Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism

By Wing-Tsit Chan | Go to book overview

9

Zhu Xi's Doctrine of Principle

CHIU HANSHENG

IN THIS SHORT ESSAY, I do not attempt to expound comprehensively Zhu Xi's Doctrine of Principle (lixuea); I have limited myself to a discussion of his theory of the Principle of Heaven (tianlib) and his theory of nature (xingc).


Zhu Xi's Theory of the Principle of Heaven

The Principle of Heaven

The core and highest philosophical category of Zhu Xi's doctrine of principle is his theory of the Principle of Heaven. He inherited this theory from Cheng Yid (1033-1107) and developed it into a more concise, precise, and profound concept.

Zhu Xi believed that principle or the Principle of Heaven is the origin or foundation of the universe. "The sum of all creation and the universe when taken together is but the one principle." 1 "Before heaven and earth existed, there was certainly only principle. As there is this principle, therefore there are heaven and earth. If there were no principle, there would also be no heaven and earth, no man, no things, and in fact, no containing or sustaining [of things by heaven and earth] to speak of. As there is principle, there is therefore material force (qie), which operates everywhere and nourishes and develops all things." 2 Clearly, according to Zhu Xi, the principle is the origin of the universe. The universe exists because of principle, as do men and objects. The universe and all creation in the universe, taken as a whole, comes to this one principle.

In his introduction to the Zhongyong zhangjuf (Commentaries on the Doctrine of the Mean), Zhu Xi cited passages from Cheng Yi which said that the Doctrine of the Mean "first speaks of one principle, then proceeds to cover all creation and finally returns and gathers them all under one principle. This principle saturates the universe when diffused; collected, it recedes and lies hidden in minuteness." 3 This principle reigns over all creation and all creation unites in one principle. Regarded in its macroscopical aspect, the princi

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