, Volume 11, Issue 1, pp 63-81

First online:

“There is Nothing More…Than Dressing and Eating”: Li Zhi 李贄 and the Child-like Heart-Mind (Tongxin 童心)

  • Pauline C. LeeAffiliated withDepartment of East Asian Languages and Cultures, and Program in Religious Studies, Washington University in Saint Louis Email author 

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This article examines the writings of the controversial 16th century thinker Li Zhi 李贄, also named (hao 號) Zhuowu 卓吾 (1527–1602), and argues that he articulates a coherent and compelling vision of a good life focused on the expression of genuine feelings distinctive to each individual. Through a study of literary texts and terms of art he refers to in his critical essay “On the Child-like Heart-mind” (Tongxin Shuo 童心說), as well as the metaphors and images he fleshes out throughout his writings, I characterize Li’s ethical vision and show that it is rooted in a particular loose and accommodating conception of human nature and centered on the simple and intuitive act of daily maintaining the birthright of our “child-like heart-mind.”


Li Zhi Neo-Confucianism Ming thought Tongxin Genuine