An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Mingru xue'an 明儒學案

Mar 12, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Mingru xue'an 明儒學案 "Scholarly annals of Ming Confucians" is a collection of biographies of eminent Confucian scholars from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) compiled by the Qing-period 清 (1644-1911) writer and philosopher Huang Zongxi 黄宗羲 (1610-1695). It is not the oldest, but the most famous Chinese book of the xue'an 學案 "scholarly cases" genre. It can be called a history of thought combining several methods of historiography.

The 62-juan long book includes the biographies of 202 scholars that are arranged according to 19 scholarly cases (xue'an). For each chapter, a small preface is provided that includes short biographies, thought, career and contents of teaching, as well as short extracts from the saying of the respective scholar and his disciples. The author also adds his own comment to the importance of this particular school.

According to Huang Zongxi, Ming-period Confucian philosophy was first relying on the teachings of the Song-period 宋 (960-1279) brothers Cheng Hao 程顥 (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi 程頤 (1033-1107), and Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200; Cheng-Zhu zhi xue 程朱之學), while the so-called School of the Mind (xinxue 心學) of Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵 (1139-1193) was only of secondary importance.

The main early representatives of the Cheng-Zhu school were Xue Xuan 薛瑄 (1389-1464) and Wu Yubi 吳與弼 (1391-1469), while Chen Xianzhang 陳獻章 (1428-1500年) represented the School of the Mind. In the mid-Ming period Wang Shouren 王守仁 (Wang Yangming 王陽明, 1472-1529) was the leading Confucian person, as an adherent of the School of Mind. Yet the thoughts of his school (Wang men 王門 "Wang-ists") were also influenced by other groups and finally spread in different schools whose proponents were living in Zhejiang, Jiangsu, Zhixiu 止修 and Taizhou 泰州.

In the late Ming period, the Jishan School 蕺山學派 and the Donglin School 東林學派 were the main branches of the two grand Neo-Confucian traditions. Huang Zongxi himself supported the tradition of Wang Shouren. His book is, nevertheless, a very important tool for the study of the various philosophical schools and sub-schools flourishing during the Ming period, to see how they came into being and influenced each other.

The book was finished in 1676, yet the oldest surviving edition is that of the Ziyun Studio 紫筠齋 from 1707. It is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Sibu beiyao 四部備要. A modern annotated edition was published in 1985 by the Zhonghua Book Company 中華書局.

The book was translated by Julia Ching (1987), The Records of Ming Scholars (Honolulu: University of Hawai'i Press).

Table 1. Contents of the Mingru xue'an 明儒學案
河東薛瑄 Xue Xuan from Hedong, 15 persons
三原王恕 Wang Shu from Sanyuan, 6 persons
崇仁吳與弼 Wu Yubi from Chongren, 10 persons
白沙陳獻章 Chen Xianzhang from Baisha, 12 persons
姚江王守仁 Wang Shouren from Yaojiang, appendix 2 persons
浙中王門徐愛 Wangists from Zhejiang, Xu Ai, 18 persons
江右王門鄒守益 Wangists from Jiangsu, Zou Shouyi, 27 persons, appendix 6 persons
南中王門黄省曾 Wangists from Jiangxi, Huang Shengceng, 11 persons
楚中王門蔣信 Wangists from Hunan, Jiang Xin, 2 persons
北方王門穆孔暉 Wangists from the north, Mu Konghui, 7 persons
粵閩王門薛侃 Wangists from Guangdong and Fujian, Xue Kuan, 2 persons
止修李材 Li Cai from Zhixiu
泰州王艮 Wang Gen from Taizhou, 18 persons
甘泉湛若水 Zhan Ruoshui from Ganquan, 11 persons
諸儒上方孝孺 Various Confucians A, Fang Xiaoru, 15 persons
諸儒中羅欽順 Various Confucians B, Luo Qinshun, 10 persons
諸儒下李中 Various Confucians C, Li Zhong, 18 persons
東林顧憲成 Gu Xianchen from the Donglin faction, 17 persons
蕺山劉宗周 Liu Zongzhou from Jishan
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