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Chinese Literature
Dushulu 讀書錄 "Records while Studying"


The Dushulu 讀書錄 "Records while Studying" is a philosophical treatise written by the Ming period 明 (1368-1644) scholar Xue Xuan 薛瑄 (1389-1464), courtesy name Xue Dewen 薛德溫, style Jingxuan 敬軒. He came from Hejin 河津, Shanxi, and was Investigating Censor (jiancha yushi 監察御史), Chief Minister of the Court of Judicial Review (dalisi qing 大理寺卿), Right Vice Minister of Rites (libu you shilang 禮部右侍郎), and then academician (xueshi 學士) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院. Under the powerful minister Shi Heng 石亨 he retired and became a teacher of Neo-Confucian philosophy. His collected works are called Xue Wenqinggong quanji 薛文清公全集. Xue Xuan's basic idea was Zhang Zai's 張載 philosophy of the innate wisdom that is enclosed in the heart or mind. Each time he was reading a book, he discovered a new aspect of truth in his mind, and decided to write down his thoughts. Over a period of more than twenty years he so compiled his 11 juan "scrolls" long book Dushulu, and the 12 juan long supplement Xu dushu lu 續讀書錄. The text of the two books is highly influenced by Neo-Confucian thought. The universal principle, originating in the "utmost extreme" (taiji 太極), found shape in the ten thousand things on earth that accordingly were naturally part of the all-embracing "principle" (li 理). The original status of the utmost extreme was absolute quietness (jing 靜), expressing the non-active energy yin 陰, but it spontaneously began to move, expressing the active energy yang 陽, out of which all objects were born. The universal principle is embedded in all types of substance (qi 氣), like the principle can only exist in the shape of matter, and not without it (wu wu qi zhi li 無無氣之理). In the human body, the universal principle is embodied in the shape of the human character (xing 性). In order to go back to the universal principle (fu xing 復性), it is therefore necessary to study the nature of all things. In a human society, man-made standards (fa 法 "laws") were in fact obstructing the universal principle, and it was therefore better to organize society and state according to a principle of a "correct greatness" of common fairness (gongping zhengda 公平正大). A ruler had to select his ministers according to their strengths, and to see to it that their weaknesses could be overcome.
The Dushulu is written in a quite simple language that can easily be understood by a wide readership. It was therefore one of the most widespread educational texts of Neo-Confucianism during the Ming period, side by side with Hu Juren's 胡居仁 Juyelu 居業錄. During the Hongzhi reign 弘治 (1488-1505) Yang Qian 楊謙 submitted the books to the throne with the request to include them into the canon of the Directorate of Education (guozijian 國子監), in spite of is uneven composition that results from the fact that it was compiled over a long period of time. During the Wanli reign 萬曆 (1573-1620) Hou Heling 侯鶴齡 revised the text of the two books and republished them as a one-volume book with the title Dushu quanlu 讀書全錄, yet the revision had shortened the text so much that many passages did not reflect any more the original spirit of Xue Xuan. In 1614 this version was printed and published under the title Dushulu leibian 讀書錄類編. Another edition included the Juyelu 居業錄 and Luo Qinshun's 羅欽順 Kunzhiji 困知記. It was called San xiansheng yulu 三先生語錄. The Dushulu is to be found in the collectanea Siku quanshu 四庫全書 and Jinsheng yuzhen 金聲玉振.


Source: Li Xueqin 李學勤, Lü Wenyu 呂文鬰 (1996). Siku da cidian 四庫大辭典, Changchun: Jilin daxue chubanshe, vol. 2, p. 1566.
Chinese literature according to the four-category system

September 23, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald · Mail