|Summary||‘Neo-Confucianism’ typically refers to the revival of classical Confucianism developed between the eleventh and the eighteenth century in China, spanning over four dynasties in Chinese history: Song (960-1279), Yuan (1271-1368), Ming (1368-1644) and Qing (1644-1911). In Chinese intellectual history, neo-Confucianism is standardly divided into two periods: Song-Ming neo-Confucianism and Qing neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism was a new form of Confucianism that came after the dominance of Daoism and subsequently Buddhism within Chinese intellectual circles. Neo-Confucianism revitalized classical Confucianism and expanded the traditional philosophical discourse to new dimensions. Neo-Confucianism invigorated the metaphysical speculation found in classics such as the Yijing and incorporated different concepts and perspectives from Chinese Daoism and Buddhism into its discourse. Neo-Confucians’ metaphysical views lay the foundation for their moral theories. In their various debates, Neo-Confucians touched on the possibility of an innate moral sense and the various means of moral knowledge. In Neo-Confucians’ views, morality takes its root either in the universal goodness of human nature, or in the individual’s moral reflection and cultivation of the human mind. This debate between the School of Nature and the School of Mind was one of the major themes in Neo-Confucianism. Finally, in Neo-Confucianism we see a consistent effort not only to redefine a realist worldview that affirms the world as existing independently of human conception, but also to reassert (after Daoism and Buddhism) a humanist worldview that places human beings at the center of meaning and values. These trends delineate the spirit of Neo-Confucianism.|
|Key works||Other than the short selective translation in the Source Book (Chan 1963, under General Overview), there is little translation of primary texts (the ones available will be mentioned under individual philosopher). Of secondary materials, Makeham 2010 gives the most complete coverage of neo-Confucianism, but it is a collection of essays by different authors. Cheng 1991 is a collection of a seasoned scholar’s essays on Confucianism, and Part III is devoted to Neo-Confucianism. Both Bol 2008 and De Bary 1981 take the historical approach. Bol 2008 covers the cultural and political background in which neo-Confucianism emerged and developed, while De Bary 1981 traces the development of neo-Confucian orthodoxy from the Yuan dynasty to Tokugawa Japan. Liu 1998 provides a short beginner’s guide to neo-Confucianism in addition to classical Confucianism.|
Bol 2008 takes an intellectual historical approach to Neo-Confucianism. It is useful for readers who want to know the historical background of Neo-Confucianism.
Cheng, Chung-ying. New Dimensions of Confucian and Neo-Confucian Philosophy. Albany, NY: SUNY Press. 1991.
This book is a collection of essays by the author, who has been plowing the field for many years and is instrumental in promoting Chinese philosophy in the West. These essays were written over a span of twenty years from 1965 to 1985. Part III of this book contains seven sophisticated papers on key thinkers such as Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming. The final essay, a comparative study on Neo-Confucianism and A. N. Whitehead’s process philosophy, led an important direction for comparative philosophy.
De Bary 1981, written by a distinguished historian de Bary, contains three essays. The first essay explains the historical and political background of neo-Confucianism in the Yuan dynasty. The second essay analyzes how neo-Confucian orthodoxy was established and fortified. The final essay traces the intellectual history of neo-Confucian orthodoxy in Tokugawa Japan. This book is probably of interest only to scholars of intellectual history.
Liu 1998 provides a general introduction to Confucianism, and Part II deals specifically with Neo-Confucianism. The analysis is accessible but traditional.
Makeham 2010: This collection contains comprehensive essays that devote to the following Neo-Confucians: Zhou Dunyi, Shao Yong, Zhang Zai, Cheng Yi, Cheng Hao, Hu Hong, Zhang Shi, Zhu Xi, Lu Zuqian, Chen Chun, Lu Xiangshan, Wang Yangming, Liu Zongzhou, Wang Fuzhi, Li Guangdi and Dai Zhen. Each chapter provides solid introduction to the philosopher covered. Individual chapters will not be mentioned separately in the following bibliography.
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David Bourget (Western Ontario)
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Rafael De Clercq
Jack Alan Reynolds
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