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Chinese Literature
Cangshu 藏書

The Four Categories of Literature
Cangshu 藏書 "Concealed book", also called Lishi Cangshu 李氏藏書, is a historical critique written by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) philosopher Li Zhi 李贄 (1527-1602). Li Zhi was a leading critic of the political circumstances of his time. He therefore retired from office and dedicated himself to teaching. The 68 juan "scrolls" long Cangshu was written during the 1580s and not intended to be published, yet because Li Zhi's friends had access to the book, he was more or less compelled to have it printed in 1599. The Cangshu is a critical collection of biographies from the Warring States 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE) to the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368). It sources are mainly the official dynastic histories (zhengshi 正史) and the universal history Zizhi tongjian 資治通鑒. It is divided according to the bureaucratic and social position of persons, each section being introduced by a preface and finished by a critical discussion, in which Li Zhi brings forwards his own political standpoint. 8 juan include biographies of emperors, while the other biographies are divided into grand ministers (dachen 大臣), eminent officials (mingchen 名臣), Confucian scholars (ruchen 儒臣), military officials (wuchen 武臣), rapacious officials (zeichen 賊臣), relatives in offices (qinchen 親臣), intimate officials (jinchen 近臣) and officials of the local administration (waichen 外臣). Li Zhi attacked high ministers for the greed for power and the Confucians for their lack of realism and a missing willingness to learn from the past and even brings forward doubts about the Confucians' abilities to govern an empire. He furthermore criticised the social cementation created by Neo-Confucian ideology. His book was therefore forbidden to circulate.
A modern edition of the Cangshu was published in 1959 by the Zhonghua shuju press 中華書局.


Source: Wu Feng 吳楓 (ed. 1987), Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), p. 945.

March 18, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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