Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism

By Wing-Tsit Chan | Go to book overview

31

The Tradition of the
Way in Japan

YAMAZAKI MICHIO


The Tradition of the Way

THE TRADITION of the Learning of the Way originated with Mencius (372-289 B.C.?), who said, "The source of the Learning of the Way is to be found in Yaoa and Shun,b1 and Confucius [551-479 B.C.] inherited it. I live in the time close to that when he lived, and I was born in the neighborhood of his native place. Unless I go forth to transmit the sacred Way, how could it be handed down to posterity? It is myself that can do it, I believe." 2

Yoshida Shōinc (1830-1859) was an ardent Japanese worshiper of Mencius.

Though it was forbidden in his country in those days for anyone to go abroad, he intended to board an American battleship anchored in the Harbor of Shimoda,d Izue Province, and go to America. 3 To his great regret, he was refused and was captured. He was sent to his native place at Hagi,f Chofug Province, 4 and put in prison. Taking notice of the above saying of the Book of Mencius, he remarked in his Kōmōyowah (The supplemental lectures on the Book of Mencius) which he wrote in Noyama' Prison, "It is a great surprise that Mencius himself wished to be an inheritor of Confucius. Let us listen to him. We should keep what he said in our minds as long as we live." 5 Yoshida was a man of inspiration and sincerity. He was, in my belief, impressed so deeply by Mencius' saying that he wished to complete the reconstruction that led to the Meijij restoration in 1868.

Mencius concluded his book with the remark "in these circumstances, is there no one to transmit his doctrines? Yea, is there no one to do so?" 6 It means that, if anyone sees and knows the Way of Confucius and does not hand it down, no one will ever know of it. The former "wu-yu"k (no one) means to see the Way of Yao and Shun and know it, and the latter "wu-yu" (no one) means to hear the Way and know it, according to the interpretation of Chu Hsi who had followed Lin Chih-ch'il (1131-1162). 7 Mencius, admiring Confucius most heartily, said very firmly, "Who could hand down the Way of the great Sage in later years except myself?"

Han Yüm (768-824) in his "Yüan-tao"n (On the Way) said, "What I call the

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