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Shao Yong


Shao Yong's works and concepts

Shao Yong's works and concepts


Shao Yong : Shao Yong's works and concepts

He wrote a number of works, but the most important is the Huang-chi ching-shih shu (Supreme Principles Governing the World).

Shao's fundamental concepts are three. First, there are the supreme principles governing the universe. Second, these principles can be discemed in terms of numbers. And third, the best knowledge of them is the objective, that is, viewing things from the viewpoint of things. In bolding that all things have principles in them, he is not different from other Neo-Confucianists. To this concept, he devoted his major work, the Huang-chi ching-shih shu (Supreme Principles Governing the World). However, while he followed the same pattern of cosmic evolu:ion in the Book of Changes as most other Neo-Confucianists did, that is, the evolution from the Great Ultimate through yin and yang or nega:ive and positive cosmic force, to the myriad things, he added the element of number. To him universal operation, or Change, is due to spirit, which gives rise to number, number to form, and form to concrete things. The whole process works according to principle and is natural. Man is the most intelligent of the products of natural evolution, but like all other things he is governed by numbers.

The concept of number is not new. It is present in the Lao Tzu, the Book of Changes, the Five Agents School, the apocryphal literature of the Western Han period (206 B.C-A.D. 8), and Yang Hsiung (53 B.CA.D. 18), but he was the first one to base his whole philosophy on it and build a system of numerical progression. Evidently under the influence of the Book of Changes in which the Great Ultimate engenders the four forms of major and minor cosmic forces yin and yang, he used the number 4 as the basis of classification of all phenomena. Thus there are the four heavenly bodies (sun, moon, stars, and zodiacal space), the four earthly substances (water, fire, earth, and stone), the four kinds of creatures (animals, birds, grass, and plants), the four sense organs (eye, car, nose, and mouth), the four ways of transforming the world (by truth, virtue, work, and effort), the four kinds of rulers, the four kinds of Mandate of Heaven, and so forth. The whole scheme is neat and systematic but also mechanical and arbitrary. However, in its progression from 4 to 64, which is the number of hexagrams in the Book of Changes, it clearly indicates the evolutionary development from the one to the many. Furthermore, since the process is essentially the work of spirit which expresses itself in interpenetrating activity and in the tranquility of yin and yang, the universal operation is conceived of as opening (expansion) and closing (contraction) and thus the dynamic character of Change is dominant. What is new in the numerical approach is that things are definite and that by mathematical calculation they can be predicted. He applied this to history and equated it with the four seasons with calculable beginning and predictable end.


  
  


Source : Wing-Tsit Chan, in Chinese Philosophy



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