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Persons in Chinese History - Hui Shi 惠施

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Hui Shi 惠施 (c. 370-310) was a representant of the philosophical school of dialecticians (mingjia 名家) during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). He came from the state of Song 宋, and the dates of his life are not known. He acted for a long time as Counsellor-in-chief in the state of Wei 魏 and suggested the dukes of Wei and Qi 齊 to mutually address as kings. King Hui of Wei 魏惠王 (better known as King Hui of Liang 梁惠王, r. 379-335) compared him with the politician and thinker Guan Zhong 管仲 from the state of Qi. Later on the king, supported by some nobles, chased Hui Shi away. In Chu 楚 he became acquainted with the Daoist philosopher Zhuang Zhou 莊周 (Zhuangzi 莊子). After a few years Hui Shi returned to Wei.
A book Huizi 惠子 compiled by Hui Shi or his disciples is lost. His thoughts are preserved in the books Zhuangzi 莊子, Xunzi 荀子, Hanfeizi 韓非子, Zhanguoce 戰國策, Lüshi chunqiu 呂氏春秋 and Shuoyuan 說苑.
Hui Shi was famous for his eloquence and his ability to provide convincing answers to the most complicate questions. His disputed with his friend Zhuangzi about the joyness of fish (yu zhi le 魚之樂) is very famous.
As a philosopher, Hui Shi discussed about difference and commonness of objects and brought forward his ten theories:
  • The largest object does not allow anything to be outside of "the great one" (itself), and the smallest object doe not allow anything to be inside "the small one" (itself).
  • If something has no dimensions, it is the same as if it was thousand miles large (i. e. is endlessly large).
  • Heaven and earth are equally low-lying, and mountains and swamps are equally flat.
  • The sun is starting to sink just when it is standing in the zenith, and things are beginning to die just after birth.
  • Large equality is different from small equality, this means that size and equalness are two different things.
  • The south has no end yet it has an end.
  • Someone going to Yue today has arrived there yesterday.
  • Connected rings can be separated.
  • The center of the world is located north of Yan (the northernmost state) and also south of Yue (the southernmost state).
  • One has to equally love all things, because the universe is one body.
Unfortunately only the theories are preserved and not its explanations. The most important aspect in Hui Shi's philosophy is that he stressed the equality of all things, and that equality always surpasses differences. According to his logic, opposite things like Heaven and Earth, mountains and swamps, are equal in the sense that their oppositeness to each other makes them equal. In all difference lies equalness, and in equalness difference.

Sources: Zhao Shulian 趙書廉 (ed. 1986), Zhongguo zhexue xiao cidian 中國哲學史小辭典 (Zhengzhou: Henen renmin chubanshe), p. 136. ● Pang Pu 龐樸, Zhou Yunzhi 周云之 (1992), "Hui Shi 惠施", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhexue 哲學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, p. 321. ● Tang Shaojie 唐少杰 (1996), "Hui Shi 惠施”, 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. 27.

February 21, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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