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Mengzi waishu 孟子外書

Jul 17, 2023 © Ulrich Theobald

Mengzi waishu 孟子外書 "The outer book of Master Meng", consisting of four chapters, is the title of two books that purport to collect statements of the Confucian philosopher Meng Ke 孟軻 (385-304 or 372-289 BCE) that are not included in the book Mengzi.

The first book of this title, with a length of 4 juan, goes back to a statement of Zhao Qi 趙岐 (108-201 CE) of the Han period 漢 (206 BCE-220 CE), who in his commentary Mengzi zhu 孟子注 said that Meng Ke himself had written a book of seven chapters – while the transmitted Mengzi has a length of 11 chapters. In addition to these four, there existed four "outer" chapters, namely Xing shan bian 性善辨 "Dispute about the goodness of human nature", Wenshuo 文說 "On writing", Xiaojing 孝經 "The book of filial piety", and Weizheng 為政 "On government". However, the bibliographical chapter Yiwen zhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu does not list these texts.

There were four commentaries written to these chapters, namely by Yang Xiong 揚雄 (53 BCE-18 CE), Han Yu 韓愈 (768-824), Li Ao 李翱 (774-836), and Xishizi 熙時子 (Song period). Older commentaries on the Mengzi like Liu Xi'a 劉熙 Mengzi zhu 孟子注 and Qimu Sui's 綦母邃 (c. 350) Mengzi zhu 孟子注 refer to the Waishu chapters, but it was apparently lost at the end of the Tang period 唐 (618-907). The earliest printed edition was produced by Jin Shaolun 金紹綸 in 1780. It was also published in 1817.

There exist several commentaries on the "outer chapters", namely Lin Chunbo's 林春溥 (1775-1862) Mengzi waishu buzheng 孟子外書補證, Shi Yanshi's 施彥士 (1775-1835) Mengzi waishu jizheng 孟子外書集證 and Chen Ju's 陳矩 (1851-1939) Mengzi waishu buzhu 子外書補注.

Seen from the text of the "outer chapters", it must have been compiled in a different age as it has a different style and lacks the philosophical depth of the origins. It is included in the series Hanhai 函海 and Jingyuan 經苑.

The second book with this title and a length of 1 juan and an appendix (Yiwen 逸文) was compiled during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911) by Meng Jingguo 孟經國 (fl. 1831), who also wrote an annalistic biography of Meng Ke, Mengzi nianbiao 孟子年表. The fourth chapter corresponds to the "genuine" text of the Waipian, but it is 8 paragraphs longer and the text differs in some places. The book includes the commentary of Xishizi, but also in slightly abbreviated form. Meng Jingguo's version was printed in 1831 and is included in the collection Xiandao ji 閑道集.

Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文郁, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 1, 587.
Wu Feng 吳楓, ed. (1987). Jianming Zhongguo guji cidian 簡明中國古籍辭典 (Changchun: Jilin wenshi chubanshe), 581.