Moral Happiness of Confucius and Yan Hui (kongyan lechu)

  • Shan Chun


A Confucian Saint is often believed to share four merits for his life: high position, attracting bonuses, good reputation, and long life. But the model of both Confucius and his most favored disciple Yan Hui did not testify to these merits in their lifetime. Confucius lived a miserable life and longer than average of his peers, often being chased after and driven out by dukes like a stray dog, and Yan Hui died in poverty at the age of 29. Yet both Confucius and Yan Hui were quite satisfied with their lives by demonstrating the beauty and merits of moral lives that philosophers could expect. So the life philosophy exhibited in Confucius and Yan Hui provoked a heated debate among Neo-Confucians: What is the sense of Moral Happiness of Confucius and Yan Hui (kongyan lechu)? The exploration into this Moral Happiness of Confucius and Yan Hui became an intellectual focus of the key exponents of Neo-Confucianism in the Song Dynasty. The Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi expounded it in connection with cosmology and epistemology, that is, any secular misfortune that occurred to human beings can be dwindled into nothing by comparing to cosmic dynamics or rather such universal consciousness would comparatively increase moral happiness of philosophers. Therefore, the moral happiness with a Chinese philosophical bent reveals the truth that the understanding of natural beauty and cosmic dynamics succinctly constitutes the optimistic spirituality permanently inspiring a Confucian believer to live as a saint.


Song Dynasty Ming Dynasty Confucian Ethic Yuan Dynasty Confucian Scholar 
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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2012

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.International Confucian StudiesChina University of Political Science and LawBeijingPeople’s Republic of China

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