu-ying (ed.) 1982, 111)
[10] The inertia of research patterns in the Confucianist tradition was widely neglected in the pragmatically oriented Ch’ing scholarship. The philological schools of the Ch’ien-Lung reign (1736-1795) and Chia-Ch’ing reign (1796-1820) were said to be scienti?cally directed. Despite the progress of philological methods since the middle Ch’ing, the strategical level of the schools remained at the same level, like their counterpart in the late Han. In fact, they took the Han philological scholars as their academic model. In general, the intellectual and academic situation of the Ch’ing did not change very much in comparison with that of earlier periods.
16) The History of Han-Confucianist Scholarship
In last chapter we described the basic traits and functions of Confucianist scholarship. Let us now turn to its historical unfolding. This is also a historical digression in our discussion of Han-Confucianism.
1. The Development of Confucianist Scholarship in Later Han
Both academically and politically, the Confucianist system was further strengthened in the later Han period (25-220 A.D.). The system solidi?ed its predominant position and maintained its guiding ideological role after its initial establishment in the reign of Wu-ti. Its content was further readjusted and enriched. These developments will be described in the following discussion.
1). The Con?ict between the Old-Script and the Modern-Script Schools
It has been generally accepted that the debate between the two Schools was mainly determined by utilitarian competition among literati anxious for of?cial promotion due to their scholarly speciality. The so-called “new” or “Modern” books were written in the current language and ?rst established in the academic system, while the “Old” ones written in the alleged pre-Ch’in language were discovered later.[1] Stories about how the Old texts were discovered were not even believed by many Han literati and the Old-Script School was not of?cially established in Former Han. In Later Han, it gradually improved its position after a coup d’etat by Wang Mang, who preferred the Old-Script texts. By the end of Later Han, the two schools had gained similar privileges. The “schools” has to do with both language and text, so we can alternatively call them with the new/modern and old/ancient script/text.
As regards tactics in the academic struggle between the Old and Modern Script Schools, Ch’ien Hsüan-t’ung described them as mere competition about the length and number of texts, the precision in interpretation of words, the antiquity of the interpretations and the unique nature of the books referred to. (Ku. 1963 v.5, 29) Thus, Ku Chieh-kang concludes that “Han learning was not based on the facts; it lacks objective truth.” (Ku 1963, v. 5, 471) This historical event should be reconsidered from various angles. Some commonly accepted facts can be pinned down:
a) No conclusion about Liu’s fabrication can be historiographically con?rmed.
b) While the texts of the Modern-Script School seem more original, those of the Old-Script School read more seriously from a scholarly perspective (since they have fewer superstitious elements) and are historically more interesting: e.g., the Tso-chuan and the Chou li.
c) All books available today were made after the beginning of the Han. They include many earlier texts, for all books were compilations, with varying degrees of fabrication. If there was really a program of systematic fabrication led by Liu, who was in charge of keeping the historical records, as was Ssu-Ma, we can hardly distinguish between books compiled by him and those compiled by Ssu-Ma. We cannot examine the original materials used by them.
d) What we have of the classics was ?nished during the late Han and Wei-Chin period, when the texts of two Schools were combined. We must distinguish the legendary struggle of the two Schools from the related textual facts. In fact, we cannot separate the original materials shared by both Schools, the normal falsi?cations and their purposeful fabrications. Considering the fact that most original records written by of?cial scribes could have been full of “false” elements, our investigation has nothing to do with checking historical facts.
e) In general, there were two different issues: the two processes of textual compilation with their scholarly quality and the pragmatic motives of professional competition. The insoluble problem is how much the latter harmed or bene?ted the former.
f) There is also a question of complicity: How clearly were the Han literati conscious of the dubious morality of arbitrarily rearranging the available materials? For example, when Ssu-ma “rearranged” his materials, his rational criterion was the “intelligibility” of his narratives rather than positive con?rmation of their factuality. He sought only to make the ?nished text read more reasonably and consistently.
2) Superstition and Scholarship in Later Han
The superstitious background was the external condition of the Han ideological construction. In our analysis, however, we shall distinguish between the function of superstition and that of academic ideology. They interacted at a practical level, while they exercised a separate in?uence throughout the Han ideological system.
During the formative period of political centralization ranging from the late Chou to the beginning of the Han, besides practical ethical and tactical debates, there gradually developed the metaphysical debate of the Yin-Yang School which presented a general theory comprising cosmological, social, political and intellectual dimensions. Its practical theory addressed the political lineage; and its historical philosophy encouraged political uni?cation. Based thereon, a theory of academic lineage was established. The two systems of despotic lineage were founded on a crude historical philosophy which remained half-empirical and half-metaphysical. The general pattern of Heaven-Man interaction was expressed through a number of concrete devices in the period; we listed these in chapter 4. Social superstition and scholarly progress developed simultaneously. The former strengthened the Confucianist political system and the latter promoted its research techniques. The system of classics had two aspects: external political utility and internal structural improvement.
2. Exegetic Scholarship in Later Han
Despite the long history of Chinese cultural activities, research or study in the sense of professional scholarship formally originated ?rst in the Han with the establishment of academic institutions. We ?nd a clear division between pre-Ch’in thought and post-Ch’in scholarship founded in the Han. Liang Ch’i-ch’ao asserted that there occurred four major “intellectual tides of the age” in post-Ch’in-Han Chinese history: Han learning, Buddhist learning in the Sui-T’ang period, the Neo-Confucianist philosophy of the Sung and the Ming and the philology of the Ch’ing. (Liang 1966, 11) We should add that the enumerated phenomena were academic or scholarly trends rather than general intellectual streams. Regardless of their different subject matters, all of them were “academic studies” having different cultural impacts in different historical situations.
In attempting to make a distinction between original Confucian thought and Han-Confucianism, we mainly recur to their different politico-ethical positions. The distinction accords with the Confucian position about sharply distinguishing genuine right from merely apparent right. Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng repeats the same position in saying that “scholarship will be destroyed not only by vulgar customs but also by seductive false scholarship. When true scholarship is absent, people can still wait for its coming. When false scholarship prevails, people will no longer have a chance to know about true scholarship.” (Chang 1985, 328) What Chang says, however, is different from what we emphasized because there is a difference between ethical thought and scholarship about ethical thought. Our distinction is linked with the ethical meaning and function which we have de?ned and not with the scholarship itself, which had already obtained separate autonomy with its own technical identity. Scholarship above all means a scholarly operative procedure which accumulates its own technical and intellectual achievements alongside the ethical thought which it systematically addresses. More precisely, there is a distinction between the original Confucian ethics and the moral ideology of Han-Confucianism; while the scholarly tradition had a separate socio-cultural history in China. In other words, Han-Confucianist scholarship enjoyed its own independent history after its ?nal establishment in Later Han.
As a matter of fact, purely scholarly efforts naturally continued following the establishment of Confucianist exegetic scholarship in the middle Han. In addition to its direct and indirect ideological roles, Confucianist scholarship centered around the exegesis of the classic texts had its own autonomy, focusing on philological, phonetic and historical problems and with its own set of scholarly criteria. Despite the obviously ideological background of Han Confucianism, scholarly interest was inspired through academic activities within the politico-ideological system.
Ma Jung, the ?rst great scholar of Later Han, was still a high-ranking of?cial, but a great number of his disciples pursued a purely intellectual studies. One of them, Cheng Hsüan, attained more scholarly achievements than Ma and became the most successful scholar of Confucianist exegetics in the Han dynasty. He was never an of?cial and had a great number of followers. His academic reputation aroused wide admiration among of?cials and even rebel leaders. (The latter attempted to appoint him premier because of his great learning; cf. Er-shih-wu-shih, 1986, v. 2, 150.) This fact proves that purely scholarly interest developed without political motivation by the end of the Han.[2]
Since then, ideological restraints and purely scholarly interests have been coordinated in Confucianist academics. As a result, the academic ideology has been technically institutionalized.
The initial mode of serious scholarship in the late Han was formed around philological research linked with the royally authorized classical texts which provided a constant material, object and playground for scholarly operations. The great effort towards the philological technical operation ?xed the scholarly attention and passion which became the intellectual source of subsequent scholarly work along de?nite lines within the ideological framework. The philological achievements of Later Han were also re?ected in Confucianist dogmatic works such as the Po Hu T’ung, which combines philological interest with the ideological content of the Confucianist studies. The completion of Han scholarship at the end of the Han dynasty provided a lasting model for Chinese scholarship.
After the end of the Han (220 A.D.), there were several important periods in the development of Confucianist scholarship:
a)   the Wei and Chin Dynasties (220-420);
b)   the Northern and Southern Dynasties (430-550);
c)   the T’ang Dynasty (618-907);
d)   the Sung Dynasty (960-1279);
e)   the Ch’ing Dynasty (1644-1911).
The formation of Confucianist scholarship should be divided into two basic stages: the politico-ideological and the purely academic, although both were based on the same textual bodies. The latter began after Later Han, when the utilitarian con?ict between the Old- and the Modern-Script scholarship had been replaced by a “synthetic” philologico-exegetic one.[3] The earlier ideologically motivated scholarship of the Han-Wu-ti reign gained relative academic autonomy within the same political framework. This marked the beginning of formal Chinese scholarly history.
The complicated development of Confucianist scholarship was ?rst expressed in the middle Han in a strange combination of utilitarian motivation and scholarly interest in the personality of the Confucianist master Liu Hsin. He played a key role in organizing the ancient system of books; and he was actively involved in the political plot of the usurper Wang Mang, who later appointed Liu “State Master.” Scholarship was always under the guide of political pragmatics, but within this framework a purely scholarly interest gradually formed. This was a great development. While Tung Chung-shu was only a political user of the classical text, Liu Hsin was a scholar or editor. After Liu, the scholarly part was gradually enriched.
The evident change in the scholarly style in Later Han also had a socio-political background. According to Ma Tsong-huo, the political turmoil connected with the con?ict between academic students and corrupt court of?cials dealt a serious blow to Confucianist scholars, many of whom were killed or forced into retirement. This development helped the dissemination of scholarship outside the of?ces, encouraging private learning and relaxing of?cial supervision. (Cf. Ma 1984, 61) The tendency was further prolonged in the next period of political disorganization.
The most important stage was the Wei-Chin period, which was noted for its more logical and less ideological interest due to the in?uence of Taoist philosophy and Buddhism. The Confucianist scholarship of this stage was formed around the so-called “Ching-Chou prefecture School,” which originated from the Old Script School and laid more emphasis on philological direction shaped in that region.
3. The Wei-Chin and the Sung-Ch’i-Liang-Ch’en Period (the Six Dynasties, 220-581)
Scholarly work in the Wei and Chin was noted for more rational and reliable commentaries on the classic texts, particularly those of Wang Pi (226-249) and He Yan (?-249). The Taoist philosophical way of thinking was responsible for expelling the superstitious style of Han scholarship. In general, their exegetic work was more rationally oriented than that of the Han scholars. Based on late Han exegesis and Buddhist in?uences Confucianist scholarship further developed during the long period of political disorganization: there even emerged a scholarly division between the northern and southern traditions. (Pi Hsi-rui 1961, 170-186) The rational inclination of the exegesis of this stage increased.[4]
Even Wang Su, who was notorious for his fabrication of the book “Confucius’ Familial Talks” promoted the rationality of paying more attention to social reality. Of course, since the very beginning of Han Confucianism, textual annotation and interpretation were the main objectives. The difference between the two stages, however, lies in the fact that the ?rst politico-ideologically dominated stage made scholarly work subsequent to ideological requirements, as we see in books by Tung Chung-shu and Pan Ku. The scholarly work of the second stage was oriented more towards rational analysis of the historical texts per se, with a stronger interest in historical and philological facts. Then the scholarly effort began to serve its own ends.[5]
The philosophical direction of the period, however, was not guided by a well-established historico-philological discipline. The Taoist-philosophical interest also reduced attention to philological details on which the late Han scholars focused. Due to the above features, we can only talk about general tendencies rather than make a precise scholarly comparison. (Cf. Ma Tsong-huo 1984, 68) The more rational and intellectual tendency was certainly not equivalent to scienti?c progress, which can only be measured through a well-formed discipline. The intellectual freedom of the long period of disorganization in the post-Han brought with it the transition of the superstition and political ideology of the Han to Taoist and Buddhist philosophy. The scholarly change occurred more in the commentaries of the Han scholars than in the classic texts. As Ma says, Confucianist scholarship of this period was not about the classic texts but about the commentaries. (ibid., 85) The earlier commentaries were then the object of two different operations: philological correction and philosophical elaboration. The annotated Confucianist classics became instruments of Taoist philosophy. There was no attention given to the scienti?c improvement of Han scholarship. On the other hand, Confucianist moral philosophy was not affected by these liberal intellectual tendencies.
The scholarly progress of Confucianist learning during the Six Dynasties period resulted from the interaction of political disorder and the logical tendencies of Taoist and Buddhist thought. The former freed the literati from the strict control of Han despotism and the latter furthered the earlier philological direction. The time also saw delinquency in the literati’s conduct. The process of getting rid of totalitarian control brought with it the negligence of ethical commitment. The original Taoist challenge to Confucian thought led to the refusal of the ethical itself. Current rationality was oriented not towards Confucian ethics or Confucianist moral dogmatism, but rather towards the non-ethical philosophy of life. As a result, this reorientation of intellectual efforts did not lead to rational politico-ethical re?ection. The literati of the new era challenged the intellectual direction of the Han in two ways. In the academic realm, they tended to replace superstition and ideology with empirical and rational studies; but without a well-formed historico-philological discipline the debate was not directed towards the genuine classic texts. As a result, in the intellectual realm the literati tended to replace politico-moral dogmatic with non-ethical philosophical discussions. Therefore, there were two academic lacunae left untouched by the liberal trend: the structure and function of the classic texts as such and Confucianist moral dogma.
4. The Sui-T’ang Period (581-907)
When the Sui Dynasty uni?ed China once again, Confucianist scholarship in the South and North was uni?ed as well. As the Japanese scholar Shigeyuchi said: “Politically it was the North which conquered the South and academically it was the South which conquered the North.” (Shigeyuchi 1927, 286) Confucianist exegesis once more ?ourished. (Cf. Pi Hsi-rui 1961, 193) The T’ang was famous for its excellent new editorship of the classic texts. The T’ang—the third great despotic power in Chinese history—was also more liberal in its dealings with daily and cultural life. With the support of more cultivated emperors, historiographic, literary and religious thought (both Taoist and Buddhist) along with Confucianist scholarship were encouraged. The T’ang was the most developed period in the history of Chinese Buddhism. The achievements of the Buddhist commentaries on the Buddhist classical texts also in?uenced Confucianist studies.[6]
As the next great Chinese empire after the Han, the T’ang and its powerful ruler Tai Tsong made great use of the Confucianist apparatus in constructing its pedagogical and scholarly works and institutions. Tai Tsong himself annotated the Classic of Filial Piety. One of his most important academic achievements was directing the editing and annoting of the Five classics. There also appeared under his direction “The Correct Exegesis of the Five Classics,” which afterwards became authoritative. These commentaries employed the new studies of the Wei-Chin, promoting the uni?cation of various interpretations of the classic texts. As a result, more effectively than the Han Wu-ti, the T’ang Tai-tsong accomplished intellectual uni?cation. (Cf. Shigeyuchi 1927, 295) The authoritatively edited classics, after their further improvement during the reign of succeeding emperors, became the authoritative texts for the national examinations since 650 A.D.
5. The Sung Period (960-1279)
The Sung was well known for its brilliant philosophical achievements, which promoted re?ection and argumentation among Chinese literati. With their newly strengthened intellectual interest, Sung scholars paid more attention to the philosophical implications of the classic texts. Meanwhile, the critical attitude toward philological work improved. Despite its philosophical turn towards Taoist-Buddhist metaphysics, the thought and scholarship of the Sung was humanistic and empirically rational. It is generally accepted, however, that the Sung was not better in its exegetic techniques than the Han, although Sung scholars doubted the dogmatic and superstitious conclusions of Han-Confucianist scholarship.
In a sense, we can say that like the criticism of Wei-Chin Confucianist scholarship, the Sung criticism of Han scholarship was still restricted by the structure of Chinese classical scholarship itself. Because of advances in intellectual standards, reasonable observations and inferences could be occasionally expressed as criticism of former scholarly mistakes. Neither period, however, could create a scienti?c procedure (an effective discipline) for systematically treating its problems. Absurd scholarly mistakes abounded along with justi?ed criticism among many Sung scholar-philosophers. In a sense, the rational energy of the Sung came to light not in the Confucianist scholarship itself, but rather in its metaphysical elaboration, which was basically external to the classics. Consequently, Sung philosophers did not improve the philological and the theoretical aspects of Confucianist scholarship, whose structure remained unchanged. As was the case in the Wei-Chin period, more liberal criticism was directed towards the earlier commentaries (the series of annotations to each classic text were called “chuan,” “chu,” “ch’ien” and “shu” according to the order of their historical appearance; there is no substantial difference between them). This liberal academic trend remained limited by its philosophical turn and its lack of scienti?c method. On the other hand, Sung philosophers, especially Chu Hsi, represented a new type of Confucianist scholar in a philosophical era, improving greatly on Confucianist pragmatics by developing a new moral-ideological pattern. Ever since then, the formerly uni?ed system of Confucianist classics has been divided into two systems: the Five Classics and the Four Books. The latter became the “Chinese New Testament” combining Confucian ethical texts and Confucianist moral dogmas in a reasonable fashion. We might say that Sung rationalism expressed itself in a socio-political pragmatism and style of intellectual life rather than in traditional scholarship.[7]
6. The Ch’ing Period (1644-1911)
Ts’eng Kuo-fan, the famous Confucianist politician of the Ch’ing, set forth the history of Confucianist scholarship in three main periods: the Han-Tang, the Sung-Ming and the Ch’ing. (Ts’eng 1985, v. 1, 477) The last epoch adopted a more scienti?c philological direction in contrast with the Sung-Ming, which was more philosophical. The Ch’ing’s Confucianist scholarship Can be seen as a type of Han-learning, for both addressed philological topics. The content of Confucianist scholarship was once again confused through unclear classi?catory criteria.
The Ch’ing was uniquely successful in completing the history of Chinese classical philology. Ch’ing scholars followed the philological line of Han learning and attained more fruitful results. In addition to the intellectual background connected with the empirical trend of late Ming thought, the sociological reason for the Ch’ing’s success lay in the strict politico-ideological framework of ruthless foreign rulers who controlled the conquered China. Chinese scholars increasingly turned to technical exegetic studies and obtained results which have remained authoritative until the present day.[8] In Chinese academic history, the major contribution of several great Ch’ing scholars to the classics lay in making the texts linguistically more readable, as Ku points out. (Ku 1990, v. 4, 2408) Despite the continuous development of Confucianist scholarship over two thousand years, the basic framework of scholarly activities remained unchanged until this century. As a Japanese scholar observed early in this century, “Confucianist studies (Classical Learning) are the scholarship completed in the Han. What was left for subsequent scholars was only how to understand and apply it.” (Honda Shigeyuchi, 1927, 272) The limitation of scholarly achievements re?ects the internal and external structures of Confucianism.
Hsiung Shih-li was one of the contemporary Confucianist philosophers who strongly opposed the non-intellectual direction of Ch’ing textual criticism. He said, “Han learning concerns only the linguistic interpretations of names and events….Their explanations about the profound meanings of the classics have accorded with imperial interests.” (Hsiung 1949, 134) We shall not discuss the socio-political background of Ch’ing scholarship here. Scholarly speaking, they were more serious in searching for textual truth than were their works conducive to demystifying historical fabrications. (Cf. Ku 1990, v. 6, 4162-3) Owing to scholarly limitations within traditional culture, however, the scienti?c development of their historiographical and philological research was restricted. Genuine demysti?cation in the ?eld only came about in this century.



[1] The real conditions of written Chinese in the Han can be hardly examined nowadays because of the dearth of documents which have survived. According to Wang Kuo-wei, the old script system had two aspects. One is that used in the early Chou and before, in western China, and transmitted by the Ch’in state to the First Empire. In the later Chou, or mainly in eastern China, the more popular script system was a modi?cation of the early Chou system. When the Ch’in, which was geographically closer to the original Chou, annexed six Chou states, it also dismissed their written language and destroyed their books, the language of which was in the Han called “old” script, although it was more “modern” than that used by the Ch’in. (Cf. Wang 1983, v.1 (7), 1-2) Meanwhile the gap between the dismissal of the Later Chou’s script in the Ch’in and the discovery of the books in its script covers only about 100 years. There was no dif?culty for the Han in reading the two script-systems. (ibid., 3) In addition, Wang asserts, there must have existed many old books written in the old script which were privately kept. The “old” script system was not much different from the prevalent “new” script system. (ibid., 12) The two script systems in the Han did not belong to different historical periods, but rather to different geographical areas, namely, the eastern part and the western part of the Chou empire. In other words, all script systems existing in the Han were basically similar. According to Kang Yu-wei, however, there was no different written system called “old script,” and the rumor about ?nding the old script classics was false. (Kang 1990, v.1, 686, 688) The related facts can hardly be con?rmed now; but doubt about the historical event proves once again that Han scholars took all measures to establish their possession of the “true” ancient material.
[2] As Kang Yu-wei points out, a large number of scholars of the ancient classics came from the academic sect of Ma Jung; Cheng Hsüan furthered these trends on the basis of his master Ma’s achievements. (Kang 1990 v. 1, 766) Both of them were great organizers and promoters of Confucianist scholarship.
[3] After all, the difference between the two schools lies not in their different scholarly approaches, but rather in the determination of which historical texts were more “genuine.” In fact, they both disseminated the sacred words of the ancient sages. The synthetic scholarship of the late Han showed that both textual traditions were accepted as offering quali?ed historical texts which were the object of philological research. Philological ?exibility did not impinge upon the ideological framework.
[4] For example, when criticizing Cheng Hsüan, Wang Su, a Chin scholar, stressed the actual li system of sacri?ce, marriage and funeral rituals (ibid., 72), abandoning the ch’en-wei superstitions (ibid., 109). In reinterpreting the Changes and the Analects, the philosopher Wang Pi also stressed philological aspects. (ibid., 188, 212).
[5] It seems paradoxical that in the more rational period only the Book of Changes, which was the most superstitious among the Five Classics, was respected by the literati even as it fascinated Taoist philosophy. (Cf. Chao I 1984, 169). The reason for this is that the book was read more in philosophical than superstitious terms. The same historical text can be used in different ways.
[6] Unfortunately, many T’ang-Confucianist writings disappeared due to the absence of effective printing techniques. According to Pi Hsi-rui, over 80% of ancient Chinese written texts appeared only after the Sung (ibid., 280). The Han and the Sung were two crucial periods: the one witnessed the formation of books, the other the printing. Despite being a more liberal age, the T’ang was not a great era for Confucianist scholarship. Even with the intrusion of Buddhist philosophy, the T’ang was not a seminal period of Chinese philosophy, either.
[7] We can hardly avoid a confusion between the scholarly and the intellectual. The composition of Confucianism was mutable with respect to these constituent parts. In a broad sense, a basic division exists between the historiographical and the philosophical. Thus, there are two kinds of Confucianism. The former refers to all trends in an intellectual tradition; the latter refers only to the scholarship of the classics (“ching hsüeh” or the learning of the classics). Our discussion in this chapter focuses on the latter. Ming thought within the same Confucianist system was just as in?uential as Sung thought in the philosophical area (“li hsüeh” or the doctrine of the philosophical Tao), but it remained weak in the learning of the classics.
[8] The assessment of the academic quality of “Han Learning” has been controversial among Chinese scholars. Ch’ien Hsüan-t’ung held a radically negative point of view. He thought that Ch’ing scholars were limited in their blind admiration for Han learning, for “they imagined Han scholars were still closer to antiquity... [,] so they concentrated on annotating and interpreting material in the Han texts and made an effort to correct their mistakes. As a matter of fact, however, Ch’ing scholars were deceived by the Han scholars.” (Cf. Ku Chieh-kang, 1988, 121) Hu Shih also stressed the limitation of classical textual criticism, which had the following shortcomings: printing began too early in China; very few original handwritten copies were preserved; libraries were not open to the public; the amount of original texts was too limited. Hence, he called Ch’ing textual criticism, represented by the famous philologists Tuan and Wang, “an exegesis based on arbitrary and speculative inference.” (Hu 1930, v. 4, 142) He further remarked that “some shallow-minded people, in an atmosphere of excessive belief in the Ch’ing exegesis, rashly and blindly think that the content of the Five Classics has become quite reliable after the Ch’ing scholars’ reorganization of it over the course of three hundred years.” (ibid., 526)
17) The Historiographic Patterns and the Contrast between Classical Texts and Practical Thought
In this chapter, we shall discuss the relation between classical learning and practical thought, especially the historical thought of the Han. Han practical thought includes political debates, philosophical discussion and historical writings. All of these types of discourse developed from pre-Ch’in synthetic thought. Classical learning and practical thought played symbolic and ef?cacious roles in the ancient Chinese intellectual world; and they also in?uenced one another. The traditional Chinese four-fold textual classi?cation comprises ching (the classical), shih (the historical), tzu (the intellectual and philosophical) and chi (the literary). The last three classes belong to the category of practical thought. One faces the symbolic historical world, the other the real historical world; both had different positions and functions in the Confucianist system.
1. The Pre-Ch’in Division between Scholarship and Thought
It is well known that the original cultural knowledge derived from traditional records was maintained by of?cials of the central and local States of the Chou. After the social and cultural developments of the Warring-States period, the recorders of the words and deeds of the royal houses tended rather to be specialized academicians. They were the of?cial keepers, students and teachers of the royal texts. The fact that “there were no private words in remote antiquity” and “there was no name yet for a ‘classic’” (Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng, 1985, 93) indicates that the traditional texts were only functional parts of the of?cialdom of the pre-Warring-States period. There then began a new era of intellectual activity in Chinese history. Private academic activities of more independent literati continued until the uni?cation of the Ch’in empire. Thus, before the middle of the Han, there were two kinds of learning or intellectual activity: of?cial record-keeping of the ancient royal traditions and the thinking about actual social problems. The basic dichotomy between scholarly transmission and socio-cultural thought continued until the Han. Most of the academicians of the Ch’in and early Han belonged to the ?rst category. The transition from the text-keeper to the text-researcher was a natural process from the more practical to the more academic. The latter occurred when it was becoming increasingly necessary to grasp the meaning of the ancient words and histories. The scholarship of the earlier Ch’in-Han academicians had the mixed function of recording, keeping and interpreting the historical texts. Unfortunately, the academic history of the Warring-States period can only be reconstructed through indirect materials. Ma Tsong-hou, a contemporary expert of the classics, says that the scholarship of the classics before the Han was mostly the consequence of the scholarly heritage of the main disciples of Confucius. (Ma 1984) This re?ects the traditional confusion between the academic and the intellectual cultural traditions. The former was generally centered around of?cial institutions, as Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng States. On the other hand, pre-Ch’in Chinese thought refers to the non-academic tradition, especially the socio-political thought of the synthetic and tactical schools of the Chou-Han period. They were an active intellectual force in socio-political changes under the despotic power. Their literati continued to make a contribution in the Han period.
Among pre-Ch’in intellectual activities, a basic division was made between classical learning and practical thought. The latter mainly consisted of philosophical, political and historical discourses based on the pre-Ch’in synthetic school. The synthetic school contained various elements of Confucian ethics, Taoist philosophy and Legalist tactics. The meaning of the term “synthetic” (tsa) refers to both intellectual positions and socio-cultural content. This type of thought treated a wider and multiply discursive domain encompassing plural points of view—the general style of thought during the late Chou and Han periods. The term tsa (“synthetic”) contrasts with the description of any of the earlier main pre-Ch’in schools as well as with dogmatic classical learning. Classical and the practical praxis existed in both intellectual tension and social complementarity. In varying proportions, the Legalist, Taoist and Confucian traditions were combined together in syncretic texts. More precisely, these included Legalist discussions about political, economic and military tactics; Taoist discussions about cosmological metaphysics and the philosophy of life; and Confucian discussions about education, the li-principle, benevolent politics and cultivation. Synthetic thought and classical scholarship constituted parallel modes of Han intellectual life. The latter aimed not at promoting ef?cient thought but instead at shaping an ideological spirit and faith. This intellectual divergence, however, did not obstruct their social and cultural complementarity. There was a functional division between the ideological and the practical. We must pay close attention to the signi?cance of this complementary relation in the Chinese textual world. Because of the actual role played by the synthetic way of thinking, the dominant position and system of the academic classics was reasonably maintained.
2. Practical Thought and Classical Learning in the Han
The Han dynasty witnessed the systematic formation of books, including the Confucianist classics. Through systematic collection, classi?cation, compilation and writing at the central and local archives in the middle Han, a number of old and new texts covering several cultural ?elds were produced. The director of the central archives, Liu Hsin, made a complete catalogue of the books and articles collected at the archives which included the following categories: the classics, texts by individual writers of the Chou and the Han, poetry, military-tactical writings, medical-agrarian texts and astronomical-calendrical works.[1] The writings available in the Han include four major categories: the historical, the argumentative or theoretical, the literary and the technical. The last category consists of both social and natural techniques. According to a traditional classi?cation, the main writings of the humanities in the Han include the following sections: the classic texts, the argumentative or “theoretical” texts in the major individual writings (in philosophy, politics and ethics), the political debates and the historical texts.
While the classics involve more the normative discourse of the traditions and legends, the synthetic books involve more actual re?ections on current and historical situations. There were sacred texts about the valid traditions; and there were the current, argumentative texts about practical problems and thought. There was a tension and complementarity between sacred and secular, dogmatical and practical, and ideal and tactical texts. The academic dichotomy of the texts re?ects two modes of thinking in the Han: the symbolic-normative and the practical-performative. They operated in different aspects of life: the moral-ideological and the political-historical-strategical, although both trends were under the guidance of Confucianist ideology. The Han literati organized their normative faith through the set of classics and arranged their social and cultural practice according to a syncretic way of thinking. In general, the synthetic section contains theoretical and tactical parts. The former presents a systematic discussion and the latter provides tactical suggestions. The historical writings contain these two types of thought in addition to historical narratives.
3. The Synthetic Type of Books of the Chou-Han Period
The more reality-oriented books were written by historically con?rmable individuals under true or false names. These books were mostly included in the category “tzu” of the collections of articles by individual thinkers, among which those of the pre-Ch’in were the central. Despite their relatively higher empirical rationality, their thought was criticized by Chang Hsüeh-cheng as merely a passive reaction to the general deterioration of the traditional Tao in the later Chou. According to Chang, they only maintained a one-sided truth, vainly trying to save a decayed world. (Chang 1985, 170-71) Chang’s position contrasts the institution represented by the classics and practical thought. In fact, the pre-Ch’in thinkers were the intellectual origin of the synthetic Han writers. As the ?rst critic of textual typology, Liu Hsieh asserts: “To make explicit various issues and to debate about reasons and causality are what these individual thinkers aim at. They employ synthetic methods to explain various topics; their writings should be included in the category of individual thinkers.” (Liu 1981, 190)
In general, there were three stages of textual development in Chinese history before the Han: the classics, the pre-Ch’in (or later Chou) schools and the synthetic thought of the late Chou-Han. This chronological concept refers to the time of the production of the texts, the referred time and the discursive style. The last criterion was the most relevant, for it has to do with the category of argumentative or theoretical texts. In fact, the thought between the late-Chou and the Han had a synthetic style connected with various schools. It attempted to treat the following topics in a more systematic way: the metaphysical background of Taoist and Yin-Yang doctrines, the ethical background of Confucian and Taoist doctrines and the political background of Confucian and Legalist doctrines. They held a critical attitude towards each school and only assimilated part of their thought, attempting to form a more comprehensive treatment of practical problems (Cf. Ssu-ma Ch’ien’s introduction to the Records of History [”shih-chi”], in Er-shih-wu-shih 1986, v. 1, 358). Their problems mainly involve cosmological, socio-political and moral-psychological topics. The most wellknown of this type are the pre-Ch’in books such as the Hsün tzu, the Spring-Autumn Annals of Lü Pu-wei and the Han books such as Lu-Chia’s the Hsin-yü (New Words), and the Huai nan tzu. If the Hsün tzu is more inclined to Confucian thought, the Huai nan tzu leans to Taoist thought. On the whole, these books are quite miscellaneous and synthetic in content and style. They are practically oriented, attempting to present general guidance for life, politics and learning. The ideas expressed by the books are typical of the current stream of thinking. They arranged current topics in a better classi?catory framework. Such a book in fact was an anthology or selection of articles probably written by different authors taking the same or a similar intellectual interest or style under a single name. With the poor conception of authorship at the time, ideas were often expressed or published in a collective way. Therefore, they were more representative of a general tendency of thinking in a certain period. Although they were read widely and seriously, they were not included in authorized scholarship. The number of specialists in the synthetic books remained limited. There was a contrast between the of?cial, symbolic, ideological textual types and the private, philosophical, historical and practical textual types.
1) The Synthetic Mode of Theoretical Writing in the Han
During the Han period, the synthetic type of books was the form through which the Han literati expressed their actual thought about current philosophical, social and political problems. In spite of their extensive reference to the classics, the content of these books was organized in a syncretic way in both their theoretical and analytical constructions. Because of the enhanced level of analysis, the Han literati could organize their topics in a more classi?catory way. In earlier times, a book was divided into several parts without any clear thematic organization. Now a book could be divided into several chapters. Each chapter has, as a rule, a title consisting of two characters directly referring to its topic. This synthetic way of thinking was developed in Later Han. The eminent scholar Yang Hsiung also presented similar practical discussions of reality. The more rational and more practical writings appeared in various types of prose outside of classical research. Wang Ch’ung’s book the Lun Heng (“measuring and balancing”) is a brilliant example of free thinking in the later Han. Wang Fu’s the Discourse of a Recluse, which has a less critical tone, is another example of political criticism directed toward the corrupt political reality of the late Han. (Cf. Ch’en Ch’i-Yün, in Twitchett and Loewe, 1990, 779-806)
2) Synthetic Political Discourse at the Han Court
Tactical political analysis was an important part of the synthetic mode of thought. In the con?rmable books of the later Han, we see once again a basic confrontation between the Confucianist classics of moral-ideological norms and synthetic discussions of socio-political reality which touch on various social, cultural and political aspects. A large number of political arguments about imperial policies also belong to this category. The ruler’s orders and messages and the ministers’ reports, arguments, proposals and admonitions occur most frequently in the recovered political texts of the Han.[2] Despite the fact that political discussion at the Han court was full of superstition, its concrete treatment of internal and external politics was quite practically organized in reference to socio-political reality. This kind of political discourse provided the continuity of the pre-Ch’in synthetic school of political debate, for they share the same tactical reason. Works by individual thinkers both in the pre-Ch’in and in the Han re?ect the actual way of thinking about social and cultural realities, along with a greater empirical rationality. They were the direct source of practical wisdom in ancient times. The existence of these books contrasted curiously with that of the classics. The world of Han thought was based on both symbolically directed and practically directed textual organizations.
4. The Chronological Framework and Historical Narratives
Historiographic writing was the most important achievement of the synthetic way of thought. Regarding both the scholarly methodology of the organized material and the comprehensive scope of its topics, the historical type of writing is more “synthetic” than other types of writings.
Chinese culture is characterized by its historiographic activities and literature. Therefore, symbolic classics about the historical origin (ching) and the chronological organization of observable historical processes (shih). Imaginative and practical history compose the entire Chinese historical world.[3] Nevertheless, the latter plays a more substantial role in Chinese culture. Synthetic thought also provided Chinese historical writings with an intellectual scheme, organizing principles and narrative techniques. Historiographic writing itself comprises all socio-cultural ?elds through its encyclopaedic presentation of the general Han histories. In the Han period, Chinese historiographic construction was formally distinguished from the symbolic history represented by the system of the classics. Its synthetic nature is exhibited in both its substantial constitution and its organizing procedures.
1) The Origin of Chinese Historical Writing
The nature, constitution and function of the original historical texts deserves a special treatment; it cannot be suf?ciently discussed in the present work. In order to understand the nature of Chinese historiography, however, we shall brie?y examine its formative process. The scholarly and social traits of Chinese historiography were derived from its original situation. As Wang Kuo-wei points out, three aspects were originally mixed together in the historiographic ?eld: the of?cial, the historian as scribe, and the historical event. All were frequently expressed through the single character “shih” (history and historian) in the Book of Odes and the Book of Documents of the Chou period. Only after the Ch’in-Han period were they distinguished from each other. (Wang 1983 V.1 (6), 4) In its original meaning, an “historian” was an of?cial responsible for recording royal events. Even the structures of the three characters, li (“of?cial”), shih (with the second tone, “history”) and shih (with the fourth tone, “event”), according to Wang, share the same basic stroke structure of the character shih (“historian”—a pictoriographical representation of a person holding a piece of writing material). In fact, many titles of ancient of?cials were derived from this character. Thus, an ancient historian was more an of?cial artisan for mechanically recording royal events than an intellectual writer in a later sense.
Historical records were made by historiographic of?cials since the very beginning of written history; ancient historical writings were completely the product of the requirements of the rulers. With the increase in expansionism in the Warring-States period, historical writings gained a richer content. As Liang Ch’i-ch’ao says, “all traditional historical books served the rulers” (Liang 1984, 5); and “historical writings were regarded as belonging to the courts” (ibid., 6) In the pre-Ch’in period, historiographic writing remained more practical and of?cial; the systematic recording of the historical process had not begun except in fragmentary works.
2) The Pattern of Han Historical Writings
In the Han, there appeared the ?rst historical books written by the scholarly historians. Their of?cial background made them capable of using of?cial materials. Their scholarly background led them to exhibit more intellectual spontaneity in historical textual organization. Therefore, the ?rst general Chinese history by Ssu-ma Ch’ien, the Records of History, should be taken as a “private history.” The two great historiographic books by Ssu-Ma of Former Han and Pan Ku of Later Han formed the most comprehensive historiographic encyclopaedia.
Ssu-ma organized his general Chinese history on the basis of several historical works such as the Kuo Yü (“Records of the Chou States”), the Shih Pen (“Origin of Lineage”), the Ch’an-kuo Ts’e (“Tactics in the Warring-States”) and the Ch’u Han Ch’uen Ch’iu (“History of the Ch’u and the Han”). These original texts had been lost since the Han. The rich content of the classics was another source. Ssu-Ma reorganized all available historical materials (except parts of later fabrications) in his own system.77[4] In general, the historiographic rationality of the Han is limited by its political ideology ?xed on the imperial and national lineage, which sets an ideological framework for historical writing. Historical philosophy could only be organized within this scheme. The aim of historiography, besides exhibiting a fatalist developing course, lay in providing the rulers with examples and lessons. Historiographic achievements include the following: the preservation of earlier historical records; the advancement of systematic writing and organization of events; increased attention to the available facts and the development of the framework for writing history based on the historiographic classi?cation of Ssu-Ma. The last achievement was most in?uential in the history of Chinese historical writings. Because of his original historiographic patterns and insights, Ssu-Ma became a unique model mechanically imitated by subsequent historians. (Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng, 464) The imitators of historical writing, however, were criticized by Liang for their lack of creativity (Liang 1984, 7-8). Nevertheless, the pattern of historiographic writing was an effective way to preserve the records of actual historical processes, despite its methodological ?aws.
The History of the Han Dynasty by the Later Han historian Pan Ku shows the progress of Chinese historiography: it adopts Ssu-Ma’s original model along with some methodological improvements. While the parts about the pre-Han period in the two books largely overlap, we cannot conclude that it was Pan Ku who copied Ssu-Ma’s book, as is commonly maintained. They may have relied on a single written source about early history.[5]
3) Historical Writings and Historical Truth
In distinction from all other ancient texts, the historical writings are more systematic and comprehensive. Compared with the earliest records of words and deeds in the Changes, the Documents and even the Analects, the Han historical books are much longer and more systematic. Limited by the quality of the available materials, Ssu-ma’s historical descriptions are doubtful with regard to their reliability, particularly when they deal with the remote past.[6]
Even Ssu-Ma’s Records of History is only a collection of separate texts. The historical system is chronologically organized with a pragmatic classi?cation of social reality. Thus, systematization was both practical and ideological. Consequently, as is the case with the scholarship of the canonical classics, Chinese historiography has mechanically carried on over the course of 2000 years without much improvement in its methodology. It is generally accepted that no later historical book can be compared with the two Han historical books which have been regarded as the models for historical writing.[7]
Subsequent historians could easily have put what they experienced and heard into these pragmatic and ideological patterns. This initial effort at causally organizing and systematically describing historical legends and facts results from rational textual organization despite its historiographic ?aws.
It is known that Ssu-ma’s family was deeply inspired by current Taoist and synthetic thought. Ssu-ma’s historical thought was also inclined towards the synthetic school (tsa chia); and it was supported by the historical material itself. The term “synthetic” further refers to both the philosophical position and its objects. The book also contains many separate texts taken from reports and proposals to the court which present various synthetic aspects of political life. Thus, Han historical writings undertake three main functions: the compilation of historical texts; the indication of the uni?ed imperial lineage through the ideological organization of historical texts; and the expression of practical socio-political thought. Compared with Confucianist scholarship of the classics, historical scholarship was connected much more with reality and human life. Based on “Confucius’ way of criticism,” the historical texts described and criticized social and political evil and wrongdoing. They comprise three levels of thought: the ideology of the imperial lineage; moral criticism of historical reality; and the causal analysis of historical events. Within the ideological framework of the ?rst level, the historian freely elaborated his social and moral thought.
4) The Character of Chinese Historiographic Writings:
The Tension and Balance between the Classic and Historical Texts
In the historical writings, apart from their fabrications of the remote past, most narrative constructions were constrained by direct and indirect historical experience. There were then Confucianist textual systems which functioned differently. Compared with the classical system, the traditional Chinese historiography is implicative of the same rich but less systematic ideological presuppositions despite their different methods.[8] On the other hand, a lack of scienti?c aptitude prevailed among ancient historians. Lü Ssu-mian points out that the “valuation of the alleged words and the neglect of observed facts were widely predominant among the ancients. Despite their love of historical literature, they had no intention of searching for historical fact. In answering the Emperor’s question about an historical event, the late Han scholar K’ung Rung even said, ‘I ?gured it out only from the present situation.’ Most contemporary literati took a similar attitude toward remote historical events.” (Lü 1983, 780) A similar opinion was held by the Tang historian Liu Chih-chi (661-721). He asserts that ancient teaching was oral, so that it was natural that they “valued words and disdained facts.” (Liu, 1978, 379) Seriously fragmented and localized, the historical records accumulated by of?cials in the Spring and Autumn period also re?ect the fact that communication between various States was limited. (ibid., 210) The only way to become informed of matters in other States was through diplomatic speeches. Most of these diplomatic speeches, however, were not honest or reliable. (ibid., 409) Similarly, the modern scholar Wang Feng-chieh points out that “there are over 140 names of States in the Spring-Autumn period, but most of them were not reported in the historical literature. There were then only about dozen States and later only seven reported in the historical texts.” (Wang 1976, 36) Concerning the distinction between the precise recording of facts and the intentional combination of legends, Ku Chieh-kang points out that Han historians still lacked any sense of making the two separate. For them the important thing was to make the different legends coherent with one another in order to gain a better reading. After Ssu-Ma raised the principle of “making consistent that which is divergent,” subsequent historians followed it in writing their histories. They arbitrarily deleted or added materials, ignoring facts and even inventing ancient institutions. (Ku 1990, v. 2, 832-33)
In addition, pragmatic motive was another important factor in?uencing the quality of historical writings. According to Fu Ssu-nien, texts were altered by different people in the Ch’in and Han. Because the available historical materials were inherited from the Han, “it is very dif?cult to distinguish the old from the modern texts, or the inherited from the created texts.” (Fu 1980 v.1, 62) The fragmentary historical material was used to create a uni?ed historical system favorable for ideological interpretation.
The traditional classi?cation of the historical books is also ambiguous. The main difference between the history books and the classics lies in the fact that the former contain more systematic narrative expressions lacking in the latter; both, however, are “historical books.” As regards pre-Ch’in history, the classic texts are more important because of their lack of other historical material. Ku points out that the study of ancient history must begin with the examination of the classic texts,. although “modern scholars in the ?elds of archaeology, classical philology, social history and anthropology all attempt to skirt around the gate of the classics, directly organizing their ancient history (for example, Mr. Wang Kuo-wei is one of the remarkable examples). But this is impossible…We know that true ancient history scarcely survives and most of it is only preserved in the classics.” (Ku 1990, v. 4, 2406) Therefore, Ku adds, “the task of the Ch’in-Han literati lay in transforming the historical material into the classics; our task today lies in re-transforming the classics into the historical material.” (ibid, 2411) According to Ku, the main task of modern historical critics is to demystify and de-sanctify the Confucianist classics, regarding the latter solely as historical documents. Nevertheless, we come across another kind of problem: To what extent may we derive an historical document from the classic texts, which are restricted in both content and interpretation. Is it possible to obtain a satisfactory picture of ancient history on the basis of the available limited textual documents? Because there was no scienti?c mentality for historical recording in ancient times, most historical processes have been lost without a trace.
5. Historiographic Constructions and Patterns
It is generally accepted that Chinese ancient history is a combination of fact and ?ction or a mixture of history and legend. With regard to the question about the proportion of historical facts in the Han historical discourses, we are faced with a tension in the historical texts. The tension occurs between a chronological-genealogical metaphysics and a historiographic articulation of historical fact. A historian has to confront the tension of historical writing. For the ?rst time in China, a general history was produced within a half-?ctive, half-positive chronological scheme of the imperial lineage. The ?rst Chinese typologist, Liu Hsie, recognized already in the Liang dynasty that in “reading historical books people love strange and fantastic tales, neglecting historical truth. Therefore, historians fabricated attractive details of the past legends….This is the main reason for false historical stories.” (Liu 1981, 171)
In addition to the ideological and natural backgrounds of historiographic falsi?cation, a subjective background is also involved, namely, the moral criteria of the historians. Chang Kwang-chih said that “because Chinese historiography has a moral purpose, in its best form it does not arbitrarily follow just any vicissitudinous tide of politics or ideological fashion. Since the time when Confucianism evolved into an unchanging orthodoxy, historiography has developed into a parallel institution and become an independent entity.” (Chang 1986, 6) This idealized picture has little to do with historical fact. Fear and ?attery must have been constant factors in the consciousness of of?cial historians. In addition, the criterion “shih-te” (the professional virtue of the historian) does not only refer to conscious honesty, it also includes several qualities related to good historical descriptions.
1) The Construction of Facts and Events in the Historical Narrative
The historical narrative consists of the events articulated. The event consists of the names of persons, places, dates, interpersonal actions and psychological backgrounds. In primitive historiography, the truth of various names is mixed together with the fabricated historical details. The fragmentary documents recorded by the historical of?cials provide the materials for constructing the narrative details. At later stages, history is described in more detail. Veri?able documents of historical narratives can only be traced back to the early Chou. Chinese archaeologists have con?rmed that the vessel inscriptions of the early Chou (in which the number of inscribed characters on each vessel is between several dozen to several hundred) are more developed than those of the later Shang (in which the number of inscribed characters on each piece is between 1 and 50; mostly between 1 and 6). (Shan-hsi Kao Ku So 1979, 4-5) [9]
2) The Fiction of Historical Origins
The narratives about Chinese historical origins are mostly based on imaginative legends. Without the support of real documents, the original history lacks reliable details. When articulated in the later histories, the entire system of historical narrative leaves a greater impression of the credibility of the original part. On the whole, however, the general history of Ssu-Ma is characterized by the unevenness of the historical details of different periods. The richness of narrative detail does not prove their higher credibility since there may have been imaginative insertions. Belief in the ?ctive sacred origin and the vividly given details account for the impression of greater credibility.
3) Morally Determined Historical Causality
The historical narratives employ a double historical logic of the temporally regulated development of the imperial lineage and the heavenly controlled causality of historical events concretely triggered by human moral motivation. Because of the weakness of Han historiographic techniques in recording historical events and analyzing historical causality, we can only partially grasp the genuine causes of and reasons for the historical events through the half-representative and half-imaginative narratives. Concerning more positive methods of historical writing, simplistic linear causality can hardly be accepted today, particularly that gained from morally motivated reasoning. For example, the main cause of the disappearance of the Ch’in Dynasty can never be explained merely from a moral point of view. The Han Wu-ti was by no means less ruthless, but the Han dynasty was more stable because of different social circumstances. In fact, the coercive and subjugative system of Wu-ti’s “pa” (hegemonic) politics ironically became the material foundation for Confucianist scholarship.
4) The Historiographic Con?rmation of the Lineage of Power
The ?rst historical panorama of the multiple lineages of power was formed in the ?rst stable Chinese Empire. The general history of Ssu-ma completed the diachronic panorama of the Chinese nation and became a historiographicly imaginative foundation for the subsequent development of the single lineage framework. On one hand, the Confucianist political ideology was materialized by this imaginative narrative system. Along with Yin-Yang historical metaphysics, the Han historical narrative system helped justify the Han regime. The ideological historical scheme provides a technical means for organizing the historical narratives.
6. The Interaction of Classical Scholarship and Chinese Thought
The two types of Chinese intellectual activities in?uenced and complemented to one another. Both shaped a de?nite mode of the Chinese mentality. The late Chou-Han synthetic thought later developed into various modes of thought maintaining a relation to Confucianist scholarship. In brief, such scholarship restricts the potential of thought; the latter does not promote the former. Socio-politically, they support one another; intellectually, they hamper one another.
1). The Character of Traditional Scholarship
Problems with the classi?cation of ancient texts are much more complicated than their traditional treatment. More precise classi?catory criteria are necessary for clarifying the attributes of traditional Chinese texts. Distinctions should be made between the following aspects of the texts: the theoretical and practical, the academic and political, the scienti?c and artistic, the aim and means, the utilitarian and the moral and the rational and emotional. (Cf. Youzheng Li 1988, in: Liu Shuh-hsien ed., 1988, 312) The same set of Confucianist texts can be used for different purposes. The literal and pragmatic meaning of the same text has various facets to be separated. Thus, the history of Confucianist scholarship can be divided into several different histories based on the same texts. The Confucian texts can also become a verbal medium for pragmatic use which can be re-charged with different semantic elements. Thus, the history of traditional Chinese scholarship, despite its original pattern, can and must be the object of intercultural and interdisciplinary analyses. Both classical and historographic scholarship lack a scienti?c concern with truth. According to Ch’ien Mu, the word “chen” (truth) does not appear in the old Chinese literature until the Chuang Tzu. (Ch’ien Mu 1957, 142) Furthermore, as we know, the word was used by Chuang in a different, non-scienti?c sense. This traditional ignorance of logical thought can be traced back to pre-Confucianist times.83[10]
Similarly, the study of traditional scholarship has no strict scienti?c inclination. In his ?rst effort at classifying texts, Liu Hsie treats the topics of genre, style, subject, social function and intellectual inclination. His 50 chapters include about 30 types of texts. Because of his less strict classi?catory criteria, his textual typology should be further improved. Confusion between substantial, typological, functional and stylistic aspects was common in Chinese scholarly history. (Cf. Liu Hsie 1981, 1-3) The pragmatic character of Chinese classi?catory practice has partly determined the Chinese way of thinking. Its classi?catory practice is more pragmatic than scienti?c. Therefore, it is dif?cult to make a distinction between texts of scholarly research and texts of practical thought. Instead, there is a pragmatic division between two main textual organizations: those for remembrance and reverence in reference to the old texts and those for observation and re?ection in reference to actual life. Of course, the two kinds of texts have their respective objective references. For the former, however, the referred objects of past cannot be actually regained, but for the latter the actual objects referred can be veri?ed. Taking the content of the texts as our criteria, we can say that these historical, political, philosophical and literary texts with more actual referents belong to the category of “actual thought.” In fact, the distinction between classical scholarship and practical thought concerns both objects and operative procedures. The objects of the one existed only in the remote texts; those of the other were connected with recent social reality. The research procedure of the one was technically philological; that of the other was empirically synthetical.
2) Philological Scholarship without Thought
After the establishment of Confucianism, Chinese academics was bound to ideological and philological concentration on the classic texts. While its initial superstitious elements gradually disappeared, its philological aspect remained robust. The structure of the ?eld remained unchanged until the end of the Ch’ing Dynasty, despite substantial progress at the technical level in several periods, particularly in the last dynasty with the Ch’ing’s exegetic philology of the classics.[11]
a) The Object
The object of research was the same groups of texts edited in the Han. It is important to note that the object of research consisted not in the historical facts but rather in the discourse itself. More exactly, the immediate object was the denoted meaning itself signi?ed by the verbal texts or merely self-referring. There was never any attempt to consider systematically the represented historical events and words themselves.

b) The Objective
The direct aim of research lay in improving the reading of the denotational and connotational meanings of the texts through improved linguistic tools. The problem was that the literal meaning of the classic texts could not be deepened through mere philological progress. The eventual aim of classical scholarship lay in enriching the appreciation of and veneration for the sacred records. The ?nal objective had nothing to do with intellectual advances in objective knowledge, but instead with the advancement of moral sensibility. All of these pre-ordained objectives had already been attained 2000 years ago. The nature of the objective was mental repetition rather than intellectual discovery.
c) Methods
As determined by the object and objective, the methods were limited to the technical linguistic scope, which naturally could not contribute to the general methodology of the humanities. Because of the same epistemological constraints, the historico-philological methods could not be enriched by the wisdom expressed in current practical thought. The main type of Chinese scholarship or “States learning” was not nourished by this practical thought.
3) Practical Thought without Scienti?c Scholarship
Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng makes an important distinction between the thought and the learning of ancient China. Historiographicly he is correct in pointing out that the original learning meant only “deeds” and that textual works followed according to traditional institutions and rules established by the sage-rulers. Individual thinkers of the “Hundred Schools” appears only after a period of disorganization; they “just thought without being engaged in any learning.” (Chang 1985, 150) These remarks emphasize that the original intellectual activities were more practical than theoretical. Over against Chang’s judgement, however, the fact was that the divorce of individual thought from collectively regulated practice made for intellectual progress.
The Han learning established after pre-Ch’in thought, however, shared the same cultural traditions as the original “learning.” The Han scholarship was shaped around the same objects, with a ?xed combination of pre-Ch’in intellectual and cultural contents. Unfortunately, such a learning or scholarship did not promote creative and practical thought. Han thought only imitated pre-Ch’in strains of thought, but with the addition of more empirical observations. In saying that Han thought lacks serious scholarly supports, we ?rst refer to the lack of effective scienti?c methods in Han exegesis. Han-thought remained bound to intuitive, fragmentary observations arranged for practical purposes. Practical thought was not scienti?cally aided by research. There lacked a theoretical framework for a systematic and effective explanation of reality, apart from vulgar metaphysical (Yin-Yang) and chronological schemes. There were also no scienti?c methods for advancing observation and analysis. Institutionally organized classical research offered none of these rational capabilities. In addition, the professional split between research and thought alienated the latter from progress in scholarly technique. Even purely technical advances in classical research were related only to Confucianist scholarship itself.
Traditional Chinese thought was organized in an intuitive, empirical and pragmatic way closely connected with the immediate historical situation and historically ?xed objectives. Even the formats of texts expressing practical ideas were typically ?xed and limited to a short length, indicative of sketchiness and a lack of concentration. Pragmatically and habitually organized observations, analyses and generalizations were diversi?ed into dozens of genres (the textual typology is mostly de?ned in terms of interpersonal hierarchical relationships) and bound to practical problems raised within the traditional framework of thinking. In a less strict way, traditional prosaic writings were also arranged in set patterns like the poetical texts. These included patterns of textual length, questioning, argumentation, moral and technical reasoning and even rhetorical forms. The retardation of traditional Chinese thought is one of the decisive reasons for the obstructed development of the Chinese ethical-political rationality.

a) Socio-political thought
The establishment of Confucianism oriented political discourse towards the technical level regulated by Confucianist political and academic ideology. The ?nal objective and the related methods did not become an object of re?ection. The political objectives and methods were limited to those of despotic institutions. Moral and tactical analysis and advice could only be brought forth within this ?xed framework. Political thought became part of systematic despotic political operation. Methodologically, political discourse, which was presented to and converged around the rulers only, was based on Confucianist political morality and Legalist tactics.
Among the Confucianist literati more interested in political morality, there were several important trends of thought and scholarship during the Sung, Ming and Ch’ing dynasties. Main ?gures such as Ku Yan-wu, Huang Tsong-hsi and Wang Fu-chih during the period between the late Ming and the early Ch’ing displayed remarkable brilliance in political thought. In general, despite various achievements in political philosophy and practice, they were all limited by the weakness of Chinese instrumental reason. The lack of related positive knowledge displayed itself even as late as the end of the last century, in the political idealism based on classical Confucianism of Kang Yu-wei, a leading Confucianist political thinker. All traditional Chinese thinkers before this century shared the same intellectual weakness in the scienti?c organization of their observations and designs in the politico-ethical and technical domains.
b) Philosophical thought
Serious Chinese philosophy occurred only after the Han and especially after the Tang, when several Indian Buddhist schools entered China. A technical reason is that Buddhist thought had more logical and psychological content than did the ancient Chinese. Chinese philosophical history properly consisted of three traditions: the Confucianist, the Taoist and the Buddhist, thus displaying a miscellaneous pragmatic character. It is signi?cant that despite the in?uence of Buddhist logic, Chinese philosophical thought as represented by Confucianist philosophies in the Sung and the Ming remained unsystematic in its formulations and therefore restricted by the pragmatic Confucianist framework. Chinese philosophy was always confused about whether it should move towards Confucian ethical philosophy in order to secure the theoretical foundations of the established Confucianist system. Thus, besides a number of related negative factors, the most serious obstacle to the development of Chinese philosophy came from Han-Confucianist ideology. Han-Confucianism is basically a pre-philosophical academic system. Methodologically speaking, there was always a contrast between Confucianist historicism and Taoist-Buddhist philosophical speculation. The metaphysics of the latter pragmatically supported the morality of the former.
Outside of Sung-Ming-Confucianist philosophy there existed the ?eld of Chinese Buddhist philosophy, which contained several schools. The philosophically most important, such as the Fa-hsiang school and the Hua-yen school, were based on Indian thought; there was more imitation than creativity in them. These more elaborate epistemological speculation was less in?uential on the Chinese way of thinking. The Indian Buddhist logic was also not strong enough to make a decisive impact on traditional Chinese thought. More prevalent in China were the less theoretical Buddhist schools, such as the T’ien-t’ai school and Zen-Buddhism. These had practical programs of ritual and linguistic arts, composing more a philosophy of life than a mode of logical reasoning. As a result, they resembled behavioral symbolism more than religious philosophy.
Sociologically, the dissemination and development of Buddhist religion and philosophy in China was due to their asocial and supernatural orientation, which was compatible with Confucianist scholarship. Both were able to peacefully co-exist in Chinese society. Furthermore, at the technical level, Chinese Buddhist philosophy helped to elaborate the psychological aspect of Confucian ethics. Its non-political or non-politico-ethical inclination provided another Taoist type of spiritual life. Both the Buddhist and the Taoist religions were intellectually and socially complementary to the Confucianist system, despite their mutual criticism.[12] They never constituted a serious intellectual challenge to Confucianist scholarship and thought because Confucianism was a secular system.
c) Literary and artistic thought
In traditional Chinese culture, there existed the large ?eld of “literature,” with poetry as its main section. In a broad sense, we may call it the poetical or aesthetic, but it included many subtopics such as poems, prose, novels, drama, painting, calligraphy, and even artistic gardening. All of these literary and artistic genres shared a liberated way of thought. Substantially, they were expressions of critical and emotional experiences inspired by Taoist-Buddhist thought. More signi?cantly, they were products of the artistic sophistication of psychological experiences. This aesthetic orientation of literature and the arts constituted a major trend in Chinese cultural history. While there was little substantial change in Confucianist scholarship, there was constant change in aesthetic genres and styles in Chinese cultural history. In fact, there existed a formalist aesthetics in Chinese literary and artistic development. The expressed content of works as the thought remained constant as daily experience, but its expression plane was continuously renovated. No doubt, the aesthetic orientation of Chinese culture and thought was directly connected with the restrictive conditions of Confucianist ideology. In non-political ?elds, Chinese literati enjoyed great freedom in their artistic creation and way of life. The pan-literary type of Chinese thought is the result of the preconditioning of Confucianist scholarship. The literary thought of various prosaic, historical and poetical texts reveals the continuity of the original synthetic way of thought.



[1] The original classi?cation covers six or seven “classes” according to inconsistent criteria, including the identity of the author, the grade in the ideological textual hierarchy and the intellectual content. (Cf. Er-shih-wu-shih, v. 1, 527)
[2] According to Liu Hsieh’s classi?catory descriptions, several types of political texts submitted to the court involve opinions about and proposals for moral principles and political improvement. This kind of discourse exhibits “deep insight into the art of governing and close observations of current affairs.” (Liu 1981, 267) Nonetheless, Chang Hsüeh-ch’eng, comparing the Sung literary ?gure Su Shih to the pre-Ch’in political debaters, criticizes this kind of political discussion as tactical talk based on “practical matters and current utility.” In his opinion, such discussions only require fragmentary knowledge and not learning in any strict sense. Once again, however, Chang was confused about the necessary distinction between practical thought and academic learning. Both classical academic learning and practical thought lack strict organization.
[3] The quality of narrative organization makes for two types of historical texts. The materials are historical, but the textual organizations render a different historical intelligibility and historiographical potential. In this regard, the historical texts of ching play a more symbolic role.
[4] From a scienti?c point of view, his texts seem more “literary” than historical. He attempted to imitate the Spring-Autumn Annals and other writings by the unfortunate sages in order to express his own political and moral re?ections. (Ssu-ma 1986, 1058) Liang Ch’i-ch’ao asserts that “Ssu-Ma tried to construct a philosophy of history and elaborate his own ideas on the basis of historical facts.” (Liang 1984, 59) Liang praises Ssu-Ma’s scienti?c attitude for including both historical aims and historical facts, while, by contrast, the Spring-Autumn Annals sacri?es the facts for the aim. (ibid.) Ssu-ma, in distinction from earlier individual and collective historians, better dealt with the tension between ideological-moral aspiration and factual description on the basis of unreliable records.
[5] In addition, the Ch’ing historian Chao I points out that the part about the pre-Wu-ti period in the History of the Han is largely the same as that in Ssu-ma’s book, although he does not mention the sources. It was the current custom to neglect mentioning sources. (Chao 1984, 13)
[6] Many Chinese historians of the early part of this century were more critical than their present-day counterparts. Liu Chie says that “there must have been several different variants of the legends of remote historical events in the pre-Ch’in period. Later those different sayings were dismissed and fashioned into a single account by orthodox thought. This proves how horribly powerful scholarly authority could be. Moreover, what we know are only those documents passed down by the Han scholars.” (Cf. Ku Chieh-kang, 1963 v. 5, 9)
[7] Ssu-ma’s great contribution to Chinese historiography lies in his scheme for narrative writings, which consists of ?ve modes of narratives, three of which are about events of the central kings (12 pieces), local rulers (30 pieces) and historical ?gures (70 biographical articles), respectively. This arrangement presents a political hierarchy embodied in textuality. Ssu-ma also created the mode of historical description by way of chronological schemes (10 pieces) and special enumerations of cultural, political, military and economic systems (8 pieces). Then he used this framework to present a comprehensively articulated historical panorama ideologically manipulating the available materials.
[8] At the beginning of this century one of the main works attempted by Chinese critical scholars was the demysti?cation of the historical legends of China. Towards this end, Hu Shih advocated iconoclastic principles opposed to the following habitual ideas: the monological origin of the nation; the original genealogical uni?cation of the nation; the anthropomorphism of the ancient legendary myths; the ideal golden age existing in the remote past. (Cf. Ku 1963, v.1, 99-100)
[9] Two vessels of the Chou King-Kang period (about 1000 B.C.): the “Ta-yü-ting” and the “Hsiao-yü-ting,” contain 400 and 291 characters. These texts are about the origin, the formation and the persons associated with the vessels.
[10] Regarding the conception of historical truth, modern discussions in semiotics (such as that of Roland Barthes) are more relevant than tany philosophy of history. The term “truth” involves only a general nature concerning the reasonable and acceptable degree of historical analysis. The de?nition of “truth” requires a typology of the concept represented by this word.
[11] From the traditional viewpoint, Chinese scholarly history underwent a sudden change with the Neo-Confucianist philosophy of the Sung. Pi Hsi-rui says that “Confucianist scholarship did not change much after the Han until the early Sung; it underwent a radical change after 1042 under the reign of the Sung emperor Jen-tsong.” (P’i 1961 (1), 220) He points out that Sung Confucianist scholars were more doubtful of the authenticity of the classical texts and interpreted them according to their own philosophical position. (ibid., 264) From a modern point of view, however, studies of the classical texts were still traditionally determined. The object, objective and methods at all stages of traditional scholarship remained unchanged.
[12] Sung Confucianist philosophers were more logical than modern Neo-Confucianist philosophers in maintaining the epistemological coherence of Confucian ethics when adopting an anti-Buddhist position.
Part Five          The Cultural Consequences of Han-Confucianism
(18) The Contrast between Confucian Ethics and Confucianist Morality
We have made a distinction between Confucian thought and Han-Confucianism, pointing out that the latter composed the ideological, social and cultural foundation for 2000 years of Chinese history. Confucianism is a synthetic compound consisting of several levels including academic, cultural, social and political content. The Confucianist manipulation and distortion of Confucian thought occurred through a set of institutional arrangements. When de Bary asks, “….Whose Confucianism we are talking about?” he answers his own question by saying that if “it is the original teachings of Confucius in the Analetics, then almost nothing said about Confucianism today speaks to that.” (de Bary 1991, xi) Because of the compositional shift of cultural phenomena, the same historical name can represent different objects variously effective in different periods or situations. Both academically and culturally, Confucianism should be distinguished from original Confucian thought and the pre-Ch’in cultural heritages which were much less socially systematized or politically manipulated. There is a constitutional aspect and also a moral aspect to the distinction between Confucian thought and Confucianism. One is based on individual will, the other on institutional power. Both lead to different attitudes towards political-ethical choices.
1. The Pragmatic Use of the Nominal Confusion between the School as a Social Sect and the School as an Intellectual Inclination
When reading Chinese historical texts, we should be careful about the precise reference of a term, which can mean different objects such as social fashions, intellectual schools, professional sects, of?cial sections, scholarly groups or lineages and political functions. Hsiao Kung-ch’uen points out that there are three basic movements in political thought in despotic periods: ?rst, Confucian thought changed its earlier pro-feudalist stance to pro-despotism; second, the Confucian school gained predominance and both the Mohist and Legalist schools were defeated; and third, the Confucian and Taoist schools became alternatively predominant following the social order. (Hsiao 1965, 9) These conclusions remain unclear if the terms are not clari?ed. Each one can refer to a different subject and object, as we explained before. There are different schools and literati using the same title: e.g., the ju-school, Confucian thought, Legalism, Taoism etc., to represent the difference between of?cial rank and intellectual impact, that between the principle of a political system and its style of discourse and that between different social aspects and objectives.
The de?nition of traditional terms is also connected with related political developments. For example, there was a distinction between the change of political thought and the change of strategical thought in connection with the same social phenomenon, such as the transformation of the internal policy of Former Han with its focus on heavy penalties under the Wu-ti-Hsüen-ti reigns to the later focus on Confucianist cultivation and scholarship. (Cf. P’i Hsi-rui 1961 (1), 103) The change in political policy can hardly be explained merely in terms of the change in political thought. Related external and internal circumstances, the relation of political practice to political statements and the relation of political motivation to the measures chosen formed a synthetic network determining historical events.
If the above explanation indicates the deep confusion in reading classic texts because of their terminological ambiguity, this ambiguity was employed in Han scholarship to bene?t users of the texts. As in any socio-cultural context, the conceptual ambiguity is a useful tool for promoting ideological purposes. In the present case, the distinction between the Confucian and the Confucianist was consciously or unconsciously blurred in order to make the former serve the latter. The rich semantic overlappings of ancient Chinese characters assisted pragmatic ideological intentions and projects. Intellectually, the identity of the power-holder, the nation and its individuals were irreversibly bound together within the ideological framework.
2. The Contrast of and the Tension between Confucian Thought and the Confucianist System
Contemporary philosophers are generally confused about the necessary distinction between Confucian doctrine (Kung-meng) and the Confucianist (Han-ju) system with respect to their constitutional identity, spiritual directions and historical sources. Fang Tung-mei asserts: “Despite the necessary valuation of the Analects,… the development of the genuine ju-intellectual system could be hardly represented by the Analects. Let me point out its two typical representatives: the Great Plan and the Book of Changes.” (Fang 1978, 120) Both Fang and Hsiüng Shih-li think that the Han Confucianist classics, especially the Book of Changes, are uniquely important texts of Confucian thought.[1] This basic confusion leads Fang to lower his estimation of the Analects, saying that the value of the book only subsists in its connection with the Confucianist classics; otherwise it remains mostly a fragmentary, incomplete expression, “as Wang Ch’ung pointed out in the Han.” (Fang 1978, 170) This traditional confusion between the Confucian and the Confucianist, however, is due to the historical pragmatism of Chinese scholarship. The situation especially appears in the ideological composition of the Confucianist hierarchy of classic texts.
1) The Ambiguity of the Western Term “Confucianism” and the Chinese Term “ju
The English word “Confucianism” mixes Confucius’ name and the ju-school together. It includes several different dimensions:
a. original Confucian doctrines (thought);
b. the Confucianist classics (scholarship);
c. Sung-Ming-Confucianist philosophy (philosophy);
d. Confucianist socio-political systems and customs (institutions).
The original Chinese word “ju-hsüeh” or “ju-chiao” is differently composed. Literally, it means “the learning of the ju-school” and contains no character etymologically linked with the name of Confucius, although “historically” ju-hsüeh and Confucius’ doctrine have been regarded as equal to each other. This Chinese word only refers to learning about the classics and related ethical thought predominant in China. The Western word “Confucianism” can also be used to indicate a social background. On the other hand, Confucianism indeed contains the original Confucian elements, which it places under strict control within a despotic system. In fact, behind the term Confucianism, there were two controlling systems: the political and the ideological. The latter can be further divided into the academic and the cultural. Chinese culture and thought existed in a special dynamic combination of the autonomous tendencies of original pre-Ch’in intellectual elements and the manipulative forces of post-Ch’in power.
The mixture of Confucian and Confucianist elements also displays their substantial relation. The Confucian was used by Han-Confucianism in order to strengthen morality, but in a rather modest and distorted way, the Confucianist system was also used in order to guarantee its spiritual survival and cultural effects. Spiritual Confucian thought was parasitic on the synthetically formed Confucianism.
2) The Constitutional Contrast of Confucian Thought and Confucianism
We can more clearly de?ne the elements composing the constitutional identity of the two phenomena as follows.
Confucian thought (A)         Confucianism (B)
subjective               objective-historical
ideal                                   socio-institutional
ethical                                 moral-ideological
individual will                      collective power
Despite a number of common elements, the two have different constitutional identities. Their constitutional difference led to different signi?cative and causal relations in the historical, social and cultural phenomena. In brief, A simply functioned at the ideal plane, while B functioned at the social plane. There existed a basic contrast in ideality and reality between A and B. A was socially controlled by B; and A maintained its ideal autonomy both in connection with and independently from B. Therefore, there were two forms of relationship between A and B: the psychological and pan-aesthetic form, in which A kept its independent existence in the cultural and spiritual realms, and B’s ideological manipulation of A. The two relational forms were expressed in both socio-cultural phenomena and the personal character of Chinese literati. Of course, the elements of A also interacted with those of other intellectual trends within the same Confucianist context.
3. The Axiological Contrast between Confucian Ethics and Confucianist Morality
Now let us summarize the Confucianist use of the image of Confucius and his doctrine through the devices of his identity, goals, values and direction.
a)   the transmitter and master of the sacred classics (identity);
b)   the ?rm advocate of the li-system identi?ed with the despotic Han system (goal);
c)   the moral value jen substantialized as the goal of Han power (value);
d)   ethical cultivation of the independent personality was reduced to the moral cultivation of the quali?ed candidate for service in the despotic system (direction).
Our comparison between the Confucian and the Confucianist is a conceptual confrontation between the Confucian ethical ideal and the Confucianist social morality. Despite their historical interaction and interpenetration, they essentially diverge in moral value, theoretical foundation and ethical motive. These divergencies are expressed in different situations and events, including the objective, object and methods of ethical choice. In the following examples of their contrast, the ?rst element is Confucian and the second is Confucianist. Generally speaking, consideration and practice at the ethical level are shifted to the quasi-legal (the institutional and habitual) level.

1) Value and Motive
(A) jen is the primary objective of ethical effort.
(B) The primary objective of moral effort is allegiance to the power of Heaven, the Emperor.
(jen vs. Heaven)
(A) Confucian li-practice is eventually directed towards the jen ideal. (B) Confucianist li-practice is eventually directed towards socio-political norms.
(jen vs. power)
    (A) li is the means for attaining the value of jen.
(B) li is the objective itself which is established social fact.
(means vs. aim)
For Confucius, “li” was a general term representing the proper rules of behavior, the steps to attain the higher objective of jen. Its content changed according to the situation. When the ideal li of the Hsia-Shang eras disappeared, he accepted the better or more observable Chou-Li. This ?exibility indicates that different rules can serve the same purpose of re?ning the moral mentality. Substantial regularities themselves as the li system were only means towards a higher end. Han despotism rigidi?ed the Han li system, including the system of the ?lial piety. In other words, the order of social hierarchy itself became the objective.
(A) li as the spirit of jen-morality.
(B) li as an institution of behavioral control.
(spirit vs. institution)
Consequently, the Han-li became a institution for dominating the mind and behavior of the people. The rules themselves became the objective, for the existence of social rules was identi?ed with power which forces the performance of social regularity. People then heeded behavioral rules more than moral consciousness.
(A) Filial piety as a means to maintain love between parents and children.
(B) Filial piety as the system of guaranteeing the absolute obedience of the son to the father in an authoritative hierarchy.
(love vs. obedience)
(A) Sacri?ce refreshing love for and respect of one’s ancestors.
(B) Sacri?ce showing loyalty to the lineage of family authority.
(love vs. loyalty)
(A) Politics based on Confucian moral principles.
(B) Politics arranged in terms of Legalist and utilitarian measures and systems.
(morality vs. coercion)
(A) Independent and self-respecting personality.
(B) Dependent and servile personality
(independence vs. dependence)
The individualist Confucian dignity was replaced by submissive allegiance to the superior. The emperor became the absolute ruler over the people. Within the political sphere, a person could only choose to participate in the system of of?cial promotion according to the ?xed rules without any other alternatives for socio-political objectives. Freedom of political choice was reduced to the dictates of totalitarian institutions.
(A) Learning for one’s self.
(B) Learning for of?cial recognition.
(self-satisfaction vs. recognition of others)
The objective and goal of the Han literati in moral and cultural study were societally determined, while Confucian learning is spiritually oriented. The former was outwardly or socially directed and the latter was inwardly or spiritually directed. Therefore, the Han objective of learning was completely institutionalized through pedagogical and promotional systems. The procedure of cultural practice was behaviorally de?ned and regulated.
(A) Neglect of external rank, pro?t and fame.
(B) Respect for external rank, pro?t and fame.
(neglect of other’s valuation vs. respect for other’s valuation)
One of the most noteworthy changes in the mottoes of the Han was in the authoritative recognition and glori?cation based on Confucianist utilitarianism. Honor won through reward and reputation awarded by the authorities was directly linked with one’s relations to power. The Confucian neglect and—when necessary—disdain of worldly bene?ts maintained an independent spirit in the face of the constraints, pressure and allurement of the power. Searching for of?cial rank and rewards meant complete submission to the rulers. Reputation in the despotic system was also a clear sign of recognition and acceptance by authority.
(A) Contentment in being unknown.
(B) Anxiety to become well known
(self-recognition vs. other’s recognition)
Solitude and seclusion could also make one happy when the objective situation offers no opportunity for success. For a typical Han Confucianist, the lack of external achievement and reputation was shameful not only to himself, but also to his parents. A man was supposed to establish himself in society according to Confucianist norms. Personal value was judged in social as well as institutional terms. Even when formally accepting the Confucian principle of leading a studious life, a Confucianist agent was supposed to live within the authoritative system.
(A) The ruler as achiever of ethical objectives in the li-system.
(B) The ruler as absolute authority.
(means vs. aim)
There was a delicate distinction between the Confucian and the Confucianist notion of the king or emperor. For the former, the ruler was to be respected and followed for the sake of his position and role in attaining ethical objectives. For the latter, the ruler was to be obeyed and respected for his position in the imperial lineage. The imperial lineage granted the ruler an authority separate from the ethical system. The absolute authority of the Taoist lineage made the ethical dimension relative and secondary.
(A) Social commitment is critical and reformative.
(B) The social obligation is to be obedient and advisory.
(criticism vs. obedience)
Despite the common task of remonstrating the rulers, the Confucian agent was much more independently critical than the Confucianist. A Confucian agent was basically a self-supporting moral critic and ethical judge, while a Confucianist of?cial was at most an advisor of the ruler. The former stood outside of the power system, the latter within it. The same critical function had a different basis in both systems.
(A) Being a politico-ethical agent.
(B) Being a loyal of?cial.
(ethics vs. bureaucracy)
The former was determined by his ethical faith and independent program, the latter conditioned by the system of promotion and standards.
(A) Dying for the ethical mission.
(B) Dying for the imperial family
(value vs. power)
Since he belonged to the empire, a Han of?cial was supposed to die for the interests of the imperial family which were considered equal to those of the country and the Heaven-Tao. The emperor, the imperial family and the country were all equally valued. A Confucian agent could abandon a country according to his own decision, while a Confucianist of?cial had an obligation to serve the interests of the emperor. For the Confucian, the empire and the country were only the li system, which serve the higher objective of the fortune of the majority. For the Confucianist, however, empire and country were the absolute, ?nal objective of political ethics; the interests of the people were secondary.
(A) Independent political objectives.
(B) Socially regulated political goals
(choice of the self vs. appointment of the other)
A Confucian agent was an autonomous and independent politico-ethical agent, while a Confucianist agent was only a performer of the ruling political system.
The relational analysis between the Confucian and the Confucianist is dif?cult because the two have overlapped in history. The present attempt aims at the systematic confrontation between their ethical ideal and historical reality. The theoretical possibility of their separation is due to the separate existence of the Confucian texts. This makes its structure separable from the Confucianist manipulation of or its historical combination with Confucian elements.
2) Theoretical Presuppositions
In addition to their axiological divergence, their theoretical grounds also differ. This reveals a more profound distinction between them.
(A) The immanent foundation of Confucian jen-ethics was humanity.
(B) The transcendent foundation of Confucianist jen-morality was Heaven and the sacred imperial lineage.
(humanism vs. metaphysics)
The Confucian spontaneity of ethical practice was replaced by coercive force. As a result, the immanent objective of Confucian ethics was replaced by an external one.
(A) Subjectively determined virtues.
(B) Objectively determined virtues.
(subjective virtues vs. objective forces)
The meaning of virtue in the Han was complicated because of the link with cosmological elements such as the Five Elements. Confucian subjective virtuous autonomy was replaced by the corresponding relations between humanity and Heaven (Tao). Human will depended on supernatural power.
(A) Natural fate.
(B) The mandate of Heaven.
(self vs. other)
The same word “ming” (fate) was used by the Confucian to refer to the unknown cause leading to the actual result and by the Confucianist to designate the will or decision of Heaven. The Confucian agent was supposed to arrange everything according to his empirical knowledge without worrying about the unknown result. There was a clear division of responsibility between the independent self and the powerful other. The Confucianist agent’s spontaneity was limited by his knowledge of the existence of the will of Heaven. Therefore, the Confucianist agent was far from being self-sustained in his choices. Instead, he had to pay attention to the superhuman domain, requiring external help and instruction.
(A) Insigni?cance of spirits and gods for ethical and political practice.
(B) Belief in religious forces.
(man vs. god)
In addition to excessive superstitious fashions in the Han, many Confucianist agents of subsequent dynasties kept the custom of praying and watching for and predicting the intention of the superhuman forces.
(A) The idealistic criteria of the li-system originate in a historical utopia.
(B) The normative standards of political system exist in despotic reality.
(ideality vs. reality)
The ideal Confucian social system was purely idealistic without any real objective form. The li system was only an abstract means to realize mentally the jen-goals. The “substantially empty but symbolically substantial” Confucian li system was supposed to be ?lled in by the historical situation. The identity of the Han-Confucianist li systems was completely different. All of the cultural, social and political systems of the Han were historical facts. In the Confucian text, the li-discourse was supposed to lead only to effects in the spiritual domain. In Han-Confucianism, besides the li-discourse in the texts, there were real social systems restraining thought and action. The li-system of the Han involved actual institutions which forced people to follow them. At the spiritual level, the Confucian and Confucianist li-systems had different references. One led to the ethical mentality, the other to social norms. The Confucian objective was personal ful?lment and political benevolence, while the Confucianist objective was historical subjugation.
The above examples outline the systematic contrast between the two moral systems. Any individual manifestation could be more Confucian or more Confucianist in its historical form. The de?nition of the elements employed and their distinctions has been made only in a structural way, since they overlap extensively in the literature. Despite the ambiguous features of ancient Chinese semantics, the structural and functional examination of ancient rationality can bring about the clearer articulation of these overlapping elements. The interaction of the contrasting elements was the source of cultural creation.


[1] In another book, Fang emphasizes that the Book of Changes presents the learning of “the great, elaborate, permanently valid historical documents” containing “1) patterns of historical development; 2) the symbolic system of trigrams whose derivation is based on strict logical laws; 3) a system of texts, connecting the meaning of the trigrams.... These three characters are equivalent to a prelude to the philosophy of time, from which a system of metaphysical principles for interpreting the cosmological order is derived.” (Cf. Fang 1979, 289) The statement can be taken as a typical notional confusion of contemporary Confucianist philosophers.
(19) The Constitution of Intellectual Elements in the Confucian-Confucianist Tension
The above-listed contrasting sets of the Confucian and the Confucianist moral stance are re?ected in individual personalities and cultural inclinations. Ch’en Ch’in-yün gives three categories of “Confucian thinkers of Later Han”: Confucian Legalists (advocates of government measures or reforms), Confucian conservatives (adherents of traditional learning and rituals and the legitimate dynastic ruling power) and Confucian Taoists (de?ant moralists). (D. Twitchett & M. Loewe 1986, 783). Ch’en correctly attends to the combinational situations of different intellectual elements, although his term “Confucian” remains confusing. The three types of devoted Han of?cials, dogmatic scholars and cultural hermits remained basic in subsequent Chinese history. They were products of the interaction of different intellectual inclinations in the Confucian-Confucianist tension.
1. The Original Intellectual Elements and their Regrouping in the Confucian-Confucianist Tension
In Chinese intellectual history, the thought of three main schools existed together despite their different pre-Ch’in origins. The content represented by the school names, however, altered through history. We must ?rst make a distinction between the essential part and the non-essential part of a school. The post-Han features of the schools described in our ?rst volume about pre-Ch’in thought can be further differentiated. Some features belonging to a school in a period were shared by other schools of the same period or disappeared in another period. For example, the tendency to use organizational and institutional means was characteristic of pre-Ch’in Legalist political philosophy. The historical Legalist process was also an advance in general instrumental wisdom. Since then, all political thought has shared the same tendency originating in pre-Ch’in Legalist instrumentalism.[1] This explains the consequence in the later Chou of the so-called synthetic school.
Similarly, the Confucian and Mencian texts independently existed in the pre-Ch’in, both maintaining a motivational ethics. Their role altered, however, after the empire was united. In fact, after the Han, the special characters of different ethico-political schools was rede?ned according to their differing historical and cultural contexts. The independent schools described in or preceding the Han no longer existed. Their original attributes were taken up into different persons, actions and situations. Almost all of the post-Ch’in literati became synthetic Confucianists, each of them showing a different combination of inclinational elements within the despotic context. The contrast between moral and immoral political behavior was still described by the contrast between the “kingly” (ritual) and the “hegemonic” (forcible), or that between the Confucian (benevolent) and the Legalist (expansionist) government.[2] The contrast was linked more with the motivational and political style than with political philosophy. The use of the same school-names to describe the intellectual dispositions of Chinese literati in the pre-Ch’in and the post-Ch’in indicates the continuity in the inclination and style of their personality and attitude despite social changes. The actual division and function of the inclinational elements, however, partly resulted from intellectual and historical interaction. The actual composition, focuses and role of one school was therefore related to its historical context. This is so particularly because the pragmatic Chinese way of thinking tends to employ concrete historical descriptions as a means for de?ning general intellectual and behavioral inclinations.
1) Inclinational Elements in the Confucian, Legalist and Taoist Schools
The three major pre-Ch’in schools represent the main intellectual attitudes towards ethics, the philosophy of life and hegemonic tactics in pre-Ch’in society. The inclinations denoted by the school-names exercised great in?uence on Chinese history subsequent to the Han. With the establishment of Confucianism, the actively critical Confucian inclination was transformed into passively admonitory or actively serviceable Confucianist thought in the face of the mechanisms of power. Under Confucianism, Legalism was much more emphatically employed during the formative period of the Empire and absorbed into imperial institutions and organizations, so that it was shared by all post-Ch’in politicians. Nevertheless, it no longer played an ideological role. The most interesting change of role occurred Taoism. In socially and politically more complicated circumstances, the prototype of the escapist hermit took on different social roles. The originally independent tendency of the philosophy of life in a freer society became complementary and secondary in post-Ch’in Confucianist society and culture. Culturally, the Taoist tradition became the main source of artistic creation; politically, it was also collaborative with utilitarian Confucianist opportunism.
In general, the typical features of the schools in pre-Ch’in times became disorganized into various characteristic elements. Therefore, their social and cultural roles after the Han multiplied. Nevertheless, we can still rely on our three-fold division of their relationship to power, in addition to their other attitudes and behavioral patterns. In our description of the characters and activities of Chinese literati after Han Confucianism, we shall employ this three-fold model at an elementary level. A de?nite person, thought, activity or event, can consist of several intellectual elements or inclinations. Each cultural and social unit is a composition of various elements existing at both the motivational and the behavioral levels. We can call them inclinational elements which are a two-dimensional compound. In principle, these elements can be classi?ed according to different categories such as motive-attitude, objective-project and means-style. For the sake of convenience, however, we can give a more practical classi?cation on the basis of pre-Ch’in historical texts. Those elements historically appearing with a school’s name can be combined with elements historically appearing with the name of another school. In our classi?cation, the elements play an independent role in their different combinational patterns. We shall use the letters T, L and C to mark the pre-Ch’in or original schools of Taoism, Legalism and the Confucian and the letters a, b and c etc to mark their concrete inclinations. Each group consisting of one capital and one small letter represents a special tendency historically formed in pre-Ch’in times but used here as to signify a politico-ethical tendency. The list of characters is not intended to be exhaustive, but only to present examples for grasping the general situation.
– The Taoist Elements (T)
Apart from the Taoist religion, the Taoist philosophy of life comprises two types:
a) Withdrawal from politics and society for moral reasons. (Ta)
This is the type rivalling Confucian philosophy.
b) Withdrawal from politics and society because of moral indifference. (Tb)
This is the type represented by Chuang-tzu and historically embodied in Taoist literati during the Wei-Chin period.
In most cases, the two elements were mixed. Political decay or immorality was the direct reason for the Taoist withdrawal, which was based on a philosophical nihilism. In the formation of a cultural phenomenon, however, the two Taoist elements functioned separately in combination with other, non-Taoist elements. Both the negation or neglect of moral values and non-political withdrawal from society are typical of the Taoist.
– The Legalist Elements (L)
In this category, there is always a binary division between political technique and evil intention. The latter is found especially when the former is employed immorally.
a) Capability for political organization. (La)
All capable of?cials must possess this element. This morally neutral Legalist tendency is an essential part of political life. In its extreme form, it especially refers to ruthless suppression and coercion based on an evil will to subjugate others through organizational means.

b) Skill and tricks in interpersonal struggle. (Lb)
This is also an essential part of Chinese political life. In its extreme form, it can be reduced to moral evil. Concentration on tactical skill easily leads to harming others.
c) The lust for power. (Lc)
Due to this essential element, the Legalist tendency is equal to the general mania for political power. Its effect is of necessity immoral.
d) Ruthless means. (Ld)
This is the essential behavioral character of Legalism. Power-centrism and ruthless means are typical Legalist tendencies.
– The Confucian Elements (C)
a) Belief in secular morality and political advancement on the basis of Confucian ethics. (Ca)
This is the normal type of Confucian agent having a “k’uang” (ardent) style inclined to action, helping others and ?ghting evil.
b) Tactical withdrawal from society under unfavorable conditions. (Cb)
This is another normal type of Confucian agent with a “chüan” (cautious) style inclined to avoid ineffective confrontation with evil and concentrate on moral self-improvement.
c) The critical attitude to the moral direction of power, especially against expansionism and subjugation. (Cc)
It is formed at the levels of the aim and the means; it particularly refers to the former.
d) The highest socio-political goal lies in the cultural and scholarly activities. (Cd)
Of course, there are still more characters in the Confucian tendency.
2) Combinations of Inclinational Elements
The types of personality and the genres of actions can be described in terms of combinations of inclinational elements under concrete social conditions and the manipulation of power (B). These elements originally formed as stylistic tendency, social schools or intellectual trends. The content of each element is therefore historically or culturally determined, but it can also be functionally de?ned and separately described in different cultural combinations. What has been relatively constant are the elements rather than historically formed synthetic facts such as scholarly schools and cultural typologies, although it is not easy to adhere to coherent descriptions of them. This can nevertheless decrease the ambiguity in describing the changeable implications of the same name of an historical school. On the other hand, however, in ancient times it was reasonable for Confucianist literati to be pragmatically ambiguous or ?exible in using terms and names. Our present task lies in analyzing the synthetically formed phenomena into its functional units and sequences in order to represent the actual relations of various historical factors. The combinations of the above-mentioned intellectual elements were mainly caused by the Confucianist context and the Confucian-Confucianist tension.
2. The Typology of Chinese Literati
The Confucianist society established in the Han maintained its consistent character over the following 2000 years despite several periods of nationwide political disorganization. It is generally accepted that Confucianist ideology and society was a mixture of Legalist and Confucian elements. Its essence or “inner core” is Legalist suppression and hegemony; its propaganda or “appearance” is Confucian morality and ritual. In general, this describes all of the following uni?ed dynasties. All of them, including those of the periods of foreign occupation, were based on the Confucianist model. This special mixture can also be seen in the structure of education in the Han and other dynasties. The Legalist capability in domestic and foreign political analysis and the Confucianist learning and morality were parallel criteria of of?cial promotion. The same can be said about the relationship between these two schools and Taoism. We can even say that Confucianism consisted of three, rather than only two, major intellectual traditions, if we recognize the complementary role of Taoism in the same system.
Our effort at precise description requires a connection between social categories and inclinational elements. We have to pay attention to the combination of psychological and sociological aspects in judging the character and manner of Confucianist literati. A historical ?gure can contain several inclinational elements in a certain psychological gradation which may change with time and circumstances. A ?gure can choose a way of life referring to related internal and external factors. There is only an indirect correspondence between internal inclinational elements and external behavioral patterns. In the entire situation of someone’s words and deeds, we can perceive his character and conditions. One’s way of life as a concrete form of social life can be regarded as the result of different social and cultural factors which interact with one’s inclinational elements.
1) Political Orientation
In the highly institutionalized society of the Han, the dichotomous orientational choices of the literati manifested themselves in political and non-political directions, although the social background was different from that of pre-Ch’in times. The political choice of a Confucianist intellectual was made within ?xed social channels. In principle, the Confucian criteria of political morality were reduced to Confucianist moral-ideological norms regulated by political power. In terms of institutional constraints, all literati engaged in political careers were Confucianist of?cials. For the majority, Confucianist studies composed the intellectual preparation for participating in Confucianist political life. The social track which they had to follow was institutionalized in Confucianist terms. A political career became the chief goal of a Confucianist agent, who was motivated by various inclinations (La, Lb, Lc, Ld, Ca).
In general, most, if not all, Chinese literati were trained to serve the political system. Reverence for the textual history of established power was placed at its service. Within such a pan-political framework, all education and training were conducted with a view to its contribution to the system. Although not everyone attained the same status within the of?cial hierarchy. This general tendency was due to Confucianist education. There was a large room for non-political or cultural activities which became more creative and productive. The character of cultural activities, however, was limited by the political framework. Thus, there was also a causal link between the Confucianist system and the direction of Chinese cultural life.
2) Non-Political or Cultural Orientation
Among non-political activities, there were several categories which differed from each other in reference to their attitude to the dominant power.
a) The academic
Purely scholarly life was disconnected from political activity despite the fact that the objects of its research were ideologically determined. The intellectual procedure of scholarly activity brought with it a non-political technical dimension. In a deeper sense, the academic way of life was favorable to the ruling power because of its ideological implications and technical character. The latter did not organize any intellectual work challenging the authority of the former. Academic practice was able to lead the unsuccessful Confucianist literati to a non-political life. (Cb)
b) The religious
There have been two main religious trends in China in the past two thousand years: Buddhism and Taoism. Both religions were formed and developed after the establishment of despotic regimes which had ?rm control over social life. Both politically or economically, the two Chinese religious trends were dependent and parasitic on the support of political power. Despite their own supernatural goals, their religious practices closely collaborated with secular social life. Religious force never determined the direction of Chinese politics. Instead, it functioned in a way complementary to the worldly life controlled by the political power.
Another noteworthy trait of the two religions lies in their friendly relations with Confucianism or the Confucianist “quasi-religion,” which was the basic socio-political dogma of despotic Chinese empires. In fact, the mutual interaction between the three trends was closely organized in various periods. It is highly signi?cant, however, that Confucianism itself, let alone original Confucian doctrine, lacked genuine religious elements.[3]
The two religions also allowed the literati to lead a life disconnected from politics and society, which means that they effectively played a philosophical Taoist role (Ta, Tb). On the other hand, like military phenomena, at critical moments the religious force could be employed against the existing power in promoting a new power. Under normal conditions, both military and religious forces were of?cially arranged to support the presiding power.
c) The literary and artistic
Literature and the arts became the most active ways of realizing spiritual and cultural life, including the non-political. Poetry and painting, as two original forms of aesthetic activity, became the ground of Taoist philosophy. This means that poetry and painting provided the literati with normal practices alongside the political mechanism. The original Confucian and Taoist hermits were transformed into the poets and artists of Confucianist society. They were allowed and encouraged to keep their own independence and individuality in their artistic world. As a result, Chinese intellectual life was extensively aestheticized (Ta, Tb, Tc, Ca, Cb), although the aesthetic orientation of Chinese culture was the result of multiple interactions. Seen from a negative vantage point, the strengthened constraints of despotic power obstructed political and intellectual freedom. Viewed from a positive vantage point, they enhanced the stability of the social and political order, providing Chinese literati with a social ground for aesthetic spiritual creation. The permissible ground was not only used for the sake of politically indifferent Taoism, but also for that of the de?ant Confucian mind. As a matter of fact, poetry became its delicately structured ?eld. Confucian literati found an effective vent in the channel of aesthetic creation. The Ch’ing dynasty provided typical examples of both the academic and artistic escapism. Sophistication in the two ?elds was innately related to the politico-ideological pressure of foreign conquest, as many critics have pointed out.
While the re-combinations of the basic inclinational elements were performed by the institutional and ideological forces of Confucianism, the dynamic potential for regrouping the intellectual elements was complicated. More precisely, the recombination was realized in the tensional ?eld between Confucian ethics and the Confucianist system. They constantly interacted at various levels, with the Confucianist as the determinative force. Chinese social, cultural and intellectual history consisted of the interactions of various elements, among which Confucianist Legalist politics and the Confucian ethical spirit played a central role.


[1] The pre-Ch’in schools are only recorded in fragmentary historical texts indicating their main features. In the case of Legalism, political instrumentalism and expansionism were historically mixed. After the Han when historical descriptions became more detailed, the separation of the two features becomes evident, the ?rst being shared, however, by all types of politics.
[2] The Ming Confucianist philosopher Wang Yang-ming critically remarks that “the current Confucianist literati only know the doctrine of hegemonic Legalism. They are utilitarian in mind and ?lled with tricks and plots. This is contrary to Confucian teaching.” (Wang 1972, 66) According to the common opinion voiced by Wang, the essence of Confucian teaching is linked to moral character at both the motivational and instrumental levels.
[3] As Chang T’ai-yen, a contemporary scholar of traditional learning, asserts, “there are very few talks of religious nature in the texts of the classics and pre-Ch’in philosophies,” since “the Chinese people paid more attention to politics” (Chang 1965, 5, 6). According to Chang, however, the Han dynasty made traditional scholarship look more religious. (ibid., 28) Thus, there were two sets of interaction among the ancient schools. In terms of intellectual and political philosophy, there were the three schools of Confucianism, Legalism and Taoism; while in terms of religious life there were the three religions of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism. In this context, “religion” has a broad sense including various supernatural and metaphysical backgrounds.
20) Cultural Aestheticization and Ethical Internalization
The present essay has undertaken a hermeneutico-semiotic analysis of historical texts without directly examining the socio-political mechanism of Chinese history or evaluating its cultural achievements. This approach re?ects the present-day intellectual context as it seeks to foster a dialogue between antiquity and modernity about the ethical and ideological implications of Confucianist history. The topic of Confucianist academic ideology has a social and intellectual background (Part 1), an historical constitution and academic institution (Part 2), a textual composition and structure (Part 3), its intellectual consequence (Part 4) and cultural consequences (Part 5).
The Confucianist academic system was an ideological autonomy maintaining scholarly and intellectual life. It also determined the orientation of Chinese culture and its style of life. More precisely, despotic politics, Confucianist ideology and pre-Ch’in thought prepared a stable cultural context for the uniquely Chinese aesthetic mode of life guided by the Confucian-Confucianist tension. Negative political pressure and positive aesthetic spontaneity led to the formation of an in?uential cultural and intellectual history. As regards the aestheticization of Chinese culture as the consequence of the national mentality and the Confucianist ideological system, there is a distinction to be made between the artistic and ethical in our description. Confucianist political dogmatism excluded other kinds of ethico-political action. This led to the non-political artistic orientation of Chinese culture. Thus, there appeared the uniquely rich history of Chinese aestheticist culture with its literature and arts. The weaker scholarly rationality and the stronger aestheticist creativity were evidently linked to the Confucianist framework. On the other hand, the spiritual tension between Confucian ethics and the Confucianist ideological mechanism brought about an unusual ethical aestheticization or ethical psychological technicization. In this chapter, we shall discuss only the latter in treating the ethical expressions and consequences of this dynamic tension.
1. The Legalist Manipulation of Confucianist Ideology
In our cross-cultural description of Chinese historical phenomena, we are always faced with the problem of how to use ambiguously formed and employed historical terms with more precise reference. The same terms in different contexts refer to different objects or aspects. In fact, only the relevant semantic facets of the terms rather than their entire meanings actually function in discourse. We have in mind especially the names of historical schools. The semantic composition of the names of the pre- and post-Ch’in schools must ?rst be analyzed before they may be relevantly employed; and this is what we have done in our work. “Legalism” is perhaps the most complicated term. It contains at least three referential aspects: a) social thought; b) a personal attitude towards life and power; and c) an extremely repressive socio-political system. A further distinction involves the social status of the Legalist agent as the ruler or the literate with respect to the referent b) and the traditional part and the totalitarian part of the referent c). In general, the Ch’in-Han system is a combination of the pre-Ch’in traditional feudal system and a strengthened despotism. Legalism can therefore refer to any items listed above. In saying that Han-Confucianism was essentially Legalism, we refer to the quasi-totalitarian feature of the Han social system. In a precise sense, the Ch’in-Han system and all subsequent Chinese systems were Legalist. In this regard, the term Legalism is more relevant than the term “ju-school,” which ambiguously refers to the traditional system, classical learning, Yin-Yang Taoist thought and Confucian thought.
The Ch’in-Han socio-political system can aptly be characterized as Legalism. What about its connection with the ju-school and Confucian thought? Our earlier discussions already clari?ed the link between them. The basic distinction is between the operative and the operated. As the operating actor, the Legalist political mechanism manipulates all available social and cultural elements, including the ju-school and pre-Ch’in thought. When we consider the interaction between three pre-Ch’in intellectual traditions in the Han context, three aspects of Legalism are to be distinguished, especially b) and c). If we mainly refer by b) to the formation of the personality, as in the last chapter, we refer by c) to the Legalist social context. The question involves the relation between Confucian and Taoist inclinations and their Legalist context. The Confucian-Confucianist tension involves the interaction between Confucian ethics, Confucianist ideology and Legalist social system. More concretely, our problem is clarifying how the Confucian ethical inclination relates to its social and intellectual context.
The tensions discussed in the last chapter expressed themselves in the cultural manifestations and personal typology of Confucianist society. There were the intellectual inclinations of the pre-Ch’in historical texts and the actual tendencies of personalities of the post-Ch’in historical texts. According to our explanation, the latter are the result of the former under actual historical conditions. Therefore, the actual inclinations of the Confucianist (ju) personalities were signi?ers of two aspects of Chinese history: the potential of the personality of the literati and the manipulative effects of despotic power. While the latter were constant factors in the socio-political domain, the historical personality of the literati was a function of their mental and behavioral reactions towards socially restricting conditions. Consequently, they displayed a pragmatic tendency to combine various internal and external factors in shaping a desirable attitude towards the socio-political pressure, even as they tried to realize their original intellectual inclinations in autonomous cultural and spiritual realms. In their external behavior, they had a synthetic pragmatic character. In their internal life, they intensi?ed and sophisticated the mental process through artistic and intellectual creativity. They pragmatically accepted the historical stereotype of moral and political life – an indication of their syncretic ?exibility – even as they continued to pursue ethical freedom in another aesthetically oriented realm. This made possible a safe distance from socio-political control and internal practice along Confucian and Taoist lines. Their cultural expressions under the tension were unevenly realized in historical ?gures and their works, especially those of cultural and intellectual elite.
2. The Synthetic Confucianist Type of Personality
Cultural works were the products of the personality of the literati. The cultural character and the personality of the cultural elite were closely linked. There is a clear connection between cultural typology and ethical personality in Chinese history.
The Neo-Confucianist philosopher T’sai Jen-hou of Taiwan says that “Confucian doctrine is concerned about the system of actions rather than about the system of knowledge.” (T’sai 1984, 7) Both “action” and “knowledge,” however, are related to mentality. Confucian doctrine involves the mind behind the action. Addressing traditional Chinese thought about the self, Yü Ying-shih points out that the traditional attitude towards the self in China is still relevant to the modern world. In distinction from Christian thought with its focus on the decisive external role of priests, the self-reliant spirit of traditional Chinese thought stresses independence and self-control. (Cf. Yü 1987, 40) Among the different types of Chinese thought, however, only the Confucian strain is genuinely self-reliant. Taoism, for example, holds that the utmost goal: “Tao,” is above the self. The Confucian in?uence was ?rst represented in this inclination for self-reliance compared to other main strains of Chinese thought. Mind, self and individual are the unique starting points of Confucian thought.
The most substantial in?uence exercized by Confucian thought on the Chinese mind lies in internal praxis. It is possible that the Confucian texts were allowed to exist largely because of their innate strength to inspire and shape the moral personality required by the two oppositional sides of the rulers and the literati. Confucian psychological and behavioral inclinations could be used for any socio-political end because of the politico-ethical ambiguity of Confucian doctrine. Concretely speaking, the moral principles jen, i and li were employed in the institutional systems of the Han. Even in the original Confucian texts, these concepts were embodied by or signi?ed through institutions. This means that the cultivation of Confucian internal praxis was effectively developed within the intellectual or institutional framework of moral practice. We can even say that the internal part of Confucian ethics was realized throughout Chinese history. The result was signi?cant for political and cultural aspects alike. The distortion of Confucian ethics and its historical fruits, however, cannot be used to disprove the entire signi?cance of Confucian ethics, as we explained in the ?rst volume. The ethico-political potential of the Confucian texts has unfortunately never been thoroughly explored or employed in China. This is of course more due to non-Confucian external pressures and constraints than to an incomplete reading of the Confucian texts.
In our discussion of Confucian thought, two leading ?gures among Confucian agents: Yan Hui and Mencius (Meng-tzu), have been seen to have been more signi?cant than all others except Confucius himself. The one is more imaginative, the other more concrete, as they are portrayed in the different details given in the related texts. Concerning the identity of the three main Confucian ?gures, there are two criteria of their historical status. One lies in the recordings of the pre-Ch’in texts, the other in those of the post-Ch’in texts. The ?rst has more textual authenticity; but the second has more historical reliability. The ?rst offers an intellectual ethical ideal, the second a pragmatic historical ideal. While there is not suf?cient con?rmation of historical ?gures such as Yan Hui and Mencius, there are indeed actual historical models of their personality. In other words, there have been actual historical readings of the two textual ?gures. The pragmatic strength of the historical usage of the textual images is due to the real belief of the Chinese literati in their historical existence. First, there are the tangible textual ?gures; second, people enrich the historiographical entities through imagination and ?ctionalization. The textual images became operators capable of being employed in code systems. Ideal elements could be ascribed to the operators in order to produce effects in actual life. The ?ctional ?gures then became hermeneutically effective models of desirable personality for in?uencing actual mentality and behavior. The structure of the historically accepted ?ctive ?gures re?ects the structure of the actual historical personality. This fact indicates the signi?cance of the ?gurative Confucian models in our studies. Chinese literati made clever use of legendary ?gures in creating models for solving external and internal tensions between the ethical ideal and historical reality. As a result, the Confucian ideal became a conciliatory tool through which Chinese literati could realize their pragmatic aesthetics. Thus, we ?nd a permanent diremption of culture and personality in Confucianism, an intellectual split between the ethical and the ideological dimensions. The diremption re?ects both the conscious subjugation (at the socio-political level) and the unconscious resistance (at the cultural-spiritual level) of the Chinese literati. It also re?ects a pragmatic wisdom for harmonizing ideality and reality through imagining and modelling a conciliatory personality.
The two ideal models of personality evidence the transformation of the ideal Confucian into the actual Confucianist dimension. There is another type of Confucianism at the level of personality and its cultural manifestations. Concretely, the cultural elite inspired by the Confucian-Taoist ideal attempted to accustom themselves to Confucianist reality. Regarding the Confucian ethical inclination, the problem can be reduced to how they related to the Confucianist social context and Taoist space through pragmatically readjusting ethical praxis. The question is: How did the ethical elite synthesize all of the elements on the basis of their external and internal conditions? As a result, an ethico-logical ambiguity co-existed with a pragmatic feasibility. According to original Confucian tactics, there were two opposite styles in pursuing ethical goals: chüan and k’uang. They are represented by the two Confucian ?gures Yan Hui and Mencius, as we described in the ?rst volume. The formative process of Confucianist literati is also one of creative operation with the two Confucian ?gurative operators. The literati manipulated the ?gurative rhetoric in order to realize their pragmatic goals of personality. Accordingly, the Confucian ?gures also enable modern readers to grasp the mentality of the Confucianist literati. The two contrasting ?gures, however, have a different heuristic potential in our present analysis. We shall focus on the more frequently used image of Yan Hui with its implications in the Confucianist ethical context, which ironically made the type of Mencius less effective, although Mencius was glori?ed as the sage second only to Confucius by Sung Confucianist philosophers.
3. The Pragmatic Symbolism of the Figurative Sign
The imaginative use of the ?gure Yan Hui presents an instructive example of the literati’s ethical relation towards the Confucian-Confucianist tension. Through examining these uses we can grasp the consequences of the dynamic tension on the ethical personality. Chinese conceptual operators, signs or symbols can adopt different modes consisting of various ?gurative and abstract elements. The same signs, as ?gures, cosmological images or abstract notions, can bear different semantic content. Thus, the different uses of Heaven, Yan Hui and jen have different implications. This logically less strict mentality is also a function of the pragmatic requirement to focus on practical conduct in real life. This tendency is relevant to our basic conceptual contrast between the Confucian and the Confucianist. As we have frequently stressed, they have different identities as coherent ideational and synthetic institutional phenomena, respectively. In a narrow sense, we can also take them as different sets of principles of moral practice. Thus, if we say there is a Confucian Confucian and a Confucianist Confucian, the former means an ethical reading of the Confucian texts and the latter an ideological reading of the Confucian texts within the Confucianist framework. The same terms such as li, jen, hsiao, ch’eng and t’ian have different sets of signi?eds, despite the common signi?ers represented by socio-cultural phenomena. All of these terms function as signs which can bear any stylistically feasible meaning. The interaction of the two sets of moral principles in the post-Ch’in socio-cultural context can be described either in terms of socio-cultural manifestations or in terms of the personality-type.
1) Personality as the Convergence of Interactional Elements
In light of the above, we can understand how the inclinational elements could be combined in the Confucianist context and how the Confucianist personality was ?exibly shaped by despotic force. We can now treat the problem from another angle: How did the typical Confucianist agent react to or make choices in the Confucianist context? In distinction from a typical Confucian agent, the Confucianist ethical agent synthetically or pragmatically carries out his choices, attaining multiple aims in his life.
a) Obedient choice at the politico-ethical level
In the normal political ?eld, almost all Chinese literati made no choices different from that which was permitted. In the ?eld of social life, they were de?nitely obedient. This was also the main reason why they should be called Confucianist rather than Confucian literati.
b) The acceptance of Confucian thought at the ideal level
The reading of the Confucian texts required that one keep the entire relationship of ethical points in mind as potential guides to the actual world. This intellectual acceptance became the source for ethical-aesthetic creations in the private, psychological and cultural ?elds separable from the external contexts, despite the fact that the harmony was formed due to a pragmatic motive.

c) Ethical technicalization in the psychological realm
The artistic or technical sophistication of the internal process of subjective Confucian ethics had a cultural and psychological ground separate from the Confucianist political ?eld. The doctrine of ch’eng (sincerity) in Sung-Ming-Confucianist philosophy was one of the typical achievements of this segregative effort in the Confucian-Confucianist tension. Inner autonomy of choice made the subjective aspect of Confucian ethics more substantial.
Efforts at strengthening subjective Confucian ethics through philosophical means have an ambiguous character in both active and passive choice. The same process signi?es opposite motives and conduct: politico-ethical compromise and subjective ethico-aesthetic intensi?cation. The ambiguous tendency was also linked to the original structure of the Chinese mentality expressed in the Confucian texts. For example, the eclectic character was due to the traditionally weak instrumental rationality which caused Chinese literati to be ambiguously ?exible both mentally and behaviorally in the political ?eld. As a cultural consequence, the aesthetic orientation became prevalent. Ethico-political escapism resulted from the lack of strong rationality which might otherwise have provided for a more reasonable strategy.
2) The Image of Yan Hui as the Symbolic Means of Ethical Internalization
According to original Confucian ethics, there are two basic processes or ?elds of moral practice: the preparative stage of cultivation and the political stage of realization. For any Confucian agent, there are two possible basic conditions: the preparative domestic stage and the active social stage. There are also two contrasting attitudinal and behavioral styles in dealing with various situations: the k’uang (the energetic and active) and the chüan (the cautious and reserved). One’s personality or attitude can be de?ned through these two sets of contrasting parameters at two levels: the behavioral and the stylistic. Practically speaking, the two sets of parameters are frequently combined. A k’uang-type agent is often both politically and culturally directed and a chüan-type agent is often politically reserved and culturally directed.
After the Han, when intellectual advancement involved de?nite preparation for of?cial promotion, the original Confucian styles, especially the chüan, became more identi?ed with social success and failure. There appeared the more concrete terms “chin” (“step forward,” or progress in the of?cial promotion) and “” (“meeting or promotion,” or luck in coming across a wise ruler who would promote one). The original Confucian criteria of ethical praxis were materialized in de?nite procedures of political praxis in the Confucianist bureaucracy. Thus, we read many descriptions in the traditional literature about “ch’u” (with the ?rst tone: “to go out or leave home to enter society”) and “ch’u” (with the fourth tone: “to remain home”). The two social phases are logically associated with “kui” (“dignity”) and “chian” (“humility”), which were more directly linked to the real concerns of the Han literati. (Cf. “the Hsin ”, in Chu Tzu Chi Ch’eng, v. 7, 12; “the Huai-Nan-tzu”, in ibid., 22; the Lun Heng, in ibid., 1-3). In the Feng Su T’ung (On Customs) of the late Han, there was a special chapter called “ch’üng t’ung” (“impasse-success,” or “?rst, impasse or poverty; second, attainment or success”) which included different historical examples explaining a general rule of contentment under poor conditions. (Cf. Po Tzu Ch’uan Shu 1963, 8347-8389) The latter was a typical example of how Han-Confucianists synthesized different criteria into a pragmatic common rule of social conduct. Dif?culty in ethical practice was mixed with failure in social pursuit regardless of the basic divergence between the two in motive and goal. The ethical devotion of the Confucian was used to beautify efforts towards pro?table advancement. In general, Confucianist morality was especially linked to the mental state of the literati when they were unsuccessful in seeking promotion. This became one of the main points of Confucianist pedagogy. In essence, the Confucian internal volitional process was abstracted to serve a similar process within a different ethical system. Gradually, the tendency developed into an ethical aesthetics, as subjective Confucian ethics were further internalized by Sung-Confucianist philosophy, for which the image of Yan Hui was the favorite ?gurative operator. We will also use the image to indicate the pragmatic ambiguity of the model of the Confucianist personality.
There were different implications of the image Yan Hui. The possibility of the different uses of the image is “semiotically” due to the limited and ambiguous descriptions of him in the Analects. Ironically enough, the sketchiness of the image forms the possibility of its signifying potential. As we pointed out in the ?rst volume, the image of Yan Hui itself, which was organized by followers of Confucius, suggests the original uncertainties of his character. (Cf. Chapter 13 in the ?rst volume) Stories employing his name could be enriched from different angles.
a) The external ethical type
Under external hardship, this type passively or actively (objectively or subjectively) secludes itself from society or of?ce. (The politico-ethical objective remains unchanged and a tactical choice for withdrawal is made). He waits for a chance to return to politico-moral practice. During seclusion, he is still actively involved in internal ethical practice. His contented image re?ects ethical constancy and sincerity as well as self-control of personal desires which cannot be ful?lled in poverty.
b) The internal ethical type
With the same background as the above, this type is content with internal practice, having lost interest in external practice. This is the pessimistic Confucian type. Because of his despondency, he abandons the earlier ethical effort and chooses eternal withdrawal from society or surrender of political goals. Even Confucius himself reveals a similar attitude in saying he wants to escape to the sea when he feels completely hopeless about his mission. Such despondency is always felt by the Confucian groups and indicates the radical decay of social reality as well as the incapacity of Confucian ethics for undertaking external projects. This type is reduced to the hermits Confucius met in the ?elds and mountains. They are secluded from society mainly because of their hatred of evil reality.
c) The Taoist type
This type includes all kinds of hermits owing to an innate indifference to politico-moral problems and even social life. Furthermore it can be more actively formed through metaphysical reason. This kind of seclusion results from active choice rather than passive reaction to external pressure.
d) The utilitarian type
This type designates contented attitude in a modest life. Seclusion, poverty and degradation are due to unfavorable external conditions. In a passive sense, it refers to any wise attitude towards hardship; in an active sense, it refers to patience under hardship.
3) The Different Uses of the Image Yan Hui
In sum, a pragmatic art of living makes the image Yan useful for different people in different ways.
a) The Taoist opportunistically uses this image in order to harmonize Taoism and Confucianism, keeping the propriety of the Taoist position in Confucianist society.
b) The ambitious Confucianist of?cial uses this image in order to mitigate the desire for promotion.
c) The upright Confucianist political agent uses this image for philosophical solace when he is faced with political failure.
d) The hypocritical Confucianist politico-ethical agent uses this image as an excuse to escape political confrontation with power.
e) The Confucianist philosopher uses this image in his pursuit of ethical autonomy.
f) The ruler uses this image as a model to guide the literati towards becoming peaceful candidates for of?cial promotion.
g) The genuine chüan-styled Confucian uses this image as a model with a clear objective at the politico-ethical level. Style is then a purely tactical arrangement rather than mere psychological contentment.
There is a distinction between the ?gurative composition of the signi?er and the ideational composition of the signi?ed. The former is aesthetically favored by all kinds of users of the ?gurative sign, re?ecting the national taste for perseverance under poor conditions. All of the different motives make use of de?nite outward aspects of the same ?gure: choosing social retreat. Historiographically, Yan Hui is recognized as a de?nite historical ?gure in order to secure the identity of his personality. The ?gure is open to different interpretations, however, which creates great pragmatic ?exibility. Chinese philosophers and literati successfully carried out their eclectic life-style with reference to this ?gurative symbol. The falsi?ed identity of the legendary ?gure, which is separate from the original Confucian text, and its rhetorically operational arbitrariness, which meets different psychological requirements, combined to realize a pragmatic aesthetics of life in an externally suppressed society.
In other words, the sign of Yan Hui contains two different aspects of signi?cation: the behavioral and the motivational. The two-fold semantic structure is manipulated to deal with various tensional situations. Confucian ethics concerns the motivational state. The above-named four types should be distinguished with reference to their mental states rather than their common external conditions and results. What type is the “genuine” image of Yan Hui? The question can be reduced to that of how to use the image of Yan Hui to express different attitudinal reactions. According to the typical teaching of Confucian ethics, he should be a). In the descriptions in the text, however, he looks more like b). He never intends to join in political activity. It is curious that this kind of life-style was praised by Confucius, who eagerly awaited a chance to return to of?ce. We must not exclude the element of the Taoist type in Yan Hui in view of his evident lack of external ethical interests and his inclination to withdraw from society. The multiple possibilities in projecting and employing the image of Yan Hui re?ect structures of both the tensional context and the personality of the ethical elite, along with the interaction of dogmatic ideological restrictions, Confucian ethical resistance and a pragmatic national character.
4. Intellectual Preparation of Ethical Internalization through the Taoist Approach
Post-Ch’in Chinese intellectual history was essentially the interaction of the Confucian inclination and the Taoist inclination within the Legalist political and traditional cultural context. The relation between Confucian and Taoist thought has several different aspects at both the intellectual and the behavioral levels. They were contrary at the theoretical but complementary at the practical level. The Taoist provides the Confucian with the possibility of escaping and transforming the ethical objective. In this respect, the Taoist manipulation of the image of Yan Hui helps explain the relation. In fact, the relation between Taoism and the image of Yan Hui reveals the utilitarian ambiguity of this ?gurative symbol, which should be discussed separately.
There are two basic distortions of the Confucian image of Yan Hui: Confucianist self-satisfaction and Taoist ethical escapism. The former is evidently a utilitarian means for the preparative stage of Confucianist promotion. The latter assumed different quasi-ethical forms. In general, however, there was only a binary choice: pursuit of of?ce and non-political liberalism, including the private spheres of various liberal arts. The latter was politically and ideologically made powerless. An intellectual was allowed or encouraged to be either politically serviceable or non-politically liberal. The political precondition became the basic framework of intellectual and cultural activity. Thus, we ?nd a uniquely Chinese type of personality who chooses the latter at a behavioral level determined by external conditions but with an added motivational potential. In a sense, the Taoist distortion of the image Yan in Chinese history should be regarded as either a type of Confucianist ideological manipulation or a form of Confucian escapism. This type reached its maturity in the Confucianist philosophy of the Sung.
a) The ?rst important Taoist description of Yan Hui was given by Chuang Tzu himself, for whom Yan was the most acceptable image among the Confucian ?gures. In describing Yan’s awakening to the meaninglessness of morality, Chuang made a binary division of human practices: the inner world and the external world. (Cf. Chu Tzu Chi Ch’eng v. 3, 43-47) As Ch’ien Mu points out, when Taoist philosophy began to spread in the late Han, Yan Hui became the favorite Confucian image among Confucianist scholars precisely because of all the Confucian disciples Yan was closest to Taoism. (Cf. Ch’ien Mu 1957, 136) Despite the same external tendency, the image of Yan implies a double inclination: the Confucian and the Taoist. As a person engaged in Confucianist profession, Yan-type can be less active in social life. As a Taoist philosopher, the Yan-type provides an attractive, historically imaginable model. For a practical literate, the model provides an opportunistic ?exibility in facing the external possibilities of pro?table or threatening situations. For most literati, Taoism became an instrument serving Confucianist goals in a “dialectical” way. This is what people say about the Confucianist-Taoist complementarity concerning the character of Chinese literati. The ambiguous Confucian-Taoist image of Yan Hui provided Chinese literati with a means for deceiving or compromising themselves.
b) Furthermore, Yan’s image offered Taoism a means for deconstructing Confucian ethics. Yan became an index of the non-political or politically impotent Confucian. The denial could come from both sides: Confucianist and Taoist philosophers. More precisely, the two schools were combined in one sort of thought in Sung-Confucianism. The Chinese type of metaphysics, namely, Taoist Confucianism, preferred to take Yan as the ?gurative model of asocial inclination. Nonetheless, we should pay attention to the double implication of this non-ethical tendency: there is the genuinely non-ethical, which turned out to be religious or quasi-religious, and the negatively complementary form of Confucianist morality, which rendered powerless all politico-ethical challenges.
c) In distinction from other Sung Taoist-Confucianists, Chu Hsi focused on the more genuinely Confucian aspect of the Yan-image, for he had a stronger internal ethical concern. (Cf. Ch’ien Mu 1971, v.1, 117) Concerning the doctrine of the “k’uang” style, Chu emphasizes that Yan was a more useful model than Mencius, whose teaching was more dif?cult to follow. (Chu 1986, v. 2, 46) This is a very signi?cant point about the ethical mentality of the philosopher, highlighting his own political escapism, which distanced the image of Mencius from the scope of ethical operation. Chu’s stylistic choice also indicates the eclectic character of the Sung-Confucianist philosophers. With the same energetic momentum, the image of Yan leads away from the political dimension which is Mencius’ very objective. Chu’s dif?culty in learning from Mencius was essentially due to this reason.
d) Practically speaking, it is Mencius who sets the necessary balance to the implicitly Taoist inclination of the Confucian group. According to Confucian ethical theory, Yan is the ?rst Confucian model of the “chüan” direction with its politico-ethical relevance. In an historical-symbolic sense, we can say that the Confucian movement towards the Yan-style hints at the historical development in China, where no external projects were ever carried out along Confucian politico-ethical lines. In distinction from Taoism, Yan-styled Confucian ethics requires the same constant ethical or politico-ethical orientation in the internal sphere. In brief, political ethics is the commonly shared objective of all Confucian followers, if we take Confucian doctrine as a coherent pragmatic logic. As a mater of fact, very few of them can meet this desideratum, including the Sung and Ming Confucianist philosophers. Practically speaking, it is Taoism and Buddhism helped the Confucianist literati to attend to the original Confucian ethics with its internal stage of ethical preparation. Consequently, we may assert that Buddhist-psychological and Taoist-philosophical thought commonly led Chinese literati to a non-political ethical philosophy of life. In turn, Confucianist literati pragmatically employed the Taoist and Buddhist models in order to realize their eclectic ideals in a Legalist framework.
5. The Aesthetic Internalization of Confucian Ethics in Sung-Ming Confucianist Philosophy
The Confucian reaction in the Confucianist context took the form of various roles such as the upright administrator, the socio-political critic, the non-political artist and the internal ethical agent. In the last role, the Confucian ethical inclination attained its highest realization in the Confucianist framework. Sung-Ming Confucianist philosophy is the ful?lment of this tendency. The formation of internal Confucian ethics was accompanied by the establishment of the new classics system by Chu Hsi in the Southern Sung: the Four Books, which consists of two Confucian-Mencian texts and two Confucianist texts, the Great Learning and the Mean. Although the texts are contained in the old system of the “Five Classics,” they played a more predominant role in the Post-Sung Confucianist context. Through this academic revolution, Confucian ethics reached a new internalized stage of the philosophical reading of the classic texts. The separation of the Five Classics and the Four Books was a functional division and led to the establishment of internal ethical autonomy. The same textual division also led to a practical division between external politics and internal ethics.
1) Ethical Internalization
The Sung-Ming Confucianist philosophers highlighted the merit of the Yan Hui type, but we must explain their precise image of Yan Hui. They attempted to create a Confucian type who was inwardly oriented in cultivation without being actively committed to external objectives. The true objective was aesthetically internalized; external practice was taken as the natural expression of the internal state, which was the true object of ethical effort. Through this epistemological division, the internal ?eld was absolutized. The original ambiguity of Yan Hui was used variously in ethical, philosophical, religious and artistic internal practice. In other words, Sung-Ming Confucianism undertook multiple roles which guaranteed an eternally and inwardly directed ethical realm. It is semiotically interesting that the same internalization represented by this ?gurative symbol was acceptable to different inclinations. The image of Yan Hui became a carrier of various interchangeable life-attitudes. The different phases of the same symbol with different directions of choice were ?exible and avoided radical confrontations. The ambiguity of the image was useful in helping Confucianist agents to choose the path of least resistance in the struggle with external hardship while maintaining an independent interest in the internal realm. They were able to use one phase of Confucian practice in connection with temporary and tactical retreat from society in order to support the direction of permanent withdrawal. The Sung-Confucianist use of the image of Yan Hui implies such an attitudinal hesitation or politico-ethical escapism from the external world.
On the other hand, we may also say that the originally ambiguous inclination of Confucian internal practice rhetorically prepares conditions for the Confucian literati to succumb to power—the object and obstacle of Confucian ethical practice. Giving up independent choice in external ?elds meant substantial retreat from Confucian politico-ethical goals. Such retreat was also effectively covered over by the semantic ambiguity of the original Confucian li-conception, which required self-control and social constraints. The traditional superiority of practice over rationality also led to this incoherence. Confucianist practice in despotic li-systems further helped form the required protective psychological mechanism. The Sung-Confucianist philosophy of inwardly oriented sincerity (ch’eng) was thus established. After the Sung-Confucianist period, a philosophically and psychologically sophisticated mentality of clinging to the inner state of sincerity was formed. Internal integrity existed for itself. The ethical self became its own referent. The ethical internalization became a process of psychological aestheticization. The second mode of Chinese aestheticism resides in this aesthetical processing of mental operations, in addition to its cultural manifestations.
The internalization of the ethical objective was more genuinely elaborated by Sung-Confucianist philosophers through the doctrine of human nature and mental praxis strengthened through Zen-Buddhist techniques. The new intellectual tendency in the Sung and the Ming greatly differed from that of the Han owing to its intensi?ed ethical turn. After Han-Confucianism, the moral quali?cation of royal allegiance was required. The late Han was well known for the remarkable valor of its Confucianist of?cials. The maintenance of the despotic system always demanded combining external coercion with internal allegiance. The actual quality of social and individual allegiance, however, was variously determined. The higher intellectual and cultural level did not necessarily lead to more political loyalty. The Six Dynasties period was an example. Both the late Sung and the late Ming were notorious for their political and social moral decay despite their greater ethical scholarship. The relation between Sung-Confucianst ethics and the moral quality of the literati is too complicated to be de?ned in a simple way. In the Southern Sung and the late Ming, when the political situation deteriorated and foreign invasions were immediately urgent, the ethical consciousness and behavior of the moral elite attained its highest level through politico-ethical practice. The subjective state of this heroic type of Confucianist literati (one type of shih whose objective was ?xed in the Confucianist system) was optimally sublimated. The internal ethical objective of the mental mechanism was heroically realized and aesthetically expressed. Therefore, historico-cultural phenomena played a more aesthetically spiritual than politically ethical role. Re?ned moral consciousness was constantly held separate from politico-ethical praxis. Internal ethico-aesthetic reality was substantialized. Dialectically, the external failures of political activities became external conditions, stimulants and tests of ethical existence and the quality of the internal mentality. It has been critically observed that Sung-Ming-Confucianism was weak, hypocritical and incapable of realizing external political objectives, particularly when an empirical rationalism arised among the elite in the early Ch’ing dynasty. They expected a more effective methodology for solving political and social crises. Certainly, the political failures of the Sung and the Ming were not mainly due to the development of the inwardly directed Neo-Confucianist movement, which involved only a portion of the literati. As we said, they were not created for political and military purposes. The deteriorating political conditions, however, provided them with “pragmatically aesthetic” conditions for realizing their inner spiritual strength and ethical potential, which were deposited in the national mentality and cultural activities. This traditional ethical potential indeed manifested an independent spiritual worth to be explored under the new favorable conditions. Consequently, Sung-Confucianist ethics aesthetically functioned in the cultural or spiritual realms. It was a spiritual effort essentially oriented towards aesthetically re?ned mental sophistication.
In distinction from earlier traditional loyalty to the rulers, Sung-Confucianist political ethics presented to mind a profound ethical ground oriented towards the higher ethical objective of the Confucian values borne by the existent political systems. Ethical faith and sincerity were strengthened through being directed towards double sets of objectives: the Confucianist political one and the Confucian ethical one, the latter being aesthetico-philosophically de?ned.
2). Psychological Aestheticization as an Ethical Technique
According to Fu Ssu-nien, there were four kinds of “profession” to which the literati of the pre-Ch’in belonged: the historian, the guest at state courts, the hermit and the vagabond. (Fu 1980, v.1, 49) The ?rst two were the main categories and supported by powerful political or economical rulers. The “genuine” Confucian had to live in a tension between the (spiritual) master and the (physical) slave. Therefore, the image of the pre-Ch’in Confucian agent contained an original ambiguity as to his identity. His social independence could hardly be secured. Because of this contradiction between social dependence and spiritual independence, chün-tzu (the gentleman), as the chüan agent, emphasized the virtue of bearing poverty before being appointed to of?ce. (PaiTzu Ch’uan Shu 1963, v. 14, 8147) This tension also led to a self-deceptive spiritual pride or cultural megalomania mocked by the challengers of Confucian doctrine. Despite the hypocritical Confucian pretension, there was indeed an elite who really could bring about an ethical state in the internal world which contained some essential part of the subjective Confucian ethics which was preserved and transformed in the cultural and spiritual realms. There was an opportunity to form an independent personality outside the Confucianist system through independently reading and practising the Confucian texts. The Confucian ethical criteria were transformed by power into its own despotic requirements, but the politico-moral norms expressed in the texts could still be read as signi?ers of genuine Confucian values. Therefore, an entire Confucian ethical system could exist and exercise in?uence at the spiritual level, providing its original epistemological framework and its practical prerequisites within a ?xed social context. Like what we see in the re?ned arts in the Sung period, this narrow “working space” provides the potential for higher technical sophistication. (Cf. Youzheng Li 1993 (2), 101-103) The limited internal realm also provides a potential for psychologically re?ned operation. Thus, Confucian doctrine could produce satisfactory mental effects, forming a genuinely Confucian style of independent personality in the spiritual domain. In this context, a Confucian agent was not only a quali?ed of?cial taking his place in the institutional channels controlled by power (in which he often failed because of his ethical faith), he also maintained an autonomous moral consciousness, although that he was not in position to project it freely. There formed a split between the internal and external practices of the Confucian-Confucianist agent. This is what we ?nd in some literary manifestations which aspire to the ideal Confucian perspective. In other words, there was a split between the Confucian mind and Confucianist action. Sung-Confucianist ethics nevertheless strengthened the preparative stage of Confucian ethics; it was a half-Confucian or apolitical Confucian ethics.
The internal realization of Confucian values can be connected with moral values and norms, ethical reasoning, and moral criticism. Not all of the moral consciousness was realized in the external world. An almost complete state of Confucian ethical preparation within a limited domain was actually internally formed. There were two kinds of internal realization. One is used completely for the permitted external practice; the other only incompletely in this way. The internally realized ethical preparation forms an inner deposit which can preserve its existence through aesthetic ethical expressions of various kinds. Due to its restriction to external objectives, the Sung-Confucianist personality was still incomplete in its construction of an internalized Confucian mentality. In the internal moral consciousness, spiritual independence was indeed shaped, but only at its pre-practical stage. Hence, we see a split once again within Sung-Confucianist subjective ethics, a segregation from political objectives and an enhancement of the volitional mechanism. The latter in fact became an aestheticizing ethical process, for the sophistication of the inward ethical process itself became the aim of ethical praxis.
The aestheticization is a self-referential elaboration of psychological and cultural processes which re?ect subjective attitudes towards ideal objectives which remain virtual or marginal. Confucian praxis in despotic China was therefore subjectively or internally procedural without any de?nite external objectives. The standard mode of external conduct was still regulated by Confucianist codes. The aesthetic ethical process was only one activity in addition to socially standard modes. In general, there were several functions of ethical aestheticization:
a) Based on both Mencian and Zen-Buddhist psychologies, Sung philosophers developed the ch’eng (“ardent sincerity”) mentality in order to strengthen attention to the internal or theoretical objective rather than merely to external rules. The subjective feeling of ethical signi?cance was accordingly enriched.
b) The ethical-aesthetical process itself became an independent goal of spiritual life which led to various productive artistic activities, including purely psychological aestheticization.
c) The psychologically intensi?ed inclination brought about the solace of escapism concerning politico-ethical objectives.
d) Objectively, the strengthened ch’eng-mentality once again became a tool of the ruler for controlling the literati. As a result, this most signi?cant development of Confucian ethics since medieval times remained ambiguous in its function.
e) Objectively, ethical aesthetics preserved ethical autonomy in addition to playing other roles determined by external conditions.
First, ethical internalization was used by the ideological apparatus. Ethical devotion was put at the service of the ideological procedure. Second, the ethical still existed for itself, maintaining the consciousness of objective and subjective ethical practice. It is the ethical dimension of human life which insists on permanent attention to basic ethical values. Ethical reason itself can hardly be destroyed, although it can be misled or suppressed in the external world. Third, a subjective ethics maintaining its autonomy in a narrower domain, may similarly be misused for shaping the required obedience. Nevertheless, the formative training of the personality was separately implemented. These ethical elements could at least potentially obtain independent existence, although their actual development required other conditions.
The ethical aesthetical development of the Confucian is the result of these tensional dynamics. First, it is oriented externally by institutional and ideological forces; second, it is oriented towards its proper objective, due to its ethical force. The ?nal result of this pan-aesthetic technicalization at the psychological and cultural levels: the aesthetics of ch’eng, is applicable to different purposes.
3) The Signi?cance of the Confucian Ethical Dimension In Confucianist History
Politically speaking, ethical autonomy could hardly bring about an ethically desirable political consequence in Chinese history. Still, it could play an active role in the historical and social formation of political justice. It could help maintain the genuinely ethical direction at the public level as well as the spontaneous concentration of the ethical will at the subjective level. Both of the subjective ethical roles (the axiological goal and the personal effort) were necessary for the maintenance of the ethical direction in any social situation. In the decay or terror of misbegotten political power, ethical autonomy played a leading role in changing the existing situations when other elements were available. It was the ethical which knew how to deal with the ideological in social progress. In our case, a Confucian type of ethical effort formed an ethically composed personality, one which could hardly have appeared in a purely legally regulated system. If the ethical dimension is not directly linked with the political situation, it must be linked with the quality of personality for consciously carrying out and maintaining basic moral values. Our story about the interaction between Confucian ethics and Confucianst academic ideology provides us with an historical reference point for the relationship between ethics and ideology. On one hand, ethics was used by the ideology of power towards its own ends and hence serves the latter; on the other, ethics managed to keep its autonomy within the ideological system. Thus, the two formed a dynamic tension in both the cultural and the psychological realms.
The signi?cance of the intense internalization of Confucian ethics in the Sung-Ming period is more profound and more complicated than the approach of modern Neo-Confucianist philosophy, which has lost the original Confucian spiritual ambience and has not yet linked up to the contemporary intellectual context. In distinction from scienti?c and legal-technical developments, the ethical dimension belongs to the spiritual realm, which will never lose its meaning in human life. The confrontation between Confucian thought and the Confucianist system is an essential part of the confrontation between human ethical freedom and ideologico-technical restriction. Accordingly, the survival of Confucian ethics in Confucianist history is to be seen from this perspective.
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