|Summary||Major Neo-Confucians in the Song-Ming period include Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073), Shao Yong (1011-1077), Zhang Zai (1020-1077), the Cheng brothers – Cheng Hao (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi (1033-1107), Lu Xiangshan (1139-1193), Zhu Xi (1130-1200), Wang Yangming (1472-1529), and Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692). Other than what is selected in Chan’s Source Book (Chan 1963, cited under *General Overviews*), there are scanty translations of Neo-Confucian works in English. The translations are of Zhu Xi (Chan 1967, Gardner 2003, Gardner 1990), Lu Xiangshan (Ivanhoe 2009) and Wang Yangming (Ivanhoe 2009, Henke 2012), but they are mere selections and far from complete in presenting the huge corpus of Neo-Confucian works.|
|Key works||Huang 1999 lists the first eight major philosophers and leaves out Wang Fuzhi, whose copious work and sophisticated philosophical views were not appreciated until of late. Chen 2005, written in Chinese, is a representative work of Chen Lai 陳來, a leading expert on the intellectual history of Neo-Confucianism in China today. Angle 2009 focuses on the ethical teachings of two key neo-Confucians – Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming, and Keenan 2011 focuses on one key ethical theme: self-cultivation. Among philosophical papers on general themes in neo-Confucianism, Peterson 1986 is an early work that has some impact in the West while Tang 1971 (Tang, Chun-I 唐君毅. “The Spirit and Development of Neo-Confucianism.” Inquiry14 (1-4): 56 – 83. 1971) represents a well-received Chinese perspective. More recent works such as Liu 2005 takes on neo-Confucian metaphysics with the analytic approach, and Behuniak Jr 2009 gives the important concept Li 理a revolutionary analysis inspired by Plato’s day analogy in the Parmenides.|
Angle 2009 focuses primarily on two neo-Confucians – Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming. It analyzes the notion of sagehood as handled by these two philosophers and explicates their moral psychology, virtue ethics and their views on education. It renders the ethical teachings of Neo-Confucianism more engaging for contemporary readers.
How to analyze the concept of Li (translated as principle, order, coherence, pattern, etc.) has always been a challenging task for scholars on neo-Confucianism, and in Behuniak Jr 2009, the author offers an innovative interpretation using Plato’s analogy of day as the interpretative tool. It is a refreshing piece even if readers do not accept this interpretation.
Chen, Lai 陳來. Songming Lixue 宋明理學. Shanghai: East China Normal University Press, 2005. 2nd edition.
This Chinese book is the renowned Chinese scholar Chen Lai’s introduction to Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism. The analysis is of the more traditional style, focusing on conceptual analysis and historical lineage.
Huang, Siu-chi 黃秀璣. Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods. Westport, CT: Greenwood, 1999.
This is a somewhat dated book in that the analysis is more traditional, but the explications of the eight philosophers selected here are useful as introductory pieces.
Keenan, Barry. Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivation. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2011.
This small book focuses on the theme of self-cultivation in the Great Learning treated by the Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi. It also provides the background in the intellectual history of Neo-Confucianism.
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