Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism

By Wing-Tsit Chan | Go to book overview
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Chu Hsi and Hu Hung

CONRAD SCHIROKAUER

AN INVESTIGATION into the relationship between Chu Hsi and the "Hunan School" of which Hu Hung' (1106-1161) was the leading master can help place Chu Hsi's thought in historical perspective and also cast some light on his intellectual position by considering ideas he rejected as well as those he made his own, for the Hunan thinkers constituted a major tradition of Neo‐ Confucianism during Chu Hsi's youth in the early years of the Southern Sung (1127-1279). 1 Yet after Hu Hung's death in 1161 and after a change of mind of the part of Hung's chief disciple and Chu Hsi's friend Chang Shihb (1133‐ 1180), the Hunan School ceased to function as a separate tradition. Only in recent decades has Hu Hung been examined by Chinese and Japanese scholars. 2 It is the purpose of this essay to consider some of his salient ideas as they affected Chu Hsi and elicited responses from him. But first an overview of the broader Hunan School is in order.


The Hunan School

The origin of the Hunan School is usually traced to Hu An-kuoc (1074-1138) who was from Fukien but retired to Hunan. 3 Although An-kuo was not a direct disciple ofCh'eng Haod (1032-1085) or Ch'eng Ie (1033-1107), he was linked to them through teachers and friends and was regarded by himself and others as belonging to the Ch'eng tradition. 4 By all accounts he was a staunch Confucian, and in a letter to his sons quoted by Chu Hsi in his Hsiao-hsüehf (Elementary learning) An-kuo told his sons to aspire to be like Ch'eng Hao and Fan Chung-yeng (989-1052). 5 Politically, too, he defended the Northern Sung (960-1126) masters, asserting that they provided the door that gave access to the thought of Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and Mencius (372‐ 289 B.C.?). 6

Hu An-kuo, however, is best known for rescuing the Ch'un-ch'iuh (Spring and Autumn Annals) from the opprobrium cast on it by Wang An-shih' (1201-1286) and his followers who banned the work from the examination halls, the schools, and the imperial seminar ("classic mat," ching-yeni). When

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