(also Chou Lien-hsi). Born 1017; died 1073. Chinese philosopher. One of the founders of neo-Confucianism.
Chou Tun-i wrote the philosophic treatises An Explanation of the Diagram of the Great Ultimate and The Book of Understanding. Drawing on tenets of Taoism and ideas from the I Ching (Book of Changes), he put forth the concept of t’ai chi (the Great Ultimate) as the foundation of the world. When t’ai chi moves, it engenders yang, or motion; when it is stationary, it gives rise to yin, or repose. The interaction of yang and yin produces the five elements water, fire, wood, metal, and earth.
In a mysterious union with t’ai chi, yin, and yang and through the medium of the masculine base (Heaven) and feminine base (Earth), the five elements engender the multiplicity of things, which continuously reproduce themselves. The crown of this process is man, who possesses the five moral principles humanity, justice, decency, knowledge, and fidelity and who distinguishes good from evil. Chou Tun-i also put forth the idea that ch’eng (sincerity, honesty), an attribute identical to inaction, is the basis of moral qualities and the source of any activity.