Issue 62, October 2021
The Virtuous Conduct “Not Forming Inwardly”
Revisiting the First Chapter of Wu Xing of Guodian Chu Slips
This paper aims at solving the interpretive problem in the first chapter of Wu Xing of Guodian bamboo texts, majorly based on the text itself. It starts by categorizing different interpretations into three groups (the for-silk-texts, the for-bamboo-texts, and the reconciliatory), and points out the thinking patterns which have led the for-bamboo-texts to misinterpretation. It also analyzes the distinction among the virtuous conduct (dezhixing), conduct (xing), and virtue (de), and reexamines usages of the forming (xing) and sageness (sheng) of the Wu Xing to conclude that the concept of sageness includes two different meanings of forming. Therefore, the reason why the conduct of sageness should be regarded as virtuous conduct regardless of whether or not it forms “inwardly” is that the sageness, the supreme virtue, possesses both “imperceivable forming” (personal self-cultivation and transformation) and “societal forming” (interpersonal enlightenment and amelioration), which establishes the virtue of sageness in a unique position superior to the four cardinal virtues.