An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳

Jul 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Hanshi waizhuan 韓詩外傳 "Outer commentary on the Book of Songs by Master Han" is a collection of commentaries based on historiographical sources collected by Han Ying 韓嬰, who lived during the late 2nd cent. BCE and served as an "erudite" (boshi 博士) of Confucian Classics at the court of the young Emperor Wu 漢武帝 (r. 141-87 BCE) of the Han dynasty.

Han Ying commented one of the three transmissions of the "Book of Songs" Shijing 詩經, the so-called Hanshi 韓詩 "Book of Songs by [Master] Han". He also transmitted a version of the "Book of Changes" Yijing 易經, Hanshi yi 韓氏易, and wrote the books Hanshuo 韓說 "Explanations of Master Han", Han(shi) neizhuan 韓(詩)內傳 and Han(shi) waizhuan 韓詩外傳, the "inner" and "outer" commentaries of Master Han, and the Hangu 韓故 "Stories of Master Han". Except for the 10-juan long collection Hanshi waizhuan, all his books are lost. Fragments are preserved in Li Shan's 李善 (630-689) commentary on the literary anthology Wenxuan 文選 from the Southern Dynasties period 南朝 (420~589), as well as in some encyclopaedias from the Song period 宋 (960-1279). Even the Hanshi waizhuan is transmitted in a very chaotic state, which makes the book not very useful for the study of the Shijing transmission.

The Hanshi waizhuan mainly includes political explanations of the songs that were based on quotations of Confucius' discourses with his disciples, and of quotations of other philosophers and thinkers of the Eastern Zhou period 東周 (770-221 BCE). Originally there were two such commentaries, namely the "inner" and the "outer" commentary. Han's interpretation of the "Songs" is said to have represented a position between the two other versions of the Shijing, the Qi (Qi shi 齊詩) and the Lu (Lu shi 魯詩) traditions. Later Han scholars criticized Han Ying for his phantastic interpretation of the early Zhou-period book Shijing by quotations from late Zhou-period writings.

The air Guanju 關雎 of the Shijing is interpreted as follows:

Quotation 1. About the Air Guanju
子夏問曰:「《關雎》何以為《國風》始也?」 Zixia asked, "Why is the Guanju made to begin the Airs of the States?"
孔子曰:「《關雎》至矣乎!夫《關雎》之人,仰則天,俯則地,幽幽冥冥,德之所藏,紛紛沸沸,道之所行,如 神龍變化,斐斐文章。 Confucius said, "The Guanju is perfection. Now in its relation to man, the Guanju above is like Heaven; below it is like Earth. Mysterious and dark is the virtue it hides; abundant and rich the Way it puts into practice. Its transformations are like those of the supernatural dragon. It is complete in its brilliancy and order.
大哉《關雎》之道也,萬物之所繫,群生之所懸命也。 Oh great is the Way of the Guanju! It is that which connects all things and on which the life of human beings is dependent. [...]"
Hightower 1952: 159.

Han Ying's political standpoint leans towards Xunzi's 荀子 (313-238 BCE) interpretation of rituals as a means to control society, the veneration of scholars and the ruler's duty to nourish the peasant population. Apart from these points, some statements also go into the direction of Mengzi 孟子, e.g. the importance of a ruler's benevolence, and even into the direction of the legalists who stress the importance of laws.

Quotation 2. About Propriety and Righteousnes in Government
傳曰:在天者莫明乎日月,在地者莫明於水火,在人者莫明乎禮義。 There is a traditional saying: "In the heavens nothing is brighter than sun and moon; on earth nothing is brighter than water and fire; in man nothing is brighter than propriety (li 禮) and righteousness (yi 義)."
故日月 不高則所照不遠,水火不積則光炎不博,禮義不加乎國家則功名不白。 Now when the sun or moon is not high it does not illuminate what is distant; and when fire or water is not brought together in a mass, its rays are not extensive; and when propriety and righteousness are not used in a state, then its fame is not clear.
故人之命在天,國之命在禮。君人者降禮尊賢而王,重法愛民而霸,好利多詐而危,權謀傾覆而亡。 Just as human fate depends on heaven, the destiny of a state depends on propriety. If a ruler esteems propriety and honours sages, he will reign as a True King. If he lays emphasis on law (fa 法) and loves the people, he will rule as a hegemon. Ihe he loves profit and practices many deceits, he will be in danger. If he plots in an opportunist manner to overthrow (other states), he will perish.
《詩》曰:「人而無禮,胡不遄死?」 The Songs [Air Xiangshu 相鼠] say: "If a man observes no propriety,/ why does he not quickly die?"
Hightower 1952: 15-16, slightly altered.

Han Ying's interpretation takes the shape of stanzas. He first explains the background of the song and its meaning, and finally quotes a few sentences to back up his statements. Han Ying used numerous quotations from stories that were later used for collections of short stories or novellas like the Shuoyuan 說苑, Xinxu 新序, Lienüzhuan 列女傳 or Wu-Yue chunqiu 吳越春秋. Even if the philosophical or political content of the Hanshi waizhuan is possibly doubtful, its language is of a refined character.

There is a commentary on the Hanshi waizhuan written by Zhou Ting'an 周廷案 (mid-/late 18th cent.), Hanshi waizhuan jiaozhu 韓詩外傳校注. Another collection of commentaries was written during the same time by Zhao Huaiyi 趙懷義 (Zhao Huaiyu 趙懷玉, fl. 1780), namely Jiaoke Hanshi waizhuan 校刻韓詩外傳. The modern scholar Xu Weiju 許維遹 (1900-1950) has published a collection of all commentaries, Hanshi waizhuan jishi 韓詩外傳集釋.

Fragments of the Hanshi neizhuan 韓詩內傳 were collected by the Qing-period scholar Wang Mo 王謨 (c. 1731-1817). His collection includes 158 fragments gleaned from various commentaries on Confucian Classics, but also from commentaries on the histories, dictionaries and those contained in enyclopaedias. The collection is not complete. Fragments can also be found in Wang Yinglin's 王應麟 (1223-1296) Shigu 詩故 from the Song period. Wang Mo also wrote another collection, seemlingly a supplement to his fragmentary collection, called Hanshi shiyi 韓詩拾遺, with a length of 16 juan. It is unfortunately lost. The remnants of the Hanshi neizhuan ares preserved as a manuscript in the series Han-Wei yishu 漢魏遺書.

Wang Mo also collected fragments of Shen Pei's 申培 version of the Shijing, known as the Lu version of the "Songs" (Lu shi zhuan 魯詩傳). His collection includes 61 fragments of Shen Pei's books Lugu 魯故 and Lushuo 魯說, two books with an original size of 25 and 28 juan, respectively. Shen Pei had obtained his version from a certain Fuqiu Bo 浮丘伯. Some titles of the songs included in the Lu version can be found in the Lienüzhuan, with statements about the female authors of these poems, like Fouyi 芣苢 (written by the wife of someone from Cai 蔡), Rufen 汝墳 written by the wife of a noble from Zhounan 周南大夫, Xinglu 行露 written by the daughter of someone from Shen 申, Bozhou 柏舟 written by the wife of Wei Yi 衛宜, and others. Wang Mo's collection of fragments is also included in the Han-Wei yishu.

Fragments of the Qi version (Qi shi zhuan 齊詩傳) of the Book of Songs were collected by Ma Guohan 馬國翰 (1794-1857). Four books belonged to this tradition, namely the Qi Houshi gu 齊后氏故 in 20 juan, Qi Sunshi gu 齊孫氏故 in 27 juan, Qi Houshi zhuan 齊后氏傳in 29 juan, and Qizaji 齊雜記 in 18 juan. The author was a certain Hou Cang 后蒼 or Yuan Gu 轅固. The books of this tradition were the first to be lost, so that only very few fragments can be confirmed as originals. The earliest attempt at assembling such fragments were made by Chen Shouqi 陳壽棋 (1771-1834) and Chen Qiaocong 陳喬樅 (1809-1869) in their book Sanjia shi yishuo 三家詩遺說 "Surviving explanation of the Book of Songs by the three schools". Ma Guohan's collection was published as a commented and supplemented version of the Langhuan Studio 嫏嬛館.

The Hanshi waizhuan was translated by James R. Hightower, Han Shih Wai Chuan: Han Ying's Illustrations of the Didactic Application of the "Classic of Songs" (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1952).

Sources: xxx
Hightower, James R. (1993). "Han shih wai chuan", in Michael Loewe, ed. Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide (Berkeley: Society for the Study of Early China/Institute of East Asian Studies), 125-128.