Dao (2008) 7:325–328
DOI 10.1007/s11712-008-9076-7

BOOK REVIEW



CHEN, Guying         , The Yi Commentaries
and the Thou...
326                                                                                       GUAN Ping


   The book begins w...
Review of The Yi Commentaries and the Thought of the Schools of Daoism                      327


such as “timeliness (shi...
328                                                                                GUAN Ping


the Yi Commentaries must ha...
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The Yi Commentaries And The Thought Of The Schools Of Daoism

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As the title makes explicit, CHEN Guying’s book The Yi Commentaries and the Thought of
the Schools of Daoism takes on a heated scholarly debate in contemporary Yi Jing !!
studies in China. The standard traditional view that the Yi Commentaries (Yi Zhuan !!, the
Ten Wings of the Yi Jing) were composed by Confucius had hardly been questioned until
the 20th century, except in the Song Dynasty by OUYANG Xiu !"! (1017–072) and in the
Qing Dynasty by CUI Shu !! (1740–1816), who nonetheless never doubted the nature of
the Ten Wings as being the work of Confucian thinkers who lived after Confucius. Chen
goes a step further and sets out to prove that although Confucius as the sole author of the Yi
Commentaries was out of the question, the Yi Commentaries could not have been composed
by Confucius’ followers of the pre-Qin !! times either. Rather, the astonishing and
leading theme of the sixteen essays of the book, written in the decade from the 1980s to the
1990s, is that the entire Yi Commentaries could only have been produced by thinkers of the
Daoist schools.

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The Yi Commentaries And The Thought Of The Schools Of Daoism

  1. 1. Dao (2008) 7:325–328 DOI 10.1007/s11712-008-9076-7 BOOK REVIEW CHEN, Guying , The Yi Commentaries and the Thought of the Schools of Daoism Beijing : Shangwu Yingshuguan , 2007, VII+318 pages GUAN Ping Published online: 17 July 2008 # Springer Science + Business Media B.V. 2008 As the title makes explicit, CHEN Guying’s book The Yi Commentaries and the Thought of the Schools of Daoism takes on a heated scholarly debate in contemporary Yi Jing studies in China. The standard traditional view that the Yi Commentaries (Yi Zhuan , the Ten Wings of the Yi Jing) were composed by Confucius had hardly been questioned until the 20th century, except in the Song Dynasty by OUYANG Xiu (1017–072) and in the Qing Dynasty by CUI Shu (1740–1816), who nonetheless never doubted the nature of the Ten Wings as being the work of Confucian thinkers who lived after Confucius. Chen goes a step further and sets out to prove that although Confucius as the sole author of the Yi Commentaries was out of the question, the Yi Commentaries could not have been composed by Confucius’ followers of the pre-Qin times either. Rather, the astonishing and leading theme of the sixteen essays of the book, written in the decade from the 1980s to the 1990s, is that the entire Yi Commentaries could only have been produced by thinkers of the Daoist schools. Such a claim rejects the traditional view held by the majority of scholars and pushes the Confucians almost completely out of the picture. In fact, this is the main aim of the book, as Chen states in the “Preface” to the first edition of his book (1993): “The philosophical thought in the Yi Commentaries belongs to schools of Daoism, and not to the (pre-Qin) Confucian thinkers” (ii). This challenging view makes the book very intriguing and has drawn much attention and debate. By Daoist schools, Chen refers to three groups of Daoism in his book: the philosophy of Laozi and Zhuangzi , the thought of the Daoist thinkers of Jixia , and the thought of Huang-Lao . The essays in the book are structured accordingly. Chen holds that the works of the Jixia Daoists include at least thirteen essays in the Guan Zi , and he bases his analysis of the Huang-Lao on the Huang-Lao Bo Shu , generally entitled the Huang Di Si Jing . He ascribes both to the mid and late Warring States period as the main stream of thought of the time that subsequently had determinative influences on the Ten Wings of the Yi Jing. GUAN Ping (*) Department of Religion, Syracuse University, NY 13244-1170, USA e-mail: guanp@yahoo.com
  2. 2. 326 GUAN Ping The book begins with a discussion of the connections of the Tuan Zhuan , which is usually considered to be the earliest among the Ten Wings, and the thought of Daoism. The six parts of the book are arranged, on the one hand, according to a chronological order of the composition of the Yi Commentaries, from the earliest to the latest, which Chen believes to exist, and on the other, according to an underlying order of the development of schools of Daoism, from the foundational Lao-Zhuang to Jixia Daoists and the teaching of Huang-Lao. The first part of the book consists of two essays on the Tuan Zhuan: “Tuan Zhuan and Lao Zhuang ( ),” and “The Daoist Way of Thinking of the Tuan Zhuan ( ).” The next five parts extend from analyses of the essential Daoist tendencies and influences in the Xiang Zhuan and Wen Yan to discussions of the Xi Ci , Suo Gua , Xu Gua , and, lastly, the Bo Shu Yi Shuo , covering thus not only the Ten Wings (except the Za Gua ), but also the newly discovered Mawangdui silk manuscript of Yi Jing (Bo Shu Yi Shuo). The main focus of the book is on the Tuan Zhuan and Xi Ci, which together occupy more than half of the book. Chen regards these two commentaries as the most important, the most philosophical, and thus representative of the Ten Wings, and provides a very systematic analysis of these two. The central claim is that the Yi Commentaries, mostly composed in the mid and late Warring States period, in general, represent one of the two trends of the philosophical development of the Dao of Heaven (tian dao ) or the Way of Heaven in the pre-Qin times. Since the Dao of Heaven, as a pattern of thinking, has its true beginning in the Laozi, the Yi Commentaries, like the other trend, the school of Zhuangzi and its followers, also owe the source of their essential ideas and concepts to the Laozi. Chen argues that the path of the development of the Dao of Heaven in the pre-Qin times undergoes three stages: it originates from the Zhou Yi , is fully formed by Lao-Zhuang, and results in the Yi Commentaries. Therefore, he takes Laozi as the transmitter of the Dao of Heaven, who lies between its source in the Zhou Yi and a consummating end in the Yi Commentaries. This is the first lineage that Chen traces in the book. The second lineage is the division of Daoism into two schools after Laozi: the school of Zhuangzi and its followers, and the school of Jixia Daoists and the Huang-Lao teaching that came out of it. Thus, Chen makes the case that the Huang-Lao teaching, the Zhuangzi, the Laozi and the Yi Commentaries are different stages of the Dao of Heaven that had its ultimate source in the Zhou Yi. The Zhou Yi and the Yi Commentaries are in this way identified with the Daoist schools, with the Dao of Heaven as their most distinctive feature and framework. In this light Chen holds that the Yi Commentaries as a whole, with its ontology, cosmology, and naturalism, is at its core Daoist. He finds that the main concepts of the Tuan Zhuan, Xi Ci, and the rest of the Yi Commentaries have their roots in the texts of the Laozi, Zhuangzi, Jixia Daoists, and Huang-Lao teaching. The sections of each of the essays of the book largely mirror this guiding principle. To take the first essay on the Tuan Zhuan, for example, its four sections are entitled: (1) The Dao of Heaven in the Tuan Zhuan as essentially Daoist; (2) The main ideas in the Tuan Zhuan and their relations to the thought of Laozi; (3) The Common points between the cosmology of the Tuan Zhuan and Zhuangzi; (4) Tuan Zhuan as produced by Southerners or Jixia members. In this essay, Chen argues that the main ideas of the Tuan Zhuan such as the origin of all things, the cyclical changes of nature, the transformation of things through the yin and yang, the complementarity of the soft and strong, and the oneness of heaven, earth, and humans all are primarily influenced by the Laozi and have their sources in the Laozi and Zhuangzi. None of these ideas are Confucian. In particular, the pattern of thinking is represented by the Dao of Heaven. The rest of the book employs the same method of interpretation. Chen’s argument is that the key notions of the Yi Commentaries,
  3. 3. Review of The Yi Commentaries and the Thought of the Schools of Daoism 327 such as “timeliness (shi ),” “position (wei ),” “centrality (zhong ),” “way (dao ),” “virtue (de ),” and “gods (shen )” all share the same sense of meaning with those in the Lao-Zhuang philosophy, the Lao-Zhuang influenced Jixia Daoism and the Huang-Lao tradition, whereas the ideas that are prominently Confucian in the Ten Wings do not play an important role. One of the strengths of the book is a fairly comprehensive list of the occurrences of the same or similar concepts in the above-mentioned Daoist texts and the Ten Wings, followed by discussions at length of the correspondences between them. However, sometimes the correspondences are overstretched and the similarities are insisted upon at the risk of ignoring the real differences between the terms within their own contexts. What makes the book very intriguing is the pervasive argument in it with regard to the Daoist and non-Confucian nature of each of the Yi Commentaries, including the Mawangdui silk manuscript of Yi Jing. However, it is also this pervasiveness of the argument that appears to be the weak point of the book, which makes it less convincing. It is at best a tenuous case to claim that “In the pre-Qin times, the pattern of thinking from the Dao of Heaven down to the ways of the humans is the unique way of thinking of Daoism” (49) and that only after it was created by the Daoists was it “widely accepted by the schools of Confucianism and other schools after Qin and became a special way of thinking of ancient Chinese philosophy” (21). In the first place, it is difficult to see why the notion of the Way of Heaven in the Book of Documents ( ) and the Book of Poetry (Shi Jing ) cannot be considered earlier or, at least not later than that in the Lao-Zhuang texts, and also why the notion of the Way of Heaven is denied to the Analects and the pre-Qin Confucian traditions as a whole, for which these two classics are a part of the central texts for education. In the second place, there exists no textual or historical evidence to support Chen’s point that “Confucius was very likely influenced by Laozi in his fondness of the Yi in his late years” (72). Chen infers from the well-known story of Confucius’ visit to Laozi found in the Zhuangzi and other texts of still later times that Confucius must have consulted Laozi on the Yi and that “Lao Zi was more influenced by the Zhou Yi than Confucius” (71). This is coupled with his argument that Laozi is the first philosopher in the history of China and “the book Laozi for the first time established a systematic and complete metaphysics” (71) and a naturalism that then became the main stream of the philosophical thought of the Yi Commentaries. Throughout the book, Chen relegates Confucianism to a mere system of ethics, which does not have concern for the Dao of Heaven due to its focus on the human world; further, Confucians like Mencius and Xunzi are subjugated to the influence of the Jixia Daoists, and so are the Da Xue (The Great Learning) and the Zhong Yong (The Book of the Mean) (61), two Confucian texts which are similar in style and content to the Xici and other Yi Commentaries. Placing Confucius and his followers under the influence of Laozi and Jixia Daoists, Chen maintains that the Confucian influence on the Yi Commentaries is limited only to the insignificant ethical and political realms of these texts, including some “inferior parts” (85) such as the ranks of ruler and subjects, husband and wife. On the last point the author contradicts himself, for in other places of the book, the notion of ranks is considered to be positive evidence of influence from the Huang-Lao teaching, for instance, in the last part of the book where passages from the silk manuscript of Yi Jing, such as “Yi Zhi Yi ” and “Yao ” are discussed. Chen attempts to overturn the conventional view that started with SIMA Qian (145-ca. 86 BCE) of the Han Dynasty, which attributed the Ten Wings to Confucius. Yet Chen’s own arguments, though systematic and consistent throughout, are not unproblematic. It is questionable to assume that the Dao of Heaven is unique to the Laozi and Daoism and that
  4. 4. 328 GUAN Ping the Yi Commentaries must have appeared later, in oral or written forms, than not only the Zhuangzi but also the works of Jixia Daoists and Huang-Lao tradition as a whole. In addition, whether Huang-Lao thought can be regarded as a proper extension of Lao-Zhuang Daoism in view of its synthetic nature is uncertain. However, given the gap of books and inadequacy of documents passed down from the pre-Qin times, the timeline of these texts remains an unresolved issue, and Chen’s claim remains an intriguing argument that invites further studies.

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