An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Shenmengzi 伸蒙子

Dec 30, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Shenmengzi 伸蒙子 "The master reaching out for obscurity" is a philosophical treatise written during the Tang period 唐 (618-907) by Lin Shensi 林慎思 (844-880), who also wrote the book Xu Mengzi 續孟子.

The book of 3 juan is a revision of Lin Shensi's seven-chapters long book Rufan 儒範 "Models for a Confucian". When he had finished his book, Lin consulted the divinatory book Yilin 易林, an exegesis of the Confucian Classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" and obtained the hexagram ䷃ meng 蒙 "obscurity", with the explanation that an investigation of obscure matters is necessary to obtain the right view of things. The book itself is an investigation of how rulers in the past had managed to govern the empire with Confucian means.

In the first chapter, the relationships between Heaven, Earth and man is explained. In the second chapter, the relationships between ruler, minister and the people is highlighted. The last chapter described the relationship between civilian and military matters in government. The text is structured in dialogues with a question-and-answer pattern. The participants of the dialogues are allegoric persons, in the first chapter Mister Official-Emolument (Ganlu Xiansheng 干禄先生, Mister Well-Instructed (Zhidao Xiansheng 知道先生), and Mister Search-for-the-Self (Qiuji Xiansheng 求己先生); in the second chapter Mister Broad-Culturedness (Hongwen Xianshengy 弘文先生), Master Like-a-Fool (Ruyuzi 如愚子) and Master Black-Milk (Luruzi 盧乳子); and in the third chapter the author resp. the reader themselves, that discuss Confucius' view of smallness of earthly matters.

The oldest surviving print is from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644). The Shengmengzi is included in the series Baizi quanshu 百子全書.

Table 1. Contents of the Shenmengzi 伸蒙子
1. 槐里辨 Kuilibian
2. 澤國紀 Zeguoji
3. 時喻 Shiyu
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, 1548.