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There is this sentence from the opening of the fist chapterof 语类 by Zhu Xi:

太极不是未有天地之先有个浑成之物,是天地万物之理总名否?

Baihua version seems to treat the "不是" part as if it ment "是不是" So the sentence would mean something like:

"Does Tai Ji mean that before Heaven and Earth there was a certain mixture of things and is it [i.e. tai ji] a general name for li of Heaven Earth and all things"

But I do not understand why "不是" should have such meaning? Is it a feature of classical Chinese? Why shouldn't it mean:

"Tai Ji is not (不是) a mixture of things that existed before Heaven and Earth, is it [then] a general name for Li of Heaven earth and all things?"

or soemthing like that???

3

the text from 朱子語類 卷一 理氣上 has the structure: a is not b, [because] a is c; isn’t it?

問﹒太極不是未有天地之先﹒有箇渾成之物﹒天地萬物之理總名﹒

it would be interpreted as:

[someone] asked (問): “tai chi (太極) is not (不是) [exist] before the universe (未有天地之先), as a (有箇) turbid (渾成) thing (之物), [tai chi] is (是) the name (名) of the set (總) of principles (理) of everything (萬物) in the universe (天地); isn’t it (否)?

the logic of the second verse is:

thing-1 in the universe has the principle 1 (p1), thing-2 in the universe has the principle 2 (p2), . . . thing-n in the universe has the principle n (pn).

so, the set (mathematics) of these principles is the collection of each principle; a pantheism view.

back to the question, the quoted explanation of baidu is incorrect

have fun :)

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  • Ah, many thanks - this is a very clear explanation. – McCzajnik Mar 20 at 16:31
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No classical training, but this is fun to look at. I would break it down like this:

I think 浑成之物 alludes to: 浑然天成:natural, like nature

太极: the supreme
不是: is not
未有天地之先: not have universe before = before the universe existed
有个浑成之物,: that nature
是: it is
天地万物之理总名: universe all things total
否?: no?

Maybe as a cross reference: The Diamond Sutra, 第七品 无得无说分

(Read 太极 for Truth)

"the Tathagata has said that Truth is not a thing that can be differentiated or contained and therefore Truth cannot be grasped or expressed. The Truth neither is nor is not."

Or the breath-taking words of 惠能:

菩提本无树,明镜亦无台。
佛情常清净,何处有尘埃。

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  • excellent, you chopped the 否 separately :) my salute 👍 – 水巷孑蠻 Mar 20 at 12:25
  • Coming from an expert such as yourself, I take that as a great compliment, thank you. – Pedroski Mar 20 at 23:28

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