The formation, development and evolution of neo-confucianism — with a focus on the doctrine of “stilling the nature” in the song period

Frontiers of Philosophy in China 4 (3):322-342 (2009)
The formation of the discourse of Neo-Confucianism 1 in the Song period was a result of the interactions between many social and cultural trends. In the development of the Neo-Confucian discourse, the Cheng brothers (Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi) played key roles with their charismatic thoughts and impelling personalities, while Zhu Xi pushed Neo-Confucian thought and discourse to a pinnacle with his broad knowledge and precise reasoning. In the warm discussions and debates between different schools and thoughts, the Neo-Confucian discourse proceeded towards completion and perfection, and evolved as contemporary topics and thinking modes changed. The essay argues that “ ding xing 定性 (stilling the nature)” was an important Neo-Confucian topic during the Song period. The doctrine of “stilling the nature” involves much central Neo-Confucian discourse such as the definition of xing 性 (human nature), the interior and exterior aspects of human nature, nature and qing 情 (feelings, sentiments), nature and xin 心 (mind, heart), nature and ren 仁 (benevolence, humanity, humaneness) and yi 义 (righteousness), nature and shi 事 (affair) or wu 物 (thing, object), the practice of preservation and cultivation, etc. Therefore, an examination of the formation, development and evolution of Neo-Confucianism is of great importance to the study of its early history.
Keywords Song period  Neo-Confucianism  discourse  stilling the nature  discourse analysis  宋代  道学  话语  定性  话语分析
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DOI 10.1007/s11466-009-0021-6
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