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Zhu Xi and the Han–Tang Confucians

  • Don J. WyattEmail author
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Part of the Dao Companions to Chinese Philosophy book series (DCCP, volume 13)

Abstract

Despite embracing his calling as a philosopher, who—as did all others, regardless of cultural context—sought to convey a timeless message, Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200), like the exemplary Kongzi 孔子 (551–479 BCE) (hereafter Confucius) before him, was profoundly cognizant of his own times as well as those that had preceded them. To be sure, Zhu Xi differed markedly from Confucius in his relatively high regard, at least in intellectual terms, for his own immediately preceding age. Confucius had considered himself to be living in times of abject decline or even fallenness, and—despite his sacral veneration for the first centuries of the Zhou dynasty (c. 1045–221 BCE) as a golden age—he believed the successive centuries leading up to his own to have hardly at all been virtuous (Slingerland 2009: 115–17). As a subscriber to the conventional Confucian interpretation of the past, Zhu Xi, of course, also dutifully exalted the era of Zhou dynastic antiquity. Among all prior epochs, Zhu regarded especially that of the Zhou founding and the immediate centuries thereafter with genuine awe. Like countless other Confucians who had preceded him, he credited that halcyon era—largely because of the paragons who established and lived during it—with the genesis of his beliefs (Chan 1987: 65, 67, 121–22, 127).

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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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