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Master Shen Pei 申培公

Jan 15, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Master Shen Pei 申培公, also called Master Pei from Lu (Lu Sheng Gong 魯申公), was a Confucian scholar of the early Former Han period. He hailed from Lu 魯 (modern Qufu 曲阜, Shandong) and was an expert in the local version of the Shijing "Book of Songs" and so the founder of the Lu school of the Shijing (Lushixue 魯詩學).

In his youth he was a student of Fuqiu Bo 浮丘伯, himself a disciple of the Confucian philosopher Xunzi 荀子, together with Master Lu Mu 魯穆生, Master Bai 白生 and Liu Jiao 劉交, the eventual Prince Yuan of Chu 楚元王. After the foundation of the Han dynasty, Fuqiu Bo and Shen Pei had an audicence with Emperor Gaozu 漢高祖 (r. 206-195 BCE), and Shen Pei was made ordinary grand master (zhong dafu 中大夫) of Liu Jiao.

During the regency of Empress Lü 呂后 (r. 188-180 BCE) he continued studying the Shijing and was finally appointed erudite (boshi 博士) during the reign of Emperor Wen 漢文帝 (r. 180-157 BCE). In this function he was also the mentor of Liu Jiao's son Liu Yingke 劉郢客 and his grandson Liu Wu 劉戊. When the latter inherited the princedom of Chu, he proved to be a cruel and irresponsible ruler and was criticised by Shen Pei. The teacher was punished and returned to his hometown, dedicating himself to research and teaching.

During the reign of Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) his disciples Wang Zang 王臧 and Zhao Wan 趙綰 attracted the attention of the emperor, so that Emperor Wu invited Shen Pei to come to the capital, and he was granted the title of superior grand master of the palace (taizhong dafu 太中大夫). When Empress Dowager Dou 竇太后, who was inclined to Daoism and opposed to Confucianism, saw herself endangered, she slandered Wang Zang and Zhao Wan so that they were executed. Shen Pei thereupon returned to Lu.

He was not only an expert in the Shijing but also transmitted the Guliang Commentary (Guliangzhuan 榖梁傳) to the Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" to Master Jiang from Xiaqiu 瑕丘江公.

According to the imperial bibliography Yiwen zhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書, Shen Pei had written the Lugu 魯故 (Lushi gu 魯詩故) and Lushuo 魯說 (Lushi shuo 魯詩說). Except some fragments of the Lushigu collected by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Ma Guohan 馬國翰, these books are lost.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 38.