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Throughout the Zhanguo period, wei 偽 referred to “inauthenticity” or “falseness.” However, such interpretations are difficult to apply to Xunzi’s use of the term, in which wei becomes a key component of ethical cultivation. Since the Tang, Xunzi’s use of wei has served as a focal point of debates regarding how to evaluate his teachings. These debates largely concluded during the Qing, when exegetes argued that the graphs for wei 偽 (inauthenticity) and wei 為 (efforts) were interchangeable in pre-Han texts, and that Xunzi intended the latter meaning. Guiding their arguments is the assumption that Xunzi would not endorse a term that was commonly pejorative in his time. This assumption neglects the possibility that wei’s rhetorical value for Xunzi derived from his conscious revaluation and redefinition of this pejorative term, through which he challenged authenticity’s ethical import and thereby defended ritual practices that were commonly criticized as inauthentic displays.


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