A reconsideration of the characteristics of Song-Ming Li Xue

Frontiers of Philosophy in China 5 (3):352-376 (2010)
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Abstract

By analyzing Zhu Xi and Zhang Zai’s three representative explanatory paradigms—that of Feng Youlan, Mou Zongsan and Zhang Dainian, the paper tries to show that studying Chinese philosophy in a Western way and emphasizing logical consistency will unavoidably lead to the defects of simplicity and partiality. In addition to Buddhism and Daoism, Song-Ming philosophy had also absorbed thoughts from the Pre-Qin, Han, Wei and Jin dynasties. The existence of multiple philosophical thoughts and their new synthesis lead to internal contradictions in Song-Ming philosophy and Li Xue 理学 (Neo-Confucianism in the Song and Ming dynasties). The contradiction between the doctrine of tiandao 天道 (the way in which the world runs) and that of xinxing 心性 (mind and human nature) was even sharper. Li Xue and Xin Xue also overlapped one another. The transition from the doctrine of tiandao to that of xinxing was a long journey. It was begun by Zhu Xi in his later years, and was finally completed by Wang Yangming. Unveiling the complexity and special characteristics of Song-Ming philosophy is a task for scholars on the history of Chinese philosophy.

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