Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD China

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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Sat Mar 07, 2015 5:57 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:
Also, Xun Xu himself became distinguished by his loyalty to Cao Shuang, even when Cao Shuang was already dead and the Simas were fully in power. The early Jin dynasts were fairly careful politically; they wanted people on their side who had proven their loyalty to the Cao family, but who were neither Cao zealots nor military threats to their power. I thought it was pretty remarkable, actually, how carefully-targeted, small-scale and conservative the Jin political purges were.


As soon as you said that, I couldn't help but think of someone who struggles to like the Sima's due to said purges.

Off the top of my head, the Sima's probably did purge carefully but extremely ruthlessly. Cao and Xiahou members were screwed (at the very least in terms of career), those that rebelled, those seen as close in-laws or who, over time, the Sima's felt might become a problem. They might well give leeway for a time but not forever.

In terms of the Ca Shuang purge, those too heavily associated with Cao Shuang had to go. It's kind of hard to go "Cao Shuang plotted treason and his regime was corrupt" then go "but senior minister Bo-Bo was innocent" but at lower level... I think it wasn't politically wise to chase the Zhong family or the Xun family. The coup was at least partly restoring gentry power and killing members of the gentry who one might be able to spare with just 5 minutes on the naughty step would cost Sima's support here and there.

I'm more arguing against the SGYY 'read' of Cao Cao, as well as the traditional Chinese interpretation of him as a man who instituted Legalist political reforms particularly in his hiring practices. That whole angle struck me as misguided once I started reading Cao Cao's poetry.


I wasn't challenging you or defending myself, just giving my thoughts :)

No doubt there's an element of that in their judgement of Xun Can's wife. And his devotion to / defence of his wife actually might have been part of the reason Xun was so emphatic on physical beauty being more important than the traditional Confucian wifely virtues, even though his Lady Cao was later alluded to as being pretty-but-not-that-beautiful. (I'll have to look up the reference later, though.)


I wonder if that beauty defence was partly tailored to shock, partly tailored to the question asked. I do know the "not that beautiful" comment you mean (don't ask me who said it and exactly what it was but I know of it :oops: ) and I think that is where the speculation of what exactly was being talked about comes from. Did Xun Can mean she was great in bed (yes, I have seen that speculation), was she Cao Hong like in temper and behaviour and so on

Also full disclosure: I want her in DW.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Mon Mar 09, 2015 5:07 am

Just came across this in Chapter 4:

Howard Goodman wrote:Only one of the legends will concern us, since it is about tonal acuity... It seems Xun was travelling in Zhao (not corroborated by any other datum) and there heard an unusual tone from a cowbell. Later, after gaining control of the Jin's court music he recalled that specific tone and how it might help him establish the correct twelve pitches. Subsequently, he ordered that the bell be found. People sent in cow-bells, one of which was the desired tonal match. This incident allowed Xun to complete his tunings: "As a result, he obtained the harmonising note 果得諧者."


And all I could think was, 'Xun Xu has a fever. And the only prescription...'



~~~

Dong Zhou wrote:As soon as you said that, I couldn't help but think of someone who struggles to like the Sima's due to said purges.

Off the top of my head, the Sima's probably did purge carefully but extremely ruthlessly. Cao and Xiahou members were screwed (at the very least in terms of career), those that rebelled, those seen as close in-laws or who, over time, the Sima's felt might become a problem. They might well give leeway for a time but not forever.

In terms of the Ca Shuang purge, those too heavily associated with Cao Shuang had to go. It's kind of hard to go "Cao Shuang plotted treason and his regime was corrupt" then go "but senior minister Bo-Bo was innocent" but at lower level... I think it wasn't politically wise to chase the Zhong family or the Xun family. The coup was at least partly restoring gentry power and killing members of the gentry who one might be able to spare with just 5 minutes on the naughty step would cost Sima's support here and there.


The Caos themselves always presented a political danger to the Simas after Yi's execution of Cao Shuang. Cao Mao in particular was a lightning rod for repeated anti-Sima uprisings and attempts to wrest back control; it's unsurprising that the Simas would have done away with him and anyone who rallied to his banner in the aftermath.

I'm not sure how other historians portray it; Goodman paints the Jin takeover of Wei as being gradual, efficacious and minimally costly in terms of talent. But then, Goodman does seem to have a marked sympathy for Xun Xu, and even though he makes a good deal of use of pro-Wei Tang Era historiographers of Jin, he tends to speak of them in a rather deprecating way and in a way which highlights their political biases and use of chuanqi 傳奇 style stories.

Dong Zhou wrote:I wasn't challenging you or defending myself, just giving my thoughts :)


Fair do's. Sorry about having suggested otherwise. :P

Dong Zhou wrote:I wonder if that beauty defence was partly tailored to shock, partly tailored to the question asked. I do know the "not that beautiful" comment you mean (don't ask me who said it and exactly what it was but I know of it :oops: ) and I think that is where the speculation of what exactly was being talked about comes from. Did Xun Can mean she was great in bed (yes, I have seen that speculation), was she Cao Hong like in temper and behaviour and so on

Also full disclosure: I want her in DW.


:D We'd have to get Cao Hong in there first, at least, but that shouldn't be too hard, right? But DW's Wei has one sultry femme fatale in Zhen Luo; if they were to add Xun-Cao ji, they would have to start her characterisation from a full-on tsundere or whatever the 200's AD equivalent of a biker girl would be.

I found the reference, by the way: it's from Shishuo xinyu 世說新語. Goodman makes this footnote: 'Can said that his wife was not so beautiful that her looks could "bring down a state"; this was a well-known trope from the biography of Han Wudi's consort Lady Li, about whom a popular saying was: "One look and she topples a [great] man's city-wall; another look and she topples his state"; Hanshu 97A. pp. 3951ff.' Goodman also says, in the main text: 'Shishuo xinyu even mentions that others, like Pei Hui, criticised Can's self-indulgent and totalistic mourning; it was a type of mourning that was considered unfilial and disorderly.'
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Tue Mar 10, 2015 6:25 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:
The Caos themselves always presented a political danger to the Simas after Yi's execution of Cao Shuang. Cao Mao in particular was a lightning rod for repeated anti-Sima uprisings and attempts to wrest back control; it's unsurprising that the Simas would have done away with him and anyone who rallied to his banner in the aftermath.


Indeed. I think they would have kept Cao Mao awhile longer if he hadn't forced his hand (the offical Jin proclamation on that is hilarious if you haven't read it). I imagine they would have forced Empress Dowager Guo out if she wasn't so important for legitimacy as she seems to have been wily

I'm not sure how other historians portray it; Goodman paints the Jin takeover of Wei as being gradual, efficacious and minimally costly in terms of talent. But then, Goodman does seem to have a marked sympathy for Xun Xu, and even though he makes a good deal of use of pro-Wei Tang Era historiographers of Jin, he tends to speak of them in a rather deprecating way and in a way which highlights their political biases and use of chuanqi 傳奇 style stories.


Wasn't a historian I was thinking of. The Sima purges were probably tightly controlled, particularly after wiping out Cao Shuang's highest ranks, I agree with you on that.

:D We'd have to get Cao Hong in there first, at least, but that shouldn't be too hard, right? But DW's Wei has one sultry femme fatale in Zhen Luo; if they were to add Xun-Cao ji, they would have to start her characterisation from a full-on tsundere or whatever the 200's AD equivalent of a biker girl would be.


I was more thinking a brash woman, someone fiery. Not that fussed about Cao Hong as an add but I suppose one should have him first...

Thanks for finding the reference!
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Wed Mar 11, 2015 5:11 am

Dong Zhou wrote:Indeed. I think they would have kept Cao Mao awhile longer if he hadn't forced his hand (the offical Jin proclamation on that is hilarious if you haven't read it). I imagine they would have forced Empress Dowager Guo out if she wasn't so important for legitimacy as she seems to have been wily


:lol:

I'll have to take a look at that Jin proclamation! Does KMA have a translation of the text somewhere about?

Dong Zhou wrote:I was more thinking a brash woman, someone fiery. Not that fussed about Cao Hong as an add but I suppose one should have him first...

Thanks for finding the reference!


No probs!

Anyway, yes - I think Xun-Cao ji would definitely need to have a bit of fire to her. We'd have to have some irked father-in-law and rebellious daughter-in-law dynamics with Xun Yu, of course. There could be some interesting things one might do with her character when Xun Yu gets suicided / illnessed to death. Not sure at this point what her weapon would be, though.

But if ever Xun Xu were made into a playable character in DW, he would have to have a cowbell as his weapon. Are you reading this, Koei? It's mandatory! You gotta WANT. That COWBELL.

~~~

My thoughts on Chapter 4.

This one is all about Xun Xu's forays into metrology in 273 and 274. Long story short, it explores his correction of the Cao Wei chi 尺 of 24.2 centimetres back down to the classical Zhou-era chi of 23.1 centimetres; tries to reconstruct all of the methodologies he used to conduct his research; explores the economic, political and musical ramifications of his correction; tries to understand why and how the lengthening happened in the first place; and looks at why his success in correcting the Jin measurement standards were largely limited to the Jin court, and had little impact beyond it. (Indeed, the Dong Jin era saw a further lengthening of the chi, among artisans and merchants, to over 24.5 cm!)

Goodman begins with a discussion of how Xun Xu's post in the Palace Writers 中書 of Xi Jin overlapped with the historically-separate office of the Imperial Library 祕書; the decision to do this had occurred under Cao Pi in 220, to counteract Cao Cao's Imperial Library appointees Liu Fang 劉放 and Sun Zi 孫資, who exerted an undue influence on Cao succession matters. But in Xi Jin Xun Xu took full advantage of the rearranged offices to undertake his own antiquarian projects - among which was calculating and then reintroducing the Zhou chi.

Goodman returns several times to the differences between the metrologies of China and the West. Metrology was important for the mediaeval and renaissance West because one had a great patchwork of competing, warring nations with different cultures, languages and metrics; it became necessary for kings to fix standards for use within their own realms simply because trade would become dangerous and prohibitively costly without them. China, on the other hand, suffered from no such dire need, but metrology still had a highly political and even sacred dimension to it. It was primarily the basis for all court music, and therefore proper measurements occupied a central place in setting out all of the court rites. Goodman sets out a clear case why the Jin emperors and Xun Xu would not have been as interested in regulating the flow of trade, either within or outside China, as they were in establishing a consistent standard for court rites that would be seen within the literati circles as more legitimate than Cao Wei's. But this also explains to some extent why Xun Xu's re-articulated Zhou cun never really caught on outside the Jin court: artisans, surveyors, peasants and traders would have had no reason to switch over to the new measurements! And so they kept on as they always had done, using the Dong Han chi of 24.2 cm or later, the Dong Jin chi of 24.5 cm.

The closest parallel Goodman draws to a practice in the West is the musicology of German Reformation-era composer Michael Praetorius, who used archaeological finds in the Holy Land to inform his studies of the pipe organ; but he warns against drawing any too-close parallels to the West. Goodman says China's experience and motivations in creating consistent metrics are essentially sui generis: 'Unlike China's ritual arts and techne, the early Church was not interested in a search for Christ's (or Paul's, or even Gregory I's) exact pitch for psalmody, whether through some vaguely reconstructable pipe, trumpet, or string-length, or, more abstractly, a radical reading of scripture that might point to specifications of magnitudes. There was no part of the liturgy that required ritually accurate pitch devices. China's quest was unique in this way.'

But Xun Xu's research did involve a careful study of such found-objects, including various historical chi measures, a set of pitch-pipe regulators 律 fashioned under the direction of Cao Cao's music director Du Kui 杜夔, sets of cast bells, foot-rules, historical surveying devices, coins and weights dating from Zhou, Xi Han, Xin, Dong Han, Cao Wei and Xi Jin. His use and analysis of these ancient objects to determine that the reigning chi measure was over four percent too long touched off a 'flurry' (Goodman's word) of archaeological and antiquarian studies, including a 'dig' judged by Tang-era historian Li Chunfeng 李淳風 to have been attempted by a clique around Xun Xu's critic Ruan Xian 阮咸 solely to discredit Xun's findings and conclusions.

I think my point of interest in this chapter lay in Goodman's assertion that because of the lack of external motivations, Xun Xu (and therefore also his Jin patron Sima Yan) must have been motivated by a sincerely-held, stoutly Confucian concern for 'correctness' in the court music and rites. Xun Xu idolised the Zhou, and his zeal carried over into a lust for following the Zhou exactly in all matters of court conduct, from lyrics and poetry to the proper measurements for constructing flutes and bells. Though Xun's Tang-era Jinshu biographers threw more than a bit of shade on these pursuits, implying that he had done them for personal gain and career advancement, this isn't the picture that emerges from Goodman's book. Even Xun Xu's public mourning for Cao Shuang is made to look more like the propriety a good Confucian courtier pays to his lord regardless of his faults, than any kind of purely-political attachment to the fortunes of the Caos.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Wed Mar 11, 2015 4:52 pm

WeiWenDi wrote::lol:

I'll have to take a look at that Jin proclamation! Does KMA have a translation of the text somewhere about?


It's in the ZZTJ
“The Empress Dowager commanded, 'Endowed with no virtue, I have met misfortunes in my family. Sometime ago I had Cao Mao, the son of the Prince of Donghai, enthroned as heir to Mingdi. Seeing that he was fond of books and literature, I hoped to see him come to something. But his temper became wilder and coarser with the passing of the days and months. I often reprimanded him which vexed him and made him use ugly and wicked language against me. In the end I cut off all contact between the two palaces, his and mine. What he mouthed, I could not bear to hear. He is not one whom heaven and earth can tolerate.

I secretly communicated with the da jiangjun that he should not be made to worship the Ancestral Temple, for I feared that he might bring ruin to the dynasty and so I would not be able to meet the Late Emperor with impunity after my death. The da jiangjun, considering him youthful, said that he might improve for the better. He stood for him with unswerving faith. But this child was ill-tempered, especially in his deeds. He once raised his crossbow and from a distance shot at where I was in the hope of hitting me in the neck; the arrow itself fell just before me. I spoke to the da jiangjun that he ought to be dethroned by all means; I repeated my request tens of times in all. This child heard of this in all detail. Knowing well that his iniquities were too much, he plotted matricide: he bribed my attendants and made them secretly poison me when I took my medicine. The plot was repeated in different forms. When the plot leaked out, he wanted to gather his attendants together and enter the western palace armed to kill me, and then to go out and take the da jiangjun.

He summoned the shizhong Wang Chen, the sanji changshi Wang Ye, and the shangshu Wang Jing, took out from his bosom an edict written on yellow silk, which he showed to them saying, 'I am going to execute it today.' My position was more precarious than that of eggs piled one upon another. I am aged and widowed; what is there left of my life that I should cherish? I only regret that the late Emperor's testament is not realized and the dynasty might be overthrown.

The rest sets out punishment


All it lacks is that Sima Zhao and co came from looking after orphan puppies whom Cao Mao was threatening to destroy. Who wouldn't believe that clearly 100% accurate version of events?

Anyway, yes - I think Xun-Cao ji would definitely need to have a bit of fire to her. We'd have to have some irked father-in-law and rebellious daughter-in-law dynamics with Xun Yu, of course. There could be some interesting things one might do with her character when Xun Yu gets suicided / illnessed to death. Not sure at this point what her weapon would be, though.

But if ever Xun Xu were made into a playable character in DW, he would have to have a cowbell as his weapon. Are you reading this, Koei? It's mandatory! You gotta WANT. That COWBELL.


All hail the Cowbell!

~~~

On chapter 4, I can see an outside motive for Cao Shuang mourning (a gamble but potentially pay off politically of "look how loyal I am. Now new master, you should use me as I will be as loyal to you") but yeah, from what I have read, Xun Xu did have a genuine passion for music.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Thu Mar 12, 2015 2:27 am

Dong Zhou wrote:On chapter 4, I can see an outside motive for Cao Shuang mourning (a gamble but potentially pay off politically of "look how loyal I am. Now new master, you should use me as I will be as loyal to you") but yeah, from what I have read, Xun Xu did have a genuine passion for music.


Mmkay, that's certainly possible; that definitely would have been in line with Confucian thinking and Xun Xu would not have been insensitive to the idea that he could prove his merit by a public display of mourning for his former master. But that manoeuvre didn't have any immediate payoff for Xun Xu. Goodman writes in Chapter Two that 'Xun Xu must have waited for a while after the purge of 249 and the funeral before offering himself to Sima Zhao and Sima Shi', and then points out that he was not enfeoffed by the Simas until the late 250's (and then only within the local ambit of Anyang). And he more solidly proved his loyalty to the Simas not by his demonstrating mourning for Cao Shuang, but by publicly placing himself against his uncle Zhong Hui before the rebellion broke out.

The Simas were certainly wary of Xun Xu to begin with. There's an undercurrent of them keeping him happy with various appointments, but also wanting to keep him close by and keep an eye on him at all times. So... calculated risk in mourning Cao Shuang? Maybe. It certainly got their attention, and it looks like he was clever enough to keep it in the right direction, at least for awhile.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Thu Mar 12, 2015 4:08 pm

I may just be unfairly cynical to Xun Xu but I do think that kind of mourning just after a regime change can be a manoeuvre. Clearly in Xun Xu's case, it didn't get him killed but it still didn't work for him but when it works, it either gets a nice pension due to PR needs of new regime or the ruler is so wowed, he wants that kind of man for himself.

I tend to think Zang Ba soon after joining Wei, not a funeral but his act of honour really seemed to turbo charge his Wei career. But yeah, this time didn't work.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Fri Mar 13, 2015 3:55 am

Dong Zhou wrote:I may just be unfairly cynical to Xun Xu but I do think that kind of mourning just after a regime change can be a manoeuvre. Clearly in Xun Xu's case, it didn't get him killed but it still didn't work for him but when it works, it either gets a nice pension due to PR needs of new regime or the ruler is so wowed, he wants that kind of man for himself.

I tend to think Zang Ba soon after joining Wei, not a funeral but his act of honour really seemed to turbo charge his Wei career. But yeah, this time didn't work.


True - I'm not denying any of that, of course. And there may indeed have been an element of that in Xun Xu's thinking; I don't know. Certainly most such instances of mourning in traditional China are always already frontloaded with both political meaning and self-narration. And there is always the potential for an added bonus of the type you describe here, given courtesy the new rulers who want to take advantage of the talent of the old!

~~~

Thoughts on Chapter 5.

Okay, this chapter is really, amazingly, brain-numbingly technical, and goes hardcore into musical theory and an antiquarian view of the development of flutes, to the extent that I can't understand a lot of what Goodman is saying. The charts do help a bit, but some of his explanations about modes and scales still don't quite make sense to me. But I think I was able to get the gist of it. Sort of.

After having researched and offered recommendations for the Jin Emperor to reform the official chi back down to 23.1 cm, Xun Xu then tackled the problem of how to get the court musics to conform to his new Zhou-reminiscent standard. He tapped the resources of the Imperial Library as well as the expertise of Wei-era craftsmen and musicians like Lie He 列和 in order to establish a new set of pitch-standards, regulators and model flutes for the Jin court orchestra. Xun Xu uncovered a number of such objects, along with Zhang Hua, in Jin palace storage, and began consulting Lie He over how they were used. A large part of this chapter is a translation of Shen Yue's 沈約 Songshu 宋書 entry which collates Xun Xu's dialogue with Lie He (probably first recorded by Xun's descendants) with Shen's own commentary.

This is where Xun Xu starts to set out his programme for 'fixing' the official flutes for the Jin Dynasty, by redesigning them according to his recently-reformed chi measure. Xun and Lie put forward a programme for the Jin Emperor, for the design of a full set of twelve six-holed di flutes 笛子. These flutes, Xun hoped, would be the standards by which all of the other instruments in the orchestra would be tuned, and would provide a perfect, standard pitch to be used by all court ensembles. A lot of the Xun-Lie 'dialogue', though, comes off as Xun excoriating his elder Lie for the 'mistakes' in tuning and instrumental design by the Cao Wei court under his watch, and in the dialogue Xun comes off as more than a bit of an asshole. (Goodman puts it slightly more politely; Xun was, rather, a 'martinet'.) Again, here in the chapter I got slightly lost... for one thing, there were several technical problems in getting the flutes to play the right notes for an evenly-stepped octave. For another thing, it reads to me like a couple of the different modes / scales didn't quite match up with each other. Goodman mentions that Xun was having particular problems getting his new corrected zhengsheng 正聲 scale to agree with his xiazhi 下徵 scale, but I'm still not quite clear on how he ended up resolving that problem. It apparently got resolved, though, because the Jin Emperor was very pleased with Xun Xu's musical-technical work, and adopted the new set of wind instruments for his orchestra.

However, the new musical techniques and instruments were very controversial. In one case, Ruan Xian 阮咸, later renowned as one of the Seven Sages of the Bamboo Grove 竹林七賢, complained that Xun Xu's new flutes were too high-pitched, shrill and mournful, and ironically criticised it by referring to the Book of Rites 禮記: ‘亡國之音哀以思,其民困。’ ('The music of a dying state is sad and full of longing, and its people are full of misery.') As noted before, several scholars who were allied with Ruan Xian undertook an archaeological expedition to prove that the Cao Wei chi length was the classically-correct one. But this comment apparently deeply offended Xun Xu, who had Ruan Xian demoted and sent off to Shiping, where he spent the rest of his life, devoting time to his Xiongnu 匈奴 wife and his children. Shortly after with the discovery of the fake long 'Zhou' chi by his allies, and as the Jin Dynasty began to unravel from internal strife and rebellion, Ruan Xian started to be seen as a prescient sage with a natural or even 'divine' understanding of music, and he was included along with his uncle Ruan Ji 阮籍 and his friend Shan Tao 山濤 as one of the Seven Sages.

The discussion of Shan Tao at the end seems to be of interest also. Unlike Ruan Ji and Xi Kang 嵇康, Shan Tao doesn't seem to have been as absorbed with poetry, wine drinking, hanshisan 寒食散 snorting and philosophising. Instead, he looks much more like a good Confucian: he devoted more of his time to court business, was in all manners ritually correct (particularly in mourning his mother's death), stood clear of Cao Shuang (and was thus highly valued by the Simas) and was on good terms both with the xuanxue scholars and (strangely enough) with the Jia-Xun clique. Goodman posits that it was precisely Shan Tao's calmness and congeniality, and his way of avoiding factional disputes and entanglements, that made him so respected by later Daoists and followers of the Seven Sages.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby Dong Zhou » Fri Mar 13, 2015 5:10 pm

WeiWenDi wrote:The discussion of Shan Tao at the end seems to be of interest also. Unlike Ruan Ji and Xi Kang 嵇康, Shan Tao doesn't seem to have been as absorbed with poetry, wine drinking, hanshisan 寒食散 snorting and philosophising. Instead, he looks much more like a good Confucian: he devoted more of his time to court business, was in all manners ritually correct (particularly in mourning his mother's death), stood clear of Cao Shuang (and was thus highly valued by the Simas) and was on good terms both with the xuanxue scholars and (strangely enough) with the Jia-Xun clique. Goodman posits that it was precisely Shan Tao's calmness and congeniality, and his way of avoiding factional disputes and entanglements, that made him so respected by later Daoists and followers of the Seven Sages.


I wonder if the age gap between Tao and most of the Seven Sages meant a different attitude.
Shan Tao, off the top of my head, generally was seen as a good and wise man, also one that the Sima's wouldn't allow to retire. It is notable that Ji Kang commended his son to him as he knew that, despite their falling out, Shan Tao was best placed to ensure his son survived the political world.
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Re: Xun Xu and the Politics of Precision in 3rd Century AD C

Unread postby WeiWenDi » Sat Mar 14, 2015 4:38 am

Dong Zhou wrote:I wonder if the age gap between Tao and most of the Seven Sages meant a different attitude.
Shan Tao, off the top of my head, generally was seen as a good and wise man, also one that the Sima's wouldn't allow to retire. It is notable that Ji Kang commended his son to him as he knew that, despite their falling out, Shan Tao was best placed to ensure his son survived the political world.


Shan Tao wasn't that much older than Ruan Ji, was he? I know Shan Tao was certainly the oldest, and the others were all born sometime between 210 and 240, but Ruan Ji was also significantly older than Xi Kang. I got the feeling reading about them that those two (Shan Tao and Ruan Ji) were rather contemporary with each other, and the five others were sort of their students and protégés.
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