Neo-Confucianism

Neo-Confucianism

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Neo-Confucianism is an ethical
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 and metaphysical
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...

 influenced by Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

, that was primarily developed during the Song Dynasty
Song Dynasty
The Song Dynasty was a ruling dynasty in China between 960 and 1279; it succeeded the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, and was followed by the Yuan Dynasty. It was the first government in world history to issue banknotes or paper money, and the first Chinese government to establish a...

 and Ming Dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

, but which can be traced back to Han Yu
Han Yu
Han Yu , born in Nanyang, Henan, China, was a precursor of Neo-Confucianism as well as an essayist and poet, during the Tang dynasty. The Indiana Companion calls him "comparable in stature to Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe" for his influence on the Chinese literary tradition . He stood for strong...

 and Li Ao (772-841) in the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

.

Neo-Confucianism was an attempt to create a more rationalist and secular form of Confucianism
Confucianism
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius . Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han...

 by rejecting superstitious and mystical elements of Daoism and Buddhism
Buddhism
Buddhism is a religion and philosophy encompassing a variety of traditions, beliefs and practices, largely based on teachings attributed to Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha . The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent some time between the 6th and 4th...

 that had influenced Confucianism during and after the Han Dynasty. Although the Neo-Confucianists were critical of Daoism and Buddhism, the two did have an influence on the philosophy, and the Neo-Confucianists borrowed terms and concepts from both. However, unlike the Buddhists and Daoists, who saw metaphysics
Metaphysics
Metaphysics is a branch of philosophy concerned with explaining the fundamental nature of being and the world, although the term is not easily defined. Traditionally, metaphysics attempts to answer two basic questions in the broadest possible terms:...

 as a catalyst for spiritual development, religious enlightenment, and immortality, the Neo-Confucianists used metaphysics as a guide for developing a rationalist ethical
Ethics
Ethics, also known as moral philosophy, is a branch of philosophy that addresses questions about morality—that is, concepts such as good and evil, right and wrong, virtue and vice, justice and crime, etc.Major branches of ethics include:...

 philosophy.

Origins



Neo-Confucianism has its origins in the Tang Dynasty
Tang Dynasty
The Tang Dynasty was an imperial dynasty of China preceded by the Sui Dynasty and followed by the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period. It was founded by the Li family, who seized power during the decline and collapse of the Sui Empire...

; the Confucianist scholars Han Yu
Han Yu
Han Yu , born in Nanyang, Henan, China, was a precursor of Neo-Confucianism as well as an essayist and poet, during the Tang dynasty. The Indiana Companion calls him "comparable in stature to Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe" for his influence on the Chinese literary tradition . He stood for strong...

 and Li Ao
Li Ao
Li Ao , is a writer, social commentator, historian, and independent politician in the Republic of China .He is considered by many to be one of the most important modern Chinese essayists today, although critics have termed him an intellectual narcissist...

 are seen as forbears of the Neo-Confucianists of the Song Dynasty. The Song Dynasty philosopher Zhou Dunyi is seen as the first true "pioneer" of Neo-Confucianism, using Daoist metaphysics as a framework for his ethical philosophy. Neo-Confucianism developed both as a renaissance of traditional Confucian ideas, and as a reaction to the ideas of Buddhism and religious Daoism. Although the Neo-Confucianists denounced Buddhist metaphysics, Neo-Confucianism did borrow Daoist and Buddhist terminology and concepts.

One of the most important exponents of Neo-Confucianism was Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi
Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

 (1130–1200). He was a rather prolific writer, maintaining and defending his Confucian beliefs of social harmony and proper personal conduct. One of his most remembered was the book Family Rituals, where he provided detailed advice on how to conduct weddings, funerals, family ceremonies, and the veneration of ancestors. Buddhist thought soon attracted him, and he began to argue in Confucian style for the Buddhist observance of high moral standards. He also believed that it was important to practical affairs that one should engage in both academic and philosophical pursuits, although his writings are concentrated more on issues of theoretical (as opposed to practical) significance. It is reputed that he wrote many essays attempting to explain how his ideas were not Buddhist or Taoist, and included some heated denunciations of Buddhism and Taoism.

After Zhu Xi, Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian philosopher, official, educationist, calligraphist and general. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox...

 (1472–1529) is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker. Wang's interpretation of Confucianism denied the rationalist dualism of Zhu's orthodox philosophy.

There were many competing views within the Neo-Confucian community, but overall, a system emerged that resembled both Buddhist and Taoist (Daoist) thought of the time and some of the ideas expressed in the I Ching
I Ching
The I Ching or "Yì Jīng" , also known as the Classic of Changes, Book of Changes and Zhouyi, is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts...

 (Book of Changes) as well as other yin yang theories associated with the Taiji
Taiji
Taiji 太極 is a Chinese cosmological term for the "Supreme Ultimate" state of undifferentiated absolute and infinite potentiality, contrasted with the Wuji 無極 "Without Ultimate"...

 symbol (Taijitu
Taijitu
Taijitu is a term which refers to a Chinese symbol for the concept of yin and yang...

). A well known Neo-Confucian motif is paintings
Vinegar tasters
The Vinegar Tasters , is a traditional subject in Chinese religious painting. The allegorical composition depicts the three founders of China's major religious and philosophical traditions: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism...

 of Confucius
Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

, Buddha
Gautama Buddha
Siddhārtha Gautama was a spiritual teacher from the Indian subcontinent, on whose teachings Buddhism was founded. In most Buddhist traditions, he is regarded as the Supreme Buddha Siddhārtha Gautama (Sanskrit: सिद्धार्थ गौतम; Pali: Siddhattha Gotama) was a spiritual teacher from the Indian...

, and Lao Tzu all drinking out of the same vinegar jar, paintings associated with the slogan "The three teachings are one!"

While Neo-Confucianism incorporated Buddhist and Taoist ideas, many Neo-Confucianists strongly oppose Buddhism and Taoism. Indeed, they rejected the Buddhist and Taoist religions. One of Han Yu
Han Yu
Han Yu , born in Nanyang, Henan, China, was a precursor of Neo-Confucianism as well as an essayist and poet, during the Tang dynasty. The Indiana Companion calls him "comparable in stature to Dante, Shakespeare or Goethe" for his influence on the Chinese literary tradition . He stood for strong...

's most famous essays decries the worship of Buddhist relic
Relic
In religion, a relic is a part of the body of a saint or a venerated person, or else another type of ancient religious object, carefully preserved for purposes of veneration or as a tangible memorial...

s. Nonetheless, Neo-Confucian writings adapted Buddhist thoughts and beliefs to the Confucian interest. In China
China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

 Neo-Confucianism was an officially-recognized creed from its development during the Song dynasty until the early twentieth century, and lands in the sphere of Song China (Vietnam
Vietnam
Vietnam – sometimes spelled Viet Nam , officially the Socialist Republic of Vietnam – is the easternmost country on the Indochina Peninsula in Southeast Asia. It is bordered by China to the north, Laos to the northwest, Cambodia to the southwest, and the South China Sea –...

 and Japan
Japan
Japan is an island nation in East Asia. Located in the Pacific Ocean, it lies to the east of the Sea of Japan, China, North Korea, South Korea and Russia, stretching from the Sea of Okhotsk in the north to the East China Sea and Taiwan in the south...

) were all deeply influenced by Neo-Confucianism for more than half a millennium.

Philosophy


Neo-Confucianism is a social and ethical philosophy using metaphysical ideas, some borrowed from Taoism, as its framework. The philosophy can be characterized as humanistic and rationalistic, with the belief that the universe could be understood through human reason, and that it was up to man to create a harmonious relationship between the universe and the individual.

The rationalism of Neo-Confucianism is in contrast to the mysticism of the previously dominant Chan Buddhism
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

, which eventually died out in China and only survived in Japan. Unlike the Buddhists, the Neo-Confucians believed that reality existed, and could be understood by mankind, even if the interpretations of reality were slightly different depending on the school of Neo-Confucianism.

The importance of li in Neo-Confucianism gave the movement its Chinese name, literally "The study of Li."

Schools


Neo-Confucianism is categorized into different schools of thought, the most dominant of which was the Cheng-Zhu school
Cheng-Zhu school
The Cheng-Zhu school, known in Chinese as Chéngzhūlĭxué 程朱理学, is one of the major philosophical schools of Neo-Confucianism, based on the ideas of the Neo-Confucian philosophers Cheng Yi, Cheng Hao, and Zhu Xi....

, based on the ideas of Cheng Yi
Cheng Yi
Cheng Yi was a military general serving under the warlord Han Sui during the late Han Dynasty period of Chinese history. He joined his lord in resisting Cao Cao in Guanzhong...

, Cheng Hao
Cheng Hao
Chéng Hào , styled Bochun , was a neo-Confucian philosopher from Luoyang, China. In his youth, he and his younger brother Cheng Yi were students of Zhou Dunyi, one of the architects of Neo-Confucian cosmology.-Life:...

, and Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi
Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

.

Cheng-Zhu school



Zhu Xi's formulation of the Neo-Confucian world view is as follows. He believed that the Tao
Tao
Dao or Tao is a Chinese word meaning 'way', 'path', 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'...

  of Tian
Tian
Tian is one of the oldest Chinese terms for the cosmos and a key concept in Chinese mythology, philosophy, and religion. During the Shang Dynasty the Chinese called god Shangdi or Di , and during the Zhou Dynasty Tian "heaven; god" became synonymous with Shangdi...

  is expressed in principle or li
Li (Neo-Confucianism)
Li (理)is a concept found in Neo-Confucian Chinese philosophy.It refers to the underlying reason and order of nature as reflected in its organic forms....

, but that it is sheathed in matter or qi
Qi
In traditional Chinese culture, qì is an active principle forming part of any living thing. Qi is frequently translated as life energy, lifeforce, or energy flow. Qi is the central underlying principle in traditional Chinese medicine and martial arts...

. In this, his system is based on Buddhist systems of the time that divided things into principle (again, li), and shi . In the Neo-Confucian formulation, li in itself is pure and almost-perfect, but with the addition of qi, base emotions and conflicts arise. Human nature is originally good, the Neo-Confucians argued (following Mencius
Mencius
Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.-Life:Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city of Zoucheng , Shandong province, only thirty kilometres ...

), but not pure unless action is taken to purify it. The imperative is then to purify one's li. However, in contrast to Buddhists and Taoists, neo-Confucians did not believe in an external world unconnected with the world of matter. In addition, Neo-Confucians in general rejected the idea of reincarnation and the associated idea of karma
Karma
Karma in Indian religions is the concept of "action" or "deed", understood as that which causes the entire cycle of cause and effect originating in ancient India and treated in Hindu, Jain, Buddhist and Sikh philosophies....

.

Different Neo-Confucians had differing ideas for how to do so. Zhu Xi believed in gewu , the Investigation of Things, essentially an academic form of observational science
Observational science
An observational science is a science where it is not possible to construct controlled experiments in the area under study. For example, in astronomy, it is not possible to create or manipulate stars or galaxies in order to observe what happens...

, based on the idea that li lies within the world.

Yangmingism



Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian philosopher, official, educationist, calligraphist and general. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox...

 (Wang Shouren), probably the second most influential Neo-Confucian, came to another conclusion: namely, that if li is in all things, and li is in one's heart, there is no better place to seek than within oneself. His preferred method of doing so was jingzuo , a practice that strongly resembles zazen
Zazen
In Zen Buddhism, zazen is a meditative discipline practitioners perform to calm the body and the mind, and be able to concentrate enough to experience insight into the nature of existence and thereby gain enlightenment .- Significance :Zazen is considered the heart of Zen Buddhist practice...

 or Chan (Zen)
Zen
Zen is a school of Mahāyāna Buddhism founded by the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma. The word Zen is from the Japanese pronunciation of the Chinese word Chán , which in turn is derived from the Sanskrit word dhyāna, which can be approximately translated as "meditation" or "meditative state."Zen...

 meditation
Meditation
Meditation is any form of a family of practices in which practitioners train their minds or self-induce a mode of consciousness to realize some benefit....

. Wang Yangming developed the idea of innate knowing, arguing that every person knows from birth the difference between good and evil
Evil
Evil is the violation of, or intent to violate, some moral code. Evil is usually seen as the dualistic opposite of good. Definitions of evil vary along with analysis of its root motive causes, however general actions commonly considered evil include: conscious and deliberate wrongdoing,...

. Such knowledge is intuitive
Intuition (knowledge)
Intuition is the ability to acquire knowledge without inference or the use of reason. "The word 'intuition' comes from the Latin word 'intueri', which is often roughly translated as meaning 'to look inside'’ or 'to contemplate'." Intuition provides us with beliefs that we cannot necessarily justify...

 and not rational
Rationality
In philosophy, rationality is the exercise of reason. It is the manner in which people derive conclusions when considering things deliberately. It also refers to the conformity of one's beliefs with one's reasons for belief, or with one's actions with one's reasons for action...

. These revolutionizing ideas of Wang Yangming would later inspire prominent Japanese thinkers like Motoori Norinaga
Motoori Norinaga
was a Japanese scholar of Kokugaku active during the Edo period. He is probably the best known and most prominent of all scholars in this tradition.-Life:...

, who argued that because of the Shinto
Shinto
or Shintoism, also kami-no-michi, is the indigenous spirituality of Japan and the Japanese people. It is a set of practices, to be carried out diligently, to establish a connection between present day Japan and its ancient past. Shinto practices were first recorded and codified in the written...

 deities, Japanese people alone had the intuitive ability to distinguish good and evil without complex rationalization. Wang Yangming's school of thought (Ōyōmei-gaku in Japanese) also provided, in part, an ideological basis for some samurai who sought to pursue action based on intuition rather than scholasticism. As such, it also provided an intellectual foundation for the radical political actions of low ranking samurai in the decades prior to the Meiji Ishin (1868), in which the Tokugawa authority (1600–1868) was overthrown.

Neo-Confucianism in Korea


In Joseon
Joseon Dynasty
Joseon , was a Korean state founded by Taejo Yi Seong-gye that lasted for approximately five centuries. It was founded in the aftermath of the overthrow of the Goryeo at what is today the city of Kaesong. Early on, Korea was retitled and the capital was relocated to modern-day Seoul...

 Korea, neo-Confucianism was established as state ideology. Neo-Confucianism was introduced to Korea by An Hyang
An Hyang
An Hyang was a leading Confucian scholar born in Yeongju in present-day South Korea. He is considered the founder of Neo-Confucianism in Korea, introducing Song Confucianism to the Goryeo kingdom. An Hyang visited China, transcribing the Chu Tzu Shu and bringing his copy and portraits of Confucius...

 in Goryeo dynasty, in which Buddhism was the dominant religion. At that time, Goryeo dynasty was influenced by the Mongol Yuan dynasty
Yuan Dynasty
The Yuan Dynasty , or Great Yuan Empire was a ruling dynasty founded by the Mongol leader Kublai Khan, who ruled most of present-day China, all of modern Mongolia and its surrounding areas, lasting officially from 1271 to 1368. It is considered both as a division of the Mongol Empire and as an...

. Many Korean scholars visited China under the Yuan dynasty and An Hyang was one of them. In 1286, he happened to read a book of Zhu Xi in Yanjing
Beijing
Beijing , also known as Peking , is the capital of the People's Republic of China and one of the most populous cities in the world, with a population of 19,612,368 as of 2010. The city is the country's political, cultural, and educational center, and home to the headquarters for most of China's...

. He was so moved by this book that he transcribed this book entirely and came back to Korea with his transcribed copy. It inspired Korean intellectuals a lot and many of them embraced neo-Confucianism. They were usually from the middle class and sick of the old noble class. The newly rising neo-confucian intellectuals were the leading groups to overthrow the old dynasty and set up the new dynasty, Joseon.

They set up neo-Confucianism as state ideology of the new dynasty. They regarded Buddhism as poisonous to neo-Confucian order. So Buddhism was restricted or persecuted by the new dynasty. As neo-Confucianism encouraged education, there were founded a lot of neo-Confucian schools (서원 seowon
Seowon
Seowon were the most common educational institution of Korea during the mid- to late Joseon Dynasty. They were private institutions, and combined the functions of a Confucian shrine and a preparatory school. In educational terms, the seowon were primarily occupied with preparing students for the...

and 향교 hyanggyo) throughout country. Such schools produced a lot of neo-Confucian scholars. In the 16th century, Jo Gwang-jo attempted to transform Joseon into ideal neo-Confucian society with a series of radical reforms until he was executed in 1519. Despite the failure of reforms, neo-Confucianism soon became the predominant philosophy of Joseon dynasty. Soon they passed the phase only to read and remember Chinese original, and they could develop new neo-Confucian theories. Yi Hwang
Yi Hwang
Yi Hwang is one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty, the other being his younger contemporary Yi I . A key figure of the Neo-Confucian literati, he established the Yeongnam School and set up the Dosan Seowon, a private Confucian academy. Yi Hwang is often...

 and Yi I
Yi I
Yi I was one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty, the other being his older contemporary, Yi Hwang . Yi I is often referred to by his pen name Yulgok...

 were the most prominent of them. But Neo-Confucianism in Joseon dynasty became so dogmatic that it prevented social and economical development and change. Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian philosopher, official, educationist, calligraphist and general. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox...

's theory which were popular in Ming dynasty
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

 was regarded as heresy and severely condemned by Korean neo-Confucianists. And any annotations on Confucian canon which are different from Zhu Xi were excluded.

And the newly-emerging ruling class, called Sarim
Sarim
The Sarim , or "forest of scholars," was a powerful faction of literati that dominated Middle and Late Joseon politics.-Early beginning:...

(사림, 士林), divided into the political factions according to their diversity of neo-Confucian views on politics. There were two large factions and many subfactions.

During Japanese invasions of Korea (1592–1598), many Korean neo-Confucian books and scholars were taken to Japan. They motivated Japanese scholars such as Fujiwara Seika
Fujiwara Seika
was a Japanese philosopher, a leading neo-Confucian of the early Tokugawa Period and a teacher of Tokugawa Ieyasu.Like his student, Hayashi Razan , he had studied in Zen monasteries. But in 1598, at Fushimi Castle, he met Gang Hang , a Korean neo-Confucian scholar who was taken prisoner to Japan...

 and affected the development of Japanese neo-Confucianism.

Bureaucratic examinations


Neo-Confucianism became the interpretation of Confucianism whose mastery was necessary to pass the bureaucratic examinations
Imperial examination
The Imperial examination was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of...

 by the Ming
Ming Dynasty
The Ming Dynasty, also Empire of the Great Ming, was the ruling dynasty of China from 1368 to 1644, following the collapse of the Mongol-led Yuan Dynasty. The Ming, "one of the greatest eras of orderly government and social stability in human history", was the last dynasty in China ruled by ethnic...

, and continued in this way through the Qing dynasty until the end of the Imperial examination system in 1905. However, many scholars such as Benjamin Elman have questioned the degree to which their role as the orthodox
Orthodoxy
The word orthodox, from Greek orthos + doxa , is generally used to mean the adherence to accepted norms, more specifically to creeds, especially in religion...

 interpretation in state examinations
Imperial examination
The Imperial examination was an examination system in Imperial China designed to select the best administrative officials for the state's bureaucracy. This system had a huge influence on both society and culture in Imperial China and was directly responsible for the creation of a class of...

 reflects the degree to which both the bureaucrats and Chinese gentry actually believed those interpretations, and point out that there were very active schools such as Han learning
Han learning
Han Learning , or the Han school of classical philology, was an intellectual movement that reached its height in the mid-Qing dynasty in China.-Nature and origins:...

 which offered competing interpretations of Confucianism.

The competing school of Confucianism was called the Evidential School or Han Learning
Han learning
Han Learning , or the Han school of classical philology, was an intellectual movement that reached its height in the mid-Qing dynasty in China.-Nature and origins:...

 and argued that Neo-Confucianism had caused the teachings of Confucianism to be hopelessly contaminated with Buddhist thinking. This school also criticized Neo-Confucianism for being overly concerned with empty philosophical speculation that was unconnected with reality.

Confucian canon


The Confucian canon as it exists today was essentially compiled by Zhu Xi
Zhu Xi
Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

. Zhu codified the canon of Four Books (the Great Learning
Great Learning
The Great Learning was one of the "Four Books" in Confucianism. The Great Learning had come from a chapter in the Classic of Rites which formed one of the Five Classics. It consists of a short main text attributed to the teachings of Confucius and then ten commentary chapters accredited to one...

, the Doctrine of the Mean
Doctrine of the Mean
The Doctrine of the Mean , is both a concept and one of the books of Confucian teachings. The composition of the text is attributed to Zisi the only grandson of Confucius, and it came from a chapter in the Classic of Rites...

, the Analects of Confucius, and the Mencius
Mencius (book)
The Mencius , commonly called the Mengzi, is a collection of anecdotes and conversations of the Confucian thinker and philosopher Mencius. The work dates from the second half of the 4th century BC. It was ranked as a Confucian classic and its status was elevated in Song Dynasty...

) which in the subsequent Ming and Qing Dynasties were made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations.

China

  • Cheng Yi
    Cheng Yi (philosopher)
    Cheng Yi , courtesy name Zhengshu , also known as Mr. Yichuan , was a Chinese philosopher born in Luoyang during the Song Dynasty. He worked with his older brother Cheng Hao . Like his brother, he was a student of Zhou Dunyi, a friend of Shao Yong, and a nephew of Zhang Zai...

     and Cheng Hao
    Cheng Hao
    Chéng Hào , styled Bochun , was a neo-Confucian philosopher from Luoyang, China. In his youth, he and his younger brother Cheng Yi were students of Zhou Dunyi, one of the architects of Neo-Confucian cosmology.-Life:...

  • Lu Xiangshan aka Lu Jiuyuan
    Lu Jiuyuan
    thumb|200px|Lu JiuyuanLu Jiuyuan was a Chinese scholar and philosopher who founded the school of the universal mind, the second most influential Neo-Confucian school...

     (1139–1193)
  • Ouyang Xiu
    Ouyang Xiu
    Ouyang Xiu was a Chinese statesman, historian, essayist and poet of the Song Dynasty. He is also known by his courtesy name of Yongshu, and was also self nicknamed The Old Drunkard 醉翁, or Householder of the One of Six 六一居士 in his old age...

     (1007–1072)
  • Shao Yong
    Shao Yong
    Shao Yong , courtesy name Yaofu , named Shào Kāngjié after death, was a Song Dynasty Chinese philosopher, cosmologist, poet and historian who greatly influenced the development of Neo-Confucianism in China....

     (1011–1077)
  • Su Shi
    Su Shi
    Su Shi , was a writer, poet, artist, calligrapher, pharmacologist, gastronome, and statesman of the Song Dynasty, and one of the major poets of the Song era. His courtesy name was Zizhan and his pseudonym was Dongpo Jushi , and he is often referred to as Su Dongpo...

    , aka Su Dongpo (1037–1101)
  • Wang Yangming
    Wang Yangming
    Wang Yangming was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian philosopher, official, educationist, calligraphist and general. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox...

     aka Wang Shouren
  • Ye Shi
    Ye Shi
    Ye Shi , courtesy name Zhengze , pseudonym Mr. Shuixin , was a Chinese neo-Confucian of the Song dynasty.A native of Wenzhou, Zhejiang, he was the most famous figure of the Yongjia School, a neo-Confucianism School composed mostly of philosophers from Wenzhou Prefecture in Zhejiang province...

     (1150–1223)
  • Zhang Sanfeng
    Zhang Sanfeng
    Zhang Sanfeng was a semi-legendary Chinese Taoist priest who is believed by some to have achieved immortality, said variously to date from either the late Song Dynasty, Yuan Dynasty or Ming Dynasty. His name is said to have been Zhang Junbao 張君寶 before he became a Taoist.Zhang's legend is that of...

  • Zhang Shi (1133–1180)
  • Zhang Zai
  • Zhou Dunyi (1017–1073)
  • Zhu Xi
    Zhu Xi
    Zhū​ Xī​ or Chu Hsi was a Song Dynasty Confucian scholar who became the leading figure of the School of Principle and the most influential rationalist Neo-Confucian in China...

     (1130–1200)

Japan


  • Fujiwara Seika
    Fujiwara Seika
    was a Japanese philosopher, a leading neo-Confucian of the early Tokugawa Period and a teacher of Tokugawa Ieyasu.Like his student, Hayashi Razan , he had studied in Zen monasteries. But in 1598, at Fushimi Castle, he met Gang Hang , a Korean neo-Confucian scholar who was taken prisoner to Japan...

     (1561–1619)
  • Hayashi Razan
    Hayashi Razan
    , also known as Hayashi Dōshun, was a Japanese Neo-Confucian philosopher, serving as a tutor and an advisor to the first four shoguns of the Tokugawa bakufu. He is also attributed with first listing the Three Views of Japan. Razan was the founder of the Hayashi clan of Confucian scholars.Razan was...

     (1583–1657)
  • Nakae Tōju
    Toju Nakae
    thumb|180px|right|Nakae Tōju was a Japanese Confucian philosopher known as "the sage of Ōmi".Nakae was a feudal retainer who lived during the Tokugawa shogunate. He taught that the highest virtue was filial piety , and acted upon this, giving up his official post in 1634 in order to return to his...

     (1608–1648)
  • Yamazaki Ansai
    Yamazaki Ansai
    was a Japanese philosopher and scholar. He began his career as a Buddhist monk, but eventually came to follow the teachings of Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi. He combined Neo-Confucian ideas with Shinto to create Suika Shinto.-Early Years/Buddhism:...

     (1619–1682)
  • Kumazawa Banzan (1619–1691)
  • Yamaga Sokō
    Yamaga Soko
    was a Japanese philosopher and strategist during the Tokugawa shogunate. He was a Confucian, and applied Confucius's idea of the "superior man" to the samurai class of Japan...

     (1622–1685)
  • Itō Jinsai
    Ito Jinsai
    , who also went by the pen name Keisai, was a Japanese Confucian philosopher and educator. He is considered to be one of the most influential Confucian scholars of seventeenth century Japan, and the Tokugawa period generally, his teachings flourishing especially in Kyoto and the Kansai area...

     (1627–1705)
  • Kaibara Ekken
    Kaibara Ekken
    or Ekiken, also known as Atsunobu was a Japanese Neo-Confucianist philosopher and botanist.Kaibara was born into a family of advisors to the daimyo of Fukuoka Domain in Chikuzen Province . He accompanied his father to Edo in 1648, and was sent in 1649 to Nagasaki to study Western science...

     (aka Ekiken) (1630–1714)
  • Arai Hakuseki
    Arai Hakuseki
    was a Confucianist, scholar-bureaucrat, academic, administrator, writer and politician in Japan during the middle of the Edo Period, who advised the Shogun Tokugawa Ienobu. His personal name was Kinmi or Kimiyoshi . Hakuseki was his pen name...

     (1657–1725)
  • Ogyū Sorai
    Ogyu Sorai
    , pen name Butsu Sorai, was a Japanese Confucian philosopher. He has been described as the most influential such scholar during the Tokugawa period. His primary area of study was in applying the teachings of Confucianism to government and social order...

     (1666–1728)
  • Nakai Chikuzan
    Nakai Chikuzan
    Nakai, Chikuzan was the son of Nakai Shuan , one of the Kaitokudo's two founders. He became the administrative head of the Kaitokudo in 1797 during the Tokugawa era in Japan. An extrovert known for his bureaucratic skills and his firm precise Kanji, Chikuzan was vastly different from his brother...

     (1730–1804)
  • Ōshio Heihachirō
    Oshio Heihachiro
    was a former yoriki and a Neo-Confucianism scholar of the Ōyōmei school in Osaka. He is best remembered for his fierce opposition to the Tokugawa shogunate...

     (1793–1837)

Korea


  • An Hyang
    An Hyang
    An Hyang was a leading Confucian scholar born in Yeongju in present-day South Korea. He is considered the founder of Neo-Confucianism in Korea, introducing Song Confucianism to the Goryeo kingdom. An Hyang visited China, transcribing the Chu Tzu Shu and bringing his copy and portraits of Confucius...

     (1243–1306)
  • Yi Saek
    Yi Saek
    Yi Saek , also known as Mokeun, is a Korean writer and poet. His family belonged to the Hansan Yi clan. Yi Saek played a crucial role in the introduction and localisation of philosophy of Zhu Xi...

     (1328–1396)
  • Jeong Mong-ju
    Jeong Mong-ju
    Jeong Mongju , often known by his pen name Poeun, was a Korean civil minister and scholar during the late period of the Goryeo dynasty.-Biography:He was born in Yeongcheon, Gyeongsang province to a family from the Yeongil Jeong clan...

     (1337–1392)
  • Jeong Dojeon (1342–1398)
  • Gil Jae (1353–1419)
  • Jeong Inji
    Jeong Inji
    Jeong Inji was a Korean Neo-Confucian scholar and government minister. During the reign of Sejong the Great, he was vice-minister of education....

     (1396–1478)
  • Kim Jong-jik
    Kim Jong-jik
    Kim Jong-jik , often known by his pen name Jeompiljae, was a leading Korean Neo-Confucian scholar in the early Joseon Dynasty. He was born in Miryang in Gyeongsang province, to a yangban family of the Seonsan Kim lineage...

     (1431–1492)
  • Jo Gwang-jo (1482–1519)
  • Yi Hwang
    Yi Hwang
    Yi Hwang is one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty, the other being his younger contemporary Yi I . A key figure of the Neo-Confucian literati, he established the Yeongnam School and set up the Dosan Seowon, a private Confucian academy. Yi Hwang is often...

     (Pen name Toegye) (1501–1570)
  • Jo Sik (1501–1572)
  • Yi I
    Yi I
    Yi I was one of the two most prominent Korean Confucian scholars of the Joseon Dynasty, the other being his older contemporary, Yi Hwang . Yi I is often referred to by his pen name Yulgok...

     (Pen name Yulgok) (1536–1584)
  • Seong Hon (1535–1598)
  • Song Si-yeol
    Song Si-yeol
    Song Si-yeol , also known by his penname U-am, was a Joseon Dynasty-era politician and Korean Neo-Confucianism scholar and philosopher. Born in Okcheon, North Chungcheong, Korea, he was known for his concern with the problems of the common people...

    (1607–1689)