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Chinese Literature
Qianshenlun 錢神論 "About the Numinosity of Cash"


Qianshenlun 錢神論 "About the Numinosity of Cash" is a treatise on money written during the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) by Lu Bao 魯褒 (dates unknown), courtesy name Yuandao 元道, from Nanyang 南陽 (today in Henan). The short treatise is a very critical text towards the demonic powers of money and its incluence on society. The author criticizes that people in possession of money were always promoted and favoured, while the poor were left out dry. Persons in high offices had achieved their positions thanks to fortune and money, not because they had read books. Whoever had money could turn danger into safety and death to life again, but people without money would impoverish and perish. Money led to victory in trials, to raise in position, to vanquish enemies, and allowed people to make jokes. The author turned around an old argument of Confucius’ disciple Zixia 子夏 and argued that life and death were not determined by fate, but riches and honours depended on money (and not upon Heaven’s will). The text is written as a dialogue between two fictional persons, Sikong Gongzi 司空公子, and Qiwu Xiansheng 綦毋先生 The fragmentary text as extracted from the encyclopaedia Yiwen leiju 藝文類聚 and the history book Jinshu 晉書 (ch. Yinyi zhuan 隱逸傳) is included in Yan Kejun’s 嚴可均 collection Quanjinwen 全晉文. A similar text had ben written by Cheng Gongsui 成公綏 (231-273) during the early Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316) that seems to have served as a blueprint for Lu Bao's writing. Fragments of Cheng’s texts are found in the encyclopaedia Taiping yulan 太平御覽. The two writings demonstrate that the urban society of the time was already monetized to a considerably high degree. The two texts were imitated in later writings like the rhapsodies by 韋肇 Puman fu 扑滿賦 and Xiao puman fu 小扑滿賦 and Qian bencao 錢本草, Gao Ming’s 高明(约1310—约1380) theatre play Wubao zhuan 烏寶傳 and Quan min xi qian ge 勸民惜錢歌 by Jiang Tou蔣攸銛(1766年-1830年).

Source: Wang Yi 王益, Bai Qinxian 白欽先 (ed. 2000). Dangdai jiinrong cidian 當代金融辭典, Beijing: Zhongguo jingji chubanshe, p. 809. 殷南根“ 錢神論“ 《中國學術名著提要 哲學卷》 第275页
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December 5, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail