Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-Ming's Youth (1472-1509)

Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-Ming's Youth (1472-1509)

Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-Ming's Youth (1472-1509)

Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-Ming's Youth (1472-1509)

Excerpt

Ever since Wang Yang-ming's formulation of his precept on the "unity of knowing and acting" (chih-hsing ho-i) almost five hundred years ago, numerous attempts have been made to appreciate its meaning in the context of Neo-Confucian thought. Understandably, the majority of interpretations reflect particular concerns that are quite remote from the general direction of Yang-ming's thinking when the precept first came into being. Among those who attempted to relate chih-hsing ho-i to Yang-ming's life, few bothered to probe what may be called the "inner sensibility" of Yang- ming's spiritual quest. One notable exception is Professor Wing-tsit Chan's systematic inquiry into Yang-ming's thought and life in a series of annotated translations and monographic studies. His pioneering work provides the necessary foundation for further inquiry into Wang Yang-ming's life and thought. Another original contribution in the English language is David Shepherd Nivison seminal essay on The Problem of 'Knowledge' and 'Action' in Chinese Thought since Wang Yang-ming, in which the idea of chih-hsing ho-i is envisioned as one of the perennial issues in the intellectual tradition of China.

My attempt, by contrast, is a limited one. It is neither to offer a comprehensive treatment of Yang-ming's formative years nor to present a systematic analysis of chih-hsing ho-i. Rather, I intend to arrive at an appreciation of the inception of a great idea by feeling out the inner sensibility of the young man whose personal struggle centuries ago has actually become an integral part of the Confucian tradition as a whole. Such an appreciation requires careful investigation of both Wang Yang-ming's biography and Ming history. Thus, this study will examine both the specific . . .

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