The Historical Comment and Thought of Yuan Hong's Annals of the Later Han
|Keywords:||袁宏;《後漢紀》;史論;東晉思想;玄學;Yuan Hong;Annals of the Later Han;Historical Comments;Eastern Jin Thought;Neo-Daoism||Issue Date:||2016||Abstract:||
Yuan Hong, courtesy name Yanbo, lived during the Eastern Jin, and was praised by his contemporaries as the greatest literary talent of his generation. His talents as a historian were also praised by the people of his time, and the most complete of his extant works is the Annals of the Later Han (Houhanji) that records the history of the Eastern Han, beginning with the rise of Emperor Guangwu and ending with Cao Pi replacing the Han. The contents of the Houhanji can be roughly divided into two parts, narrative accounts of historical events and Yuan Hong’s comments on those events. Scholars have already compared the former’s value as a historical source and unique characteristics with Southern Dynasties Song historian Fan Ye’s Book of the Later Han. There discussions are very detailed, and there is nothing left to debate. In regard to Yuan’s comments on those events, many scholars believe that he was influenced by Wei-Jin Neo-Daoism (Xuanxue). However, given that he made no contributions to Neo-Daoist thought, his work again shows how difficult it is to classify any work as representative of Eastern Jin Neo-Daoism, and that Guo Xiang of the Western Jin is the last true representative of Neo-Daoist thought. It also shows the insubstantial and repetitive character of the period’s academic thought. But if one actually examines Houhanji’s fifty-five comments on historical narratives (including the four quoted from Hua Jiao’s Houhanshu), it is clear that they do not share a close relationship with Neo-Daoism and have much to say about the Five Classics of the ancient sage kings. They not only argue that Mingjiao (ethical norms) is beneficial to the myriad creatures, but also attempt to explain the intentions of the sage kings that lie behind the creation of Mingjiao. These comments on historical events repeatedly cite the Five Classics in order to prove his arguments, and also express the hope that later kings and scholars would be able to grasp the original spirit that lay behind the sage-kings’ creation of Mingjiao in order to prevent Mingjiao from ossifying or collapsing. In comparison with treating Yuan Hong as a Neo-Daoist thinker, it is better to view him as a Confucian (Ruzhe) who loved antiquity and was nimble in pursuing knowledge of it. This echoes Gong Pengcheng’s assertion that the Eastern Jin period contains a “forgotten history of Confucianism,” and can also be used to assess the usefulness of applying the Wei-Jin Neo-Daoism framework to the Eastern Jin. This essay focuses on explaining the thought and character of Yuan Hong Houhanji’s fifty-five comments on historical events. It first explains the unique aspects of the format of Yuan Hong’s comments, and shows that they display the characteristic labeled by Liu Xianxin as the “good words of the masters,” and that more space is devoted to “explaining principle” than to “assessing history.” Because of this, they differ from earlier comments on historical narrative both in regard to their character and their use of space. The other aspect of this part of the thesis is to analyze his praise of the sage-kings and citations of the Five Classics, which show that his concerns were very different from those of Neo-Daoist scholars, and also the truth of Qian Mu’s assertion that “historical records became the new classics.” After that, the thesis will address “the text of the comments on historical narratives and their relationship to Neo-Daoism”, “the difference between the thought of Yuan Hong and the Neo-Daoist discussions of his times,” and “the proof of later assertions about Yuan Hong’s ties to Neo-Daoism” in order to dispel the general impression of the text created by scholars asserting that the Houhanji’s comments on history are Neo-Daoist. Finally, the thesis will analyze Mingjiao, which served as the basis for Yuan Hong’s comments on history. Based on his comments’ discussion of the intentions of Mingjiao and critique of various historical figures, it will explain the uniqueness of his thought on Mingjiao as well as his views on the steps whereby later people could implement Mingjiao, as well as the standards for it. Thus Yuan Hong Houhanji’s comments on history and their thought are best seen as an attempt on the part of an Eastern Jin Confucian who, confronting the difficult political situation posed by having a weak ruler with strong ministers as well as Wei-Jin Neo-Daoism’s longstanding discussion of nature and Mingjiao, attempted to once more take up the right to speak and respond to the questions posed by past generations.
|Appears in Collections:||中國文學系|
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