Zhu Xi and the Han–Tang Confucians

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


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).


  1. Barrett, Timothy H. 1992. Li Ao: Buddhist, Taoist, or Neo-Confucian?. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  2. Chan, Wing-tsit. 1963. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  3. ———. 1987. Chu Hsi: Life and Thought. Hong Kong/New York: The Chinese University Press; St. Martin’s Press. (Being an assemblage of the prestigious Chien Mu (Qian Mu) 錢穆 lectures on history and culture delivered in 1984, as the first in what became numerous English-language treatments undertaking the scholarly integration of Zhu Xi’s life experience and his philosophy, this work stands as a lasting achievement.)Google Scholar
  4. Chen, Lundun 陳倫敦. 2016. “On Zhu Xi’s Critique of Yang Xiong’s Intentions 朱熹批判揚雄意圖探析.” Journal of Wuyi University 武夷學院學報 35.2: 1–4.Google Scholar
  5. Cheng, Dennis Chi-hsiung. 2008. “Interpretations of Yang in the Yijing: Commentarial Traditions.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 35.2: 219–34.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Ching, Julia. 1986. “Chu Hsi on Personal Cultivation.” In Chan Wing-tsit, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  7. ———. 2000. The Religious Thought of Chu Hsi. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  8. Dai, Congxi 戴從喜. 2009. “Zhu Xi and the ‘Examination of Difference in the Works of Han Yu’ 朱子與《韓文考異》.” Journal of Shanghai Second Polytechnic University 上海第二工業大學學報 26.4: 322–27.Google Scholar
  9. Dawson, Raymond. 1981. Confucius. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  10. Dong, Zhongshu 董仲舒. 1927–1936. Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn Annals 春秋繁露. SBBY 四部備要 ed. Shanghai 上海: Zhonghua Shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  11. ———. 2016. Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn, edited and translated by Sarah A. Queen and John S. Major. New York/Chichester: Columbia University Press. (The first complete English-language translation of the principal work attributed to Dong Zhongshu.)Google Scholar
  12. Fung, Yu-lan. 1976. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy: A Systematic Account of Chinese Thought from Its Origins to the Present Day, edited by Derk Bodde. New York: Free Press.Google Scholar
  13. Fung, Yiu-ming. 2009. “Philosophy in the Han Dynasty.” In Bo Mou, ed., History of Chinese Philosophy. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  14. Graham, Angus C. 1986. “What Was New in the Ch’eng–Chu Theory of Human Nature?” In Chan Wing-tsit, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  15. Guo, Fangru 郭芳如. 2016. “A Critical Comparison between Wang Chong’s and Zhu Xi’s Notions of Ghost and Deities 王充與朱熹鬼神觀的比較.” Religious Philosophy 宗教哲學 77: 55–84. (Outstandingly insightful article that suggestively explicates elements of shared understanding between two superficially very different thinkers with respect to religiosity and the supernatural.)Google Scholar
  16. Hartman, Charles. 1986. Han Yü and the T’ang Search for Unity. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  17. Henderson, John B. 1999. “Strategies in Neo-Confucian Heresiography.” In Chow Kai-wing, Ng On-cho, and John B. Henderson, eds., Imagining Boundaries: Changing Confucian Doctrines, Texts, and Hermeneutics. Albany: State University of New York Press. (The only study to date that informatively apprises us of the often brutally determinative role within the Neo-Confucian intellectual tradition of claims of heresy leveled against past personages, whether Confucian or otherwise.)Google Scholar
  18. Huang, Siu-chi. 1999. Essentials of Neo-Confucianism: Eight Major Philosophers of the Song and Ming Periods. Westport/London: Greenwood Press. (Inclusive of the metaphysical assumptions and methodological premises of the major Neo-Confucian philosophers ranging from Zhou Dunyi 周敦頤 to Wang Yangming 王陽明, this survey remains one of the most accessible and balanced and yet penetratingly revealing compendiums available.)Google Scholar
  19. Liu, Qingping. 2011. “Emotionales in Confucianism and Daoism: A New Interpretation.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 38.1: 118–33.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Liu, Shu-hsien. 1986. “The Problem of Orthodoxy in Chu Hsi’s Philosophy.” In Chan Wing-tsit, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  21. ———. 1998. Understanding Confucian Philosophy: Classical and Sung–Ming. Westport/London: Praeger Publishers.Google Scholar
  22. ———. 2015. “On the Formation of Zhu Xi’s Spiritual World.” In David Jones and Jinli He, eds., Returning to Zhu Xi: Emerging Patterns within the Supreme Polarity. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  23. Loewe, Michael. 2011. Dong Zhongshu, A “Confucian” Heritage and the Chunqiu Fanlu. Leiden: Brill. (The most thorough and critical examination of the life as well as the writings of the philosopher to date.)Google Scholar
  24. Makeham, John. 2003. Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects. Cambridge, MA; London: Harvard University Asia Center, Harvard University Press. (Discusses only very briefly but quite convincingly the prospective motives behind Zhu Xi’s appropriation of the daotong 道統.)Google Scholar
  25. Ng, On-cho. 2001. Cheng–Zhu Confucianism in the Early Qing: Li Guangdi (1642–1718) and Qing Learning. Albany: State University of New York Press.Google Scholar
  26. Nylan, Michael. 1994. “The ‘Chin Wen/Ku Wen’ Controversy in Han Times.” T’oung Pao, Second Series, 80.1/3: 83–145. (Certainly the most in-depth presentation and analysis of the intricacies of this consequential dispute at the time of its inception.)Google Scholar
  27. ———. 2003. “Yang Xiong 揚雄 (53 BCE–18 CE).” In Xinzhong Yao, ed., vol. 2 of RoutledgeCurzon Encyclopedia of Confucianism, 2 vols. London/New York: RoutledgeCurzon.Google Scholar
  28. ———. 2013. “Yang Xiong’s 揚雄 Final Fayan 法言 Chapter: Rhetoric to What End and for Whom?” In Garret P. S. Olberding, ed., Facing the Monarch: Modes of Advice in the Early Chinese Court. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Asia Center.Google Scholar
  29. Qian, Mu 錢穆. 2011. “Zhu Xi’s Commentary on the Historical Successors of the School of Confucius Supplemented with His Discussions of Laozi and Zhuangzi 朱子評述孔門以下歷代諸儒並附其論老莊.” In Qian Mu 錢穆, ed., vol. 3 of New Case Studies on Zhu Xi 朱子新學案. Beijing 北京: Jiuzhou Chubanshe 九州出版社. (Although originally published in 1971, this chapter essay still offers perhaps the most illuminating exposure to Zhu Xi’s views on the followers of Confucius up to his own time.)Google Scholar
  30. Quan, Huajun 全華淩. 2009. “On Zhu Xi’s Research on Han Yu 論朱熹的韓愈研究.” Chuanshan Journal 船山學刊 4.74: 91–94.Google Scholar
  31. Schwartz, Benjamin I. 1985. The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA/London: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press.Google Scholar
  32. Shun, Kwong-loi. 2008. “Wholeness in Confucian Thought: Zhu Xi on Cheng, Zhong, Xin, and Jing.” In Ng On-cho, ed., The Imperative of Understanding: Chinese Philosophy, Comparative Philosophy, and Onto-Hermeneutics. New York: Global Scholarly Publications.Google Scholar
  33. Slingerland, Edward. 2009. “Classical Confucianism (I): Confucius and the Lun-Yü.” In Bo Mou, ed., History of Chinese Philosophy. London/New York: Routledge.Google Scholar
  34. Tang, Yijie, Brian Bruya, and Wen Hai-ming. 2003. “Emotion in Pre-Qin Ruist Moral Theory: An Explanation of ‘Dao Begins in Qing.’” Philosophy East and West 53.2: 271–81.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Thompson, Kirill O. 2015. “Opposition and Complementarity in Zhu Xi’s Thought.” In David Jones and Jinli He, eds., Returning to Zhu Xi: Emerging Patterns within the Supreme Polarity. Albany: State University of New York Press. (This chapter essay focuses on the operational vocabulary of Zhu Xi’s moral metaphysics, making the persuasive claim for the containment of even terms that appear superficially to be in oppositional tension within an organic holism.)Google Scholar
  36. Wang, Bing 王兵, and Zhang Xiao 張霄. 2005. “Two Banners in the History of the Development of Confucianism—A Comparative Study of Dong Zhongshu and Zhu Xi’s Ethics 儒學發展史上的兩面旗幟—董仲舒、朱熹倫理思想比較研究.” Journal of Xuzhou Education College 徐州教育學院學報 20.1: 76–81.Google Scholar
  37. Wei, Cheng-t’ung. 1986. “Chu Hsi on the Standard and the Expedient” In Chan Wing-tsit, ed., Chu Hsi and Neo-Confucianism. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press.Google Scholar
  38. Yang, Xiong. 2013. Exemplary Figures: Fayan, translated by Michael Nylan. Seattle: University of Washington Press.Google Scholar
  39. Yü, Ying-shih. 2016. Chinese History and Culture: Sixth Century B.C.E. to Seventeenth Century, Vol. 1. New York: Columbia University Press.Google Scholar
  40. Zha, Jinping 查金萍. 2010. “Comment on Zhu Xi’s Acceptation of Han Yu 論朱熹對韓愈的接受.” Journal of Hefei University (Social Sciences) 合肥學院學報 (社會科學版) 27.4: 21–24.Google Scholar
  41. Zhu, Xi 朱熹. 1986. Classified Conversations of Master Zhu 朱子語類, edited by Li Jingde 黎靖德, Wang Xingxian 王星賢. Beijing 北京: Zhonghua Shuju 中華書局; Xinhua Shudian Beijing Faxingsuo 新華書店北京發行所.Google Scholar
  42. ———. 2000. Collected Works of Zhu Xi 朱子文集, edited by Chen Junmin 陳俊民. Taipei 臺北: Defu guji congkan 德富古籍叢刊.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

Personalised recommendations