Yamazaki Ansai


Yamazaki Ansai
born Jan. 24, 1619, Kyōto, Japan
died Oct. 16, 1682, Kyōto

Japanese exponent of the philosophy of the Chinese Neo-Confucianist Zhu Xi.

Early in life he was a Buddhist monk, but he gradually rejected Buddhism in favour of Confucianism, which he began to teach to thousands of students. He reduced Neo-Confucianism to a simple moral code, which he then blended with native Shintō religious doctrines. He equated Neo-Confucian principles and theories with Shintō legends and divinity, creating a philosophical system that took on greater authority than its sources possessed alone. His thought was one of the sources of the extreme nationalism and emperor worship that developed later in Japan.

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▪ Japanese philosopher

born Jan. 24, 1619, Kyōto, Japan
died Oct. 16, 1682, Kyōto

      propagator in Japan of the philosophy of the Chinese neo-Confucian philosopher Chu Hsi (Zhu Xi) (1130–1200). Ansai reduced neo-Confucianism to a simple moral code, which he then blended with the native Shintō religious doctrines. This amalgamation was known as Suika Shintō.

      A Buddhist monk early in life, Ansai began to study Confucianism and gradually turned against Buddhism. By the time he was 29, he had become a Confucian teacher, gathering thousands of students, among whom were some of the greatest scholars of the day.

      From the complex philosophic system of Chu Hsi, Ansai extracted the simple formula “Devotion within, righteousness without.” By the former he meant the neo-Confucian emphasis on sincerity and seriousness. But in Ansai's hands, these concepts took on religious connotations. Indeed, as Ansai grew older, he began to combine the ethical doctrines of Confucianism with the religious values of Shintō. He equated the Chinese speculations on the universe with Shintō creation legends and identified the various elements of the neo-Confucian metaphysical principles with the Shintō gods. The Supreme Ultimate (T'ai Chi (taiji)) of the neo-Confucianists (i.e., the normative principle underlying the various objects and affairs of the world) became identified in Ansai's system with the first two divinities mentioned in the Shintō religious chronicles.

      His amalgamation of Confucian morality with the Shintō tradition of the divine origin of the imperial line was one of the philosophical roots of the later extreme Japanese nationalism and emperor worship. Ansai was himself intensely nationalistic: he instructed his disciples that if Confucius and his great disciple Mencius were to come to Japan at the head of an invading army, the students would be obliged to don their armour and attempt to capture both sages.

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Universalium. 2010.

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