An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xing Bing 邢昺

Feb 7, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Xing Bing 邢昺 (932-1010), courtesy name Shuming 叔明, was a Confucian scholar of the early Northern Song period 北宋 (960-1126).

He hailed from Jiyin 濟陰 in the prefecture of Caozhou 曹州 (modern Caoxian 曹縣, Shandong) and was aide (cheng 丞), then professor (boshi 博士 "erudite") in the Directorate of Education (guozijian 國子監), then expositor-in-waiting (shijiang 侍講) of the princely estates (zhuwangfu 諸王府), and then Libationer (jijiu 祭酒, i.e. director) of the Directorate of Education. In 999 he was promoted to the post of expositor-in-waiting of the Hanlin Academy 翰林院, and finally Minister of Works (gongbu shangshu 工部尚書) and then of Rites (libu shangshu 禮部尚書).

Together with Sun Shi 孫奭 (962-1033), Xing Bing once revised a Tang-period 唐 (618-907) collection of commentaries on the Nine Classics, Jiujing zhengyi 九經正義. Xing himself wrote commentaries on the Classics Lunyu 論語 "Confucian Analects", Xiaojing 孝經 "Classic of Filial Piety" and the glossary Erya 爾雅.

The descriptive catalogue Zhongxing shumu 中興書目 from the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279) says that although Xing's commentary on the Lunyu was much more detailed and exacter than earlier commentaries, he failed to grasp the meaning of "minuscule words" (weiyan 微言). This statement is not quite fair because Xing Bing's analysis represents a milestone in the history of commentaries between the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE) and the Song era. This is particularly true for his interpretation of the concept of the "principle of righteousness" (yi li 義理) that is much more deep-going than in Huang Kan's 皇侃 (488-545) commentary on the Lunyu from the Southern Dynasties period 南朝 (420~589). This can be seen, for instance, in his interpretation of the sentence Zi han yan li, yu ming, yu ren 子罕言利,與命、與仁 "The subjects of which the Master seldom spoke were: profitableness, and also the appointments of Heaven, and perfect virtue." (transl. Legge) by arguing that these three matters could hardly be achieved by the common man, and therefore were not worth talking about.

The scholarship of Xing Bing later fell into oblivion by the emergence of Neo-Confucianism and he continued to be a third-rank philosopher far into the Qing period 清 (1644-1911).

The most important writings of Xing Bing are Lunyu zhengyi 論語正義, Xiaojing zhengyi 孝經正義 and Erya yishu 爾雅義疏. These commentaries are included in the series Shisanjing zhushu 十三經注疏.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 112.