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

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

 


SECTION IV.

THE THREE EARLY COMMENTARIES ON THE CH‘UN TS‘EW.


1. Of the three early commentaries the first which made its appearance in the Han dynasty, and incomparably the most important, was that of Tso, The commentary of Tso.or of Tso-k‘ëw, for the opinions of scholars differ both as to the surname and the name of the author.[1] The account of it given by Pan Koo is—that Tso K‘ëw-ming was a disciple of the sage, who consulted along with him the historical records of Loo, before making his great Work; that when it was made, it was not advisable to publish it because of the praise and censure, the concealments and suppressions, which abounded in it, and that therefore he delivered it by word of mouth to the disciples, who thereupon withdrew and gave different accounts of the events referred to in it; that K‘ëw-ming, in order that the truth might not be lost, made his commentary, or narratives of those events, to make it clear that the master had not in his text used empty words; and finally, that it was necessary for him to keep his work concealed, to avoid the persecutions of the powerful rulers and officers whose conduct was freely and fully described in it.² Pan Koo’s account is correct thus far, that we have in Tso's Work a detailed account of most of the events of which the text of Confucius gives only hints. The Ch‘un Ts‘ëw may be loosely compared to the headings or summaries of contents which are prefixed to the chapters in many editions of our Bibles, and Tso's commentaries to the chapters themselves. But we shall find that they contain more than this.

2. Who Tso was it is not easy to say. In the Analects, V. xxiv., Confucius says, ‘Fine words, an insinuating appearance, and excessive respect;—Tso-k‘ëw Ming was ashamed of such things, Who Tso was.and I also am ashamed of them. To conceal resentment against a person, and appear friendly with him;—Tso-k‘ëw Ming was ashamed of such conduct, and I also am ashamed of it.’[2] Chaou K‘e says, on the authority of K‘ung Gan-kwoh, that the person whom Confucius spoke of thus, was the grand historiographer of Loo, but adds nothing as to his being contemporary with the sage, or of an earlier time. The critics generally hold that he was some Worthy of an earlier age, on the ground that Confucius only drew comparisons between himself and men of a former period.[3] I am not fully convinced by their reasonings. The Chinese text of the Analects is not so definite as the English translation of it. What Confucius says about Tso-k‘ëw Ming might be rendered in the present tense in the same way as what he says about himself. Nothing, however, would be gained by discussing a text on which it is not possible to arrive at a positive decision. At the same time I may say that the view that Tso was a disciple of the master has very formidable difficulties to encounter. The Classic stops in the 14th year of duke Gae, B.C. 480, but Tso's commentary extends to the 4th year of duke Taou, Gae's successor, B.C. 463. In the last paragraph of it, moreover, there is an allusion to the ruin and death of Seun Yaou or Che Pih, a great officer of Tsin, which took place in 452, 27 or 28 years after the close of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw. Not only so. The Head of the Chaou family is mentioned in the same paragraph by his posthumous or honorary title, and of course he could not have received it till after his death, which took place in B.C. 424, 56 years after the capture of the lin, and 54 years after the death of the sage. Is it possible to believe that one so much younger than Confucius was among his disciples and possessed his confidence to the extent which the commonly received accounts of the making of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw suppose?

3. Leaving these speculations about the name and person of Tso, we find that his commentary made its appearance soon after the rise of the Han dynasty. Heu Shin to his account of the discovery of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw in the wall of Confucius’ house, First appearance and subsequent history of his commentary.quoted on p. 18, subjoins the statement that Chang Ts‘ang, marquis of Pih-p‘ing, presented the commentary of Tso written in the old characters of the Chow dynasty.[4] Now this Chang Ts‘ang had been high in office under the Ts‘in dynasty, in charge, it would appear, of the imperial library. Having joined the party of the duke of P‘ei, the founder of the Han dynasty, he became at last a favourite with him, and was placed in various positions of the greatest trust.[5] His appointment to be marquis of Pih-p‘ing[6] took place in B.C. 200, about fifty years before the discovery of the text in the wall of Confucius’ house. Heu Shin says that ‘Chang presented’ the Work, meaning, I suppose, that he did so to the first emperor of Han, who was too much occupied, however, with the establishment of his dynasty to give much attention to literary matters. But after the time of Chang Ts‘ang we never lose sight of Tso’s commentary. From him it passed to Këa E, of whom we have many notices as a famous scholar and statesman in the reign of the emperor Wăn (B.C. 178–156).[7] He published a Work of his own upon it;[8] and then it passed on to his grandson Këa Këa,[9] and Kwan Kung,[10] a great scholar at the court of King Hëen of Ho-këen,[11] through whom an attempt was made to obtain for it the imperial recognition, which was defeated by the friends of the commentary of Kung-yang. This, though later in making its appearance, had already found a place in the imperial college.[12] Kwan Kung transmitted his treasure to his youngest son, named Chang-k‘ing,[13] and from him it went on to Chang Ch‘ang[14] and Chang Yu,[15] both famous men of their time. To one of them, no doubt, belonged the ‘Niceties of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, by Chang-she,’ mentioned in Lëw Hin’s catalogue.[16] Yu was intimate with Sëaou Wang-che,[17] perhaps the most distinguished man of the time, whom he interested in the Work of Tso, so that he called the attention to it of the emperor Seuen (B.C. 72–48), and it might now have been formally recognized but for Yu’s death. The names of Yin King-ch‘e[18] and his son Yin Hëen,[19] of Teih Fang-tsin,[20] Hoo Chang,[21] and Këa Hoo[22] lead us from Yu to Lëw Hin.[23] Hin’s connexion with Tso's Work may be considered as forming an era in its history. ‘Having found,’ we are told in his biography, ‘in the imperial library, the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw and Tso's Chuen in the ancient characters, he became very fond of them. At that time Yin Hëen, a secretary of the prime minister, being well acquainted with Tso-she, examined along with Hin the text and commentary. Hin took his opinion in some particulars, and sought to learn the correct interpretation and great aim of the Works by application to the prime minister Teih Fang-tsin. Before this, because of the many ancient characters and ancient sayings in Tso’s Chuen, students had contented themselves with simply explaining their meaning; but when Hin took it in hand, he quoted the words of the commentary to explain the text, and made them throw light on each other, and from this time the exhibition of them in paragraphs and clauses was cultivated. Hin preferred Tso to Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang, considering that he agreed in his likings and dislikings with the sage, and that he had himself seen the master,—a very different case from that of Kung and Kuh who were subsequent to the seventy disciples.'[24] The history then relates the disputes between Hin and his father Hëang, who was an adherent of the commentary of Kuh-lëang, and how he made an attempt to get the emperor Gae (B.C. 5–A.D.) to give Tso a place in the imperial college along with Kung and Kuh, which was defeated by the jealousy of their supporters. From this time, however, the advocates of Tso-she became more numerous and determined to have justice done to their master. They were successful for a short time in the reign of the emperor P‘ing (A.D. 1–5), but Tso's Work was again degraded as of less authority than the other two commentaries; and though Këa Kwei[25] presented an argument on forty counts to prove its superiority, which was well received by the emperor Chang (A.D. 76–88), it was not till A.D. 99, under the emperor Ho,[26] that the footing of Tso in the imperial college was finally established. The famous Ch‘ing K‘ang-shing (A.D. 127–199) having replied to three Works of Ho Hëw,[27] the maintainer of the authority of Kung-yang, against Tso and Kuh-lëang, and shown the superiority of Tso, the other two commentaries began from this time to sink into neglect. It is melancholy to read the list of writers on Tso during the second and third dynasties of Han, of whom we have only fragmentary sentences remaining; but in A.D. 280, Too Yu or Too Yuen-k‘ae, a scholar and general at the commencement of the Tsin dynasty,[28] completed a great Work under the title of ‘Collected Explanations of the Text and Commentary of Tso-she on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, in thirty chapters.'²⁶ This Work still remains, and will ever be a monument of the scholarship and painstaking of the writer.

  4. Nothing need be said on the history of the commentary of Tso since the beginning of the Han dynasty. Some of the scholars of that age traced it back from Chang Ts‘ang to nearly the time of Confucius, and K‘ung Ying-tah in his preface to Too Yu's Work Attempt to trace Tso's Work nearly to the time of Confucius.quotes the following from a production of Lëw Hëang (B.C. 80–9) which is now lost:—Tso K‘ëw-ming delivered his Work to Tsăng Shin. Shin transmitted it to Woo K‘e; Woo K‘e to his son K‘e; K‘e to Toh Tsëaou, a native of Ts‘oo, who copied out selections from it in 8 books; Toh Tsëaou to Yu K‘ing, who made 9 books of selections from it; Yu K‘ing to Seun K‘ing; and Seun K‘ing to Chang Ts‘ang.’[29] I wish we had different and more authority for this statement, as Hëang was not himself an adherent of Tso's Work. In his son Hin’s catalogue which I have already referred to, two Works are mentioned by Toh-she and Yu-she, but there is nothing in their titles to connect them with Tso;[30] and Sze-ma Ts‘ëen says nothing in his memoir of Seun K‘ing about any connexion that he had with the transmission of the commentary.[31] Tsăng Shin was the grandson of Tsăng Sin, one of Confucius’ principal disciples,—the Tsa‘ng Se of Mencius, II. Pt. i. I. 3. Tso's committing his Work to him would agree with what I have said in par. 2, and cast a doubt on his being a contemporary of the sage himself.

5. I have said that generally we have in the Work of Tso the details of the events of which we have but a shadow or the barest intimation in the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw; The nature of Tso's Work.but we have more than this. Of multitudes of events that during the 242 years of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period took place in Loo and other States, to which the text makes no allusion, we have from Tso a full account. Where he got his information he does not tell us. Too Yu is probably correct when he says that Tso was himself one of the historiographers of Loo.[32] Whatever of the history of that State was on record he was familiar with. If the records of other States were also collected there, he had studied them equally with those of his own. If he did not find them there, he must have gone in search of them, for he is as much at home in the events of Chow, Tsin, Ts‘e, Sung, Ch‘ing, Ts‘oo, and other States, as he is in those of Loo. And not only does he draw from the records about the ruling Houses of the States, but also from the histories of the principal families or clans and the chief men in them.[33] From whatever quarter, in whatever way, he got his information, he has transmitted it to us. The events and the characters of the time pass as in reality and life before us. In no ancient history of any country have we such a vivid picture of any lengthened period of its annals as we have from Tso of the 270 years which he has embraced in his Work. Without his Chuen the text of the sage would be of little value. Let the former be preserved, and we should have no occasion to regret the loss of the latter.

To myself it appears plain that Tso's Work was compiled on a twofold plan. First, he had reference to the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, and wished to give the details of the events wluch were indicated in it. Tso's Work compiled on a two-fold plan. He wished first to explain the text.Occasionally also he sets himself to explain the words of that text, being sometimes successful and sometimes not. He lays down canons to regulate the meaning and application of certain characters, but it can hardly be said that we find him under the influence of the ‘praise-and-censure’ theory. In this respect he differs remarkably from Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang; and I have sometimes fancied that the characteristic is an evidence that he lived before Mencius, and had never read the accounts of the Classic which we find in him. His object evidently was to convey to his readers a knowledge of the facts given in the master’s paragraphs as if independent and isolated in their connexion with one another. Hence he often mentions new facts which are necessary for that purpose. As he generally introduces them chronologically, at the time of their occurrence, he seems at times merely to increase the mass of indigested matter; but by and by we find what he has thus related to stand in the relation of cause to something subsequently chronicled. But his method with these additions to the text, which are yet connected with it, is very various. As Too Yu says, ‘Now he anticipates the text to show the origin of an affair; now he comes after the text [with his narrative] to bring out fully the meaning; now he lies alongside the text to discriminate the principles in it; and now he appears to cross the text to bring together things that differ:—thus various according to what he considered the requirements of the case.'[34] What is very surprising is that he does not appear to be conscious of frequent discrepancies between the details of his narratives and the things as stated by Confucius. Now and then, as on VI. xviii. 6, he says that the text conceals the nature of the fact; but generally he seems insensible of the untrustworthiness of the representation in it.

Let it be understood, however, that Tso does not give the details of every event which the Classic briefly indicates. We must suppose that where he does not do so, his sources of information failed him, and he was obliged to leave the notice of the text as it was. There is the erroneous or defective entry in III. xxiv. 9,—‘The duke of Kwoh.’ On it Tso says nothing. So on the five paragraphs of Chwang’s 26th year he has nothing to say, while he introduces brief narratives of two other things, for the latter of which only we can account as being given with an outlook into the future. Generally speaking, the information given in the Chuen is scanty or abundant in proportion to its distance from or nearness to the era assigned to its compilation. The 18 years of duke Hwan, B.C. 710–693, occupy in the following Work 37 pages; the 15 years of duke Ting, B.C. 508–494, 50 pages. The 32 years of Chwang, B.C. 692–661, occupy 59 pages; the 32 of Ch‘aou, B.C. 540–509, 173 pages. This certainly gives us for the Work one attribute of verisimilitude.[35]

  But while Tso intended his Work to be a commentary on the text of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, I believe that he had in view another and higher object, and wished to give readers a general view of the history of the country throughout all its States during the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period. The second view of Tso:—to give a general view of the history of China during the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period.The account of the Chuen quoted above from Too Yu carries us a considerable way to this conclusion. Tso shows the origin and issue of many events, one phase of which merely is mentioned in the text. The unconnected entries of the classic are thus woven together, and a history is made out of them. But the new matter introduced by him is so very much, and often having no relation to anything stated in the text, yet calculated to bring the whole field of the era before us, and to indicate the progress of events on towards a different state of the kingdom, that we must suppose this to have been a prominent object in the author’s mind. This characteristic of the Work has not escaped the notice of native scholars themselves. As early as the Tsin dynasty, Wang Tsëeh preferred to it the commentary of Kung-yang on this account. ‘Tso’s style,’ said he,’ is so rich, and his aim so extensive, that he is to be regarded as an author by himself, and not having it for his principal object to illustrate the classic.'[36] Nearly to the same effect is the account of Tso’s Chuen given by Wang Cheh of the Sung dynasty. After praising Tso as a skilful reader of the old histories and collector of various narratives, so that he accumulated a very complete account of the events in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, he yet adds:—‘But though his book was made as an appendix to the classic, yet, apart from and outside that, it forms a book by itself, the author of which was led away by his fondness for strange stories, and carried his collecting them beyond what was proper. He was remiss in setting forth the fine and minute ideas of the sage, but yet his Work has a beginning and end, being all the compilation of one hand.’[37] Chinese scholars write of Tso under the influence of their admiration and veneration for the sage. I could wish that he had written altogether independently of the Classic, in which case we might have had a history of those times as complete as a man knowing only the heroes and events of his own country could make. It is not too much to call Tso the Froissart of China. The historical novel called ‘The History of the various States’ shows the use which can be made of his narratives. They lie necessarily in my pages so many disjecta membra, but some one may yet give, mainly from them, an account of the closing centuries of the feudal state of China that shall be found to have an universal interest.

6. Three more points in regard to Tso's Work have yet to be considered—the manner of his composition; how far his narratives are entitled to our belief; and whether there is reason to believe that additions were made to them by writers of the Ts‘in and Han dynasties. By the manner of Tso's composition I do not mean the general character of his style. There is but one opinion as to that. It is acknowledged on all hands that he was a master of his art. Condensed, yet vivid, he is eminently pictorial. The foreign student does not for some time find it easy to make out his meaning, but by and by he gets familiar with the style, and it then has a great charm for him. In the words which the foremost of French sinologues once used to me of him, Tso was un grand ecrivain.[38] But the peculiarity which I have in view is the way in which Tso constantly varies the appellations of the actors in his narratives. Very often they are named by their sacrificial or honorary epithets which were not given to them till after their death, so that it is plain he did not copy out the contemporaneous accounts or records which we suppose him to have had before him, and some critics have from this contended that the narratives were entirely constructed by himself, not drawn from historical sources.[39] But such a conclusion is more than the premiss will justify. Tso might very well call his subjects of a former time by the titles which had been accorded to them after their death, and by which men generally would in his days speak of them. What is really perplexing is that in the same account the same individual is now called by his name, now by his honorary epithet, and now by his designation, or by one or other of his designations if he had more than one, so that the narrative becomes very confused, and it requires considerable research on the part of the reader to make out who is denominated in all this variety of ways. To give only one example—in the account of the battle of Peih, in the 12th year of duke Seuen, of the leaders on the side of Tsin, we have, 1st, Seun Lin-foo, who by and by is styled Hwan-tsze;[40] 2d, Sze Hwuy, who is variously denominated Woo-tsze of Suy, Suy Ke, and Sze Ke, while elsewhere he is called Woo-tsze of Fan;[41] 3d, Sëen Hwoh, also called Che-tsze, and elsewhere Yuen Hwoh, or Hwoh of Yuen;[42] 4th, Seun Show, called also Che Chwang-tsze and Che Ke;[43] 5th, Han Keueh, by and by Han Hëen-tsze;[44] 6th, Lwan Shoo, by and by Lwan Woo-tsze;[45] 7th, Chaou Soh, by and by Chaou Chwang-tsze;[46] and 8th, Keih K‘ih, by and by Keih Hëen-tsze.[47] Similar instances might be quoted in great number. Chaou Yih says that such a method of varying names and appellations was characteristic of the style of that time.[48] If, indeed, it was characteristic of the time, I must think that Tso possessed it in an exaggerated degree. The confusion produced by it in his Work seems to have led to its cure. Sze-ma Ts‘ëen and the writers of the Books of Han are careful, at the commencement of their biographies, to give the surname, name, and designation or designations of their subjects, so that the student has none of the perplexity in reading them, which he finds with Tso’s Chuen.

The other two points regarding the Work, which I indicated are of more importance, and I will consider them together. Have we reason to receive Tso’s narratives as reliable, Are Tso's narratives reliable? Were they supplemented or added to?having been transcribed by him from pre-existent records with merely such modifications of style as suited his taste? Or did he invent some of them himself? Or were they added to by writers in the Ts‘in dynasty and that of the Former Han? It is difficult to reply to these questions categorically. What has the greatest weight with me in favour of Tso’s general credibility is the difference between his commentary and those of Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang. What of narrative belongs to the latter bears upon it the stamp of tradition, and evidently was not copied from written records but from accounts current in the mouths of men. It is, moreover, of comparatively small compass. Their Works must have been written when the memory of particular events in the past had in a great measure died out. If Tso’s sources of information had been available for them, they would, we may be sure, have made use of them. The internal evidence of the three Works leaves no doubt in the mind as to the priority of Tso’s. And as they all made their appearance early in the Han dynasty, we are carried back for the composition of Tso’s into the period of Chow. As his last entry is about an affair in the 4th year of duke Taou, who died B.C. 430, and he mentions in it the Head of the Chaou family in Tsin by his honorary epithet of Sëang-tsze, which could not have been given before 424, we can hardly be wrong in assigning Tso to the fifth century before Christ. This brings him close to the age of Confucius who died in B.C. 478. Tso may then have been a young man;—he could hardly be a disciple enjoying that intimate association with the sage which Lew Hin, Pan Koo, and other Chinese scholars were fond of asserting.

7. But to maintain the general credibility of Tso’s Chuen as having been taken from authoritative sources and records acknowledged as genuine among the States of China when he wrote, leaves us at freedom to weigh his narratives and form our own opinion on grounds of reason as to the degree of confidence which we ought to repose in them. There are few critics of eminence among the Chinese who do not allow themselves a certain amount of liberty in this respect. Ch‘ing E-ch‘uen laid down two canons on the subject. ‘The Chuen of Tso,’ he says, ‘is not to be entirely believed; but only that portion of it which is in itself credible.’[49] To this no objection can be taken; but he opens a very difficult question, when he goes on, ‘We should from the Chuen examine the details of the events referred to in the text, and by means of the text discriminate between what is true and false in the Chuen.’* On this I shall have to give an Opinion in the next section, and only remark now that if we find the statements of the text and the Chuen in regard to matters of history irreconcileable, the most natural course would seem to be to decide in favour of the latter.

2. The K‘ang-he editors defer in general to the authority of Tso; but even they do not scruple to suppress his narratives occasionally, or to elide portions of them. They suppress, for instance, the account of the conference between the marquises of Loo and Ts‘e at Këah-kuh, given under XI. x. 2, considering the part which Confucius is made to play at it to be derogatory to him.

Wang Gan-shih[50] of the Sung dynasty published a treatise under the title of ‘Explanations of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw,’ in which he undertook to prove from eleven instances that the Chuen was not composed by Tso K‘ëw-ming of the Chow dynasty, but by some one of a later date, under the dynasty, probably, of Ts‘in.[51]Wang’s treatise is unfortunately lost, and we know not what all the eleven instances were. One of them was the use of the term lah[52] in the Chuen on V. v. 9, to denominate a sacrifice after the winter solstice, which, it is contended, was first appointed under the dynasty of Ts‘in. It may have been another where in IX. xi. 10 and xii. 5 we find mention made of military commanders of Ts‘in with the title of shoo chang,[53] which, again it is contended, was of later date than the Chow dynasty. Ch‘ing E-ch‘uen at any rate adduces these two as cases in the Chuen of purely Ts‘in phraseology.[54]

Apart from any discussion of these instances, I venture to state my own opinion, that interpolations were made in the Chuen after Tso had put his finishing touch to it, and probably during the dynasty of the former Han; and there are two classes of passages which seem to bear on them and in them the evidence of having been so dealt with.

[i] There are the moralizings which conclude many narratives and are interjected in others, generally with the formula—‘The superior man will say,’ and sometimes as if quoted from Confucius. They have often nothing or next to nothing to do with the subject of the narrative to which they are attached, and the manner in which they occasionally bring in quotations from the odes reminds us of Han Ying’s Illustrations of the She, of which I have given specimens in the proleg. to vol. IV. Choo He well asks what connexion the concluding portion of the Chuen after I. vi. 2 has to do with what precedes, and points out many reflections in other parts which cannot be considered as the utterances of a superior man but the speculations of a mere scholar.[55] Lin Leih of the Sung dynasty and a multitude of other scholars attribute all these passages to Lëw Hin.[56] They certainly seem to me to bear upon them the Han stamp.

[ii.] There is a host of passages which contain predictions of the future, or allusions to such predictions, grounded on divination, meteorological and astrological considerations, and something in the manner or deportment of the parties concerned;—predictions which turn out to be true.[57] We may be sure that none of these were made at the time assigned to them in the Chuen. Some of them which had their fulfilment before the end of the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw period may have been current in Tso’s days, and incorporated by him with his narrative. Others, like the ending of the Chow dynasty after an existence of so many hundred years, the fulfilment of which was at a later date, were, no doubt, fabricated subsequently to that fulfilment, and interpolated during the time of the first Han.

But after deducting all these suspicious portions from Tso’s Chuen, there remains the mass of it, which we may safely receive as having been compiled by him from records made contemporaneously with the events, and transmitted by him with the graces of his own style. It is, in my opinion, the most precious literary treasure which has come down to posterity from the Chow dynasty.

  7. On the other two early commentaries, those of Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang, it is not necessary that I should write at so much length. The commentaries of Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang.There is really nothing in them to entitle them to serious attention. Down to the present day, indeed, there are scholars in China who publish their lucubrations in favour of the one or of the other; but I think that my readers will all agree with me in the opinion which I have expressed about them, when they have examined the specimens of them which are appended to this chapter.

The commentaries themselves and various Works upon them are mentioned in Lëw Hin’s catalogue;—as stated above on page 17.

With regard to the Work of Kung-yang, Tae Hwăng, of the second Han dynasty, tells us that Kung-yang Kaou received the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw Kung-yang.and explanations of it from Confucius’ disciple Puh Shang or Tsze-hëa, and handed it down to his son Kung-yang P‘ing; that P‘ing handed it down again to his son Te; Te to his son Kan; Kan to his son Show; and that, in the reign of the emperor King (B.C. 155–140), Show, with his disciple Hoo-woo Tsze-too, committed it to bamboo and silk.[58] According to this account, the Work was not committed to writing till about the middle of the second century before Christ. If it were really transmitted, from mouth to mouth, down to that time from the era of Confucius, we can hardly suppose that it did not suffer very considerably, now receiving additions and now losing portions, in its onward Course.[59] The fact, moreover, of its having been confined for more than 300 years to one family takes away from the confidence which we might otherwise be inclined to repose in it.

There can be no doubt, however, that it was made public in the reign of King, and was acknowledged and admitted by his successor Woo (B.C. 139–86) into the imperial college. Hoo-woo was a contemporary and friend of the scholar Tung Chung-shoo;[60] and in the biography of the scholar Këang Kung,[61] an adherent of Kuh-lëang’s commentary, we are told that the emperor Woo made Këang and Tung dispute before him on the comparative merits of their two Masters, when Tung was held to be the victor. The emperor on this gave in his adhesion to Kung-yang, and his eldest son became a student of his Work.

It is not important to trace the history of Kung-yang’s commentary further on. The names of various writers on it and of their Works are preserved, but the Works are lost till we arrive at Ho Hëw (A.D. 129–183), who published his ‘Explanations of Kung-yang on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.’[62] This still remains. Ho Hëw did for Kung-yang what, as we have seen, Too Yu did at a later period for Tso K‘ëw-ming.

The commentary of Kuh-lëang is, like that of Kung-yang, carried back to Tsze-hëa; but the line of transmission down to the Han dynasty is imperfectly given. Kuh-lëang.The general opinion is that Kuh-lëang’s name was Ch‘ih,[63] but Yen Sze-koo says it was He.* The next name mentioned as intrusted with the text which Ch‘ih or He had received, and the commentary which he had made upon it, is Sun K‘ing, the same who appears on p. 27, as the 6th in the list of those who handed on the Work of Tso. From Sun K‘ing it is said to have passed to a Shin Kung of Loo.’ Këang Kung, mentioned above, received it from Shin;[64] and though it did not win the favour, as advocated by him, of the emperor Woo, yet it gained a place in the imperial college in the reign of Seuen (B.C. 72–48), and for some time was held generally in great estimation. It has been preserved to us in the Work of Fan Ning, a famous scholar and statesman of the Tsin dynasty in the second half of the 4th century; the title of which is, ‘A Collection of the Explanations of the Chuen of Kuh-lëang on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.’[65]

  7. One cannot compare carefully even the specimens of the two commentaries which I have given without seeing that there is often a great similarity between them, and having the conclusion suggested to the mind that the one was not made without reference to the other. Speculation as to a connexion between the commentaries of Kung and Kuh; and that these were only one person.It is not to be wondered at that some scholars, like Lin Hwang-chung of the Sung dynasty, should have supposed the two to be the production of the same writer.[66] But the differences between them, and occasionally the style of composition, forbid us entertaining such a view. That they were one man has been maintained on another ground. The surnames of Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang ceased with the publication of the commentaries. No Kung-yang nor Kuh-lëang appears after that in Chinese history.[67] This is certainly strange, especially when we consider that there were five Kung-yangs concerned, according to the received account, in the transmission of the commentary from Tsze-hëa to the Han dynasty. I must leave this matter, however, in its own mist. Ch‘ing Ts‘ing-che,[68] Lo Peih,[69] and other Sung scholars held that the author of the two commentaries had been a Këang, and that Kung-yang and Kuh-lëang were merely two ways of spelling it;[70] but the method of spelling by finals and initials was, there is reason to believe, unknown in the Han dynasty.


  1. It is a common opinion, which Mr. Wylie (General Notes on Chinese Literature, p. 6) endorses without hesitation, that the ‘Narratives of the States’ was by the same author as the Commentary about which we are inquiring; and we have the testimony of Sze-ma Ts‘ëen’s autobiographical letter to a friend (漢書六十二,司馬三十二), as to his surname being Tso-k‘ëw, and name Ming (左丘,; and again, 左丘). Our Tso would then have the surname of Tso-k‘ëw. This is still held by many. Choo E-tsun particularly insists on it as a point ‘exceedineg clear,’ and explains the dropping of the K‘ëw ( or ) from a superstitious feeling not to be always repeating the name of the Master (). Pan Koo appears to have considered the simple Tso to be the surname and K‘ëw-ming the name; and there are many who concur with him. Others maintain that the surname was simply Tso, and that the name has been lost. So it is virtually now, for the Work is simply called the Tso Chuen. On these disputes about the surname and name, Hwang Tsih (; Yuen dynasty) says with truth:—,左邱,,春秋,春秋,,,,,.
  2. E.g. Chaou K‘wang (; of the T‘ang dynasty) says:—,,夫子,,,,,,夫子,,.
  3. .
  4. 北平春秋左氏傳,,古文.
  5. See the 漢書,四十二,十二, the first memoir.
  6. Pih-p‘ing embraced the present department of Yung-p‘ing, Chih-le, and some adjacent territory.
  7. 漢書,四十八,十八.
  8. 賈誼春秋左氏傳訓故.
  9. .
  10. .
  11. See the proleg. to vol. IV. p. 11.
  12. K‘ung Ying-tah, in his preface to Too Yu's edition of the Tso Chuen says:—漢武帝(B.C. 139–86),,,公羊,.
  13. .
  14. .
  15. .
  16. 張氏春秋微,.
  17. . There is a long and interesting memoir of him in the 漢書,七十八. We find him, on his first introduction to the emperor Seuen, appealing to a passage in the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw.
  18. .
  19. .
  20. .
  21. .
  22. .
  23. See the 漢書三十六,,. I have carefully read over the Work of 祿 of the present dynasty, included in the 皇淸經解, and called 左氏春秋考證, in which he labours to upset all the testimony about Lëw Hin, but it is quite inconclusive and unsatisfactory.
  24. .
  25. Luh Tih-ming and others say this took place under Ho, in the 11th year of the period 元興. But that period lasted only one year. 元興 must be a mistake for 永元.
  26. ;—see further on.
  27. 春秋左氏經傳集解,三十;—by , styled . He is also called , from his military operations in the South, as in the quotation from Ma Twan-lin on p. 19. He was born A.D. 222, and died in 281.
  28. ,,,,,,,,,.
  29. 鐸氏微;虞氏微傳.
  30. See the 史記七十四,十四.
  31. ,,.
  32. The following passage from Tan Tsoo () of the T‘ang dynasty sets forth correctly this characteristic of Tso’s work, and I adduce it without reference to Tsoo‘s peculiar opinions about our author:— 左氏傳,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,,.
  33. ,,,,;—see Too's preface.
  34. I take the opportunity to advert here to a question which has produced no end of speculation and discussion among the scholars of China—Why does the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw begin with duke Yin? Might we not have expected the sage to go back to the first origin of the State of Loo? I believe that the only reasonable answer to these inquiries is this—that the annals of the State previous to duke Yin's rule had been altogether lost, or were in such a miserable state of dilapidation and disarrangement that nothing could be made of them. We might have expected a sentence or two from the sage to enlighten us on the subject; but his oracle is dumb. Neither does the Chuen say anything about it. How different the practice of writers of history in the West!
  35. ,,,;—see the 經義考, Bk. 169, p. 3. In Bk. 174, p. 3, there is quoted from him his contrary view of Kung-yang:—,,,.
  36. ,,,春秋,,,,,聖人,,,.
  37. I select only two Chinese testimonies of the excellence of Tso's style. The first is from Seun Sung () of the Tsin dynasty:—,,,,,. The other is from Choo E-tsun of the present dynasty:—,.
  38. E.g., Lew Hwang () of the T‘ang dynasty says:—,,,,.
  39. ;.
  40. ;;;;.
  41. ;;.
  42. ;;.
  43. ;.
  44. ;.
  45. ;.
  46. ;.
  47. ,,謚號,:—see Chaou on the Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, Ch. 左傳.
  48. ,左傳,,,;—see the 經義考, Bk. 169, p. 5.
  49. .
  50. See the 欽定四庫全書總目,二十六, upon the 春秋左傳.
  51. .
  52. 庶長.
  53. ,:.
  54. 左傳君子,意思,,,左傳,,所以,,,,,,,,,,,,君子,𨚫;—see the Critical Introduction to the K‘ang-he Ch‘un Ts‘ëw, pp. 28, 29.
  55. ,左傳君子,.
  56. The following is a list of passages of the character spoken of:—on I. iii. 5; vii. after 4; II. ii. 4; ix. 4; III. i. at the beginning; xi. 3; xx. at the beg.; xxi. 2; xxii. 3; xxxii. after 1; IV. i. at the end; ii. after 3; V. ii. after 3; xi. after 1; xii. 3d after 1; xiv. 4; xv. 13; xxii. at the end; xxxi. 9; VI. i. 8; v. after 3; ix. 12; x. 3; xiv. 5; xv. 12; VII. iii. 4, 8; iv. last but one; xiv. 6; xv. last but one; VIII. xiv. 1; xv. 7; xvi. at the end: IX. xi. 8; xxiv. 5, and at the end; xxvii. 5; xxix. 2d and 4th after 1, 8; xxx. 7, and after 7; xxxi. at the beg., 2, 5, and after 7; X. 2, and 2d after 2, 4; vii. 4; ix. 3; x. at the beg.; xi. 2, 3, and after 3; xii. 3; xv. 2, and after 6; xviii. at the beg.; xx. at the beg.; xxi. at the beg., 1; xxv. 1; xxxi. 7; xxxii. 2, 4; XI. ix. 3; xv. 1; XII. ix. after 4. In the 困學紀聞集證,, this set of passages is touched on. It is said:— (on III. xxii. 3) , (IV. i. at the end), , (VI. xiii. at the beg.), ,,鹿, (V. xiv. 3), ,, (III. vii. 2), . Choo He often speaks very doubtfully about Tso's Chuen. E.g. 左傳,, but this last insinuation is mere surmise.
  57. ,,,,,,,; quoted in the preface to Ho Hëw's edition of Kung-yang.
  58. According to Ho Hëw, this transmission of the Classic from mouth to mouth was commanded by Confucius, from his foreknowledge of the attempt of the tyrant of Ts`in to burn all the monuments of ancient literature!—孔子,,公羊,.
  59. .
  60. . See the 漢書八十八,儒林傳五十八.
  61. 何氏休春秋公羊解詁.
  62. .
  63. ,,,, (al. ) ,,,.
  64. 春秋穀梁傳集. For the biography of Fan Ning, see the 晉書,七十五,列傳四十五.
  65. The K‘ang-he editors in their Critical Introduction, p. 7, quote on this point from Choo He:—,,,所以,,,.
  66. See the 氏姓譜, chh. 147, 156.
  67. .
  68. .
  69. ,,.