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Zengzi quanshu 曾子全書

Jul 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zengzi quanshu 曾子全書 "The complete writings of Zengzi", short Zengzi 曾子 "Master Zeng", is a philosophical treatise written by the Southern Song-period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Wang Zhuo 汪晫 xxx. The short book was written around 1200. In 1274 Wang Zhuo's grandson Wang Mengdou 汪夢斗 xxx submitted the book to the throne, together with the book Zisizi 子思子.

Zengzi 曾子 (505-432 BCE), actual name Zeng Shen 曾参, was an important disciple of Confucius who specialized on the concept of filial piety (xiao 孝). Zengzi declined the offers of several states for high positions and instead dedicated his life to teaching. He is said to have written the Classic Daxue 大學 "Great Learning" and a book called Zengzi. The imperial bibliography Yiwen zhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書 says it was 18 chapters-long, while the book catalogue in the Suishu 隋書 and later bibliographies speaks of a length of 2 juan. The book is listed in several Song-period bibliographies, like the Junzhai dushu zhi 郡齋讀書志 and the Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題. It is, nevertheless, not sure if Wang Zhuo reconstructed the Zengzi from surviving fragments or had compiled this book by himself. The transmitted version of Wang Zhuo is divided into 12 chapters, of which the last two are missing. The second chapter is also called an "inner chapter" (neipian 内篇), while the rest are dubbed "outer chapters" (waipian 外篇). The first chapter relates to the short "Classic of Filial Piety" Xiaojing 孝經, the second chapter to the Daxue.

Filial piety is said to be the most important of all moral virtues and is actually included in all other expression of Confucian virtues, like kindheartedness (ren 仁), proper conduct or righteousness (yi 義) and ritual behaviour (li 禮). If someone exerted the right filial conduct, all other moral virtues would automatically spring out of this source. The highest form of filial piety was the proper veneration of the parents (zun qin 尊親), the second form not to bring shame upon them (fu ru 弗辱), and the lowest form that of nourishing them in old age (neng yang 能養). If parents did show inappropriate conduct, a filial son was obliged to admonish (jian 諫) them. If they failed to correspond to his remark, he had, nevertheless, the duty to obey them. Serving the parents meant to serve them to the utmost. What they love had to be enjoyed and must not be neglected, and what they hated, had to be get rid of. A filial son thus had no wishes of his own and felt the same sorrows as his parents did.

To achieve a proper filial conduct, a son had to begin with the right self-cultivation, this means, to make upright his heart (zheng xin 正心), to make sincere his wishes (cheng yi 誠意), and to perfect his knowledge (zhi zhi 致知) by investigating all matters (ge wu 格物). By these measures he would be able to equalize the family (qi jia 齊家), meaning that everyone occupied his proper position. A state full of such families would be governed well (guo zhi 國治), so there would be peace on earth (tianxia ping 天下平). A further very important aspect was to make oneself sparingly (sheng 省) in all aspects so that an utmost sincerity could possess one's mind and transgressed out to all actions. No one else would thus be hurt for the profit of oneself. These rules were valid for everyone, from the emperor down to the common man.

The oldest surviving print dates from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). The Zengzi is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Zeng-Si erzi quanshu 曾思二子全書. There is a 4 juan long commented edition by Master Ruan 阮氏 printed by the Wenxuan Studio 文選樓, and an 8 juan-long edition created by Feng Yunyuan 馮雲鵷.

Table 1. Contents of the Zengzi quanshu 曾子全書
仲尼閑居 Kong Ni xian ju Confucius sat in quietness
明明德 Ming ming de Illuminating the bright virtue
養老 Yanglao Nourishing the aged
周禮 Zhouli The Rites of the Zhou
有子問 Youzi wen Disciple Youzi xxx Ziyou? asked
喪服 Sangfu Mourning clothes
晉楚 Jin Chu The states Jin and Chu
守業 Shouye Observing one's duty
三省 Sansheng The three modesties
忠恕 Zhongshu Loyalty and benevolence
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (ed. 1996), Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, p. 1554.