Macquarie University
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The sensual and the moral: "Kongzi shilun" 孔子詩論 as an exegesis of the Shijing 詩經

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posted on 2022-03-28, 02:37 authored by Daniel Sai Keung Lee
The „sensual‟ and the „moral‟ are two different interpretive strategies for reading the Shijing 詩經 (Book of Odes), exemplified on the one hand by the bamboo manuscript “Kongzi shilun” 孔子詩論 (Confucian poetics) adopting the „sensual‟ and on the other, the Han漢 (202 BCE- 220 CE) commentarial tradition engaging in the „moral‟. This thesis is a textual study and critical review of the manuscript alleged to be Confucius‟ commentaries on the poems. As a monographic exegesis on the Shijing “Kongzi shilun” antedates all extant commentaries and has, so far, no parallel transmitted text. By rendering a comprehensively annotated translation and review of the manuscript, this project contributes to the current research on the topic. The commentarial tradition of the Shijing since the Han, particularly the Maoshi 毛詩, has had profound influence over later scholarship. Although the Han erudition recognizes qing 情 (emotions, passions) as the motivation behind poetic creativity, it shies away from the concept by shifting to a prudish reading of the poems. In this thesis „the moral‟ is meant to be the paradigmatic interpretation of poetry through li禮 (rules of propriety) as a means used by the sage kings to instruct the people, and „the sensual‟ is meant to be qing, which embraces the rich sentiments of human emotions, passions and feelings that “Kongzi shilun” reads from the odes. Between the poiesis of qing and the bounds of li, “Kongzi shilun” has now bridged the gap left by the Han scholarship regarding the notion that germinates poetry. This thesis does not seek to subvert the concept of li in the hermeneutics of the Shijing, but to claim that the Confucian precept represented by the manuscript author does not censure qing or the poems that celebrate it, and espouses the use of li as a means of transcending human desires and regulating social and spiritual relations. “Kongzi shilun” has certainly enhanced current understanding of Confucius‟ didactics represented by the manuscript and inspired our appreciation of the Shijing embracing both the sensual and the moral aspects of the poems.


Table of Contents

1. Poetry and commentary -- 2. "Kongzi shilun" 孔子詩論 -- 3. Transcription, translation and annotations -- 4. Poetic implicitness -- 5. The sensual and the moral -- 6. "Kongzi shilun" and the Shijing.


A thesis submitted in total fulfillment of the requirements for the degree of Doctor of Philosophy" Includes bibliographical references "May 2013

Awarding Institution

Macquarie University

Degree Type

Thesis PhD


PhD, Macquarie University, Faculty of Arts, Department of International Studies

Department, Centre or School

Department of International Studies

Year of Award


Principal Supervisor

Shirley Chan

Additional Supervisor 1

Lance Eccles


Copyright disclaimer: Copyright Daniel Sai Keung Lee 2013




1 online resources (v, 250, 29 pages) illustrations

Former Identifiers

mq:30959 2161043