Doctrine of the Mean [Chung-yung] (Preface)

Chung-yung is a central document in the Confucian tradition. It is also known as the Doctrine of the Mean. As an important chapter in one of the Five Classics, Chung-yung has continuously been a source of inspiration for the creative mind in Chinese intellectual history for more than two thousand years. Chu-Hsi (1130-1200), the great Confucian synthesizer, included Chung-yung as one of the Four Books. After that, it became as influential on traditional Chinese education as the Analects. It was a basic text for civil-service examinations from 1313 to 1905 in China. The mode of thinking presented in Chung-yung was rooted in Chinese’ mind and is still readily perceivable as a defining characteristic of many a philosophical reflection in contemporary China. The Doctrine of the Mean is more than keeping balance without going extreme. There is a deep, integral structure in Chung-yung.

Before I start the text of Chung-yung, I want to mention a common problem to virtually all Confucian classics that is the authorship. The idea of a single author writing a book at a given time is applicable only to a few ancient Chinese texts. Most epitomize the cumulative efforts of scholars, involving masters, disciples, and followers of subsequent generations. Moreover, the true nature of the text is often further confounded by commentators, interpreters, and, sometimes, interpolators. In most of cases it is fairly difficult to figure out a clear genealogical tree of a particular text. For example, the main body of Book of Change may have grown for centuries before it became shaped into a relatively fixed form. Or you could think about Bible. The following is an illustration of the story of Chung-yung from An insight of Chung-yung by Tu Wei-ming.

Traditional scholars, including the classicist K'ung Ying-ta (574-648 孔颍达) and the philosopher Chu Hsi (1130-1200 朱熹) , accept the historian Ssu-ma Ch'ien's (145-86 B.C. 司马迁) account that Confucius' grandson Tzu-ssu (492-431 B.C.) was the author. From the beginning of the Ch'ing period (1664-1912), however, textual analyst began to question this; the majority believed that the work was probably complied during the Warring States period (403 - 222 B.C.). Some insisted that Chung-yung should be dated around 200 B.C. , after the Ch'in unification. Accordingly, several new theories were offered. Since the work first appeared as a chapter in the Book of Rites, compiled by Tai Sheng in the Former Han (206 B.C. - 8 A.D.), it was suggested that the author might have seen Tai himself, but little textual evidence was available to substantiate this claim. A more elaborate argument was that of the Ch'ing scholar YuCheng-hsieh (1775-1840 俞正燮). He contended that after the burning of the books by the first emperor of the Ch'in dynasty (221 - 206 B.C. ), scholars in the Han dynasty had to reconstruct most of the classics. Chung-yung was not exception. The extant text, Yu argued, was probably the result of the cooperative effort of Han "doctorates" shortly after the founding of the dynasty. Yu further suggested that these doctorates must have consulted all the available material on the subject, and that the underlying structure of the work therefore must be basically in keeping with that of Tzu-ssu's original text. Hence, he concluded, in spite of some obvious evidence of later interpolation, Ssu-ma Ch'ien was correct in assigning the authorship to Tzu-ssu. Scholars of a more critical bent, however, were not convinced that Tzu-ssu was the author in the first place. They did not consider the single reference in Ssu-ma Ch'ien's Record of History to be sufficient. Such scholars believed that the text was compiled by more than one person over a long period of time and that it did not become "composed" until the early part of the Han dynasty. The well-known Ch'ing scholar, Ts'ui Shu (1740-1816), was an outstanding proponent of this position.

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