Sacred-Texts Taoism Index Previous Next

p. xliii



   He was the grandson (great-grandson?) of the founder of the Han dynasty. He died 122 B. C. He was editor of the famous essays in the work known as "Huai Nan Tzû."

   The first editor of this work was Kao Yu. The short life of Liu An given here is from the record given by Kao Yu. In modern time Mr. Liu Wen-tien has spent most of his life revising and editing the text. The result of his work was published on June 15th of the l0th year of the Republic. His edition is published by the Commercial Press in 6 volumes, with a Preface by Dr. Hu Shih.

   Kao Yu states that Liu An was the son of Prince Li, the son of the Emperor Kao, and so he was the grandson (?) of the emperor. Prince Li's mother was a Court Lady of the Prince of Chao. She came to be the mother of Prince Li, in this way. In the 7th year of the reign of Emperor Kao, an expedition was sent to arrest a rebellious general, Han Hsin, who had fled to Mongolia. On the return of the expedition and passing through the domain of Chao, the emperor paid no respect to the prince of the place. This led Chao to send the beautiful Court maid as a courtesy gift to the Emperor. Kao accepted her and she became his concubine. Later on, Kuan and Kao, two generals of the principality of Chao, rose in rebellion against the Emperor. The Prince of Chao was arrested and his domain confiscated. The Court lady, who was still in the old Court, was also taken. The Court lady gave birth to a son. But the mother hated herself and committed suicide. The baby was taken by the emperor, who ordered the empress to adopt him. The title given to this royal child was the Prince of Huai Nan.

   After the death of Emperor Kao, his son Hsiao Wen came to the throne. The Prince of Huai Nan (i.e. Prince p. xliv Li) wrote to the new Emperor asking for an interview; and this led to mutual friendship. But later, the Prince killed an officer who had been mixed up in former intrigues. The Emperor Hsiao Wen was angry, and the Prince apologised; but the Emperor confiscated four of the counties of the Prince. On the return of the Prince to his territory he built a yellow house and called himself the Emperor of the East. For this he was exiled to Ssuchuan where he died. The Emperor had pity on his four sons and made each of them a duke, and later gave also some land to each, practically giving back what had been confiscated from the father. One of the four sons died soon after, and his son inherited the land and the title of the Prince of Huai Nan. A minister thought it unwise to have bestowed this land and foretold trouble, which actually happened when Liu An and a brother rebelled.

   Liu An, Prince of Huai Nan, was gifted with great talents; so he was favoured with many interviews and became a favourite of his adopted father. Hsiao Wen highly honoured him and asked him to write an introduction to the Li Sao (a celebrated book by Chü Yuen on rhymes in poetry {actually a poem by Chü Yuen in the Ch‛u Tz‛u anthology}). He did this in one morning, before breakfast,—a few hours after the decree was issued. The emperor treasured it as a precious possession. Liu An became very popular, and all men of talent resorted to him. He was inclined to Taoism and attracted men of similar tastes. Amongst the latter there were eight famous scholars. They gathered together for study and chose the subject of Tao and jen, i, Love and justice, as the theme. This is how the essays of Huai Nan Tzû came to be written. The main theme is akin to the principles of Lao Tzû: sober and serious thought and wu wei were the leading themes and the function of emptiness, tranquility, and so on, in life. They discussed everything in their conferences, as will be seen from the titles of the 21 essays. The range of search was wide, and history was ransacked, for proof of the theories advanced. The question of the gains and losses in following the Tao p. xlv was a central theme. There was nothing in Heaven and Earth that did not arouse the curiosity of their enquiring minds. It was this fund of variety, this exuberant research into every department of life, in the search for a true standard—or to put it in another way,—this exuberant search into the nature of the Tao that finally led to the name of hung lieh, "greatness and luminosity," i.e., "the Tao," being given to the book.

   Scholars who have not read the book will fail to realise the profound significance attaching to the Tao, by the fraternity. It is a most illuminating treatise on the profound subject of the Tao.