Research Article

Frontiers of Philosophy in China

, Volume 6, Issue 4, pp 521-548

First online:

Zhu Xi’s choice, historical criticism and influence—An analysis of Zhu Xi’s relationship with Confucianism and Buddhism

  • Weixiang DingAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Shaanxi Normal University Email author 


As a great synthesist for the School of Principles of the Northern and Southern Song dynasties, Zhu Xi’s influence over the School of Principles was demonstrated not only through his positive theoretical creation, but also through his choice and critical awareness. Zhu’s relationship with Confucianism and Buddhism is a typical case; and his activities, ranging from his research of Buddhism (the Chan School) in his early days to his farewell to the Chan School as a student of Li Dong from Yanping and then to his critical awareness of the Chan School, developed in his association with Wang Yingchen, set the entire course of his relationship with Confucianism and Buddhism. It fostered his antagonistic attitude towards the Chan School, which lasted his entire life. Zhu approached the Chan School mainly as an objective social and cultural phenomenon; his discrimination between Confucianism and Buddhism was from an epistemological point of view; and his refutation of the Chan School was mainly from the point of view of language and methodology, an antagonistic attitude of how to face learning. Therefore, his opposition to the Chan School not only directly fostered an awareness of the Confucians of the Ming dynasty against Buddhism, who simply viewed the latter as an external and objective existence, but to a certain extent resulted in the disappearance of the transcendence of the School of Principles, and caused a total change in academic direction during the Ming and Qing dynasties and the formation of the Qianjia Hanxue. What is more, such an opposition to Buddhism continues to influence people’s understanding of the School of Principles.


Zhu Xi choice criticism historical influence relationship with Confucianism and Buddhism