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Jia Kui 賈逵

Sep 11, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Jia Kui 賈逵 (30-101 CE), courtesy name Jingbo 景伯, was a Confucian philosopher in the early decades of the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE). He was a descendant of the Former Han-period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) politician and writer Jia Yi 賈誼 and hailed from Pingling 平陵 in he commandery of Fufeng 扶風 (close to present-day Xianyang 咸陽, Shanxi).

Jia Kui's father Jia Hui 賈徽 had already been an expert of the Confucian Classics, especially Liu Xin's 劉歆 interpretation of the Zuoshi Chunqiu 左氏春秋 (Zuozhuan 左傳) and the Zhouguan 周官 (i.e. Zhouli 周禮). Consequently, already as a teenager Jia Kui was an expert in the Five Classics (wujing 五經).

Jia Kui was a representative of the old-text school (guwen jingxue 古文經學). Jia Kui was instructed in the old-text version of the Shangshu 古文尚書 by Tu Hui 涂惲, and in Mao's version of the Shijing 毛詩 by Xie Manqing 謝曼卿. Jia Kui also compiled a handbook to the Zuozhuan called Zuoshi tiaoli 左氏條例. He studied Xiahou Sen.'s 大夏侯 version of the Shangshu and other new-character Classics (jinwenjing 今文經). The history book Guoyu 國語 was also among his preferred texts because it covered the same timeframe as the Classic Chunqiu.

During the Later Han period the apocryphal versions (chenwei 讖緯) and interpretations of the Confucian Classics were very fashionable, so that Jia Kui tried combining of the old-text versions with the apocryphal ones. As an expert in ancient writings, Jia Kui was at the same time a librarian in the imperial library (bishusheng 祕書省) as the historiographer Ban Gu 班固. Emperor Zhang 漢章帝 (r. 75-88 CE) ordered Jia Kui to write an explanatory text to the old-text Shangshu and the Zuozhuan that was to surpass the two commentaries Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳 and Guliangzhuan 榖梁傳.

Jia Kui selected 30 examples from the Zuozhuan to explain the relationship between ruler and minister and that between father and son. He explained that the Zuozhuan, as a commentary to the Chunqiu, laid importance on these relations, while the Gongyang commentary pointed at matters of rule and power. Jia Kui explained that the Zuozhuan in fact included a prove that the house of Liu 劉 (the Han dynasty) was destined to rule over the empire, as successors of the mythical emperor Yao 堯. Emperor Zhang was so impressed that he ordered Jia Kui teaching the Zuozhuan to the Confucian scholars in the National University (taixue 太學).

Jia Kui participated in the famous Confucian conference of the White Tiger Hall 白虎觀 and discussed with Li Yu 李育 the problems of the new-character text Zuozhuan and the Gongyangzhuan. Jia Kui was able to triumph over Li Yu and raised the status of the old-text classics. In 91 CE Jia Kui was appointed left leader of the court gentlemen (zuo zhonglangjiang 左中郎將), and was in 96 CE promoted to the post of palace attendant (shizhong 侍中) and given the title of commandant of cavalry (jiduwei 騎都尉).

The literary production of Jia Kui was immense. He wrote numerous poems and prose texts (like the hymn Shenque song 神雀頌), apart from his commentary Zuoshizhuan jiegu 左氏傳解詁 to the Zuozhuan and the Guoyu jiegu 國語解詁, a commentary to the Guoyu. While the latter have survived, his commentaries Chunqiu Zuoshi changzhuan 春秋左氏長傳, Shangshu guwen tongyi 尚書古文同異, Maoshi zayi nan 毛詩雜義難 and Zhouguan jiegu 周官解詁 are lost, barring some fragments collected by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholars Ma Guohan 馬國翰 (Yuhan shanfang jiyi shu 玉函山房輯佚書) and Huang Shi 黃奭 (Hanxuetang congshu 漢學堂叢書). Likewise lost are his books Jingzhuan yigu 經傳義詁 and Lunnan 論難, which were among the first commentaries not focusing on a single Classic, but on the whole canon.

Pan Ce 潘策 (1988). "Jia Kui 賈逵", in Zhao Jihui 趙吉惠, Guo Hou'an 郭厚安, ed. Zhongguo ruxue cidian 中國儒學辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 25.
Yuan Renming 袁明仁 et al., ed. (1992). Sanqin lishi wenhua cidian 三秦歷史文化辭典 (Xi'an: Shaanxi renmin jiaoyu chubanshe), 160.
Cheng Guangzhi 盛廣智 (1996). "Jia Kui 賈逵", 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), 58.
Pang Pu 龐樸 (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 64.
Xu Xinghai 徐興海, Liu Jianli 劉建麗, ed. (2000). Rujia wenhua cidian 儒家文化辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 387.