An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Mao Kun 茅坤

Dec 11, 2015 © Ulrich Theobald

Mao Kun 茅坤 (1512—1601), courtesy name Shunfu 順甫, style Lumen 鹿門, was a late Ming period 明 (1368-1644) collector and writer. He hailed from Gui'an 歸安 (modern Wuxing 吳興, Zhejiang) and obtained his jinshi degree in 1538. His career began as magistrate (zhixian 知縣) of Qingyang 青陽, then of Danxi 丹徒. Mao was then promoted to secretary (zhushi 主事) in the Ministry of Rites (libu 禮部), and worked then the Bureau of Records (jixunsi 稽勳司) in the Ministry of Personnel (libu 吏部). He was then sent out as assistant prefect (tongpan 通判) of Guangping 廣平, later as assistant in the military defence circuit (bingbei qianshi 兵備僉事) of Guangxi and vice commissioner (fushi 副使) in Henan. For his efforts in a punitive campaign against unruly native tribes in the province of Guangxi he was made vice defence commissioner (bingbei fushi 兵備副使) of Daming 大名. Injured in a fight, he withdrew from office and lived as a private scholar until his death.
In the field of literature, Mao admired Tang 唐 (618-907) and Song 宋 (960-1279) period poetry and compiled an anthology of the writings of eight famous poems, namely Han Yu 韓愈, Liu Zongyuan 柳宗元, Ouyang Xiu 歐陽修, the three Sus 三蘇 (Su Xun 蘇洵, Su Shi 蘇軾 and Su Zhe 蘇轍), Wang Anshi 王安石 and Zeng Gong 曾鞏, called Tang-Song ba da jia wenchao 唐宋八大家文鈔. This anthology was very widespread and served in many schools as a textbook. Mao Kun was befriended with the writers Tang Shunzhi 唐順之, Wang Shenzhong 王慎中 and Gui Youguang 歸有光, who belonged to a group of scholar called the "Tang-Song school" (Tang-Song pai 唐宋派). Yet Tang was of the opinion that Mao Kun's writings did not have the spirit of what tradional writings should have. His commentaries on the eight masters were defective and in some parts simply wrong. At least, the Wenchao was an anthology of refined literature and was therefore long used as a textbook in schools.
As a theoretician of literature, Mao Kun was of the opinion that writing was an expression of the Way (dao 道) because all writings were base on the Confucian Classics, which emboied the Way. In search of the Way, one had to study ancient writings, yet beginning with younger ones, and thus, going back chronologically, one would proceed from "writings" to the Way. This was not an easy task, and even in antiquity, the only disciples of Confucius who mastered the "six physical and mental arts" (see liuyi 六藝) as well as literature, were Ziyou 子游 and Zixia 子夏. The Way found its expression in the flourishing and decay of literature. According to Mao, the apogee of literature was during the Tang and Song period, and not during the Han period, as believed by many Ming period scholars (mainly the Qian qizi 前七子 "Earlier Seven Masters", and the Hou qizi 後七子 "later seven masters").
Mao's collected writings are called Baihualou canggao 白華樓藏稿, Baohualou xugao 白華樓續稿, Yingao 吟稿, Yuzhi shanfang gao 玉芝山房稿, Maonianlu 耄年錄 and Mao Lumen ji 茅鹿門集.

Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1997). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 288.
Zhang Dihua 張棣華 (1986). "Mao Kun 茅坤", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhongguo wenxue 中國文學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 525.
Zhao Zecheng 趙則誠, Zhang Liandi 張連弟, Bi Wanchen 畢萬忱, eds. (1985). Zhongguo gudai wenxue lilun cidian 中國古代文學理論辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 127.