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Restoring Dong Zhongshu (BCE 195 - 115) : an experiment in historical and philosophical resconstruction Arbuckle, Gary


This dissertation is intended as a contribution to research on Dong Zhongshu (c. 195 - c. 115 BCE). Dong is generally acknowleged the most important Confucian philosopher of the Former Han dynasty (206 BCE - 6 CE) and is usually-assigned a key role in the adaptation of Confucian thought to the demands of the centralized imperial state. However, recent research has brought his contribution to this process into question. In particular, it has been pointed out that the usual source of evidence for Dong's ideas, the Chunqiu fanlu, is inconsistent with contemporary material in one vital respect - the cosmological framework employed to interpret natural disasters and strange events. The dissertation is divided into four parts. In the first, I reconstruct the events of Dong's life. I review all evidence on his dates of birth and death, his service in the imperial government, and the times at which documents by him were written, determining his chronology with greater accuracy than has been the case previously. I also review the state of Dong's works in the Han, clarifying several anomalies in references to them. The second part relates Dong's philosophy in as much detail as possible, leaving aside all Chunqiu fanlu material except that which can be shown to be authentic. The first chapter deals with Han forerunners of Dong: the Huang-Lao and early Gongyang schools, the Shangshu dazhuan, Lu Jia, and Jia Yi. The second chapter reconstructs a general outline of his philosophical system, and the third discusses three aspects of it for which quantities of reliable material have survived: his legal thought, prognosticatory theory, and attempts to control rain. The picture of Dong as the architect of "Imperial Confucianism," long under suspicion, is revealed as a total fiction: for instance, his cyclical theory of history stated that the Han dynasty was cosmologically bound to abdicate. As earlier suspected, Five Forces concepts were absent from Dong's thought. It is possible to reconstruct details of a Yin-Yang cosmology quite different from that earlier attributed to Dong, although his full system remains somewhat unclear. Part Three traces the development of Gongyang thought from the time of Dong's death up to He Xiu (129 - 172 CE). I demonstrate a correlation between the fortunes of the two branches of the Gongyang tradition and their attitudes to the Wang Mang interregum, and show the close links between Gongyang scholars and the Later Han court. Gongyang thought appears to have been stable for half a century after Dong's death, but in the next fifty years it suffered drastic modifications marked by Five Forces ideas and a historical theory asserting the legitimacy of the Han. The topic of Part Four is the Chunqiu fanlu itself. The first chapter discusses its physical condition, the second reviews previous scholarship, the third investigates Yin-Yang and Five Forces ideas, the fourth takes up a variety of other features, and the fifth is devoted to a detailed analysis of rainmaking. Among other things, it is demonstrated that much physical damage derives from a single copy with 420 words per page, that there are clear traces of earlier independent works within the Chunqiu fanlu, and that several chapters can be dated to the time immediately preceding the accession of Wang Mang. The chapter on seeking rain proves to have been rewritten at least once, with the object of introducing material relevant to the Five Forces. On the other hand, I am also able to show that there are several groups of chapters in the text which may well be from Dong Zhongshu, including some chapters on Yin-Yang and the discussions of the suburban sacrifice.

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