CHINAKNOWLEDGE - a universal guide for China studies | HOME | About
Encoding: Unicode (UTF-8) [Location: HOME > Literature > Masters and philosophers > Miscellaneous treatises > Huizi]

Chinese Literature
Huizi 惠子 "Master Hui"


The Huizi 惠子 "Master Hui" is a philosophical treatise written by Hui Shi 惠施 (ca. 370-310), also written 慧施, who was a native from the state of Song 宋 during the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). He is also called Hui Gong 惠公. According to Zheng Qiao's 鄭樵 statecraft encyclopedia Tongzhi 通志, Hui is not a family name, but the name of a grand family (shi 惠氏), while Hui Shi's actual family name was Ji 姬, the family name of the Zhou dynasty 周 (11th cent.-221 BCE). In order to avoid the royal name, he was given the surname of Hui. Hui Shi was a counsellor of King Hui of Liang 梁惠王 (r. 371-335) but also served his successors, the kings Xiang 魏襄王 (335-319) and Ai 魏哀王 (319-296). As a philosopher, Hui Shi is known as a dialectician who played with the identity and non-identity of designations and factual matters. He was acquainted with the Daoist philosopher Zhuangzi 莊子 and surely influenced the latter's relativist worldview. Hui Shi was of the opinion that there exist two different dimensions of equality and non-equality (tong yi 同異), the first, small dimension being that of concrete objects in daily life, and the second, large dimension that of all things on earth. There is no absolute "equal" and "different", but all depends of the viewpoint of the speaker. The great unity (da yi 大一) of things is where nothing can be outside (i. e. the cosm), and the small unity (xiao yi 小一) of objects is where nothing can be inside (analogous to the ancient Greek concept of atoms).
In the imperial bibliography Yiwenzhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書, the small book Huizi is listed among the dialecticians. It seems to have been lost before the Tang period 唐 (618-907). The Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholar Ma Guohan 馬國翰 collected surviving fragments of the Huizi and statements about Hui Shi and compiled 17 chapters that he published in his Yuhan shanfang yiji shu 玉函山房輯佚書. Yet Ma Guohan's arrangement of the Huizi contains some errors and unreliable assuptions. The Huizi is also included in the collectanea Zhuzi huihan 諸子彙函 and the Puxuezhai congshu 朴學齋叢書, where it is enriched by a commentary written by the Republican scholar Hu Huaishen 胡懷深.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1874. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 1, 2012 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail