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Further Discussion on the Issue of the Ancient and the New Texts of the Zhouyi

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Further Discussion on the Issue of the Ancient and the New Texts of the Zhouyi1

Liu Baozhen2

(Center for Zhouyi & Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Shandong University, Jinan 250100, China)

Translated from Chinese by Zhang Wenzhi

(Center for Zhouyi & Ancient Chinese Philosophy, Shandong University, Jinan 250100, China)

When we study the Han dynasty (206 BCE-220 CE) ideology and culture, issues related to Ancient Text (guwen 古文) and New Text (jinwen 今文) traditions have always been unavoidable and contain a large number of misunderstandings, being a subject of intense scholarly debate. Originally, Zhouyi had nothing to do with these issues, but on account of the remarks from the “Arts and Literature Treatise” (Yiwen zhi 艺文志) in the Hanshu 汉书 (History of the Western Han Dynasty) that “Liu Xiang 刘向 (c. 77-6 BCE) used the ancient text of Yijing from the secret imperial library to check Shi Chou 施雠, Meng Xi 孟喜 and Liangqiu He’s 梁丘贺 texts (which were the official orthodoxy at that time), and found that these texts omitted the phrases ‘without blame’ (wujiu 无咎) and/or ‘regret vanishes’ (huiwang 悔亡) here and there, and only Fei Zhi’s text was congruent with the ancient text,” later generation scholars tended to focus on the issue of the Ancient Text and New Text traditions as a point of departure when interpreting or discussing the Zhouyi. As a matter of fact, there are many misunderstandings in these interpretations and discussions. Based on the numerous and detailed views of previous scholars, this paper attempts to clarify this issue and dissolve the misreading involved.
I. Despite of the “Burning of the Books” by the short-lived Qin dynasty, the Confucian Changes were transmitted without break.
The “Ancient Text” Classics referred to by later generation scholars originated from the “burning of the books” in 213 BCE by the Qin, when Li Si 李斯 (c. 280-208 BCE) proposed to the First Emperor of Qin (Qin Shihuang 秦始皇, 259-210 BCE): “I suggest burning all the records except those of the Qin. All the books of Poetry, History, and other kinds of similar concealed remarks, except by the officials of Erudites, should be collected and burned; those who dare occasionally to speak of the Poetry and History should be sentenced to death; the entire family of those who use the past to attack the present should be exterminated, and those officials who know of their concealment but do not report it should be punished the same way; those who do not burn the books in question within thirty days after the order has been enacted should be forced to construct city walls; the books which are not officially banned include those concerning medicine, divination, and tree planting.”3 It can be seen that not all the Confucian books were burnt by the Qin as the literature managed by the Erudite [boshi 博士] officials were preserved, among whom many were Confucians. According to some scholars’ textual research, there were over one hundred Qin Erudites discernible in certain records and twelve of them were put down with true names, among whom Chun Yuyue 淳于越, Fu Sheng 伏胜, Shusun Tong 叔孙通, Yang Zi 羊子, Li Ke 李克, and Juan Gong 圈公 were attributed to Confucians. In the meantime, not all the Confucians were buried in Xianyang 咸阳 by the Qin but rather only those who “confuse the commoners’ minds.”4 Other Confucians were also given service by the Qin and the system of “Erudite official” [boshi guan 博士官] was still retained. When Chen Sheng 陈胜 was staging his uprising, the Second Qin Emperor [Qin ershi 秦二世] called three dozen Erudites in Xianyang together to ask for countermeasures. In this meeting, as Shusun Tong’s 叔孙通 answer fell in with the Emperor’s wishes, Shusun Tong was extraordinarily praised by the emperor and “was rewarded twenty pi 匹 of silk, a suit of clothes, and was appointed Erudite.”5 Therefore, the Qin government should have preserved Confucian literature and documents. Due to lack of historical records, it is difficult to examine whether these documents had been accepted by Xiao He 萧何 (257-193 BCE),6 or whether they were lying in some corner and survived Xiang Yu’s 项羽 (232-202 BCE) burning of the capital and thus were inherited by the Han court and concealed in the “central secret places” [zhongmi 中秘].7 Even if these Confucian documents which had been preserved in the Qin imperial mansions were fortunately saved, most of them might be written in the Qin zhuan 篆 or Qin li 隶 style which shared similar traits with the Han li 隶 but were different from the “Ancient” writing styles of the Eastern six states. What the Han people called “Ancient Text” classics refer to the Confucian classics, cherished and hidden by the folk Confucians under the situation of the Qin’s “burning the books and burying the Confucians” and under the force of the Qin’s abuse of power;8 after the rise of the Han they unearthed them in succession and taught pupils again—and some Confucians might have wished these classics to survive the chaos caused by war in the end of the Qin; for instance, Fu Shen 伏生 concealed the Classic of History inside a wall even though as a Qin Erudite he was permitted to keep Confucian classics. All these cases were not related to the Changes, as the Zhouyi did not belong to the banned books owing to its divinatory function. As it says in the “Biographies of the Confucians” (Rulin zhuan 儒林传) of the Hanshu 汉书 (History of the [Former] Han Dynasty): “Until the time when the Qin began to ban learning, as the Changes was a book of divination, it alone was not banned and thus it had its transmitters one after another.” It can be seen that thanks to its prognostic function the Changes was passed down without break. More significantly, Confucian Yi learning which gravitated toward meanings and principles was also disseminated successively in the society.

Lu Jia 陆贾 (c. 240-170 BCE) was one of Liu Bang’s 刘邦 (256-195 BCE) important advisers. When he was commissioned to write a book, which was later named Xinyu 新语 (New Remarks), Lu Jia appropriated a great number of sayings from the Changes. For instance, the remarks that “in Heaven this [process] creates images, and on Earth it creates physical forms; this is how change and transformation manifest themselves”9 in Xici 系辞 (Commentary on the Appended Phrases) were transformed by Lu Jia in the chapter of “Foundation of the Dao (Way)” (daoji 道基) into the remarks that “things in Heaven can be seen, things on earth can be measured, things themselves can be investigated, and things in man can be plumbed into”; in the Xici it indicates that “when in ancient times Lord Bao Xi ruled the world as sovereign, he looked upward and observed the images in heaven and looked downward and observed the models that the earth provided. He observed the patterns on birds and beasts and what things were suitable for the land,”10 which were appropriated by Lu Jia again in the “Daoji” (道基) chapter in this way: “Those who know heaven look upward and observe heavenly phenomena, and those who are aware of earth look downward and observe patterns on earth,” “then the former sages looked upward and observed heavenly phenomena, looked downward and observed patterns on earth, drew configurations of Qian 乾 and Kun 坤 to determine the Dao (Way) of Man.” More important, Lu Jia succeeded Confucius’s emphasis on virtue and propriety. For instance, in the “Considering Tasks” (siwu 思务) chapter of his New Remarks, he elaborated: “From the emperor to the commoners, only if he can simulate the sagely way can he become a sage. As it says in the Changes, ‘This one keeps his Abundance in his house, where he screens off his family. When he peers out his door, it is lonely, and no one is there.’ Here ‘no one’ does not really refer to ‘no person’ but means that there is no sage to govern it.” Another example, in the “Discrimination of Doubts” (bianhuo 辨惑) chapter, he said: “As it indicates in the Changes, ‘For two people to share mind and heart, such sharpness severs metal,’11 if cliques unite together to down the emperor, how can the emperor be not shifted!” This shows that Lu Jia was drawing upon the line statements to elucidate his point of view that the emperor not only ought to appoint sagely talents but also ought to beware of petty men’s cliques which aim at interfering with politics. This effort of his also conforms to the spirit that “in speaking, we regard its phrases as the supreme guide”12 explicated in the Yizhuan 易传 (Commentaries on the Changes).

Conversant with the Changes, Jia Yi 贾谊 (200-168 BCE) was another famous Confucian scholar immediately succeeding Lu Jia. Though we are not familiar with the lineage of his learning, according to his citations from the Changes which reveal his stress on virtue and righteousness rather than divination, his Yi leaning belongs to authentic Confucian school. As he stated, “‘dragon’ is a term compared to the ruler of man [i.e., emperor]. Arrogant dragon (kanglong 亢龙) [referred to in the top line statement of hexagram Qian, the first hexagram in the received version of the Zhouyi] advances but does not know stopping and retreating, hence the saying of ‘having repentance’ in the Changes. ‘Repent’ means misfortune. The submerged dragon (qianlong 潜龙) [mentioned in the bottom line statement of hexagram Qian] dives but cannot come out, hence ‘not acting.’ ‘Not acting’ means ‘being not advisable to act.’ Only the flying dragon (feilong 飞龙) [mentioned in the fifth line statement of hexagram Qian] can represent the spirit of dragon, which can be thin with thin things, can be tremendous with tremendous things, can be high with high things, and can be low with low things. Thus I hold that dragon can change without fixed regularities, can be both latent and manifest. So, the supreme person (zhiren 至人) does not admire treasures when being humble, is neither frivolous nor unbridled when being in high position, does not have a fit of anger when being humiliated, and does not go adrift when facing bad customs. He will not become dizzy with success, nor be preposterous before his death. Being full of spirit, he can keep his countenance in emergency, be able to make a clear distinction between right and wrong, and examine what is fitting and appropriate. This is called an impressive and dignified manner.”13 He draws upon the line statements of hexagram Qian [, The Creative, 1] to explicate the impressive and dignified manner stressed by the sages. For another instance, he once said: “Those who present benevolence and love to others will receive benevolence and love and those who confer benefits to others will receive benefits. Is this the meaning of the remarks in the Changes that ‘A calling crane is in the shadows; its young answer it’?14 Thus we can say that if the Son of Heaven [i.e., emperor] follows the Dao (Way), the foreigners in the four directions will not dare to invade his country; if a feudal prince adheres to the Dao, the neighbors in the four directions will not dare to infringe upon his state.”15 This interpretation is in alignment with the approach and thought embodied by the sentence in the Xici 系辞 (Commentary on the Appended Phrases) that “The noble man might stay in his chambers, but if the words he speaks are about goodness, even those from more than a thousand li away will respond to him with approval …If he stays in his chambers and his words are not about goodness, then those from more than a thousand li away will go against him.”16

These instances demonstrate that the transmission of the Confucian Yi learning from the pre-Qin to the Han came down in a continuous line and was not affected by the Qin’s “burning of the books.” For the Zhouyi, there were only disputes between different family approaches [jiafa 家法] or between different schools [shifa 师法] rather than pure disputes over the issue of the ancient and the new texts.

II. The Lost Changes Obtained by the Woman in Henei [河内女子]
What the Qing (1616-1912) scholars called the debates over the Ancient and the New Texts was aroused by Liu Xin 刘歆 (c. 50 BCE-23 CE) in the last years of the Western Han dynasty. But this does not mean the Ancient Text classics did not appear until the late period of the dynasty. As a matter of fact, the emergence and transmission of the Ancient Text classics accompanied the whole Western Han. According to the related records, the emergence of the “Ancient Text” documents in the Western Han occurred about six times:

1) The Ancient Text Zuo zhuan 左传 (Zuo’s Commentary on the Springs and Autumns Annals) donated by Zhang Cang 张苍.17

2) The “ancient text” books collected by King Xian of Hejian (Hejian Xianwang 河间献王): Zhouguan 周官 [i.e., Zhou Rituals referred to by Liu Xin], Shangshu 尚书 (Book of History), Li 礼 (Rituals), Liji 礼记 (Records of Rites and Rituals), Mencius 孟子, Lao zi 老子, and so on.18

3) The ancient books from the walls of Confucius’s residence: Liji 礼记(Records of Rites and Rituals), Shangshu 尚书 (Book of History), Chunqiu 春秋 (Springs and Autumns Annals), Lunyu 论语 (Analects of Confucius), and Xiaojing 孝经 (Classic of Filial Piety).19

4) The Li gujing 礼古经 (Ancient Classic of Rituals).20

5) The Gu xiaojing 古孝经 (Ancient Classic of Filial Piety).21

6) The books obtained by the woman in Henei 河内: One chapter of the Changes, one chapter of the Li 礼 (Rituals), and one chapter of the Shangshu 尚书 (Book of History).22

It can be seen that in these discoveries of books with ancient text, only one chapter of the Changes emerged, and only one time. There has been considerable debate over which chapter this one refers to. The Eastern Han scholar Wang Chong 王充 (27-97) generally asserted that there was one lost chapter of the Changes, while until the Tang dynasty (618-907) when the scholars were writing the “Classical Documents” (Jingji zhi 经籍志) of the Suishu 隋书 (History of the Sui Dynasty) they claimed with certainty that the lost chapter included not only “Shuogua” (Discussion of the Trigrams) but also “Xugua” (Orderly Sequence of the Hexagrams) and “Zagua” (Hexagrams in Irregular Order). To these divergences, some scholars averred that the one chapter mentioned by the former and the three chapters referred to by the latter were the same thing. Guo Moruo 郭沫若 (1892-1978) contended that “The seemingly inconsistence of the ‘one chapter’ in Lunheng 论衡 and the ‘three chapters’ in the Suishu 隋书 actually demonstrates that ‘Shuogua,’‘Xugua,’ and ‘Zagua’ were originally combined into one group but later was divided into the three.”23 Aiming at this argument, Mr. Qu Wanli 屈万里 (1907-79), basing himself upon the Zhouyi inscribed on steles in the Tang dynasty (618-907), explained,

There was a title for each juan 卷 in the Stone Classics of the Tang, which was written in lishu 隶书 style and the characters of which were particularly large, while the classical texts were written in kaishu 楷书. The large-character title for the ninth juan 卷 (of the Zhouyi) is “Zhouyi Shuogua dijiu 周易说卦第九” (Discussion of the Trigrams, the Ninth [juan] of the Zhouyi) in which both Xugua and Zagua were included. Though there were titles of “Zhouyi Xugua dishi 周易序卦第十” (The Orderly Sequence of the Hexagrams, the Tenth [juan] of the Zhouyi) and “Zhouyi Zagua dishiyi 周易杂卦第十一” (Hexagrams in Irregular Order the Eleventh [juan] of the Zhouyi), they were written in kaishu 楷书 and the size of the characters was the same as that of the classical texts and without any double space before them. At first glance, it seems that the ninth juan 卷 was exclusively for the “Discussion of the Trigrams” (Shuogua 说卦) without other chapters, hence their saying that “Shuogua 说卦” also preceded the other two chapters. The lost chapter of the Changes had been mentioned by predecessors and was known in the juan 卷 of “Shuogua 说卦.” As the Tang scholars found the “Shuogua 说卦” included three chapters, they mistook all the three chapters for what the woman in Henei had obtained.24
Though Mr. Qu approved of the possibility that the three chapters were mistaken for one chapter, he did not agree with the Tang scholars’ view that the books related to the Changes obtained by the woman in Henei were the three chapters but avers that the one chapter referred to by the Han scholars was the chapter of “Hexagrams in Irregular Order” (Zagua 杂卦).25 Mr. Qu’s point of view might be reasonable, but his basing himself on the remarks in Yang Xiong’s 扬雄 (53 BCE-18 CE) Fayan 法言 (Imitation of the Analects of Confucius) that “The Changes lost one, even fools know this” (yi sun qi yi ye, sui chun zhi que yan《易》损其一也,虽蠢知阙焉) to conclude that Yang had explicitly declared that the Changes lost one chapter was really a misreading of this sentence. The original meaning of this sentence and the context are as follows: “Some one asked: ‘If the Changes loses one chapter, even fools can recognize it (yi sun qi yi ye, sui chun zhi que yan《易》损其一也,虽蠢知阙焉). Now the Shangshu (Book of History) lost over a half, but the transmitters and students do not know what had been lost. It is regrettable that though the preface to the Shangshu survived, it cannot be traced back as easily as the Changes, the entirety of which can be inferred by the order of the hexagrams.’ Yang replied: ‘This is because the Changes’ (eight trigrams and sixty-four hexagrams) have fixed numbers which allow examination whether something was lost or not; though the Shangshu has a preface (the preface only mentioned that some section belonged to some chapter of some book, there was no regularity at all), even Confucius could not be able to restore it.”26 Therefore, in the remarks in Yang’s book “(if) the Changes loses one (chapter)” (yi sun qi yi ye《易》损其一也) was an assumption, which has nothing to do with Wang Chong’s view.

It is noteworthy that, for the lost chapter of the Changes, ancient scholars did not explicitly point out whether it was written in Ancient characters or in New characters. From 202 BCE, when the Western Han was founded, to 74 BCE when Emperor Xuan started his reign, 128 years had passed. Ordinary houses of peasants could not endure so long a time. That is to say, these “ancient” books discovered by the woman in Henei were most probably written in the New characters prevailing in the Western Han.

III. Identifying Fei Zhi’s Changes as Ancient Text was a misreading of the “Arts and Literature Treatise” in Hanshu.
When mentioning Fei Zhi’s 费直 Changes, most contemporary schools still follow the point of view that its text was written in pre-Qin ancient characters, i.e., it was attributed to Ancient Text Changes different from the then officially established Shi Chou’s 施雠, Meng Xi’s 孟喜, and Liangqiu He’s 梁丘贺 New Text version of Changes. According to the extant documents, this assertion first originated from the “Biographies of the Confucians” (Rulin zhuan 儒林传) of the Houhanshu 后汉书 (History of the Eastern Han Dynasty): “In addition, Fei Zhi 费直 from Donglai 东莱 who was then transmitting the Changes, passed it on to Wang Heng 王横 from Langya 琅邪. His tradition was called Fei’s learning, which was originally written in ancient characters and thus was named ancient text Changes.”27 Subsequently, “Classical Documents Treatise” (Jingji zhi 经籍志) of the Suishu 隋书 (History of the Sui Dynasty) and the “Contents and Lineage of Confucianism” (Xulu 序录) of Jingdian shiwen 经典释文 (Explanation of the Texts of the Classics) followed this view.28 For the identification of Fei’s Changes as Ancient Text in this chapter, “Biographies of the Confucians,” where mistakes frequently appeared, Mr. Wang Guowei 王国维 (1877-1927) doubted its credibility: “But this kind of assertion was not in the Hanshu 汉书 (History of the Western Han Dynasty). Wouldn’t it rather be a strained interpretation made by later scholars from the records, to say that when Liu Xiang 刘向 (c. 77-6 BCE) was checking the books he found Fei’s text was in alignment with ancient text?”29 Mr. Shang Binghe 尚秉和 (1870-1950) also argues against the view that Fei’s Changes was written in ancient characters: “When Liu Xiang 刘向 was checking the three official orthodoxies of the Changes with the Guowen yi 古文易 (Ancient Text Changes) from the imperial secret library, he found the three texts might have omitted ‘no blame’ (wujiu 无咎) and/or ‘regret vanishes’ (huiwang 悔亡) and only Fei’s text was the same as the ancient text’s statements. Here ‘same’ means that the number of characters in Fei’s text was the same as that of the ancient text, without any missing. When he was checking the Book of History, he also only paid attention to the missed characters. Can we say all its characters were ancient characters? If the characters of Fei’s Changes were all ancient ones, as we know that all the three Eastern Han scholars Ma Rong, Xun Shuang, and Zheng Xuan learned Fei’s Changes, why were their pronunciations not completely the same and why did they not all use ancient characters?”30 Wang and Shang’s suspicions are well-founded. In the Hanshu, there were two places mentioning Fei Zhi and his Yi learning. It says in the “Arts and Literature Treatise” (Yiwen zhi 艺文志):
Until the Qin dynasty when the books were burnt, as the Changes was related to divination, (it survived the burning) and was transmitted without break. When the Han dynasty began to arise, Tian He transmitted it. Until the reign of emperors Xuan (r. 74-49 BCE) and Yuan (r. 48-33 BCE), Shi’s 施(雠), Meng’s 孟(喜), Liangqiu’s 梁丘(贺), and Jing’s 京(房) Changes were established as the imperial orthodoxies while amongst the people, Fei’s 费(直) and Gao’s 高(相) Changes were transmitted. When Liu Xiang was checking Shi’s, Meng’s, and Liangqiu’s texts with the ancient text Changes hidden in the imperial secret library, he found their texts missed “no blame” (wujiu 无咎) and/or “regret vanishes” (huiwang 悔亡) here and there.
It is remarked in the “Biographies of the Confucians” (Rulinzhuan 儒林传):
Fei Zhi’s courtesy name (zi 字) was Changweng 长翁. He came from Donglai, devoted himself to the Changes and later became an imperial attendant (lang 郎) and county magistrate of Shanfu 单父. He was conversant with milfoil divination and his Changes had no extensive sentence-by-sentence explanations [i.e., zhangju 章句] but interpreted the two parts of the basic texts by the words of the ten chapters of Tuan 彖, Xiang 象, Xici 系辞, and so on. Wang Huang 王璜, who came from Langya, could transmit it. Huang also passed on the Ancient Text Shangshu (古文尚书).
Neither of the two places asserted Fei’s Changes were written in ancient characters. Some scholars are even suspicious of the saying that Liu Xiang checked Shi’s, Meng’s, and Liangqiu’s texts and held that there was not any pre-Qin ancient text Yijing in the “imperial secret library” (zhongmi 中秘) at all. There are two reasons which can attest to this point of view: 1) Liu Xin 刘歆 (c. 50 BCE-23 CE) had said when reproaching the Erudites that the “imperial secret library” concealed “thirty-nine chapters of Yili 逸礼 (Lost Rituals), sixteen chapters of Shu 书 (the Book of History), and Chunqiu zuoshi 春秋左氏 composed by Zuo Qiuming 左丘明. All these materials were old books in ancient characters, which had been hidden in the imperial secret mansions and had not been exposed.” It was not until the reign of Emperor Cheng 成帝 (32-7 BCE), when Liu Xiang 刘向 (c. 77-6 BCE) was commissioned to lead scholars to check the “imperial secret library,” that “these three kinds of documents were exposed, based on which the officially transmitted (New Text) Classics were checked whereupon it was found that there were missed characters or wrong compilations in them.” Liu Xin clearly pointed out that there was no Yijing in the ancient texts used to check the official texts, much different from Ban Gu’s 班固 (32-92) records in the Hanshu. 2) The bibliography of the books collected in the “imperial secret library” was illustrated in the Qilüe 七略 (Seven Categories) compiled by Liu Xin. Though the Qilüe is no longer extant, the “Arts and Literature Treatise” (Yiwenzhi 艺文志) in Hanshu, a re-composition based on the Qilüe, still exists. For the variety of the books in each category of the Qilüe, if there were ancient text books, the category would first list the names of these books, and the list of names of the new text books would be put afterwards. But in the list of book names of the Changes, there were only new text books: “There were twelve chapters in the Classic of Changes, which has three versions of Shi’s 施, Meng’s 孟, and Liangqiu’s 梁丘—there was not any ancient text of the Yijing at all!31 It suffices to show that there was no ancient text of the Yijing collected in the “imperial secret library.” The saying that Liu Xiang checked the texts of the variety of classics with the ancient texts hidden in the imperial secret library was a sheer fiction!32

The unearthed documents in the past several decades revealed that the circumstances of the transmission of ancient books were much complex than the cases recorded by official histories. For instance, neither the Mawangdui 马王堆 silk manuscript version of the Zhouyi nor the Fuyang 阜阳 bamboo slips manuscript version of the Zhouyi conform to the format of the Zhouyi recorded in official histories. Though we dare not immediately conclude that there was no ancient text version of Zhouyi in the imperial secret library, two reasons for doubt merit our serious consideration.

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