The Worldview of Zhu Xi

  • Chan-liang WuEmail author
Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 13)


Neo-Confucianism is not just a kind of philosophy, but a particular way of life aimed at realizing the highest virtues embedded in human nature and following the cosmic principle/grain (or principle/pattern, tian li 天理, often shortened as principle in this chapter while discussing Zhu’s thought) so as to fulfill one’s family, lineage, and socio-political responsibilities in the best possible way. Since the days of Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤 (1017–1073) and the Cheng brothers—Cheng Hao 程顥 (1032–1085) and Cheng Yi 程頤 (1033–1107), Neo-Confucian masters have seldom written or taught in a sophisticated or philosophical way. They instructed, but did not like to argue. They dictated, but seldom wrote. Their sole pursuit was to live like a Confucian sage, that is, one who brings to perfection the ethical and socio-political goals of Confucianism. Therefore, the best way to interpret Neo-Confucian teachings is to view them as guidance from sagely figures on how to perfectly live and behave in the world, with their own lives serving as examples. In most cases, their teachings are not just philosophical doctrines that interpret the world, but are rather practical wisdom and guidance that teach us about the meaning and art of life in this highly complex world. To be sure, their teachings do include a philosophy, and a very profound one, but we must keep in mind the origin and goals of this philosophy so as to understand its meaning.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryNational Taiwan UniversityTaipeiRepublic of China

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