The Ch'un Ts'ew/Prolegomena/I/iii

The Ch'un Ts'ew  (1872)  by Confucius, translated by James Legge
Prolegomena, Chapter I, Section III




1. Lëw Hin’s catalogue of the Works in the imperial library of the early Han dynasty, prepared, as I have shown in the proleg. to vol. I., p. 4, about the commencement of our Christian era, begins, on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, with two collections of the text of the Classic:—Evidence of Lëw Hin's Catalogue of the Han imperial library.‘The old text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw in twelve p‘ëen; and ‘The text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw in eleven keuen or Books.’[1] This is followed by a list of the Chuen, or Commentaries, of Tso, Kung-yang, Kuh-lëang, Tsow, and Këah;[2] so that at this early time the text of the Classic was known, and there were writings of five different masters in illustration of it, the greater portion of which, the Chuen namely of Tso, Kung-yang, and Kuh-lëang, remain to the present day. A dozen other Works follow, mostly by Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang or their followers, showing how the Classic and the commentators on it had already engaged the attention of scholars.

2. Were the texts mentioned in the Han catalogue derived from the commentaries of Tso, Kung-yang, and Kuh-lëang, or from some other independent source? In a note to the entry about them, Yen Sze-koo of the T‘ang dynasty The texts in the Han Catalogue.says that they were taken from Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang. Many scholars confine his remark to the second collection, and it gives some countenance to this view that the commentaries of those two masters were then in eleven Books; but it is to be observed on the other hand that with the differences which exist in their texts they could hardly have been formed into one collection.

With regard to the first entry—‘the old text in twelve p‘ëen’—it is the general opinion that this was the text as taken from the Work of Tso. And there can be no doubt that during the Han dynasty the text and the commentary were kept separate in that Work, for Too Yu tells us that in his edition of it, early in the Tsin dynasty, he ‘took the years of the text and arranged them along with the corresponding years of the commentary.'[3] Moreover, in the Han dynasty, Tso’s school and that of Kung-yang were distinguished as the old or ancient and the new or modern.[4] To myself, however, the more natural interpretation of ‘the old text’ in the entry appears to be—the text in the ancient character; and if there were evidence to show that there was an edition of the text in Lëw Hin’s time, independent of that derived from the three commentaries, the result would be satisfactory. Yuen[5] Yuen was the first, so far as I know, to do this, in the present century. In the preface to his ‘Examination of the text of Tso's Commentary and K‘ung Ying-tah's Annotations on it,’[6] he calls attention to the fact that among the discoveries of old tablets in the wall of Confucius’ house[7] there were those of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. Pan Koo indeed omits to mention them in his appendix to Lëw Hin’s catalogue of the Shoo and Works on it, where he speaks of the Shoo, the Le Ke, the Lun Yu, and the Hëaou King as having been thus found; but Heu Shin, in the preface to his dictionary, the Shwoh Wan, published A.D. 100, adds to the tablets of these Works those of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.[8] I am willing therefore to believe that it was this copy of the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw in the ancient character which headed the catalogue of Lëw Hin; and if it were so, all question as to the genuineness of our present Classic may be considered as at an end.

3. There are many of the scholars of China, who would hesitate to concur with me in this view, and prefer to abide by the opinion of which very full expression has been given by Ma Twan-lin. He says, View on the subject of Ma Twan-lin.‘Although there appears in the catalogue of the Han dynasty “The old Text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw,” yet the original text, as corrected by the master, was never discovered; and the old texts compiled in the Han dynasty and subsequently have all been taken from the three commentaries, and called by the name of “The correct text.” But there are many differences in the texts which appear in those commentaries, and it is impossible for the student to decide between them. For instance:—in l. i. 2 Tso gives the meeting between the marquis of Loo and E-foo of Choo as having taken place in Mëeh (), while Kung and Kuh give the name as , so that we cannot tell which of these characters the master wrote. So Mei (), in III. xxviii. 4, appears in Kung and Kuh as , and Keueh-yin (厥憖), in X. xi. 7, appears in Kung and Kuh as 屈銀. Instances of this kind are innumerable, but they are generally in the names of places and unimportant. In I. iii. 3, however, we have in Tso-she the entry , which would be the notice of the death of Shing Tsze, the mother of duke Yin, whereas in Kung and Kuh we read , referring to the death of a high minister of Chow; so that we cannot tell whose death it was that the master chronicled as having taken place on the day Sin-maou of the 4th month of the third year of duke Yin.[9]

‘And not only so. In the 21st year of duke Sëang, both Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang have an entry to the effect that Confucius was then born. But in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw only the births of the heir-sons of the rulers of States were entered, as in II. vi. 5. In other cases, the births even of hereditary nobles, who exercised an all-powerful sway in the government of their States, like the members of the Ke family [in Loo], did not find a place in the tablets; and though the master be the teacher of emperors and kings for myriads of ages, yet at his birth he was only the son of the commandant of the city of Tsow. The historiographers of Loo would not make a record of that event, and to say that he himself afterward entered it in the classic which he prepared, is in the highest degree absurd.

‘Moreover Tso, after the capture of the lin in the 14th year of duke Gae, has further protracted the text to the 4th month of the 16th year, when the death of Chung-ne is recorded;—which even Tso Ching-nan considered to be not far from an act of forgery.

‘Thus there are not only additions in the three commentaries to the proper text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of things which are strange and partly incredible, but the authors of them added [to the text] and suppressed [portions of it] according to their pleasure. In what they write under the 21st year of Sëang, Kung and Kuh added to the text, to do honour to the master from whom they had received it, and Tso made his addition in the 16th year of Gae, to show his grief for the death of the master;—neither addition was in the original text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. The three writers made their commentaries according to what was current in men's mouths, and what they heard with their ears, in their time, and each of them thrust in whatever addition he desired to make. Subsequent scholars again have adopted what they found in the three commentaries, one favouring this and another that, and trying to make it clear; but that they have attained to the mind of the sage in the use of his stylus, now writing down and now retrenching, a thousand years before them, is what I am not able to believe.’[10]

  4. I have given the whole of Ma’s remarks, because of the weight of his authority and the freedom with which he has expressed his views. The points, however, on which he insists do not make so unfavourable an impression on my mind Ma's conclusions seem overstrained.against the integrity of our present text as they did upon his. That there was not in the Han dynasty a text of the Classic besides the texts found in the three commentaries is not so certain as he makes out. Very possibly, as I have shown in the second paragraph, a distinct text was found, as related by Heu Shin, in the year B.C. 153. But if we base the text simply on what is given in the commentaries, we must feel that we approximate very nearly to what it was when they made their appearance, to what it had been before the tyrant of Ts‘in fancied that he had made an end of it. There is no evidence that anyone of them suppressed portions of the text as Ma affirms; and the additions of which he makes so much are only two, one by Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang (with a variation, however, to which he does not advert), and one by Tso, for we may consider all the paragraphs that follow the account of the capture of the lin as one addition. They were both very natural, and I should suppose were intended originally as notes rather than additions to the text. The various readings again in the three are really not of great importance. Occurring mostly in the names of men and places,[11] they need not trouble us more than different ways of spelling unusual words in different editions of an English book would do. The most important variation of another character between them is that on which Ma insists so strongly— and in I. iii. 3. This is not what we may compare to an error of orthography, arising from writing the same sound in different ways;—it is evidently an error of transcription. Tso, I am of opinion, copied down instead of , and then tried, ingeniously but unsatisfactorily, to account in his commentary for the unusual combination of . Kung and Kuh copied correctly, but their historical knowledge was not sufficient to enable them to explain who was. Ma has altogether overlooked the consideration of the value attaching to the various readings as showing the independence of the three recensions. Adding to them the two of Tsow and K'ëah which soon perished, we have five different texts of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw in existence in the second century before our era. Tso, Kung-yang, and Kuh-lëang, had each his school of adherents, who sought to exalt the views of their master above those of his rivals. It is still competent to us to pronounce upon their respective views, and weigh the claims which they have to our consideration; but the question at present is simply about their texts. Notwithstanding the differences between these, there is no doubt in my mind that they flowed from a common original,— an original which must have been compiled by Confucius from the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw of Loo. On the subsequent preservation of that text it is not necessary to enter, excepting in so far as the early history of the three commentaries is concerned. When the authority of them was once established, there was a succession of scholars who from dynasty to dynasty devoted themselves to the illustration of them, the Works of hundreds of whom are existing at the present day. It may not be possible for us to determine the exact reading, of names especially, in every paragraph, and there may be lacunæ in other paragraphs, and some paragraphs perhaps were lost before the three texts were transcribed; but the text as formed from them must in my opinion be considered, notwithstanding its various readings, as a fair reproduction of what Confucius wrote, a sufficient copy of the Work by which he felt that posterity would judge him.

I proceed in the next section to describe the three early commentaries, after which we shall be prepared to estimate the value of the Work itself.

  1. 春秋十二:十一.
  2. 左氏傳,三十;公羊傳,十一;榖梁傳,十一;鄒氏傳,十一;夾氏傳,十一.
  3. ,.
  4. ,,公羊,;—see the十三經策案,十七, at the beginning.
  5. ;—See the proleg. to vol. I., p. 133.
  6. 春秋左傳注勘校勘記.
  7. See proleg. vol. i, pp. 12, 13.
  8. ,孔子,,禮記,尙書,春秋,論語,孝經.
  9. See my note on the passage in question, where I approve of a different interpretation of the text of Kung and Kuh from that which Ma Twan-lin mentions. My Chinese text in that passage is that of Kung and Kuh, and I take this opportunity to say that the text throughout is gathered from the K‘ang-he edition of the Classic. The editors generally follow Tso-she; but occasionally, as in this case, they adopt the text of Kung or Kuh. They have not told us by what principles they were guided in the formation or preference of that which they have given.
  10. 春秋,.,夫子春秋,,,,,,,,,,以為,以為,夫子,,,,以為,以為,夫子,,,厥憖,以為屈銀,夫子,厥憖,屈銀,,,,名字,,,,以為,夫人,,以為,,夫子,,,,二十一,孔子,春秋,,,,,,夫子帝王,,大夫,,,夫子,,,十四,十六,,以為,春秋,,,,二十一,,十六,,春秋,,,,,,,,,以為聖人,.
  11. The following passage from Woo Ch‘ing (; A.D. 1249–1333), may be considered as decisive on this point. I adduce it in preference to others, because he touches on some other masters which will interest some of my readers.—春秋,,公羊,穀梁,,,,,春秋,,春秋,,,,所以,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.