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Persons in Chinese History - Mei Ze 梅賾

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Mei Ze 梅賾, also called Mei Yi 梅頤 or Mai Ze 枚頤, courtesy name Mei Zhongzhen 梅仲真, was a Confucian scholar of the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420) . He came from Runan 汝南 (modern Wuchang 武昌, Hubei) and was administrator (neishi 內史) in the princedom of Yuzhang 豫章. After the Yongjia 永嘉 disturbance and the flight of the Jin court to the southeast, the imperial library had went lost, and therefore Emperor Yuan 晉元帝 (r. 317-322) asked all scholars to submit books to the throne. Mei Ze was able to obtain a forged copy of an old-text version of the Confucian Classic Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents" (length 25 chapters), which he submitted, together with Wang Su's 王肅 forged version of Kong Anguo's 孔安國 version of the same book, the Shangshu Kongshi zhuan 尚書孔氏傳 (length 58 chapters). The court believed that these versions were genuine and even set up a professorship for these two versions that accordingly became very widespread in the Jin empire. They were proclaimed standard versions, and were promulgated in copied written by the famous calligrapher Fan Ning 范寧. The fake version was even used by the Tang period 唐 (618-907) scholar Kong Yingda 孔穎達, who wrote the important commentary Shangshu zhengyi 尚書正義 that became part of the canon Shisanjing zhushu 十三經注疏. The fake character of Mei Ze's versions was only suspected during the Song period 宋 (960-1279) by Wu Yu 吳棫 and then by Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130-1200). Doubts were later also cast by the Yuan period 元 (1279-1368) scholars Zhao Mengfu 趙孟頫 and Wu Cheng 吳澄, and the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Mei Zhuo 梅鷟. Yet it was only during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) that, with the help of philological methods, Mei Ze's version could be clearly identified as a fake. The most prominent scholars doing this work were Yan Ruoqu 閻若璩 (Guwen shangshu shuzheng 古文尚書疏證) and Hui Dong 惠棟 (Guwen shangshu kao 古文尚書考). The falsified Kong Anguo version was from then on called Wei Kong zhuan 偽孔傳 "Wrong Kong commentary". Mei Ze's books have nevertheless a certain historiographical value because they preserve a lot of names and terms.

Source: Xiao Yuan 曉源 (1996), "Mei Ze 梅賾", 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. 85.

March 1, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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