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Persons in Chinese History - Pei Wei 裴頠

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Pei Wei 裴頠 (267-300), courtesy name Pei Yimin 裴逸民, was a philosopher of the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). He came from Wenxi 聞喜 (modern Wenshui 聞水, Shanxi) and was a younger son of Pei Xiu 裴秀, a high minister of the early Jin, and relative to Empress Jia 賈后. He was also a son-in-law of the famous thinker Wang Rong 王戎. During his career he held the posts of palace cadet in the household of the Heir Apparent (taizi zhongshuzi 太子中庶子), cavalier attendant-in-ordinary (sanji changshi 散騎常侍), libationer of the Directorate of Education (guozi jijiu 國子祭酒) and concurrently General to the Right (you jiangjun 右將軍), and Left vice director of the Imperial Secretariat (shangshu zuo puye 尚書左僕射). Pei Wei was killed during the rebellion of the Eight Princes and fell victim to Sima Lun 司馬倫, the Prince of Zhao 趙.
Pei Wei advocated a renewal of Confucianism and vehemently opposed the very popular thinking of the "School of the Mystery" (xuanxue 玄學), a branch of Daoism that discarded all social values as objectively irrelevant. He even submitted a memorial to the throne in which he argued for the strengthening of the system of rules of propriety that were the only means to bring order into the social and political disturbances of the time. His thoughts were brought into the essay Chongyoulun 崇有論 "About the veneration of the existence", in which he attacked the "appraisal of the voidness" (gui wu 貴無, i. e. the Dao 道 "the Way") as one-sided, egoistical and even dangerous. Pei Wei argued that the whole world was composed of a set of ten thousand "existences" (wan you 萬有), and negated the need of a "nothing" (wu 無) in the background or even before the ten thousand beings came into existence. All objects in the world have come into being by themselves (zi sheng 自生), out of a wild mixture, without the interference of a natural design. The patterns (li 理) in which the objects of the world are arranged, is their own nature, their arrangement is the result of their accidental change. An underlying unity (yi 一), or a principle behind the existing objects, is not necessary, he says. The various objects are nevertheless connected with each other, because of their vicinity. It is not possible, in Pei Wei's eyes, that objects can take shape out of nothing. "Voidness" (xu 虛) or "nothing" (wu) can only be seen as a complement to "existence" (you 有). It is not possible that "nothing" exists for itself.
Pei Wei's collected writings constituted a book with a length of 9 juan "scrolls". They are lost except the two treatises Chongyoulun and Xingfalun 刑法論.

Source: Xiao Yuan 曉源 (1996), "Pei Wei 裴頠", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升 (ed.), Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), p. 84.

March 1, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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