Filial Piety, Vital Power, and a Moral Sense of Immortality in Zhang Zai's Philosophy

The present article focuses on Zhang Zai’s 張載 attitude toward death and its moral significance. It launches with the unusual link between the opening statement of the Western Inscription 西銘 regarding heaven and earth as parents and the conclusion that serving one’s cosmic parents during life, one is peaceful in death. Through the analogy of human relations with heaven and earth as filial piety (xiao 孝), Zhang Zai sets a framework for an understanding that being filial through life eliminates the fear of death. The article shows that filial piety as a root for morality enables a “sense of immortality,” which is in fact a sense of morality. This moral immortality is elucidated through Zhang Zai’s discussion on vital power (qi 氣) as that which life is made of, which persists through ongoing transformation and enables a moral continuum. This continuum is manifested through filial piety, which transcends the limits between life and death, and thus makes physical death pointless as morality endures
Keywords Zhang Zai  Filial piety  Death  Immortality  Vital power
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References found in this work BETA
Donald Blakeley (2010). The Analects on Death. Journal of Chinese Philosophy 37 (3):397-416.
Peter Kees Bol (2008). Neo-Confucianism in History. Distributed by Harvard University Press.
Wing-tsit Chan (1963). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, N.J.,Princeton University Press.
Wm T. De Bary (1985). Neo-Confucianism and Holism. In Donald J. Munro (ed.), Individualism and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values. Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan.

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