John Berthrong

in The Oxford Handbook of World Philosophy

Published in print May 2011 | ISBN: 9780195328998
Published online September 2011 | | DOI:

Series: Oxford Handbooks


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This article provides an introduction to Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism designates a galaxy of thinkers of various Confucian lineages beginning in the late Tang dynasty (post-840s) through the Qing dynasty (1644–1911) in China. As an international movement, it incorporated profound contributions by scholars in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It constitutes the Second Epoch of Confucian philosophy, at the midpoint between the Classical Confucianism of antiquity and the New Confucian Movement of the contemporary world. The Neo-Confucians revived classical Confucian thought through an extended dialogue with Daoists and Buddhists. Neo-Confucians formulated a series of highly complicated cosmological, axiological, hermeneutic, and political theories about how to understand and promote human flourishing. The various lineages of Neo-Confucianism cluster around the understanding of four major intersecting concepts: li, the coherent principle; qi, vital energy; xing, nature; and xin, the mind-heart. Zhu Xi's (1130–1200) philosophy of the relationship of the coherent principle (li) and vital energy (qi) and Wang Yangming's (1472–1529) philosophy of intuitive exploration and cultivation of the mind-heart (xin) represent the two most critical philosophical achievements of Neo-Confucianism's search for the unity of the king without and the sage within, and made permanent contributions to East Asian and world philosophy.

Keywords: Chinese philosophy; Chinese philosophers; coherent principle; vital energy; natural; mind-heart; Zhu Xi; Wang Yanming

Article.  6179 words. 

Subjects: Philosophy ; Non-Western Philosophy

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