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Chinese Literature
Changyan 昌言 "Appropriate Words"


The Changyan 昌言 is a Confucian treatise attributed to the Later Han period 後漢 (25-220 CE) scholar Zhongzhang Tong 仲長統 (179-220). It is also known with the title Zhongzhangzi Changyan 仲長子昌言. The original book was 12 juan "scrolls" long (according to other sources, only 10) and was divided into 34 chapters. During the Song period 宋 (960-1279), only 2 juan were left. From the beginning, it was categorized as a Confucian treatise. It criticized the tradition of the apocryphal classics that interpreted human life as determined by Heaven, which permanently sent down omina and portents in order to provide signs of human misbehaviour or of virtuous manners. Zhongzhang Tong saw human life and activities as the centre of the universe, which could by no means be influenced by the stars or the seasons. The rise and fall of a state depend, in his eyes, on the personal government of a ruler, who has to exhibit a benevolent rule, to adapt rules and laws according to circumstances, and to use reward and punishment in an appropriate way. A ruler would thus be able to govern with a well-balanced harmony. In his view of human life, Zhongzhang Tong had the tendency of the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi 莊子: A man had to be free in his wishes.
The Changyan is only preserved in fragments scattered in many different books as quotations. The Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Ye Shaotai 葉紹泰 was the first to collect those fragments and included them in his book Cengding Han-Wei-Liuchao biejie 增訂漢魏六朝别解. Ma Guohan 馬國翰, a Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar, detected further fragments, which are included in the Yuhan shanfang jiyi shu 玉函山房輯佚書. 2 juan of Zhangzhong's writings are included in Yan Kejun's 嚴可均 Quan Houhan wen 全後漢文. The collectaneum Congshu jicheng 叢書集成 contains fragments collected by Hu Weixin 胡維新 from the Ming period, which he calls Zhongzhang Tong lun 仲長統論. A collection of fragments is also included in the collectaneum Silutang leiji 四錄堂類集.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1547. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

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December 31, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail