An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Ying Shao 應劭

Jan 7, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Ying Shao 應劭 (d. c. 203 CE), courtesy name Zhongyuan 仲遠 (also written 仲援 or 仲瑗), was a late Eastern Han period 東漢 (25-220 CE) writer and thinker.

He hailed from Nandun 南頓 in the commandery of Runan 汝南 (modern Xiangcheng 項城, Henan) and was recommended as "filial and incorrupt" (xiaolian 孝廉), and therefore appointed magistrate (ling 令) of Xiao 蕭, then of Yingling 營陵, and then governor (taishou 太守) of the commandery of Taishan 泰山. When Yuan Shao 袁紹 usurped power in the central government he was appointed commander planning for the army (moujun xiaowei 謀軍校尉). Ying Shao was famous for his wide expertise in all matters concerning administration and government, but also in daily affairs.

His most important writing is the encyclopaedia Fengsu tongyi 風俗通義 (short Fengsutong 風俗通). It was planned as a handbook for a ruler to learn how to adapt his style (feng 風 "wind") of administration and to rectify common (su 俗), but faulty methods. In philosophical respect his book was influenced by a realist tendency among scholars that fought againt the wide-spread superstition at the court and among the officialdom. The Fengsu tongyi is therefore an important source for the study of Han period beliefs in abnormalities and miracles.

Ying particularly attacs the Daoist belief that a man could become an immortal by certain practices, and the popular belief in ghosts, spirits and deities. Later scholars called this intellectual trend the "dipute on the non-existence of souls" (wushenlun 無神論).

Unfortunately the Fengsu tongyi has only partially survived, just like his book on the state offices, Hanguanyi 漢官儀 (also called Hanguan jiuyi 漢官舊儀). Ying Shao also compiled a genalogic history called Shiben 世本 that has survived as a manuscript in a collection of Qin Jiamo 秦嘉謨.

Feng Fang 馮方 (1996). "Ying Shao 應劭", in Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典 (Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe), 67.