Skip to main content

Transmission and Change: Uncovering the Significance of Zhu Junsheng’s Liushisi Gua Jingjie

Project Scheme:
Early Career Scheme
Project Year:
Project Leader:
Dr LAW, Yin Ling
(Department of Chinese Language Studies)
Transmission and Change: Uncovering the Significance of Zhu Junsheng’s Liushisi Gua Jingjie

Renowned for his work on the dictionary Shuowen Jiezi, Qing philologist Zhu Junsheng (1788—1858) is also author of Liushisi Gua Jingjie, a work generally viewed as a repository of existing interpretations without scholarly innovation and thus largely overlooked. 

However, to gauge its worth simply on the format presented is to conclude on bias rather than evidence. In fact, on top of being transmissive in nature, Zhu’s work is pivotal and innovative in many ways. It is proposed that the following two areas of Jingjie’s significance will be uncovered: (1)While Jingjie does incorporate a wealth of existing interpretations, Zhu would often present an abridged or restructured extraction, to which his own views are provided. Zhu is also keen on making historical references alongside his interpretations. His historiographical acumen reflects mid-Qing intellectual scholarship, invoking new understandings on astronomy and geography to support his theses, which in turn makes a fresh contribution to classical exegesis. The criticism that Jingjie is “with a clear lack of a critical eye” is an imbalanced assessment. Only through thoroughly understanding how Zhu accepts past scholarship and makes transformative innovations can we observe how new life is breathed into the Chinese classics that has seen continued reinvigoration throughout the ages. (2)It is indisputable that Zhu’s Shuowen Tongxun Dingsheng is his philological magnum opus. However, in evaluating the extent of his achievements, scholars often overlook the philological evidence presented in his other works. It must be acknowledged that Shuowen Jiezi is an analytical dictionary and Zhu’s work on it strives to examine each character’s basic (or definitive) meaning. Whereas the goal of Jingjie is interpret Zhou Yi and its philological exegeses serve such a purpose. It is therefore not surprising to see competing glosses between Zhu’s two works. Only through a systematic examination of Zhu’s philological evidence from Jingjie in contrast with that of Shuowen Tongxun Dingsheng can we observe how his preparatory work for the latter has informed the formation of his understanding of Zhou Yi, and more importantly, how Zhu applies his philological expertise in the interpretive and extended meanings of individual characters found in the Chinese classics. The research output would be pioneering in its evaluation of Zhu’s philological and linguistic achievements outside of the singular source thoroughly examined by other scholars.