Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivation

Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivation

Copyright Date: 2011
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  • Book Info
    Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivation
    Book Description:

    Approximately fifteen hundred years after Confucius, his ideas reasserted themselves in the formulation of a sophisticated program of personal self-cultivation. Neo-Confucians argued that humans are endowed with empathy and goodness at birth, an assumption now confirmed by evolutionary biologists. By following theGreat Learning-eight steps in the process of personal development-Neo-Confucians showed how this innate endowment could provide the foundation for living morally. Neo-Confucian students did not follow a single manual elaborating each step of theGreat Learning;instead they were exposed to age-appropriate texts, commentaries, and anthologies of Neo-Confucian thinkers, which gradually made clear the sequential process of personal development and its connection to social order.Neo-Confucian Self-Cultivationopens up in accessible prose the content of the eight-step process for today's reader as it examines the source of mainstream Neo-Confucian self-cultivation and its major crosscurrents from 1000 to 1900.6 illus.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6023-3
    Subjects: Religion

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Editor’s Preface
    (pp. ix-xiv)
  4. Dynastic Periods in Chinese History
    (pp. xv-xvi)
  5. Preface
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  6. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xix-xx)
  7. Introduction
    (pp. xxi-xxxii)

    This book tells the story of the moral and spiritual practice of Neo-Confucian self-cultivation in Chinese history. The heart of the program of self-cultivation will be revealed by opening up its essential texts and analyzing how they should be studied. Travel with me back to the year 1000 CE when our story begins with the arrival of the new intellectual and political movement called Neo-Confucianism. We end our journey in 1911 — a time when Neo-Confucian self-cultivation was embedded for the last time in the inherited Confucian social and political institutions of imperial China.

    Neo-Confucianism, at its origins in the Song...

  8. Part I. Neo-Confucianism, 1000–1400
    • CHAPTER 1 Song Dynasty Neo-Confucianism
      (pp. 3-19)

      The intellectual movement known as Neo-Confucianism, begun in the eleventh century, developed one of the most sophisticated formulations of self-cultivation in the history of humanistic education. After looking at its historical background, I will treat the three components that made its doctrines new: (1) the reshaping of what constituted the Confucian canon of texts; (2) the metaphysical assumption that there are underlying principles existing independently of the knower, in all things, affairs, and our innately good human nature; and (3) an elaborated program of self-cultivation. The remarkable Song dynasty synthesis of these three components defining how to live humanely changed...

    • CHAPTER 2 Neo-Confucian Education
      (pp. 20-34)

      Of the three components defining Neo-Confucianism (see chapter 1), self-cultivation and the reshaped canon of classics were more lasting than the metaphysical and epistemological content of the philosophical doctrine. At the end of the nineteenth century, for example, the revision of the Song dynasty doctrine made the metaphysics of “principle” and the aim of all individuals to become sages dispensable. Systematic moral self-cultivation, however, remained indispensable.

      The importance of the role of self-cultivation in attaining a moral life owed much to the emphasis on this idea in Neo-Confucian academies. By the end of the Song period in 1279 some sixty...

  9. Part II. The Great Learning and the Eight Steps to Personal Cultivation
    • CHAPTER 3 The First Five Steps of Personal Cultivation
      (pp. 37-60)

      The Confucian Eight Steps are embedded in a remarkably short, one-page classic, theGreat Learning.In the 1100S CE this ancient text was singled out from among the ritual texts compiled during the Han dynasty as the cardinal work with which to begin one’s adult education in Confucian ethics. The brief paragraphs of theGreat Learningare a framework on which students can flesh out the moral path to humaneness. Anyone, not just eminent scholars or chosen disciples, can enter the gateway to sagehood by studying and applying to their lives the steps in this classic. The most prominent Confucians...

    • CHAPTER 4 The Three Steps of Social Development
      (pp. 61-72)

      The complete text of theGreat Learninghas the following paragraph at its conclusion: “From the Son of Heaven [the emperor] down to the common people, they all as one take cultivating the person to be the root. How could it be that the root be disturbed and yet have the branch remain undisturbed? Never should the important be treated as trivial; never should the trivial be treated as important.” Zhu Xi explained that the word “important” in this final sentence should refer to the “family.” The preceding cultivation of the person was then linked directly to the social identity...

  10. Part III. Self-Cultivation Upgrades:: The Fifteenth Century through the Nineteenth Century
    • CHAPTER 5 Reforms in Neo-Confucianism: The Fifteenth to the Eighteenth Centuries
      (pp. 75-86)

      Chinese rule of China was restored when the Ming dynasty conquered the Mongols in 1368. In 1415 the Ming leadership published by imperial decree its own edition of Neo-Confucian interpretations of the Four Books and Five Classics, which became the standard for the Ming civil service examinations. However, the first fifty years of Ming rule brought about remarkable Neo-Confucian sacrifice. A cruel usurpation by the uncle of the second Ming emperor led to the slaughter of some forty thousand people as the uncle’s dragnet for suspected dissenters swept down from Beiping (Beijing) to the southern capital in Nanjing. The future...

    • CHAPTER 6 The Nineteenth-Century Synthesis in Confucian Learning
      (pp. 87-108)

      In the early nineteenth century, several of the new Qing dynasty academies followed the eighteenth-century emphasis on both new textual criticism, called evidential research, and ritual in their institutional precepts and in their curricula. The Retreat for the Philological Analysis of the Classics (Hangzhou, 1801) and the Sea of Learning Academy (Canton, 1826) were two; following their model a bit later, the Dragon Gate Academy (Shanghai, 1865) and Southern Quintessence Academy (Jiangyin, 1884) were exemplars of combining philological scholarship with ritual practice. Classics were taught as historical documents, which allowed recognition of possible interpolations from much later times; such passages...

  11. Legacies
    (pp. 109-112)

    The late nineteenth-century synthesis of the Confucian ethical tradition was the tip of an iceberg, the base of which extended to before 500 BCE, when Confucius first began teaching. The nineteenth-century revision had Neo-Confucian content at its core but relied on revised texts whose wording had met the test of philological scrutiny. Some sources held dear by the early Neo-Confucians had even been exposed as forgeries. The final formulation of Confucian ethics before the empire ended in 1911 was not the pure eleventh-century Neo-Confucian formulation, but a synthesis with it.

    That synthesis explained that instead of humaneness being recovered from...

  12. Appendix: Chronology of Works and Thinkers with the Sequence for Reading the Four Books Indicated
    (pp. 113-114)
  13. Notes
    (pp. 115-118)
  14. Further Readings
    (pp. 119-124)
  15. Index
    (pp. 125-132)
  16. Back Matter
    (pp. 133-136)