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Persons in Chinese History - Guo Xiang 郭象

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Guo Xiang 郭象 (252-312), courtesy name Guo Zixuan 郭子玄, was a philosopher of the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). He came from Luoyang 洛陽 (modern Luoyang, Henan) and held the offices of Minister of Education (situ 司徒, see Three Dukes), gentleman attendant at the palace gate (huangmen shilang 黃門侍郎) and recorder of the Grand Mentor (taifu zhubu 太傅主簿). Guo Xiang was a Daoist philosopher who stood in the tradition of Wang Bi 王弼 who had interpreted the Confucian Classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" with the help of Daoist concepts. According to the popularity of Daoism in the 3rd century CE, Guo Xiang explained that the ten thousand being had spontaneously come into being (wu ge zi zao 物各自造), and not as the result of any active creation. The only condition for this "solitary transformation" (duhua 獨化, i. e. taking shape) is the Dao 道 "Way" which is inherent to all matters and not an external factor. Heaven, by the Confucians seen as the highest regulating principle, is by Guo Xiang only defined as an overall designation for the beings on earth. All types of transformation are spontaneous affairs and are not related to each other. It is not possible to discern "correct or incorrect" from the pattern in which things are arranged (li wu shi fei 理無是非). Birth and death are not a necessary status, but accidentally occur. Things that are perceived as great and small, old and young, valuable and cheap, are subjectively categorized. In reality, there are no such differences, but everything on earth can wander around in a free and easy manner (xiaoyao 逍遙), in one place counting as large, and in another place counting as small. Guo Xiang also contradicted the Daoist master Zhuangzi 莊子 who had assumed that all beings have a predestinated birth and death. He argued that birth and death are not influenced by any principle, but accidental. He was likewise not content with the assumption of Wang Bi and He Yan 何晏 that a voidness (wu 無 "nothing") is the state from which all things come into being. Nothing is, Guo Xiang says, just nothing, it cannot produce anything.
Guo Xiang tried to combine Daoist with Confucian thought and assumed that the heart of the Saint (shengren 聖人) is not only to be found in the temple, but also in the mountains and forest. The morally high-standing Confucian scholar is equal to the Daoist master, who is himself part of nature. Non-activity (wuwei 無為) does in Guo Xiang's worldview not means to shy away from the political business and to "fold hands", but it means that the ruler employs his character to make the people work, and that the people makes the best out of its situation. "Action" in the right way means "non-action", and "non-action" means to act properly.
In his commentary to the Daoist book Zhuangzi, Guo Xiang sees nature (ziran 自然 "it is by itself") and the Heavenly Way (tiandao 天道) not as creators. The world has "no master" (wu zhu 無主), and the ten thousand being are not depending (wu dai無待) on anything. The "nothing" is only a general designation of all ten thousand things (wu zhe, wan wu zhi zongming ye 無者,萬物之總名也).
Guo Xiang's commentary Zhuangzi zhu 莊子注 is included in Guo Qingfan's 郭慶藩 Zhuangzi jishi 莊子集釋. Guo Xiang has also written the commentaries Lunyu tilüe 論語體略, Laozi zhu 老子注 and the treatise Zhiming youji lun 致命由己論. Part of these writings survives in Huang Kan's 皇侃 Lunyu yishu 論語義疏 and the Daoist Canon Daozang 道藏.

Source: Gao Riguang 高日光, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升 (1996). "Guo Xiang 郭象", 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. 82.

March 1, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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