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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



an idealistic school of Chinese philosophy, which evolved mainly during the Sung dynasty (960–1279).

Neo-Confucianism took shape during Confucianism’s struggle with Buddhism and Taoism; as a result, neo-Confucianism adopted elements from both Buddhism and Taoism. Han Yü, a writer and philosopher of the eighth and ninth centuries, and Li Ao, a student of Han Yü, may be considered precursors of neo-Confucianism. They were concerned with the revival and further development of Confucianism for the purpose of counteracting the influence of Taoist and Buddhist teachings in China.

Unlike early Confucianism, with its predominantly ethical and political conceptions, questions of ontology, natural philosophy, and cosmogony occupied an important place in neo-Confucianism. One of the founders of neo-Confucianism, the 11th-century thinker Chou Tun-i, advanced the concept of the Great Ultimate (t’ai chi) as the fundamental principle of the world. The world of nature and the world of ethical relations as a single system, as two aspects of a single whole, is subordinated to this absolute Great Ultimate. The teachings of Chou Tun-i were developed by Chang Tsai and the brothers Ch’eng Hao and Ch’eng I.

A major Sung scholar of the 12th century, Chu Hsi, a commentator, historian, and dualist philosopher, was the most prominent representative of neo-Confucianism. He systematized the principal philosophical ideas of his predecessors. Chu Hsi believed that the Great Ultimate contained two principles: the ideal, incorporeal li and the material ch’i. He considered the li as preceding and dominating all things but existing only with the ch Y. Wang Yang-ming, a philosopher of the late 15th and early 16th centuries, is regarded as the most prominent representative of the subjective idealist trend in neo-Confucianism. He expanded Confucius’ and Mencius’ idea about the innateness of knowledge with the assertion that the world is a product of consciousness.

Neo-Confucianism supported ancient Confucianism’s reactionary conception of the immutability of existing social orders and the natural practice of dividing people into higher and lower strata: “noble men” and “petty people.” The Neo-Confucianists reexamined the interpretation of the basic code of Confucianist canonical literature, the Wu Ching (Five Classics). At the suggestion of Chu Hsi, the Ssu shu (Four Books) was proclaimed the new Confucianist canon.

In the late 13th and early 14th centuries, Neo-Confucianism became an official ideology. It retained its dominant position in the philosophical and sociopolitical thought of China until the early 20th century. It greatly influenced philosophy in Japan, Korea, and Vietnam.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
Wainwright argues that various traditions, including that of Christianity and classical philosophy, and even Chinese Neoconfucianism, claim that proper reasoning is as much a function of the state of one's heart as it is of one's intellect.
One of the most important developments of a distinctive Korean neoConfucianism was the Sirhak (or Silhak) movement of the 1700s, usually translated as 'practical learning'.
(16) While Confucius emphasized self-reliance that resulted in isolationism under Chinese neoConfucianism, the degree of isolationism practiced in the later Choson period of Korean neoConfucianism as well that of juche go well beyond what was practiced in China or clearly advocated by Confucius, although Japan also followed a strongly isolationist policy during the Edo period before the arrival of Perry's 'black ships' in the 1850s.
(74) Bettine Birge, "Women and Property in Sung Dynasty China (960-1279): NeoConfucianism and Social Change in Chien-chou, Fukien" (Ph.D.
In the Song Dynasty (960-1279 C.E), a reinterpretation of Confucian teaching called NeoConfucianism further stratified the position of women.
In any case, while Wu Li was undoubtedly moved to reject aspects of NeoConfucianism, these would certainly not have included the Five Relationships; more likely, as certain of his poems reveal, they would have been points of ontology and cosmology.