Johns Hopkins University Press
  • The Soul in Eighteenth-Century China:Depei's Confucian Christianity*

Every society, wrote the French sinologist Jacques Gernet in 1985, is "founded upon a body of traditions accepted by all its members," who naturalize and internalize those traditions so that they become "an inherent part of social behavior, ways of thinking and feeling, and even languages." Different languages thus "express, through different logics, different visions of the world and of man." Such a fundamental epistemological divide existed between the cultural worlds of early modern Europe and China, Gernet argued, and nowhere was this more evident and more frustrating than in Jesuit attempts to convey to Chinese central elements of Christian doctrine.1

In the decades since Gernet wrote, however, theoretical and historiographic interest in notions such as "indigenization" and "hybridity" has tended to challenge his assumptions. Studies of religious interaction, like those of literature, medicine, and other areas of human life, have, as Eugenio Menegon puts it, tended "to soften the prevailing attitude of cultural dichotimization between China and the West as two essentialized and incompatible entities."2 [End Page 39]

In this article we will examine one Qing individual who exemplified these processes of indigenization and hybridization, in his writing about one particular notion that Gernet saw as epitomizing the incompatibility of Christianity and China: "the idea of a rational [and eternal] soul contrasting with the body and the senses."3 Our protagonist, I argue, did successfully appropriate the Christian notion of the human soul, and moreover inserted it quite comfortably into the familiar discourse of Neo-Confucian thought.

The Christian Prince

The individual in question is a prominent Manchu official of the early Qianlong reign named Depei (1688–1752). Between 1735 and his retirement in 1748, Depei served in a variety of military and civil posts, including as governor of Gansu; as governor-general successively of Huguang, Liang-Jiang, and Min-Zhe (for a time concurrently governor of Zhejiang); and as president of the Board of Civil Office.4 He was known as an able administrator, active in the areas of flood relief, granary building, land development, reforestation, and construction of hydraulic works. The model "statecraft" (jingshi) official Chen Hongmou (1696–1771) worked closely with him to combat regional dearth in 1742–43, when Depei was Liang-Jiang governor-general and Chen was Jiangxi governor, and Depei's earlier famine management in Gansu was praised by no less eminent an official than Fang Bao (1668–1749).5

Depei was also widely admired for his generosity, his upright conduct, and his Confucian scholarship—prior to his official service he had spent thirty years in Beijing's Western Hills immersed in the classics, most notably the Book of Changes (Yijing), on which he was an acknowledged expert. Portions of two of Depei's works on the Changes were included in Sheng-yu's 1902 anthology of prose writings by bannermen (Baqi wenjing), and a Western acquaintance sent a copy of one of Depei's [End Page 40] Changes commentaries to the noted sinologist Theophilus Siegfried Bayer (1694–1738) at St. Petersburg.6 The eminent official Gan Rulai (1684–1739) and the notable bannerman Li Kai (1686–1746) each contributed prefaces to Depei's works, and the poet Yuan Mei (1716–98) wrote about him admiringly and at some length.7 Yuan described Depei's demeanor as follows:

His complexion was ruddy and he had no beard or mustache. His chin jutted out sharp as an arrow, and he had all the air of a rigid philosopher. … His own conversation turned exclusively upon Goodness and Right, as taught by the Duke of Zhou and Confucius. When he heard good of anyone he always believed it; when he heard evil, he doubted. He was affable in manner toward all his officials; but if he found that any of them understood the Classics or showed a special talent for administration he became most affectionate and treated them more like disciples than subordinates.8

Depei, then, seems to have been an exemplary mid-Qing official and, as a scholar, something of a seeker after truth. But he was extraordinary in two other ways. For one, he was not only a Manchu but also a prince of the blood. He was a direct descendent of Šurhaci (1564–1611), brother of the Qing founder Nurhaci (1559–1626), and was great-great-grandnephew of Jirgalang (1599–1655), one-time regent for the Kangxi emperor. In 1729 Depei stood in line to inherit the family title, Prince Zheng, but declined to do so in order to concentrate fully on his studies. Nevertheless, according to Yuan Mei, as a field administrator in deference to his nobility Depei was routinely waited upon by palace eunuchs. With his retirement from official service in 1748 he was awarded the title "Prince Jian," and when he died four years later his title was posthumously augmented to "Prince Jianyi of the First Rank."

The second extraordinary fact about Depei is that he was apparently a Christian convert. I say "apparently" because the fact of Depei's Christianity is not beyond question. Nowhere in his own writings that [End Page 41] I have seen does he explicitly mention his Christian faith, nor "Western learning" (xixue) of any kind, nor indeed "the West" (xiyang) at all. Further, it seems that nowhere in Qing-era Chinese-language sources is reference made to Depei as a Christian, nor is this mentioned in his biography in Zhao Erxun's 1923 Draft History of the Qing (Qingshi gao). Yet the usually authoritative Fang Chao-ying, in his biography of Depei in the 1943 Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period, is comfortable stating "unequivocally" that Depei was baptized in Beijing "about the year 1718" by the Bavarian Jesuit Father Ignaz Kögler (1680–1746), and took the Christian name "Joseph." Kögler was a highly respected mathematician and astronomer who had arrived in Beijing in 1717, eventually to be appointed Director of the Imperial Board of Astronomy. Kögler's biographer, the American Jesuit historian John Witek, like Fang accepts without question the fact of Depei's conversion.9

The actual source of scholarly consensus that Depei was a Christian convert seems to be a single, relatively obscure 1932 article by the Furen University historian of Chinese Christianity Chen Yuan.10 Chen essentially adduced three reasons for his confidence in Depei's conversion: (1) scattered indirect references in Western missionary accounts, (2) Depei's association with the family of another Manchu noble, Sunu (1648–1725), at least six of whose many offspring were acknowledged converts, and (3) Christian influences revealed in Chen's analysis of Depei's own writings. Let us look briefly at the first two of these, setting aside the third, which is this article's principal subject.

Sunu was the great-great-grandson of the Qing founder, Nurhaci, but as an adult was in and out (mostly out) of imperial favor. For his part in support of Yinsi during the succession struggle of 1722, he and most of his family were banished to Shanxi. It is unclear whether or not Sunu himself converted to Christianity, but his third son Surgiyen was baptized in 1721, and his twelfth son Urcen, Christian name also "Joseph," was executed in 1727 for a combination of offenses, including his Christian [End Page 42] beliefs. In his condemnation of Urcen the Yongzheng emperor wrote: "China (Zhongguo) has Chinese religions; the West (xiyang) has Western religions. Western religions should not be propagated in China, just as Chinese religions should not be propagated in the West. Thus Sunu's son Urcen has flagrantly violated the law, denied imperial precedent, and offended the court. He should be punished without mercy."11 Urcen's execution was part of a broader attack by the emperor against Christianity that began shortly upon his accession in 1723 and continued throughout his reign. In a 1727 edict Yongzheng differentiated between Confucianism, which preached harmony and compatibility and thus was the "true teaching" for the Qing Empire, and sectarian religions such as Christianity and Buddhism, which were divisive and thus inappropriate. Yongzheng therefore banned foreign missionaries from all parts of the empire other than Guangzhou, plus the few in direct imperial employ at Beijing.12 This proscription continued under the reign of his successor Qianlong, who in 1738 specifically prohibited members of the Eight Banners from Christian conversion. Chen Yuan argues persuasively that Depei fraternized with Urcen and others of Sunu's sons, but the fact that none of the latter are said to have converted until at least 1721, whereas the prince himself is alleged to have converted in 1718, makes the use of the former as evidence for the latter somewhat dubious. If Depei was indeed a Christian, he may have inclined Sunu's sons in this direction, rather than the other way around.

More convincing proof of his conversion, to my eye, is the help a "secret Christian" provincial official is claimed to have given to Jesuits continuing to preach under the imperial ban. One such was the Viennese Gottfried von Laimbeckhoven (1701–82), who arrived in Wuhan under Depei's tenure as Huguang governor-general in 1738, and conducted his ministry among farmers and fishermen with, he wrote, clandestine official patronage.13 Laimbeckhoven discreetly avoids mention of Depei by name, but another Jesuit, the Spaniard Eusebio Oscot (1694–1743), comes close. Conducting well-attended masses in Fujian during Depei's tenure as Min-Zhe [End Page 43] governor-general, Oscot wrote home in January 1741 that "under the shadow of this prince José we can preach the gospel with a little bit more freedom."14 Other missionaries, including the Jesuit astronomer Antoine Gaubil (1689–1759) and the Dominican Pedro Sanz (1680–1747), also mentioned Depei as a Christian in their correspondence.15 Not exactly a smoking gun, perhaps, but in conjunction with all the other evidence good enough for me.16

Despite the secrecy of his Christian faith, Depei clearly yearned to propagate his ontological and ethical views. He did so through expression of these views in terms and concepts familiar from the world of Confucian and Neo-Confucian thought. There is no reason to believe that he was at all hypocritical about this—his adherence to the Confucian classical canon and its moral message was evidently quite genuine. But he expressed his Christianity by a process of selective appropriation of Confucian concepts and language. And he did so, it must be stressed, primarily for benefit of an audience not in on the joke—unaware that what they were hearing or reading was the message of a Christian convert.

Depei is credited with the authorship of four texts. Two of these (Yi tujie and Zhou Yi buzhu) are commentaries on the Book of Changes.17 Although, as we shall see, Depei's thought never strayed too far from his beloved Changes, it is not in these works so much as in the other two that Depei arguably encodes his Christian beliefs.

One of these other two texts, Records of Learning by Discussion at Aofeng Academy (Aofeng shuyuan jiangxue lu), printed in 1741 during Depei's service in Fujian, records a series of lectures he delivered at the Aofeng Academy, the province's preeminent center of learning, a node of statecraft (jingshi) scholarship, and the spawning ground for generations of activist field officials.18 Depei was evidently a spellbinding lecturer, a fact that Yuan Mei celebrated in his poem, "Liang-Jiang Governor-General Depei": [End Page 44]

Lecturers are mostly commonplace Confucians;But in him one feels at once the touch of distinction.And if one asks, why is he so different?—One truth drives out a hundred shams.19

The genre of "jiangxue" or "learning by discussion" was a mode of scholarly practice that became prominent in the vibrant intellectual culture of the late Ming, with the lecturer posing a question and working collectively with the audience to puzzle out a solution.20 Chen Yuan identifies the particular variety of this genre employed by Depei in his Aofeng lectures as "piwang" (exposing falsehoods), after the work of that name attributed to the Shanghai polymath and Christian convert Xu Guangqi (1562–1633, Christian name "Paul"). Chen points to this borrowing as further evidence of Depei's conversion.21

The prince's fourth work is entitled A Record of Practice (Shijian lu). It is a short book-length treatise of some 8,000 characters, published in 1736 during his military service as Zhili commander-in-chief.22 "Practice" (shijian) was a notion with considerable intellectual cachet during this time, espoused as part of the anti-dualist thought of Zhili scholars such as Yan Yuan (1635–1704) and Li Gong (1659–1733), as well as by more empirical advocates of "practical studies" (shixue) and statecraft throughout the empire. Depei clearly does not use the term "shijian" with any technical specificity, but his range of scholar-official contacts as well as his own administrative priorities suggests that his sympathies were with the shixue movement, and this very likely prompted his choice of title.23

In his preface to A Record of Practice, Depei writes: "There is a proper sequence to scholarship. As a youth, I studied the Confucian canon, but [End Page 45] didn't know how to begin thinking it through. Then I happened upon the passage from the Mencius that discusses the 'dati' [greater substance] and the 'xiaoti' [lesser substance], and this was precisely the point of entry that I needed. I have been reflecting on this passage for some thirty years, and feel it has been greatly beneficial to my own personal development. I now dare to share my reflections on it with others, in the hope that it will be of benefit to all." Thus Depei conceived of A Record of Practice and, in Chen Yuan's view, the Aofeng Academy lectures as extended commentaries on this passage, though they range far afield from their text. The passage from the Mencius discusses two complementary aspects of the human being. The dati, in Depei's explication, is "granted by Heaven" while the xiaoti is "inherited from one's parents"; the dati is "immortal" while the xiaoti is "extinguished at death." The question is: Is this a dualist distinction between soul and body, and is Depei using this classical Confucian language to explain to his audience of non-initiates the Christian doctrine of the human soul?24

Translating "Soul"

According to Chinese classical tradition, expressed for example in the Zuo Commentary (Zuo zhuan), living human beings have within them two spiritual elements which might be translated as "soul." First, there is the hun, described as the "heavenly aspect of the soul… the spirit of man's vital force, expressed in man's intelligence and functions of breathing"; second there is the po, the "earthly aspect of the soul… the spirit of man's physical nature, which is expressed in bodily movements."25 In the late sixteenth century, the Jesuit missionary Matteo Ricci (1552–1610) expressed agreement with this distinction, noting that the po or "baser spirit" dissipated after death, whereas the hun did not; he therefore accepted the latter term as an adequate translation for the Christian [End Page 46] notion of the soul.26 Ricci, however, following Thomas Aquinas (1225–74) and orthodox Catholic doctrine, went further to distinguish three types of soul, all of which he was happy to translate as "hun." These are the "vegetative soul" (sheng hun), possessed by all living things and the defining feature of life, the "sentient soul" (jue hun), which allows sensory perception to men and animals but not to plants, and the "intellectual soul" (ling hun), possessed uniquely by humans and allowing them alone the powers of rational and moral decision making.27

In his treatise, Depei employs a variety of words that, from context, seem translatable as "soul." He occasionally speaks of "hun," which he describes as the odorless and soundless "numinous power of human nature" (wei xing zhi ling); in his Aofeng lectures, however, he makes clear that hun, in his view, is a Buddhist term and thereby tainted.28 At other times he uses "xing," but usually in quotations from other works such as the Classic of Filial Piety (Xiaojing) or canonical authors such as Sima Guang (1019–86).29 As Gernet points out, however, "xing," frequently rendered "human nature," had so many diverse resonances in the Confucian tradition that Jesuits ultimately abandoned it as a precise equivalent for "soul."30 Depei also uses "ling" as a single character to convey what seems to be a soul-like quality, but most probably his reference is less to an entity than to an attribute, "numinous power."31

But both xing and ling seem to appear in Depei's writing most often as shorthand forms for his most common equivalent for "soul"—that is, "lingxing." This is a term that does not appear in Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary. It is granted a very brief one-line entry in Morohashi's exhaustive Dai Kan-Wa jiten—defined as "natural intelligence" (tenpu no sōmei)—with none of that work's customary citations of historical usages. Ricci's True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven employs the word, by my count, precisely once, in a usage that his English translators render "spiritual nature." Lingxing is, in other words, a rather [End Page 47] rare term in the late imperial Chinese lexicon.32 Indeed, it might be said that it is Depei's original coinage, and also that his Record of Practice is essentially a treatise on the meaning and implications of this concept.33

Depei's lingxing is beyond any sensory perception, but alone possesses the intelligence to comprehend such fundamental transformations as life and death. It is the controlling agency (zhuzai) for both the human mind and body. A gift of Heaven, it has within itself the power of achieving perfect goodness (zhishan).34

The singular intellectual move of the Record of Practice is to identify this lingxing or "soul" with the dati discussed in the Mencius, the encounter with which had such a formative influence on the young Depei's intellectual development. He argues this connection explicitly: "What is this 'lingxing'? It is the dati bequeathed by Heaven to us humans."35 To underscore the identity of these concepts, Depei routinely links the two terms in a single nominal phrase: "lingxing dati" or (less [End Page 48] frequently) "dati lingxing." Sometimes he pointedly counterposes "lingxing dati" (the greater substance of the lingxing) with its conceptual opposite "quke xiaoti" (the lesser substance of the corporeal body).36 Depei intermingles his own discussion of these entities with direct quotes from Mencius, so as to merge the messages of classical text and commentary, encouraging the reader to see the two as compatible or even identical.37 Only on reflection does one notice that the Mencius itself never identifies the "dati" with a soul, or spirit, or indeed any physical or metaphysical thing. It is instead an abstract principle. Legge translates it simply as "the part of [a human being] which is great."38 With only a little liberty one might read it as "one's better nature," or, more boldly, "conscience."

The linkage of "dati" with a soul or spirit was not completely original to Depei. A casual association between the two had been suggested several decades before publication of his A Record of Practice, by the Hangzhou Christian convert Zhang Xingyao (1633–1715), in his treatise Examination of the Similarities and Differences Between Christianity and Confucianism (Tianzhujiao rujiao tongyi kao), prefaces dated 1702, 1705, and 1715.39 I have seen no evidence that the two men ever met, but they may have had mutual acquaintances within the Christian community of Beijing, and it is quite probable that Depei encountered Zhang's treatise in a capital library. The extended identification of the Mencian "dati" with his own effective coinage "lingxing," however, was Depei's unique contribution.40

Soul and Body

What are the qualities of Depei's lingxing dati? First, the human soul is fundamentally different from those of other living things. It allows not only life and perception, but also rational thought and moral judgment. This notion, appropriated from Aristotle's De Anima (On the Soul) was [End Page 49] a central insistence of Christian theology, any debate on the issue having been settled by Aquinas.41 Matteo Ricci unequivocally endorsed this point for his Chinese readership.42 For his part, Depei argues that, while all living creatures have a xiaoti, human beings alone have a lingxing. Once the lingxing departs the body, humans are no different from brute beasts (wanran zhi wu). Unlike the souls of other living things, those of humans are "souls of perfect goodness" (zhishan zhi lingxing).43 He quotes from Mencius, "That whereby man differs from the lower animals is but small," then adds that the difference in humans is the presence of a lingxing.44

As we have noted, for Depei the human soul is immortal. Whereas the body after death "reaches its term and expires," the soul is "permanent and not extinguished" (zhonggu bumie). In this he echoes Ricci, who had argued that the body "disintegrates and returns to earth" (huasan guitu), while the soul is "eternal and indestructible" (yongcun bumie).45 But what happens to the soul after the death of the body? Depei seems not to believe in a spatial Heaven that would serve as the soul's final resting place. Nor does he dwell on the possibility of the soul becoming either a "spirit" (shen) or a "ghost" (gui)—notions that Ricci identified as inherent in the Chinese scholarly tradition. The prince is adamant, however, in refuting Buddhist beliefs on this topic. In his Aofeng Academy lectures, he ridicules the very ideas of transmigration (lunhui) and reincarnation (tuosheng). Buddhists claim that if a person is violent in life, he will be reborn as a man-eating tiger, and if debauched in this life reborn as a woman. Depei rejected this claim as a "hellish view of the world" and an argument that was "illogical in the extreme."

We all know, Depei says, that a person is formed as an embryo out of the essences of his father and mother. Buddhists argue that birth must await the availability of a soul (hun) from a previous life, and so a death elsewhere is necessary in order for a birth to occur here. However, since we know that fetuses begin to emit cries while still in the mother's womb, a month or two prior to birth, does this suggest that half a soul has entered the new embryo, while the other half remains somewhere [End Page 50] else? "Impossible!" Depei writes. Moreover, if a soul is only considered to have transmigrated once it has fully entered a new embryo, there must be a strict one-for-one accountability of souls. How then do we account for the fact of population growth, he asks. And if, as some Buddhists would have it, souls of paternal ancestors are reincarnated in their male descendants, this would contradict all (Confucian) notions of seniority and orderly precedence. How can this be a religious teaching? In Depei's view, it simply defied belief (bu kexin zhe).46

A recurring theme in the A Record of Practice is the relationship between the soul/lingxing and yin/yang theory. The latter was a set of beliefs dating at least to the first millennium B.C.E., referenced in both classical Daoism and Confucianism, and most fully articulated in the late-Zhou Book of Changes. Depei, as we have seen a recognized expert on the Changes, was a committed believer in the reality and the explanatory power of yin and yang. He was also, however, a devotee of Western science (though he did not identify this as specifically Western), and sought in his writings to reconcile these two systems of thought. This appears most clearly in the "Appendix" (fulu) he added to A Record of Practice, which reads as an elementary scientific treatise. For example, the sun heats up warm, moist air, which rises until it comes in contact with colder air, to form rain, and then return to earth. Thus it is usually warm and moist before the rain. Thus also the south, which is warmer and moister than the north, also sees more rain. This, Depei explains, demonstrates the interplay of yin (cold) and yang (warm).47 So too with human beings. If a man is inwardly fearful and distressed, he will externally appear chilled and worried. If he feels shame or disgrace, he will appear flushed. This correspondence of internal and external is the operation of yin and yang.48 But unlike inanimate objects, and in most cases lower animals as well, man is not the prisoner of yin and yang, but [End Page 51] to a large extent can control or influence them. When he is hungry, he eats; when he is thirsty, he drinks. When cold, he can build a fire; when hot, he can use a fan. Thus he can change hot into cool and cold into warm. Such is his mastery (ling) over yin and yang.49

The lingxing is prior to and superior to yin and yang. It is unknowable (bu neng zhi) by yin and yang, but knows them. The latter, that is, comprise the material world, whereas the soul exists above and prior to the material world. All that exists within the boundaries of the world of things cannot know what is beyond these boundaries. Depei likened it to a man confined within a room: how can he know what transpires outside of it? In order to understand the moon and stars, the time of the season, the wind and rain, he must first leave the room. Since the human body is the creation of yin and yang, it is constrained by these forces, which have the ability to either benefit or injure it. Through the eyes, ears, nose, and mouth, one can see, hear, smell, and taste. But an especially bright sun can blind one, a clap of thunder deafen one, and so on. The basic appetites, as well, can either aid or injure one. It is the same with health and illness. The five viscera (heart, lungs, liver, kidneys, and stomach) function well or poorly, and the hundred bones are arranged in place or not, as yin and yang determine. With the soul (dati), however, it is different: yin and yang cannot either enable or impede it.50

The power of the dati lingxing is not like that of the body, which increases or lessens according to the influence of yin and yang. From infancy to young adulthood the power of the body gradually increases, then from maturity to senility it declines. In contrast, the learning of the dati accumulates over the years, so that when the xiaoti is declining it is just reaching its full powers. This is further proof that it is above the plane of yin and yang.51

Depei quotes from the Book of Changes: "Looking up, we observe the pattern of the heavens; looking down, we inspect the pattern of the earth. From this we know the logic of dark and light (youming), and their beginnings and their end. From this, further, we understand [End Page 52] the occurrence of death and life"52 On this passage Depei comments: "Looking up at the pattern of the heavens is light and yang; looking down at the pattern of the earth is dark and yin. … Whatever is subject to yin and yang, if it is born must also die. … Sages sought an understanding of death, and so traced it back to the beginning and projected it to the end, thus comprehending that all living things must die. But ghosts (gui) and spirits (shen) have no sound or odor, cannot be seen or heard, so they exist above the plane of yin and yang. Likewise, the soul is the numinous power of human nature (wei xing zhi ling). It also has no sound or odor, and cannot be seen or heard. It also exists above the plane of yin and yang. In this it is comparable to ghosts and spirits. The corporeal body of human beings is animated by yin and yang, and thus experiences sensations and is able to move. In this it is no different from birds and beasts. But the human soul (lingxing zhi hun) has the intelligence to understand the meanings of life and death. A human being is the combination of a corporeal body and a soul." Without the soul, Depei concludes, it would not be different from any other creature.53

The relationship of soul and body was a continuingly perplexing problem in the history of scholastic theology in the West—for example, was the soul of the same basic substance as the body and, if not, how could this dualism be explained?54 While not especially interested in the problem of dualism, Depei also was concerned with how the soul and the body were related. The body, as we have seen, was subject to and animated by yin and yang, while the soul was not. The body, or xiaoti, was the source of all appetites and baser instincts, which even the most moral of men experience. He insists as well that an individual's relative intelligence is a function not of the lingxing, but of the body. It is analogous to a lantern encased in a gauze netting: the lantern of the soul shines brightly, but its brightness is differentially obscured by the thickness of the gauze, or body.55 But just where within the body is the soul located? Some authorities, Depei tells us, suggest the liver (gan), and others the stomach or spleen (pi). But for him there is no question that the [End Page 53] portal of the soul (lingxing zhi guan), and its palace (lingxing zhi gong), is the mind (xin).56

Depei describes the mind as "the controlling power of the entire person" (yishen zhi zhuzai). As the node to which all the sense organs report, it is the locus of perception. It is the seat of memory, and thus also of dreams (Depei observes that dreams are based almost solely on memories: northerners rarely dream of boats, and southerners rarely of oxcarts, because they seldom encounter these in waking life, and thus have few memories of them.).57 The mind is capable of investigating things (gewu), verifying impressions, formulating ideas, exercising discrimination, and making rational choices.58 Jacques Gernet writes that it was the dual role of the Chinese xin as generator of both thought and feelings that so confounded Western missionaries, who viewed these functions as separate properties of the mind and heart; Depei, however, is not troubled by this, and tends to restrict his discussion of xin to its intellectual functions, ascribing appetites and emotions, as we have seen, to the body or xiaoti.59

Depei's Cosmology

In his Explication of the Diagrams in the Book of Changes (Yi tujie) Depei reproduces, with commentary, the series of charts in the Changes that posit the primacy of the "Supreme Ultimate" (taiji), and successively derive from that the "two powers" (liangyi) of yin and yang, the "four images" (sixiang), and finally the Eight Trigrams (bagua).60 Wing-tsit Chan points out that the neat, rational nature of this cosmology appealed greatly to lixue, or Neo-Confucian, scholars of the Song and later.

As Chan notes, "Instead of a universe controlled by spiritual beings whose pleasure can only be determined by divination, we have a natural operation of forces which can be determined and predicted objectively."61 Such, his commentary in Explication of the Diagrams makes clear, was its [End Page 54] special appeal to Depei. In his A Record of Practice as well, Depei declares that the Supreme Ultimate is the font of all existence; it subsumes both Heaven and earth and undergirds their empirically observed regularities.62

Ironically, the most influential Song exposition of the taiji was also among the most idiosyncratic: in his Discussion of the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate (Taiji tushuo), Zhou Dunyi (1017–73) explicitly rejects the role of the Eight Trigrams in this cosmology, replacing them with the Five Agents (wuxing).63 Depei differs on this question. For him, it is the Eight Trigrams, laid out by the ancient culture hero Fuxi, that are the true path to understanding the Supreme Ultimate.64 On the Five Agents he is more ambivalent, acknowledging their existence but at the same time belittling their explanatory power for understanding the natural world. In his Aofeng Academy lectures, for example, Depei adduces a series of natural phenomena, such as the origins of the Yangzi River, to disprove the axiom that "the Five Agents successively produce and destroy each other" (wuxing shengke).65

Despite passing reference to the taiji in his A Record of Practice, however, the balance of that text makes clear that for Depei—at least in that work—the animating principle of the universe is less the Supreme Ultimate than its component factor "Heaven" (tian). Depei's Heaven looks in many ways like that of orthodox Confucianism. It is both rational and morally good. It generates and renders predictable (tianxing) the occurrence of natural phenomena such as lightning. It informs the basic goodness of human nature, of conscience (tianliang). It provides the rational order of social life and the material world (tianli) and "way" of proper conduct (tiandao).66 Although, given Depei's likely Christian faith, it is tempting to see his "Heaven" as in effect "God," it is noteworthy that he avoids using the compound "tianzhu" (Lord of Heaven) which, as Ricci's chosen translation for God, was surely available to him.

Most frequently in Depei's writing, "tian" appears in the compound "tianming"—a term customarily translated into English as "mandate of [End Page 55] Heaven." Associated with Mencius, "mandate of Heaven" is most often taken to refer to the legitimating principle of Confucian kingship, granted or withdrawn to signify a given individual or dynasty's right to rule. For Depei it never carries this political meaning. Rather, Heaven's mandate is a creative and moral force, operating on every human being. It determines the unique nature of the human soul (lingxing), which "receives" (cheng) its existence from it. Once in existence, the soul is led through life by Heaven's mandate, in the same way reins lead a horse.67

Depei's Heaven has agency, in its issuing of mandates, but also in its role as active creator, and it is in this capacity that it appears most certainly identical with the Christian God. In the Record of Practice, the prince speaks unambiguously of "Heaven above" (shangtian), as "the silent and odorless Creator (zaowu), invisible yet all-seeing."68 In his Aofeng Academy lectures, Depei poses the question "If there be a Creator (zaowu), how can he be without form or shape?" His answer is that the Creator lies outside the realm of normal spatial dimensions (liuhe zhi wai).69 In essence, we receive our creation without being intellectually or perceptually conscious of it. This leads him to conclude that "belief in the soul (lingxing) logically demands belief in the Creator (zaowu); to think otherwise would be ridiculous!"70

But the human soul is also itself, on a smaller scale, a creator. Depei brings many of his metaphysical notions together in a complex discussion of the act of creation, as follows:

Every object has its component material (zhi), its scale (mo), its purpose (wei), and its process of creation (zao). For example, when a [End Page 56] potter or smelter makes a utensil, the clay or metal is the material, the dimensions are the scale, and the intended function is the purpose. Yet the utensil still cannot make itself; there still needs to be an act of creation. The creator is the potter or smelter. In order for the manufacturer to make the finished object, he must first have a full conception of the finished object in his mind.

It is the same with the Way of man. Benevolence, ritual propriety, righteousness, and wisdom are the material. Vision, hearing, speech, and movement are the scale. Self-cultivation, regulation, discipline, and tranquility are the purpose. The creator (zao zhi zhe) is the soul (lingxing zhi dati). Before being created, the finished concept must exist in the man's mind.

And it is not only man who has this quality: all things in Heaven and earth (tiandi wanwu) have it as well. Yin and yang are the materials. Its shape and substance are the scale. Its function is the purpose. The concept of the finished thing is inherent in the thing itself. The maker, in the final analysis (weiben), is the Supreme Ultimate. The thing comes into being (fa) when all these components are brought together. If the essence is present within it, the coming into being of a thing will follow naturally (ziran) and in due course (zhongjie).71

Depei's Ethics

This passage leads us into consideration of Depei's ethical ideas, propagation of which are, after all, the purpose of his writing. Human beings, according to the prince, exercise free will, but within constraints. In his Aofeng lectures he asks whether a man being struck by lightning is an act of Heaven (tianxing). Patiently explaining to his audience the scientific reasons for such occurrences, he argues that while a lightning strike is indeed a natural phenomenon, it is not a reflection of Heaven's will or of the specific victim's moral worth. Some things, therefore, are evidently out of human control.72 Later in the lecture series he takes [End Page 57] up the broader question of predestination. Is it true, he asks, whether once the horoscope has been cast (bazi anpai), a person's span of life is predetermined? To an extent this is true, he concedes, but it doesn't take into account that all human beings are unique, and thus enjoy different fates. He uses the example of prisoners of war being slaughtered by the victorious army; yes, they all died at the same moment, but since they were of diverse ages at their time of death one cannot say that they had all been granted the identical lifespan.73 In his Record of Practice Depei clarifies the boundary between fate and free will, as he sees it. Since the human body, or xiaoti, is governed by the forces of yin and yang, foretellings in the Book of Changes do impact the body's fortune and misfortune; since the soul or dati exists beyond the plane of materiality, however, it is not subject to fate alone, but able to exercise independent judgment and autonomy (zizhu).74

The striking thing about Depei's moral teachings, it seems to me, is how he martials his somewhat idiosyncratic ontological views about soul and body in support of an ethical system that is fully in accord with that of Cheng-Zhu Neo-Confucianism, and grounded firmly in the Four Books. Most central to the Record of Practice, as we have seen, is the Mencius, and especially its discussion of the dati/xiaoti distinction. Depei follows Mencius in arguing that the superior man (daren) follows his dati, whereas the petty man (xiaoren) allows himself to be captured by the ever-present appetites of his xiaoti. How does one escape such capture? It is by activating (fadong) the uniquely human capacity of the mind (xin)—that is, the lodging place of the soul—to "investigate things" (gewu), and on this basis draw not only distinctions between right and wrong (zhengxie shifei) but also to discern moral-rational "principle" (yi si zhi li). Depei invokes the metaphor of a boat on a flowing stream: without using the power of the boatman's pole to keep the boat on course, it will simply be captured by the current and drawn downstream.75

Most tellingly, in my view, Depei expresses his high regard for the ethical system of the Great Learning (Daxue), with its nested homologies [End Page 58] of moral imperatives. Depei's own most original ethical contribution is the centrality he accords to the notion, featured in his beloved Book of Changes, of zhongjie, moral integrity, or more literally "keeping to the ethical center." Here too, however, he links this maxim to the Daxue homologies: one must first center or discipline one's conduct regarding oneself (zhong yishen zhi jie), and then extend it to one's family (zhong yijia zhi jie), then to the polity (zhong yiguo zhi jie), and eventually to the world at large (zhong tianxia zhi jie).76 Here and elsewhere in his text Depei demonstrates his comfort with the Confucian social model of the five relationships (wulun)—a particularist differentiation of moral treatment of those in differing relationships with the actor, rather than a Christian ethic of undifferentiated love for all. This pointedly includes loyalty to one's political ruler.77

Discussion of moral conduct leads Depei to consider the problem of rewards and punishments. He cites the passage in Mencius that differentiates between human honors (renjue) such as dukedoms and other noble ranks, and "Heavenly honors" (tianjue) such as rejoicing in one's pursuit of benevolence and righteousness. Heavenly honors, he adds, accrue to the soul or dati, while human honors are enjoyed only by the xiaoti; pursuing the latter at the expense of the former is a clear case of the corporeal capturing the spiritual.78 This, recall, is spoken by a man who has already declined princely rank in order to pursue further moral education! In his Aofeng lectures Depei builds on this dichotomy—rather conventionally—to observe that those who pursue only human rewards (xiaoti renjue) at the expense of Heavenly principle (dati tianli), and in the process commit immoral acts, risk suffering vilification by posterity and the shame of their descendants.79

Depei also considers the problem of death, and here he is more interesting. Despite his Christian conversion, as we have seen, he [End Page 59] professes no belief in Heaven as the eternal and joyful resting place of the soul. How then are we to deal with the inevitability of our corporeal extinction? Depei turns to the late Ming scholar Luo Rufang's (1515–88) doctrine of the perpetual renewal of life (shengsheng), often rendered in English as "vitalism."80 To his audience of academy students he poses for discussion the character "le," which Luo Rufang defines as "happy in life" (kuaisheng). But "le," Depei notes, is far more ambiguous than that. Though common people associate it with a gay and luxurious lifestyle, this is far from accurate. If we consider being born into the world as a happy event, then each year that passes should be celebrated as one more year of life. But from another point of view, it is also one year closer to one's death. Each day that passes is like a dream, or illusion: it cannot be recovered. It is the same with death. Each year to come is a step toward death. How long we have before we die cannot be determined in advance. Men have their early life of growth and strength, but this gradually gives way to decline. In some cases an unexpected event suddenly ends one's life. For this reason, the ancient sages taught that cultivation of virtue is something that must be done as expeditiously as possible, without wasting one's limited stock of time in indulgence of pleasure (le). If as Luo Rufang would have it, Depei adds, one should emphasize kuaisheng, the "kuai" here should be read with its alternate meaning of "fast," rather than "happy." Life is indeed fast, and must be husbanded carefully, not by giving way to easy idleness or clinging to the existence of the xiaoti, or corporeal body. Rather, one must utilize every moment as an opportunity to "overcome self and return to the ritual propriety" (keji fuli) of the dati, or soul.

Again addressing his students in the Aofeng Academy, Depei adds a further piece of moral advice, in accord with his own and his times' orientation toward practical studies (shixue). Referring to an anecdote about the eleventh-century scholar Chen Lie locking himself away to engage in meditation (jingzuo) for a hundred days, he poses the question: what kind of disciplined effort (gongfu) ought to be employed in the quest for serenity (fangxin)? Depei responds caustically by saying that no amount of meditation or gongfu will provide serenity—this is all [End Page 60] Buddhist claptrap.81 The way to truly set one's mind at ease is to go out into the world and deal with one practical or moral issue after another, keeping one's focus steadily on Heavenly Principle (tianli). This, Depei reminds his students, is their proper vocation.82

Depei and Mid-Qing Thought

Let me reprise our findings from this discussion, tentative though they be. The Manchu prince Depei converted to Christianity in the 1710s and probably remained a believer for the rest of his life. He believed in a human soul, which he most often labeled "lingxing." This soul was closely akin to the Christian soul propagated by Ricci and other Jesuit missionaries in China. Depei simultaneously identified this soul with the "dati" spoken of by Mencius. He also believed in other Christian doctrines, most notably the Creator. He was able to his own satisfaction to reconcile his Christian faith with such Confucian ideas as Heaven's mandate, moral principle, and the Way, and with indigenous metaphysical doctrines such as the Supreme Ultimate and yin/yang, but not with Buddhist teachings such as reincarnation and transmigration. Indeed, it may be said that Depei, in a more circumspect way (without explicit mention of the now-proscribed Christianity), was following the dictate of Xu Guangqi and Zhang Xingyao to use Christian thought to "supplement Confucianism and displace Buddhism" (bu ru yi fo).83

Eugenio Menegon has usefully divided late imperial (pre-Opium War) Chinese converts into two groups. The first, sometimes labeled "Confucian Christians," were usually classically educated elites, converted by Jesuits (such as Kögler) who viewed accommodation to the norms of indigenous elite culture as essential to their missionary project. They generally adhered to the social hierarchy of the "five relationships" and were actively supportive of the imperial political order. The second [End Page 61] group, socially more plebeian or at least mixed-class, more rural, and more likely to have been converted by Dominicans or Franciscans than by Jesuits, were less devoted to the Confucian canon and the hierarchies and rituals associated with it. Whereas this latter group were often accepting of the practices of local popular cults, the "Confucian Christians" tended to be scornful of such idolatrous, unseemly, and irrational beliefs and behaviors. In this regard, their Confucianism and their Christianity comprised paired "civilizing projects."84

Depei, with his clear civilizing mission, fits very comfortably into this group.85 What makes him somewhat unusual is his Manchu ethnicity, his aristocratic pedigree, and—most notably—his status as an activist field official with strong "practical studies" leanings. Whereas the heyday of Confucian Christianity is usually seen as the late Ming and early Qing, there is some evidence of its survival into the eighteenth century, even beyond the Yongzheng anti-Christian campaign of the 1720s. David Mungello, for example, finds a "reconciliation" of the two faiths in the thought of the French Jesuit Joseph de Prémare (1666–1736), who was active in China during Depei's lifetime, and who stressed the special compatibility of lixue Neo-Confucianism and Christian monotheism.86 Depei provides further demonstration of its survival into high Qing, in both the court and the bureaucracy.

Chen Yuan argued that Depei fits into a pattern, going back to the late Ming, of literati converts "inwardly cherishing Christianity, while outwardly appearing Confucian" (yi tianzhu wei zhongxin, rujia wei mianmu).87 Yet Depei's commitment to lixue Neo-Confucianism was no mere façade, but was deeply heartfelt and genuine. He describes himself on more than one occasion as a participant in the collectivity of "we Confucian literati" (wuru).88 Textually, he is grounded in the Book of [End Page 62] Changes, but also deeply attached to the Great Learning, the Mencius, and others of the Four Books—Depei's Confucianism, as he himself insisted, was specifically that of the Song Cheng-Zhu school, or Neo-Confucianism, in its practical-minded Qing redaction.89 With equal vigor he refutes the teachings not just of Buddhism and folk religion, but also of Legalism and other textual heterodoxies.90 He argues that human beings are morally bound to pursue the goals of Confucian self-cultivation (zixiu), and moreover that proselytization of the moral message (jiaoren) is a necessary step toward self-renewal (zixin)—it is this, in fact, that he himself is doing in his lecturing and writing. Depei insists explicitly that he falls within a long tradition, stretching back to the ancient sages (shengren) and progressively clarified and adapted to changing times by "former Confucians" (xianru) and "latter Confucians" (houru) such as himself.91 For Depei, both his Confucianism and his Christianity are deeply felt, and mutually reinforcing.

Depei, it should be noted, strikingly omits discussion of many key aspects of Christian thought and practice—sin and redemption, prayer, faith and salvation, the community of believers, the church. They did not work for what he hoped to achieve, the way the soul did. It was the soul, and specifically the identification of the Christian soul with the Confucian dati—via his own hybrid term lingxing—that offered the Manchu prince an ontological grounding by means of which to reconcile the two systems of thought. By positing a locus of moral agency within each individual subject, to which officials such as he could appeal, the concept of the soul allowed Depei to mobilize his Christian beliefs in service of a Confucian statecraft agenda and the mid-Qing governing project.92 [End Page 63]

William T. Rowe
Johns Hopkins University


Aofeng shuyuan


Aofeng shuyuan jiangxue lu




Baqi wenjing


bazi anpai


bu kexin zhe


bu neng zhi


bu ru yi fo


Chen Hongmou


Chen Lie


Chen Yuan







dati lingxing


dati tianli









Fang Bao







Gan Rulai









huasan guitu



Jian (Prince)



Jianyi (Prince)








jue hun


keji fuli





Li Gong


Li Kai







ling hun




lingxing dati


lingxing zhi dati


lingxing zhi gong


lingxing zhi guan


lingxing zhi hun


liuhe zhi wai




Luo Rufang







Qingshi gao


quke xiaoti







sheng hun










Shijian lu




Sima Guang








Taiji tushuo





tiandi wanwu














Tianzhujiao rujiao tongyi kao




wanran zhi wu





wei xing zhi ling








wuxing shengke










xiaoti renjue








Xu Guangqi


Yan Yuan





yi tianzhu wei zhongxin,


rujia wei mianmu


yi si zhi li


Yi tujie





yishen zhi zhuzai


yongcun bumie




Yuan Mei



zao zhi zhe




Zhang Xingyao


Zhao Erxun


zhengxie shifei





zhishan zhi lingxing


zhonggu bumie


zhong tianxia zhi jie


zhong yiguo zhi jie


zhong yijia zhi jie


zhong yishen zhi jie






Zhou Dunyi


Zhou Yi buzhu












Zuo zhuan



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* I wish to thank Tobie Meyer-Fong, Marta Hanson, James Flowers, Eugenio Menegon, Steven Miles, and two anonymous readers for useful comments on earlier drafts of this article.

2. Menegon, Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars, 15. "Indigenization" became in the early twentieth century an articulated and highly politicized subject of discussion among foreign and native Christians in China; see Albert Monshan Wu, "The Quest for an 'Indigenous Church'." "Hybridization," with its embrace by postcolonial cultural theorists, is an even more fraught term. For a useful survey of its meanings, see Young, Colonial Desire. For a recent use of this term in regard to late imperial literature, see Elena Suet-Ying Chiu, Bannermen Tales (Zidishu). The present article does not claim to draw upon, nor to contribute to, the theoretization of either of these terms.

8. Waley, Yuan Mei, 31. The translation is adapted from Waley's.

10. Chen Yuan, "Yong Qian jian feng Tianzhujiao zhi zongshi," 1–35. It should be noted that Arthur Waley, who accepts Chen's argument for Depei's conversion, fails to see indisputable evidence in the prince's writings of Christian belief, and for this reason speculates that he "was probably a practicing Christian for only a few years"; Waley, Yuan Mei, 32.

11. Chen Yuan, "Yong Qian jian feng Tianzhujiao zhi zongshi," 13–14. See also Hummel, Eminent Chinese, 692–94. The complexities of the Sunu affair, and its resonance in Europe, are laid out in Menegon, "Surniama Tragoedia," cited by permission.

16. Several sources (for example Fang Hao, Zhongguo Tianzhujiao shi renwu zhuan, vol. 3, 66) mention that Depei's wife and daughter were also converts, adopting the Christian names "Maria" and "Paula" respectively; he had no sons.

17. The author's prefaces to these two works are reprinted in Sheng-yu, Baqi wenjing, 124–26. A full text of Yi tujie appears in Xuxiu siku quanshu, 19.674–708.

18. On the Aofeng Academy and its scholarly project, see Rowe, Saving the World, 410–11.

20. De Bary, "Individualism and Humanitarianism in Late Ming Thought," 220.

21. Chen Yuan, "Yong Qian jian feng Tianzhujiao zhi zongshi," 29. I have been unable to locate a physical copy of this work, although it was available to Chen in 1930s Beijing. Chen cites it at length, and my references to it hereafter are to Chen's reproduction of its contents.

22. Depei, Shijian lu. I have used a photocopy of the edition of this work held in the Nanjing Municipal Library, procured for me with the kind help of Yu Xiaowu and Yan Yunshan. A "bibliographic note" discussing this text is Verhaeren, "Cheu Kien Lou par le Prince Tartare Tee P'ei."

23. On the vogue of practice in this period, see de Bary and Bloom, eds., Principle and Practicality. On shixue, see Rowe, Saving the World, 133–37.

24. Depei, Shijian lu, 143 and 169; Sheng-yu, Baqi wenjing, 185–86; Chen Yuan, "Yong Qian jian feng Tianzhujiao zhi zongshi," 24. For the passage from Mencius VI.1.15, see Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 2, 417–18. Note that this passage from Depei's preface suggests that his fascination with the dati/xiaoti dualism likely predated his supposed 1718 Christian conversion, implying that when he first encountered teachings on the Christian "soul" he came pre-equipped with a Confucian vocabulary to explain it, not the reverse.

32. I have word-searched the compound "lingxing" in the Wenyuange edition of the Siku quanshu, the comprehensive library of 3,593 Chinese texts (in 36,000 juan), assembled by order of the Qianlong emperor in the late eighteenth century, and accessible online through the Johns Hopkins University libraries. The search results report 381 occurrences of the term, in 243 separate works, 60 of them from the Qing era. This is a relatively small number. "Dati" (greater substance), for example, occurs 10,238 times, and "tianli" (heavenly principle) 21,479 times. Moreover, the number of occurrences of "lingxing" is quite a bit fewer than 381, since the search engine for some reason amalgamates a different compound, "lingsheng," along with "lingxing." My sampling of these suggests that fully half or more of the reported occurrences of "lingxing" are actually of this other compound. "Lingxing," thus, occurs perhaps 100 to 200 times. My working conclusion is that at the time Depei wrote his Shijian lu in 1736, "lingxing," though not a truly rare compound, was not one that his readership would have encountered with any frequency outside his work.

33. Mathews, Chinese-English Dictionary; Morohashi, Dai Kan-Wa jiten, 12.92; Ricci, True Meaning, 80–81. Gernet, China and the Christian Impact, 146, lists the term, without comment, as one of several Jesuit attempts to render "the rational soul." Depei's acquaintance Yuan Mei used the transposed characters of lingxing—that is, "xingling"—as the defining term for his school of poetic theory, stressing individual genius, creative sensitivity, and freedom from conventions of style or content. One can only surmise if there was mutual influence in the adoption of these two related terms by the two contemporaries. See Wang Yingzhi, "Yuan Mei xingling pai zai jindai de yingxiang."

35. Lingxingzhe he? Tian ming yu wuren dati ye. Depei, Shijian lu, 146. While Verhaeren does not directly address Depei's use of the term lingxing, he clearly shares my view that the item under discussion, and which the prince equated with the Mencian dati, is in fact the soul (l'ame), in its Christian understanding.

40. It is also noteworthy that whereas Zhang Xingyao's work is an explicit defense of Christianity by an avowed convert, Shijian lu never identifies its author as Christian, nor indeed ever mentions Christianity at all.

44. Depei, Shijian lu, 167. The citation is from Mencius IV.2.19.1, in Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 2, 225.

47. Significantly, despite having associated with Jesuit astronomers such as Kögler in Beijing, Depei did not identify scientific thinking as "Western learning" (xixue). Instead, he grounded his own scientific ideas in a passage from the Book of Changes that posits inherent classifications (lei) and categories (qun) for all things. Natural processes generally involve the return to these states on the part of things that have been somehow removed from their normal condition (fanben guiyuan). Depei, Shijian lu, Appendix, 185–92.

52. This passage is from the "Xici shang zhuan." Yijing, 285–86; The I Ching, or Book of Changes, 294.

54. For an overview of the Western debate, see Luyten, "Soul-Body Relationship."

55. Depei, Shijian lu, 162. This insistence counsels against the temptation to translate Depei's "lingxing" as "intellect" rather than "soul."

60. Depei, Yi tujie, 680 ff. For the locus classicus, see The I Ching, or Book of Changes, 318–19.

68. Depei, Shijian lu, 170. See also Chen Yuan, "Yong Qian jian feng Tianzhujiao zhi zongshi," 25. The word zaowu, or its variant zaowuzhe, was that most often used in late imperial times to translate the Christian "Creator"; see Morohashi, Dai Kan-Wa jiten, 11.74, Mathews, Chinese-English Dictionary, 987. Jesuit missionaries insisted that the Lord of Heaven was also the Creator (zaowu zhu), and were frustrated because "no comparable concept existed in the indigenous Chinese tradition"; Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China, 646–48. Depei here seems to be proposing Heaven as Creator, to fill that gap.

69. For this reason, Depei finds "laughable" the idea of erecting a sculpture of the Creator as, Fang Hao notes, had been debated by Chinese Christians in the late Ming. Fang, Zhongguo Tianzhujiao shi renwu zhuan, vol. 3, 69–70.

77. Depei discusses his view of the five relationships at some length in Depei, Shijian lu, 180–81. Notably, he argues that these ties are characterized more by reciprocity (jiao) than by hierarchy or dependence, and that egalitarian friendship thus clearly belongs among the other four.

78. Depei, Shijian lu, 148. The citation is from Mencius, VI.1.16; see Legge, The Chinese Classics, vol. 2, 418–19.

81. The Chen Lie anecdote appears in the Zhuzi yulei, 11:1b; for a translation, see Wing-tsit Chan, Chu Hsi, 261.

82. Depei, Aofeng shuyuan jiangxue lu, 47, cited in Chen Yuan, "Yong Qian jian feng Tianzhujiao zhi zongshi," 26. On shixue, see Rowe, Saving the World, passim. One of the hallmarks of Depei's "practical studies" orientation is his complete inattention, at least in these works, to philological study (kaozheng) of the Five Classics, arguably the dominant intellectual current of his day.

83. Zhang Xingyao gave early Qing currency to Xu Guangqi's late Ming slogan "buru yifo" in his 1689 Refutation of Several Disputable Points (Pi luoshuo tiaobo). Mungello, Forgotten Christians, chapter 5.

85. For Depei's ontological legitimization of the imperial political order, see for example Depei, Yi tujie, 700.

86. Prémare was associated with the controversial "figurist" movement within the Jesuit order, which saw Christian teachings encoded in the Chinese classics. See Mungello, "The Reconciliation of Neo-Confucianism with Christianity." Depei's own commentary on the Book of Changes, the Yi tujie, is sometimes seen as a figurist work, finding in the Yijing secret messages about Creation, the Fall, and the future Redeemer; Standaert, ed., Handbook of Christianity in China, 675. I confess that I myself cannot discern any secret Christian messages in this text.

89. Depei, Yi tujie, 679; Fang Chao-ying, "Te-p'ei," 712–13. On Qing practice-oriented readings of Song Neo-Confucianism, see Wing-tsit Chan, "The Hsing-li ching-i and the Ch'eng-Chu School of the Seventeenth Century"; and Rowe, Saving the World.

90. For Depei's refutation of the Legalist Han Fei, see Depei, Shijian lu, 144.

91. Depei, Shijian lu, 182–83. Ori Sela has recently shown that the label "latter Confucians" (houru) was invoked by some eighteenth-century literati—those of a philological bent—to denigrate scholars who had over time corrupted the true message of the ancient classics. It is clear that in Depei's usage the term carried no such negative connotations. See Sela, China's Philological Turn.

92. As I have argued elsewhere, this statecraft agenda included provisioning the growing population and stimulating economic productivity, while maintaining household stability and upholding the socio-political order.

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