Front Page Titles (by Subject) SECTION I.: THEIR RECOGNITION UNDER THE HAN DYNASTY, AND BEFORE IT. - The Chinese Classics: Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius
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SECTION I.: THEIR RECOGNITION UNDER THE HAN DYNASTY, AND BEFORE IT. - Mencius, The Chinese Classics: Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius 
The Chinese Classics: Translated into English with Preliminary Essays and Explanatory Notes by James Legge. Vol. 2 The Life and Teachings of Mencius. (London: N. Trübner, 1875).
Part of: The Chinese Classics
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THEIR RECOGNITION UNDER THE HAN DYNASTY, AND BEFORE IT.
1.In the third of the catalogues of Lew Hin,1 containing a list of the Works of Scholars which had been collected up to his time (about ad 1), and in the first subdivision, devoted to authors of the classical or orthodox School, we have the entry—“The Works of Mencius, in eleven Books.” At that date, therefore, Mencius’ writings were known and registered as a part of the literature of China.
2. A hundred years before Hin, we have the testimony of the historian Sze-ma Ts‘ẹen. In the seventy-fourth Book of his “Historical Records,” there is a brief memoir of Mencius, where he says that the philosopher, having withdrawn into private life, “with his disciples, Wan Chang and others, prefaced the She and the Shoo, unfolded the views of Confucius, and made ‘The Works of Mencius, in seven Books.’ ”
The discrepancy that appears between these testimonies, in regard to the number of the Books which went by the common name of Mencius, will be considered in the sequel. In the mean while it is shown that the writings of Mencius were recognized by scholars a hundred years before the Christian era, which takes us back to little more than a century and a half from the date assigned to his death.
3. Among writers of the Han dynasty earlier than Sze-ma Ts‘ëen, there were Han Ying, and Tung Chung-shoo, contemporaries, in the reigns of the emperors Wăn, King, and Woo, (bc 178—86). Portions of their Works remain, and in them are found quotations from Mencius. Later than these there were Yang Heung (bc 53—ad 18), who wrote a commentary on Mencius, which was existing under the Sung dynasty, and Wang Ch‘ung (died about ad 100), who left a chapter of animadversions on our philosopher, which still exists.
4. But we find references to Mencius and his Works anterior to the dynasty of Han. Between him and the rise of the Ts‘in dynasty flourished the philosopher Seun K‘ing, of whose writings enough is still preserved to form a large volume. By many he is regarded as the ablest of all the followers of Confucius. He several times makes mention of Mencius, and one of his most important chapters,—“That Human Nature is Evil,” seems to have been written expressly against Mencius’ doctrine of its goodness. He quotes his arguments, and endeavours to set them aside.
5. I have used the term recognition in the heading of this section, because the scholars of the Han dynasty do not seem to have had any trouble in forming or settling the text of Mencius such as we have seen they had with the Confucian Analects.
And here a statement made by Chaou K‘e, whose labours upon our philosopher I shall notice in the next section, deserves to be considered. He says:—“When Ts‘in sought by its fires to destroy the classical books, and put the scholars to death in pits, there was an end of the School of Mencius. His Works, however, were included under the common name of ‘Philosophical,’ and so the tablets containing them escaped destruction.” Ma Twan-lin does not hesitate to say that the statement is incorrect;1 and it seems strange that Mencius should have been exempted from the sweep of a measure intended to extinguish the memory of the most ancient and illustrious sovereigns of China and of their principles. But the same thing is affirmed in regard to the writings of at least one other author of antiquity, the philosopher Yuh; and the frequent quotations of Mencius by Han Ying and Tung Chung-shoo, indicating that his Works were a complete collection in their times, give some confirmation to K‘e’s account.
On the whole, the evidence seems rather to preponderate in its favour. Mencius did not obtain his place as “a classic” till long after the time of the Ts‘in dynasty; and though the infuriate emperor would doubtless have given special orders to destroy his writings, if his attention had been called to them, we can easily conceive their being overlooked, and escaping with a mass of others which were not considered dangerous to the new rule.
6. Another statement of Chaou K‘e shows that the Works of Mencius, once recognized under the Han dynasty, were for a time at least kept with a watchful care. He says that, in the reign of the emperor Hëaou-wăn (bc 178—154), “the Lun-yu, the Hëaou-king, Mencius, and the Urh-ya were all put under the care of a Board of ‘Great Scholars,’ which was subsequently done away with, only ‘The Five King’ being left under such guardianship.” Choo He has observed that the Books of the Han dynasty supply no evidence of such a Board; but its existence may be inferred from a letter of Lew Hin, complaining of the supineness with which the scholars seconded his quest of the scattered monuments of literature. He says:—“Under the emperor Heaou-wăn, the Shoo-king reappeared, and the She-king began to sprout and bud afresh. Throughout the empire, a multitude of books were continually making their appearance, and among them the Records and Sayings of all the Philosophers, which likewise had their place assigned to them in the Courts of Learning, and a Board of Great Scholars appointed to their charge.”1
As the Board of Great Scholars in charge of the Five King was instituted bc 135, we may suppose that the previous arrangement hardly lasted half a century. That it did exist for a time, however, shows the value set upon the writings of Mencius, and confirms the point which I have sought to set forth in this section,—that there were Works of Mencius current in China before the Han dynasty, and which were eagerly recognized and cherished by the scholars under it, who had it in charge to collect the ancient literary productions of their country.
[1 ] See Vol. I., Proleg., pp. 4, 5.
[1 ] See his great work, Bk clxxxiv., upon Mencius.
[1 ] See the same work, Bk clxxiv. pp. 9, 10.