, Volume 11, Issue 2, pp 187-200

First online:

Two Senses of “Wei 偽”: A New Interpretation of Xunzi’s Theory of Human Nature

  • Yiu-ming Fung 馮耀明Affiliated withDivision of Humanities, Hong Kong University of Science & Technology Email author 

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In contrast to the traditional and ordinary interpretation of Xunzi’s theory of human nature, which considers Xunzi’s theory as claiming that human nature is bad or evil, this article aims at, first, arguing that the interpretation is wrong or at least incomplete and, second, constructing a new interpretation that, according to Xunzi’s text, there are some factors in human nature that are able to promote good behaviors. I shall demonstrate that some major paragraphs in Xunzi’s text were misinterpreted and misarranged, analyze that the word wei (artifice) in the chapter of “Zhengming” has two different but related senses, one of which designates some of the potential capacities of human nature, and argue that the 23 words in the chapter of “Rongru” should not be deleted as redundant, as was done by the two famous philologists in Qing dynasdy, Wang Niansun and Wang Xianqian.


xing 性” (nature) wei 偽” (artifice) zhi 知” (knowing) neng 能” (capacity or ability)