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Tang Studies 25 (2007) CONTEMPLATING RULERSHIP: THE CHANGDUAN JING AND TANG POLITICAL THOUGHT ANTHONY DEBLASI THE UNIVERSITY AT ALBANY, STATE UNIVERSITY OF NEW YORK A rather remarkable phenomenon has swept the publishing industry in the People's Republic of China during the last decade. No fewer than thirty-two editions of a relatively obscure text titled the Changduan jing :R~.E~ by a littleknown author, Zhao Rui m~ (fl. 716), have been published.! Although one of the more effusive publishers claims on the cover of its edition that the Changduan jingwas paired with the venerable Zizhi tongjian ~1E1W~1as essential reading for successful politicians, military strategists, and businessmen throughout Chinese history,2 it is safe to say that this Tang period text has received only sporadic attention in scholarly circles. This attention has been almost entirely confined to Chinese language scholarship. Beyond the short chapter that Wang Yunwu devoted to the text in his history of political thought during the Jin and Tang periods, a relatively small number of articles have appeared in academic journals.3 Yet, there are good reasons for giving the Changduan jing some attention. First, the text serves as a veritable compendium of Chinese political thought prior to the early eighth century. Since the text was produced as the Tang dynasty approached its zenith, we can use it as a window into some of the key theoretical issues at that critical moment. It also enables us to infer something about the relationship between political thought and the historical experience of the Tang. Second, the Changduan jing, by its particular nature, reveals much about how Tang intellectuals approached the long Chinese textual tradition, especially in the areas of political theory, moral philosophy, and history. Finally, the text invites the modern reader to The author would like to thank the journal's editor and Michael Fuller for their helpful suggestions on an earlier draft of this essay. 1 Zhou Bin JEJXEt, Changduan jingjiaozhengyu yanjiu ~~.R#~tx~!M1iJf~ (hereafter Zhou CD]) (Chengdu: Ba Shu shushe, 2003), 732-34. 2 Zhao Rui, Fanjing R#~, ed. Li Guyin *J:!:l~ (Beijing: Zhongguo wenshi chubanshe, 2002). 3 Wang Yunwu .£~1i, fin Tang zhengzhi sixiang Ei gif!x:1-& ,'Gl,f~ (Taibei: Taiwan Shangwu yinshuguan, 1969), 151-68. Although this mostly is a selection of quotations from the text with summary comments, Wang's sense of the important topics is helpful in thinking about the text. I will refer to some of the journal literature below. 203 DeBlasi: Contemplating Rulership reflect on its relationship to later events. It articulates an approach to the tradition that continued to inform political thought even after the rebellions of the midand late eighth century ravaged the Tang order. The Changduan jing is in this sense very much a transition text, one that represents a summation of knowledge at the moment it was produced and thereby anticipated the paths which post-rebellion thinkers would have to travel in creating their new intellectual world. It is not that I think that Zhao Rui was prescient. Instead, his method in creating the text has preserved for us the problematics that guided political thinkers as they struggled to understand the changed conditions after the rebellions. While the main portion of this essay is devoted to an explication of the political philosophy embedded in the Changduan jing, my interest transcends the views of Zhao Rui himself Along the path of describing his philosophy, the essay offers an argument about the relationship between this text and the trajectory of Tang political thought in general. We must, however, begin with a clearer introduction to the text and its author. ZHAO RUI AND THE CHANGDUAN JING The author of Changduan jing was a man named Zhao RuL Unfortunately, the sources for Zhao's life are quite meager. The earliest biographical notice that survives appears in a tenth century text, the Beimeng suoyan ::ft~~§. Its author gives us the basic story of Zhao's life, the details of which are repeated in most subsequent sources. Zhao was from the prefecture ofZizhou :t¥1\['[ (east of modern Chengdu in Sichuan province). 4 According to the Beimeng suoyan, he was respected as an expert in government (jingshi #Jft!t...


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