An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Xiangshi jiashuo 項氏家說

Sep 23, 2013 © Ulrich Theobald

Xiangshi jiashuo 項氏家說 "School Explanations by Master Xiang" is a Confucian treatise written by the Southern Song-period 南宋 (1127-1279) scholar Xiang Anshi 項安世 (d. 1208), courtesy name Pingfu 平父. He hailed from Jiangling 江陵 (modern Jiangling, Hubei) and was editor in the palace library (jiaoshulang 校書郎), vice director(yuanwailang 員外郎) in the Ministry of Revenue (hubu 戶部), and finally overseer-general (zongling 總領) of Hu-Guang 湖廣. Apart from his family instructions, he also wrote the books Zhouyi yuanci 周易玩辭 and Ping'an huigao 平安悔稿. The Xiangshi jiashuo was written after he had been dismissed from his office during the Qingyuan reign-period 慶元 (1195-1200).

The bibliographic chapter in the official dynastic history Songshi 宋史 and the bibliography Zhizhai shulu jieti 直齋書錄解題 say that the Xiangshi jiashuo had a length of 10 juan, with an appendix of 4 juan, and two additional texts, namely Xiaojing shuo 孝經說 and Zhongyong shuo 中庸說. Yet during the early Ming period 明 (1368-1644) the original text was lost, and the book is therefore only preserved in quotations in the encyclopedia Yongle dadian 永樂大典. These fragments include the chapters Shuojing 說經, Shuoshi 說事, Shuozheng 說政 and Shuoxue 說學. The transmitted version is the result of a reconstruction by the compilers of the imperial series Siku quanshu 四庫全書 during the Qing period 清 (1644-1911).

In this version, the first seven juan are explanations to the Confucian Classics Yijing 易經 (Zhouyi 周易), Shangshu 尚書, Shijing 詩經 (Maoshi 毛詩), Zhouli 周禮, Liji 禮記, Lunyu 論語 and Mengzi 孟子. The explanations focus on individual terms and their use in the texts of the Confucian canon. The juan 8 to 10 include the above-mentioned chapters quoted in the Yongle dadian. In this part of the book, Xiang Anshi discusses his own interpretation of the Neo-Confucian concept of society. He explains for instance, that the tranquillity of one's own mind (xin 心) was extremely important for a person in a high position in the social hierarchy. In turn, superiors would have to react on the actions of those depending on them.

Of the four appended texts Xiaojing 孝經, Zhongyong 中庸, Shipian ci 詩篇次 and Qiucheng tu 邱乘圖 (which were also circulating individually) only the interpretations of the Classics Xiaojing and Zhongyong have survived. Xiang Anshi explained that the human character was part of the life that Heaven had given to man, and it corresponds to the "centre" of the cosmos. To control this endowed character was the art of the Way, and successful control would result in achieving natural harmony within the mind. What the noble man (junzi 君子) was able to achieve by learning and studying, is called the natural "harmony of the centre" (zhonghe 中和).

The Xiangshi jiashuo is included in the Siku quanshu, and there is also an edition including the commentary of Lu Wenchao 盧文弨 (1717-1795), and two separate editions published in Fuzhou and Hangzhou during the 19th century.

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, 1559.