AAS Annual Meeting

China and Inner Asia Session 667

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Session 667: Sagehood and Self-Cultivation: The Diverse Approaches Taken by Late Imperial Confucians (M. Theresa Kelleher, Manhattanville College) A Panel in Memory of Dr. Mizoguchi Yuzo

Organizer: Theresa Kelleher, Manhattanville College, USA

Chair: Reiko Shinno, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, USA

The Confucian tradition in late imperial China was anything but static and monolithic. The particular balance of self and society differed widely among individual thinkers and practitioners. The panel will illustrate this variety, starting with Wu Cheng of the Yuan, proceeding with three figures of the Ming, Wu Yubi, Wang Yangming, and Li Zhi, and ending with Tang Zhen of the early Qing. Of the five, Wu Cheng and Tao Zhen most show social concerns, in the case of Wu Cheng, broadening the notion of the Confucian gentleman to include medical professionals, and in the case of Tang Zhen, reestablishing the importance of the public realm in the area of statecraft, something he regarded as woefully neglected by Ming Confucians. The three figures of the Ming, in contrast, put a great deal of emphasis on the self (although Wang Yangming did attempt a balance of self and society). Wu Yubi is of the early Ming and recorded his pursuit of sagehood in diary form; Wang Yangming wrote extensively of his personal experiences in his letters and poetry; and Li Zhi turned his attention to the cult of the child and the relevance of the heart/mind of the child in cultivating the self.

Daoxue Appropriation of Elite Doctors from the Late Jin to Yuan
Reiko Shinno, University of Wisconsin, Eau Claire, USA

Through an examination of funerary inscriptions for doctors, prefaces to medical texts, and medical case records, this paper shows that Daoxue (the “Learning of the Way”) discourses appropriated the narratives of elite doctors from the late Jin to the Yuan period. More specifically, I start with Yuan Haowen (1190-1257), a leading literatus of his time and a close friend of a renowned doctor Li Gao (1180-1251). Relying on Li’s service as his client and respectfully calling him guoyi (national doctor), Yuan nonetheless never used the term ruyi (Confucian doctor) for Li Gao or any other doctors. His eulogies for doctors provide a sharp contrast with Li’s biography written in 1267 by Yan Jian (1212-1289), a great grandson of Zhu Xi (1130—1200) and a serious follower of the Learning of the Way. Brought by the Mongol army to north China in 1235, Yan highlighted Li’s behaviors that matched Daoxue values. As south China became a part of the Yuan empire in 1276 and Daoxue became the dominant intellectual discourse, elite doctors and clients increasingly collaborated to style doctors as Confucians. A mid-Yuan scholar, Wu Cheng (1255-1330), culminated this trend by theorizing how a doctor could focus on his art and yet achieve the same Way as Confucians did.

"It’s a Rocky Road to Sagehood but Confucius and Zhu Xi are There to Guide Me”: Wu Yubi’s Use of a Diary to Navigate His Way.
Theresa Kelleher, Manhattanville College, USA

This paper aims to dispel the common perception that early Ming Confucians contributed nothing of worth to the tradition, especially to the explosion of expressions of the self in the Ming. Focusing on Wu Yubi (1392-1469) and the contents of his diary (Erlu), I will show how his life and thought represent an important transition from the worldview of the Song to that of the mid-Ming thinkers, such as Wang Yangming. In his diary, he recorded his dreams, his program of study, the various struggles with himself and his life situation, and his moments of inspiration and joy. Its content and tone reflects an interplay of darkness and light, moving as it does between moods of great frustration and depression to others of stupendous joy and delight. He reflects a highly emotional, devotional kind of Confucianism, believing that Confucius and the Song masters had an active concern for him. He meditates on their pictures, dreams about them, and writes poems harmonizing with their rhyme schemes. From mid-Ming on, autobiographical writing proliferated and such a work as Wu’s would not be considered anything special. But that his diary proceeded this in time and that its author came from the Cheng-Zhu tradition (one often branded authoritarian, rigid, and uncreatively orthodox) will be used to support my argument that Wu contributed to the increase of self-expression in the Ming, and that he did so from dynamics inherent in the Cheng-Zhu school.

The Heart/Mind (Hsin) as a Mirror: Wang Yang-ming’s Reflections on Internal Self-cultivation
Wan-Hsian Chi, National Chi Nan University, Taiwan (R.O.C.)

The year of 1507 marked the turning point in Wang Yang-ming’s life and his pursuit of sagehood. In this year, Yang-ming was exiled in Lung-ch’ang at Kweichow where he experienced a sudden enlightenment in 1509. Twelve years later, Yang-ming at age 50 enunciated his teaching of extending innate knowledge of the good (Chih-liang-chih), which not only became the core doctrine of his philosophy but reshaped fundamentally as well the theoretical structure of Confucian teaching of self-cultivation. After the sudden enlightenment, Yang-ming emphasized on the inner dynamism of the self and had a rather distinctive personal viewpoint of the heart/mind (Hsin). Yang-ming’s interpretation of the heart/mind as a mirror indicates his personal experience of questing for inner peace and discovering the inner self, both as a source of energy and as a foundation of meaning in his pursuit of sagehood. In Yang-ming’s opinion, the heart/mind of the sage has no particle of dust and no need of polishing, which represents the perfection of the substance of humanity (jen); however, the heart/mind of the average man resembles a spotted and dirty mirror, which needs polishing efforts to remove all dust and dirt in order to reach the stage of knowing the substance of humanity. This paper aims to examine Yang-ming’s autobiographical writings to analyze his personal reflection on internal self-cultivation within those twelve years. I shall then explain how Yang-ming strived to realize the early Confucian teachings through his interpretation of the idea of the heart/mind and its relation with pursuing sagehood.

Talk of Children: Self Cultivation in Late-Ming China
Pauline C. Lee, Saint Louis University, USA

Given that children comprise a sizeable proportion of the population in any society and that children are so valued in China, it is puzzling that there does not exist more work on children and childhood in traditional Chinese scholarship. However, this is changing. A body of writings on children in the Han period (206 BCE-220 CE) has emerged where children are seen as born incompletely formed and blank slates, shaped and forged through the critical process of arduous teaching and learning. It is not until the mid- and late-Ming period, during the 15th-16th centuries, that scholars have pointed to the birth of what is known as the “cult of the child.” One scholar describes this period as one of an “outpouring” of discussion on the subject. One of the most central and celebrated voices within this “cult” is the famous late-Ming literatus Li Zhi (1527-1602), who, in his well-known essay “On the Child-like Heart-mind,” lauds and puts forth a conception of children as spontaneously expressive, unique, and fully formed humans upon birth. In this paper I explore his conception of self-cultivation by studying his use of the metaphor of the child. I then compare his conception of the child to others by examining select Han and Ming commentaries on passages on “infants” and “small children” that are found in the two classical texts, the Analects and the Mengzi. One finding is that Li’s conception of self-cultivation is more similar to some Han and Song Confucian thinkers than previously thought.

From Li Zhi(1527-1602) to Tang Zhen (1630-1704): Does Self-Cultivation Secure Statecraft?
Masaya Mabuchi, Gakushuin University, Japan

Through debates with Chen Liang (1143-1194) and Ye Shi (1150-1223), Zhu Xi (1130-1200) argued that effective statecraft (zhiren) could only be achieved if one is engaged in proper self-cultivation (xiuji). Zhu’s view became the premise upon which the later day scholars, including Wang Yangming (1472–1529), developed their philosophies. However, in the second half of the Ming period, when a large number of social issues emerged and the dynasty was weakened, some serious thinkers began to question this premise and asked whether or not an agent of action should only focus on self-cultivation. For example, Li Zhi pointed out that the concepts of self-cultivation and statecraft were not readily connected because the society on the one hand continued placing priority on self-cultivation over statecraft while on the other hand praised historical figures based on the result of their statecraft without asking how well their actions met moral principles. Addressing this issue, Tang Zhen formulated the thesis that only by accomplishing statecraft could one’s self-cultivation be complete. In other words, he clarified that self-cultivation is the necessary but not sufficient condition for statecraft. While past scholarship has only pointed to the increased interest in statecraft in early Qing, this paper shows the ways in which it affected the logical construction of Confucian philosophy and the hesitation and anguish felt by the philosophers from late Ming to early Qing.