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A Study on Zheng Xuan's Integration of the Three Books of Rite
Zheng Xuan,Zhouli,Yili,Xiao Dai Liji,Sanli,integration,Tuizhi,
|Publication Year :||2015|
Zheng Xuan (鄭玄) of the Eastern Han Dynasty made thorough commentaries on the Three Books of Rite : Zhouli (《周禮》）, Yili (《儀禮》), and Xiao Dai Liji (小戴《禮記》). He integrated them to build a school of Ritualism of his own, with the intention to reproduce and clarify the content and the spirit of Zhou Gong’s establishment of Zhou rites and to use them as the inner context that would penetrate the Six Classics. He also aimed to provide a grand scheme that would be strong enough to rally the order in the decaying late Han period. In the Han Dynasty, which ruled the state on the foundation of Classics, in order to make his academic value and his grand scheme consistent, Zheng explained that the essence of both Zhouli and Yili followed not only the divine mandate Zhou Gong received but also the ideas of two Sage Kings, Wen of Zhou and Wu of Zhou, as well as the rituals they made. Therefore, Zhouli and Yili shared the same sacredness and legitimacy.
When integrating Zhouli and Yili, Zheng Xuan used the relationship between the centralized system dictated by emperors and the local governments system based on vassal states to give the two books of rites different natures respectively. Also, by using the structure of 'Jingli Sanbai, Quli Sanqian' (經禮三百，曲禮三千) and 'Five Ceremonies' (五禮), he transferred the core of Ritualism and the core of the Classic system onto Zhouli, leaving Yili relatively subordinate. As for Liji, although it was just an expounder of the Classic, it had deeply affected the structure Zheng Xuan constructed based on Zhou Gong’s establishment of Zhou rites in various ways. In particular, the Han people considered the writings of “Wangzhi” (〈王制〉) and “Yueling” (〈月令〉) in Liji reflections of Zhou rites. People even believed they were done by Zhou Gong himself. Such assumptions deeply sabotaged the system Zheng Xuan built around Zhouli. In response, Zheng refuted the expounder with the Classics, in order to shake up people’s belief that its authority came from Zhou rites. He demonstrated how some of the contexts were related to the dictatorship in the Spring and Autumn Era and the Qin Dynasty, and therefore, they were not the way of a benevolent king. By doing so, he destroyed the sacredness of it.
How Zheng Xuan defined things in terms of “Zhou rites/non Zhou-rites” and how he regulated his method made his work more successful than his predecessors. This is because he made Zhouli and Yili his criteria in the determination of “Zhou rite”. He also defined clearly that only the rites made by Zhou Gong are the rightful Zhou rites, not any other rituals or rites in the eight hundred year span of the Zhou Dynasty. By doing that, he gave clear guidelines to what the criteria were and made a clear compass for the system. Nevertheless, if we were to look into which dynasty the non-Zhou rites belong to, Zhen’s determination may not fully stand or even take place as such. His arguments are often based on “relative perspectives”, which risk being arbitrary and speculative. Yet he strongly believed that only Sage Kings who followed divine mandate were qualified to make rites and rituals, and only such ones possessed the value that would bring peace and harmony.
Although Zheng Xuan defined the compass of “Zhou rites” in terms of their literature and concept, in the construction of the Ritualistic system, the materials that were defined as “non-Zhou rites” still added to the features of Zhou rites because the new dynasty might follow the ritual system of the previous one, and people tended to make innovation based one inheritance. In other words, when Zheng Xuan made the integrative Sanli (三《禮》) , he did not see the Zhou rites and the non-Zhou rites as opposite; instead, they were well linked up with each other.
Having clarified about “non-Zhou rites”, Zheng Xuan regarded the rest of Sanli as wirings about Zhou rites from different perspectives. He then used mutual interpretation to help understand each other in order to make corrections, critical explanations, complementary notes, and harmony, as well as to define their attributes and relations. He did that to make the complex record of rites and rituals clearer and more correct and to help connect itself into an impeccable system. Zheng not only used the more systematic Zhouli to determine the contents of Yili and Liji, but also used the latter two to add or define the details of the former as well as of the attributes of the undefied rituals. He even did that in cross usage, making it multi-directional and responsive to each other.
There is another purpose to the “mutial interpretation”: cross-examination. It is more than just comparing the above-mentioned “well-defined / ambiguous” materials. More importantly, it was to make dialogues with the traditional Ritualistic circle with all the integration. In other words, if Yili, which reflected Zhou rites and was based on Government schools, were thoroughly compatible with Zhouli and held clear attributes, and moreover, if Liji, which Confucian scholars chose to add to and to help explain Yili, could also work for Zhouli, then the fact that the three books of rites actually shared the same nature and were all records of Zhou rites was revealed abundantly clear.
In addition to the mutual interpretation and cross-examination, Zheng Xuan also used Lili (禮例) and Tuizhi (推致) with the attempt to infer the parts and bits that were supposed to exist in the books of rites but were left unwritten, in order to make the system of Zhou rites more complete. Although he inherited the methodology from Western Han Ritualists, he lost inferring from the limited rites of Yili’s seventeen chapters. Instead, on the basis of integration, he dug more referable principles and clues, and expanded inferable aspects.
Zheng Xuan also referred to Chenwei (讖緯) to ease out the contradictions and organize the chaos in the three books of rites regarding the materials on deities and related worship ceremonies. Although it is true that explaining the Classics with Chenwei went against the humanistic approach of Confucianism, Zheng still managed to do it because the knowledge and writings of the three books of rites have already gone far beyond recounting Western Zhou ceremonies. Plenty of the new beliefs and world outlook of the Warring States period were involved. There were records of historical facts as well as idealized fictitious elements, all of which became the source of construction for Chenwei texts and official Han ceremonies.
Lastly, the results of Zheng Xuan’s “integration” are to be examined at three different levels. First, are there any differences from historical facts? Second, has it interpreted the original meanings of the books of rite precisely? Third, being a school of knowledge that lives in the commentaries, is it solid and meticulous enough to be free from inconsistency? Regarding the first question, comparing to the literature unearthed in modern times, Zheng’s understanding certainly does not match the historical facts. However, given that Zheng would not have been able to see these materials, examining him in such a way may seem unfair. As for the second question, the writings of the three books of rites involve materials from different periods and are reformed in an “idealized” way. Also, the reason why some ritual details appear different in different books of rites may just be results of adaptation. It may not be necessary to define them as rules or regulations of different classes or periods. And in order to integrate into one single system, it is obvious that Zheng would fail to point out such facts and even twist some of the contents. Lastly, in terms of the third question, as a Confucian scholar who attempts to build a doctrine of his own, he has clear methodology that holds value, standard, and principles of explanation, and he also does his best keeping it consistent. Even though there might be speculations, unfounded opinions, or inconsistency, generally speaking, such problems, which might just be results of his negligence, are rather few. His work still holds great value in spite of the minor demerits.
|Appears in Collections:||中國文學系|
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