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Chinese Literature
Dengxizi 鄧析子 "Master Deng Xi"


The Dengxizi 鄧析子 "Master Deng Xi", also called Dengzi 鄧子, is a legalist treatise attributed to the Spring and Autumn period 春秋 (770-5th cent. BCE) politician Deng Xi 鄧析 (ca. 545-501 BCE). Deng Xi was a high state official in the state of Zheng 鄭. He was killed by the regent Sichuan 駟歂, according to the book Liezi 列子, by Zichan 子產. Deng Xi is credited with the invention of the written law (zhuxing 竹刑 "bamboo penal law"). Before, law texts were only promulgated as edicts by the king of the respective ruler. The text of the edict was then cast into bronze vessels. The transfer of the text on bamboo slips made it an easy-to-handle book to be copied whenever and wherever needed.
Deng Xi's conflict with Counsellor-in-chief Zichan developed around a method to remonstrance against the duke of of Zheng. Deng Xi invented the open letter to the ruler (xianshu 縣書 "public letter") which was soon prohibited by Zichan. Deng Xi then resorted to the personal memorial (zhishu 致書 "effective letter") which was also soon declared illegal by Zichan. Deng's final method of remonstrance was the personally submitted enveloped letter (yishu 倚書).
Deng Xi is the oldest representant of the philosophical school of the mingjia 名家 "dialecticians". The book Dengxizi is divided into two chapters (Wuhou 無厚, Zhuanci 轉辭). It stresses the importance of laws and regulations for a well-functioning administration. Power (shi 勢) is "the chariot of the ruler", and force (wei 威) are his tactics. With the help of those two, a ruler will be able to safeguard his position. The Dengxizi also contains some Daoist thoughts.
The Dengxizi is included in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書, Zishu baijia 子書百家 (Baizi quanshu 百子全書), and Ershierzi 二十二子. In 1990, the Shanghai guji press 上海古籍出版社 published it in a modern edition, together with the books Shenzi 慎子, Yinwenzi 尹文子 and Heguanzi 鹖冠子.


Sources:
Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, vol. 2, p. 1640. Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe.
Zhou Yunzhi 周云之 (1987). "Deng Xi 鄧析", in: Zhongguo da baike quanshu 中國大百科全書, Zhexue 哲學, vol. 1, p. 147. Beijing/Shanghai: Zhongguo da baike quanshu chubanshe.


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February 19, 2011 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail