Profile of Dong Zhongshu
Dong Zhongshu was a Han Dynasty scholar who is traditionally associated with the promotion of Confucianism as official ideology of the Chinese imperial state.
Dong was born in modern Hengshui, Hebei in 179 BC, he entered the imperial service during the reign of the Emperor Jing of Han and rose to high office under the Emperor Wu of Han. His relationship with the emperor was uneasy, though. At one point he was thrown into prison and nearly executed for writings that were considered seditious, and he may have cosmologically predicted the overthrow of the Han Dynasty and its replacement by a Confucian sage, the first appearance of a theme that would later sweep Wang Mang to the imperial throne.
Dong Zhongshu's thought integrated Yin Yang cosmology into a Confucian ethical framework. He emphasised the importance of the Spring and Autumn Annals as a source for both political and metaphysical ideas, following the tradition of the Gongyang Commentary in seeking hidden meanings from its text.
There are two works that are attributed to Dong Zhongshu, the Ju Xianliang Duice in 3 chapters, being preserved under the Book of Han. Another, a major work that has survived to the present, the Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals in 82 chapters. The Luxuriant Dew of the Spring and Autumn Annals bears many marks of multiple authorship.
Whether the work was written by Dong himself has been called into question by several scholars including Zhu Xi, Cheng Yanzuo, Dai Junren, Keimatsu Mitsuo, and Tanaka Masami. Scholars now reject as later additions all the passages that discuss five elements theory, and much of the rest of the work is questionable as well. It seems safest to regard it as a collection of unrelated or loosely related chapters and shorter works, which could be subdivided into five categories. Most more or less connected to the Gongyang Commentary and its school, written by a number of different persons at different times throughout the Han Dynasty.
Other important sources for his life and thought include his poem The Scholar's Frustration, his biography included in the Book of Han, his Yin Yang and stimulus-response theorizing noted at various places in the Book of Han "Treatise on the Five Elements", and the fragments of his legal discussions.