An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wang Yinglin 王應麟

May 8, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Wang Yinglin 王應麟 (1223-1296), courtesy name Bohou 伯厚, style Shenning jushi 深宁居士 or Houzhai 厚齋, was a philosopher, philologist and publisher of the late Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279). He hailed from Qingyuan 慶元 (modern Ningbo 寧波, Zhejiang) and was a disciple of Lü Zuqian's 呂祖謙 (1137-1181) student Wang Ye 王埜 (d. 1260). He obtained the jinshi degree in 1241 and occupied the offices of recorder (zhubu 主簿) in the Office of Imperial Sacrifices (taichangsi 太常寺), controller-general (tongpan 通判) of Taizhou 臺州, prefect (zhifu 知府) of Huizhou 徽州 and finally Minister of Rites (libu shangshu 禮部尚書).

Wang Yingling was famous for his straightforward speech and his direct critique towards powerful ministers like Jia Sidao 賈似道 (1213-1275). The latter had him dismissed from office, so that Wang Yinglin was able to dedicate himself to research. After the downfall of the Southern Song dynasty in 1279 he retired to a private life.

Wang is admired as the last great scholar of the Song period and was admired for his wide knowledge and expertise in all matters of statecraft. He can thus hardly be called a traditional Confucian scholar. In this respect he was a worthy successor of Lü Zuqian and his school that renounced to solely rely on Neo-Confucian studies. Wang Yinglin was a brilliant historian, phonologist, astronomer and philologist. As a philosopher, Wang tried to reconcile the two Neo-Confucian schools of Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200) and Lu Jiuyuan 陸九淵 (1139-1193) and stressed the importance of applying the teachings of the Confucian Classics to practical governance.

The writings of Wang Yinglin are thematically very broad and range from "brush-notes" (biji 筆記) style essays in the collection Kunxue jiwen 困學紀聞 to the encyclopaedias Yutang leigao 玉堂類稿, Yexuan leigao 掖垣類稿 and Yuhai 玉海, historiographical writings like Hanshu yiwen zhi kaozheng 漢書藝文志考證, Tongjian dili kao 通鑒地理考, Tongjian dawen 通鑒答問 or Hanzhi kao 漢制考, Confucian studies like Shikao 詩考, Shi dili kao 詩地理考, Liujing tianwen bian 六經天文編 and books on primary education like Xingshi jijiu pian 姓氏急就篇, Xiaoxue ganzhu 小學紺珠, Mengxun 蒙訓 or Cixue zhinan 詞學指南.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 162.