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Yijing and Chinese Politics, The

Classical Commentary and Literati Activism in the Northern Song Period, 960-1127

Tze-ki Hon

Publication Year: 2005

This book is the first comprehensive study of Yijing (Book of Changes) commentary during the Northern Song period, showing how it reflects a coming to terms with major political and social changes. Seen as a transitional period in China’s history, the Northern Song (960–1127) is often described as the midpoint in the Tang-Song transition or as the beginning of Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism. Challenging this traditional view, Tze-ki Hon demonstrates the complexity of the Northern Song by breaking it into three periods characterized by, alternately, the reestablishment of civil governance, large-scale reforms, and a descent into factional rivalry. To illustrate the distinct characteristics of these three periods, Hon compares commentaries by Hu Yuan, Zhang Zai, and Cheng Yi with five other Yijing commentaries, highlighting the broad parameters, as well as the specific content, of an extremely important world of discourse—the debate on literati activism. These differing views on the literati’s role in civil governance prove how lively, diverse, and intense Northern Song intellectual life was, while also reminding us how important it is to understand the history of the period on its own terms.

Published by: State University of New York Press

The Yijing and Chinese Politics

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pp. i-v


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pp. vii

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pp. ix-xi

Like a traveler who returns home after a long journey abroad, I have mixed feelings of awe, joy, and humility when looking back on what it has taken me to write this book. The book began a decade ago as a doctoral dissertation and reached its present form through various incarnations—conference papers, journal articles, book chapters, encyclopedia entries, and manuscript drafts. Along the way many teachers, colleagues, friends, and relatives have given me support and encouragement. Without them, the book would not have been written.

Chronology of Northern Song Emperors

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pp. xiii

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pp. 1-14

This book is about how the educated elite of the Northern Song (960–1127) came to terms with major political and social changes through commenting upon the Yijing (Book of Changes). By relating classical commentary with history, this book attempts to link two different fields of study in premodern China: the study of the Yijing and the study of the Northern Song. Although the relationship between the two fields has long been recognized, little effort has been made to render the relationship explicit.

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1. The Northern Song Historical Context

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pp. 15-27

In the study of Song China (960–1279), experts in the field tend to see the period as part of a long process of change dating back to the Tang Dynasty (617–907). This six hundred years of change, or the Tang-Song transition, is believed to have drastically altered the political, social, and cultural structure of medieval China, thereby laying the foundation for the following centuries until the end of the monarchical system in 1911.1

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2. The Northern Song Yijing Text

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pp. 28-48

The Yijing that a Northern Song person read was not the same as the one canonized in 135 B.C.E. Certainly the Northern Song person still read the sixty-four hexagrams, the hexagram statements, the line statements, and the Ten Wings—all the parts that formed the Yijing in the Western Han. However, he no longer read them independently. Instead, he read them based on the commentaries written from the ...

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3. Mission of Civil Bureaucrats: The Yijing of Hu Yuan, Li Gou, and Ouyang Xiu

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pp. 49-76

For many of his biographers, Hu Yuan was a forerunner of the Cheng-Zhu school of Daoxue, worthy to be called a “master of the early Northern Song.”1 He is best known for being Cheng Yi’s teacher at the Imperial Academy in Kaifeng, showing his brilliant student how to pursue true Confucian learning.2 Also, he is described as a man of action, who made significant contributions in reforming the school ...

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4. Inner Roots of Ordering the World: The Yijing of Zhang Zai, Sima Guang, and Shao Yong

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pp. 77-109

The civil governance of Hu Yuan’s times stood on two pillars. One pillar was a policy that kept the military establishment at bay by constantly rotating military generals, and having the best armies stationed in the capital, Kaifeng, under the direct control of the emperor. 1 Another pillar was the aggressive recruitment of civil officials into the government through expanding the civil service examinations ...

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5. Coming to Terms with Factional Politics: The Yijing of Cheng Yi and Su Shi

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pp. 110-140

In 1076, a year before Zhang Zai’s death, Wang Anshi stepped down as the Grand Councilor of the Council of State. He left the capital Kaifeng for good to spend his retirement in Nanjing. Although he was out of power, his influence in the government remained strong. His supporters continued to carry out his reforms over the next nine years until the death of Emperor Shenzong in 1085. For seventeen years after ...

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pp. 141-150

Shortly after the Song imperial court was relocated to Hangzhou in 1138, efforts were made to compile, edit, and categorize the Northern Song Yijing commentaries. Among the first to do so was Chao Gongwu (ca. 1102–1187), who offered thoughtful and comprehensive comments on the Northern Song commentaries.1 Especially valuable are his notes on the commentaries of Shi Jie and Wang Anshi because ...

APPENDIX I: Names and Images of the Eight Trigrams

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pp. 151

APPENDIX 2: Names and Images of the Sixty-four Hexagrams

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pp. 153-155


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pp. 157-190

Glossary of Chinese Terms and Names

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pp. 191-195


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pp. 197-211


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pp. 213-217

E-ISBN-13: 9780791484005
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791463116
Print-ISBN-10: 0791463117

Page Count: 231
Publication Year: 2005