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Part of a series on
Later figures (incomplete)
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GONGSUN HONG (公孫弘;
Wade–Giles : Kung-sun Hung; 200 – 121
BCE ), born Kingdom of Lu ,
Zichuan (part of present-day Shandong
province ), was a Chinese statesman in the
Western Han dynasty under
Emperor Wu . He was one of the earliest proponents of Confucianism
along with famous
Beginning his political career at age sixty, he rapidly advanced from commoner to attain a senior appointment in 130BC when he was seventy, becoming grand secretary in 126 and chancellor in 124. One of the Three Dukes , in recognition of canonical mastery he was probably the first Han Confucian to be appointed to high office, the first commoner and first (and only, out of twelve of the time) Confucian to be made chancellor , as well as the first first chancellor to be made marquis . He set a precedent for Confucianism as interpreter of portents .
* 1 Historical background * 2 Personal ackground * 3 Career * 4 Legacy * 5 Notes * 6 References
Preceding emperors had instituted a policy of general
non-interference with the people, reducing tax and other burdens,
promoting government thrift, reduction in criminal sentences. A major
issue however was the power possessed by princes of collateral lines
of the imperial clan. The princes often built up their own military
strengths and resisted edicts issued by the emperor. Emperor Wen\'s
time saw the
Lü Clan Disturbance
Gongsun probably first expressed his views in 134 B.C. after the death of the Taoistic Empress Dowager , in response to a request by the Emperor Wudi for governmental advice. He applied to an advanced position in government through court examination. His discourse included ideas from Confucianism , administrative philosophy (Chinese Legalism ) and Mohism ; namely, that capable people ought to be employed in positions that match their talents ( Mohism and Shen Buhai ); secondly, encouraging high standards of morality, harmonious relationships, and employing moral persons ( Confucianism and Mohism); and that common people should be allowed opportunity for farming while discouraging useless articles ( Mohism and Legalism).
Referring to a typical golden age of the remote past in which the populace was naturally good, reminiscent of Lu Jia and Jia Yi he derides the practice of the Qin (that is, its penalties) as inadequate, stressing the Confucian values of sincerity, humaneness (ren), righteousness (yi), and moderation (li), but also intellectual judgement (zhi) as the means of effective authority. In what may have been the first time in history he evoked the Duke of Zhou ( Zhou Gong ) in his argument. As an influence on the basics of Confucianism, his stress on guidance through music (which Dong also stressed), li, and the habits of living is notable, while on the other hand he lacked Dong's cosmology.
Following this he gave a thinly veiled discourse on the "fundamentals of government" drawn seemingly straight from the Han Feizi ; referring to the techniques (Shu) of government (originating in Shen Buhai ), recommending firm personal control of the government, and "monopolization of the handles which control life" ( Han Fei 's Two Handles of reward and punishment). His discourse was rated low by the Ceremonial Superintendent, but among the top by the Emperor; though it may have been simple compared with Dong's, Sima writes that it was still very elegant.
Gongsun thereby attained the title of academician, leading Dong to
claims that he attained high office from the autocratic Emperor
through flattery (while Dong did not attain high office). The Han shu
records that Dong's career was distinguished through the same call to
service. Gongsun tried hard to sideline Dong, and would ultimately see
his banishing, probably between 126-121BC. Making the him chancellor
Contrary to Zhang Tang, who promoted his subordinates, Gongsun made no use of his position to advance other Confucians, and likely did not identify with the Confucian community, not hesitating to drive them from office. Michael Loewe states that, though regarded as one of the most respected statesmen, he was actually considered somewhat old-fashioned. Despite his political orientation, because he insisted on the value of trust over either law, rewards or penalties, Vankeerberghen considers Gongsun still reminiscent of Huang-Lao ideology like the Taoistic Huainanzi , the book of his opponents.
In more legal policy, having began his career as a scholar appointed for his knowledge of the Five Classics , and only later arriving at the legal, Gongsun would embellish the later with the former, greatly pleasing the emperor. Often mentioned together in the Shiji , Gongsun sang the praises of legal clerk Zhang Tang , whose policies needed legitimation, thereby strengthening each other's positions.
Professor Griet Vankeerberghen refer to both him and Zhang as
"quasi-Legalist bureaucrats". They instituted a law along the lines
Servicing the emperor's wishes, they brought the government under
tight central control, promoting an autocratic style of government.
Eliminating their enemies through execution or transfer, they began
what may be termed a political revolution putting a temporary end to
group interests in the court, consolidating it with the death of Liu
Drawing them as infringing on the Emperor's prerogatives and
authority, Gongsun implies a comparison between the luxurious
indulgence of Ji An's ilk to that of
Guan Zhong as usurping the
prerogatives of his lord - and is approved. In connection with this
Gongsun wore plain clothes and ate plain food, as if to place himself
on footing with minor officials or the people. Other cases include
Gongsun recommending the corrupt
Zhufu Yan for execution (though
Gongsun may have been covetous of his favour with the Emperor), and
that the harsh official
Ning Cheng not be appointed to government
office, with the emperor making the latter commandant. Gongsun died
of natural causes only a year after the
Professor Griet Vankeerberghen considers Gongsun to have promoted the virtues of frugality, modesty and incorruptibility, which might be said to have faded into the background. Pledging allegiance to the Emperor, he was innovative in defining absolutism in moral terms, espousing a conception of loyalty at odds with the times, and new standards of conduct to go with it. Following Gongsun scholars "took to supporting monarchical power", he and Zhang Tang achieving "nothing less than a tilting of the axis of the conventional moral compass toward a more legal-centric orientation."
Before Gongsun the selection of officials depended mainly on the
judgment of senior officials, and the injunctions of the Emperor,
though still referencing character. Only seven percent of officials
at the time were Confucian. Gongsun's rapid rise would be celebrated
as its success, but apart from attracting opportunists to
Confucianism, also saw the ideas of "
Many were willing to follow Gongsun, while notable contemporaries
Whatever the case, both lived frugal, if not charitable lives and
established new standards of conduct. Though utilizing his virtues to
further his career, he was said to be proficient, meticulous, yielding
and filial. He was praised for giving away, at times, most of his
salary to fellow scholars, to the point of having little left over for
his family, only revealing this to the court at the charge of Ji An.
After failing to suppress the rebellion in
While Sima states that Gongsun considered himself to have died
without achieving merit, the historian
* ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1970 , pp. 86-87; Dillon 1998 , p. 79; Vankeerberghen 2001 , pp. 20,173; Loewe , p. 145-148; Xinzhong , p. 218,231. * ^ Queen 1996 , p. 30,31; Loewe 2011 , p. 103; Xinzhong 2015 , p. 14; Liang 2015 . * ^ Vankeerberghen 2001 , p. 26. * ^ Roy Gentz 2015 , p. 107. * ^ Hsiung 1985 , p. 8; Gentz 2015 , p. 107; Liang 2015 , p. 14. * ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241; Vankeerberghen 2001 , p. 176. * ^ Dillon 1998 , p. 349. * ^ Mayers 1874 , p. 90; Loewe 2011 , pp. 55,149; Gentz 2015 , p. 107; Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 363; Redfield 1953 , p. 54. * ^ Liang 2015 , p. 14; Morrison 1815 , p. 899. * ^ Queen 1996 , p. 244; Loewe 2011 , p. 149-150; Gentz 2015 , p. 106-109. * ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241; Hsy 1986 , p. 316; Xinzhong 2015 , pp. 230-231; Xinzhong 2015 , p. 230; Loewe 2011 , p. 55,148. * ^ A B Wei-ming Tu 1993 , p. 22. * ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241; Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 107; Loewe 2011 , p. 55. * ^ Loewe 1994 , p. 122; Queen 1996 , p. 30,63; Loewe 2011 , p. 49,147-149. * ^ Liang 2015 , p. 371. * ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241. * ^ Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 364,396; Gentz 2015 , p. 107. * ^ Liang 2015 , p. 14. * ^ Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 370. * ^ Vankeerberghen 2001 , p. 176. * ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Watson 1958 , p. 310; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241; Vankeerberghen 2001 , pp. 18-21,27-28; Liang 2015 , p. 14. * ^ A B Wyatt 2002 , p. 564. * ^ Vankeerberghen 2001 , p. 28. * ^ Creel 1970 , p. 87. * ^ Vankeerberghen 2001 , pp. 14-36; Rimer Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 368,390. * ^ Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 364,396; Watson 1958 , p. 319; Liang 2015 , p. 371. * ^ Vankeerberghen 2001 , p. 27. * ^ Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 390. * ^ Watson 1958 , p. 268. * ^ Vankeerberghen 2001 , pp. 24,26-27. * ^ A B Redfield 1953 , p. 56. * ^ Loewe 2011 , p. 145-146. * ^ Liang 2015 ; Wei-ming Tu , p. 22. * ^ Xinzhong 2015 , p. 508. * ^ Creel 1949 , pp. 239-241; Creel 1960 , pp. 239-241; Hsy 1986 , p. 316; Yates 1988 , p. 34; Tu 1993 , p. 195; Vankeerberghen 2001 , pp. 20-25; Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 370,390; Gentz 2015 , p. 107; Wei-ming Tu 1993 , p. 23; Eisenstadt 1986 , p. 369. * ^ Ssu-ma 2010 , p. 391.
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