Neo-Confucianism


Neo-Confucianism
In China, a rationalistic revival of Confucianism in the 11th century that influenced Chinese thought for 800 years.

The movement sought to reestablish the supremacy of the Confucian heritage over the increasingly popular Buddhism and Daoism. Its two principal schools of thought were the Lixue (School of Principle), whose chief philosopher was Zhu Xi, and the Xinxue (School of Mind), represented by Lu Xiangshan and Wang Yangming. Neo-Confucianism was introduced into Japan by Zen Buddhists and became the guiding philosophy of the Tokugawa period (1603–1867), providing a heavenly sanction for the existing social order. Its emphasis on classical literature led to renewed interest in the Japanese classics and a revival of Shintō studies.

* * *

      in China, a rationalistic revival of Confucian philosophy in the 11th century AD that exercised profound influence on Chinese thought for the next 800 years. See Confucianism.

      in Japan, the official guiding philosophy of the Tokugawa period (1603–1867). This philosophy profoundly influenced the thought and behaviour of the educated class. The tradition, introduced into Japan from China by Zen Buddhists in the medieval period, provided a heavenly sanction for the existing social order. In the Neo-Confucian view, harmony was maintained by a reciprocal relationship of justice between a superior, who was urged to be benevolent, and a subordinate, who was urged to be obedient and to observe propriety.

      Neo-Confucianism in the Tokugawa period contributed to the development of the bushido (code of warriors). The emphasis of Neo-Confucianism on the study of the Chinese Classics furthered a sense of history among the Japanese and led in turn to a renewed interest in the Japanese classics and a revival of Shintō studies (see Fukko Shintō). Most significantly, Neo-Confucianism encouraged scholars to concern themselves with the practical side of human affairs, with law, economics, and politics.

      Three main traditions of Neo-Confucian studies developed in Japan. The Shushigaku, based on the Chinese school of the philosopher Chu Hsi, became the cornerstone of education, teaching as cardinal virtues filial piety, loyalty, obedience, and a sense of indebtedness to one's superiors. The Ōyōmeigaku centred upon the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Wang Yang-ming (Wang Yangming), who held self-knowledge to be the highest form of learning and placed great emphasis on intuitive perception of truth. The Kogaku school attempted to revive the original thought of the Chinese sages Confucius and Mencius, which it felt had been distorted by the other Japanese Neo-Confucian schools.

* * *


Universalium. 2010.