Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods

Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods

Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods

Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods

Synopsis

Huang's book analyzes the major Neo-Confucian philosophers from the eleventh to the sixteenth centuries. Focusing on metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical philosophical issues, this study presents the historical development of the Neo-Confucian school, an outgrowth of ancient Confucianism, and characterizes its thought, background, and influence. Key concepts--for example tai-ji (supreme ultimate), xin (mind), and ren (humanity)--as interpreted by each thinker are discussed in detail. Also examined are the two major schools that developed during this period, Cheng-Zhu, School of Principle, and Lu-Wang, School of Mind. These schools, despite different philosophical orientations, were convinced that their common goal, to bring about a harmonious relationships between man and the universe and between man and man, could be achieved through different ways of philosophizing. To understand the Chinese mind, it is necessary to understand Neo-Confucianism as a reformation of early Confucianism.

Excerpt

The present work on Neo-Confucianism in the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1643) dynasties is the outcome of a request made in the summer of 1992 by the late Dr. Charles Wei-hsun Fu (1934-1996), former Series Editor of Resources in Asian Philosophy and Religion, Greenwood Press. Despite some initial hesitation about accepting the offer due to my other commitments, the subject matter was simply too interesting for me to decline, for two reasons. First, this area is familiar to me, and it would be a worthwhile effort to incorporate the limited materials that appeared in my earlier works (see the Bibliography) into an overall study of this dynamic philosophical movement represented by the leading personalities covering these two periods as a whole. Second, there are numerous published works on individual Neo-Confucianists in Western languages, particularly in English (see the Bibliography), but at present I am unaware of any study specifically dealing with the three main philosophical issues--metaphysical, epistemological, and ethical--expounded by the Song-Ming Neo- Confucianists.

The Song-Ming era has been fittingly referred to as the greatest creative period in the history of Chinese philosophy since the Zhou dynasty (1122?- 256 B.C.). But unlike the ancient time during which Confucianism was one of the most influential among the so-called hundred schools, during the Song and Ming dynasties Neo-Confucianism was the only predominant philosophical force challenging the gradually declining influence of Buddhism and, to a certain extent, religious Daoism.

The eight philosophers dealt with in this study have been deservedly recognized for the original contributions they made, each in his own way, to the formulation, development, culmination, and, finally, orthodoxy, of Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism. In so doing, they all returned to the ancient Confucian texts as the source of their intellectual pursuit. It is indeed amaz-

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