Zheng Xuan (127– c.July 200[1]), courtesy name Kangcheng (Chinese: 康成), was a Chinese philosopher, politician, and writer near the end of the Eastern Han Dynasty. He was born in Gaomi, Beihai Commandery (modern Weifang, Shandong), and was a student of Ma Rong, together with Lu Zhi.[2]

Zheng Xuan
Traditional Chinese鄭玄
Simplified Chinese郑玄
Fragment from the manuscript of Lunyu, text by Kong Anguo with commentary by Zheng Xuan. This fragmentary manuscript has been found at Mogao Caves. It is dated era Longji, 2nd year (i.e. 890 CE), but it could be copied in the middle of the 8th century. Bibliothèque nationale de France

Like his teacher, he was a member of the Old Text School that was challenging the state orthodox New Text School. His contemporary rival was He Xiu (Chinese: 何休, 129-182). Zheng is notable for his syncretic attempt to bridge the two centuries of rivalry between the two schools. He adopted the strengths of each school in the interpretation of the Confucian classics although he usually favored the Old Text teachings. He was very influential, but the government never officially adopted his teachings. The Han Dynasty was already in decline during his lifetime and collapsed a decade after his death. Both schools did not survive the chaos, but Zheng's conception of Confucianism would be the mainstream interpretation for centuries.

In 200, during the Battle of Guandu, Zheng was ordered by the warlord Yuan Shao to Yuan's stronghold (in modern-day Daming County, Hebei Province), where he died of illness in c.July.

The commemorative shrine of Zheng Xuan in Shandong was rebuilt under supervision of Ruan Yuan 阮元 (1764–1849) in 1793.[3]

In Romance of the Three Kingdoms


Zheng Xuan appears in Chapter 22 of the novel Romance of the Three Kingdoms, which dramatises the end of the Han dynasty and the subsequent Three Kingdoms era. Zheng is depicted as living in Xuzhou. Liu Bei asks Zheng to write to Yuan Shao to propose an alliance against warlord Cao Cao.

See also



  1. ^ According to Zheng Xuan's biography in Book of the Later Han, he died aged 74 (by East Asian reckoning) in the 6th month of the 5th year of the Jian'an era of Liu Xie's reign. This corresponds to 30 Jun to 28 Jul 200 in the Julian calendar. ([建安]五年春....疾笃不进,其年六月卒,年七十四。) Houhanshu, vol.35
  2. ^ (融才高博洽,为世通儒,教养诸生,常有千数。涿郡卢植,北海郑玄,皆其徒也。) Houhanshu, vol.60 part 1
  3. ^ Elman, Benjamin A. Classicism, politics, and kingship: the Chang-chou school of New Text Confucianism in late imperial China (e-resource). 1990:220.


  • Knechtges, David R. (2014). "Zheng Xuan 鄭玄". In Knechtges, David R.; Chang, Taiping (eds.). Ancient and Early Medieval Chinese Literature: A Reference Guide, Part Four. Leiden: Brill. pp. 2236–39. ISBN 978-90-04-27217-0.