An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Jing Fang 京房

Dec 30, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald

Jing Fang 京房 (77-37 BCE) was a Confucian scholar of the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) who was specializing in the Confucian Classic Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes".

There were actually two persons of this name. The earlier Jing Fang lived around 100 BCE and was a disciple of the earliest erudite (boshi 博士) for Yijing studies, Yang He 楊何, and was the teacher of Liang Qiuhe 梁丘賀. This Jing Fang held the title of Superior grand master of the palace (taizhong dafu 太中大夫) and was governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Qijun 齊郡. No writings of him are known.

The more important Jing Fang originally had the name Li Fang 李房, courtesy name Junming 君明, and later adopted another family name. He hailed from Dongjun 東郡 (modern Qingfeng 清豐, Henan) and wa a disciple of the new-text Yijing teacher Qiao Yanshou 焦延壽, a disciple of Meng Xi 孟喜. He became an erudite for the new-text Yijing during the reign of Emperor Yuan 漢元帝 (r. 49-33 BCE).

His main subject of research were natural disasters, about which he also loved to talk in memorials to the emperor. According to his view, natural disasters were an expression of failings in government. When he remonstranted against the powerful minister Shi Xian 石顯 he was appointed governor of Weijun 魏郡 far from the capital. He was later accused of treason and was executed.

Jing Fang had a highly speculative method of using the "Book of Changes" as a method of determining bad and evil in society according tot he 64 hexagrams, the seasons, hours and the weather. Heaven and men, he said, mutually correspond, so that human behaviour is reflected in time. He discarded the traditional method of the bamboo pitch pipes and replaced them with an instrument of 13 chords to determine 60 different musical modes.

Jing Fang wrote the book Jingshi yizhuan 京氏易傳. Fragments of his other writings have been collected by the scholars Ma Guohan 馬國翰 (Zhouyi Jinggshi zhangju 周易京氏章句), Wang Baoxun 王保訓 (Jingshi yi 京氏易), Huang Shi 黄奭 (Hanxuetang congshu 漢學堂叢書) and Sun Tang 孫堂 (Han-Wei ershiyi jia Yi zhu 漢魏二十一家易注).

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 52.