An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

boyi 駁議, polemic memorial

Feb 27, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Polemic memorials (boyi 駁議) were a special type of memorial in which the submitter expressed critical views towards suggestions of others or decisions by the government. The original decision was "refuted and corrected" (bozheng 駁正). The word bo 駁 "impure colour (of a horse)" referred to the heterogeneous composition of such documents. Boyi-style critique was introduced by the Han dynasty 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE). In his book Duduan 獨斷, Cai Yong 蔡邕 (132-192) listed them as one type of memorials to the throne, the others being zhang 章, zou 奏, and biao 表. The submission of boyi critique was usually followed by a discussion between the highest court members.

One of the most famous documents of this type is Liu Zongyi's 柳宗元 (773-819) Bo fuchou yi 駁復仇議 from the Tang period in which he argues against Chen Zi’ang's 陳子昂 (661-702) memorial Fuchou yizhuang 復仇議狀. Of more recent date is Yan Fu's 嚴復 (1854-1921) text Bi Han 辟韓. There is, however, a whole collection of discussions on the state monopolies and related policies of the Han period, namely Huan Kuan's 桓寬 (early 1st cent. BCE) Yantielun 鹽鐵論.

Lin Fei 林非, ed. (1997). Zhongguo sanwen da cidian 中國散文大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 77.
Ma Qixun 馬啟勛 (1998). "Boyi 駁議", in Tang Jiahong 唐嘉弘, ed. Zhongguo gudai dianzhang zhidu cidian 中國古代典章制度大辭典 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe), 48.
Wang Zhibin 王志彬, ed. (2002). Xinbian gongwen yuyong cidian 新編公文語用詞典 (Shanghai: Fudan daxue chubanshe), 322.