Wang Yang-ming

Wang Yang-ming

(wäng yäng-mĭng), 1472–1529, Chinese philosopher. He developed an idealist interpretation of 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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 that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox philosophy of Chu HsiChu Hsi
, 1130–1200, Chinese philosopher of Neo-Confucianism. While borrowing heavily from Buddhism, his new metaphysics reinvigorated Confucianism. According to Chu Hsi, the normative principle of human nature is pure and good.
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. Wang believed that universal moral law is innate in man and discoverable through self-cultivation. In contrast to the orthodox Confucian reliance on classical studies (see Chinese literatureChinese literature,
the literature of ancient and modern China. Early Writing and Literature

It is not known when the current system of writing Chinese first developed. The oldest written records date from about 1400 B.C.
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) as a means to self-cultivation, Wang stressed self-awareness and the unity of knowledge and action. One school of his followers emphasized achievement of mystical enlightenment in a manner strikingly similar to Zen BuddhismZen Buddhism,
Buddhist sect of China and Japan. The name of the sect (Chin. Ch'an, Jap. Zen) derives from the Sanskrit dhyana [meditation]. In China the school early became known for making its central tenet the practice of meditation, rather than adherence
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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Wang Yang-Ming


WANG YANG-MING (Wang Shou-jen). Born 1472; died 1528. Chinese philosopher. Subjective idealist; follower of Liu Chiu-yüan, who affirmed that neither heaven nor earth exists outside of consciousness.

Wang Yang-ming argued with the followers of Chu Hsi, who believed that the way to self-perfection was through knowledge and “investigation of things.” He insisted that the most important thing was not theoretical cognition but rather the understanding of the most important moral truths, which comes to man intuitively, for man’s nature is given to him pure and perfect; and man’s task is to realize his nature by means of self-absorption and the renunciation of egotistical desires, which are alien. Any man can become wise if he learns to follow the voice of his nature and to unite knowledge and action. The teaching of Wang Yang-ming on the unity of knowledge and action essentially denies to knowledge its own substance and specific function, for it reduces knowledge to an act of volition: “Knowledge is the beginning of action, and action is the completion of knowledge.”

After Wang Yang-ming’s death his school split into two trends: one of them, following the course of Confucian tradition, stressed the ethical side of his teaching; whereas the other approximated his idea nt intuitive knowledge to the Buddhist notion of enlightenment.


Wang wen-ch’eng kung ch’üan shu (Complete Collected Works of Wang Yang-ming). Shanghai, 1936.
Instructions for Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings. Translated by Wing-tsit Chan. New York-London, 1963.


Konrad, N. I. “Filosofiia kitaiskogo vozrozhdeniia.” In his book Zapad i Vostok. Moscow, 1966. Pages 231-34.
Fung Yu-lan. A History of Chinese Philosophy, vol. 2. Princeton, 1953.
Chang, C. The Development of Neo-Confucian Thought. New York, 1957.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
For example, Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529) suggests, on the one hand, that the sage regards heaven and earth and the myriad things as one body, and his or her ren is extended beyond the realm of human beings to other animals, plants, and even non-living things such as stones.
(5) Two centuries before Wang Yang-ming, Dogen already emphasized the unity of (Zen) practice and enlightenment, pointing to just sitting, in which that unity is realized (Japanese: shi-kan taza).
In the Chinese tradition, however, liang-chih (innate knowledge of the good) for Mencius as well as for Wang yang-ming is a presence, never just a postulate.
Even after Emperor Wang Yang-Ming famously pulled the plug on China's ambitious program of overseas exploration in 1433, prosperity continued.
Throughout this volume he develops the notion of the "moral community" in Chinese thought (for a crystallization of this notion see essay 9, "Between Commitment and Realization: Wang Yang-ming's Vision of the Universe as Moral Community") and is interested in exploring the normative dimension of moral adjudication as it obtains in the various contexts that bind this community together as a tradition (see, for instance, essay 14, "Principles as Preconditions of Adjudication").
There is no reason that, alongside the study of Anselm, Peter Abelard, or Aquinas, for example, that students of world history and culture should not also be exposed to the works of Cheng Hao and Wang Yang-ming.
Originally a 1992 doctoral dissertation at the Graduate Theological Union, Berkeley, this work compares and contrasts the anthropologies of neo-Confucian Wang Yang-ming (1472-1529) and neo-orthodox Karl Barth (1886-1968).
Lo's work, especially the "Two Letters to Wang Yang-ming" appended to the end of Bloom's translation of the K'un-chih chi, also afford an apercu into the major intellectual controversies of the mid-Ming era.
Left unexplored is the late Ming, when many complaints arose that both examiners and candidates were influenced by the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming and other even more heterodox teachings.
Chu Hsi and Wang Yang-Ming can illuminate the contrast between realism and idealism.
The particular school which attracted him was that of Wang Yang-ming, notable for having taught the unity of knowledge ("both knowledge and action").
The strength of the book is both this bold proposal of a particular basis for comparative work and the presentation of an impressively broad spectrum of religious thought, from John Wesley to Keiji Nishitani, John Dewey to Wang Yang-ming, Alfred North Whitehead to the Tao Teh Ching.