An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Yinyang guanjian 陰陽管見

Jan 1, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Yinyang guanjian 陰陽管見 "Humble opinions on Yin and Yang", also called Yinyang guankui 陰陽管窺, is a book on divination compiled during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) by He Tang 何瑭 (1474-1543), courtesy name Cuifu 粹夫, style Baizhai 柏齋. He hailed from Wuling 武陵, Henan, and obtained his jinshi degree in 1502. He was made bachelor (shujishi 庶吉士) at the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, and later junior compiler (xiuzhuan 修撰). He was then appointed prefect (tongzhi 同知) of Kaizhou 開州, then of Dongchang 東昌, and then rose to the office of vice education-intendant censor (? tixue fushi 提學副使) of Shanxi. He crowned his career with several high posts in the secondary central government of Nanjing 南京, first as Vice Minister in the Court of Imperial Sacrifices (taichang shaoqing 太常少卿), then as director (langzhong 郎中) in the Ministry of Works (gongbu 工部), then of Revenue (hubu 戶部) and of Rites (libu 禮部), and finally as Right Censor-in-Chief (you duyushi 右都御史). His posthumous title is He Wendinggong 何文定公.

The short text is a scientific revision of the Neo-Confucian paradigm of the "primordial matter" (yuanqi 元氣) and its divergence into the two matters Yin and Yang. He Tang explains that Yin and Yang were void names, and that only Heaven and Earth, water and fire existed, from which all ten thousand creatures emerged. These elements had many different states. Water, for instance, could be vapour, swamp, or coldness, while fire can be expresses by heat, warmth or splendour. The spirit of Heaven was expressed in intelligence, that of the Earth in the shape of objects, while fire and water also contributed to the formation of personality. These four "elements" were mixed to a coherent entity, but nevertheless acted so clearly that no disorder resulted. Heaven was thus dependent on the Earth, fire on water, and vice versa. A mutual production of these elements was impossible, as it had been assumed in the Five Agents theory (wuxing 五行), where one element or phase produced the next one in a kind of productive cycle (wuxing xiang sheng 五行相生).

The book is to be found in the series Bailing xueshan 百陵學山 and Xuehai leibian 學海類編.

Gao Liushui 高流水 (1996). "Yinyang guanjian 陰陽管見", in Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升, eds. Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe), 432.