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Fei Mi

Fei Mi 費密 (T. 此度 H. 燕峰, 卷隱), Aug. 25, 1625-1701, July-Aug., scholar, philosopher, and poet, was a native of Hsin-fan, Szechwan. His family was one of scholarly traditions, his father Fei Ching-yü 費經虞 (T. 仲著 H. 鮮民, 1599-1671), and both grandfathers, having been scholars and officials. When he was about twenty years of age the forces of Chang Hsien-chung [q.v.] ravaged the region in which he lived. At first he avoided them by leaving home, but by 1646 he took the lead in building walls at Kao-ting-kuan 高定關, north of Chengtu, and organizing armed forces to keep out the marauders. Toward the end of the following year he was captured by aborigines and held until ransomed. In 1648 he was appointed to a secretarial post by the Ming general Lü Ta-ch'i (see under Yüan Chi-hsien). Finding his home in ashes on his return to Hsin-fan three years later, he moved his family in 1653 to Mien-hsien, Shensi. With the end of the Ming military activities he for a time studied medical works. In 1656, following Sung philosophical tradition, he devoted some weeks to the practice of meditation in the Ching-ming monastery 靜明寺. But believing that these habits conflicted with the practical aims which he found in Confucianism, he returned to his classical studies with renewed zeal.

In the fall of 1657 Fei Mi left Mien-hsien, taking his family and joining his father in Yangchow (Kiangsu) in the spring of the following year. This city, or rather the near-by village of Yeh-t'ien 野田, was his adopted home for the rest of his career. There he supported himself and his family from the contributions of his pupils and the sale of his writings. Of some fifty titles mentioned or quoted in the works of others only three seem now to be extant. They were assembled by T'ang Hung-hsüeh 唐鴻學 (T. 百川, b. 1876) of Chengtu in a collection entitled 費氏遺書三種 F'ei-shih i-shu san-chung and were printed in 1908, and again in 1920 with slight supplements. These works are: the 弘道書 Hung-tao shu, in 3 chüan, in which Fei Mi attacks, on historical grounds, the idea of tao-t'ung (道統) or "truth succession" first enunciated by Han Yü (see under Mao Chin); the 荒書 Huang-shu, in 4 chüan, in which he gives in chronological form the story of Chang Hsien-chung's rebellion in Szechwan; and a collection of poetry, entitled 燕峰詩鈔, Yen fêng shih-ch'ao.

Fei Mi declined the proffered honor of participating in the po-hsüeh hung-tz'ŭ examination of 1679 (see under P'êng Sun-yü). In the spring of 1673, in deference to a last wish of his father, he spent about a month with Sun Ch'i-fêng [q.v.] at the latter's retreat in Hsia-fêng 夏峰, Hui-hsien, Honan, discussing with him the merits and demerits of the Sung philosophy, the scholarship of the Han and T'ang dynasties, and the ceremonial practices of the various periods. He and Sun Ch'i-fêng and Li Yung [q.v.] were among the earliest of the Ch'ing scholars to criticize the Sung and Ming philosophy from the standpoint of history, tending in this respect to the new pragmatic School of Han Learning (see under Ku Yen-wu) which was evolving at this time. His poetry, vigorous and direct in style, was highly praised by Wang Shih-chên [q.v.]. His pupils privately gave him the posthumous name Chung-wên 中文. His two sons, Fei Hsi-ts'ung 費錫琮, (b. 1661) and Fei Hsi-huang 費錫璜 (b. 1664), continued their father's literary tradition.

[ 1/506/8b; 2/66/24a; 3/428/12a; 江都縣志 Chiang-tu-hsien chih (1729) 15/56a; id. (1774) 26/7a, 30/34b; 胡適文存 Hu Shih wên-ts'un, 2nd series, 1/75-138; Ssŭ-k'u 181/7b and 194/1b has descriptive notice of two titles, but their texts were not copied into the library; Portrait in Hung-tao shu.]