About this topic
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 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 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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  1. Neo-Confucianism, Experimental Philosophy and the Trouble with Intuitive Methods.Hagop Sarkissian - 2018 - British Journal for the History of Philosophy 26 (5):812-828.
    ABSTRACTThe proper role of intuitions in philosophy has been debated throughout its history, and especially since the turn of the twenty-first century. The context of this recent debate within analytic philosophy has been the heightened interest in intuitions as data points that need to be accommodated or explained away by philosophical theories. This, in turn, has given rise to a sceptical movement called experimental philosophy, whose advocates seek to understand the nature and reliability of such intuitions. Yet such scepticism of (...)
  2. To Acquire Wisdom: The Way of Wang Yang-Ming.Conrad Schirokauer & Julia Ching - 1979 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 99 (3):485.
  3. Neo-Confucian Thought in Action: Wang Yang-Ming's Youth.Charles D. Orzech & Tu Wei-Ming - 1979 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 99 (2):319.
  4. Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian WritingsThe Philosophy of Wang Yang-Ming.David S. Nivison, Wang Yang-Ming, Wing-Tsit Chan & Frederick Goodrich Henke - 1964 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 84 (4):436.
  5. Wang Yang-Ming: Idealist Philosopher of Sixteenth-Century China.Wing-Tsit Chan & Carsun Chang - 1962 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 82 (3):458.
  6. La Philosophie Morale de Wang Yang-Ming.John K. Shryock & Wang Tch'angtche - 1937 - Journal of the American Oriental Society 57 (3):352.
  7. Riben de Gu Xue Ji Yangming Xue.Qianzhi Zhu - 2000
  8. Wang Yang-Ming and Karl Barth a Confucian-Christian Dialogue.Heup Young Kim - 1996
  9. Yangming Xue Yan Jiu.Guang Wu - 2000
  10. The Notion of Practicality in Wang Yang-Ming's Thought.Wan-Hsian Chi - 2001 - Dissertation, University of Pennsylvania
    Previous studies on Wang Yang-ming's philosophy have made an important contribution. Nevertheless, few scholars draw attention to Wang Yang-ming's contribution to Confucian practicality or the notion of the inner connection between his practicality and Confucius' and Mencius' orientation of practicality in their learning. Without a close examination of his notion of practicality, the significance of Wang Yang-ming as a Confucian master will not be appreciated properly. Therefore, in this research, I examine Wang Yang-ming's notion of practicality in relation to his (...)
  11. Detachment in the Philosophy of Wang Yang-Ming: The Concept of "Liang-Chih".Joseph Kuang-su Chow - 1981 - Dissertation, Drew University
    The intention of this dissertation is, first, to explore the religious and mystical dimension of Wang Yang-ming's thought, and second, to attempt to retrieve a more fundamental view of detachment in the light of Wang Yang-ming's philosophy of Liang-chih. ;Upon investigating the religious and mystical dimension of Wang Yang-ming's thought, we found Wang Yang-ming was indeed influenced greatly by both Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism. Taoism and Ch'an Buddhism's philosophical wisdom of Wu, not as a threat to conquer, but as a (...)
  12. Wang Yang Ming's "Intuitive Knowledge" a Study.Lyman Vanlaw Cady & Frederick Goodrich Henke - 1936 - California College in China.
  13. Shushigaku to Yomeigaku.Kenji Shimada - 1967 - Iwanami Shoten.
  14. Wang Yang-Ming Yü Ch An.Wing-Tsit Chan - 1973 - Wu Yin Ching She.
  15. Neo-Confucian Thought in Action Wang Yang-Ming's Youth.Wei-Ming Tu - 1976
  16. Wang Yang-Ming Ch'uan Hsi Lu.Yang-Ming Wang & T'ai-Pei Chêng Chung Shu Chü - 1954 - Chêng Chung Shu Chü.
  17. The Philosophy of Wang Yang-Ming.Shou-jên Wang, Frederick Goodrich Henke & James Hayden Tufts - 1916 - Open Court.
  18. Chugoku Seiji Shisoshi Kenkyu.Kazuo Iwama - 1968 - Miraish.
  19. Want Yang-Ming. [REVIEW]S. L. - 1963 - Review of Metaphysics 16 (3):580-580.
  20. Practical Learning in Yen Yuan, Chu Hsi and Wang Yang-Ming.Chung-Ying Cheng - 1979 - In William Theodore De Bary & Irene Bloom (eds.), Principle and Practicality: Essays in Neo-Confucianism and Practical Learning. Columbia University Press. pp. 39--45.
  21. The Effect of Wang Ming's Ultra-Leftist Line on the Student Movement for National Salvation.Jiang Zhiyen - 1993 - Chinese Studies in History 27 (1-2):162-167.
  22. The Debate About the Concept of Investigating Things of Wang Yangming's Leaming in the Mid-Late Ming [J].Peng Guo-Xiang - 2004 - Modern Philosophy 1:009.
  23. Wang Yang-Ming and Existential Phenomenology.Hwa Yol Jung - 1965 - International Philosophical Quarterly 5 (4):612-636.
  24. Wang Yang Ming, a Chinese Idealist.Frederick G. Henke - 1914 - The Monist 24 (1):17-34.
  25. Wang Yang Ming's Doctrine of Intuitive Knowledge.Lyman V. Cady - 1928 - The Monist 38 (2):263-291.
  26. “La Philosophie Morale de Wang Yang-Ming”.Stephen Chao-Ying Pan - 1937 - New Scholasticism 11 (3):290-292.
  27. Wang Yang-Ming: Idealist Philosopher of Sixteenth-Century China.Junmai Zhang - 1962 - Jamaica, N.Y., St. John's University Press.
  28. Chan Jo-Shui's Influence on Wang Yang-Ming.Wing-tsit Chan - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):9-30.
  29. How Buddhistic is Wang Yang-Ming?Wing-Tsit Chan - 1962 - Philosophy East and West 12 (3):203-215.
  30. Wang Yang-Ming: A Biography.Wing-Tsit Chan - 1972 - Philosophy East and West 22 (1):63-74.
  31. Wang Yang-Ming's Philosophy.Carsun Chang - 1955 - Philosophy East and West 5 (1):3-18.
  32. Wang Yang-Ming: Western Studies and an Annotated Bibliography.Wing-tsit Chan - 1972 - Philosophy East and West 22 (1):75-92.
  33. Unity and Creativity in Wang Yang-Ming's Philosophy of Mind.Chung-Ying Cheng - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):49-72.
  34. Between Commitment and Realization: Wang Yang-Ming's Vision of the Universe as a Moral Community.A. S. Cua - 1993 - Philosophy East and West 43 (4):611-647.
  35. The Essence of Wang Yang-Ming's Philosophy in a Historical Perspective.Thome H. Fang - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):73-90.
  36. Are Knowledge and Action Really One Thing?: A Study of Wang Yang-Ming's Doctrine of Mind.Warren G. Frisina - 1989 - Philosophy East and West 39 (4):419-447.
  37. Wang Yang-Ming's Doctrine of Innate Knowledge of the Good.Hiroyuki Iki - 1961 - Philosophy East and West 11 (1/2):27-44.
  38. Wang Yang-Ming, Chu Hsi, and the Investigation of Things.Jig-Chuen Lee - 1987 - Philosophy East and West 37 (1):24-35.
  39. Late Ming Criticism of Wang Yang-Ming: The Case of Wang Fu-Chih.Ian McMorran - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):91-102.
  40. Report on the Panel Discussion: "Wang Yang-Ming and Western Thought".Ronald Moore - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):207-216.
  41. Report on the Panel Discussion: Wang Yang-Ming and Japanese Culture.Ronald Moore - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):217-224.
  42. Moral Decision in Wang Yang-Ming: The Problem of Chinese "Existentialism".David S. Nivison - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):121-137.
  43. The Chu Hsi and Wang Yang-Ming Schools at the End of the Ming and Tokugawa Periods.Takehiko Okada & Robert J. J. Wargo - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):139-162.
  44. The Immediate Successor of Wang Yang-Ming: Wang Lung-Hsi and His Theory of Ssu-Wu.Mou Tsung-san - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):103-120.
  45. Subjectivity and Ontological Reality: An Interpretation of Wang Yang-Ming's Mode of Thinking.Wei-ming Tu - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):187-205.
  46. Intellectual Movements Since the Teachings of Wang Yang-Ming: Parallel but Nonconcurrent Developments.Nelson I. Wu - 1973 - Philosophy East and West 23 (1/2):225-236.
Zhou Dunyi
  1. To Broaden the Way: A Confucian-Jewish Dialogue.Galia Patt-Shamir - 2006 - Lexington Books.
    To Broaden the Way suggests that the texts of both the Jewish and Confucian tradition talk in riddles of a special kind: riddles which are introduced-and answered-by religious forms of life. Using a "dialogue of riddles," Galia Patt-Shamir presents a comparative perspective of Confucianism and Judaism regarding the relatedness between contradictory expressions in texts and living conflicts.
  2. Zhou Dunyi's Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate Explained (Taijitu Shuo) : A Construction of the Confucian Metaphysics.Robin Wang - 2005 - Journal of the History of Ideas 66 (3):307-323.
  3. The Taiji Diagram: A Meta-Sign in Chinese Thought.Ming Dong Gu - 2003 - Journal of Chinese Philosophy 30 (2):195–218.
  4. Cosmogony as Political Philosophy.Youngmin Kim - 2008 - Philosophy East and West 58 (1):108-125.
    : This essay examines the Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate and its shifting interpretations—those of Zhu Xi (1130–1200) and Wang Tingxiang (1474–1544) in particular—and by doing so explores the significance of ‘‘cosmogony’’ in the Confucian tradition and its significance for the change of political philosophy from the Song dynasty through the Ming. First, through a close reading of Zhu Xi’s commentaries on the Diagram, it is argued that they should be interpreted primarily as a statement of political philosophy rather than (...)
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