An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露

Jul 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露 "Rich dew of the Spring and Autumn Classic" is a political treatise written by the Former Han period 前漢 (206 BCE-8 CE) philosopher Dong Zhongshu 董仲舒 who used the Confucian Classic Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals" to develop a modern exegesis of the text with a political meaning for contemporary rulers.

The term fanlu 繁露 (also written 蕃露) denoted the decoration of the emperor's cap, a kind of small curtain of pearl strings hanging down from its front and back. The meaning of the book was thus actually "The Chunqiu's (instructions) to the emperor". Only later, during the Tang period 唐 (618-907), it was interpreted by Jia Gongyan 賈公彥 with the literal meaning of "rich dew".

While the Chunqiu fanlu was often seen as a commentary on the Chunqiu in the tradition of Gongyang Gao 公羊高 (author of the Gongyangzhuan 公羊傳), its implications are far more radical. Dong Zhongshu's interpretation of history as being subjected to cosmological cycles (the Five Processes and the Yin-Yang duality) challenges the very dynasty under which he lived and announced the coming of a new, sage ruler. With the integration of the old Yin-Yang theory, in which man and woman occupy an equally balanced position, into Confucianism, the thinking of two mutually dependant and mutually influencing forces was deconstructed to a model, in which man was superior and women were subordinated.

The received version of the Chunqiu fanlu is 82 chapters long. It was commented by the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) scholars Ling Shu 凌曙 (Chunqiu fanlu zhu 春秋繁露注) and Su Yu 蘇輿 (Chunqiu fanlu yizheng 春秋繁露義證). A Song period 宋 (960-1279) version is reproduced in the encyclopaedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典. Another extant print is that of the Lanxue Studio 蘭雪堂 from the Ming period 明 (1368-1644), printed in movable type, and Lu Wenchao's 盧文弨 print of the Baojing Studio 抱經堂 from the Qing period.

Table 1. Chapters of the Chunqiu fanlu
N.B. Translation of chapter titles according to Queen and Major (2016).
[Exegetical principles]
1. 楚莊王 Chu Zhuangwang King Zhuang of Chu
2. 玉杯 Yubei Jade cup
3. 竹林 Zhulin Bamboo grove
4. 玉英 Yuying Jade brilliance
5. 精華 Jinghua The quintessential and the ornamental
6. 王道 Wangdao The Kingly Way
7-8. 滅國 Mieguo Annihilated states 1-2
9. 隨本消息 Suiben xiaoxi Waxing and waning in accord with the root
10. 盟會要 Menghui yao The essentials of covenants and meetings
11. 正貫 Zhengguan The rectifying thread
12. 十指 Shizhi Ten directives
13. 重政 Zhongzheng Emphasize governance
14. 服制像 Fuzhi xiang Images for the regulation of dress
15. 二端 Erduan Two starting points
16. 符瑞 Furui Signs and omens
17. 俞序 Yuxu Yu's postface
[Monarchical principles]
18. 離合根 Li he gen Departing from and conforming to the fundamental
19. 立元神 Li yuanshen Establishing the originating spirit
20. 保位權 Bao weiquan Preserving position and authority
21. 考功名 Kao gongming Investigating achievement and reputation
22. 通國身 Tong guoshen Comprehending the state as a body
[Regulatory principles]
23. 三代改制質文 Sandai gaizhi zhiwen The Three Dynasties' alternating regulations of simplicity and refinement
24. 官制象天 Guanzhi xiangtian Regulations on officialdom reflect Heaven
25. 堯舜不擅移湯武不專殺 Yao Shun bu shanyi, Tang Wu bu zhuansha Yao and Shun did not presumptuously transfer [the throne]; Tang and Wu did not rebelliously murder [their rulers]
26. 服制 Fu zhi Regulations on dress
27. 度制 Du zhi Regulating limits
28. 爵國 Jue guo Raking states
[Ethical principles]
29. 仁義法 Renyi fa The standards of humaneness and righteousness
30. 必仁且知 Bi ren qie zhi The necessity of being humane and wise
31. 身之養重於義 Shen zhi yang zhong yu yi For nurturing the self, nothing is more important than righteous principles
32. 對膠西王越大夫不得為仁 Dui Jiaoxi wang yue dafu bu de wei ren An official response to the prince of Jiaoxi: The great officers of Yue cannot be considered humane
33. 觀德 Guande Observing virtue
34. 奉本 Fengben Serving the root
35. 深察名號 Shencha minghao Deeply examine names and designations
36. 實性 Shixing Substantiating human nature
37. 諸侯 Zhuhou The feudal lords
38. 五行對 Wuxing dui An official response regarding the Five Phases
39-40. (闕文) (lost)
41. 為人者天 Wei ren zhe tian Heaven, the maker of humankind
42. 五行之義 Wuxing zhi yi The meaning of the Five Processes
[Yin-Yang principles]
43. 陽尊陰卑 Yang zun yin bei Yang is lofty, Yin is lowly
44. 王道通三 Wang dao tong san The Kingly Way penetrates three
45. 天容 Tianrong Heaven's prosperity
46. 天辨在人 Tian bian zai ren The Heavenly distinctions lie in humans
47. 陰陽位 Yinyang wei The positions of Yin and Yang
48. 陰陽終始 Yinyang zhongshi Yin and Yang end and begin [the year]
49. 陰陽義 Yinyang yi The meaning of Yin and Yang
50. 陰陽出入上下 Yinyang shuru shangxia Yin and Yang emerge, withdraw, ascend, and descend
51. 天道無二 Tiandao wu er Heaven's Way is not dualistic
52. 煖燠孰多 Yuan'ao shu duo Heat or cold, which predominates?
53. 基義 Jiyi Laying the foundation of righteousness
54. (闕文) (lost)
55. 四時之副 Sishi zhi fu The correlates of the Four Seasons
56. 人副天數 Ren fu tian shu Human correlates of Heaven's regularities
57. 同類相動 Tonglei xiangdong Things of the same kind activate one another
[Five-Phase principles]
58. 五行相勝 Wuxing xiangsheng The mutual engendering of the Five Phases
59. 五刑相生 Wuxing xiangsheng The mutual conquest of the Five Phases
60. 五行逆順 Wuxing nishun Complying with and deviating from the Five Phases
61. 治水五行 Zhishui xuxing Controling water by means of the Five Phases
62. 治亂五行 Zhiluan wuxing Controlling disorders by means of the Five Phases
63. 五行變救 Wuxing bianjiu Aberrations fo the Five Phases and their remedies
64. 五行五事 Wuxing wushi The Five Phases and the Five Affairs
[Ritual principles]
65. 郊語 Jiaoyu Sayings pertaining to the suburban sacrifice
66. 郊義 Jiaoyi The principles of the suburban sacrifice
67. 郊祭 Jiaoji Sacrificial rites of the suburban sacrifice
68. 四祭 Siji The four [seasonal] sacrificial rites
69. 郊祀 Jiaosi The suburban sacrifice
70. 順命 Shunming Following orders
71. 郊事對 Jiaoshi dui An official response regarding the suburban sacrifice
72. 執贄 Zhizhi Presenting gifts to superiors
73. 山川頌 Shanchuan song Hymn to the mountains and rivers
74. 求雨 Qiu yu Seeking rain
75. 止雨 Zhi yu Stopping rain
76. 祭義 Ji yi The principles of sacrificial rites
[Heavenly principles]
77. 循天之道 Xun tian zhi dao Conform to Heaven's Way
78. 天地之行 Tiandi zhi xing The conduct of Heaven and Earth
79. 威德所生 Wei de suo sheng The origins of severity and beneficience
80. 如天之為 Ru tian zhi wei In imitation of Heaven's activities
81. 天地陰陽 Tiandi yinyang Heaven, Earth, Yin, and Yang
82. 天道施 Tiandao shi The Way of Heaven bestows
Jin Chunfeng 金春峰 (1987). "Chunqiu fanlu 春秋繁露", in Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhexue 哲學 (Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe), Vol. 1, 104.

Further reading:
Arbuckle, Gary (1989). "A Note on the Authenticity of the Chunqiu Fanlu 春秋繁露: The Date of Chunqiu Fanlu Chapter 73 'Shan Chuan Song 山川頌'", T'oung Pao, Second Series, 75/4-5: 226-234.
Arbuckle, Gary (1995). "Inevitable treason: Dong Zhongshu's Theory of Historical Cycles and Early Attempts to Invalidate the Han Mandate", Journal of the American Oriental Society, 115/4: 585-597.
Loewe, Michael (2002). "The Cosmological Context of Sovereignity in Han Times", Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies, 65: 342-349.
Loewe, Michael (2011). Dong Zhongshu, a "Confucian" Heritage and the Chunqiu Fanlu (Leiden: Brill).
Robin D. Wang (2005). "Dong Zhongshu's Transformation of Yin-Yang Theory and Contesting of Gender Identity", in Philosophy East and West, 55/2: 209-231.

Gassmann, Robert H., trans. (1988). Tung Chung-shu Ch'un-ch'iu fan-lu: Üppiger Tau des Frühlings- und Herbstklassikers, Übersetzung und Annotation der Kapitel eins bis sechs (Bern: Lang). [just ch. 1-6]
Queen, Sarah A., John S. Major, trans. (2016). Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn: Attributed to Dong Zhongshu (New York: Columbia University Press).