Unformatted text preview: orities and Tokugawa-period intellectuals in general had relatively
little interest in the purely metaphysical side of Chu Hsi’s teachings,
they found his philosophy to be enormously useful in justifying or ideologically legitimizing the feudal structure of state and society that had
emerged in Japan by the seventeenth century.
Chu Hsi Neo-Confucian philosophy is a dualistic system based on
the concepts of r i, “principle,” and ki, a term that seems to defy precise
translation into English but has been rendered as “ether” or “substance.” The essence of all things lies in their r i or principles, which in
humans can be conceived as their basic natures. But these natures, which
in the orthodox Confucian tradition are regarded as inherently “good,”
become obscured by the functioning of ki, a force governed by the passions and other emotions that produce evil. The fundamental purpose
of Neo-Confucian practice is to calm one’s turbid ki to allow one’s nature
(ri) to shine forth. The person who achieves this purpose becomes a sage,
his r i seen as one with the universal principle, known as the “supreme
ultimate” (taikyoku), that governs all things.
Neo-Confucianism proposed two main courses to clarify r i, one objective and the other subjective.7 The objective course was through the
acquisition of knowledge by means of the “investigation of things,” a
phrase taken by Chu Hsi from the Chinese classic The Great Learning (Ta
hsüeh). At the heart of things to investigate was history, wherein lay
knowledge about how the great, sage rulers of the past governed by moral
example. Thus rulers and their ministers were in particular enjoined to 172 The Flourishing of a Bourgeois Culture inquire into the lessons of history in order to chart a proper course of
governance. Quite apart from any practical guidance to good rulership it
may have provided, this Neo-Confucian stress on historical research
proved to be a tremendous spur to scholarship and learning in general
during the Tokugaw...
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This note was uploaded on 02/08/2013 for the course ANTH 142 taught by Professor Hans during the Spring '13 term at UBC.
- Spring '13