Meaning of TAI CHEN in English

born Jan. 19, 1724, Hsiu-ning, Anhwei, China died July 1, 1777, Peking Pinyin Dai Zhen, literary name (WadeGiles romanization) Tai Tung-Yan Chinese empirical philosopher, considered by many to have been the greatest thinker of the Ch'ing period (16441911/12). Born to poor parents, Tai educated himself by reading borrowed books. Although he passed his preliminary civil service examinations, he never passed the highly stylized chin-shih exam, which would have given him the power and prestige of official office. But because of his reputation as a scholar, the Emperor invited him, in 1773, to become a court compiler in the Imperial Manuscript Library. In this position Tai was able to come into contact with many rare and otherwise inaccessible books. When Tai failed the civil service exam for the sixth time, in 1775, the Emperor finally made him a chin-shih by special decree and Tai became a member of the Imperial Academy. Altogether he wrote, edited, and collated about 50 works, dealing mainly with mathematics, philology, ancient geography, and the Confucian Classics. In philosophy Tai attacked the dualism of the Sung thinkers, who he believed had been misled by Buddhist and Taoist influences. The Sung philosophers held that man had a material nature (ch'i) that was responsible for his passions and a transcendent spiritual nature (li) that set a limit on man's basely material nature. Against this dualism Tai posited a monistic system. He argued that li is the immanent structure in all things, even desires. Knowledge of li does not suddenly appear during meditation, as the Sung philosophers believed. It is found only after an arduous search, using precise methods, whether in literary, historical, philological, or philosophic investigation. Tai utilized these careful investigative methods in his own research. In mathematics, he wrote a short discourse on the logarithmic theories of the English mathematician John Napier and edited a collection of seven ancient mathematical works, the last of which is his own collation. In philology, he wrote several books, including a classification of ancient pronunciation. In addition he collated the classic of the 6th century, Shui ching chu (Commentary on the Classic of Waterways), a study of 137 waterways in ancient China. Because the Sung philosophy had the patronage of the bureaucracy, Tai's contributions were largely ignored in the years after his death. But because his stress on the need for close empirical investigation resembles the scientific and pragmatic approach of Western philosophy, his ideas began to be studied again in the 20th century. In 1924 the bicentennial of Tai's birth was celebrated in Peking, and in 1936 the Chinese scholarly world paid tribute to Tai Chen with the publication of a complete and authoritative edition of his works, Tai Tung-yan hsien-sheng ch'an-chi (Collected Writings of Mr. Tai Chen). Additional reading Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (1963); Mansfield Freeman, The Philosophy of Tai Tung-yan, Journal N. China Br. Royal Asiatic Soc., vol. 64 (1933).

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