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Chinese Literature
Wuxing zhi 五行志 "Treatise on the Five Phases"


Wuxing zhi 五行志 "Treatise on the Five Phases" is a specialized type of chapter on the Five Phases or Processes (wuxing 五行) found in the official dynastic histories. It is first used in Ban Gu's 班固 Hanshu 漢書 and to be found in all dynastic histories except the Weishu 魏書, Xin Wudaishi 新五代史 and Liaoshi 遼史. The Wuxing zhi in the history Jinshu 晉書 explains that Ban Gu used the "Great Commentary" Dazhuan 大傳 (i.e. Shangshu dazhuan 尚書大傳), enriched its statements with writings of Dong Zhongshu 仲舒, Liu Xiang 劉向 and Liu Xin 劉歆. The Wuxing zhi in the Hanshu includes teachings of the masters Mu Meng 眭孟, Xiahou Sheng 夏侯勝, Jing Fang 京房, Gu Yong 谷永 and Li Xun 李尋 and their disciples. These teachings were concerned with the divination of luck and mischief of government in order to prognosticate the outcome of political rule as described in the Confucian Classic Chunqiu 春秋 "Spring and Autumn Annals". The treatises focus on three aspects, namely the correct Way of Rule, when loyal ministers serve a ruler, the ten thousand beings follow their correct nature, the airs are harmonious, portents of happiness (xiuzheng 休徵) appear, and the empire at peace; secondly, a ruler's loosing his way, when "small men" are appointed to high offices, the masses not behaving in the proper way, weird airs coming down, portents of disaster (jiuzheng 咎徵) appear, and the dynasty end; finally, the right reaction to natural disasters by cutting expenditure and abstaining from luxury, by personal commitment and establishing virtue, joint rule by the emperor and capable ministers, and the amending of faults to attract auspiciousness again.
The Wuxing zhi treatises so explain the rise and downfall of each dynasty with metaphysical reasons.


Source: Gao Liushui 高流水 (1996). "Wuxing zhi 五行志", in: Feng Kezheng 馮克正, Fu Qingsheng 傅慶升 (ed.), Zhuzi baijia da cidian 諸子百家大辭典, Chengdu: Sichuan renmin chubanshe, p. 432.

Chinese literature according to the four-category system

January 1, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail