About this topic
Summary Cheng Hao (Cheng Mingdao程顥, 1032-1085) and Cheng Yi (Cheng Yichuan程頤, 1033-1107), commonly known as the Two Chengs, in that their sayings, writings, anecdotes are compiled together as the Collected Works of the Two Chengs (Ercheng Ji  二程集).  Some of the remarks in this collection are simply referred to as “Master Cheng says” without indicating which of the two brothers said it.  As a result, their view(s) are often jointly presented as the Two Chengs’ view, such as in Graham 1992 and Huang 2003.  Nevertheless, many contemporary Chinese  scholars such as Chen 2005 (cited under Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism) have convincingly argued that Cheng Hao’s ideas paved the ground for the later Lu-Wang school that stresses the role of the heart/mind (xin 心), while Cheng Yi’s view, under Zhu Xi’s elaboration, established the school of Li (lixue 理學).  What is usually called the Cheng-Zhu School typically refers to the followers of Cheng Yi’s and Zhu Xi’s teachings.  The Cheng brothers’ major contributions to neo-Confucianism include Cheng Yi’s conception of Li (理), Cheng Hao’s singling out “humaneness” (ren 仁) as the primary virtue, and the two Chengs’ theories of human nature.  These ideas were later further developed by Zhu Xi into a more systematic philosophy.   
Key works Other than the brief selections in Chan 1963, there is no English translation of their works. Of secondary materials, Graham 1958 is an early work of this known sinologist, and it offers a comprehensive but accessible introduction to the two brothers’ views. Of late, Yong Huang has done extensive writings on the two brothers, such as Yong 2008 and Huang 2003.  He has a book on the Cheng brothers forthcoming. 

Graham 1958 analyzes key concepts in both Cheng Hao’s and Cheng Yi’s philosophy.  It opened the door of Neo-Confucianism to scholars on Chinese philosophy in English. Yong 2008 deals with the issue of moral motivation, and offers a sophisticated and contemporary analysis on Cheng brothers’ moral psychology.  It is an important paper for anyone interested in the comparative analytic study of Neo-Confucianism.  Huang 2003  is among the first to take a comparative approach to Neo-Confucian virtue ethics, and also examines the issue of fact and value to address Hume’s is-ought problem. It offers an innovative reconstruction of the Cheng brothers’ view to address contemporary philosophical issues.

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  1. Cheng-Zhu Confucianism in the Early Qing: Li Guangdi (1642-1718) and Qing Learning (Review).John H. Berthrong - 2002 - Philosophy East and West 52 (2):256-257.
  2. Two Chinese Philosophers: Chʻêng Ming-Tao and Chʻêng Yi-Chʼuan.A. C. Graham - 1958 - London: Lund, Humphries.
  3. Guo, Xiaodong 郭曉東, Comprehending Benevolence and Controlling Human Proclivity : A Study of Cheng Mingdao's Philosophy From the Perspective of Moral Cultivation 識仁與定性 : 功夫論視域下的程明道哲學研究.Tze-ki Hon - 2010 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 9 (1):113-114.
    Guo, Xiaodong 郭曉東, Comprehending Benevolence and Controlling Human Proclivity : A Study of Cheng Mingdao’s Philosophy from the Perspective of Moral Cultivation 識仁與定性 : 功夫論視域下的程明道哲學研究 Content Type Journal Article DOI 10.1007/s11712-009-9143-8 Authors Tze-ki Hon, State University of New York, SUNY-Geneseo History Department 1 College Circle Geneseo NY 14454 USA Journal Dao Online ISSN 1569-7274 Print ISSN 1540-3009 Journal Volume Volume 9 Journal Issue Volume 9, Number 1.
  4. "WHY BE MORAL?" The Cheng Brothers' Neo-Confucian Answer.Yong Huang - 2008 - Journal of Religious Ethics 36 (2):321-353.
    In this article, I present a neo-Confucian answer, by Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, to the question, "Why should I be moral?" I argue that this answer is better than some representative answers in the Western philosophical tradition. According to the Chengs, one should be moral because it is a joy to perform moral actions. Sometimes one finds it a pain, instead of a joy, to perform moral actions only because one lacks the necessary genuine moral knowledge—knowledge that is accessible (...)
  5. The Cheng Brothers' Onto-Theological Articulation of Confucian Values.Yong Huang - 2007 - Asian Philosophy 17 (3):187 – 211.
    In this article, I attempt to provide a new interpretation of li in the neo-Confucian brothers Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi. I argue that the two brothers' views on li are not as radically different as many scholars have made us to believe; li in both brothers is a de-reified conception, referring not to some entity, including the entity with activity, but to activity, the life-giving activity of the ten thousand things; and this life-giving activity, in terms of its mysterious (...)
  6. Confucian Love and Global Ethics: How the Cheng Brothers Would Help Respond to Christian Criticisms.Yong Huang - 2005 - Asian Philosophy 15 (1):35 – 60.
    There is an increasing awareness that we are living in a global village, which demands a global ethics. In this article, I shall explore what contributions Confucianism, particularly its conception of love, can make. It has often been claimed that Confucian love is love with distinction, as a natural feeling, and as merely human love and so it is inferior to the Christian love, which is universal, commanded, and based on divine love. Drawing on the resources of the Cheng brothers' (...)
  7. Cheng Brothers' Neo‐Confucian Virtue Ethics: The Identity of Virtue and Nature.Yong Huang - 2003 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30 (3‐4):451-467.
    This article attempts to see whether value can be independent of fact. I argue that, in this regard, the two traditional models of ethics, Kant's deontology and Bentham/Mill's utilitarianism are both faulty. In comparison, while contemporary Aristotelian virtue ethics does seem more promising, I argue that such a version of virtue ethics is still deficient. The main purpose of this article is to develop an alternative version of virtue ethics, what I call neo-Confucian ontological virtue ethics, drawing on Cheng Hao (...)
  8. Morally Bad in the Philosophy of the Cheng Brothers.Wai-ying Wong - 2009 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36 (1):141-156.