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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


An Analysis of the Epistemological Dimension of Wang Bi’s Commentary on the Laozi from the Approach of Mysticism

Vol. 42 No. 2   06/2012    


An Analysis of the Epistemological Dimension of Wang Bi’s Commentary on the Laozi from the Approach of Mysticism


He, Ru-yu  









Key words

Wang Bi 王弼, knowledge, experience, mysticism  


       The substance of this paper concerns the epistemology of Wang Bi’s 王弼 Commentary on the Laozi. I begin the paper by establishing that the dao  represents the ultimate source of knowledge in Wang Bi’s study of the text. I then attempt to explain the concept of minghao 名號, which during the Han Dynasty was rooted in the heavenly dao, through reference to the definition and application of minghao within the Confucian and Daoist classical corpus. In antiquity, the sages observed the stars above, investigated the terrain below, and named all beings according to their true form on the basis of the heavenly dao. In this way, the sages assured that the names conformed to the truth of all beings.

       This conception of minghao conformed to Wang Bi’s view; however, since Wang Bi held that the dao transcended all minghao, it was not possible to give it a precise name or definition. For this reason, he established the theory of chengwei 稱謂 to describe it. Yet, it was difficult for people to recognize and grasp the dao directly through the study of this theory, and this opened the way to a special approach of physical verification rooted in experience. Wang Bi established the idea of experiencing the dao, but scholars have by and large only researched his theory of the dao, and, as a consequence, they have failed to pay sufficient attention to the mystical process leading to its realization. In an attempt to rectify this deficiency in contemporary scholarship, this paper utilizes theories of Inner Mysticism to shed light on the special epistemology found in Wang Bi’s conception of experiencing the dao.



Author: He, Ru-yu
Genre: Article
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