An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zhonglun 中論

Dec 2, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhonglun 中論 "Discussions on the mean Way" is a political treatise written during the very late Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE) by Xu Gan 徐幹 (170-217). Of the original 6 juan, only 2 are preserved, containing 20 chapters. It is known that at least two chapters mentioned in older sources are lost (Fusannian sang 復三年喪, Zhiyi 制役) since the Song period 宋 (960-1279).

The book is traditionally classified as a Confucian treatise because ritual, etiquette and benevolence are stressed as basis for a good government. The development of the right moral background is, from the viewpoint of a ruler or a government, more important than to care for details. Xu Gan criticized the Confucians of his own days because they were more occupied with tools, objects, instruments, terms and designations, exegesis and interpretation of the old writings, instead of living a moral life in the Confucian sense. Sincere and upright behaviour has to come first, and the realities of a society, based on a moral fundament, would automatically lead to the right designations and regulations in ceremonial and ritual matters.

The Zhonglun is included in the series Han-Wei congshu 漢魏叢書, Xiaowanjuanlou congshu 小萬卷樓叢書, Sibu congkan 四部叢刊, Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Congshu jicheng 叢書集成 and Baizi quanshu 百子全書.

Table 1. Contents of the Zhonglun 中論
1. 治學 Zhixue The teachings of government
2. 法象 Faxiang The expression of laws
3. 脩本 Xiuti Self-cultivation
4. 虛道 Xudao The way of the void
5. 貴驗 Guiyan Precious experience
6. 貴言 Guiyan Precious words
7. 藝紀 Yiji About the classic arts
8. 覈辯 Fubian A debate in response
9. 智行 Zhixing Wise government
10. 爵祿 Juelu Titles of nobility and salaries
11. 考偽 Kaowei Investigating forgery
12. 譴交 Qianjiao Reproaching
13. 曆數 Lishu Calendric calculations
14. 夭壽 Yaoshou Early death and longevity
15. 務本 Wuben The root of duties
16. 審大臣 Shen dachen Investigating grand ministers
17. 慎所從 Shen suo cong Sincere followers
18. 亡國 Wangguo The demise of a dynasty
19. 賞罰 Shangfa Reward and punishment
20. 民數 Minshu The size of the people
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, 1546.
Makeham, John (1993). "Chung lun", in Michael Loewe, ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China/Institute of East Asian Studies), 88-93.