Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism

By Wing-Tsit Chan | Go to book overview

2

A General Statement
on Neo-Confucianism

FUNG YU-LAN

I AM VERY HAPPY to be here to participate in the International Conference on Zhu Xi. Beside what I shall learn from other scholars coming from many countries, I will also have a chance to renew my memory of thirty-five years ago, when I had the privilege of being a visiting professor at this university. During the Christmas vacation, a friend with his family and I engaged a yacht to travel to the other islands. Everywhere I was impressed by the beauty of the land and the hospitality of the people. The conference now gives me a chance to see these old places and to meet old friends.

I take this opportunity to express my congratulations on the seventy-fifth anniversary of the University of Hawaii. The islands of Hawaii are midway between the West and the Far East. Taking advantage of this geographical location, this university considers itself a suitable meeting place for cultural exchange and interflow between East and West. The university has done much work in that respect. This conference is an example of such work. Under the sponsorship of the University of Hawaii and the American Council of Learned Societies, the conference will promote cultural exchange between East and West in general and the study of Zhu Xi in particular.

Zhu Xi was a leader of what is known in the West as Neo-Confucianism. I shall here try to make a general statement of what I take to be the essence of Neo-Confucianism.

Neo-Confucianism may be called "the learning of man." It deals with such topics as man's place and role in the universe, the relation between man and nature, and the relations between man and man and between human nature and human happiness. Its aim is to achieve unity of opposites in the life of man, and to show how to accomplish this.

Generally speaking, there are two sets of fundamental opposites, hence, two fundamental contradictions. They are fundamental because they are common to everything in the universe.

In the universe, every thing, big or small, is an individual, human beings included. Being an individual, it must be an individual of some kind. It must have some qualities. Nothing is without qualities. The individual is a particu

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