An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhengjing 政經

Dec 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhengjing 政經 "Classic on government" is a political treatise written by the late Southern Song-period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Zhen Dexiu 真德秀 (1178-1235). The title is probably of later date.

In his book Zhen Dexiu adapts Neo-Confucian philosophy to practical politics of everyday administration. Zhen Dexiu rendered his book to his colleague Zhao Shidi 趙時棣, who later cared for the circulation of the book. In the Zhengjing, Zhen Dexiu quotes from each kind of traditional writings to demonstrate how a ruler should exert a good government in the Confucian sense. In many cases, it is Confucius himself who is quoted, answering the questions on government of his disciples. Zhen Dexiu quotes more than 20 stories with headlines. At the end, he adds 6 contemporary examples of good government, demonstrating how the tax collectors of Shexian 歙縣 (today in Anhui) used the tax registers by exchanging the figures of the taxes paid and those not yet paid.

In this way he demonstrated that local magistrates should keep a personal eye on the tax collection in order to prevent corruption. A state official had to follow the four observancies (sishi 四事): to obey the law and to withstand corruption, not to molest the people but to encounter them with kindheartedness, to keep his mind in the service of the public, and to serve it with diligence. The ten greatest misdoings (shihai 十害) of a local magistrate were: to be unfair in judgement, to follow slander instead of investigating, to punish with unjustified incarceration, to inflict cruel penalties, to demand exceeding compensations from subordinates, to believe bogus witnesses at the court, to collect double taxes, to change punishment by taking bribes, to have everything done by yamen runners without controlling them, and to bargain down the purchase prices for officially acquired goods.

The Zhengjing was printed in 1242 by Zhao Shidi, together with Zhen Dexiu's book Xinjing 心經. It is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Xijing qinglu congshu xubian 西京清麓叢書續編.

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.