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Persons in Chinese History - Sun Chuo 孫綽

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Sun Chuo 孫綽 (320-377), courtesy name Sun Xinggong 孫興公, was a writer and scholar of the Eastern Jin period 東晉 (317-420). He came from Zhongdu 中都 (near modern Pingyao 平遙, Shanxi) and lived for a long time as a hermit on Mt. Guiji 會稽 in Zhejiang. Later on he was willing to take over state offices and pursued a career from magistrate (ling 令) of Zhang'an 章安 to adjutant-general conquering the West (zhengxi jiangjun canjun 征西將軍參軍), professor (boshi 博士 "erudite") of the National University (taixue 太學), secretarial court gentleman (shangshu lang 尚書郎), governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Yongjia 永嘉, cavalier attendant-in-ordinary (sanji changshi 散騎常侍), and finally Chief minister of law enforcement (tingwei qing 廷尉卿). He was even granted the inheritable title of Marquis of Changle 長樂.
Sun Chuo was an adherent of Daoism and used to pursue a very austere lifestyle, only using grass mats as a seat, and "rivers as a mirror". This wholly corresponded to the "estimation of the voidness" (gui wu 貴無) that was very popular in his times, as part of the teachings of the "School of the Mystery" (xuanxue 玄學). Sun Chuo believed that he had to gear his whole life to nature, in order to be in accordance with the cosmic pattern of the "Way" (Dao 道). The concept of voidness is very close to Buddhism, a religion that attracted more and more believers in China. Sun Chuo clearly saw the parallels between the scepticist religions of Daoism and Buddhism, and even tried to bring Confucian concepts into their vicinity. In his treatise Yu Dao lun 喻道論 he said that in the end, the Duke of Zhou 周公 and Confucius 孔子 were Buddhas, and the Buddha was identical to these two persons. He even renounced the most vehement critique by the Confucian scholars that leaving one's parents was inacceptable, with the argument that Buddhist self-cultivation and the practice of the Way was wholly congruent with the Confucian way of filial piety (xiao 孝), and pointed at sentences in Buddhist writings, where filial piety was mentioned as one of the Buddhist virtues. He also compared the Daoist postulation of non-activity (wuwei 無為) with the Buddhist request for quietness, and the Daoist concept of "everything is in action" (wu bu wei 無不為) with the Buddhist spiritualization of all beings. The constant change of life and death, as thematized in Daoism, was in Sun's eyes nothing else than birth and rebirth in Buddhism, including the retribution of good and bad deeds.
Of his writings, not a lot has survived. The fragments, for instance, those of the book Sunchuozi 孫綽子, were collected during the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) and published as collected writings, Sun Tingwei ji 孫廷尉集.

Source: Gao Riguang 高日光 (1996), "Sun Chuo 孫綽", 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. 90.

February 28, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail
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