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Shao Yong

Shao Yong

Shao Yong (Plantilla:Zh-cpw, 10111077), courtesy name Yaofu (堯夫), named Shào Kāngjié (邵康節) after death, was a Song Dynasty Chinese philosopher, cosmologist, poet and historian who greatly influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism in China.

Shao is considered one of the most scholarly men of his time. Yet, unlike men of such stature in his society, Shao avoided assuming governmental positions his entire life. Despite this, his influence was no less substantial. Shao's influential treatise on cosmogony is the Huangji Jingshi (皇極經世, Book of supreme world ordering principles).


Shao ancestry was from Fanyang. He was born in 1011 in an area known as Hengzhang county (衡漳, now Anyang, Henan) in the evening to Shao Gu (邵古, 9861064) and Lady Li (李氏, d. 1032 or 1033)[1]. Shao's mother, Li, was an extremely devout practitioner of Buddhism. This primal link with Buddhism proved a major influence in Shao's overall thought down the line.

Shao Gu, his father, was literally his first teacher. This was common practice in the familial environment of China at the time. Shao Gu was somewhat of a scholar in philology, which can be discerned in Shao's literary works. His father taught him intensively the Six Confucian classics at a young age.

While Shao Gu was extremely influential regarding Shao's early education, Shao sought out the scholarship of some private schools. These were predominantly schools which were in one way or another teaching under the guise of Buddhism, many of the places run by monks.

Around 1020, the Shao family moved to Gongcheng county (now Xinxiang, Henan). Shortly after his mother's death in 1032 or 1033. Shao is to meet his most important teacher, Li Zhicai (李之才). Li was a former pupil of ancient prose specialist Mu Xiu (穆修, 9791032). Through Mu Xiu, Li was taught the I Ching extensively.

Career and later life[]

Shao was a "member" of a group of intellectual thinkers whom had gathered in Luoyang toward the last three decades of the 11th century. This group had two primary objectives. One of these was to draw parallels between their own streams of thought and that of Confucianism as understood by Mencius.

Secondly, the men set out to undermine any links, real or otherwise, between 4th century Confucianism and what they viewed as inferior philosophical schools of thinking. Namely, those philosophical schools of Buddhism and Taoism. Other loosely connected members of this so-called network of thinkers include: Cheng Yi, Zhang Zai, Cheng Hao (程顥, 1032-1085) and Zhou Dunyi. Central to each of these men was the ancient text I Ching, of which each had studied heavily. The way in which Shao studied this ancient text, however, differed from the other members.

By this time in I Ching studies during the Song Dynasty, there were basically two approaches one could study the classic with. The majority of scholars would take the yili xue (義理學, "principle study") approach. The minority, of which Shao most belonged, took the xiangshu xue (象數學, "image-number study") approach.

The meaning-principle approach is based mostly on both a literalistic and moralistic concept of study. The image-number approach is based much more so on the iconographic and cosmological concept of study. Each man excluding Shao viewed the I Ching through the meaning-principle study approach, leaving Shao as the sole proponent of image-number study among them.


Shao is also famous for his poetry and for his interest in the game of Go, and for having written the longest Chinese poem in existence: Great Ode to Watching Weiqi (觀棋大吟) , as well as his Long Ode to Watching Weiqi (觀棋長吟).

A translation of Long Ode to Watching Weiqi follows:

Long Ode to Watching Weiqi Shao Yong


In a quiet courtyard in the spring, with evening's light filtering through the leaves,
guests relax on the veranda and watch as two compete at weiqi.
Each calls into themselves the divine and the infernal,
sculpting mountains and rivers into their world.
Across the board, dragons and serpents array for battle,
geese scatter as collapsing fortresses are sacked;
masses die, pushed into pits by Qin's soldiers,
and the drama's audience is left in awe of its General Jin.
To sit at the board is to raise halberd and taste combat,
to endure the freezing and brave the flames in the constant changes;
life and death each will come to both masters,
but victory and defeat must each go to one.
On this road, one strips away the other's disguises,
in life, one must erect one's own facade;
dreadful is a wound to the exposed belly or heart,
merely painful is an injury to the face, which can be cured;
Effective is a blow that strikes home in an opponent's back,
successful are schemes that use repeated feints and deceit.
Look at the activity on the streets of our capital,
if you were to go elsewhere, wouldn't it be the same?

Shao YongPlantilla:Cref

See also[]



  1. Wyatt; 12,13,16

Later Influence includes this chain of events.

Shao Yong also edited the "Tai Hsuan Jing" by Yang Hsiung (10 AD). Influenced by the Base 3 number system found in the Tai Hsuan, Shao Yong then set the Hexagrams of the Yi Jing into a binary order (the Fu Hsi Ordering). This in turn influence Libnitz and his thinking on binary arithmetic, and in turn the language of modern computers.



  • Liu, Weihua, "Shao Yong". Encyclopedia of China (Philosophy Edition), 1st ed.
  • Wyatt, Don J. The Recluse of Loyang: Shao Yung and the Moral Evolution of Early Sung Thought. Honolulu, Hawaii: University of Hawaii Press, 1996. ISBN 0-8248-1755-9.

External links[]