Li (Neo-Confucianism)

Li (Neo-Confucianism)

"Li" (理)is a concept found in Neo-Confucian Chinese philosophy. It may be translated as rational principle or law. It was central to Zhu Xi's integration of Daoism into Confucianism. Zhu Xi held that "li", together with "qi" (氣: vital, material force), depend on each other to create structures of nature and matter. The sum of "li" is the "Taiji".

This idea resembles the Buddhist notion of "li", which also means principle. Zhu Xi maintained, however, that his notion is found in "I Ching" ("Book of Changes"), a classic source of Chinese philosophy. Zhu Xi's school came to be known as the School of "Li", which is comparable to rationalism. Wang Yangming, a philosopher who opposed Zhu Xi's ideas, held that "li" was to be found not in the world but within oneself. Wang Yangming was thus more of an idealist with a different epistemic approach.


* Chan, Wing-tsit (translated and compiled). "A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy". Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.

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