Zhu Xi and Western Philosophy

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


Zhu Xi 朱熹 constructed his grand synthesis of Chinese philosophy in the twelfth century. In the thirteenth century, on the other side of the wide Eurasian land mass, Thomas Aquinas (1226–1274) constructed his grand synthesis of Western philosophy and theology. The philosophical approaches adopted by those two intellectual giants were almost diametrically opposed.


  1. Adler, Joseph A. 2014. Reconstructing the Confucian Dao: Zhu Xi’s Appropriation of Zhou Dunyi. Albany: State University of New York Press. (An argument that the idea of the interpenetration of activity and stillness, which underlay Zhu Xi’s spiritual practice, came from Zhou Dunyi.)Google Scholar
  2. Ames, Roger T., and David L. Hall. 2001. Focusing the Familiar: A Translation and Philosophical Interpretation of the Zhongyong. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (A translation of the Zhongyong 中庸 [The Doctrine of the Mean] designed to reflect the translator’s assumption that this classic should be approached through the prism of interactions of processes and events.)Google Scholar
  3. Aquinas, Thomas. 1948. Summa Theologica. In Anton E. Pegis, ed., Introduction to St. Thomas Aquinas. New York: Random House. (Translated excerpts of the writings of Thomas Aquinas.)Google Scholar
  4. Baker, Don. 1983. “Jesuit Science Through Korean Eyes.” Journal of Korean Studies 4: 207–39. (An analysis of why most Korean Neo-Confucians rejected the fundamental assumptions of the natural philosophy Catholic missionaries brought in East Asia in the seventeenth-century.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. ———. 1990. “Sirhak Medicine: Measles, Smallpox, and Chong Tasan.” Korean Studies 14: 135–66. (A dissection of how different Neo-Confucian and Western concepts of the body, and of the causes of, and remedies for, bodily dysfunctions, were.)Google Scholar
  6. ———. 2012. “Impotent Numbers: Korean Confucian Reactions to Jesuit Mathematics.” The Korean Journal for the History of Science 34.2: 227–56. (An analysis of why the Jesuit strategy of using the logic in Euclid’s Elements to attract Korean Neo-Confucians to Christianity was rarely successful.)Google Scholar
  7. Bloom, Alfred. 1981. The Linguistic Shaping of Thought Hillsdale. New Jersey: Lawrence Erlbaun Associates. (An argument that the words we use, and the grammar we rely on, influences the sorts of questions we raise as well as the answers to those questions we deem most plausible.)Google Scholar
  8. Chan, Wing-tsit. 1963. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton: Princeton University Press.Google Scholar
  9. Cheng, Hao 程顥, and Cheng Yi 程頤. 1936. Surviving Works of the Cheng Brothers 二程遺書, part of The Complete Works of the Two Chengs 二程全書. Shanghai 上海: Zhonghua shuju 中華書局.Google Scholar
  10. Ching, Julia. 1977. Confucianism and Christianity. Tokyo: Kodansha International.Google Scholar
  11. Emmet, Dorothy M. 1967. “Whitehead, Alfred North.” In Paul Edwards, ed., Encyclopedia of Philosophy, vol. 8. New York: Macmillan.Google Scholar
  12. Gallagher, Louis J., trans. 1953. China in the Sixteenth Century: The Journals of Matthew Ricci, 1583–1610. New York: Random House. (It provides insights in how Matteo Ricci reacted to Chinese and Chinese culture.)Google Scholar
  13. Gernet, Jacques. 1985. China and the Christian Impact: A Conflict of Cultures, translated by Janet Lloyd. New York: Cambridge University Press. (An influential argument that the basic assumptions of Christianity and Neo-Confucianism are incompatible.)Google Scholar
  14. Graham, Angus C. 1990. Studies in Chinese Philosophy and Philosophical Literature. Albany: State University of New York Press. (A collection of articles grappling with various issues raised by A. C. Graham in his publications on Chinese thought.)Google Scholar
  15. ———. 1992. Two Chinese Philosophers: The Metaphysics of the Brothers Ch’eng. La Salle: Open Court. (An influential study of the philosophies of the two brothers who greatly influenced Zhu Xi.)Google Scholar
  16. Hansen, Chad. 1985. “Chinese Language, Philosophy, and ‘Truth.’” Journal of Asian Studies 44.3: 491–519. (An argument that Chinese philosophers were more concerned about what was appropriate than what was true.)Google Scholar
  17. Harbsmeier, Christoph. 1998. Language and Logic, vol. 7 part 1 of Science and Civilization in China, edited by Joseph Needham. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (An argument that the Chinese language was capable to dealing with logic and questions of truth or falsity.)Google Scholar
  18. Johnston, Ian, and WANG Ping, trans., and annot. 2012. Daxue and Zhongyong: Bilingual Edition. Hong Kong: Chinese University Press. (A useful translation of the Daxue and Zhongyong accompanied by the commentaries of Zheng Xuan, Kong Yingda, and Zhu Xi.)Google Scholar
  19. Kim, Yung Sik. 2000. The Natural Philosophy of Chu Hsi (1130–1200). Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. (An overview of Zhu Xi’s natural philosophy by a scholar trained in both philosophy and science.)Google Scholar
  20. Lindberg, David C., and Ronald Numbers, eds. 1986. God and Nature: Historical Essays on the Encounter Between Christianity and Science. Berkeley: University of California Press. (A collection of articles dealing primarily with how Christian thinkers in Europe dealt with the dramatic changes in how the natural world was conceived at the beginning of the modern era.)Google Scholar
  21. Liu, Yu. 2015. Harmonious Disagreements: Matteo Ricci and his closest Chinese friends. New York: Peter Lang. (A study of Chinese who encountered Matteo Ricci and found his ideas intriguing and even, in some cases, persuasive.)Google Scholar
  22. Menegon, Eugenio. 2009. Ancestors, Virgins, and Friars: Christianity as a Local Religion in Late Imperial China. Cambridge: Harvard University Asia Center. (A study of Catholicism in China’s Fujian province.)Google Scholar
  23. Meynard, Thierry. 2015. “The First Treatise on the Soul in China and its sources: an examination of the Spanish edition of Lingyan lishao by Duceux.” Revista Filosófica de Coimbra 47: 203–42. (A study of the first introduction of the ideas in Aristotle’s De Anima to China.)Google Scholar
  24. ———. 2017. “Aristotelian Works in Seventeenth-century China.” Monumenta Serica 65.1: 61–85. (A survey of Jesuit attempts in the seventeenth-century to translation Aristotelian concepts into Chinese.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Mungello, David E. 1977. Leibniz and Confucianism: The Search for Accord. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press. (An examination of an attempt by a European philosopher to incorporate insights from Confucian philosophy into his own philosophy.)Google Scholar
  26. ———, ed. 1994. The Chinese Rites Controversy: Its History and Meaning. Nettetal: Steyler Verl. (A collection of articles on the unfolding of, and the reasons for, the dispute over whether Confucian ancestral rites were idolatrous.)Google Scholar
  27. Peterson, Willard J. 1970. “Fang I-chih: Western Learning and the Investigation of Things.” In Wm. Theodore De Bary, ed., The Unfolding of Neo-Confucianism. New York: Columbia University Press. (A definitive study of one seventeenth-century Chinese Confucian who learned from Western natural philosophy but did not let it undermine his fundamental Confucian assumptions.)Google Scholar
  28. ———. 1973. “Western Natural Philosophy Published in late Ming China,” Proceedings of the American Philosophical Society 117: 295–322. (A comprehensive overview of the natural philosophy European missionaries introduced to China in the early seventeenth-century.)Google Scholar
  29. ———. 2010. “Learning from Heaven: The Introduction of Christianity and Other Western Ideas into Late Ming China.” In John E. Wills, Jr, ed., China and Maritime Europe, 1500–1800: Trade, Settlement, Diplomacy, and Missions. New York: Cambridge University Press. (A comprehensive survey of the philosophy and theology Jesuits missionaries introduced to China in the early seventeenth century.)Google Scholar
  30. Ricci, Matteo. 2016. The True Meaning of the Lord of Heaven, edited by Thierry Meynard, translated by Douglas Lancashire, and Peter Hu Kuo-chen. Boston: Institute of Jesuit Sources, Boston College. (A pioneering attempt to convince Chinese Neo-Confucians that Christianity and Confucianism (though not Neo-Confucianism) were compatible.)Google Scholar
  31. Sambiasi, Francesco. 1976. Humble Attempt at Explaining Matters Pertaining to the Soul (Lingyan Lishao 靈言蠡勺). In Li Zhizao 李之藻, ed., An Introduction to Heavenly Learning (Ch’ŏnhak ch’oham 天學初函). Seoul: Asea munhwasa. (An explication of late medieval European theories of cognition provided by Francesco Sambiasi (1582–1649) in a Chinese-language rendering of the Aristotelian text De Anima.)Google Scholar
  32. Shen, Vincent. 2009. “Introduction and Re-writing of Aristotle’s De Anima by Early Jesuits in China.” Sogang Journal of Philosophy (Ch’ŏrhak nonjip) 17: 51–94. (A study of the attempts by Jesuit missionaries to make Aristotle’s De Anima understandable to Confucians.)Google Scholar
  33. Shin, Hudam 愼後聃. 1971. On Western Learning (Sŏhakpyŏn). In Yi Man-ch’ae 李晩采, ed., In defense of orthodoxy (Pyŏgwip’yŏn 闢衛編). Seoul: Yŏlhwadang, 1971. (An early eighteenth-century attack on Western philosophy by a Korean Neo-Confucian.)Google Scholar
  34. Slingerland, Edward. 2003. Confucius Analects: with Selections from Traditional Commentaries. Indianapolis: Hackett Pub. (An award-winning translation of the Analects.)Google Scholar
  35. Song, Gang. 2019. Giulio Aleni, Kouduo richao, and Christian-Confucian dialogism in late Ming Fujian. New York: Routledge. (An argument that the encounter between European missionaries and Chinese Confucians changed the way they both thought.)Google Scholar
  36. Wardy, Robert. 2000. Aristotle in China; Language, Categories, and Translation. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. (An argument that it was possible to translate even the most difficult concepts in Aristotelian logic into Chinese.)Google Scholar
  37. Witek, John W. 2016. “Catholic Missionaries, 1644–1800.” In Willard J. Peterson, ed., Cambridge History of China volume 9: The Ch’ing Dynasty to 1800, Part 2, 329–71. (A survey of the history of the Catholic community in China after the fall of the Ming.)CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  38. Zhu, Xi 朱熹. 1714. The Complete Works of Zhu Xi 御纂朱子全書. In Qinding siku quanshu huiyao 欽定四庫全書薈要.Google Scholar
  39. ———. 1962. Thematic Discouses of Master Zhu 朱子語類. Taipei 臺北: Zheng zhong shu ju 正中書局.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Asian StudiesUniversity of British ColumbiaVancouverCanada

Personalised recommendations