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Persons in Chinese History - Fu Xuan 傅玄

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Fu Xuan 傅玄 (217-278), courtesy name Fu Xiuyi 傅休奕, was a philosopher of the early Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). He came from Niyang 泥陽 (modern Yaoxian 耀縣, Shaanxi) from an eminent, but poor family. This background helped him to engage in studies of the ancient writings. During the reign of Emperor Wu 晉武帝 (r. 265-289) he was appointed cavalier attendant-in-ordinary (sanji changshi 散騎常侍), later commandant-escort (fuma duwei 駙馬督尉) and finally Metropolitan Commandant (sili xiaowei 司隸校尉). As an expert in history, he pointed at the reasons why the Qin dynasty 秦 (221-206 BCE) had failed and the Han 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) had succeeded, with the aim to resolve the problem that China was practically in disintegration, although the Jin dynasty 晉 (265-420) ruled over the whole territory of China. The rulers of his time, he said, were wise if employing competent advisors and bringing benefit to the public, instead of supporting the powerful families. He therefore contradicted the newly introduced ranking system according to which families were "morally" rated into one of nine categories (jiupin zhongzheng 九品中正), and whose members would only be appointed to ranks of according height.
The only philosophy able to support the state was Confucianism, he said, and not the very popular intellectual Daoism in the shape of the "School of the Mystery" (xuanxue 玄學) with their "pure conversations" (qingtan 清談). Fu Xuan said that it was important to create a better educational system in order to produce competent candidates for state offices. According to Confucianism, education would be able to expel the bad aspects in the human character, and nourish his goodness. Fu Xuan was of the opinion that there were nine different types of human expertise, that was to be used in the most profitable way: capability to virtue (decai 德才), order (licai 理才), administration (zhengcai 政才), education (xuecai 學才), warfare (wucai 武才), agriculture (nongcai 農才), craftsmanship (gongcai 工才), trade (shangcai 商才), and disputation (biancai 辯才). People with these skills were to be employed by the government in the most efficient way, and according to need. Fu Xuan's concept of education was highly influenced by Confucianism, and he therefore said that propriety (li 禮) was the most important matter to be transmitted, because it was the only means to bring society and the state away from the way of permanent fighting. The base for moral education was to "correct one’s heart" (zheng xin 正心). A corrected heart would result in a rectified self (shen zheng 身正), and a rectified personality in the right performance of what is left and right (zuoyou zheng 左右正), and finally to a prospering state. Correcting one's heart means to give up selfishness, to abstain from desire, and being self-sufficient; it also includes the right observance of matters and behaviour, which makes it possible to find out the roots of things, to elucidate facts, and to investigate the results.
Fu Xuan had a very realistic approach to philosophy and nature. He therefore criticized the belief that natural disasters were caused by negligence in the state offerings, and quoted from ancient writings were it is said that even under the saint rulers of the past, there had been inundation and draught. He stood on the side of realists who denied the existence of a correlation between worldly matters and supernatural powers.
Fu Xuan's book Fuzi 傅子 has only survived in fragments. A Ming period 明 (1368-1644) collection of his writings is called Fu Chungu ji 傅鶉觚集.

Source: Wang Minjie 王敏傑, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升 (1996), "Fu Xuan 傅玄", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升 (ed.), Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), p. 77.

February 28, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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