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

Galia Patt-Shamir
Tel Aviv University
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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DOI 10.1007/s11712-012-9270-5
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A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy.Wing-tsit Chan - 1963 - Princeton: Princeton University Press.
Confucius and Mencius on the Motivation to Be Moral.Yong Huang - 2010 - Philosophy East and West 60 (1):pp. 65-87.

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