An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Huangshu 黃書

Jul 14, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Huangshu 黃書 "Yellow book" is a text written during the early Qing period by the famous Confucian scholar Wang Fuzhi 王夫之 (1619-1692), who is famous for his critique towards the new rulers of the Qing dynasty.

The book has a length of just one fascicle and includes seven chapters. It was an early literary product of Wang Fuzhi and is a theory of nationalism, but clad in traditional words. Wang's proposition was that the profit (liyi 利益) of the people was the highest principle of governance. In governance, therefore, the Confucian principle of kindness (ren 仁) found its expression in "love to the people", not to obstruct them or lay them into fetters, and not to seek personal profit (yi ren ai ren, bu shou yi zhi er jin qi si 以仁愛人,不授以制而盡其私). The principle of righteousness (yi 義) served to restrict selfish desires and not to foment alienation or doubts (yi yi zhi wo, bu si suo ai er hou qi yi 以義制我,不私所愛而厚其疑). Wang used the Confucian recommendation to regard and treat others as if they were oneself, and explains that "kindness means to love others because / like [one loves] oneself; righteousness means to adhere strictly to rules of social relations for the sake of oneself" (ren yi zi ai qi lei, yi yi zi zhi qi lun 仁以自愛其類,義以自制其倫).

Wang explains that the powers of the world had simultaneously aspects of unity, and of division. Concerning the latter, he highlighted that the empire (tianxia 天下) was not the private property of a dynastic family, and shows how the Qin 秦 (221-206 BCE) and the Song 宋 (960-1279) dynasties both vanished because their power diminished after they had "privatized the empire" (si tianxia 私天下).

With regard to the Qing dynasty, Wang had the opinion that a dynastic change was quite a natural matter, but that the country should not fall into the hands of "barbarians" (yi lei 夷類). For this reason, national defence was important. The precondition for peace were prosperity (cai zu zi yi 財足自億), and a strong military (bing zu zi qiang 兵足自強). With sufficient wisdom, China would be able to be autonomous (zhi zu zi ming 智足自名).

The book is included in the collection Chuanshan yishu 船山遺書. In 1956, the Beijing Guji Chubanshe published a joint edition of the Huangshu and another work of Wang Fuzhi, Emeng 噩夢.

陳瑛, 許啟賢1989《中國倫理大辭典》 第595頁(Shenyang: Liaoning renmin chubanshe)