Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Wang Fu-chih

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WANG Fu-chih 王夫之 (T. 而農, 薑齋, H. 船山, 一瓠道人, 夕堂), Oct. 7, 1619–1692, Feb. 18, philosopher and classicist, was a native of Hêng-yang, Hunan. His father, Wang Ch'ao-p'in 王朝聘 (T. 逸生, 修侯, 武夷先生, 1570–1647), a proponent of the philosophy of Chu Hsi (see under Hu Wei), studied in the Imperial Academy during the years 1621–26 and 1628–31. Wang Fu-chih's eldest brother, Wang Chieh-chih 王介之 (T. 石子, 石崖, H. 耐園, 鑑齋, privately canonized as 貞獻, 1607–1686, chü-jên of 1642), was a voluminous writer who left among other works a commentary, entitled 春秋四傳注 Ch'un-ch'iu ssŭ-chuan chu, 2 chüan, of which there are manuscript copies in the Seikadō Library, Tokyo, and in the Kuo-hsüeh Library, Nanking. This scholarly background probably had some influence on Wang Fu-chih. He was 9 precocious youth, with the reputation of being able to read ten times faster than the average person. At the age of twenty-three (1642) he passed the official examination for the chü-jên degree. Two years later Peking fell into the hands of the bandit leader, Li Tzŭ-ch'êng [q. v.] and finally was taken by the Manchus.

An ardent patriot, Wang Fu-chih was deeply distressed by the loss of the capital and by the martyrdom of Emperor I-tsung (see under Chu Yu-chien). He gave up all hope of taking the chin-shih degree and with his father sought refuge for four years (1644–48), during which he studied the classics intensively. Late in 1648 he raised an army at Hêng-shan, Hunan, which was de feated by Ch'ing troops. He then fled to Chao-ch'ing, Kwangtung, where he joined the Ming remnants under the Prince of Kuei (see under Chu Yu-lang). During the succeeding two years he followed the Prince to various places in Kwangtung and Kwangsi. He was respected by Ch'ü Shih-ssŭ [q. v.], but his ardent enthusiasm and his outspoken criticism of the factions that wasted their time in quarreling aroused the hatred of the dominant politicians, and they plotted his death. Realizing the hopelessness of the Ming cause, Wang abandoned the Prince of Kuei in the spring of 1650. On the basis of his experience, and the sources he had access to in these years, Wang later wrote the 永曆實錄 Yung-li shih-lu ("Veritable Records of the Yung-li Reign Period"), 26 chüan, consisting of biographies of the Prince, of his ministers, soldiers and others. Early in 1651 he returned to his native place and devoted himself to study, declining to have any dealings with the Manchus. He pursued his studies for the next forty years.

The passion of Wang Fu-chih for learning was exceeded only by his industry. His collected works, which were published recently, comprise seventy titles in 358 chüan (see below). Primarily an adherent of the Sung philosophy, he, like most of the early Ch'ing scholars, was violently opposed to the doctrines of Wang Shou-jên, usually known as Wang Yang-ming (see under Chang Li-hsiang). But he differed from most of his contemporaries in his adherence to the view-points of Chang Tsai (see under Chu Shih) whom he regarded as the greatest philosopher of the Sung period. His elaborate 張子正蒙注 Chang-tzŭ chêng-mêng chu, 9 chüan, elucidates both his and Chang's philosophy. Like the Sung scholars, he was learned in Buddhistic and Taoistic writings, but he did not make a secret of it as did his Sung predecessors. His commentary on the book of Chuang-tzŭ, entitled 莊子解 Chuang-tzŭ chieh, 33 chüan, is one of the best works on the subject. In addition, he composed two works on Buddhistic philosophy.

The most popular works of Wang Fu-chih are perhaps his 讀通鑑論 Tu T'ung-chien lun, 30 + 1 chüan, and his 宋論 Sung-lun, 15 chüan, in which he passes judgment on the main events of Chinese history as stated in the Tzŭ-chih t'ung-chien (see under Yen Yen) and other works. These writings are marked by shrewd judgment and critical acumen and embody at the same time his political philosophy. Perhaps no other person has demonstrated so clearly the differences between the institutions of the feudal period and those which came after. Wang dismissed with contempt the view of those Confucianists who argued that the ching-t'ien 井田 and other similar systems were put into practice after the feudal institutions were abolished. He supported the theory that the state is organized for the sake of the people, and not for their rulers—the best form of government being, in his opinion, the one which can be of the greatest service to the people. Nevertheless he believed that the people, being incapable of ruling themselves, need kings to carry out the will of Heaven. His works, being nationalistic in tone, stress the view that no alien is entitled to rule China. National heroes like Yüeh Fei (see under Yüeh Chung-ch'i) and Tsung Tsê 宗澤 (T. 汝霖, 1059–1128) are exalted, and traitors like Ch'in K'uei 秦檜 (T. 會之, 1090–1155) are unsparingly denounced. His political philosophy is even more systematically expressed in his 黃書 Huang-shu and his 噩夢 Ê-mêng, each consisting of 1 chüan.

As a classical scholar Wang Fu-chih was primarily concerned with the meaning of obscure terms and phrases which he analyzed by historical and philological methods. In this field he left more than thirty works, among them the 四書訓義 Ssŭ-shu hsün-i, 38 chüan, on the Four Books, and the 禮記章句 Li-chi chang-chü, 48 chüan, on the Record of Rites. But he was primarily a patriot, compelled to write because there was no means left to him for the expression of his nationalistic convictions. Hence all his works are dominated by a strong love of country. In this he resembles Ku Yen-wu and Huang Tsung-hsi [qq. v.] with whom, though they were contemporaries, he had no direct contact because of his self-imposed seclusion.

Wang Fu-chih was also celebrated as a poet, leaving eighteen collections of his own verse, in various forms; four collections of literary criticism; and seven anthologies of poets, from ancient times to the end of the Ming period. A drama, entitled 龍舟會 Lung-chou hui, is attributed to him. A collection of his short prose writings is entitled 薑齋文集 Chiang-chai wên-chi, 10 chüan, with a supplement (補遺 pu-i), 2 chüan.

Wang Fu-chih never received, during his lifetime, the recognition that was his due, owing to the fact that his works were not then published. Although about ten of them—chiefly on the classics—were printed by the middle of the nineteenth century, most of them lay in manuscript for about two centuries—a circumstance that shielded his anti-Ch'ing pronouncements from the literary inquisition of later times. The significance of his writings was first recognized by Têng Hsien-ho (see under Tsou Han-hsün) who, on the basis of printed works and manuscript copies preserved by Wang's descendants, printed at Changsha in 1840–42 the collected works of Wang Fu-chih under the title 船山遺書 Ch'uan-shan i-shu. This collection contains 18 titles comprising 150 chüan—the editorial work being done by Tsou Han-hsün [q. v.]. In 1842 Wang's Ssŭ-shu hsün-i (see above) was printed by the Shou-i-ching Shu-wu 守遺經書屋, the library of a Wang 王 family at Hsiang-t'an, Hunan. The printing-blocks of these two editions were destroyed during the Taiping Rebellion, but when Tsêng Kuo-fan [q. v.] established the Kiangnan Printing Office in Nanking (1864–66), that office reprinted the Ch'uan-shan i-shu. This edition, consisting of 58 titles in 288 chüan (not including the Ssŭ-shu hsün-i), was edited by Liu Yü-sung [q. v.] and other scholars. At the same time Liu compiled a chronological biography of Wang Fu-chih, entitled 王船山先生年譜 Wang Ch'uan-shan hsien-shêng nien-p'u, which was printed with a preface by Liu dated 1865. This nien-p'u was corrected and supplemented by Lo Chêng-chün 羅正鈞 (T. 劬盦), a Hunanese chü-jên of 1885, but Lo's edition appears not to have been printed. Lo was the author of a work about the friends and teachers of Wang Fu-chih, which he entitled Ch'uan-shan shih-yu chi (師友記), 17 chüan, printed in 1907. Liu Jên-hsi 劉人熙 of Liu-yang, Hunan, printed between the years 1897–1917 several work by Wang Fu-chih which had not appeared in Tsêng's edition. Early in this century the leaders of the anti-Ch'ing movement found support for their program in Wang's writings, thereby calling attention also to his other works. A definitive edition of the Ch'uan-shan i-shu, consisting of 70 titles in 358 chüan, appeared in 1910 in Shanghai. About the year 1915 there was established at Changsha an institute for the study of Wang's writings, known as the Ch'uan-shan Hsüeh-shê (學社). In the periodical Ch'uan-shan hsüeh-pao (報), published by this institute there is a nien-p'u of Wang written in 1934–35 by Wang Chih-ch'un 王之春. A work, entitled Ch'uan-shan hsüeh-p'u (譜), 6 chüan, printed in 1934, contains a detailed study of Wang's scholarship and a nien-p'u compiled by Wang Yung-hsiang 王永祥.

[1/486/5b; 3/403/27a; 4/130/13a; 7/27/14b; Nien-p'u (see above); Appendix to the Ch'uan-shan i-shu (see above).]

S. H. Ch'i