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Persons in Chinese History - Shu Xi 束晳

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Shu Xi 束晳 (died ca. 300), courtesy name Shu Guangwei 束廣微, was a philosopher of the Western Jin period 西晉 (265-316). He came from Yuancheng 元城 (modern Daming 大名, Hebei) and occupied the post of court gentleman (lang 郎), professor (boshi 博士 "erudite"), secretarial court gentleman (shangshu lang 尚書郎). During the reign of Emperor Hui 惠帝 (r. 290-306) he ws promoted to record keeper of the Counsellor-in-chief (xiangguo jishi 相國記室). In 279, ancient tombs from the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE) state of Jin 晉 were discovered, in which the state annals were found, written on bamboo slips. Shu Xi took part in the reconstruction of the bamboo books (known as Zhushu jinian 竹書紀年 "Bamboo Annals"), which was particularly difficult because they text was written in ancient script.
Shu Xi's philosophy was different from the traditional mainstream of Confucianism. He argued that the human character is not naturally good or bad, but that every individual has his own character according to which man must behave, like Heaven has regulated it. The consequence of this assumption is a negation of general, objective differences between rich and poor, worthy and mean, or court and villages. All these differences are man-made and unnatural, but there is no possibility to level them, but everyone must act according to his position, keep silently in his duty (bi an qi ye 必安其業), and interact, but not interfere (jiao bu xiang xian 交不相羨). Man has to commandeer his own character (shuai qi xing 率其性), he must not fear in advancement and fulfill his obligations silently. The spirit has to dwell in a forest without threatening, and the heart has to be kept in a chamber where it can rest. In this way, non-activity (wuwei 無為) can serve to dissolve the confusions of the world, and with calmness the state can be rescued from distress.
Shu Xi has written the historiographical books San Wei renshi zhuan 三魏人士傳, Qidai tongji 七代通記, and a history of the Jin dynasty, the Jinshu 晉書 (not the official history Jinshu), which are unfortunately lost, except some fragments. He has also written the Wujing tonglun 五經通論, Famengji 發蒙記, Buwangshi 補亡詩. Fragments of his collected writings were during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) compiled to the book Shu Guangwei ji 束廣微集.

Source: Gao Riguang 高日光 (1996), "Shu Xi 束晳", 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. 81.

February 28, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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