An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Dai De 戴德

Jan 15, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Dai De 戴德, courtesy name Yanjun 延君, also called Dai Senior (Da Dai 大戴), was a Confucian scholar of the mid-Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE).

He hailed from the region of Liang 梁 (modern Shangqiu 商丘, Henan) and was an expert in the new-text Confucian ritual classics. Together with his nephew Dai Sheng 戴聖 (Dai Junior 小戴) he was a student of Hou Cang 后蒼.

During the reign of Emperor Xuan 漢宣帝 (r. 74-49 BCE), he was appointed erudite (boshi 博士) and founded the school of Dai Senor 大戴學 of the ritual classics. He was once governor (taishou 太守), regional governor (mu 牧) and also Grand Mentor (taifu 太傅) of Liu Ao 劉囂, the Prince of Xindu 信都.

His most important contribution to the Confucian canon is his collection of essays on rituals, the Da Dai Liji 大戴禮記. This book is a refinement of 85 chapters out of 240 chapters on various Confucian writings on rituals. Dai De's version was derived from a composition of 131 chapters collected by Prince Xian of Hexian 河間獻王, as well as some books registered and arranged by the bibliographer Liu Xiang 劉向, namely the Mingtang yinyang ji 明堂陰陽記 (33 chapters), Kongzi sanchao ji 孔子三朝記 (7 chapters), Wangshishi ji 王史氏記 (21 chapters), and Yueji 樂記 (23 chapters), making a total of 240 chapters, which Dai De shortened to 85 chapters (the Da Dai Liji).

The Da Dai Liji was later overshadowed by the Liji 禮記 of Dai Junior by the important commentary of the Later Han-period 後漢 (25-220 CE) scholar Zheng Xuan 鄭玄 (127-200) written to that collection instead of that of Dai Senior. While the Liji of Dai Junior became part of the Confucian Canon, the Da Dai Liji was neglected for a long period of time and was first commented by the Northern Wei period 北魏 (386-534) scholar Lu Bian 盧辯. Only 46 chapters had survived until the beginning of the Tang period 唐 (618-907), and today only 39 are left.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 50.