Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism

By Wing-Tsit Chan | Go to book overview

11

The System of
Chu Hsi's Philosophy

TOMOEDA RYŪTARŌ

WHAT IS THE SYSTEM of Chu Hsi's philosophy? In this essay I shall try to elucidate its outline by reexamining my past studies.


The Ground-providing Principle

At forty years of age, Chu Hsi established his theory of "diffusion and convergence (i-fa wei-faa) of mind;' and then started writing a commentary on the "Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate," which he completed at the age of forty-four. 1 Tracing the process of his theoretical development, we see that he first asserted the identity of man and nature, and later came to recognize that they are both controlled by the same principle of wu-chi erh t'aichib (the Ultimate ofNonbeing and also the Great Ultimate). In a letter to Wu I (Wu Hui-shu,c 1129-1177) he states, "Change (id) means transformation, denoting movement-quiescence and diffusion-convergence. T'ai-chi (Great Ultimate) is the principle of movement-quiescence and diffusion-convergence." 2

The T'ai-chi controls the tranquillity of the passive principle (yin-chinge) and the activity of the active principle (yang-tungf) of nature and the i-fa wei-fa of the human mind. It is the ground-providing principle of man and nature which is maintained orderly and harmoniously. Elucidating Chou Tun-i's (Chou Lien-ch'i,g 1017-1073) concept of wu-chi erh t'ai-chi, Chu Hsi states, "The operation of Heaven is devoid of sound or smell. It is indeed the pivot (shu-niuh) of creation and the ground (ken-tii) of everything." 3

Shu-niu means a central point on which something turns; ken-ti means a ground, basis, or foundation. In the Chu Tzu yü-leii (Classified conversations of Master Chu), Chu Hsi said that the heavenly body was rounding the line of the South and North poles, and so he called that line "a pivot of heaven" 4 and in the Lun-yzi chi-chuk (Collected commentaries on the Analects), he called the North pole (pei-ch'enl) "a pivot of heaven." 5

I think that the heavenly body cannot be born from the pivot of heaven. So ether (ch'im 'material force'), yin yangn (passive and active cosmic forces), and

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