2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
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The Rise and Decline of the Chiang-men School of Mind in Ming China

Jen-tai Pan

The Affiliated High School of National Taiwan Normal University

Before the rise of the Yang-ming school of mind, a system of thought known as learning of mind emerged in the academic community of Ming China, which was called “the Chiang-men school” in Ming-shih. Ch’en Hsien-chang, the founder of the school, invented a new method for moral teaching to resolve a tradional problem concerning about how to keep the mind centered on principle. He emphasized the way of acquiring insight for oneself by quiet-sitting. This method is rather different from the practice of reverence convinced by the Ch’en-Chu school, which was the dominant school in the contemporary academic community. Therefore, Ch’en’s teaching had an effect of  what Thomas Kuhn terms a poradigm shift.

But, Ch’en’s invention immediately sparked many radical critiques from the Ch’en-Chu school. They asserted that his teaching was similar to that of Zen Buddism. They also doubted whether he had any realistic way of moral-practice. Within his life, Ch’en never gave positive any answer to these critiques. It is natural that they were later addressed to other scholars of the Chiang-men school.

However, most of the scholars of the Chiang-men school, except Chan Jo-shui, had no interest in responding to these critiques. Though Chan sincerely protected the teaching of Ch’en by reinterpreting it, he was influenced by the Ch’en-Chu school and couldn’t appreciate the pecularity of Ch’en’s thought. Thus, his reinterpretation submerged the style of the Chiang-men school in the maintream of the Ch’en-Chu school. This is the main reason why the Chiang-men school declined so rapidly.


Key Words: the Ch’en-Chu school, the Yang-ming school, the Chiang-men school, Ch’en Hsien-chang, Chan Jo-shui