Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi 朱熹, 1130-1200) was the most influential Confucian since Confucius and Mencius, both because of his systematic philosophy and his political clout. Zhu Xi is standardly considered the “synthesizer of Song Neo-Confucianism,” and he was instrumental in establishing Confucian classics as the official documents for civic exams. His commentary and interpretation of the Confucian classics became the officially sanctioned orthodoxy. Zhu Xi is regarded as the founder of the school of principle (lixue 理學), as his main thesis is that nature is identical with principle. By “nature,” Zhu Xi means the essential traits of each particular thing. He advocated “the Investigation of things (gewu 格物), which to him means studying the principle within each material object and daily affair. Zhu Xi believes that one needs to investigate as many things as possible in order to extend the knowledge of Heavenly Principle. He also redefines “Taiji” as principle, and treats it as the origin of the Universe as well as the ontological foundation of all things. In addition, Zhu Xi also developed a sophisticated virtue ethics and moral epistemology. Zhu Xi’s philosophy is preserved in his numerous commentaries on ancient Confucian texts and his extensive discourses with students and correspondences with associates. In Chinese, his essays and correspondences, etc. have been compiled into a ten-book set of Collected Writings of Zhu Xi (Zhuzi wenji 朱子文集), and his discourses with students were recorded by numerous students and compiled into (several editions of) The Recorded Sayings of Zhu Xi (Zhuji yulu朱子語錄). The current popular version of his recorded sayings is a set of one-hundred-forty volumes Categorized Recorded Sayings of Zhu Xi (Zhuzi yulei 朱子語類). Since this collection includes Zhu Xi’s explanations of his ideas in the Q&A with students, and the content is organized thematically, it is the most valuable primary source for Zhu Xi scholars. The complete electronic text of this collection is available at **Zhongguo zhexueshu dianzihua jihua 中國哲學書電子化計劃** http://ctext.org/zhuzi-yulei/zh). Unfortunately, most of his works and discourses have not been translated into English.
Of primary sources in English, we have Chan 1967, Gardner 2003, Gardner 1990, etc., which translates a tiny portion of Zhu Xi’s copious work and remarks. There are many secondary sources in English, as among all neo-Confucians, Zhu Xi receives the most attention from contemporary scholars working in English. Chan 1989 and Chan 1986 represent earlier scholars’ researches on Zhu Xi, which are more or less from the intellectual historical approach. Kim 2000 is a well-researched book on Zhu Xi’s epistemology and his attitude toward natural science. Angle 2009 ((cited under Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism) is a monograph devoted to Zhu Xi’s and Wang Yangming’s moral philosophy. The book has received high praises from scholars in the field.
Chan, Wing-tsit. Trans. Reflections on Things at Hand (compiled by Zhu Xi). New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.
This work is a translation of Zhu Xi’s Reflections on Things at Hand (Jinsilu 近思錄), which is a compilation of important sayings of early Sung Neo-Confucians.
Gardner, Daniel. Zhu Xi's Reading of the Analects: Canon, Commentary and the Classical Tradition (Asian Studies). New York: Columbia University Press, 2003.
This is a translation of Zhu Xi’s commentary on the Analects, which is more than just a textual commentary but is imbued with Zhu’s philosophical insights.
Gardner, Daniel. Learning to Be A Sage: Selections from the Conversations of Master Chu, Arranged Topically. CA: University of California Press, 1990.
This book provides selected translation of Zhu’s recorded sayings.
Chan, Wing-tsit. Zhu Xi: New Studies. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1989.
Wing-tsit Chan, editor of A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Chan 1963), is also an expert and a staunch defender of Zhu Xi. This book represents Chan’s lifelong studies of Zhu Xi, with more than thirty papers treating various aspects of Zhu’s life, philosophy and associations. It should be book of interest to Zhu Xi scholars.
Chan, Wing-tsit (Ed.) Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. 1986.
This book consists of more than thirty papers on Zhu Xi written by known scholars on Neo-Confucianism. The basis of this anthology is a conference on Zhu Xi held in Honolulu in 1982. Paper topics mostly reflect studies on Zhu Xi in his historical contexts. There are, however, several papers on Zhu Xi’s theory of principle and the Great Ultimate (Taiji). They will be of interest to scholars who want to learn about Zhu Xi’s metaphysics.
Kim, Yunk Sik. The Natural Philosophy of Chu Hsi (1130-1200). Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society, 2000.
This is a scholarly and yet accessible work on Zhu Xi’s theory of knowledge, his worldview and his attitude toward science. It provides a helpful guidance to Zhu Xi’s philosophy.
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