An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xinlun 新論

Nov 15, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Xinlun 新論 "New Discussions", also called Huanzi xinlun 桓子新論, is a political and philosophical tractate written during the early Later Han period 後漢 (25-220) by Huan Tan 桓譚 (23 BCE-56 CE). According to ancient bibliographies, the original book was 17-juan long. During the late Tang period 唐 (618-907) it was lost, but the 16 chapters (probably as much as 29) could be reconstructed from quotations in other books.

Huan Tan stressed that the emperor had to concentrate as much power as possible in his hands. He had to rely on able advisors and to express his benevolence to the people. Rules and regulations had to be made clear, and the administrative corps of state officials had to be instructed and to be guided by rewards and punishment. This standpoint in state philosophy is quite legalistic and shows that the drive for a strong central government prevailed over a Confucian concept at that time. In the field of philosophy, Huan Tan discarded the very popular apocryphal writings (chenwei 讖緯) and criticised the contemporary practice of magic. In this respect, Huan Tan had some influence on Wang Chong 王充 (27-97 CE) and his book Lunheng 論衡, as well as philosophers like Yang Quan 楊泉 (late 3rd cent.) and Fan Zhen 范縝 (c. 450-510). Yet Huan Tan also explored the field of metaphysics where he brought forward the tenet that spirit (jingshen 精神) cannot be without a physical body (xingti 形體).

The most important editions of the Xinlun are those by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) scholars Yan Kejun 嚴可均 (1762—1843) and Sun Fengyi 孫馮翼 (fl. 1799). In 1977, the Shanghai renmin Press 上海人民出版社 published a modern edition of the Yan edition.

Table 1. Contents of the Xinlun 新論
1. 本造 Benzao
2. 王霸 Wangba
3. 求輔 Qiufu
4. 言體 Yanti
5. 見徵 Jianzheng
6. 譴非 Qianfei
7. 啟寤 Qiwu
8. 祛蔽 Qubi
9. 正經 Zhengjing
10. 識通 Shitong
11. 離事 Lishi
12. 道賦 Daofu
13. 辨惑 Bianhuo
14. 述策 Shuce
15. 閔友 Minyou
Pokora, Timoteus (1993). "Hsin lun", in Michael Loewe, ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China/Institute of East Asian Studies), 158-160.
Chen Jinsheng 陳金生 (1987). "Xinlun 新論", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, part Zhexue 哲學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1020.