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(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Yang Xiong (YAHNG shee-ong), whose father was a petty landlord, read extensively in his early youth. Though he lacked eloquence because of a stammer, he had a free and natural air that enabled him to get along with people. He became skilled in poetry and was appointed the close attendant of the emperor.

Later in life, Yang Xiong turned to the study of philosophy and dialect. He set forth the concept of xuan, “dark energy,” or the absolute metaphysical reason for the formation and existence of all concrete things, in his Tai Xuan Jing (before 18 c.e.; The Classic of the Great Dark, 1983). He believed in the knowable nature of the universe and the importance of knowledge and stated that practicable knowledge was authentic knowledge. He also held that human nature was a mixture of good and evil. One became a good person by developing the good and an evil person by enhancing the evil.


(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Yang Xiong’s poetry has continued to be appreciated and studied as an excellent model of Chinese literature, and his philosophy inspired later thinkers and enriched the treasure of Chinese thought.

Additional Resources

(Literature and the Ancient World, Critical Edition)

Elbogen, Ismar. Jewish Liturgy: A Comprehensive History. Translated by R. P. Scheindlin. Philadelphia: Jewish Publication Society, 1993.

Knechtges, David R. The Han Rhapsody: A Study of the Fu of Yang Hsiung. Cambridge, England: Cambridge University Press, 1976.

Mirsky, Aharon. Yosse ben Yosse: Poems. Jerusalem: Mosad Byalik, 1991.

Nylan, Michael, trans. Yang Hsiung: The Canon of Supreme Mystery. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1993.

Spiegel, Shalom. Fathers of Piyyut: Texts and Studies Toward a History of the Piyyut in Eretz Yisrael. New York: Bet ha-midrash le-rabanum ba-Amerikah, 1996.