Shao Yong

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Shao Yong

Shao Yong (Chinese: 邵雍; pinyin: Shào Yōng; Wade–Giles: Shao Yung) (1011–1077), courtesy name Yaofu (堯夫), named Shào Kāngjié (邵康節) after death, was a Song Dynasty Chinese philosopher, cosmologist, poet and historian who greatly influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism in China.

Shao is considered one of the most learned men of his time. Unlike most men of such stature in his society, Shao avoided governmental positions his entire life, but his influence was no less substantial. He wrote an influential treatise on cosmogony, the Huangji Jingshi (皇極經世, Book of supreme world ordering principles).

Origins[edit]

Shao's ancestors were from Fanyang. He was born in 1011 in an area known as Hengzhang county (衡漳, now Anyang, Henan) to Shao Gu (邵古, 986–1064) and Lady Li (李氏, d. 1032 or 1033).[1] Shao's mother, Li, was an extremely devout practitioner of Buddhism. This link with Buddhism proved to be a major influence on Shao's thought throughout his life.

Shao Yong's first teacher was Shao Gu, his father. This was common practice in the familial environment of China at the time. Shao Gu was a scholar in philology and his influence can be discerned in Shao's literary works. Guided by his father, he studied the Six Confucian classics intensively at a young age. Shao also sought out the scholarship of private schools, many of which were run by monks and heavily influenced by Buddhism.

Around 1020, the Shao family moved to Gongcheng county (now Xinxiang, Henan). Shortly after his mother's death in 1032 or 1033. Shao met his most important teacher, Li Zhicai (李之才). Li was a former pupil of ancient prose specialist Mu Xiu (穆修, 979–1032). Under Mu Xiu, Li had studied the I Ching extensively.

Career and later life[edit]

Shao was a member of a group of thinkers who gathered in Luoyang toward the last three decades of the 11th century. This group had two primary objectives. One of these was to draw parallels between their own streams of thought and that of Confucianism as understood by Mencius.

Secondly, the men set out to undermine any links, real or otherwise, between 4th-century Confucianism and what they viewed as inferior philosophical schools of thinking, namely Buddhism and Taoism. Other loosely connected members of this so-called network of thinkers include: Cheng Yi, Zhang Zai, Cheng Hao (程顥, 1032–1085) and Zhou Dunyi. Central to each of these men was the ancient text I Ching, which each had studied closely. The way in which Shao studied this ancient text, however, differed from the other members.

During the Song Dynasty, there were two main approaches in I Ching studies. Together with the majority of scholars, the other members of the group took the yili xue (義理學, "principle study") approach, which was based on literalistic and moralistic concepts. The other approach, taken by Shao alone, was the xiangshu xue (象數學, "image-number study") approach, which was based much more on iconographic and cosmological concepts. An approach to I Ching divination known as Mei Hua Yi has been attributed to him.

Shao Yong also edited the "Tai Hsuan Jing" by Yang Hsiung (10 AD). Influenced by the Base 3 number system found in the Tai Hsuan, Shao Yong then set the Hexagrams of the I Ching into a binary order (the Fu Hsi Ordering). This in turn influenced Leibniz and his thinking on binary arithmetic, and in turn the language of modern computers.

Poetry[edit]

Shao is also famous for his poetry and for his interest in the game of Go (wéiqí). He wrote a Great Ode to Watching Wéiqí (觀棋大吟), one of the longest surviving classical Chinese poems, as well as a Long Ode to Watching Wéiqí (觀棋長吟), which is translated below.

Long Ode to Watching Weiqi
Cquote1.png

In a quiet courtyard in the spring, with evening's light filtering through the leaves,
guests relax on the veranda and watch as two compete at wéiqí.
Each calls into themselves the divine and the infernal,
sculpting mountains and rivers into their world.
Across the board, dragons and serpents array for battle,
geese scatter as collapsing fortresses are sacked;
masses die, pushed into pits by Qin's soldiers,
and the drama's audience is left in awe of its General Jin.
To sit at the board is to raise halberd and taste combat,
to endure the freezing and brave the flames in the constant changes;
life and death each will come to both masters,
but victory and defeat must each go to one.
On this road, one strips away the other's disguises,
in life, one must erect one's own facade;
dreadful is a wound to the exposed belly or heart,
merely painful is an injury to the face, which can be cured;
Effective is a blow that strikes home in an opponent's back,
successful are schemes that use repeated feints and deceit.
Look at the activity on the streets of our capital,
if you were to go elsewhere, wouldn't it be the same?

Cquote2.png
Shao Yong a[›]

See also[edit]

Notes[edit]

^ a: The shorter "Long Ode" is available at this Chinese source

  1. ^ Wyatt; 12,13,16

References[edit]

  • Birdwhistell, Anne D. Transition to Neo-Confucianism: Shao Yung on Knowledge and Symbols of Reality. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press, 1989. ISBN 0-8047-1550-5.
  • Liu, Weihua, "Shao Yong". Encyclopedia of China (Philosophy Edition), 1st ed.
  • Wyatt, Don J. The Recluse of Loyang: Shao Yung and the Moral Evolution of Early Sung Thought. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8248-1755-9.

External links[edit]