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Persons in Chinese History - Du Yu 杜預

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Du Yu 杜預 (222-284), courtesy name Du Yuankai 杜元凱, was a Confucian philosopher of the early Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). He came from Duling 杜陵 in the metropolitan region Jingzhao 京兆 (near modern Xi'an 西安, Shaanxi) and was married to a daughter of Sima Yi 司馬懿, grandfather of Sima Yan 司馬炎 (Emperor Wu 晉武帝, r. 265-289), the founder of the Jin dynasty, and had therefore the possibility to raise to high offices. He was metropolitan magistrate (yin 尹) of Henan 河南, Great General Suppressing the South 鎮南大將軍, commander-in-chief (dudu zhu zhushi 都督諸軍事) of the province of Jingzhou 荊州, and commander (zhen 鎮) of Xiangyang 襄陽. He played an important role in the final campaign against the Wu empire 吳 (222-280) in southern China and was therefore rewarded with the title of Marquis of Dangyang 當陽侯. His theories on the rise and fall of dynasties, especially on the background of military potential, brought him the name of Du Wuku 杜武庫.
Du Yu had an excellent education and was highly interested in the Confucian Classic Zuozhuan 左傳, a commentary to the Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals". He was very critical towards older interpretations of the Zuozhuan that wholly overlooked the original meaning of this historiographical text and instead thought it being a moral exegesis like the Gongyang Commentary 公羊傳 and the Guliang Commentary 榖梁傳. Du Yu was of the opinion that Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) masters like Zheng Xuan 鄭玄, Fu Qian 服虔, Ma Rong 馬融, Jia Kui 賈逵 or Zheng Zhong 鄭眾 had wholly confused these three writings and misunderstood the historiographical character of the Zuozhuan. For Du, the Zuozhuan was a coherent book that combined explanations to the Chunqiu with a way of writing history that can be used as a parallel or alternative to the Chunqiu Classics. Wholly discarding the Gongyang and Guliang commentaries, Du Yu analysed the Chunqiu and the Zuozhuan and wrote his own commentary to these two writings, the Chunqiu Zuoshi jingzhuan jijie 春秋左氏經傳集解. Du Yu compared older commentaries, explained and analysed them systematically (called shili 釋例), and compiled a chart of interstate meetings, called Menghui tu 盟會圖, as well as a calendric overview of the Spring and Autumn period (770 - 5th cent. BCE), the Chunqiu changli 春秋長曆.
Unlike his predecessors, Du Yu used the Zuozhuan to comment the Chunqiu Classic. He therefore combined the two books in one, which has been practice since. This combination is justified to some extent, but on the other side, the Zuozhuan also includes many passages and chapters that are not included in the older Chunqiu text. Moreover, the time frame of the two books is not identical, so that one can hardly say that the Zuozhuan is a mere commentary to the Chunqiu. His method of textual exegesis has later been rated as less qualified as that of the older Han period masters. Qing period 清 (1644-1911) experts of textual exegesis therefore rated Du Yu's commentary as of a mere mediocre quality.
During the early Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) the commentaries of Du Yu and Fu Qian were included in the curriculum ofthe National University (taixue 太學), and for each of them a professor (boshi 博士 "erudite") was appointed. In the following centuries the commentary of Du Yu was estimated higher than that of Fu Qian, at least in southern China, while under the Northern Dynasties 北朝 (386-581), Fu Qian’s commentary was preferred. From the Tang period 唐 (618-907) on Du Yu became the prevalent commentator to the Zuozhuan.


Source: Pang Pu 龐樸 (ed. 1997), Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, p. 82.

February 20, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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