A Revisionist Understanding of Zhang Zai's Development of Qi in the Context of his Critique of the Buddhist

Asian Philosophy 20 (2):111-126 (2011)
Abstract
In a comprehensive survey of contemporary scholarship on Zhang Zai's (1020-1077) development of the notion qi ( 'vital energy') in the context of his critique of the Buddhist, I observe that there is a prevalent imposition of a Western concept, namely, 'substance monism', on his understanding of qi . It is assumed that he posits that 'the myriad things ( wanwu )' and 'the vast emptiness ( taixu )' are simultaneously differentiated and unified in that they are but different manifestations of an undifferentiated singular entity, that is, qi . I argue that such understanding distorts the 'logic' of Zhang Zai's qi that accounts for the simultaneous differentiation and the unity of 'the myriad things' and 'the vast emptiness' in terms of relationally opposed polarities and the dynamic unity amongst them. I also argue that this understanding distorts his practical message that emphasizes the endeavor to create coherence among our differences without recourse to a realm of 'oneness' that transcends our differences
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    Wing-tsit Chan (1963). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, N.J.,Princeton University Press.
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