An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁

May 28, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald

Wei Liaoweng 魏了翁 (1178-1237), courtesy name Huafu 華父, style Heshan xiansheng 鶴山先生, was a Confucian scholar of the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279).

He hailed from Pujiang 蒲江 in the prefecture of Qiongzhou 邛州, Sichuan, and obtained his jinshi degree in 1199. He was appointed prefect (zhizhou 知州) of Hanzhou 漢州, then Meizhou 眉州, and Luzhou 瀘州. Until then he had never left Sichuan, but finally he joined Zhen Dexiu 真德秀 (1178-1235), who had a court audience. At this occasion Wei Liaoweng was promoted to the position of Minister of Rites (libu shangshu 禮部尚書) and concurrently vice director of the Institute of Academicians (xueshiyuan 學士院), and *vice compiler (tongxiu 同修) and expositor-in-waiting (shidu 侍讀) of the Historiography Institute (guoshiguan 國史館). He finally was notary of the administrative assistant (qianshu 僉書) of the Military Affairs Commission (shumiyuan 樞密院) and then Grand Academician (daxueshi 大學士) in the Hall for Aid in Governance (Zizheng Dian 資政殿). As a friend of Zhen Dexiu, his name was often mentioned together with Zhen's, as Xishan-Heshan 西山鶴山 "the masters from Mt. Xishan and Mt. Heshan".

Wei Liaowang was an ardent supporter of Neo-Confucianism and the school of the brothers Cheng Hao 程顥 (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi 程頤 (1033-1107) and Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200). Yet he doubted whether Zhu Xi's comments on the Confucian Classics were really comprehensive, and felt compelled to undergo further research and considerations in this direction. He was also opposed to Buddhism and Daoism because both had a negative connotation of human desires (yu 欲). The saints of the past, he said, did not say that humans were to suppress their desires competely (wu yu 無欲), but only had to moderate their wishes (gua yu 寡欲). Wei stressed that one had to use one's own mind (xin 心) to take control over desires. This was possible in his eyes because the mind or heart was, according to the teachings of Shao Yong 邵雍 (1011-1077), an early Neo-Confucian master, congruent with the "ultimate extreme" (taiji 太極), i.e. the original universe. This perception was similar to Lu Jiuyuan's 陸九淵 (1139-1193) "School of the Mind" (xinxue 心學), a school competing with Zhu Xi's "School of the Principle" (lixue 理學).

Wei Liaoweng's most important writings are Jiujing yaoyi 九經要義, Jingwai zachao 經外雜鈔 and Gujin kao 古今考. His collected writings are called Heshan quanji 鶴山全集.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 159.