An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Xinjing 心經

Dec 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Xinjing 心經 "Classic of the mind" is a philosophical treatise written by the late Southern Song-period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Zhen Dexiu 真德秀 (1178-1235). The book was originally called Fayu 法語 "Model stories".

The short treatise discusses the mind of the holy and wise scholar with the help of a lot of quotations from traditional literature. At the end, the author adds an eulogy (zan 贊) as a kind of summary. On an idealist background, the author develops the idea that the correct mind (zhengxin 正心) would be able to transform consciousness and behaviour of everyone towards that of a Confucian saint. In order to detect the correct mind, the scholar had to concentrate on "the one", leading to respect and politeness. With a respectful mind, the self would become straight and upright. The virtue of the mind were the Confucian values kindheartedness (ren 仁), righteousness (yi 義), orderly behaviour (li 理), and wisdom (zhi 智). These four virtues were bestowed to man by nature, or Heaven. The correct mind was thus provided with the formation of the physical nature, and each man had the potential to become a "saint". The Xinjing is a kind of précis of the Neo-Confucian discussion on the goodness in human nature.

The Xinjing was first printed in 1234 by Yan Ruoyu 顏若愚. Emperor Li 宋理宗 (r. 1224-1264) ordered Hong Zikui 洪咨夔 (1176-1236) to compile a preface to it. The Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Cheng Minzheng 程敏政 (1446-1499) wrote a commentary and eliminated some parts added by later scholars.

The Xinjing is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Xijing qinglu congshu xubian 西京清麓叢書續編, and the collected works of the author, Zhen Xishan quanji 真西山全集.

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, 1558.