Chu Hsi

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Chu Hsi

(jo͞o shē), 1130–1200, Chinese philosopher of Neo-Confucianism. While borrowing heavily from Buddhism, his new metaphysics reinvigorated ConfucianismConfucianism
, moral and religious system of China. Its origins go back to the Analects (see Chinese literature), the sayings attributed to Confucius, and to ancient commentaries, including that of Mencius.
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. According to Chu Hsi, the normative principle of human nature is pure and good. Expressed in concrete form human nature is less than perfect, but it can be refined through self-cultivation based on study of the classics. His thought was orthodox during the Yüan, Ming, and Ch'ing dynasties. For 600 years students memorized his classical commentaries until the Chinese examination systemChinese examination system,
civil service recruitment method and educational system employed from the Han dynasty (206 B.C.–A.D. 220) until it was abolished by the Ch'ing dowager empress Tz'u Hsi in 1905 under pressure from leading Chinese intellectuals.
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 was abolished in 1905.


See studies by W.-T. Chan (1987, 1989).

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Chu Hsi


Born 1130; died 1200. Chinese philosopher, historian, and commentator on the Confucian classics. Leading exponent of neo-Confucianism.

Chu Hsi wrote more than 20 scholarly treatises, including works on jurisprudence, military affairs, astronomy, and geography. As prefect of Nank’ang, in Kiangsi Province, from 1179 to 1183 he established the Pai Lu Tung (White Deer Grotto) Academy, which became known throughout China.

Chu Hsi synthesized the major ideas of Confucian thinkers, from Confucius to Chou Tun-i, Chang Tsai, and the brothers Ch’eng I and Ch’eng Hao. He developed the dualistic concept of two interconnected and indivisible principles: the ideal, or li (literally, “law,” “principle,” or “rule”), which precedes all things and transcends all things; and the material, or ch’i (literally “substance” or “material force”). Li must be joined to a particular ch’i and is, at the same time, necessary to the ch’i as a condition of the latter’s being. Both principles are united in the formless T’ai Chi, or Great Ultimate, which exists in all things taken as a whole and in each thing individually and which, as the highest principle, unites all actual and potential principles and all things and beings.

Chu Hsi’s neo-Confucian synthesis became the dominant trend in subsequent Chinese philosophy and a major influence on philosophic thought in Korea and Japan. The Confucian Ssu shu (Four Books), selected and with commentary by Chu Hsi, served as the basis for the government examinations in China from the 14th to early 20th centuries. Chu Hsi wrote the historical work T’ung-chien kang-mu (The Main Principles of the Comprehensive Mirror), a reworking of Ssu-ma Kuang’s Tzu chih t’ung-chien (The Comprehensive Mirror for Aid in Government).


Konrad, N. I. “Filosofiia kitatskogo Vozrozhdeniia (O Sunskoi shkole).” In his book Zapad i Vostok, 2nd ed. Moscow, 1972.
Bruce, J. P. Chu Hsi and His Masters. London, 1923.
Chan Wing-Tsit. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, N.J. 1963.
Forke, A. Geschichte der neueren chinesischen Philosophie. Hamburg, 1938.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.