Rudolf Wagner and Wang Bi

  • Edward L. Shaughnessy (Author)


Rudolf Wagner spent at least twenty-three years studying the commentary on the Laozi by Wang Bi (226–249), as long as Wang Bi had lived. In his chapter “Wang Bi’s Political Philosophy,” Wagner states that “Wang Bi claimed that the Laozi’s entire teaching could be ‘summed up in [this] one phrase’”: 崇本以息末,守母以存子. On the basis of this phrase, Wagner claims that Wang Bi was a critic of the Wei court’s Legalism, and proposed what might best be described as a Confucian humanism in its stead. Against this perspective, in this review, I suggest that Wang Bi positively advocated for the Wei court’s Huang-Lao 黃老 (i.e., Legalist) policies, and that he was a resolute supporter of the emperor. In closing, I quote Willard Peterson: “Although I am not persuaded at many stages in the course of Wagner’s reading of Wang Bi, I am persuaded that he has significantly raised the level of discussion about Wang Bi’s philosophy.”


How to Cite
Shaughnessy, E. . (2022). Rudolf Wagner and Wang Bi. The Journal of Transcultural Studies, 12(2), 77–89.