2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

The Reconstruction of Moral Society: Wang Yangming’s Philosophy of Mind (xinxue)

Cheng-hsien Yang

Ph.D., Department of History at National Tsing Hua University, Hsinchu, Taiwan

When Wang Yangming returned from Guizhou to Beijing, due to his own experience of political persecution, he was pained by the realization that social standards of right and wrong were turned upside down at that time. The causes of such conditions, he suggested, had to do with people's selfishness. Individual selfishness subsequently led to various social and national problems. Investigating and reflecting on the Cheng-Zhu school of philosophy, Wang redefined the concept of sagehood (shengren zhi xue). He proposed the philosophy of Mind (xinxue) as a way to attain sagehood in order to regain the political harmony of Three Dynasties (sandai zhi zhi).

Wang Yangming endeavored to promote the study of sagehood whenever he worked in Beijing or Nanjing. Since he emphasized the contents and importance of Mind in his writings, his viewpoints seemed to fit the pattern of the older disputes between the different approaches of Zhu Xi and Lu Jiuyuan (Zhu-Lu yitong). This was not Wang’s intention. In order to clarify his ideas, Wang wrote a book entitled Zhuzi wannian dinglun (The final evaluation on Zhu Xi’s later years). In this book Wang made two arguments. First, he demonstranted that the philosophy of Lu Jiuyuan was not Zen Buddhist thought. Second, he showed that Zhu Xi had also paid attention to the philosophy of Mind. After the publication of this book, Wang’s ideas had widespread impact to the extent that scholars began to rethink the entire Cheng-Zhu philosophy.


Keywords: Wang Yangming, philosophy of Mind (xinxue), sagehood (shengren zhi xue), the political harmony of Three Dynasties (sandai zhi zhi), final evaluation on Zhu Xi’s later years (Zhuzi wannian dinglun)