|Summary||Shao Yong (Shao Yung 邵雍, 1011-1077) stood out among Neo-Confucians for his in-depth knowledge of mathematics and his sophisticated study on iconography and numerology. Using symbols and numbers derived from the Yijing, Shao tried to categorize the whole cosmos, including humans’ worldly affairs, into a structured system. His studies on the Yijing may have sparked the intense interests in the Yijing among early Neo-Confucians. However, Shao Yong’s thought is so abstract and sophisticated that even his contemporary philosopher remarked that it would take twenty years to understand it. As a result, Shao Yong was marginalized in later developments of Neo-Confucianism, and he remains an enigma in Chinese philosophy to this day. His most important work, the Huangji Jingshi (皇極經世, Book of Supreme World Ordering Principles), is a massive volume investigating the origination of the cosmos on the basis of an A Priori Diagram (xiantian tu 先天圖) that he designed. It is an essential work on Chinese cosmogony, but due to its complexity and the esoteric numerology, few contemporary scholars have done studies on this book.|
|Key works||Birdwhistell 1989 takes on an ambitious task in explicating Shao’s metaphysical ideas. Wyatt 1996 is a philosophical biography of Shao Yong, aiming to reconstruct Shao’s life with the limited information we have of him from his contemporary and his writings. Since there is so little written in English on Shao Yong, both these works are recommended here as they present different aspects of Shao’s philosophy.|
Birdwhistell 1989 aims to unlock the mystery of Shao Yong’s system of symbolic representation of reality. It begins with Shao Yong’s historical and philosophical contexts, and moves on to reconstruct Shao Yong’s thought as an explanatory structure of the operation of the universe. It is an accessible introduction to an otherwise obtuse philosophy.
Wyatt, Don J. The Recluse of Loyang - Shao Yung and the Moral Evolution of Early Sung Thought. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1996.
This book may unlock some of the mysteries surrounding Shao Yong the philosopher. It sets Shao in his historical context, and recounts his family background, his relationships with friendly associates and political enemies. It gives a partial introduction to Shao’s moral philosophy, and challenges Birdwhistell 1989’s negligent treatment of Shao’s moral philosophy.
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