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Zhu Xi and Pre-Qin Confucianism

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

Abstract

Unavoidable in any deliberation on or appreciation of the commanding philosophical influence of Zhu Xi 朱熹 (1130–1200) is an inevitable consideration of his role as a synthesizer. The preeminence of Zhu Xi’s stature as the individual who drew together all of the best features of the Confucian philosophical tradition is undisputed. Moreover, even within the wide parameters of traditional Chinese philosophy as a whole, arguably aside from Han Feizi 韓非子 (c. 280–233 BCE), who distilled for posterity the most comprehensive version of the tradition we now recognize as Legalism, Zhu Xi as a synthesizer is without peers. However, in terms of its ethical agenda and in other ways, Legalism is unquestionably a philosophy of much narrower scope than Confucianism. Therefore, it is perhaps more fitting that we should assess Zhu Xi’s achievement in this capacity in relation to that attained by the great synthesizers of entirely different traditions in thought, such as the Italian Dominican friar and priest Thomas Aquinas (1225–1274). Just as Aquinas has left us the clearest and most representative version of Catholicism from its earlier namesake, Zhu has performed the same service by bequeathing Neo-Confucianism to us from the welter of ideas and concepts that was once pre-Qin Confucianism.

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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of HistoryMiddlebury CollegeMiddleburyUSA

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