An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Zisizi quanshu 子思子全書

Jul 24, 2010 © Ulrich Theobald

Zisizi quanshu 子思子全書 "Complete writings of Master Zisi", short Zisizi 子思子 "Master Zisi", is an attempted reconstruction of a philosophical book from the Warring States period 戰國 (5th cent.-221 BCE). It was compiled around 1200 by the Southern Song-period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Wang Zhuo 汪晫 xxx. In 1274, his grandson submitted this book, together with the book Zengzi 曾子, to the throne.

Content of the book are the philosophical teachings of Zisi 子思 (483-402 BCE), actual name Kong Ji 孔伋, a disciple and grandson of Confucius. He is credited with the authorship of the Classic Zhongyong 中庸.

According to the imperial bibliography Yiwen zhi 藝文志 in the official dynastic history Hanshu 漢書, the Zisizi had 23 chapters, while Song-period bibliographies speak of a length of 7 juan. Yet the book Wang Zhuo compiled is not identical to this earlier version. His Zisizi includes 9 chapters, divided into three "inner chapters" (neipian 内篇) and six "outer chapter" (waipian 外篇).

The main topic of Zisi's philosophy is the concept of sincerity (cheng 誠), a kind of mental "perfection" (cheng 成). Yet sincerity was by nature included in all objects, it was the base of the world. Only man owned to possibility to achieve utmost sincerity (zhicheng 至誠). He was thus able to display the full range of the human character and to connect the world with that of Heaven. If sincerity was made clear, the human character came into full appearance. If clearness was made sincere, the right education had been achieved. This full human character corresponded to the Mandate of Heaven (tianming 天命) given to men. To control the character meant to have found the natural way (dao 道). Cultivating that natural way was nothing else than to follow the path of the dao. The human character bore in it all human affections, like joy (xi 喜), anger (nu 怒), sadness (ai 哀) and happiness (le 樂). In an underdeveloped state, they occupied a mean position (zhong 中), yet when all tempered to a right measurement, they resulted in harmony (he 和).

Such a kind of harmony had also to be achieved in all strata of society. The ruler felt pity for the ruled and avoids unjust laws. He gave houses to the homeless, and instead of wasting money for his concubines, he saved for cases of disaster relief. The state was like a body, with the ruler as its trunk, and the ministers the branches and leaves. If the root was strong and healthy, or morally good, the branches would bear lush greenery.

Wang Zhuo's reconstruction of a book Zisizi assembles all important philosophical thoughts of this Confucian master. Yet he does not quote literally from his sources, distorts the sentences, and also makes use of books that were rated as forgeries, like the Kongcongzi 孔叢子.

There is a Ming-period 明 (1368-1644) print of the Zisizi that is included in the series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Zeng-Si erzi quanshu 曾思二子全書.

Table 1. Contents of the Zisizi quanshu 子思子全書
内篇 Neipian Inner chapters
天命 Tiaming Heaven's mandate
鳶魚 Yuanyu xxx
誠明 Chengming Sincerity made clear
外篇 Waipian Outer chapters
無優 Wuyou No sorrow
胡母豹 Humu Bao Humu Bao
喪服 Sangfu Mourning clothes
魯謬公 Lu Mugong Duke Mu of Lu
任賢 Renxian Appointing worthies of offices
過齊 Guo Qi Passing the state of Qi
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰, eds. (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典 (Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe), Vol. 2, 1555.