Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism

By Wing-Tsit Chan | Go to book overview

28

Chu Hsi's Influence
in Yüan Times

LIU TS'UN-YAN

CHU HSI DIED in the third month in the sixth year of Ch'ing-yüana (1200) at K'ao-t'ing,b Chien-yang,c Fukien. This was almost ninety years before the complete annihilation of the resistance of the Sung forces by the invading Mongols, whose empire in China, the Yüan dynasty (1279-1368), was founded in 1277. The Mongols ruled China for approximately a hundred years. During this fairly long period Chu Hsi's influence was felt not only among the Neo-Confucianist intellectuals, but also among the populace at the everyday level, for whom it became a sort of guiding force, both for spiritual and moral enlightenment and for social communication and human relations. Without the tremendous efforts made by the Yüan Confucian scholars who, by and large, followed Chu Hsi's school of teaching, the academic lineage of Sung (960-1279) Neo-Confucianism would have been seriously disrupted under a foreign power whose early nomad rulers would have perceived little difference between the teaching of Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and that of some Tibetan lama or indigenous Taoist patriarch. Had that happened, the chapters on Sung-Ming (1368-1644) Neo-Confucianism in any work of history of Chinese philosophy would read very differently from what they now do.

Despite the fact that the contributions of the Yüan Neo-Confucianists towards the cause of the preservation of Chinese culture were so great, not many analytical studies about them and their contribution to the development of Chinese philosophy have been published. The lack of basic material for study may have been a factor contributing to this neglect. It is only in recent years that scholars have benefited from the publication of a large number of Yüan works produced photolithographically from the Ssu-k'u ch'üan shud (A great collection of classical works in the Imperial Library according to four bibliographical divisions) 1 and other rare editions, and so find themselves in a better position than Ch'üan Tsu-wange (1705-1755), the cocompiler of the Sung-Yüan hsüeh-anf (A compendious study of Sung-Yüan philosophers and their works) who, not being a great bibliophile like Huang Tsung-hsig (1610‐ 1695), 2 the earlier compiler, had to resort to hand-copying a work of Wu Ch'engh (1249-1333) from a private library named Yün-tsai Loui in 1723 3 and

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