Zhu Xi’s Interpretation of the Five Canonical Scriptures

  • Hans van EssEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 13)


This article is an attempt to summarize the most important aspects of Zhu Xi’s classical scholarship. Zhu Xi is most famous for his commentaries on the Four Books, a compendium that he compiled himself. Yet, his contribution as a commentator of the five canonical scriptures is also of paramount importance. With his Zhouyi benyi, he strengthened an approach to this text that had been taken by Shao Yong while in his important commentary on the Odes he offered a new interpretation that may be called revolutionary: he did not believe in the received moral interpretations by the Mao/Zheng tradition but said that morally depraved songs were in the collection of the Odes because Confucius had wanted to warn his readers of the behaviour displayed in them. As far as the Documents and the Annals were concerned, Zhu Xi did not provide commentaries of his own, in the first case because he thought that he was lacking technical knowledge to do so, thus leaving the task to write a commentary to his student Cai Shen, in the second case because he believed in the superiority of the commentary by Hu Anguo. Yet, many remarks to be found in Zhu Xi’s Sayings on the Old Text recension of the Documents of Kong Anguo and on the Zuo Commentary also show his critical attitude to matters of authenticity. With his commentary on the Rites Zhu Xi wanted to redress the wrong that Wang Anshi had removed the Ceremonial Rites from the curricula.


  1. Adler, Joseph. 1984. “Divination and Philosophy: Chu Hsi’s Understanding of the I-ching.” Ph.D. Diss., University of California Santa Barbara. Ann Arbor: UMI Dissertations. (Probably still the best monographic work on Zhu Xi’s understanding of the Yijing in the English language.)Google Scholar
  2. Ban, Gu 班固. 1962. The Documents of the Han 漢書. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  3. Hon, Tze-Ki. 2000. “Eremitism, Sagehood, and Public Service: The Zhouyi Kouyi of Hu Yuan.” Monumenta Serica 48: 67–92.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. ———. 2005. The Yijing and Chinese Politics: Classical Commentary and Literary Activism in the Northern Song Period (960–1127). Albany: SUNY. (Important survey of political use that has been made of the Yijing in Song times.)Google Scholar
  5. Hu, Hong 胡宏. 1987. Collected Works of Hu Hong 胡宏集. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  6. Legge, James. 1983. The She King or Book of Poetry, vol. 4 of The Chinese Classics. Taipei: Southern Materials Center.Google Scholar
  7. Ma, Duanlin 馬端臨. 1986. Thorough Enquiry into Literary Materials 文獻通考. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  8. Mittag, Achim. 1993a. “Change in Shijing Exegesis: Some Notes on the Rediscovery of the Musical Aspect of the ‘Odes’ in the Song Period.” T’oung Pao 79: 197–224.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. ———. 1993b. Shijing Studies in Song Times (960–1279). Preliminary Steps to a Reevaluation of Canonical Erudition of the Song (Das Shi-Jing Studium in der Song-Zeit (960–1279). Vorstufen zu einer Neubetrachtung der Song-Klassikergelehrsamkeit). Nördlingen: Fritz Steinmeier. (Very insightful analysis of the different stages of Zhu Xi’s scholarship on the Shijing.)Google Scholar
  10. Pi, Xirui 皮錫瑞. 1959 and 1989. History of Canonical Studies 經學歷史, with a preface by Zhou Yutong 周予同. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局 (originally published in 1928). (Classical overview of traditional Chinese canonical studies).Google Scholar
  11. Qian, Mu 錢穆. 1986. Judgements on the New Erudition of Master Zhu 朱子新學案. Chengdu 成都: Ba Shu shushe 巴蜀出版社 (originally published Taipei 1971). (Monumental assessment of all aspects of Zhu Xi’s scholarship with some important articles on his understanding of each individual canonical scripture.)Google Scholar
  12. Ruan, Yuan 阮元. 1980. The Thirteen Canonical Scriptures with Comnmentaries and Subcommentaries [of the Han and Tang] 十三經注疏. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  13. Schirokauer, Conrad. 1986. “Chu Hsi and Hu Hung.” In Chan Wing-tsit, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  14. Shao, Yong 邵雍. 2017. Book for Augustly and Supremely Ordering the World 皇極經世書. Shanghai 上海: Shanghai guji chubanshe 上海古籍出版社.Google Scholar
  15. Smith, Kidder Jr., Joseph A. Adler, Peter K. Bol, and Don J. Wyatt. 1990. Sung Dynasty Uses of the I-ching. Princeton: Princeton University Press. (Together with Hon 2000 the standard work on Song dynasty understanding of the Yijing.)Google Scholar
  16. Song, Dingzong 宋鼎宗. 1979. The Learning of Master Hu [Anguo] on the Annals Chunqiu 春秋胡氏學. Tainan 臺南: Youning chubanshe 友寧出版社. (Monography specializing on all aspects of the Chunqiu commentary by Hu Anguo.)Google Scholar
  17. Tuotuo 脫脫 et al., eds. 1985. History of the Song 宋史. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  18. van Ess, Hans. 2003. From Cheng Yi to Zhu Xi: The Learning of the Right Way in the Transmission of the Hu Family (Von Cheng I zu Chu Hsi: Die Lehre vom Rechten Weg in der Überlieferung der Familie Hu). Wiesbaden: Harrassowitz. (German language study of the transmission of the works of the Cheng brothers to Zhu Xi by Hu Anguo, Hu Yin and Hu Hong.)Google Scholar
  19. Wang, Maohong 王懋竑. 1982. Chronological Curriculum Vitae of Zhu Xi 朱子年譜. Taipei 臺北: Shangwu yinshu guan 商務印書館.Google Scholar
  20. Wood, Alan. 1995. Limits to Autocracy: From Sung Neo-Confucianism to a Doctrine of Political Rights. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (Only book specializing on Chunqiu scholarship during the Song in the English language.)Google Scholar
  21. Zhu, Xi 朱熹. 1980. Collected Works of Master Zhu Wengong [Xi] 朱文公文集. Taipei 臺北: Shangwu yinshu guan 商務印書館.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 1983. Sishu zhangju jizhu 四書章句集注. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  23. ———. 1986. Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2002. Zhuzi quanshu 朱子全書, edited by Zhu Jieren 朱傑人, Yan Zuozhi 嚴佐之, and Liu Yongxiang 劉永翔. Shanghai 上海: Shanghai guji chubanshe 上海古籍出版社and Anhui jiaoyu chubanshe 安徽教育出版社.Google Scholar
  25. ———. 2009. Zhouyi benyi 周易本義, edited by Liao Mingchun 廖名春. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局. (Compare the edition in Zhu 2002, edited by Wang Tie 王鐵).Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Asian StudiesLMU MunichMunichGermany

Personalised recommendations