Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Kung
LI Kung 李塨 ( 剛主, 恕谷, childhood name 四友), May 14, 1659–1733, Feb. 14, philosopher, was born in the village of Hsi-Ts'ao chia-tsui 西曹家蕞, in the district of Li-hsien, Chihli. During his childhood he was taught by his father, Li Ming-hsing 李明性 ( 洞初, 晦夫, privately canonized 孝愨先生, 1615–1683), a scholar whom Yen Yüan [q. v.] praised as one of the most upright men of his day. At the close of 1673 Li Kung married Wang Chihshun 王至順 (1658–1676), a sister of Wang Yang-ts'ui (see under Yen Yüan). Wang's estimate of Li is contained in his dictum that whereas he himself was a conservative, and Yen a radical, Li approached the golden mean (吾近狷, 兄近狷, 李妹夫, 乃近中行). After some two years of a happy married life Wang Chih-shun died early in 1676. Li remarried in 1677 and in the same year became a licentiate with high honors, but declined to take a government stipend, being convinced that such stipends were designed by the Manchus to lure the scholarly class to their régime. By the time he was twenty years of age (1679) he wrote a work on filial piety, entitled 求孝集 Ch'iu-hsiao chi, which perhaps is no longer extant. In the same year (1679) both he and his friend, Li Hsien 李僩 ( 毅武, 1652–1687), went to study under Yen Yüan who had achieved a high reputation as a philosopher in North China. Li was so impressed with Yen's emphasis on practicality that he abandoned many of his old views to follow him, with the result that Li became the best expositor of Yen's teachings and the one who secured for them the recognition they finally obtained. In imitation of his master he began in 1680 to keep a diary which was later utilized by his two disciples, Fêng Ch'ên 馮辰 ( 拱北, 樞天) and Liu T'iao-tsan 劉調贊 ( 用可, b. c. 1700), to compile his chronological biography under the title, 李恕谷先生年譜 Li Shu-ku hsien-shêng nien-p'u, 5 chüan, completed in 1736. In the meantime Li studied medicine and medicinal herbs with a view to supplementing his income. Being interested in practical knowledge, he visited a number of teachers to receive instruction in various fields—in mathematics from Liu Chien-t'ien 劉見田 (1679), in ceremony from Yen Yüan (1680), in playing the lute (琴) from Chang Êr-su 張而素 ( 函白) in 1680, and in archery from Chao Ssŭ-kuang 趙思光 ( 錫之) and Wang Jo-chi 汪若紀 (1681). On February 10, 1682 he sponsored a spring festival entertainment in his home to which he invited a number of friends, among them Liu Ch'ung-wên 劉崇文 ( 煥章, 肇南, chü-jên of 1639, d. 1688, age 75 sui), Chang Êr-su, Wang Yang-ts'ui, and Yen Yüan—the last mentioned composing an essay for the occasion, entitled 穀日燕記 Ku-jih Yen-chi. During the ensuing two years (1682–83) Li read extensively works on philosophy, history, military tactics, music, and economics.
As his financial needs became more pressing, Li Kung began in 1683 the life of a private tutor which he carried on with interruptions till 1708. During the years 1683–84 he taught in the home of a fellow-townsman, Chao T'ai-jo 趙太若. In 1685 he accompanied Chang Êr-su to Pao-an (present Cho-lu), Chahar, where the latter was serving as a minor local official. But Chang resigned from the post after a month and Li went (April–May 1685) for the first time to Peking which he later visited some thirty-eight times—the last being in 1727. There he tutored for about four months in the home of a captain named Shên 申. There he made the acquaintance of two Kuo brothers: Kuo Chin-t'ang 郭金湯 (Songgotu [q. v.], he returned home at the end of 1686, but went early in the following year (1687) to Peking where he taught in two families, one named I 伊, the other Ch'ên 陳. Preferring to be near his home, he transferred (1687) to the village of P'ang-chia-tsui 龐家蕞, in the district of Kao-yang, Chihli, to teach in the family of Ch'i Huan 齊爟 ( 燧侯) where he remained until the close of 1688. In the meantime he frequently interviewed his famous teacher, Yen Yüan, and corresponded with scholars—among them Fei Mi [q. v.]. In 1688 he wrote two articles on irrigation and river conservancy, entitled 開東北水利 K'ai tung-pei shui-li and 治河利運 Chih-ho li-yün. These articles were later included in his work, 瘳忘編 Ch'ou-wang pien—a collection of his miscellaneous writings after 1686. Three years later he showed the collection to Yen Yüan, but it seems to be no longer extant. In 1689 he accepted the invitation of his former instructor, Chao Ssŭ-kuang, to teach the latter's four sons in the village of Chao-chia-chuang 趙家莊 in his native district until 1690 when he competed successfully in the Shun-t'ien provincial examination for the degree of chü-jên. In the meantime (1689) he wrote a preface to Yen's work, Ts'un-hsing pien (see under Yen Yüan), and compiled, among others, a work on the classification of errors in moral conduct, entitled 訟過則例 Sung-kuo tsê-li. This treatise, printed in 1695, was based on a similar work, 紀過格 Chi-kuo ko, by Liu Tsung-chou [q. v.]. Failing in the metropolitan examination in 1691, Li taught in the following two years in the home of another neighbor, Yen Chung-k'uan 閻中寬 ( 公度, 易菴, chin-shih of 1679, d. age 72 sui).子堅, 鞏庵, 1659–1706) and Kuo Chin-ch'êng 郭金城 ( 子固, 1660–1700), and toward the close of 1685 he taught the children of Kuo Chin-ch'êng. After a short visit to his native place he returned to the capital (early in 1686) and made the acquaintance of Hsü San-li 許三禮 ( 典三, 酉山, chin-shih of 1661, 1625–1691), and other notables. About this time he began to compile his notes on history which were later published under the title, 閱史郄視 Yüeh-shih ch'i-shih, 4 + 1 chüan. Declining an invitation to teach in the family of
In 1695 Li was invited by Kuo Chin-t'ang to T'ung-hsiang, Chekiang, where Kuo was a district magistrate. Several of Li's works were printed there, including the above-mentioned Sung-kuo tsê-li with a preface by Wang Fu-li 王復禮 (Mao Ch'i-ling [q. v.], wrote among other works a treatise on the Great Learning, entitled 大學辨業 Ta-hsüeh pien-yeh, which was printed in 1701, and married a Hangchow girl, Wang Fêng-ku 王鳳姑 or 呂素娟 (d. 1706, age 24 sui), who bore him two sons, Li Hsi-jên 李習仁 ( 長人, childhood name 隆官, 1699–1721) and Li Hsi-chung 李習中 (childhood name 在官, b. 1702). On his way home with his family in 1699 he paid a visit to Yen Jo-chü [q. v.] at Huaian, Kiangsu. In 1700, while visiting Peking, he accepted the offer to teach in the family of Wu Han 吳涵 ( 容大, 匪菴, chin-shih of 1682, d. c. 1709). There he met a number of scholars, among them Wang Yüan, Chin Tê-ch'un, Wan Ssŭ-t'ung, and Hu Wei [qq. v.]. In June–July 1700 he was invited by Yü Ching 于鯨 ( 南溟, d. 1701) to Yingchou, Shansi, where the latter was serving as a local official. Then he returned home and wrote a work on the training of children which he entitled, 小學稽業 Hsiao-hsüeh chi-yeh, 5 chüan. In the autumn of the same year (1700) he was once more invited to teach the children of Wu Han at Peking where he stayed until the close of 1700. About this period, too, he wrote several articles on ancient ceremony.需人, 草堂), dated 1695. Returning to his native place in the same year (1695) he went to Peking (1696) where he taught for another year in the home of Kuo Chin-ch'êng. In 1697 he was again invited by Kuo Chin-t'ang to T'ung-hsiang, remaining there until 1699. During his stay in T'ung-hsiang he advised Kuo on local problems, studied music (1698) under
Li's work on music had in the meantime been printed by Mao Ch'i-ling under the title 李氏學樂錄, Li-shih hsüeh-yüeh lu, 2 chüan, and it was later copied into the Ssŭ-k'u Manuscript Library (see under Chi Yün). After a short visit to his native place he continued his teaching (1701) in the home of Wu Han and wrote, among other works, an essay denouncing Buddhism which he entitled 闢佛論 P'i-Fo lun. Through the financial assistance of Wu Han and Hsü Ping-i (see under Hsü Ch'ien-hsüeh) he was able to print several of his works, among them the above-mentioned Ta-hsüeh pien-yeh and 聖經學規纂 Shêng-ching hsüeh-kuei tsuan, 2 chüan—the latter a work on the system of education advocated in the Classics, with a preface by himself dated 1698. By this time (1701) he had won such a reputation that Wan Ssŭ-t'ung invited him to lecture in Peking on the teachings of the sages. Returning in 1701 to his native place, he lectured to his disciples on the Doctrine of the Mean (Chung-yung)—the substance of these lectures being later brought together by Ch'ên Jui-an 陳叡庵 under the title 恕谷中庸講語 Shu-ku Chung-yung chiang-yü. Thereupon he taught for half a year (1702) in the home of Wang Shao-hsien 王紹先 in the neighboring district of Su-ning. But that same year he returned to Peking where he made the acquaintance of Wên Tê-yü 温德裕 ( 益修, chü-jên of 1672). After a brief visit to his home he returned (early in 1703) to Peking and there gave more lectures. He was introduced by Wang Yüan to Fang Pao [q. v.] in whose residence he often stayed on his subsequent visits to the capital.
In April–May 1703 he returned to his native place and was later joined by Wang Yüan whom he introduced to Yen Yüan, thus establishing between these two a lasting friendship. In 1704 he went to Yen-ch'êng, Honan, to advise the district magistrate, Wên Tê-Yü, in matters of local administration, but hearing that his great teacher, Yen Yüan, had died (September 30, 1704) he went home and set up at Po-yeh a shrine to him which he called Hsi-chai Hsüeh-shê 習齋學舍. After another brief sojourn in Yen-ch'êng in the following year (1705), he returned home to complete the chronological biography of his teacher, under the title, Yen Hsi-chai hsien-shêng nien-p'u (see under Yen Yüan). In 1706 he made three more trips to Peking, mainly to look after the printing blocks of his works, Ta-hsüeh pien-yeh and Shêng-ching hsüeh-kuei tsuan, which were in the custody of Wu Han who had resigned his post and left Peking. During the years 1707–08 Li taught in the home of a neighbor, Li Chih-an 李止庵, who lived in the village of Hsin-ch'iao 新(or 辛)橋. In the meantime he made brief visits to Peking (1707) to supervise the printing of the above-mentioned nien-p'u, and to Paoting (1708) to visit Wang Yüan [q. v.] whose work, P'ing-shu, he re-edited in the same year under the title P'ing-shu ting, 14 chüan. On June 8, 1709 he set out for Fu-p'ing, Shensi, to assist the local magistrate, Yang Ch'in 楊勤 ( 愼修). There he quickly demonstrated his administrative ability and won such a reputation that numerous officials came to seek his advice on local problems. After a short visit to his native place, early in 1710, he returned on April 5 to Fu-p'ing and remained until October 8 when he resigned.
Though Li Kung kept a diary, the material covering the period 1711–14 is reported in his nien-p'u as missing. This may be due to the fact that during those years he was indirectly concerned in the trial of a certain Chang Wan-tsai 張萬載 who was arrested in 1715 on a charge of fostering a seditious movement. During the trial Chang named as his friends Li Kung and two of Li's followers, Yang Jên-chu 楊仁澍 and Wang Tzŭ-p'ei 王子丕. When the case terminated in 1716, Chang was executed, Yang Jên-shu and Wang Tzŭ-p'ei were banished, but Li was not molested owing to his evident integrity. In the meantime Li went (1712) to assist Chang Tao 張燾, then prefect of Tsinan, but soon returned home when he discovered that the prefect was incompetent. Early in 1713 he went to Peking to supervise the printing of his commentary on the Classic of Changes, 周易傳注 Chou-i chuan-chu, 7 +1 chüan, on which he had worked intermittently in the years 1703–12. This work was later copied into the Ssŭ-k'u Manuscript Library. In 1714 he made the acquaintance of Yün Ho-shêng 惲鶴生 (皋聞, chü-jên of 1708, d. age 79 sui) who was then tutor in the family of P'u Fêng-ch'ao 浦鳳巢, magistrate of Li-hsien. Thereafter Yün became an ardent advocate of the teachings of Yen Yüan and Li Kung and introduced their views to South China.
Having in the meantime applied for a position in the government (1717), Li was appointed in the following year department director of schools at T'ung-chou, Chihli, but he soon resigned owing to illness. Returning home in 1719, he made a trip to south Chihli in order to spread his doctrines. In 1720 he went to Peking to discuss with Fang Pao the possibility of exchanging his own property in Li-hsien for property which Fang owned in Nanking. Li wanted to make his home in South China where he hoped to find better response to his teachings. Fang Pao, then a bond-servant in the Imperial Household, had no hope of returning to Nanking and so agreed to the proposal. Li Kung and his son, Li Hsi-jên, set out for Nanking on November 19, 1720 to make a preliminary survey of Fang's property, and returned early in the following year (1721). It seems that Li agreed to the exchange, but gave up the plan when he heard that his son had died while making a second trip to Nanking (1721).
Thereafter, except for a few short trips to Paoting and to Peking, Li spent most of his time in his native place devoting himself to writing. During the years 1725–26 he completed his commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals, 春秋傳注 Ch'un-ch'iu chuan-chu, 4 chüan, of which a part was included in his collected work, 恕谷後集 Shu-ku hou-chi, 13 chüan, which contains his writings during the years 1703–27. In 1727 he made a last trip to the capital in a vain effort to convince Fang Pao of the fallacies in Sung philosophy. Returning from Peking in the same year (1727), he completed a political treatise which he entitled, 擬太平策 I t'ai-p'ing ts'ê, 7 chüan, which was printed in 1731. During an illness in 1728-29 he wrote a work, entitled, 天道偶側 T'ien-tao ou-ts'ê, which is perhaps no longer extant. Early in 1730 he was repeatedly asked by T'ang Chih-yü 唐執玉 ( 益功, 薊門, chin-shih of 1703, 1669–1733), then governor-general of Chihli, and Wang Mu (see under Wang Yüan-ch'i) to help compile the provincial gazetteer, which was printed in 1735 under the title 畿輔通志 Chi-fu t'ung-chih, 120 + 1 chüan. Though he made several trips to Paoting to participate in the work, he resigned in 1731 owing to illness. In the following year (1732), realizing that his ailment was incurable, he wrote his own funerary inscription, and died early in 1733. He was privately canonized by his disciples as Wên-tzŭ 文子.
Through his repeated visits to the capital, where he could communicate with the scholars and writers from various parts of the country, Li Kung was able to gain a nation-wide hearing for the teachings of the Yen-Li School. He devoted the latter part of his life to writing—despite the professed aversion of the Yen-Li School to book-learning. He prepared a series of commentaries on the Classics under the titles: Lun-yü (論語) chuan-chu, 1 chüan; Ta-hsüeh (大學) chuan-chu; Chung-yung (中庸) chuan-chu, 1 chüan; and Chuan-chu wên (問), 1 chüan, which were accorded notice in the Ssŭ-k'u. Other of his writings are: 評乙古文 P'ing-i ku-wên, 1 chüan, a collection of annotations of selected passages from the Classics; 學射錄 Hsüeh-shê lu, 2 chüan, concerning archery; and Hsüeh-li (禮), 5 chüan, on ceremonial.
[Li Shu-ku hsien-shêng nien-p'u ; Li-hsien chih (1876) 6/12b; 1/486/21a; 2/66/57a; 3/250/75a; 7/30/8b; 10/16/7a; 15/1/7a; 16/12/21a; 17/1/102b; (also see bibliography under Yen Yüan).]
J. C. Yang