An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wang Mingsheng 王鳴盛

Mar 27, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Wang Mingsheng 王鳴盛 (1722-1797), courtesy name Fengxie 鳳喈 or Wang Litang 王禮堂 or Wang Xizhuang 王西莊, style Xizhi 西沚, was a writer, historian and philosopher of the high Qing period 清 (1644-1911). He hailed from Jiading 嘉定 (near modern Shanghai), and was called a "divine child" (shentong 神童) because of his intelligence. He obtained the jinshi degree in 1754 and was appointed junior compiler (bianxiu 編修), then academician reader-in-waiting (shidu xueshi 侍讀學士), provincial principal examiner (xiangshi zhengkao guan 鄉試正考官), Grand Academician (neige xueshi 內閣學士) and concurrently Vice Minister of Rites (libu shilang 禮部侍郎), and finally Chief Minister of the Court of Imperial Entertainments (guanglusi qing 光祿寺卿). With the age of 36 sui he left public life and began studying the Confucian Classics.

Wang Mingsheng was a disciple of Hui Dong 惠棟 (1697-1758) and therefore also a scholar highly interested in the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) interpretation of the Confucian Classics, the so-called Hanxue 漢學 "Han studies". He said that Confucians of the Han period possessed both "standards of their own tradition" (jiafa 家法) and that of teaching (shifa 師法). The individual standards had went lost during the Tang period 唐 (618-907), and the original teachings of the Han scholars were wholly discarded during the Song 宋 (960-1279) , under the influence of the speculative Neo-Confucianism.

From among the Confucian writings, the Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs", the three ritual classics Liji 禮記, Yili 儀禮 and Zhouli 周禮, and the Gongyang Commentary 公羊傳 where the most reliable, while all other writings had been corrupted by Wei 曹魏 (220-265) and Jin period 晉 (265-420) scholars. It was therefore his task to purify these transmitted versions. In his book Shangshu hou'an 尚書後案 he interpreted the Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents" in a new way, based on the Han period comments by Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 and Ma Rong 馬融.

Generally seen, Wang Mingsheng did not produce new scholarly insights. Quite helpful, on the other hand, are his critical comments on the official dynastic histories, the Shiqishi shangque 十七史商榷, where his remarks to geography, state offices and the administrative system are valuable.

Wang Mingsheng has also written the books Shangshu houbian 尚書後辨, Zhouli junfu shuo 周禮軍賦說, and Eshupian 蛾術篇.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 231.