, Volume 10, Issue 1, pp 85-98

First online:

Mou Zongsan and Tang Junyi on Zhang Zai’s and Wang Fuzhi’s Philosophies of Qi: A Critical Reflection

  • Wing-cheuk ChanAffiliated withDepartment of Philosophy, Brock University Email author 

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As the founders of Contemporary Neo-Confucianism, Mou Zongsan and Tang Junyi developed different interpretations of Zhang Zai’s and Wang Fuzhi’s philosophies of qi. In this essay, both the strength and weakness of their interpretations will be critically examined. As a contrast, an alternative interpretation of the School of qi in Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism will be outlined. This new interpretation will uncover that, like Leibniz, Zhang Zai and Wang Fuzhi introduced a non-substantivalist approach in natural philosophy in terms of an innovative concept of force. This interpretation not only helps to show the limitations of Mou Zongsan’s and Tang Junyi’s understandings of Zhang Zai’s and Wang Fuzhi’s doctrines of qi, but also indicates a way to bridge the traditional Chinese philosophy of nature and modern physics. More generally, our critical discussions will bring to light a new angle with which to re-appreciate Mou Zongsan’s and Tang Junyi’s contributions to the development of Confucianism.


Zhang Zai Wang Fuzhi Tang Junyi Mou Zongsan Leibniz Philosophy of qi Neo-Confucianism