Li Chih

Li Chih


(second name, Li Cho-wu). Born 1527, in the district of Chin-chiang, province of Fukien; died 1602, in Peking. Chinese philosopher, poet, and literary critic.

Li Chih was the son of a merchant. In his Hidden Book (1599), he attacked neo-Confucianism. He upheld the relativity of truth and, in particular, of ideas of good and evil. An exposition of Li Chih’s aesthetic principles is contained in his The Burnt Book (1600) and in the sequel of The Burnt Book (1618), in which he sets forth the idea that environment is the determining factor in human development; he also defended equal rights for women. Li Chih’s poetic legacy, his Burnt Book and other works, is distinguished by its depth and lack of pretentiousness.

Li Chih considered the highest virtue of poetry to be the naturalness of feeling that it expressed. As head of the humanistic movement, he exerted a profound influence on progressive Chinese writers. Li Chih was persecuted as a heretic and arrested; he committed suicide in prison. Copies of his books were burned and his works were prohibited until the 20th century.


Manukhin, V. S. “Rol’ stilia v bor’be kitaiskikh vol’nodumtsev pozdnego srednevekov’ia.” In Zhanry i stili literatur Kitaia i Korei. Moscow, 1969.
Manukhin, V. S. “Vzgliady Li Chzhi i tvorchestvo ego sovremennikov.” In Trudy Mezhvuzovskoi nauchnoi konferentsii po istorii literatur zarubezhnogo Vostoka. [Moscow] 1970.
Jung Chao-tsu. Li Chih nien-pu. Peking, 1957.
De Bary, W. T. Self and Society in Ming Thought. New York-London, 1970.