Neo-Confucianism and western influence


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Neo-Confucianism and western influence implications for modern Chinese education
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ix, 235 leaves : ill. ; 28 cm.
Chen, Naichen, 1941-
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Subjects / Keywords:
Education -- Philosophy -- Taiwan   ( lcsh )
Neo-Confucianism   ( lcsh )
Foundations of Education thesis Ph. D
Dissertations, Academic -- Foundations of Education -- UF
bibliography   ( marcgt )
non-fiction   ( marcgt )


Thesis (Ph. D.)--University of Florida, 1986.
Bibliography: leaves 225-234.
Statement of Responsibility:
by Naichen Chen.
General Note:
General Note:

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University of Florida
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In memory of my father,
Mr. Chi-kuang Chen (1901-1980), a poet, and
a Confucianist.


My greatest gratitude goes to Dr. Robert R. Sherman, chairperson

of my supervisory committee. It is Dr. Sherman who first attracted me

to the department, and he has carefully and diligently guided me during

my five years of study. I have learned from him, not only knowledge

and methods of acquiring knowledge, but attitude, manner, and ways of

dealing with problems and affairs, as well as conducting oneself. Without

him, I really would have achieved nothing, and in him, I have seen a

model of a great teacher.

Next, I would like to thank other faculty of the committee: Dr.

Marilyn Holly, Dr. Arthur Newman, and Dr. Rodman Webb, for their

enthusiasm, patience, and friendship in carefully reading my drafts

and offering prompt and insightful comments and valuable suggestions.

I also would like to thank Dr. Samuel Andrews for reading my dissertation

and for taking part in my oral examination.

I would like to thank Peggy and Frank Friedmann who recommended me

to the University and have given me unfading spiritual support; former

President Betty Sun and President Jung-hwa Chen of Taipei Municipal

Teachers' College for approving my leave of absence and my fellowships

for studying abroad; and the National Bureau of Personnel and the

National Science Council which granted me these fellowships. Also I

would like to thank many other friends and colleagues who have had

concern for my family and me; they know who they are.

Finally, I would like to thank my mother, wife, son, daughter,

brothers, sisters, and father-in-law. I love them all.




ACKNOWLEDGMENTS. . . ..... iii

LIST OF FIGURES. . ... . vii

ABSTRACT . .... . . viii



Introduction . . .. 1
The Present Study. ... . .. 10
Assumptions . .... . 10
Purpose . .. 11
Methodology and Organization of the Study. ... 12
Terms. . ... ....... 14
Translations ... .. ......... 16
A Breakthrough In Educational Development. ... 18
Fundamental Problems .... .. 21
Notes. . ... . 28


The Origins of Neo-Confucianism in
Ancient Confucianism .... .. 32
The Analects of Confucius. ..... . 33
The Great Learning . .. 36
The Doctrine of the Mean. . .... 37
The Mencius. . ... ....... 38
The Development of Neo-Confucianism. ...... 40
The Philosophies of Sung and Ming
Neo-Confucianists.... . . 44
Chou Tun-i (1017-1073 A.D.). . 44
Shao Yung (1011-1077 A.D.) and
Chang Tsai (1020-1077 A.D.). . ... 46
Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085 A.D.) and
Ch'eng I (1033-1107 A.D.)
Chu Hsi (1130-1200 A.D.) . 53
Lu Hsiang-shan (1139-1193 A.D.). ........... 57
Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529 A.D.) . 59


Summary. . . ... ...... 65
The Principle of Nature. . ... 66
Material Force . . .. 67
Human Nature . . ... 67
Humanity . . . 70
Notes. . . ... ....... 72


Sagehood: The Ultimate Goal of Education ... 79
Knowledge and Action . . ... 84
Intellectual Learning. . . 88
Moral Cultivation. . . 91
Elementary Education . . ... 99
Summary . . .. 102
Notes. . . . 105


The Introduction of Western Culture into China .. .112
John Dewey's Philosophy and Its Influence. ... 124
Hu Shih and the New Culture Movement ... .124
John Dewey's Philosophy and Neo-Confucianism .. 129
John Dewey's Philosophy and Sun Yat-senism 131
Educational Reforms Under John Dewey's
Influence. . . 135
The Method of Thinking . .. 140
Educational Aims . .. . 144
The Child and Learning . . 149
Summary. . . ... ...... 156
Notes. . . ... ....... 160


Educational Implications of Neo-Confucianism .. 171
Educational Aims . .... .171
Educational Content. . .. .179
Educational Methods . ....... .183
Educational Implications of John Dewey's Philosophy
of Education . . ... .188
Educational Aims . . 188
The Method of Thinking . ... 189
The Child and Learning . .... 190
Moral Education. . ... 192
The Democratic Ideal in Education. . ... 196


Analytic Philosophy and Education. . .. 201
A Synthesis--Suggestions for Building A Modern
Chinese Philosophy of Education. .. 214
Notes .......................... 219

BIBLIOGRAPHY ................... ........ 225

BIOGRAPHICAL SKETCH ....................... 235


Figure Page

I Chinese Dynasties ................ .... 17

II Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate. ...... .. 45

III A Synthesis of Ideas and Concepts of
Neo-Confucianism . . .. 92

Abstract of Dissertation Presented to the Graduate School
of the University of Florida in Partial Fulfillment of the
Requirements for the Degree of Doctor of Philosophy



Naichen Chen

May 1986

Chairperson: Dr. Robert R. Sherman
Major Department: Foundations of Education

The study points out that Chinese philosophy of education and

other aspects of culture presently are undergoing a transformation,

trying to integrate the merits of Western and Chinese cultures, thus

constructing a new mind. The similarities and even the differences

between John Dewey's philosophy and Neo-Confucianism can contribute to

the integration. As shown by the recent development of Sun Yat-senism

on Taiwan, the integration has begun, though it is not yet complete.

Educational progress on Taiwan in the past thirty-five years has been

great, but educators still confront some fundamental problems. They

must formulate a modern conception of education before they can work to

solve problems; what they need today is a new general educational


The method of Western philosophy is used in the study: descriptive--

analytic, critical--evaluative, and speculative. The study discusses


the educational problems Taiwan faces today; explicates the character-

istics of Neo-Confucianism and their implications for modern Chinese

education; traces the characteristics of Western culture and its impact

on China with a focus on John Dewey's pragmatic influence and the

potential use of analytic method in clarifying modern Chinese

educational theory for modern China.

Some suggestions are given in the study. The new philosophy of

education for modern China in Taiwan must be progressive and democratic.

Education must aim to create "perfect" members--modern sages--or at

least qualified members-modern gentlepersons--of democracy. The modern

sage is one who can communicate with others empathetically, control

desires, has enthusiasm for public service, has courage to do what needs

to be done, is creative and flexible in problem-solving, has independent

and intelligent judgment and wisdom, is able to work cooperatively with

others, and is calm in chaotic circumstances so that wisdom and

intelligence can operate. The characteristics of the "modern sage"

will change if human and societal situations change. Educational

content and methods to foster this aim should be adopted; otherwise

they must be reconstructed or discarded.



The cultural crisis of modern China arose from the impact of

Western civilization, which resulted in the breakdown of values and

loss of faith in their cultural heritage among the Chinese people,

particularly among intellectuals. The Western impact began with the

war between China and Britain in 1840, which ended when China was

defeated in the Treaty of Nanking in 1842. By the treaty, China agreed

to open five ports to trade, to cede Hong Kong to Britain, and to pay

the English an indemnity of 21,000,000 Chinese dollars.1

In addition, China was forced to pay a uniform 5 percent ad valorem

tariff on exports and imports and granted Britain extra-territorial

jurisdiction in criminal cases. And, most important of all, China was

forced to abolish its traditional system of international relations.

For many centuries, China had been the most powerful country in Asia

and received tribute from neighboring nations. Although colonialism

was alien to China, and China seldom interfered with their internal

affairs, these small countries were regarded as subject satellites.

This traditional system of international relations was contrary to the

international law of the West, such as the principles of the equality

of states and the freedom of foreign trade. The Treaty of Nanking broke


this traditional system and injured the feeling of superiority and

dignity of the Chinese people.

But these events were just the beginning of a sequence of change

and frustration the old empire encountered in the following decades.

More unequal treaties were concluded, territory was ceded, and indemnity

was paid again and again to victorious invaders from the West. In

October 1856, the joint navy of Britain and France attacked China and

defeated her again. As a result, China opened more ports and permitted

foreign ships to trade on the Yangtze River. These two wars served to

convince China's influential intellectuals and political leaders of the

military superiority of the West. Lin Tse-hsu (1785-1850), Wei Yuan

(1794-1857), Tseng Kuo-feng (1811-1872), Lee Hong-chang (1823-1901),

and others so admired the strength of Western weapons and warships that

they strongly urged the government to purchase and even to manufacture

them. In 1860s, China's Self-Strengthening Movement was started. Its

purpose was to learn and imitate the Western technology for producing

weapons and warships and the West's methods of training troops.

If China was to emulate the West, its citizens would have to

learn Western languages. Thus the first institute of foreign languages,

Tung Wen Kuang, was established in Peking in 1862. This laid (a new

basis for the development of modern Chinese education,) and many new

institutions of education and schools were established in the following


In order to improve diplomatic relations, the Manchu government

worked to conclude more equal treaties with foreign countries and to

station diplomats abroad. But during the fifty-five years between the

Opium War between China and Britain in 1840 and the Sino-Japanese War

in 1894, China's understanding of the West was still superficial. In

the minds of the Chinese intellectuals, what the Western powers offered

was no more than excellent weapons and well-trained troops. The Chinese

knew nothing about the strength of Western philosophy and politics.)

Intellectuals believed that if China could have the same weapons, ships,

and troops as the Western powers did, she too would again be a powerful

nation. Therefore, in some forty years the Manchu government practiced

a policy of learning from Western technology and military training,

called the Self-Strengthening Movement. But successive defeats in the

Sino-Japanese War of 1894 and the Boxer Rebellion in 1900 revealed the

failure of the Self-Strengthening Movement and the belief that

militarism and technology alone could make a nation strong.

Hostilities between China and Japan broke out in July 1894 when

Japan launched a surprise attack on Chinese warships and transports

near Korea. Chinese forces were quickly defeated both on land and at

sea. The war was brought to an end by the Treaty of Shimonoseki in

1895. Under this treaty, China was obliged to pay a heavy indemnity

and cede Formosa (Taiwan) and the Pescadores to Japan. While Japan

emerged from the war as a great power, China's prestige reached its

nadir. Four years later, the Boxer Rebellion flared in North China.

This was a reaction against imperialism. The Boxers were originally an

outlawed secret society and were harshly suppressed by Ch'ing government

in the nineteenth century. In 1898 they became active and claimed that

religious magic made them invulnerable to Western bullets. They soon

took on an anti-foreign flavor. At first local governments made serious

attempts to suppress the Boxers. But later the society was considered

to be patriotic and was supported by the Manchu court. The Boxers grew

bolder, killing foreigners and destroying their residences.

This finally resulted in an attack by troops from eight nations

maintaining legations in Peking. The war between China and the allied

force lasted for only two months, and was brought to an end by the

Peace Protocol of 1901. By the Protocol, China agreed to punish pro-

Boxer ministers, to pay an indemnity of 450 million Chinese dollars,

and place the legation quarter in Peking under the exclusive control

of the eight foreign powers. Also, twelve places between Peking and

the sea were occupied by foreign troops.

The shock the Chinese intellectuals and political leaders received

from these defeats was even greater than before, for they demonstrated

that what had been done during the forty years of the Self-Strengthening

Movement were just efforts in vain. The intellectuals and political

leaders now were forced to think more deeply about the problems they

faced and to get more thorough knowledge about the West. K'ang Yu-wei

(1858-1927), one of modern China's most eminent scholars and statesmen,

urged that China improve its educational system by building schools in

each town and county. His own studies suggested that the riches and

strength of the West originated not from excellent machines and weapons

but from (universal schooling 2 K'ang also suggested that China should

seek to form a Congress and a Constitution) for these were shared by

all powerful nations of the West.3

Liang Ch'i-ch'ao (1873-1929), another major advocate of political

reform and a famous scholar, wrote that earlier reforms had not been

efficient. Like Yu-wei, Liang argued that China needed to change its

political and educational institutions, and that lesser reforms would

be useless.4 Liang's conclusion was that "the basis of reform rests on

human resources, the human resources come from school education, the

establishment of school education system is connected to the improvement

of official examination, and the achievement of all these rests on the

change of political system."5

K'ang Yu-wei had convinced the Kuang Hsu Emperor of the necessity

for reforms, and over a period of three months the Emperor issued a

series of edicts embodying K'ang and Liang's ideas of political and

educational change. These changes came to be called the Reform of Wu

Hsu Year (1898). But conservatives in Ch'ing court, led by Empress

Dowager Tzu Hsi, strongly opposed the reforms, and their opposition

resulted in the Coup of Wu Hsu in the same year. Emperor Kuang Hsu's

power was curtailed, and he was put under house arrest. K'ang's six

followers were killed, but both K'ang and Liang escaped into exile.

Radical political reform based on constitutional monarchy thus was

sentenced to death. The intellectuals and the populace who acknowledged

the importance of radical reform for the survival of the nation were so

disappointed that some supported or participated in the national

revolution led by Dr. Sun Yat-sen. Others went abroad to continue the

reform work in milder ways, such as writing articles about reform for

overseas Chinese newspapers. A revolution succeeded in overthrowing

the Manchu regime in 1911, and the first republic in Asia was thus

founded in 1912.

The 1898 year of Wu Hsu Reform and Wu Hsu Coup is usually thought

to be a watershed in the history of China's intellectual break with

traditional values. It began "as a response to military defeat by Japan

in 19 but ended in the abandonment of the traditional Sinocentric

world-view and a large-scale effort to assimilate the 'new learning' of

the West."6 The Boxer Rebellion in 1900 had enhanced this tendency.

The American philosopher, John Dewey, said in "Transforming the Mind of


China learned in 1900 that she had to adjust herself to the
requirements imposed by the activities of Western peoples. Every
year since then she has been learning that this adjustment can be
effected only by a readjustment of her own age-long customs, that
she has to change her historic mind and not merely a few of her

The point is that the Chinese people had preserved their own values

and beliefs for centuries. They believed that the whole system was

working well and was superior to any others in the world until disaster

struck in the second half of the nineteenth century. But now they were

forced to examine their traditional values and beliefs--mainly those

taken from Confucianism--with suspicion. Some people's doubts about

traditional values reached an apex between 1910 and 1920 when they

considered science and democracy as the most admired aspects of Western

civilization and started a violent campaign against Confucianism. One of

the leaders of this campaign was Chen Tu-hsiu, who claimed that "evolution

goes from feudalism to republicanism and from republicanism to communism"

and was convinced that the creation of a proletarian state is the most

urgent revolution in China.8 Chen founded the Chinese Communist Party

in 1921 and directed it until 1927.

On the other hand, neither K'ang Yu-wei nor Liang Ch'i-ch'ao or

other so-called neo-traditionalists tried to abandon the traditional

values and beliefs totally. Instead, they struggled to construct

strategies for adapting Confucianism and the classical heritage to modern

conditions. Many neo-traditionalists were influenced by Western thought

and worked to synthesize the divergent cultures, although a few, Liang

Sou-ming (1893-1962) for example, excluded the alien ingredients from

their thinking.

The more recent introduction of Western thought actually began in

1896 when Yen Fu (1853-1921) translated Thomas Henry Huxley's Evolution

and Ethics, which became "the bedside book of the students,"9 and was

adopted as a manual in certain schools. Yen also translated Herbert

Spencer's The Study of Sociology, as well as the works of John Stuart

Mill, Adam Smith, and Montesquieu, and became the most influential

translator of Western ideas in modern China. He opened a new vista and

provided an access for an in-depth understanding of Western culture.

A few years later, in the first decades of this century, Darwin's The

Origins of Species and The Descent of Man were translated by Ma Chun-wu,

the anarchism of Kropotkin was introduced by Li Shih-tseng, and Schopenhauer

and Nietzsche were introduced by Wang Kuo-wei.

Between 1910 and 1920, the introduction of Western thought entered a

new phase in the intellectual Renaissance led by Hu Shih (1891-1962). The

visit of the American philosopher John Dewey from early 1919 until July,

1921 had played an important role in inspiring Chinese intellectuals to

establish a society of freedom and democracy. In the following decades

the works of Plato and Henri Bergson were translated by Chang Tung-sun

(1886-1962), and the writings of Descartes, David Hume, Kant, William

James, and Hegel also became available in Chinese. In the meanwhile,

Fung Yu-lan (1895-) attempted to reconstruct rationalistiNeo-

Confucianism, and Hsiung Shih-li (1883-1968) attempted to reconstruct

idealist Neo-Confucianism. But of all these foreign influences and

efforts aiming at the revival of traditional philosophies, only Marxism

gained a strong enough foothold to become a mass movement. Chen Tu-hsiu

was its founder, Ai Ssu-ch'i its spokesman, and Mao Tse-tung (1893-1976)

its supreme authority. All other systems of thought gathered only a

small circle of followers. In 1949, the communist regime was established

on the Chinese mainland, and the nationalist government led by Chiang

Kai-shek moved to Taiwan. These two governments have developed different

systems and practices of education as well as politics, during the past

thirty-five years. The political and intellectual division between

these two powers has further confused the values and beliefs of the

Chinese people and thus has deepened the nation's cultural crisis.

The responses of Chinese intellectuals to a century of cultural

crises have been of three kinds. One response was by those who stuck

to conventional ways and resisted any change in the direction of Western

culture. They contended that if change was necessary for the survival

and advance of Chinese culture, it should be done from within the

nation's own traditional culture. Liang Sou-ming may be the best

representative of this position. Some earlier extremely conservative

officials of the Ch'ing court, e.g., Wo Jen, Wang Jen-chun, Yu Yueh, and

Fang Chun-yi, not only rejected the Western influence but also objected

to any political reform or change in social institutions.

The second, equally extreme, position was that no part of

traditional Chinese culture had enduring value and that if China was to

survive and prosper, she would have to Westernize. People of this

persuasion contended that Chinese culture already was dead; the only

way to go now was assume completely the power and ideas of the West.

Chen Tu-hsiu, Wu Chih-hui, and even Hu Shih are representatives of

this position.

A third kind of thinking was that neither of these positions is

sufficient for Chinese culture to survive and advance. The former

rejects any influence and energy for good from the West, while the

latter tries to dig out the root of the mother culture and transplant

wholly an alien seed. Some educated people in China during the past

century, rather, have tried to work out an educational philosophy that

combines the best of Chinese and Occidental cultures. Chang Chi-tung

(1837-1907) and Tsai Yuan-pei (1867-1940) were among them. Generally

speaking, this is a sound idea. The difficulty is that intellectuals

have not formulated the combination well enough, so that education in

China has swayed between two extremes--the traditional and the Western

style--and looks like neither. This is a dangerous situation.

Bertrand Russell pointed out in 1922 that China needs to achieve

an organic growth produced by combining the merits of its own culture

and the West. Russell said that there are two opposite dangers to be

avoided: the first is that China may become completely Westernized,

retaining nothing of what has hitherto distinguished her, and, second,

that she may be driven into an intense anti-foreign conservatism.10

John Dewey, in "Transforming the Mind of China," also argued that in

the remaking of culture, China should bring about a thoroughgoing

transformation of her institutions through contact with Western

civilization. In this remaking she will "attempt to penetrate to the

principles, the ideas, the intelligence, from which Western progress

has emanated, and to work out her own salvation through the use of her

own renewed and quickened national mind."'1

The Present Study


The assumption in this study is that Chinese philosophy of

education and other aspects of culture presently are undergoing a

transformation, trying to construct a new national mind by combining

the merits of Western and Chinese cultures. Such a transformation is

not new to China. It is similar to that which transpired between the

third and the tenth centuries when Confucianism was transformed into

Neo-Confucianism. In that period, Confucianism as the mainstream of

Chinese culture absorbed essentials of Taoism from within her own nation

and Buddhism from India and incorporated them into the body of Neo-

Confucianism. This not only insured the survival but also activated

the revival of Chinese culture.

Today, Chinese culture faces another, perhaps greater, crisis.

In order to insure its survival, China needs another cultural

transformation and revival. The major difference between the presently-

needed transformation and the earlier one is that the influence today

is not Buddhism from India, which was like China in many respects, but from

Western culture which is supposed to be quite different from Chinese

culture. China must take materials from the West and reconstruct and

reshape her own disposition. The anticipation is that the new Chinese

culture will not be the original Confucianism, or Neo-Confucianism, or

any other kind of traditional form and content, nor will it be any type

of unalloyed Western culture or philosophy--neither John Dewey's

pragmatism nor Marxism. Rather, it must be a new form of Neo-Confucianism

which carries forward the Chinese tradition and values but which

incorporates within them the culture of the West.

The assumption is, further, that there are essentials in Chinese

educational thought which can prove useful and worthwhile even today.

But the Chinese people must not block themselves from the potential

advantages of Western thought which might make up for deficiencies in

Chinese education and culture.


Educational progress and development on Taiwan has been rapid,

great, and surprising, greater and faster than at any other time in

Chinese history. But it is also clear that educators on this small

island today confront a challenge never before experienced by their

Chinese ancestors. (They are nowadays under a heavy pressure from the

burden of history, on the one hand, and impact of the West, on the other

hand. They must study carefully and formulate a modern conception of

education. Because the fundamental problems which will be discussed

later in the present chapter urgently need a solution, the work must be

done without delay. This study will contribute to that end.

Methodology and Organization of the Study

In order to begin this work, the study will first discuss the

fundamental educational problems Taiwan faces today in the later part of

this chapter. In the second and third chapters, the study will explicate

the characteristics--moral, intellectual, cultural, and educational--

of Neo-Confucianism and their implications for modern Chinese education.

In the fourth chapter, the study will trace the characteristics from

Western culture and its impact on China. A focus will be on the impact

of John Dewey's philosophy as it relates to the moral, intellectual,

cultural, and educational life of the Chinese society. In the past

sixty years or so, John Dewey's influence on Chinese education as well

as other aspects of cultural development has been great. His influence

may increase in years to come if Taiwan continues to prosper as a

democratic and progressive society. This prediction is based not only

on some major similarities between Neo-Confucianism and Dewey's philosophy

as well as those between Sun Yat-senism and Dewey's thought, but also on

the differences between them, so that Dewey's democratic and educational

theories will make up for some deficiencies in China's habit of thinking

and conventional ideas.

In the fifth and last chapter, a synthesis of educational

implications derived from Neo-Confucianism, John Dewey's philosophy of

education, and the method of modern analytic philosophy will be done.

This is supposed to offer some suggestions for building a general theory

of education in modern China which unites the best and most compatible

elements of Chinese and Western traditions. This is based on the

assumption that neither tradition is, or can be in the future, sufficient

without the consideration of the other.

The method of Western philosophy will be used throughout the study.

The so-called philosophical method applied in the present study includes

three steps: descriptive-analytic, critical-evaluative, and speculative.12

That is, the educational problems people in Taiwan encounter today will

be analyzed and described; both Neo-Confucianism and Western philosophies

of education, i.e., John Dewey's philosophy and analytic philosophy,

will be described, critically examined, and compared from the standpoint

of their validity and usefulness towards the solution of educational

problems in Taiwan; and, finally, implications from both sources will be

derived with the attempt of building or suggesting new criteria for use

in modern Chinese education--this is the speculative step of the study.

In other words, the whole structure of the study will be written

with the belief that an appropriate philosophy of education will take

two things as its major tasks: theory-evaluation and theory-building.13

The study not merely tries to clarify and analyze the philosophies of

education, past and present, in the West and in China, but seeks to

derive implications from them in order to suggest a normative form or

theory of education.

Although the analytic method of philosophy has been alien to

Chinese philosophers, it is reasonable to believe that the method will

work well for clarifying the confusions of ideas and the ambiguities of

language in Chinese educational philosophy. If the method has been

proved useful and efficient for Western educational thought, there is

no reason that logical, linguistic, and conceptual analysis could not

offer more accurate, clearer, and more explicit ideas for Chinese

educators. If the Chinese acknowledge the fact that many of their

educational problems arise from the confusion of ideas in their

thinking and ambiguity in their language, there is reason to believe

that they should, first of all, concentrate more effort on the work of

clarification. The greatest difficulty is in their habit of thinking:

logical reasoning and analysis has not been adequately encouraged in

schooling, and, in fact, logical thinking has not been a favorite

approach adopted by Chinese philosophers. It seems that teachers in

schools should pay more attention and effort to the practice of logical


On the other hand, it must be pointed out that the philosophy of

education should not exclude from its coverage the work of suggesting

or building educational theories. This work should provide sound

criteria for the direction and evaluation of educational practice. No

discipline other than philosophy of education can do such work. Unless

one admits that the work is unnecessary for educational practice, it is

not proper to say that the task of philosophy as related to education

would be confined merely to that of analyzing and clarifying educational

language and concepts, though that work is indispensable and is the

first step to the solution of educational problems.


The term "West" is used in this study to indicate primarily the

United States, Great Britain, France, and Germany. Russia is excluded

from consideration. This not only accords with the way in which the term

is used by the Chinese people themselves, but shows the gulf between the

cultural ideals represented in the mainland Chinese government

(influenced by Russian Marxism) and the government on Taiwan. That is,

when speaking of the West in this study, the pattern of culture

combining modernization and democracy is strongly implied. Particularly,

the development and the content of American culture during this century

is considered as the representative of the Western culture.

The term "China," which is used in this study repeatedly, refers

to the whole area of the Chinese map, including the island Taiwan and

the Chinese mainland, except when otherwise indicated. The term "modern

China" means the whole of China since the turn of the century to 1950.

For discussions after 1950, whereon the study focuses, the term "modern

China" refers particularly to "Taiwan." In this case, the term "modern

China on Taiwan" is preferred by the writer in order to avoid a confusion

and translation in readers' minds.

The reason why this study focuses on Taiwan--its educational

problems and their solution--is based on the following fact. Since

1950, the Chinese mainland has been governed by the Communist Party and

has been affected little by Western influence until the 1980s, when the

regime opened its doors and established a more intimate relationship with

the United States. This influence is still at the initial stage, so

that no significant results yet can be seen. On the other hand,(during

the past thirty-five years, the Chinese people on Taiwan have worked

hard to combine democracy and modernization with their own tradition.)

The achievements they have obtained in economy, politics, education, and

so on, demonstrate that their efforts have generally benefitted from

Western contact. Their problem is that the work is not yet completed

and some difficulties in the way still need to be removed (these

difficulties will be discussed later in this chapter). It is hoped

that the experience Taiwan has had in cultural transformation and

educational reform can be transferred to mainland China as the latter

becomes more democratic and more open to and influenced by the West.

It is also hoped that the experience of Taiwan can be shared by other

Asian nations which have a similar heritage and culture and confront

similar problems in their process of modernization.

"Dynasty" is a special way of dating used by the Chinese. It

indicates a specific event or a personality in relation to historical

background or traits or characteristics of the time. 'A dynasty, there-

fore, is not only a quantitative reference to time, but an indication

of the qualitative significance of the time. For example, the Sung and

Ming Dynasties refer not only to the years 960 through 1279 A.D. and

1368 through 1644 A.D. respectively, but also indicate the times when

Neo-Confucianism began, developed, and matured as a philosophy. )(See

Figure I for a listing of the Dynasties and their equivalent in Western



All Neo-Confucian classics were written in Chinese. Most of the

commentaries about Neo-Confucianism have been written in Chinese too.

Some of these writings either have inferior translations or no English

translations at all. The writings quoted in this study that have not

already been translated into English have been translated by the present


Hsia....................... .....


Western Chou...................

Eastern Chou....................

Spring and Autumn Period...

Warring States Period......


Western Han ....................


Eastern Han .....................

Wei.............. .... .......... ...


Western Chin....................

Eastern Chin...................

Northern and Southern


Sui... ............ .. .............


Five Dynasties..................

Northern Sung...................

Southern Sung...................




Republic of China..............

Figure I: Chinese Dynasties

Western Dating

2183-1751 B.C.

1751-1111 B.C.

1111- 771 B.C.

770- 256 B.C.

770- 403 B.C.

403- 221 B.C.

221- 206 B.C.

206 B.C.-8 A.D.

9- 23

25- 220

220- 265

220- 280

265- 316

317- 420

420- 589

589- 618

618- 907

907- 960







writer. This will be indicated in the notes by the phrase, "Trans. by

Naichen Chen." Some of the writings are paraphrased rather than quoted

directly or translated literally. This will be indicated by the phrase

"Written in Chinese." Where a writing has been translated earlier into

English but revised by the present author, that too will be indicated.

A Breakthrough In Educational Development

As mentioned above, the government on Taiwan and that on the

mainland have developed different systems of education and philosophies

since the 1950s. The communist government on the Chinese mainland has

adopted a model of political philosophy and educational methods from the

Marxism of the Soviet Union, while the republican government on Taiwan

has allied itself politically and educationally with the United States.

Both governments have imported alternatives from abroad and have melded

these alternatives with selected Chinese traditions to fashion two very

different education systems. But the Republic of China on Taiwan has

enjoyed greater educational resources and operational efficiency over

the 1950-1980 period than has the communist government on the mainland.15

In describing and commenting on the educational development in

Taiwan during the past three decades, R. Murray Thomas points out that

the factors of the relatively small size of population and territory, a

consistent socioeconomic-development policy, a unified philosophical

commitment to Confucianism, a stable political leadership, and a

continued alliance with a leading nation, the United States, have all

contributed to hasten rapid educational progress in Taiwan.16

It is said that Taiwan is now actually becoming an educational

society.17 The old China, in its long history of education over some

twenty-five hundred years, never had really developed a nationwide

universal education until the 1950s. Almost all the emperors in Chinese

history were satisfied with an education for selected elites: an education

limited to the few. Even in 1934, twenty-two years after the founding

of the Republic of China, only 70 out of every 1000 residents in Shensi

Province had primary schools available, while in Hupei Province only

seven out of 1000 had that opportunity. The government's special

effort to expand primary education in 1935 produced an enrollment

increase from 13 to 21.5 million students over the next two years, but

the outbreak of the war with Japan in 1937 destroyed these gains,

"leaving the inadequate opportunities for primary schooling as one of

the nation's most serious barriers to modernization.",18

In the 1950s the government of the Republic of China on Taiwan

initiated an ambitious program of universal schooling. The success of

the program led to an increase of elementary-school age children

attending school from nearly 75 percent in 1950 to over 99 percent in

1979, and elementary graduates entering junior-high school rose from

nearly 32 percent in 1950 to 96 percent in 1979.19

These figures mark a breakthrough in the long history of Chinese

education. But educators in Taiwan today are not satisfied with just

increasing the number of children attending school. The present nine-

year universal education is no longer considered sufficient for the

younger generation, so plans are now being laid to extend the length of

education for all by furnishing more educational opportunities for

junior-high school graduates. In addition to the quantitative growth

of education, qualitative progress has been marked by the provision of

junior-secondary education for all, the adjustment of vocational

education to technological advances, the improvement of curricula and

educational methods at all levels of schooling, and the success of

citizenship education.20

Postlethwaite and Thomas indicate that at the opening of the

1980s, virtually 100 percent of the age group completed primary

education, 90 percent junior-high school, and 26 percent senior-high

school. A great variety of vocational-education opportunities have been

introduced; the pre-service preparation for primary teachers will be

raised from the junior-college to the full four-year college level in

1987; and the entrance examination for tertiary education is due for

revision. Postlethwaite and Thomas predict that as long as education

remains a vehicle for a person's rising in the socio-economic system,

it can be expected that the demand for education will continue to be

high and the standards of achievement will continue to rise in this


Nevertheless, in spite of the advances and educational progress

in Taiwan, there still are major educational problems which urgently

need solution. If these problems are not solved soon, more problems

will arise in the near future, and the economic prosperity, social

advancement, cultural progress and revival, and the commonwealth of the

people in Taiwan may not be secure. In the remainder of this chapter,

these problems are the themes for discussion.

Fundamental Problems

The educational problems the Chinese educators on Taiwan face

today arise from reflections concerning the readjustment of educational

practice to the present situation. There is almost a consensus among

educators that a change is required if Taiwan is to be a democratic and

industrial nation. The difficulty is to determine how far the change

will go and how education is to be changed. An answer to these

questions requires that educators develop a general theory that they

can use as criteria for evaluation, judgment, choice, and action.22

These problems cover major domains of educational process, i.e.,

aims, content, and methods. They are basically problems of a

philosophical sort rather than a factual or explanatory kind.23 They

thus can only be solved philosophically rather than scientifically

and technically. At the philosophical level these problems must first

be clarified and analyzed before programs for action in education can

be set up.

The problems are numerous. Upon a closer examination, they fall

into three categories, having to do with educational aims, content, and

methods. It is possible to cite some of the most important problems

from each of the areas as examples for further discussion.

Educational aims. Does modern Chinese education need to form some

educational aims? If so, what should they be? What are the differences

between the existing and the ideal aims? Are the present educational

policies in tune with the ideal aims? What is the kind of society that

the Chinese people wish to promote through education? Are fixed edu-

cational aims, or more flexible aims suitable for a changing society

like Taiwan?

Educational content. What content should education have in order

to actualize the educational aims? What is the relation of intellectual

education to moral education; are they separate, or related, or unified?

What is the "knowledge" that the modern Chinese should possess? What

is the content of democratic education? What can the Chinese learn

about democracy and science from the West? What is science? What

should be taught in science education? Why are logical thinking,

creative thinking, and cooperative training important for the Chinese?

How can technology and humanism be balanced in curriculum design?

Educational methods. How should we teach modern Chinese children

so that they will become persons portrayed by the educational aims?

How should contradictions between discipline and freedom, interest and

effort, the authoritative and the democratic, the psychological and

the logical be resolved in the teaching process? What kinds of

teaching are desirable for fostering democracy and science?

Educational policy in Taiwan has been formulated under the supreme

direction of Sun Yat-senism (The Three Principles of the People), which

was created by Dr. Sun Yat-sen and elaborated by Chiang Kai-shek. The

educational ideas of Sun Yat-senism were expressed in the brief

statement of official educational aims which was promulgated in 1929 by

the nationalist government in Nanking. It has remained unrevised, and

has been followed by the government in Taiwan to the present. It reads:

The purpose of Chinese education, based on The Three Principles of
the People, is to enrich the individual's life, enhance social
coherence, improve the-people's livelihood, and continue national
life so as to attain the independence of the nation, the spread
of citizens' democratic rights, and the promotion of economic life
with a view to the realization of an ideal world where peace,
harmony, and equality prevail.24

Chiang Kai-shek has pointed out that there are three major focuses

in education for modern China: ethics, democracy, and science.25 These

are educational aims, but they also indicate the major content of

education. They were used by Chiang to interpret Sun Yat-sen's Three

Principles and their relations to education. The Three Principles are

The Principle of People's Livelihood, The Principle of People's Rights,

and The Principle of Nationalism. For Chiang Kai-shek, ethics is

related to The Principle of Nationalism, democracy is related to The

Principle of People's Rights, and science is related to The Principle of

People's Livelihood. If school education achieves these aims, it is

believed, the political ideals of Sun Yat-sen will be realized, and

China will remain a strong and independent country.

The concern with ethics means nothing more than the revival of

Chinese traditional morality in education, and the actualization of this

aim will lead to the independence of the nation accordingly.26 Although

Sun said that his philosophy is an integration of Chinese and Western

cultures, with some of his own creation, he did not intend to meld the

ethics of the West into his theory. What interested him in Western

culture are mainly democracy and science. Chiang Kai-shek also followed

this viewpoint. For both Sun and Chiang, science stands for the essence

of Western culture, ethics stands for the essence of Chinese culture,

and democracy stands for both--though a little more for Western culture.

As Sun Yat-sen and Chiang Kai-shek were statesmen and

revolutionaries, they did not spend much time developing a complete

philosophy of education. The ideas of ethics, democracy, and science

thus have not been elaborated well enough to give educators a complete

and clear picture of what education must do. Chiang Kai-shek wrote some

essays on education,27 which together with ideas implied in Sun Yat-sen's

works have been formed into the educational laws and regulations and

the curriculum standards that were promulgated by the National Ministry

of Education during the past three decades. Additionally, the laws and

regualtions about education, and the standards of curriculum design,

teaching materials, and teaching methods at all levels of schooling in

present-day Taiwan are set in accordance with the needs of economic

growth, cultural reconstruction, personality development, and social

progress. New ideas and skills in designing curricula and in dealing

with teaching materials and methods have been unceasingly introduced

from the United States. These standards are revised from time to

time to ensure a quality of education in a rapidly changing society.

These standards have thus become the guidelines and programs for

educational practice in Taiwan today. They are a sort of combination

of Sun Yat-senism and Western educational thought. In constructing

his political and cultural theories, Sun Yat-sen was inspired by ancient

Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism, especially the philosophy of Wang

Yang-ming, as well as Western political theories. It is proper to say

that these standards of curricula, teaching materials, and teaching

methods are based on some kind of general theory which is the

combination of Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, and Western educational


But it is easy to observe that the general theory underlying
educational program is not yet elaborated and systematized into a

complete philosophy of education. It has already had a rudimentary form

or structure of educational philosophy, but that is all; it must be

further enriched in content and methodology. One evidence of this is

that the combination of Neo-Confucianism and Western educational thought

is arbitrary and in some sense means no more than a summing-up of

educational ideas from both sources; they are not yet well integrated

into an organized system.

Because Chinese education is based on an immature, not fully

developed general educational theory, it cannot operate as a sound

philosophy of education does: for example, to clarify, evaluate, or

solve the educational problems mentioned above or to help formulate a

sound educational program and guidelines for action. This is exactly

the lurking crisis in education in Taiwan today.

This dangerous vacuum of educational thought--the lack of adequate

directive theory for educational practice--has led some to retreat and

hold fast to a conventional approach and system of education which no

more suits, or becomes a crippled solution to, the present educational

situation and problems. Again some persons have become conservative

and, for example, hold that Chinese traditional ethics are always superior

to that of the West, though they have neither really studied nor

understood the latter. Some others, however, borrowed some educational

techniques from the West, e.g., educational testing and quantitative

measurement, and view these important and useful techniques in some

sense as the whole picture of educational knowledge and skills of the

West, but disregard some other matters, e.g., the thoughtful courage to

experiment on new things in education and the effort to build a democratic

atmosphere in teaching and learning environments. The consequence is

that they have introduced only some isolated and fragmentary knowledge

and skills, but have left out essential educational theory and

experiences of the West.

Amid the vacuum in educational theory, many educators, including

teachers and educational administrators, do not belong to either of the

two groups mentioned. They neither believe in the conventional system,

nor rely on educational technology. They not only have lost their way,

but their head, in the vast confusion called education. They do their

jobs in education without rationale or reflection; they do not know

the significance of what they are doing and why they do it. Sometimes

they follow one position and then another, and before long they turn

away from both.

It is clear that the most fundamental problem Chinese educators

now encounter is that they lack an appropriate philosophy of education.

The result is that educational problems such as those mentioned above

cannot be well dealt with at a philosophical level; education does not

become a subject for thinking and inquiry, and teachers either copy

what others do, or use the methods that always have been used.28

Activities in education thus become, as John Dewey put it, "a recurring

process or a routine rather than a progressive process--a defect that

follows inevitably when active attention is not devoted to educational


As Dewey pointed out, a philosophy of education is of minor

importance in a conservative society. But a philosophy of education is

indispensable if one is to change a conservative educational system into

a progressive one. As change and progress in education are desirable in

a society, a sound and consistent philosophy of education is indis-

pensable when people must "distinguish between that which is primary

and that which is of secondary importance," choose "among the trends

which compete, conflict, and contradict each other," and select trends

they really want to foster, and discourage those which threaten


In other words, a sound philosophy of education will create an

awareness of the reasons why one mode of education is preferred over

another, will guard against the danger of blind subservience to custom

or of slavish imitation, will produce conscious criticism and evaluation

of educational endeavor, will create a desire for improvement, and will

afford criteria by which improvement may be assessed.31

What the Chinese need today is a sound philosophy of education.

This is a problem which can be solved only by building a new general

educational theory. As was said earlier, the new theory will integrate

merits of both Neo-Confucianism and Western educational thought and

will disregard neither. In the forthcoming chapters, the philosophies

and educational thought of Neo-Confucianism will be analyzed, described,

and made explicit. John Dewey's educational thought and the method of

analytic philosophy also will be so treated. Implications will be

derived from both and suggestions for building a new philosophy of

education for the progressive Chinese society will be given.


1 Consult John Meskill, "History of China," in John Meskill (ed.),
An Introduction to Chinese Civilization (New York: Columbia University
Press, 1973), pp. 194-240.

2 K'ang Yu-wei, "A Letter to Ch'ing Emperor" (May 2, 1895), in
The Reform and Reaction of the Ch'ing Dynasty (Taipei: The Edition
Committee of Republic of China Documents, 1965), p. 333. Written in

3 K'ang Yu-wei, "A Memorial Submitted to Entreat for the Formation
of Congress and Constitution," in Ibid., p. 348.

4 Liang Ch'i-ch'ao, "The Disadvantages of the Reform Which Did not
Touch the Basic Issues," in Ibid., p. 365.

5 Ibid., p. 367.

6 John Fairbank (ed.), The Cambridge History of China (Cambridge,
England: Cambridge University Press, 1983), Vol. 12, p. 322.

7 John Dewey, "Transforming the Mind of China," in Characters and
Events (New York: Octagon Books, 1970), Vol. I, p. 285. The essay was
originally published in Asia, November, 1919.

8 Chen Tu-hsiu, Essays of Tu-hsiu, 1920, quoted in 0. Briere, S. J.,
Fifty Years of Chinese Philosophy, 1898-1950, trans. from the French by
Laurence G. Thompson (London: George Allen & Unwin Ltd., 1956), p. 24.

9 Hu Shih, Autobiography at the Age of Forty (Taipei: Far East Book
Co., 1984), p. 56. Written in Chinese.

10 Bertrand Russell, The Problem of China (London: George Allen &
Unwin Ltd., 1966; first published in 1922), pp. 13-14.

11 John Dewey, "Transforming the Mind of China," in Characters and
Events, op. cit., p. 290.

12 These steps are borrowed from a statement by a committee of the
Philosophy of Education Society, "The Distinctive Nature of the
Philosophy of Education," published in 1953 and included in Christopher
J. Lucas (ed.), What Is Philosophy of Education? (New York: The
Macmillan Company, 1970), pp. 111-113.

13 Harry S. Broudy, "How Philosophical Can Philosophy of Education
Be?" in Lucas, What Is Philosophy of Education?, op. cit., pp. 114-122.
Strictly speaking, philosophy and theory are not synonymous. But in a
general or ordinary way, they are considered to be the same. John
Dewey, for example, says in Democracy and Education (New York:
Macmillan Company, 1958 [1916]) that "philosophy may be considered the
general theory of education" (p. 328). And Harry Broudy (supra)
believes that the two tasks of philosophy of education are theory
evaluation and theory building. For such purposes, there is much to
be gained and little to be lost in using the terms synonymously, though
for more technical purposes, a distinction between the terms could and
should be made. Thus, in the present study, the terms "philosophy" and
"theory" are used interchangeably.

14 Concerning this point, more discussion will be had in Chapter

15 R. Murray Thomas and Neville Postlethwaite (eds.), Schooling in
East Asia (Oxford: Pergamon Press, 1983), pp. 99-102.

16 Ibid., pp. 97-102.

17 Ibid., p. 132.

18 Ibid., p. 95.

19 See Educational Statistics of the Republic of China (Taipei:
Ministry of Education, R. 0. C., 1980), pp. 28-31.

20 See Thomas and Postlethwaite, Schooling in East Asia, op. cit.,
p. 134.

21 Ibid., pp. 311-312, 337-338.

22 John Dewey, Democracy and Education (New York: Macmillan Company,
1958 [1916]), pp. 378-387.

23 Harry S. Broudy, Building A Philosophy of Education (New York:
Prentice-Hall, Inc., 1954), pp. 21-25.

24 Ministry of Education, R. 0. C. (ed.), Laws and Regulations of
Education (Taipei: Cheng-chung Book Co., Ltd., 1967), pp. 1-2. The
English translation is quoted from Thomas and Postlethwaite, Schooling
in East Asia, op. cit., p. 111, and revised by Naichen Chen.

25 Chiang Kai-shek, The Collected Works of Chiang Kai-shek (Taipei:
The Chinese Culture University Press, 1974), Vol. II, p. 1842. Written
in Chinese.

26 Sun Yat-sen, Memoirs of A Chinese Revolutionary (Taipei: Sino-
American Publishing Co., Ltd., 1953; originally published in 1918 in
Great Britain), pp. 177-190.

27 See Chiang Kai-shek, Selected Essays on Education and Culture
(Taipei: Central Press, 1978).

28 John Dewey, "The Need for A Philosophy of Education," in
Robert W. Clopton and Tsuin-chen Ou (eds. and trans.), John Dewey:
Lectures in China, 1919-1920 (Honolulu: The University Press of Hawaii,
1973), p. 184.

29 Ibid.

30 Ibid., p. 185.

31 Ibid., p. 184.


The term "Neo-Confucianism" is used in this study to indicate

only the mainstream of philosophy in the Sung (960-1279 A.D.), Yuan

(1279-1368 A.D.), and Ming (1368-1644 A.D.) Dynasties. Although the

mainstream of philosophy in the Ch'ing Dynasty (1644-1911 A.D.) is also

a transformation of Confucianism, it is not called Neo-Confucianism,

since Ch'ing Confucianism is closer to the ancient Confucianism of the

Han Dynasty (206-219 A.D.), in spirit and method, and the later

development of it already had begun to receive influences from Western


The age of Spring and Autumn (722-481 B.C.), and the age of Warring

States (480-222 B.C.) are the time of the first radical change of phi-

losophy and educational thought in Chinese history, while the Sung

Dynasty saw the second radical change. It is in the Sung Dynasty that

Neo-Confucianism first appeared on the scene and attained its maturity.

In the following several hundred years, Chinese thought and the Chinese

way of life were greatly influenced by Neo-Confucianism. In order to

understand the Chinese mind and, further, to conceive a new mind for

modern China, it is absolutely necessary to understand Neo-Confucianism.

Three lines of thought can be traced as the main sources of Neo-

Confucianism. The first is, obviously, Confucianism, especially the

philosophies of Confucius (551-479 B.C.) and Mencius (372-289 B.C.).

The second is Buddhism, which was imported from India first in the

Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220 A.D.), grew in the Age of Three-Kingdom

(220-280 A.D.) and the Chin Dynasty (265-420 A.D.), and flowered in the

Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.) when it became less Indian and more Chinese.

The third source came from the Taoist philosophies of Lao Tzu (b. 570

B.C.?) and Chuang Tzu (fl. 399 and 295 B.C.) and the Taoist religion

which was formed in the Eastern Han Dynasty. Although Neo-Confucianism

absorbed nutrition from Taoism and Buddhism, it remained basically a

Confucian philosophy, though modified in its philosophical methods and

enriched in its philosophical structure and content.

In the following sections of the chapter, the origins of Neo-

Confucianism in Confucianism, particularly in Confucius and Mencius'

thought, will be first sketched. Then the general tendency of its

development will be briefly described. After that, the philosophies of

major Neo-Confucianists in the Sung and Ming Dynasties will be stated.

Finally there is a summary which explains the common ideas of Neo-

Confucianism in general.

The Origins of Neo-Confucianism
In Ancient Confucianism

The philosophy of Neo-Confucianism originated in ancient

Confucianism, especially in the Four Books: The Analects of Confucius,

The Great Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean, and The Mencius.

The first three books record Confucius' thought, while the fourth

one records Mencius' thought. These four books are the major classics

of Confucianism; they were also the basic textbooks for civil service

examination from 1313 until 1905. All of these books exerted tremendous

influence in China over the last eight hundred years, and their influence

on Neo-Confucianism was great as well. Many basic concepts which

attracted the Neo-Confucianists first appeared in these classics, though

these concepts were elaborated and modified by Neo-Confucianists either

through their creation or under the impact of Taoism and Buddhism.

The Analects of Confucius

Confucius is undoubtedly the most influential philosopher and

educator in Chinese history. His thought has dominated Chinese thinking

and their way of life since the Han Dynasty, for more than two thousand

years. Although Confucius said, "I transmit but do not create [;] I

believe in and love the ancients. ."1, the fact is that Confucius

was a creator as well as a transmitter of Chinese philosophy. He

compiled and edited some writings by authors before him--some of them

were unknown--and elaborated them as the classics of Confucianism.2

On the other hand, he created his own system of philosophy which was

best represented by The Analects, a collection of notes of his discourses,

conversations, and travels, recorded by his disciples. It is the most

reliable source about the life and teachings of Confucius.

The basic concepts in The Analects which most influenced Neo-

Confucianism are "humanity" and "sagehood." The word "humanity" appeared

in The Analects 105 times, and 58 of 499 chapters are devoted to a

discussion of this virtue. It is obviously the most important idea in

Confucius' philosophy. For Confucius, humanity is the concrete

manifestation of a perfect personality. The person who possesses

humanity is a sage. To be a sage is the ideal of being human, and

humanity is the highest state a learner can achieve. The person who has

not yet become a sage but keeps in pursuit of this goal is a superior

person, according to Confucius. Sagehood is not easy to achieve, but

everyone can become a superior person if he keeps the idea in mind.

In responding to students' questions, Confucius defined the term

"humanity" in different ways. It is not easy to synthesize them all.

But generally speaking, humanity means to love people,3 to be respectful

in private life, serious in handling affairs, and loyal in dealing with

others.4 A person of humanity, according to Confucius, is one who is

free from evil;5 who wishes to establish his own character as well as

the character of others; who wishes to be prominent himself and also

helps others to be prominent.6 Furthermore, the person of humanity will

practice earnestness, liberality, truthfulness, diligence, and

generosity.7 He is one who has no worry.8

Confucius' educational thought, which was built on the basic

concepts mentioned above, also influenced Neo-Confucian philosophy of

education. Confucius argued that learning through an adequate

educational process is necessary and important in order to turn an

ordinary person into a superior one and, finally,into a sage. As a

matter of fact, education is the only way of achieving the ideal of

humanity.9 Further, according to Confucius, learning is a joyful thing,

or at least it should be done in a way which brings students joy instead

of pain, for he said, "Is it not a pleasure to learn and repeat or

practice from time to time what has learned."'0

When properly pursued, learning goes hand in hand with thinking.

"He who learns but does not think is lost; he who thinks but does not

learn is in danger."'1 On the other hand, learning must go hand in hand

with practice.12 The practice of humanity was especially emphasized by

Confucius. The most important thing to practice is the golden rule.

The following quotes will demonstrate this:

Confucius said, "Shen [one of Confucius' students], there is one
thread that runs through my doctrine." Tseng Tzu [Shen] said,
"Yes." After Confucius had left, the disciples asked him [Shen],
"What did he mean?" Tseng Tzu replied, "The Way of our Master is
none other than conscientiousness (chung) and altruism (shu)."13

Tzu-kung [Another student of Confucius] asked, "Is there one word
which can serve as the guiding principle for conduct throughout
life?" Confucius said, "It is the word altruism (shu). Do not do
to others what you do not want them to do to you."14

Confucius was not merely a philosopher, but an educator who

practiced what he believed. Both his philosophy and educational

practice influenced his disciples and Neo-Confucianists. One important

principle he applied is to pay attention to individual differences among

students and take that into account in teaching. When the same question

was asked by different students, Confucius always gave different yet

appropriate replies after carefully considering each student's talent,

disposition, and needs. This attitude can be seen throughout the

dialogues collected in The Analects. Additionally, Confucius knew how

to induce and lead young people to learning. Yen Hui, one of Confucius'

favorite students, described his Master as "very good at gently leading

a man along and teaching him. I just could not stop myself."15

Confucius would not teach any one who was not ready to learn or

explain anything to someone who was not trying to make things clear to

himself.16 Confucius knew how to ask questions from both sides (the

positive and the negative) of a problem so that the learner could

clarify what he had in mind and know what he did not know.17

Besides, Confucius was an optimistic and broad-minded person. His

personality affected his disciples and they were infected with it.

According to his students, in The Analects, Confucius was easy in his

manner and cheerful in his expression.18 He was gentle yet firm,

dignified but not harsh, respectful yet at ease.19 When he was pleased

with someone's singing, he would ask to have the song repeated and

would join in himself.20 Confucius stated that he was a person "who

forgets to eat when he is enthusiastic about something, forgets all his

worries in his joyment of it, and is not aware that old age is coming

on."21 For Confucius, riches and honor acquired by unrighteous means

are as ephemeral as drifting clouds. One can still have happiness when

there is only coarse food to eat, plain water to drink, and a bent arm

for pillow.22 All of these beliefs form the influential tradition which

has shaped the Chinese way of life as well as the idea of "good teacher"

in Neo-Confucianism.

The Great Learning

According to Chu Hsi, The Great Learning is the words of Confucius

but handed down by his disciple Tseng Tzu.23 Ch'eng I said that The

Great Learning is a surviving work of the Confucian school and the gate

through which the beginning student enters into virtue.24 The present

edition was rearranged by Ch'eng Hao, Ch'eng I, and Chu Hsi, but the

original text first appeared as one chapter in The Book of Rites, one of

the six Confucian classics. The present edition includes one short

chapter of text and ten chapters of commentary. The short text contains

ideas which became in later days important concepts of Neo-Confucianism.

These are "The Investigation of Things," "The Extension of Knowledge,"

and "The Sincerity of Will." They were borrowed by Neo-Confucian

philosophers of education and became the foundation of moral education.

The meaning of these concepts and the explanation of them by Neo-

Confucianists will be discussed in Chapter Three rather than in this


The Doctrine of the Mean

According to Chu Hsi's remark, The Doctrine of the Mean represented

the doctrine of the Confucian school which had been transmitted from

mind to mind without the use of words. Fearing that in time errors

should arise, Tzu Ssu (Confucius' grandson) wrote down the doctrine of

the mean and transmitted it to Mencius.25

In thirty-three chapters of the text, two major concepts were

particularly important to Neo-Confucian philosophers. They are the

Golden Mean and the concept of sincerity. Confucius' words are quoted

again and again in the text. On the other hand, the psychology of human

nature, which much attracted Neo-Confucian philosophers, was presented

in the text as an introduction. It reads:

Before the feelings of pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy are aroused
it is called equilibrium. When these feelings are aroused and each
and all attain due measure and degree, it is called harmony.
Equilibrium is the great foundation of the world, and harmony its
universal path. When equilibrium and harmony are realized to the
highest degree, heaven and earth will attain their proper order
and all things will flourish.26

Confucius showed his disciples what the Mean is. He also told them

the importance of following the Mean. He pointed out that the superior

person is the one who acts according to the Mean and maintains the Mean

always.27 The way to act according to the Mean depends upon the

cultivation of one's will to be sincere. Therefore Confucius argued

that sincerity is the Way of Heaven, and to think how to be sincere is

the Way of man. The one who tries to be sincere is one who chooses the

good and holds fast to it.28


Mencius received his education from the disciples of Tzu Ssu, the

grandson of Confucius. When Mencius' learning had become comprehensive,

he travelled about and tried to persuade kings of the states in old

China to put his political ideal in practice. After his failure,

Mencius retired and transmitted the doctrines of Confucius to some of

his disciples. He composed The Mencius in seven books. Like Confucius,

Mencius was a highly successful educator. He devoted most of his later

life to the instruction of youth and was loved by them. Early in his

life, he came to regard Confucius as his greatest inspiration. However,

the two sages were guite different in temperament. Confucius was an

introvert and refined gentleman, cautious and deliberate in speech,

while Mencius was an extrovert and a great oracle of his age, widely

noted for his wit.29

Mencius considered himself to be the only person, in a time of

disorder and intellectual confusion, able to perpetuate Confucius'

teachings. Mencius had tried hard to preach Confucius' philosophy, but

he actually built his own system of thinking. Although he respected

the merits of tradition, he was not a traditionalist in its literal

sense. He was, rather, one who maintained only the "essentials" of


Mencius had a deep and lasting influence on the later development

of Confucianism. The rise of Neo-Confucianism in the tenth century,

especially that of Idealistic Neo-Confucianism, had its rationale in

Mencius' writing. Neo-Confucian philosophers particularly inherited

much from Mencius' theories of human nature and moral cultivation.

For Mencius, the original nature of human beings is always good.

The feeling of commiseration is related to the principle of humanity,

the feeling of shame and dislike is related to the principle of

righteousness, the feeling of modesty and compliance is related to the

principle of propriety, and the feeling of approval and disapproval is

related to the principle of wisdom, according to Mencius.30 The human

being is born with these four feelings or principles. But at birth, the

feelings are weak and feeble and are very easily hindered from develop-

ment. If children are put in harmful environments and given no adequate

education, these good feelings will wither and evil arises. Therefore

education is indispensable for one's growth and development. For Mencius,

whether these principles are fully developed or not signifies the

borderline between being a "human being" and being just a "creature."

At least two important items are included in moral education. First,

one must understand what is good; then the person must attain sincerity

toward the good. Thus the prerequisite for moral behavior is the

understanding of the good, and the prerequisite to this is a constant

self-examination, which will lead to a self-awareness and wide-awakeness.

This is the basic method for the development of the four feelings or

principles (virtues).31

The Development of Neo-Confucianism

The influence of Taoism and Buddhism on Neo-Confucianism is not

as obvious as that of ancient Confucianism. The influence did exist,

but no Neo-Confucian philosophers confessed to that fact.

First, no complete system of cosmology can be found in ancient

Confucian philosophy. That is because Confucianism is primarily a moral

philosophy. It is Chou Tun-i's Neo-Confucian philosophy that a system

of cosmology was first formulated. The interesting thing is that some

ideas in that system were borrowed from Taoism, e.g., the concept of

non-being and the idea of tranquility. This will be discussed in detail

in the next section of this chapter.

Secondly, many Neo-Confucian philosophers, particularly the so-

called Idealistic Neo-Confucianists, stressed the importance of medi-

tation and applied the method to self-cultivation. It is obvious that

the method originated in Buddhism, and also in Taoist religion, and was

a very popular method of self-training in both religions. The method

cannot be found in ancient Confucian classics and was not invented by

Neo-Confucianists either.

Thirdly, Neo-Confucianists generally were extremely interested in

"the Principle," Human Nature, the Mind, and the elimination of selfish

desires all of which lead to regaining one's original nature. These

concepts are not alien to ancient Confucianists, but the early Confucian

philosophers, including Confucius and Mencius, did not pay as much

attention to these issues as Neo-Confucianists did. The concept of

regaining one's original nature is obviously one of the basic concepts

of Buddhism. It is also evident that the Taoist philosophers,


especially those in the period between the third and sixth centuries A.D.,

and the Buddhist philosophers, always devoted themselves to discussion

of these concepts. It is reasonable to assume that the impact on this

point from Taoism and Buddhism on Neo-Confucianism was great.

The rise of Neo-Confucianism is a reaction to Confucianism in the

Han Dynasty (206-220 A.D.), which had its emphasis on scholium--a study

of the explanatory notes in Confucian classics. On the other hand, it

is also a reaction to Confucianism in Tang Dynasty (618-907 A.D.),

which stressed the study of literary writings, e.g., rhetorical study.

Paying too much attention to the study of scholium means that scholars

were in bondage to the thought of those who went before them and did not

allow free thinking in interpreting the classics. On the other hand,

since literary writing was the major subject that was tested in official

governmental examinations in the Tang Dynasty, young students were so

captured by it that they almost studied nothing else. The reaction of

Neo-Confucianism intended to improve a situation which was regarded as

harmful to cultural and educational progress.

More important than this, a major difference between Confucianism

and Neo-Confucianism rests in the fact that the latter built its ethics

and theory of moral education on a broader base of cosmology, and thus

extended the concern for morality and its relation to education to a

wider sphere where such things as the relation of the human being to his

environment, and to the universe and other existent beings was

included. Because of the concern with cosmology in Neo-Confucian

philosophy, the problems about reason, natural law, universal love,

becoming one body with the universe, the unification of knowledge and

action, and the inductive and deductive approaches applied in moral

study thus can be adequately and carefully discussed and answered. It is

clear that because of this foundation and rationale in cosmology, Neo-

Confucianism was more able to focus the problem of ethics and moral

education in almost all aspects, metaphysically, epistemologically, and


As early as in the second half of the Tang Dynasty, some two

hundred years before the opening of Sung Neo-Confucianism in the tenth

century, that Han Yu (768-824 A.D.) and Li Ao (died ca. 844 A.D.) had

already developed a philosophy very similar to Neo-Confucianism. Han Yu

was the one who tried to revive Confucianism in an age dominated by

Taoism and Buddhism.32 Han Yu paid tribute to Mencius, placing him in

the orthodox line of succession from Confucius.33 Though this became

a generally accepted point of view from the Sung Dynasty onward, it had

not been the case in earlier times. It is out of Han Yu's writings that

the supremacy of Mencius came to be generally accepted, and the book

Mencius became a basic text for the Sung and Ming Dynasties. Besides,

Han Yu quoted from The Great Learning. Nobody since the Han Dynasty

seemed to have paid this little treatise any particular attention. It

is due to Han Yu that some basic concepts in the treatise were used by

Neo-Confucianists as some of the main themes in philosophical discussion.

Li Ao was an important contemporary and disciple of Han Yu. In his

Essay on Reverting to the Nature, a general discussion of nature, the

feelings, and the sage, and an examination of the process of self-

cultivation whereby one may become a sage are included. In this

treatise, Li Ao talked about the concepts of sincerity, human mind,

passions, the extension of knowledge, the investigation of things,

enlightenment, and so on. These concepts were conceived under the

strong influence of Buddhism and activated a discussion and interpre-

tation of them among later Neo-Confucianists.

Generally speaking, the development of Neo-Confucianism in the

Sung and Ming Dynasties34 can be classified into two major schools or

directions. One is the Rationalist school, or the school of Principle,

represented by Ch'eng I and Chu Hsi; the other is the Idealistic school,

or the school of Mind, represented by Ch'eng Hao, Lu Hsiang-shan, and

Wang Yang-ming. Chou Tun-i is considered the first Neo-Confucianist in

this great age. He and four other masters--Shao Yung, Chang Tsai,

Ch'eng Hao, and Ch'eng I--laid the foundation of the philosophy.

In the following sections of this chapter, the philosophies of

those most important Neo-Confucianists will be sketched. They are

important because they have provided most, if not all, of the guiding

principles in the thinking, life, and education of the Chinese people

during the period of its formulation until the first decade of this

century. In other words, if ancient Confucianism formed the first

Chinese mind, Neo-Confucianism, represented by the philosophers mentioned

above, formed the second, which is a transformation from the classical

Confucianism. The third phase of the Chinese mind is still in the

process of transformation and will bring together the merits of Neo-

Confucianism and Western culture. The analysis of Neo-Confucian

philosophy and its educational thought (Chapter Three) should make its

merits clear, and thus the implications of their philosophy for building

a modern Chinese philosophy of education will be able to be drawn in

the last chapter of the study.

The Philosophies of Sung
and Ming Neo-Confucianists

Chou Tun-i (1017-1073 A.D.)

It is not until Chou Tun-i that Neo-Confucianism became clear and

complete. Although he was anticipated by some early philosophers of the

Sung Dynasty, Chou is generally considered the progenitor of Neo-

Confucianism,35 the one who really sketched the vista and determined the

direction of Neo-Confucianism. In The History of Sung Dynasty, we read,

After the death of Confucius, Tseng Tzu alone received his learning
and transmitted it to Tzu Ssu and Mencius. Mencius' death then
signifies the interruption of Confucius' learning. Since the Han
Dynasty downward, the discussion of the Great Way or Truth by
Confucian scholars was considered not sufficiently accurate,
refined, detailed, and complete; heresy and perverted views took
advantage of this situation and grew stronger and thus resulted in
a cultural crisis. It is not until the middle period of the
Northern Sung, more one thousand years after Mencius' age, that
some one named Chou Tun-i appeared in Chung Ling, and continued the
interrupted learning of the sage by writing An Explanation of the
Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate and Penetrating the Book of Changes,
explicating the principle of five virtues of Yin and Yang and
applying that to the study of human nature, making that study clear
and understandable.36

Chou Tun-i's two treatises, An Explanation of the Diagram of the

Supreme Ultimate (The T'ai-chi-t'u Shuo) and Penetrating the Book of

Changes (The T'ung-shu) gave a new look to Confucianism. In these

treatises, Chou laid the pattern of cosmology, ontology, and ethics for

later Neo-Confucian philosophers. Before Chou there was no Confucianist

who presented any systematic and comprehensive interpretation of being

and change in the universe. Chou's diagram (Figure II) of the Supreme

Ultimate indicates the evolutionary course of the universal creation

from the Supreme Ultimate through the passive cosmic force, Yin, and

The Ultimate of Nonbeing


The Ch'ien
becomes the
male element
[Principle of Heaven]

The K'un
becomes the
female element
[Principle of Earth]

Production and Evolution of
All things

Figure: Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate
From: Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy,
Vol. II, trans. by Derk Bodde (Princeton:
Princeton University Press, 1953), p. 436.


the active cosmic force, Yang, to the myriad existences. This has

assimilated the Taoist concept of the Ultimate of Non-being (wu-chi),37

on the one hand, and follows the concept of the creation process in the

Confucian Book of Changes, on the other hand. Chou's interest in

building cosmology and ontology into his philosophy was, generally

speaking, inspired by the idea of Buddhism from India. He also developed

some crucial concepts inherited from classical Confucianism, e.g.,

sincerity, destiny, the nature, and sagehood.

According to Chou, sincerity means not only sincerity in the narrow

sense, but also honesty, absence of fault, seriousness, being true to

one's true self, being true to the nature of being, actuality, and

realness. Chou said that sincerity is pure and perfectly good, is the

foundation of Constant Virtues--humanity, righteousness, propriety,

wisdom, and faithfulness--and the source of all activities.38 Chou

further pointed out that "sagehood is nothing but sincerity"39 and "the

sage is the one who is in the state of sincerity, spirit, and subtle

incipient activation."40 It is evident that sagehood is the aim of

education, and sincerity the nature of goodness--the ideal to be

encouraged and developed in moral education. The concepts of sagehood

and sincerity are not new in Confucian philosophy, but it is Chou Tun-i

who gave them metaphysical rationale.

Shao Yung (1011-1077 A.D.) and Chang Tsai (1020-1077 A.D.)

Shao Yung is the first Chinese philosopher who based his whole

philosophy on the concept of number and built a system of numerical

progression. He spent the last thirty years of his life in Lo-yang, a

big city in Honan Province of old China, where his residence was very

near to those of Chang Tsai, Ch'eng Hao, and Ch'eng I. They became

good friends, often met and talked together about philosophical issues,

and influenced each other. Shao Yung's Supreme Principles Governing the

World (Huang-chi Ching-shih) is an outstanding philosophical writing

which melded concepts from Taoism with the Confucian Book of Changes.

Since Shao Yung wrote little on education, his influence on Chinese

education is indirect.

Chang Tsai developed a cosmological theory based on The Book of

Changes. In his well known essay, Correcting Youthful Ignorance (Cheng

Meng), he emphasized especially the concept of material force, which

became more important in Chu Hsi's philosophy. Concerning material

force, he first suggested the concept of "The Great Harmony" to be the

motive of change. According to Chang, the Great Harmony is called "the

Way," which is the origin of the process of fusion and intermingling,

of overcoming and being overcome, and of expansion and contraction of

everything in the universe. That which is dispersed, differentiated,

and capable of assuming form becomes material force (ch'i), and that

which is pure, penetrating, and not capable of assuming form becomes

spirit. The Great Vacuity is the original substance of material force.

Although material force in the universe integrates and disintegrates,

and attracts and repulses in a hundred ways, nevertheless the Principle

of Nature (Li) according to which it operates has an order and is

unerring. From what Chang said, it is clear that the Principle of

Nature is one of harmony: an atmosphere pure and good in essence which

could be considered as either the universal soul or human nature. As an

entity, material force simply reverts to its original substance when it

disintegrates and becomes formless. When it integrates and assumes form,

it does not lose the eternal Principle of Nature.41

Material force is extensive and vague. Yet it ascends and descends

and moves in all ways without ever ceasing. Material force moves and

flows in all directions and in all manners. Its two elements, Yin and

Yang, unite and give rise to the concrete. Thus, the multiplicity of

things and human beings is produced. In their ceaseless successions,

Yin and Yang constitute the fundamental principles of things and human

beings. It is because of these two forces that transformation and

changes occur in the universe.42

Chang Tsai distinguished heavenly nature from physical nature in

the human being. He pointed out that man's strength, weakness, slowness,

quickness, and talent or lack of talent are due to the one-sidedness of

material force. The manifestation of this one-sidedness in man is his

physical nature. On the other hand, heaven is originally harmonious and

not one-sided. Heavenly nature in man, then, is always good, while

physical nature is not always so. If one skillfully cultivates the

material force and returns to the original nature endowed by Heaven and

Earth, he can fully develop his nature and be in harmony with Heaven.

This harmony is one manifestation of the Great Harmony. The way of

cultivation is to investigate things to the utmost and keep one free

from insincerity and disrespect. A person with perfect sincerity,

according to Chang, will obey the Principle of Nature and find


In "Western Inscription" ("Hsi Ming"), the particularly famous

passage of Chang's most important writing Correcting Youthful Ignorance,

Chang Tsai pictured the ideal a Confucian learner must seek and laid the

basis of Neo-Confucian ethics. Since all things in the universe are

constituted of the same material force, men and all other things are but

part of one great body. Thus, one should love other men and everything

else in the universe; "all people are my brothers and sisters, and all

things in the world are my companions."44 The sage is the one who un-

derstands and practices this principle. In order to become a sage, the

learner must first learn to change and improve the evil parts of his

character, or in Chang's words, to "transform his physical nature

himself"45 so that he will attain the enlightenment and return to the

Heavenly nature, or develop and actualize the goodness inborn in man.

Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085 A.D.) and Ch'eng I (1033-1107 A.D.)

It is interesting that Neo-Confucianism began to develop into two

different directions in the philosophies of two brothers, Ch'eng Hao

and Ch'eng I. The rationalistic school of Principle was initiated by

Ch'eng I and completed by Chu Hsi. The former formulated the major

concepts and provided the basic arguments, while the latter

supplemented and refined them and brought Neo-Confucianism into a

systematic and rationalistic whole. The idealistic school of Mind was

started with Ch'eng Hao's philosophy of humanity, mind, nature, and

Principle, elaborated by Lu Hsiang-shan, and was developed and completed

by Wang Yang-ming. Although the school of Principle dominated Chinese

thought from the twelfth century to the nineteenth century, A.D., the

school of Mind always posed a strong challenge and almost replaced it

from the fifteenth to the seventeenth centuries.

Both Ch'eng brothers were students of Chou Tun-i, friends of

Shao Yung, and nephews of Chang Tsai. Chu Hsi has said, "After Mencius'

death, nobody inherited his learning. Although his books remained, very

few read them. Then two masters of Honan Province, the Ch'eng

brothers appeared, and Mencius' philosophy continued."46 Chu's comment

is correct in describing the Ch'eng brothers' influence in the process

of transforming Confucianism. Mencius' death really signifies the end

of mainstream Confucian philosophy, while the rise of Neo-Confucianism

signifies the revival of Confucian philosophy; and it is in the Ch'engs'

philosophies that Neo-Confucianism began to flower. Like some other

Neo-Confucian philosophers, the Ch'eng brothers once indulged in the

study of Buddhism and Taoism, and again like some others, they finally

became critics of Buddhism and Taoism, rejected them, and returned to


The Ch'eng brothers were born with different temperaments. Ch'eng

Hao, the elder brother, was gentle and kindly. Students in his class

always felt as if "bathed in the peaceful and warm Spring wind."47

Ch'eng I, on the other hand, was serious in his appearance and severe

in his manner of instruction.48 But both were great teachers. Although

they shared many philosophical ideas, they did not agree totally in

their philosophies. Actually, they held different opinions concerning

some fundamental philosophical issues.

Ch'eng Hao elaborated Confucius' idea of humanity (Jen), founded

his theory on the concept of humanity and the function of mind, and gave

them a cosmological basis. He argued that students must first of all

understand the nature of humanity. The person with humanity forms one

body with all things without any differentiation. Righteousness,

propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness are all expressions of humanity,

according to Ch'eng Hao. One's duty, then, is to understand this

principle and preserve humanity with sincerity and seriousness. There

is no need for caution and control.49

Ch'eng Hao was influenced by Lao Tzu and insisted that the error

of students was selfishness and in knowing nothing about following the

natural way of wisdom. People do not realize their ignorance, and they

feel satisfied with their wrong doing. Ch'eng Hao also was influenced

by another ancient Taoist philosopher, Chuang Tzu, when he said that

inner peace and tranquility could be obtained only by forgetting the

differences between those thing within and without one's body. This

results in one's becoming united with the Heaven, the Earth, and every

person and every thing in the world. The love for all existence in the

world, and the spontaneous expression of one's peaceful and easy

personality in his joyous talking and tranquil gesture, are all

manifestations of the Principle of Nature.50 Ch'eng Hao's character is

the embodiment of his philosophy. He practiced in actual life what he


While Ch'eng Hao said that "Nature is the same as material force

and material force is the same as nature,"51 and thus eliminated the

opposition between Heavenly nature and physical nature, his brother

Ch'eng I asserted that the Heavenly nature in man always directs him

to do the good, but the material force of man can commit an error.52

In other words, the human mind is originally good, but as it is aroused

and expresses itself in thoughts and ideas, there is good and evil.53

He further pointed out that joy and anger arise from within and under

external influence; they are to human nature what waves are to water.

It is the nature of water to be clear, level, and tranquil like a

mirror, but when the wind moves over it, it begins to move violently

and gives rise to waves and currents. But these are not the nature of

water.54 Ch'eng I's position was later followed closely by Chu Hsi

and marked an important characteristic of Ch'eng-Chu school of Neo-

Confucianism in the establishment of metaphysics.

How does one preserve the original good without committing error?

Ch'eng I taught his students that if one can diminish his selfish

desires, he will progress in achieving this end. This is the major

interest that young people should be devoted to in the process of

learning.55 But how can one conquer or master his desires? Ch'eng I's

answer is that one should study, investigate, and examine the matters

and events around him, try to the utmost to understand their "principles,"

and he will be able by reasoning to control desires.56 But this is only

a cognitive step to that purpose. One must also practice what he knows

in daily life, e.g., work at solving problems and keeping the mind in

peace and tranquility.57 The practice will make one's behavior perfect,

always in accordance with the Heavenly nature instead of selfish desires.

Such a practice is called "staying in sincerity" or "keeping the heart

in sincerity and seriousness" by Ch'eng I. One of the effective methods

of practice is to be attentive to one thing, one thought, or one problem

at a time.58 Such a practice was evidently influenced by Taoist and

Buddhist methods of meditation. Although mentioned by Ch'eng I and

Chu Hsi, the method of meditation was not as much emphasized or

encouraged by them as by the idealist Neo-Confucian philosophers.

Chu Hsi (1130-1200 A.D.)

Chu Hsi may be the most influential philosopher in the past eight

centuries of Chinese history. His philosophy, like that of Lao Tzu

and Confucius, has been absorbed and has become part of Korean and

Japanese cultures, although he is not as well known as Confucius and

Lao Tzu in the rest of the world. Generally speaking, he is the person

who synthesized the thought of the Neo-Confucianists preceding him--

Chou Tun-i, Chang Tsai, Shao Yung, Ch'eng Hao, and particularly Ch'eng I.

According to The History of Sung Dynasty59 and Anthology and

Critical Accounts of the Neo-Confucianists of Sung and Yuan Dynasties,60

Chu Hsi was born in central Fukien, a southeastern province on the

Chinese mainland. From 1158 he studied under Li Tung, who continued

the tradition of Confucianism from Ch'eng Hao and Ch'eng I. At the age

of eighteen, he passed the government examination and started a

succession of official posts. Because his political statements and

ideas, which were derived from Confucian philosophy, were not

appreciated by the emperor, in fact, sometimes were hated by the ruler

and others powerful in the court, Chu Hsi was not happy in public

service and time and again he declined official positions. But he

contributed much to the cultivation of culture and education wherever

he was appointed. He revived the Academy at the White Deer Grotto in

the present Chiangsi Province, and his lectures there attracted prominent

scholars. He died of dysentry in 1200 and was placed, worshipped, and

honored in the Confucian Temple. Fung Yu-lan commented that Chu Hsi was

a philosopher of subtle argument, clear thinking, wide knowledge, and

voluminous literary out-put. Fung said that, with Chu Hsi, the

philosophic system of the Ch'eng-Chu (Ch'eng I-Chu Hsi) school remained

the most influential single system of philosophy until the introduction

of Western philosophy in China in recent decades.61

Chu Hsi said that everything has an ultimate, and that which unites

and embraces the Principle of Heaven, Earth, and all things is the

Supreme Ultimate (T'ai-chi). The Supreme Ultimate is the highest of all,

beyond which nothing can be.62 Chu Hsi's concept of Supreme Ultimate

was considered to have come from Chou Tun-i's An Explanation of the

Diagram of the Supreme Ultimate, but his further argument concerning the

Supreme Ultimate and material force were intended to interpret and clarify

the ideas presented by the Ch'eng brothers on the same topic.

According to Chu, there is but one Supreme Ultimate, which is received

by each individual in its entirety and undivided. It is like the moon

shining in the heavens; though it is reflected in rivers and lakes and

thus is everywhere visible, we would not say that it is divided.63

There are two elements which are indispensable ingredients in making

this world: the Principle of Nature and material force. The Principle

of Nature is the source from which all things are produced. At the

moment of production, they must receive the material force in order to

have bodily form, while the Principle of Nature constitutes only a pure,

empty, and vast world, and is similar to Aristotle's concept of "form,"

the material force has the capacity to condense and thus to form things,

and is similar to Aristotle's concept of "matter."

The Supreme Ultimate embraces the multitude of the Principle of

Nature for all things and is the highest summation of all of them.

Since the Principle of Nature also signifies the perfect and ideal

form of everything in the world, the highest stage that the individual

person and the particular thing can achieve, it is also called "ultimate"

by Chu Hsi. Chu says that every person has a small Supreme Ultimate,

which is the sum of the ultimate in him; and everything else has it too.

In the whole universe there is a large Supreme Ultimate, which is

nothing but an extremely good and an absolutely perfect Tao (the Way).64

In this sense, the concept of the Principle of Nature is also similar to

Plato's concept of Idea--an independent reality prior to the existence

of the physical world and prior to our being born. In Plato's Symposium,

Socrates explains how one can pass on to the apprehension of the nature

of Beauty from a love of the beauty of physical objects. Beauty itself

means here an Idea of Beauty, or put it in Chu Hsi's words, the

Principle of Beauty. The difference is that Socrates asserted in

Parmenides that there are absolute Ideas of the just, the beautiful, the

good, and such matters, but he was not certain that there are Ideas of

man, fire, and water, and he was certain that there are no absolute

Ideas of such vile things as hair, mud, and dirt; while Chu Hsi insisted

that nothing can really exist without the Principle. Nevertheless,

Socrates did admit that he sometimes thought that there is an Idea of

everything--that even the most vile things partake of absolute Ideas--

but that he was afraid that this extreme view would turn out to be non-


"Nature," so called by Chu Hsi, is the Principle of Nature when the

latter is shared, distributed, and reflected within the individual

person, matter, and thing. Human nature is no more than the Principle

of Nature which is within human beings, and this is called the principle

of human being. The principle of a person is his original nature, and

unmoved and perfectly good nature, and this is also called the Heavenly

nature or innate nature. For Chu Hsi, it is opposite to physical

nature. Physical nature is the mixture of original nature and material

force, involving both good and evil. The differences among human beings

rest not in original natures, but in physical natures, for original

natures are always perfect and good, while the physical natures are

variable from person to person. The person endowed with a clear and

bright physical nature is the sage and the virtuous, while the person

endowed with a dark and turbid physical nature is the stupid one. No

matter how clear and bright, or dark and turbid, the principle is always

within. The difference is that in the former case, the principle can

be seen clearly while in the latter case it cannot be seen--it is like

looking into turbid water. One of the major purposes of education is to

purify the turbid, to restore its freshness and function, so that the

principle can operate clearly again. That is so that man can think

reasonably and behave morally again.

According to Chu Hsi, the mind unites nature and emotion. When the

mind does not move, it is called nature; when it moves, it is called

emotion. The mind is like water: nature is the water at rest, emotion

is the water flowing, and desire is the waves of water.65 For Chu Hsi,

the fundamental task of a learner consists in preserving his mind,

nourishing his nature, and cultivating and mastering both.

Lu Hsiang-shan (1139-1193 A.D.)

Lu Hsiang-shan, the founder of the idealistic school of Neo-

Confucianism, was the contemporary of Chu Hsi. When commenting on his

own theory, Lu once said that the ideas of the school were the result

of his own meditation and life experiences. But what Lu said does not

imply that he owed nothing to others or that he was not inspired by

others in the development of his philosophy. On the contrary, he

admired and learned much from Mencius. Besides, Lu's philosophy was

influenced by Neo-Confucian philosophers of the earlier Sung Dynasty,

especially by Ch'eng Hao. Lu Hsiang-shan and Chu Hsi were friends, but

their philosophic views were widely divergent. The verbal and written

debates between them on major philosophical issues have evoked great

interest for further study among philosophers since their time.

Lu Hsiang-shan often quoted Mencius' sayings in his writings,

tried to explain them, and used them in expressing his own thought.

He elaborated Mencius' thought in some respects, and, on the other hand,

he initiated ideas of his own and opened a new direction for the develop-

ment of Neo-Confucianism. The great philosopher and educator in the

Ming Dynasty, Wang Yang-ming, followed Lu's way of thinking and

elaborated it to its ultimate, although Wang himself did not admit the

fact in his writings. Their philosophy is called the Lu-Wang school of

Neo-Confucianism. Some psychologists in present-day Taiwan are

interested in the Lu-Wang method of dealing with the mind. They think

that the method could be useful for educational guidance and counseling.

This method will be discussed later in this chapter and in the third


In "A Letter to Tsung Tsai-tzu,"66 Lu Hsiang-shan briefly and

clearly stated his philosophy. He argued that the Principle of Nature

is not remote or hard to find, for it resides in our mind. Therefore,

he said, the mind is the Principle, and the Principle is the mind. They

are actually one, instead of two different things. That is why our mind

can tell right from wrong, good from evil. Any person, if he makes up

his mind, is able to have the Principle of Nature work well in himself.

The aim of the student is to have that Principle work well, so that he

will be able to know the right way to go and what to do. The learner

must first of all build up the nobler part of his nature, and then the

inferior part cannot overcome it. The person who fails to build up the

nobler part of his nature will be overcome by the inferior part. As a

result, the Principle within him will be violated, and he becomes

different from Nature. Ordinary people reject the Principle, while the

superior person preserves it. Lu commented that this is why Mencius

said that the great person is the one who does not lose his child's

heart, for the child's heart is filled with the Principle.67

In comparing Lu Hsiang-shan with Chu Hsi, Huang Tsung-hsi has said

that the difference between them lies in the emphasis on learning and

the procedure taken by the learner. For Chu Hsi, the initial and most

important step the learner should take is to investigate the facts or

the particulars of the material world. But for Lu Hsiang-shan, a

learner should first of all deal with the mind, preserving the Principle,

otherwise he will lose it, and this is the most dangerous and worst thing

a student might encounter.68 In that case, selfish desires and evil

thoughts will dominate his action. A closer investigation will show that

Chu preferred the inductive method of learning while Lu liked to teach

students to do logical thinking in a deductive way. In this sense, Lu

is similar to Descartes.

In comparing their ontological viewpoints, Fung Yu-lan argues that

there is a fundamental difference between Chu Hsi's idea that "nature

is the Principle" and Lu Hsiang-shan's that "Mind is the Principle."

Fung indicates that the mind, in Chu's system, is conceived of as the

concrete embodiment of Principle as found in material force; it is not

the same as the abstract Principle itself. But in Lu's system, the mind

itself is nature, and he considered the presumed distinction between

nature and mind as nothing more than a verbal one.69 In contrast with

Chu Hsi's dualism between Principle and material force, Lu commented:

It is said in The Book of History that the human mind is precarious,
the moral mind is subtle. Most interpreters have explained the
human mind, which is liable to make mistakes, as equivalent to
selfish human desires, and the moral mind, which follows the way
or moral law, as equivalent to the Principle of Nature. The
interpretation is wrong. The mind is one. How can one have two

Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529 A.D.)

Wang Yang-ming was a native of Yueh in the present Chekiang

Province. He began his service in government around 1500. In 1506,

because he offended a eunuch, he was banished to modern Kueichow where

he stayed for more than two years. In 1510 he was appointed a magistrate

in Kiangsi, where he built a reamrkable record of administration. From

1517 to 1519, he suppressed several rebellions in Kiangsi and Fukien.

He also established schools and reconstructed the economy. He was

awarded the title Earl and promised certain hereditary privileges, but

his enemies at court accused him of conspiring with a rebellious prince

and he was ostracized. In 1527, he was called to suppress rebellions in

Kwangsi, which he did successfully. He died on his return home at the

age of fifty-seven.71

Wang was a great philosopher, educator, and soldier. When he was

very young, he had studied the Buddhist and Taoist philosophies for some

years, but according to The History of Ming Dynasty,72 he made no

progress in them. He once made an experiment on "the investigation of

things" in Chu Hsi's way, but he failed,73 and after that he abandoned

the approach set by Chu Hsi's philosophy. It was at Dragon Field

(Lung-ch'ang), in the present Kueichow Province, that he obtained a

sudden enlightenment, a thorough understanding of Confucian philosophy,

especially that transmitted from Confucius through Mencius, Ch'eng Hao,

and Lu Hsiang-shan. Wang thus succeeded in establishing his own system

of philosophy. He became a famous scholar, and followers came to learn

with him from almost every corner of the country. His influence even

extended to Japan and had a strong impact in the Meiji Restoration of

Japan in 1868. Because of his opposition to Chu Hsi's philosophy, which

had become the idol of conservative scholars and officials, continuous

severe criticism and blame were put on him. But he never changed what

he believed, and he spoke and .wrote amid the objections. Wing-tsit

Chan says that the dynamic idealism of Wang Yang-ming dominated China

during his lifetime and for 150 years thereafter.74 The truth is that

many of his ideas are still influential in Taiwan and Japan today.

In "Inquiry on The Great Learning," Wang Yang-ming contended that

in the eyes of the great person, Heaven, Earth, and all things are just

parts of one body. The world is one family, and the country is one

person. In explicating this idea of humanity, which was transmitted

from Confucius, Mencius, and Ch'eng Hao, Wang gave many examples. He

said that when one person sees a child about to fall into a well, he

cannot suppress a feeling of alarm and commiseration. This shows that

his humanity forms one body with the child. When he observes the pitiful

cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be

slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an "inability to bear" their

suffering. This shows that his humanity forms one body with birds and

animals. Even when he sees plants broken and destroyed, he cannot

suppress a feeling of pity; or when he sees tiles and stones shattered

and crushed, he cannot suppress a feeling of regret. These show that

his humanity forms one body with living things like plants as well as

inert objects like tiles and stones.75

\For Wang, desires and selfishness are harmful to the cultivation

and development of humanity. Therefore he argued that the learning of

the great person (and the small person as well) consists entirely in

getting rid of the obstruction of selfish desires in order, by his own

efforts, to manifest his clear character and to restore the condition

of forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and all things.76 By analyzing

what Wang said in "Inquiry on The Great Learning," three steps in the

development of humanity can be seen. The first step is loving people

and other beings; the second is to form one body with them; and then

we can progress to the third step where "clear character" is


On the other hand, Wang defined humanity as a process of unceasing

production and reproduction.78 Although humanity is prevalent and

extensive and there is no place where it does not exist, there is an

order in its operation and growth. Because there is order, there is

a starting point. And because there is a starting point, there is

growth--an unceasing growth, and the process of it is one of production

and reproduction.

Take a tree, for example. When in the beginning it puts forth a
shoot, there is the starting point of the tree's spirit of life.
After the root appears, the trunk grows. After the trunk grows,
branches and leaves come, and then the process of unceasing
production and reproduction has begun.79

The human phenomenon is very similar to the growth of a tree:

The love between father and son and between elder and younger
brothers is the starting point of human mind's spirit of life,
just like the sprout of the tree. From here it is extended to
humanness to all people and love to all things. It is like the
growth of the trunk, branches, and leaves. Filial piety and
brotherly respect are the root of humanity. This means that the
principle of humanity grows from within.80

According to Wang, the product of this process is again a clear

character. What is a clear character? Wang Yang-ming pointed out that

the original substance of a clear character is the innate knowledge of

good; with it we can see the highest good--the ultimate Principle of

showing character and loving people--if it is not obscured by selfish

desires.81 He argued against the theory held by Chu Hsi that every

event and every object has its own particular definite principle.

Instead, Wang insisted that the Principle of things, or the highest

good, is inherent in our minds.82 It is wrong to seek the Principle

outside the mind among events and objects, for it will make the mind

fragmentary, isolated, broken, and without definite direction.83

Avoiding these dangers, the mind will be clear and tranquil. Whenever

a thought arises or an event acts upon it, the mind will, with its innate

knowledge, examine carefully to determine if the thought or the event is

in accord with the highest good and will make a wise decision after

deliberation. It is in this way that man keeps his behavior in the most

appropriate condition. This is Wang's interpretation of Confucius'

doctrine of the Mean.

As a master of the school of Mind, Wang Yang-ming used the concept

of mind as the underpinning of his whole philosophy. Like Lu Hsiang-

shan, Wang Yang-ming thought that the mind is the Principle of Nature,

and the Principle can be found only in the mind. That is, there is

only one universal Principle, and that is the mind.84

The interesting thing is that similar ideas can be found in

Buddhist scriptures:

All things are consciousness only and there is nothing else which
is external to the mind.83

And again,

All dharmas depend on this mind for their being and take the mind
as their substance. When it is compared with dharmas all of them
are unreal and imaginary, and their existence is the same as non-
existence. Contrasted with these unreal and false dharmas, the
mind is regarded as true.86

So it seems incorrect to say that Wang's concept of the mind was not

influenced by Buddhism, although Wang declared that he merely elaborated

and made clear what he inherited from Confucius and Mencius.

For Chu Hsi, the investigation of things will lead to the

understanding or particular events and objects and then to the grasp

of the principle of each of them; this is the extension of knowledge.

But for Wang Yang-ming, to investigate things is to rectify the mind

and is the work of abiding in the highest good. Once a person knows

what the highest good is, he knows how to investigate things.87

Therefore one of Wang's favorite students, Hsu Ai, said that he felt

Wang's teaching did not agree with Chu Hsi's doctrine of the investi-

gation of things.88 And Wang himself also criticized that Chu's

teaching about the investigation of things is not free from being

forced, arbitrary, and far-fetched.89 For Wang Yang-ming, the extension

of knowledge is not what later scholars understood to be an enriching

and widening of knowledge. It is simply extending to the utmost one's

innate knowledge of the good.90 Innate knowledge is the sense of right

and wrong common to all people, which requires no deliberation to know,

nor does it depend on learning to function. This is the original mind,

which is devoid of selfish desires, is intelligent and not clouded.

All people have this mind, and this mind is identical with the Principle

of Nature.

Why do some people do good and others do evil? Wang said that the

mind of the evil person has lost its original substance because of

selfish human desires.91 The main work of a learner, then, is to

endeavor to get rid of selfish desires and preserve the Principle of

Nature, that is, preserve and develop fully the original substance of

the mind. This also means that the will should be sincere.

Filial piety can be taken as an example. If one's mind is free

from selfish desires and become completely identical with the Principle

of Nature, it will be sincere in its filial piety to parents. In the

winter, the child will naturally think of the cold and seek a way to

provide warmth for his parents; in the summer he will naturally think

of the heat and seek a way to provide coolness for the parents. These

are the workings of a mind that is sincere in its filial piety. Con-

cerning this, Wang concluded in one of his letters to Ku Tung-chiao92

that where the mind has filial piety toward parents, there also is the

Principle of filial piety. If there is no thought of filial piety,

there will be no Principle of filial piety. So there are no principles

external to the mind. It is then clear that to extend innate knowledge

of the good to the utmost is the basis for becoming empathetic with

all kinds of existence in the world. The extension of knowledge thus is

the extension of communication and empathetic understanding with

every human being, event, and object in the environment shared with us.


In this section, the philosophies of various Neo-Confucian

philosophies stated above will be synthesized, so that the general

characteristics of Neo-Confucianism in the Sung and Ming Dynasties as

represented by these philosophers will be clear. In order to do this,

some basic concepts of Neo-Confucian philosophy are explained in

summary form.

The Principle of Nature

The Principle of Nature is the Soul, Spirit, Reason, or Ideal of

the universe. But neither Soul, nor Spirit, nor any other words alone

can describe it accurately. It seemingly means more than any one of


When the Principle of Nature is related to the human mind, it is

called nature, or original nature, or Heavenly nature, which is, like

the Principle itself, always purely perfect and good. In relation to

things and events, the Principle of Nature is called principle, e.g.,

the principle of tree or the principle of filial piety. In this sense,

it is similar to Plato's concept of Idea or Form.

Some Neo-Confucianists explicitly stated that the Principle resides

in all human beings and in all things in the world. Shao Yung said

that the Principle governing Heaven and man are found in all events,

great or little.93 Ch'eng Hao said that all things have their principle.94

And Lu Hsiang-shan said that the Principle fills the universe, who can

escape from it?95

The Principle of Nature is, in one sense, the Natural Law according

to which every existence in the universe originates, grows, develops, and

realizes itself. On the other hand, it is the moral principle according

to which human mind operates and his actions obey. The Principle of

Nature is self-sufficient and unchangeable, but it is the motive to all

changes.96 There is only one Principle in the world, but the manifes-

tations of it are as many as countless.97

Material Force

Chang Tsai, a dualist, first suggested the idea of material force

as opposed to the Principle of Nature. Ch'eng I and Chu Hsi strictly

followed the dualism initiated by Chang Tsai in ontology. We will find

that there is no discussion about material force in Lu Hsiang-shan and

Wang Yang-ming's works. Both Lu and Wang were monists who insisted

that the Principle is mind and the mind is Principle, and without mind

there is nothing else.

According to Chang Tsai, material force is that which is dispersed,

differentiated, and capable of assuming form in the universe. It

integrates, disintegrates, and moves in all ways without ceasing, and

thus produced the multiplicity of things and human beings with Yin and

Yang, its two fundamental elements. But the operation of material

force is in order and unerring, for it moves in accord with the

Principle of Nature.98 But Chu Hsi said that there are two indispensa-

ble elements in the making of the world: the Principle of Nature and

material force. The former is the source from which all things are

produced, but at the moment of production, they receive material force

in order to have bodily form.99 In this sense, the Principle of

Nature is similar to Aristotle's "ideas" or "forms," while material

force is similar to his "matter."100

Human Nature

In tune with the separation between the Principle of Nature and

material force, Chang Tsai, Ch'eng I, and Chu Hsi argued for the

division between original nature and physical nature. This is again

contrary to what was asserted by Ch'eng Hao, Lu Hsiang-shan, and Wang

Yang-ming, who excluded the idea of physical nature from their theory

of human nature.

According to Chang Tsai, Heavenly nature in man is always good,

but physical nature is not always so, because the latter is the

manifestation of the one-sidedness of material force, while the former

is always in accord with the Principle of Nature. Ch'eng I also argued

that by nature men are alike, but owing to the differences of physical

nature, they have become far apart through practice.101 Ch'eng I

further pointed out that Heavenly nature in man always directs him to

do the good, while the material force of man can commit an error. The

human mind is originally good, but when it is aroused and expresses

itself in thoughts and ideas, there is good and evil. Chu Hsi thought

along the same line started by Chang Tsai and Ch'eng I and said that

one's original nature is no more than the Principle of Nature which

is within human beings. it is perfectly good and opposite to physical

nature--the mixture of original nature and material force, which

involves good and evil. The differences among human beings, then, rest

not in original nature but in physical nature.

While Chang Tsai, Ch'eng I, and Chu Hsi attributed evil to

selfish desires and selfish desires to physical nature, Ch'eng Hao,

Lu Hsiang-shan, and Wang Yang-ming also attributed evil to selfish

desires, but they did not say where such desires come from, as the

former philosophers did. Their problem is that in their philosophy,

the idea of physical nature does not exist. And, they did not invent

anything else in place of physical nature. For Wang Yang-ming, as

instance, the substance of human nature--innate knowledge--is the

equilibrium before the feelings are aroused. It is possessed by all

people, absolutely good, quiet, and inactive. As feelings are

aroused, there are both good and evil, because in this case, "people

cannot help being darkened and obscured by material desires."102 Wang

further explained that the original substance of mind--innate

knowledge--is the highest good; when one deviates a little from this

original substance, there is evil. But Wang said that it is not that

there is good and also evil to oppose it, but rather that "good and

evil are one thing."103 Wang quoted Ch'eng Hao's sayings which show

that good and evil come from the same source--the Principle of Nature

in the human mind: "Man's nature is of course good, but it cannot be

said that evil is not our nature." Again Ch'eng Hao said:

Good and evil in the world are both the Principle of Nature.
What is called evil is not originally evil. It becomes evil only
because of deviation from the Mean.104

It seems that when innate knowledge works, selfish desires do not

occur; when selfish desires work, one will deviate from innate

knowledge, and thus deviate from the Mean, and then evil arises. This

is Ch'eng Hao and Wang Yang-ming's theory about the origin of evil.

It is also true for Wang Yang-ming that if we can deal with our mind

and keep it in the state of equilibrium, absolute quiet, and imparti-

ality before feelings are aroused, the innate knowledge in our mind

will function well, and wise judgment and adequate action will result.

Because of the different views concerning the origin of evil

among these philosophers, their suggestions for eliminating evil from

the human mind are different too. For the dualistic philosophers, the

efforts are concentrated on the improvement of physical nature, while

those in the other group stressed the preservation of original

substance of one's mind. More detailed discussion about the culti-

vation of human nature will be included in Chapter Three.


Humanity was one of the most important concepts in ancient

Confucian classics. It was equally emphasized by Neo-Confucian

philosophers, elaborated, and many new insights and understandings

were given.

In ancient Confucian philosophy, humanity mainly means one's love

for all people. For Neo-Confucianists, it means not merely love for

all people, but love for all things in the world. For Chang Tsai,

"All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are my com-

panions."105 Ch'eng Hao also claimed that the person with humanity

regards Heaven and Earth and all things as one body. To such a

person, there is nothing in the world that is not himself.I06 Humanity

thus is a universal love based on empathetic communication and


For Neo-Confucian philosophers, humanity is the highest good one

can achieve, the fully developed state of human nature. Chu Hsi's

in-depth analysis of this shows that wherever selfish desires can be

entirely eliminated and the Principle of Nature freely operates, there

is humanity. For those who seek the way leading toward humanity, they

must know that it is just the same path which leads to the limit of

human nature.107 Therefore the person with humanity is a sage. Hu-

manity thus becomes a superior virtue, the Idea of virtue in Plato's

terms, wherein all other virtues, e.g., righteousness, propriety,

wisdom, and faithfulness, are found and manifested.

The concepts and ideas sketched in the foregoing passages will

remain important in discussion of educational thought in next chapter.

We will see the intimate relation of Neo-Confucian philosophy in

general to its educational thought in following passages.


1 Confucius, "The Analects," in Wing-tsit Chan (ed. and trans.),
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University
Press, 1973), p. 31.

2 Some of the classics compiled and edited by Confucius are The
Book of Changes, The Book of Rites, The Book of Odes, The Book of Music,
and The Book of History.

3 Confucius, "The Analects," in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in
Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 40.

4 Ibid., p. 41.

5 Ibid., p. 25.

6 Ibid., p. 31.

7 Ibid., p. 46.

8 Ibid., p. 42.

9 Ibid., p. 47.

10 Ibid., p. 18.

11 Ibid., p. 24.

12 Ibid.

13 Ibid., p. 27.

14 Ibid., p. 44.

15 Confucius, "The Analects," in William Theodore de Bary, Wing-
tsit Chan, and Burton Watson Compp. and trans.), Sources of Chinese
Tradition (New York: Columbia University Press, 1967), Vol. I, p. 25.

16 Ibid., p. 24.

17 Confucius, "The Analects," in The Four Books (Taipei: San-ming
Book Co., 1981), p. 130. Written in Chinese.

18 Confucius, "The Analects," in de Bary, Chan, and Watson, Sources
of Chinese Tradition, op. cit., p. 20.

19 Ibid.

20 Ibid.

21 Ibid.

22 Ibid.

23 Chu Hsi's remark to "The Great Learning," in Wing-tsit Chan,
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 87.

24 Ibid., pp. 85-86.

25 Chu Hsi's remark to Confucius, "The Doctrine of the Mean," in
The Four Books, op. cit., p. 17. Also Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in
Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 97.

26 Confucius, "The Doctrine of the Mean," in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source
Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 98.

27 Ibid., pp. 98-99.

28 Ibid., p. 107.

29 Ch'u Chai and Winberg Chai, The Story of Chinese Philosophy (New
York: Washington Square Press, Inc., 1961), p. 43.


30 Mencius, "The Mencius," in The Four Books, op. cit., pp. 298,

31 Ibid., pp. 285-289, 391, 398-399, 476, 517.

32 Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy, trans. by Derk
Bodde (Princeton: Princeton University Press, Vol. II, 1973), pp. 408-413.

33 Ibid., pp. 410-411.

34 Philosophers
in the Yuan Dynasty.
ninety years, and no

and historians do not talk much about Neo-Confucianism
The Dynasty, founded by Mongolians, lasted only
important philosophers appeared in the period.

35 Wing-tsit Chan, "Notes on Chart 4," in Historical Charts of
Chinese Philosophy (Far Eastern Publications, Yale University, 1955).
No numbers of pages.

36 The History of Sung Dynasty (Sung Shih) was compiled and written
in 496 chapters by T'o-ke-t'o and others in the fourteenth century. The
passage quoted is from The Complete Collection of Books in Four Divisions
(the largest library series in Chinese history, which collected almost
all books in print until the seventeenth century; edited and published
in the Ch'ing Dynasty in 79931 volumes and partially reprinted by Taiwan
Commercial Press, Taipei, in 1983), Vol. 288, p. 11. Trans. by Naichen

37 In Tao-te Ching (ch. 40), Lao Tzu said, "All things in the world
come into being from Being, and Being comes into being from Non-being."
See Tao-te Ching (Taipei: Chi-ming Book Co., reprinted 1952), p. 108.
Trans. by Naichen Chen.

38 Chou Tun-i, "Penetrating the Book of Changes," in Wing-tsit
Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 465-467.

39 Ibid., p. 466.

40 Ibid., p. 467.

41 Chang Tsai, "Correcting Youthful Ignorance," in Collected Works
of Chang Tsai (Taipei: Li-jen Book Co., 1979), pp. 7-10. Written in

42 Ibid.

43 Chang Tsai, "Correcting Youthful Ignorance," in Wing-tsit Chan,
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 507-514.

44 Chang Tsai, "Western Inscriptions," in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source
Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 497.

45 Chang Tsai, "An Essay on Propriety and Principle," in Collected
Works of Chang Tsai, op. cit., p. 274. Written in Chinese.

46 Chu Hsi, "Preface to The Great Learning," in The Complete Works
of Chu Tzu (Taipei: Chung-hwa Book Co., Ltd., 1966), pp. 20-21. Trans.
by Naichen Chen.

47 Huang Tsung-hsi (1610-1695 A.D.) et al., Anthology and Critical
Accounts of the Neo-Confucianists of Sung and Yuan Dynasties, re-edited
and annotated by Miao Tien-shou (Taipei: Taiwan Commercial Press, 1970),
pp. 104-105. Written in Chinese.

48 Ibid., p. 111.

49 Ch'eng Hao, "On Understanding the Nature of Jen [Humanity],"
in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 523.

50 Ibid., pp. 523-524.

51 Ch'eng Hao, "Selected Sayings," in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book
in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 527.

52 Ch'eng I, The Surviving Works of the Ch'engs (Taipei: Taiwan
Commercial Press, 1978), p. 226. Written in Chinese.

53 Ibid., pp. 225-226.

54 Ibid., p. 226.

55 Ibid., pp. 160-161, 177.

56 Some of Ch'eng I's sayings collected in Huang Tsung-hsi et al.
(eds.), Anthology and Critical Accounts. Sung and Yuan Dynasties,
o cit., pp. 122-123.

57 Ibid., pp. 126-127.

58 Ibid., p. 125.

59 T'o-ke-t'o, The History of Sung Dynasty (Taipei: Ting-wen Book
Co., Ltd., 1978), Vol. 16, Book 429, pp. 12751-12770. Written in Chinese.

60 Huang Tsung-hsi, Anthology and Critical Accounts Sung and
Yuan Dynasties, op. cit., pp. 242-252. Written in Chinese.

61 Fung Yu-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy (New York:
The Free Press, 1966), p. 294.

62 Chu Hsi, The Classified Recorded Sayings of Chu Tzu (Taipei:
Taiwan Commercial Press, 1982), pp. 1-2. Written in Chinese. Also "The
Complete Works of Chu Hsi," in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese
Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 638-641.

63 Chu Hsi, "The Complete Works of Chu Hsi," in Wing-tsit Chan,
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 638. Also Fung Yu-lan,
A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 298.

64 Chu Hsi, The Classified Recorded Sayings of Chu Tzu, op. cit.,
pp. 1-2. Also Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op.
cit., pp. 638-641.

65 Chu Hsi, The Classified Recorded Sayings, as quoted from the
chapter on Chu Hsi in Huang Tsung-hsi, Anthology and Critical Accounts
. Sung and Yuan Dynasties, op. cit., p. 261. Written in Chinese.

66 Lu Hsiang-shan, The Complete Works of Mr. Hsiang-shan (Taipei:
Taiwan Commercial Press, 1979), pp. 3-7. Written in Chinese.

67 Ibid., p. 144.

68 Huang Tsung-hsi, Anthology and Critical Accounts Sung and
Yuang Dynasties, op. cit., p. 357.

69 Fung Yu-lan, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, op. cit.,
pp. 307-308.

70 Lu Hsiang-shan, The Complete Works, op. cit., pp. 393-394.
Trans. by Naichen Chen.

71 Huang Tsung-hsi, Anthology and Critical Accounts Sung and
Yuang Dynasties, oE. cit., pp. 81-85. Also Wing-tsit Chan, Dynamic
Idealism in Wang Yang-ming," in A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op.
cit., p. 654.

72 Chang T'ing-yu, et al. (eds.), The History of Ming Dynasty (Taipei:
Ting-wen Book Co., 1980), Vol. 7, Book 332, pp. 5159-5170. Written in

73 Following Chu Hsi's doctrine, Wang Yang-ming sat in front of
bamboos and tried to investigate the principle of bamboo, only to become
ill after seven days.

74 Wing-tsit Chan, "Dynamic Idealism in Wang Yang-ming," in A Source
Book in Chinese Philosophy, oE. cit., p. 654.

75 Wang Yang-ming, "Inquiry on The Great Learning," in Wing-tsit
Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 659-666.

76 Ibid., p. 660.

77 Ibid., pp. 660-661.

78 Ibid., pp. 675-676.

79 Ibid., p. 676.

80 Ibid.

81 Ibid., p. 661.

82 Ibid., pp. 661-662.

83 Ibid., p. 662.

84 Wang Yang-ming, "Instructions for Practical Living," in Wing-tsit
Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 667.

85 Hsuan-tsang (596-664 A.D.), "The Treatise on the Establishment of
the Doctrine of Consciousness-Only," in Ibid., p. 388.

86 Hui-ssu (514-577 A.D.), "The Method of Concentration and Insight,"
in Ibid., p. 399.

87 Wang Yang-ming, "Instructions for Practical Living," in Ibid.,
p. 671.

88 Ibid.

89 Ibid., p. 672.

90 Ibid., pp. 664-665.

91 Ibid., p. 674.

92 Ibid., p. 681.

93 Shao Yung, "Selected Sayings," in Ibid., p. 494.

94 Ch'eng Hao, "Selected Sayings," in Ibid., pp. 533-534.

95 Lu Hsiang-shan, "The Complete Works of Lu Hsiang-shan," in Ibid.,
p. 579.

96 Ch'eng Hao, "Selected Sayings," in Ibid., p. 534.

97 Ch'eng I, "Selected Sayings," in Ibid., p. 571.

98 Chang Tsai, "Correcting Youthful Ignorance," in Collected Works
of Chang Tsai, op. cit., pp. 7-10. Written in Chinese.

99 Chu Hsi, "The Complete Works of Chu Hsi," in Wing-tsit Chan,
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., pp. 636-637.

100 Howard Ozmon and Sam Craver, Philosophical Foundations of
Education (Columbus, Ohio: Charles E. Merrill Publishing, 1976), pp. 37-

101 Ch'eng I, "Selected Sayings," in Wing-tsit Chan, A Source Book
in Chinese Philosophy, op. cit., p. 568.

102 Wang Yang-ming, "Instructions for Practical Living," in Ibid.,
p. 683.

103 Ibid., p. 684.

104 Ibid.

105 Chang Tsai, "Western Inscriptions," in Ibid., pp. 497-498.

106 Ch'eng Hao, "Selected Sayings," in Ibid., p. 530.

107 Chu Hsi, "The Complete Works of Chu Hsi," in Ibid., p. 633.


Almost all major Neo-Confucian philosophers in the Sung and Ming

Dynasties were great teachers; each of them had many students and

followers. They were interested and enthusiastic in instructing young

people by means of self-cultivation of their minds and behavior. They

also wrote much about education. In this chapter, their educational

thought will be analyzed and synthesized under five headings: the

ultimate goal of education, knowledge and action, intellectual learning,

moral cultivation, and elementary education. It is assumed that the

ideas about education which are adopted and included in this chapter

might suggest useful ingredients for forming modern Chinese philosophy

of education. The materials which are presented here are in accord

with the logical nature of Neo-Confucian philosophy in general.

Sagehood: The Ultimate Goal of Education

During the period of some thirteen centuries, from the Sui Dynasty

(581-618 A.D.) when the official examination system for governmental

service was first established, to the first decade of the twentieth

century when the system was abolished, most Chinese students studied

with only one thought in mind: to pass the examination and to achieve

the reputation, position, wealth, and happy marriage that as a result

would fall on them. Neo-Confucian teachers were the few who encouraged

their students to study not for the sake of career, wealth, and

position, but for more "farsighted" or superior or nobler ends. In

this sense, they are in agreement with the classical Confucian

philosophers. For Confucius and Mencius, each person has the

potentiality to learn to become a sage. It is not endowed nature, but

the education one receives and the effort one contributes to self-

cultivation that will determine if a person becomes or comes closer

to a sage. Neo-Confucian philosophers of education inherited and

elaborated this idea.

Wang Yang-ming argued that the learner must determine to become

a sage.1 Chu Hsi also said: "The student must first of all keep this

in mind: how to surpass the ordinary people and become a sage."2 What

Chu Hsi means is not that the sage is different from ordinary people

in human nature. Rather, the sage has the same human nature as

ordinary people do.3 Wang also said that even an ordinary person,

with intelligence and talent no greater than others, can learn to

become a sage if he determines to get rid of the selfish desires and

preserve the Reason or Natural Law (the Principle of Nature).4 There-

fore, to be a sage is not an educational ideal set by Neo-Confucianists

for an elite, but for all people. Neo-Confucian teachers did not

expect that all of their students would finally become sages, but they

did expect that through a long term of self-cultivation all their

students would come closer to that end. Sagehood as an educational

ideal always functions as perfect model or ideal, which keeps a distance

from actuality. Although it is not far away when people look at it,

it is not easy to achieve. Therefore the ideal is a direction in the

process of education rather than a concrete object to be grasped. It

is just like what Ssu-ma Ch'ien wrote in Confucius' biography: "Although

we are not sure that we can achieve the aim of becoming a sage like

Confucius, we are unceasingly longing for it."5

What does it mean to be a sage? What are the traits we can find

in the personality of a sage? For Chu Hsi, to memorize what one learns

and to write compositions good enough to pass an examination have

little or nothing to do with becoming a sage. The sage is the one

who knows justice and the Natural Law through self-training, on the

one hand, and tries to help other people, on the other hand.6 For Lu

Hsiang-shan, the sage is the one who can distinguish what one should

do from what one should not do and what is good for the public from

what is good only for oneself.7 For Wang Yang-ming, the sage is the

person whose mind is occupied purely with Reason (the Principle of

Nature), not mixed with impurities of selfish desires.8 To become a

sage, then, is to regain one's innate nature9 or, in Buddhist terms,

to know or to recognize again one's original nature. For Ch'eng Hao,

the sage is the one who understands the nature of humanity and forms

one body with all things without differentiation.10 These definitions,

although expressed in different terminologies and from different view-

points, are not incompatible. Rather, they are supplementary and

support each other.

To synthesize these definitions, a clear and complete picture of

the sage can be given. First, he is the symbol of perfect personality.

His mind is pure and occupied with no selfish desires. His moral

judgment is always in agreement with Reason or the Natural Law--innate

knowledge. His behavior thus does not deviate from the Mean--as a

result of the wisest judgment and most appropriate choice. As Chang

Tsai put it, a sage is a person with perfect sincerity, who obeys the

Natural Law and there find advantage.11 Ch'eng I also said that when

one abides by the Mean and correctness and becomes sincere, he is a

sage. Ch'eng further pointed out that when one is completely trans-

formed to be goodness itself, he is called a sage.12 Chou Tun-i said

that sagehood is nothing but sincerity, and that sincerity is pure

and perfectly good,13 so it is clear that sagehood is pure and perfectly

good. The pure and perfectly good personality as represented by

sincerity consists of at least these important virtues: wisdom, humanity,

courage, righteousness, and impartiality.14

Among these virtues humanity is the most important; it emerges as

a synonym for sagehood. In "The Western Inscription," Chang Tsai had

a very good explanation of humanity. He said:

Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother, and even such a
small creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst.
Therefore that which fills the universe I regard as my body
and that which directs the universe I consider as my nature.
All people are my brothers and sisters, and all things are
my companions.
Respect the aged. Show deep love toward the
orphaned and the weak. The sage identifies his character
with that of Heaven and Earth. .15

Ch'eng Hao said that the man of humanity--the sage--regards Heaven

and Earth and all things as one body, to him nothing is not himself.16

Therefore, when one becomes a sage, he will help others to become sages

too. "He will share his knowledge with all. He will love universally.

When he achieves something, he wants others to achieve the same."17

A sage thus will try to give things every benefit and forget his own

ego.18 He will forget the distinction between himself and others, and

when such a distinction is forgotten, the state of quietness and peace

is attained, "Peace leads to calmness and calmness leads to

enlightenment .. ."19 Such a person, who loves all people and things,

and always acts according to the Mean, is one who worries, fears, and

puzzles no more. This is the person who "functions" best. Is he not

the "best" human being?

Such ideas of sagehood and humanity are in some sense consistent

with democratic ideas in modern Western world. The universal love

embodied in humanity is a basis of real equality and mutual respect

and concern among people, which are desirable in democracy. A person

with humanity--a sage--will contribute his ability and offer service

to his fellow people and the society he belongs to, and even will go

beyond that. This is also an ideal that democratic education pursues,

particularly in John Dewey's philosophy. A sage is also a person who

always follows Reason in making judgments and decisions, and Reason

is important and indispensable in a healthy democratic society.

It is this ideal that Neo-Confucian teachers set up as the ultimate

educational aim. How did they try or suggest to achieve this goal or

at least to get closer to it? The answer to this question is discussed

in the next sections of this chapter.

What is the relation of the ancient conception of "sage" to that

of a modern "sage", if there is such a thing as a modern sage? What

are the similarities and differences between them? These will be

elaborated in the last chapter of the study.

Knowledge and Action

The relationship between knowledge and action was a topic which

had for a long time interested Chinese philosophers. The common

understanding of it was that knowledge and action are separate rather

than a single thing or two aspects of a single entity. It is Wang

Yang-ming who first argued against this opinion. Chu Hsi, on the

other hand, is the best representative of those who insisted on the

separation of knowledge and action, though he did not view them as

opposites or being incompatible. In contrast, we have Wang Yang-ming

as maybe the only philosopher who argued for the unification of

knowledge and action and viewed them as two inseparable aspects of

a single thing.

According to Chu Hsi, knowledge and action always require each

other. In order, knowledge comes first, but action is more important.20

This implies that knowledge and action are two things. It also shows

that Chu Hsi argued against the conventional belief that knowledge is

more important than action. Chu also stressed that the efforts of

both knowledge and action must be cultivated to the utmost. Chu

further pointed out that as one knows more and more clearly, he acts

more earnestly, and as he acts more earnestly, he knows more clearly.

This means that knowledge and action are reciprocal rather than incom-

patable. It is clear that Chu was influenced by Ch'eng I concerning

this point. Ch'eng I said that when knowledge is profound, action will

be thorough; if one knows without being able to act, the knowledge is

just superficial.21 Such knowledge then, according to Ch'eng I, is

not "true knowledge." True knowledge is that which leads one to do

something under the direction of what he knows.22

For Chu Hsi, neither action nor knowledge should be unbalanced or

discarded, since they are like a person's two legs. But here Chu Hsi

indicated the importance of extending knowledge.

It is like a person's two legs. If they take turns to walk, one
will be able gradually to arrive at the destination. If one leg is
weak and soft, then not even one forward step can be taken.
However, we must first know before we can act. This is why The
Great Learning first talks about the extension of knowledge,
The Doctrine of the Mean puts wisdom ahead of humanity and
courage, and Confucius first of all spoke of knowledge being
sufficient to attain its objectives. .23

What Chu Hsi said may puzzle us. His argument may be unclear as to

whether knowledge is more important than action, or vice versa. It

seems that both knowledge and action are important equally; it seems

meaningless to assert that one is more important than another in a

case when no one can stand alone without the support of the other,

using the analogy of a person's two legs. On the other hand, it makes

sense to say that (and which) one should come before the other in

arranging a learning sequence. As Wang Yang-ming pointed out, if

knowledge and action are inseparable, the problem of which comes first

will turn out to be meaningless again.

As mentioned above, Wang Yang-ming differed from what Chu Hsi

advocated. Wang severely criticized people in his time who dis-

tinguished between knowledge and action and who pursued them separately

and believed that one must know before he acts. The consequence of this

belief was that even to the last day of life, they would never act and

thus would also never know. Wang insisted that knowledge and action

are a single thing. In "Instructions for Practical Living," the famous

dialogues recorded by his favorite student Hsu Ai (1487-1518 A.D.) and

others, Wang gave some examples to explain the relationship between

knowledge and action.24 First Wang claimed that seeing beautiful

colors appertains to action. As soon as one sees a beautiful color,

he already loves it. One does not first see it and then make up his

mind to love it. Second, he contended that in order to know filial

piety and brotherly respect, one must actually have practiced filial

piety and brotherly respect. Only by experiencing them do we come to

know them. We do not know filial piety and brotherly respect if we

simply show them in words but do not actually practice these virtues.

The same is true of pain, cold, and hunger. One cannot know them

unless they have already experienced them. Wang Yang-ming concluded

by saying that knowledge is the directive of action and action the

effort of knowledge, and that knowledge is the beginning of action and

action the completion of knowledge. When knowledge is mentioned,

action is included, and vice versa. It is as Hsu Ai recorded:

The teacher said: "Knowledge is the beginning of action and
action is the completion of knowledge. Learning to be a sage
involves only one effort. Knowledge and action should not be

In a letter to Ku Tung-chiao (1476-1545 A.D.), a high official

and renowned poet, Wang Yang-ming said:

Knowledge in its genuine and earnest aspect is action, and action
in its intelligent and discriminating aspect is knowledge. At
bottom the task of knowledge and action cannot be separated.
Only because later scholars have broken their task into two
sections and have lost sight of the original substance of
knowledge and action have I advocated the idea of their unity
and simultaneous advance.26

Wang asserted that there have never been people who know but do

not act. Those who are supposed to know but do not act simply do not

yet know. This seems to be a parallel to Socrates' theory that

knowledge is morality. Both Chu Hsi and Wang Yang-ming stressed the

importance and necessity of action (practice) in learning. What they

imply is that if students want to obtain "true" knowledge, action is

indispensable. They also imply that knowledge in turn will make one's

action perfect. Their difference lies in the fact that Chu viewed

knowledge and action as two separate things while Wang regarded them

as a single entity. Chu's position inevitably, perhaps, leads to a

separation of intellectual learning and moral cultivation in education

which John Dewey strongly argued against in his writings. While Wang's

theory reminds us of Dewey's argument against separating knowledge

from moral education,27 Dewey's theory of learning by doing similarly

implies the necessity of unifying knowledge and action in the process

of learning. Dewey further developed a scientific method of verifying

knowledge through experimental steps in practice, which later influenced

Hu Shih--a modern Chinese philosopher--and became Hu's favorite philo-

sophical method. Another Chinese philosopher who agreed with Wang

Yang-ming and John Dewey was Dr. Sun Yat-sen. The relationship among

their philosophies of education and the implications derived from their

comparison will be discussed in the fourth and fifth chapters of

this study.

Intellectual Learning

If one classifies Neo-Confucian philosophers of education into

two groups, one stressing the importance of intellectual learning for

young students' development and the other stressing the importance of

moral cultivation, he will find that Ch'eng I and Chu Hsi belong to the

first group, while Ch'eng Hao, Lu Hsiang-shan,and Wang Yang-ming belong

to the second group. The more accurate description may be that both

groups never ignored or neglected the importance of the other aspect

of the educational process. For Chu Hsi, for example, intellectual

study will lead to an affective purpose--moral cultivation-rather than

scientific discoveries or inventions.28 For Wang Yang-ming, it is

simply wrong to view intellectual learning and moral cultivation as

two things; the truth is that they are two inseparable aspects of a

single thing.

One of the important concepts in the writings of Neo-Confucianism

concerning intellectual learning is the extension of knowledge. The

extension of knowledge consists in the investigation of things. Both

Ch'eng I and Chu Hsi have the same beliefs.29 Both contended that

investigation should not be done in hurry; rather it should be done

gradually, for the factor of gradual accumulation is important for

intellectual learning. For Ch'eng I, it is not sufficient to investi-

gate only one thing. "One must investigate one item today and another

item tomorrow. When one has accumulated much knowledge he will natu-

rally achieve a thorough understanding like a sudden release."30 But

Ch'eng I may confuse us when he said also that it is not necessary to

investigate the principle or the nature of something or an event to

the utmost; the principles in other things or events can then be

inferred by the learners themselves.31

Chu Hsi made similar ideas much clearer. According to Chu Hsi,

the extension of knowledge implies that everything must be studied.

From the most essential and most fundamental about oneself to
every single thing or affair in the world, even the meaning of
a word or half a word, everything should be investigated to the
utmost, and none of it is unworthy of attention.32

But is it possible to study everything? Chu Hsi's answer is that

Although we cannot investigate all, still we have to keep on
devoting our attention to them in accordance with our intelligence
and ability, and in time there will necessarily be some accomplish-
ment. Is this not better than not to pay attention at all?33

For Chu Hsi, tp investigate things and affairs will lead to the

grasp of their principle, and to investigate the principle to the

utmost means to seek to know the reason for which things and affairs

are as they are and the reason according to which they should be.

Chu's sayings about the extension of knowledge seem to imply an

inductive process of obtaining knowledge rather than a deductive one.

Thus it is reasonable that Chu Hsi argued for the importance of

extensive study and viewed it as the first step prior to others in

intellectual learning.34 The second step is accurate inquiry, ac-

cording to Chu.35 Inquiry arises from doubt, and doubt is necessary

for learning; that is why Ch'eng I said that a student must first of

all learn to doubt.36 What follows inquiry is careful thinking, Chu

Hsi said,37 and this is the third step in intellectual learning.

Confucius said that one who learns but does not think will gain

nothing.38 Chu Hsi interpreted this idea and said that reading,

discussion, or listening will gain little if one does not do deep

thinking. One must do it carefully, and gradually he will overcome

difficulties in understanding.39 After careful thinking, there comes

the fourth step, clear sifting.40 This is used to determine similari-

ties and differences among informations one receives. It is also

used to distinguish between things right and wrong, between what one

should do and should not do.

These four steps in learning--extensive study, accurate inquiry,

careful thinking, and clear sifting--remain in the cognitive domain.

Chu Hsi argued that they still are not sufficient for obtaining true

knowledge. True knowledge is obtained through action and experiencing.

When one knows something but has not yet acted on it, his
knowledge is still shallow. After he has experienced it, his
knowledge will be increasingly clear, and its character will be
different from what it was before.41

Therefore Chu Hsi, in "Learning Rules of White Deer Grotto Academy,"

has "vigorous practice" as the fifth step of learning, which follows

the four steps mentioned above, and thus the process of intellectual

learning is complete.42

But as stated above, intellectual learning itself is not the

end of education for Chu Hsi. His views are quite like John Dewey's

who says that the end of education is morality and that educators
should achieve the aim through the development of knowledge.4 Chu Hsi

says that the first step toward knowledge is to investigate everything

and understand the principle of everything in the world, but the ulti-

mate purpose of it is to cultivate the learner's morality. Both the

extension of knowledge and the cultivation of morality are essentials

for the student to advance in establishing himself in life. As Chu

Hsi said that knowledge comes prior to action, it seems that he did

not imply the extension of knowledge will automatically lead to moral

cultivation. Chu did not say it clearly. It seems that some other

efforts must be made for moral cultivation. This topic will be

discussed in the next section.

Moral Cultivation

In order to bridge the gap between the extension of knowledge

and moral cultivation, and to synthesize the basic concepts and major

ideas of Neo-Confucian philosophers of education concerning these two

topics, a diagram is presented (Figure III). At the core of the

diagram is Principle, which is similar to Natural Law, Idea or Soul

of the universe. According to all Major Neo-Confucian philosophers,

the Principle is always perfect and purely good.44 All things have

their principle. There is only one principle in the world, but its

manifestations are innumerable in the many things in life. Principle

is unchangeable, but it is the motive for the change of universe. The

change following the Principle as represented by Yin and Yang is called

the Way or Tao.45 This Principle or Idea or Soul of the universe is

often called by Neo-Confucianists the Principle of Nature, or Principle

of Heaven. The Principle inherent in individual things is called

principle too, but in English it is written in lower-case instead of

capital letter. As the Principle is manifested in human mind, it is

named human nature or original nature by Neo-Confucian philosophers.

Human nature is originally good too. Evil arises not from original

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