Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/P'i Hsi-jui

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P'I Hsi-jui 皮錫瑞 (T. 鹿門,簏雲 H. 師伏), Dec. 17, 1850–1908, Mar. 6, scholar, was a native of Shan-hua, Hunan. His ancestors came originally from Kiangsi, and his father was a district magistrate. A chü-jên of 1882, P'i taught at two Academies: the Lung-t'an shu-yüan 龍潭書院, Kuei-yang, Hunan (appointed in 1890), and the Ching-hsün (經訓) shu-yüan, Nanchang (1892–97). Later (1897) he was active in the organization, in his native province, of a new kind of school where students could study contemporary problems—the Shih-wu Hsüeh-t'ang (see under Huang Tsun-hsien). In 1898 he lectured under the auspices of a newly founded literary society, the Nan Hsüeh Hui, which advocated reform on Western lines (see under T'an Ssŭ-t'ung). From 1902 until 1908 he taught at various academies and normal schools in his native province, and is said to have declined three times a professorship at the University of Peking.

P'i lived during a period of great turmoil in China: the Sino-Japanese war, the reform movement, and the Boxer uprising. In the thick of the combat between those who advocated a new internal and external policy for China and those who insisted on a strict adherence to the traditional order, P'i steered a middle course. He was in favor of educational reform. Indeed his enemies, partly because of his affiliation with the Nan Hsüeh Hui, accused him of radical tendencies—and in 1899 he was divested of his chü-jen degree which, however, was restored to him in 1902. He believed that if the corruption which had arisen during the Sung and Ming dynasties were cleared away, China could be saved from collapse without the adoption of Western customs.

As a classicist P'i allied himself with the Chin-wên or Modern Text School (see under Yen Jo-chü) which considered the so-called Ku-wên or Ancient Text of the Classic of History a forgery. Though the Chin-wên School of the Ch'ing dynasty was not in all respects identical with the original Chin-wên School of the Western Han, it was in general outline the same, holding Confucius to have been a great statesman rather than a historical compiler or philosopher, and the Classics to be the depositories of the political thought of Confucius and his early followers. And though the controversy between the Modern Text and the Ancient Text Schools was in part a reflection of the current contending political interests in the late Ch'ing period, it was also the natural outcome of a genuine textual problem, and the scholars engaged in the discussion developed a scientific technique of textual criticism which is one of the outstanding achievements of scholarship in the Ch'ing period.

P'i's literary life may be divided into three periods. In the first, he devoted himself to the discussion of the relative merits of the New and Old Texts of the Classic of History, and wrote the work 尚書大傳箋 Shang-shu ta-chuan chien (1887), the title of which was afterwards changed to Ta-chuan shu-chêng (疏證, 1895), and which was finally published under the title, Shang-shu ta-chuan shu-chêng, 7 chüan, 1896. In middle life P'i occupied himself with an attack on Cheng Hsüan (see under Chang Êr-ch'i), an Eastern Han commentator on the Classics and proponent of the Ancient Text. An important work of this period is the 孝經鄭注疏 Hsiao-ching Chêng-chu shu, 2 chüan, published in 1895. The third and last period was devoted to a systematic interpretation of the Classics as a whole. To this period belong the 經學通論 Ching-hsüeh t'ung-lun, 5 chüan, printed in 1907, and the Ching-hsüeh li-shih (歷史), 1 chüan, printed in 1907, and reprinted with annotations in 1929. A collection of several of P'i's works, all published by the Ssŭ-hsien shu-chü 思賢書局 of Changsha, and bearing dates from 1896 to 1908, appears under the title 皮鹿門所著書 P'i Lu-mên so chu shu, 23 chüan.

A grandson of P'i, P'i Ming-chên 皮名振, wrote a nien-p'u of his grandfather which was printed in 1939. Another grandson, P'i Ming-chü 皮名舉, took his doctor's degree at Harvard University in 1935.


[6/41/30b; P'i Lu-mên hsien-shêng chuan-lüeh (先生傳略) by P'i Ming-chü in the 國學季刊 Kuo-hsüeh chi-k'an, chüan 5, no. 2, 1935; preface by Chou Yü-t'ung 周予同 in the Ching-hsüeh li-shih, 1929, Commercial Press edition.]

Rufus O. Suter