Wang Bi Biography


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)


Wang Bi (wahng BEE) was an eloquent child prodigy and a member of the state council of the kingdom of Wei (220-265 c.e.). He surpassed all his contemporaries in debates about Confucianism and Daoism. His era saw a tapering of the influence of classical Confucianism, which induced an uninhibited individuality that all writers endeavored to cultivate. Wang Bi, along with metaphysicians He Yan (d. 249 c.e.) and Xiao Houxun (209-254 c.e.), began to infuse Daoism into Confucianism to modify the latter. To Wang Bi, Confucianism focuses on all beings while Daoism focuses on an original creative nonbeing. In his Laozi Zhu (third century c.e.; English translation in A Translation of Lao Tzu’s Tao Te Ching and Wang Pi’s Commentary, 1977), a commentary on Laozi’s Dao De Jing, Wang Bi remarks that all beings show patterns; these patterns may be reduced to one, which in turn comes from nonbeing. In this way, he colored the Dao with deism and argued in favor of the feudal ethical code of his age. He revised his early interpretation on Daoism in his Zhouyi Zhu (third century c.e.; partial translation in The Classic of Changes: A New Translation of the I Ching as Interpreted by Wang Bi, 1994), a commentary on the Yijing (eighth to third century b.c.e.; English translation, 1876; also known as Book of Changes, 1986), in which he adopted Daoist nomenclature and concepts and claimed that it was...

(The entire section is 568 words.)