Sunday, June 24, 2012


Yuan Mei's Outlook

Arthur Waley, Yuan Mei: Eighteenth Century Chinese Poet (London: George Allen and Unwin Ltd., 1956), p. 114:
The basic idea on which Yuan Mei's whole philosophy rests is that whatever can be sensuously enjoyed is given to us by Heaven for our delight, and that we are impiously flouting Heaven if we refuse to take advantage of it to the full, or prevent others from doing so. How other people fulfill their duty to Heaven in this respect is indeed no one's business but their own. There must be no 'hiding under beds and spying into private affairs'. I have spoken of Yuan's 'philosophy', but this is perhaps too grand a term. One would expect a philosopher to deal with the main difficulties that adoption of his system would entail. To explain, for example, in Yuan's case, what is to happen if my exploitation of Heaven's gifts interferes with someone else's. But so far as I know, he never does this, and perhaps it would be better merely to speak of his 'outlook'.
Id., pp. 137-138 (on his collection of ghost stories):
A story which Yuan obviously concocted to express his own views is contained in the Supplement to the collection. It is about a man who 'died and came to life again'. He was surprised when he reached the Nether Regions to find a woman from his own village, who was a notorious adulteress, being launched on to a very high-class new incarnation, instead of being (as he would have expected) detained in Hell for punishment. 'Oh, that's not at all the sort of thing they worry about here', the people in the Land of the Dead explained. 'King Yama (the king of the Dead) is a dignified, straight-forward deity. One can't imagine him hiding under people's beds and spying upon what they do together in private.'

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