Eminent Chinese of the Ch'ing Period/Li Yung

LI Yung 李顒 (also written 容 to avoid the personal name, Yung-yen [q. v.], of Emperor Jên-tsung; T. 中孚 H. 二曲), Mar. 12, 1627–1705, May 7, philosopher and scholar, was a native of Chou-chih, Shensi. His father, Li K'o-ts'ung 李可從 (1599–1642), was killed in battle against insurgents at Hsiang-ch'êng, Honan, when the son was sixteen sui. The family was left poverty-stricken, and responsibility for the boy's education devolved largely on his mother who did not remarry. She died in 1665. Five years later he went on foot to Hsiang-ch'êng to find and inter his father's remains, and though his search was vain his piety so touched the magistrate and gentry of Hsiang-ch'êng that they erected a memorial near the scene of the father's death. Early in 1671, at the invitation of the prefect of Ch'ang-chou-fu (Kiangsu), who had been one of his students, he lectured in that city and soon after in the neighboring cities of Wusih, Kiangyin, Ching-chiang and I-hsing, after which he returned to Hsiang-ch'êng and then to Chou-chih. He persistently refused to accept official rank under the Manchu dynasty, declining also the honor of taking in 1679 the special examination known as po-hsüeh hung-tz'ŭ (see under P'êng Sun-yü). Hence his name is listed among the fourteen candidates who, though especially urged to attend, declined on the plea of illness. In later years he denied himself to visitors who were attracted by his reputation, and consistently refused their gifts, preferring to devote himself to study, to teaching, and to self-examination after the manner of the Sung and Ming philosophers.

Li's collected works, 二曲集 Êr-ch'ü chi, in 24 chüan, including accounts of his travels and notes of his lectures by various disciples, were edited by a disciple, Wang Hsin-ching 王心敬 (1656–1738), and were first printed in 1694. The 四書反身錄 Ssŭ-shu fan-shên lu, in 7 chüan, which has a preface dated 1686, gives his exposition of the philosophy of the Four Books as recorded by this same disciple. When Emperor Shêng-tsu made a tour of the western provinces in 1703 Li Yung sent to him, by the hands of his son, copies of these two works and received in return a poem by the Emperor himself and a tablet inscribed, "Discipline and Purpose High and Pure" (操志高潔). He died two years later, age seventy-nine (sui). In his philosophical teaching he attempted to mediate between the view-points of Wang Yang-ming (see Chang Li-hsiang) and Chu Hsi (see Hu Wei) stressing the necessity of both intuitive understanding and the "investigation of things". He won a large following by his personal integrity and moral earnestness, by his efforts at actual reform in a period of political and intellectual bewilderment, and by a wide appeal to the moral sense of the common people.

Li Yung and two contemporaries, all having the same surname, are known as the Kuan-chung San-li 關中三李, or the "Three Lis of Shensi". The other two are Li Yin-tu (see under Ch'ü Ta-chün) and Li Pai 李栢 (T. 雪木, H. 白山逸人, 太白山人, 1630–1700), both writers of note.


[1/486/7a; 2/66/16a; 3/406/1a; 4/128/10b; 7/27/15a; Chou-chih hsien-chih (1925) 6/22a; Ssŭ-k'u, 37/10b, 181/5b; A chronological biography, entitled 歷年紀略 Li-nien chi-lüeh in Êr-ch'ü-chi (1877), 45/1a,ff; Kuan-chung san-Li nien-p'u (年譜) in Kuan-chung ts'ung-shu (叢書).]

Dean R. Wickes