Wang Yangming


Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming
Wang Yangming
Family name:
(姓)
Wang (王)
(Pinyin: Wáng)
Given name:
(名)
Shouren (守仁)
(Pinyin: Shǒurén)
Courtesy name:
(字)
Bo'an (伯安)
(Pinyin: Bo'an)
Hào 號:
(號)
Yangming (陽明)
(Pinyin: Yángmíng)
Posthumous name:
(謚)
Wencheng
(Ch: 王文成公 ;
Py: Wang Wenchenggong)
Title:
(封號)
Earl of Xinjian (新建伯)
(Pinyin: Xinjianbo)
Styled: Master Yangming
(Ch: 陽明子,
or
陽明先生;
Py: Yángmíngzǐ, or fr.
Yángmíng Xiānshēng;
Romanised as "Wang Yangming".

Wang Yangming (王陽明, 1472–1529) 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 philosophy of Zhu Xi. Wang was known as "Yangming Xiansheng" and/or "Yangming Zi" in literary circles: both mean "Brilliant Master Yangming".

Contents

Life and times

Born Wang Shouren (王 守仁) in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, his courtesy name was Bo'an (伯安). His father was an earl and a minister responsible for supervising civil personnel. Wang earned the "recommended person" degree in 1492 and the "presented scholar" degree in 1499. He served as an executive assistant in various government departments until being banished for offending a eunuch in 1506.[1] However, his professional career was later ensured when he became the Governor of Jiangxi.[2]

Wang became a successful general and was known for the strict discipline he imposed on his troops, repressing several rebellions. In 1519 AD, while he was governor of Jiangxi province, he repressed the uprising of Prince Zhu Chen-hao, and made one of the earliest references in using the fo-lang-ji in battle, a breech loading culverin cannon imported from the newly-arrived Portuguese venturers to China.[2] As governor of Jiangxi he also built schools, rehabilitated the rebels, and reconstructed what was lost by the enemy during the revolt. Though he was made an earl, he was ostracized for opposing Zhu Xi.[1]

Thirty-eight years after his death, he was given the titles Marquis and Completion of Culture. In 1584 he was offered sacrifice in the Confucian Temple, the highest honour for a scholar.[1]

Philosophy

Wang was the leading figure in the Neo-Confucian School of Mind, founded by Lu Jiuyuan of Southern Song. This school championed an interpretation of Mencius (a Classical Confucian who became the focus of later interpretation) that unified knowledge and action. Their rival school, the School of Principle (Li) treated gaining knowledge as a kind of preparation or cultivation that, when completed, could guide action.

Innate knowing

Out of Cheng-Zhu's Neo-Confucianism that was mainstream at the time, Wang Yangming developed the idea of innate knowing, arguing that every person knows from birth the difference between good and evil. Such knowledge is intuitive and not rational. These revolutionizing ideas of Wang Yangming would later inspire prominent Japanese thinkers like Motoori Norinaga, who argued that because of the Shinto deities, Japanese people alone had the intuitive ability to distinguish good and evil without complex rationalization. His school of thought (Ōyōmei-gaku in Japanese, Ō stands for the surname "Wang", yōmei stands for "Yangming", gaku means "school of learning") also greatly influenced the Japanese samurai ethic.

Knowledge as action

Wang's rejection of the investigation of knowledge comes from the fact that at the time the traditional view of Chinese thought was that once one gained knowledge, one had a duty to put that knowledge into action. This presupposed two possibilities:

  • That one can have knowledge without/prior to corresponding action.
  • That one can know what is the proper action, but still fail to act.

Wang rejected both of these which allowed him to develop his philosophy of action. Wang believed that only through simultaneous action could one gain knowledge and denied all other ways of gaining it. To him, there was no way to use knowledge after gaining it because he believed that knowledge and action were unified as one. Any knowledge that had been gained then put into action was considered delusion or false.

Mind and the world

He held that objects do not exist entirely apart from the mind because the mind shapes them. He believed that it is not the world that shapes the mind, but the mind that gives reason to the world. Therefore, the mind alone is the source of all reason. He understood this to be an inner light, an innate moral goodness and understanding of what is good. This is similar to the thinking of the Greek philosopher Socrates, who argued that knowledge is virtue.

In order to eliminate selfish desires that cloud the mind’s understanding of goodness, one can practice his type of meditation often called "tranquil repose" or "sitting still" (jingzuo 靜坐). This is similar to the practice of Chan (Zen) meditation in Buddhism.

Influence

  • Wang Yangming founded "Yaojiang School" (Chinese 姚江學派) or "Yangming School of Mind" (Chinese" 陽明心學), which became one of the dominant Confucian schools in the mid-late Ming period and Qing period China. The typical figures came from this school after Wang were Wang Ji (王龍溪), Qian Dehong (錢德洪), Wang Gen (王艮), Huang Zongxi (黃宗羲), Li Zhuowu (李卓吾) and Liu Zongzhou (劉宗周). Wang Gen formed Taizhou School (泰州學派), which went left of Wang Yangming's thought. During the late Ming period, Wang Yangming's thought became notably popular and influential in China.
  • The teachings of Wang Yangming were credited with inspiring many Japanese reformers and revolutionaries during the nineteenth century. This led to a great increase in interest in his thought in Japan at the end of the Meiji period, when many Chinese activists such as Liang Qichao and Chiang Kai-Shek were staying in Japan. Some Chinese and Korean thinkers believed that Wang Yangming's teachings strongly influenced the development of modern bushido (the "way of the warrior") in Japan, and promoted both ethics in their countries to strengthen the spirit of their respective peoples.[3]
  • Wang's interpretation of Confucianism has been influential in China into modern times. The twentieth-century Chinese warlord Yan Xishan attempted to revive Confucianism in Shanxi largely on the model of Wang's philosophy.[4]

Notes

  1. ^ a b c Chan 1963: 654.
  2. ^ a b Needham, Volume 5, Part 7, 372.
  3. ^ Benesch, 2009.
  4. ^ Gillin 60

See also

References

  • Antonio S. Cua (1982). The Unity of Knowledge and Action: A Study in Wang Yang-ming's Moral Psychology. University of Hawaii Press. ISBN 0-8248-0786-3. 
  • Chan, Wing-tsit (translated and compiled). A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.
  • Gillin, Donald G. Warlord: Yen Hsi-shan in Shansi Province 1911-1949. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press. 1967. ISBN: 66-14308
  • Кобзев А.И. Учение Ван Янмина и классическая китайская философия. М., 1983.
  • Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China: Volume 5, Part 7. Taipei: Caves Books, Ltd
  • Oleg Benesch. "Wang Yangming and Bushidō: Japanese Nativization and its Influences in Modern China." Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36 (3):439-454.[1]
  • Wing-tsit Chan (translated, with notes). Instructions For Practical Living and Other Neo-Confucian Writings by Wang Yang-Ming. Columbia University Press, 1963.
  • Wang Yang Ming in the Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy

External Links


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