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The Renaissance of Wang Yangming Studies in the People’s Republic of China

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The Renaissance of Wang Yangming Studies in the People’s Republic of China
George L. Israel
Philosophy East and West, Volume 66, Number 3, July 2016, pp. 1001-1019
Published by University of Hawai'i Press
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Philosophy East & West Volume 66, Number 3 July 2016 1001–1019 1001
© 2016 by University of Hawai‘i Press
The Renaissance of Wang Yangming Studies in the People’s Republic
of China
George L. Israel
Middle Georgia State University
The revival of Confucianism in China since the Reform and Opening is a topic that
has received much scholarly attention. Beginning in the 1980s, this revival has in-
cluded the establishment of a multitude of research institutes and study societies;
local, national, and international conferences and symposiums; the restoration of
historical sites; the introduction of a Confucian curriculum into schools; and an
increasingly voluminous scholarship.1 Reasons for the revival include government
policy and the search for “a new source of ideological legitimacy for the state”; “a
renewed academic interest” among intellectuals searching “for ways of dealing with
China’s current social and political predicament”; the commercialization of tradi-
tional culture and history; cultural pride and nationalism; and the influence of New
Confucianism and other academic trends outside China (especially in Japan and
Taiwan), among other factors.2
One facet of this revival has been scholarship and activities specific to important
figures in the history of Confucianism. Thus, for example, Umberto Bresciani has
outlined the broader phenomenon of the Confucian revival in mainland China from
1980 to 2000 while also detailing developments in scholarship on New Confucians
in the twentieth century. Similar studies could easily be conducted for every major
philosopher associated with the Confucian tradition. This article will focus on a
prominent example of this revival: Wang Yangming. At present, in the English-
language literature, we have only one major article covering contemporary research
on Wang Yangming’s life and thought (referred to in this article as “Yangming
Studies”), but the emphasis is on scholarship, and not the broader phenomenon as a
whole. Therefore, this article seeks to outline the wider history of this revival as it
pertains to this field of study, through a largely chronological recounting of the most
outstanding developments.3
The 1980s
The impact of the Reform and Opening policy on Wang Yangming scholarship in
China would be difficult to overestimate. Scholars such as Chen Lai, Qian Ming, and
Peng Guoxiang emphasize the stark contrast in atmosphere between the Maoist
era and the 1980s. According to Chen, “Research on Yangming Studies in mainland
1002 Philosophy East & West
China only truly began after the Reform and Opening.”4 As Qian and Peng char-
acterize it, during the first three decades of the People’s Republic of China the Com-
munist Party imported a socialist system, traditional culture was discarded, and
Confucianism was repressed and attacked. In the realm of scholarship, adherence to
a rigid Marxist interpretive framework led to oversimplification, dogmatism, and for-
malization. Politicization of methods of analysis resulted in the widespread use of
political labels and class analysis. Not surprisingly, Wang Yangming was altogether
repudiated: he was a representative of the ruling classes and a “butcher” of oppressed
peasants and minorities. Wang was “beaten to death” with this label.5
But beginning in the 1980s, the atmosphere for scholarship changed radically,
becoming “excellent” by one account: “Just like every other field of study, research
on Ming philosophy entered a period of recovery during which the foundation was
rectified and the source cleared up.”6 This thawing was marked by a transitional
phase during which politicization and labeling were relaxed even while a degree of
dogmatism in the use of philosophical terminology (such as idealism versus materi-
alism) and hermeneutics (dialectical materialism) remained.7 Nevertheless, accord-
ing to Qian Ming, “Following the correction of extreme leftist intellectual trends at
the political level and the establishment of Reform and Opening policies, mainland
China’s scholarly research finally began to break through the fencing of mechanistic
dogmatism and walk along a normal track.”8
The venues for this changing atmosphere were publications, conferences, and
the formation of study societies with institutional support. The turning points were
two major conferences on Song and Ming philosophy held in 1980 and 1981 by the
Zhejiang Research Institute for the Social Sciences (after 1984, the Zhejiang Acade-
my of Social Sciences) and the History of Chinese Philosophy Learned Society. Zhe-
jiang is Wang Yangming’s home province, and during his youth he lived alternately
in two of its cities
Yuyao and Shaoxing; that is why so much activity has taken place
there. These conferences were, respectively, the East China Regional Symposium on
Song-Ming School of Principle and the National Conference on Song-Ming School
of Principle. Both were held in Hangzhou. For the second conference alone 185 ar-
ticles and three monographs were submitted. As well, two conference volumes with
a total of fifty-nine articles were published, and six specifically examined Wang
Yangming’s philosophy.9 With scholars from the United States, Japan, Canada, Hong
Kong, and other countries participating, the international dimension was notable.
For Chen Lai, the first conference was the starting point for the renaissance of
research on Wang Yangming because two prominent Zhejiang academics, Shen
Shanhong and Wang Fengxian, distributed an unpublished monograph titled Re-
search on the Philosophy of Wang Yangming. This book provided an account of dif-
ferent appraisals of Wang Yangming up to that time in mainland historiography. But
while retaining Marxist categories
characterizing Wang as “a sage from the feudal
period” and categorizing his philosophy as idealism
they attempted to shed the
constraints of condemnatory politicization and labels and instead present a generally
positive, critical assessment of his life and thought.10 As Ye Tu said of their work, “The
authors courageously affirmed that Wang Yangming was a comparatively farsighted
George L. Israel 1003
individual.”11 In fact, some researchers in this field see them as having founded Yang-
ming Studies in China after the Cultural Revolution.12 For Shen Shanhong and Wang
Fengxian, Wang Yangming’s theories of sagehood and the innate knowledge of the
good promoted human equality; his theory of the unity of knowledge and action had
a positive impact on the history of China’s ethical and philosophical thought; and his
liberal thinking on education promoted educational reform. With this set of confer-
ences and early work, the days of the complete repudiation of Wang Yangming were
over, as was the simplistic application of Marxist analysis. Over time, the judgments
of Shen Shanhong and Wang Fengxian became widely accepted and stimulated fur-
ther research on Yangming Studies.13
The Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences continued to play a key role in pro-
moting activities related to this field throughout the 1980s. Most notably, in 1986, the
academy organized a “Chinese and Japanese Scholars Joint Investigation of Wang
Yangming’s Historical Footprints Exercise.”14 This team, led by Zhejiang Academy
academics and then Emeritus Professor Okada Takehiko of Kyushu University, was
the first to conduct on-site investigations of nearly every important place where Wang
had stayed. In fact, over the course of the next ten years several more collaborative
investigative teams were organized, and their travels took them to eight different
provinces.15 Restoration was also an important element of their work. In 1989, for
instance, at the recommendation of Okada and with financial support from Japan
and the local government of Shaoxing Prefecture in Zhejiang, Wang Yangming’s
tomb was restored. In addition, an International Conference on Yangming Studies
was held in the cities of Yuyao and Shaoxing in Zhejiang, the papers for which were
published in Zhejiang Academic Journal.16 In his talk “Simple and Easy Philosophy:
The Way of Rising from the Dead and Returning to Life in the thought of [Wang]
Yangming,” Okada asserted that Wang Yangming’s ideas were the culmination of a
fundamental trend in Chinese philosophy: bringing to fruition a learning that leads to
direct experiential realization of what can be simply and easily put into practice. As
a uniquely Chinese and East Asian philosophy, Okada believed these ideas were
especially relevant in a world dominated by a culture of science and ever-increasing
information and theoretical complexity.17 During the conference, also at the time
of the Qingming Festival, an opening ceremony attended by over fifty scholars and
local party officials was held in the foothills of Xianxia Mountain in Shaoxing, where
the tomb is located. Japanese scholars from Kyushu University’s representative dele-
gation recited some of Wang Yangming’s poems, and gifts were exchanged.18
Second only to Zhejiang, the other province where Yangming Studies has been
most actively promoted and sponsored since the 1980s is Guizhou. Wang Yangming
was exiled to this southwestern province of Ming China by the eunuch-dominated
court of the Zhengde emperor in 1507. While assigned to a remote courier station
just north of Guiyang, Wang had what Yu Yingshi has called the most renowned one-
time sudden enlightenment experience in the history of China, and at that time, as
well, he began to teach his early doctrines at local academies.19 That is why Guizhou
feels it has a claim to Wang Yangming’s name, and Guizhou reporting often refers to
the place where he resided as a sacred place or holy land (sheng di). In 1987, the
1004 Philosophy East & West
Philosophy Society of Guizhou and the History of Chinese Philosophy Learned Soci-
ety convened Guizhou’s first conference on Wang, the “Symposium on the Learning
of the Mind of Wang Yangming.” Many of the subjects that are regularly addressed at
such symposiums were represented here: critical concepts and problems in Wang
Yangming’s thought; the development of his philosophy; the comparative study of his
philosophy and that of Mengzi, Lu Xiangshan, Zhu Xi, and Chan and Western philos-
ophy; and the historical setting for his ideas and their impact during and after the
Ming. Tian Guanghui’s summary report suggests that at that time scholars were still
struggling to break free of familiar categories: “most scholars believed that although
Wang Yangming’s Learning of the Mind was a philosophy of subjective idealism there
are nevertheless rational elements to his philosophy.”20 Tian notes how participants
at the symposium affirmed the “progressive impact” of Wang’s thought on Japan’s
early modern history and the democratic thought of such intellectuals as Liang
Qichao and Sun Zhongshan, while also bemoaning the ensuing reactionary condem-
nation of it (during the Cultural Revolution). “Therefore,” Tian concludes, “we still
have the task of clearing out this residual poison.”21
The 1990s
Tian’s wish may have come true during the 1990s. More generally, as Bresciani has
pointed out, owing to the burgeoning numbers of research institutions and aca-
demics working in the field, Confucian Studies in China “developed by leaps and
bounds.” Summarizing changes during this decade at its conclusion, he found that
“the attitude of the researchers has become more objective, their interests wider, and
their research has been going deeper into Confucian issues. . . . [A] new variety of
methods of research [was used] and the results were notably varied, too.”22 Indeed,
these judgments hold equally true for research on Yangming Studies. As Qian Ming
has pointed out, while the 1980s might be viewed as a transitional phase during
which intellectual shackles were removed but the vestiges of dogmatic research
methodologies remained, there were so many positive contributions in terms of
materials consulted and new interpretive frameworks that the stage was set for a
“Golden Age” during the 1990s.23 Indeed, the list of monographs on Wang Yangming
from this decade is fairly long, diverse in its concerns, and largely free of the inter-
pretive frameworks of the past.24
Not surprisingly, as the volume of scholarship grew over the course of the 1990s,
so did the number of conferences. Many historical sites were also restored. Most
of this activity took place in Zhejiang and Guizhou, as a collaborative effort be-
tween provincial and local governments, research institutions or study societies, and
scholars who published in this field. Among these different participants, the efforts of
the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences Philosophy Research Institute were critical.
As a result of the hard work of Wu Guang, Dong Ping, Qian Ming, and Yao Yanfu, a
new edition of Wang Yangming’s collected works was issued by the Shanghai Clas-
sics Publishing House, adding some one hundred thousand characters to the stan-
George L. Israel 1005
dard Wang Wencheng Gong quanshu (Complete works of Master Wang Wencheng).
These scholars had long been aware that the Complete Works did not include a great
deal of material held in and outside China (especially in Japan), and while complet-
ing the project they also knew that much more needed to be done in terms of locat-
ing and compiling it. That is why, over the course of about two decades after the 1992
edition was issued, much more material was gathered by scholars working in China
and Japan, and in 2010 the Zhejiang Classics Publishing House issued yet another
The travel to historical sites associated with Wang Yangming for the purpose of
research and restoration that had begun in 1986 also continued. In 1994, for in-
stance, a team led by Okada Takehiko and scholars at the Philosophy Research Insti-
tute visited southern Jiangxi and northern Guangdong. In 1516, Wang Yangming had
been appointed grand coordinator of this region and was tasked with quelling serious
armed disturbances and establishing long-term policies for maintaining social order.
The region was indeed marginal and amounted to internal frontiers, and after about
two years of victorious campaigns Wang established three counties. Wang died in
Nan’an, Jiangxi, in 1529 while returning home from another assignment in Guangxi
Province. So the purpose of these visits was to follow his footsteps in this region.
Perhaps most interestingly, the investigative team visited the very site where he had
died while aboard a vessel moored by the (Ming) Qinglong Courier Station on the
Zhang River. At the recommendation of Japanese participants, a pavilion for a com-
memorative stele was constructed at the site overlooking the river. Attended by both
Japanese and Chinese scholars and local officials from Dayu County and Qingpu
Town, sacrificial and opening ceremonies were held in April and May of 1994.26
In 1999 Zhejiang Academy also took the lead in organizing another major Wang
Yangming conference, the “Symposium in Commemoration of the 470th Anniversary
of Wang Yangming’s Death,” which brought together about seventy participants from
China and abroad. It was held in Shaoxing, and the then-president of the Confucian
Academy of Hong Kong, Tang Enjia, gave an opening address. He affirmed the deep
transnational impact of Yangming Studies, and explained this as being the result of
the many important ideas in Wang’s writings, including the unity of knowledge and
action, the sagely egalitarianism implicit in his theory of the extension of the innate
knowledge of the good, his opposition to the worship of idols, and his advocacy of
liberating ideas.27
Similar conferences in Guizhou and Zhejiang began to see the regular appear-
ance of a familiar circle of scholars from East Asian countries who had published
work on Wang Yangming or who were otherwise highly regarded for their contribu-
tions to the study of Confucianism and Ming philosophy generally.
As is normally the case for such conferences, an edited volume of papers was
published the next year,28 followed by a second volume containing opening ad-
dresses and largely unedited shorter papers. This volume
New Explorations of
Yangming Studies — included a congratulatory letter by Zhang Dainian, professor of
philosophy at Beijing University and Honorary president of the History of Chinese
1006 Philosophy East & West
Philosophy Learned Society. Zhang praised Wang for his insistence on independent
thinking and stressed the importance of his theories of the unity of knowledge and
action and the extension of the innate knowledge of the good.29
While many papers notably ventured into narrowly defined topics, others re-
stated the accepted wisdom regarding the broader significance of Wang Yangming
for Song-Ming intellectual history. For example, it was generally accepted that the
ideas of Zhu Xi (especially his Lixue, or “Learning of Principle”) had, by the mid-
Ming, lost their intellectual vigor because they were tied to the political orthodoxy of
the time and to the examination system. Wang Yangming’s thought was the logical
reaction to this and a product of the intellectual, social, and economic problems in
mid-Ming society. Lixue contained inner tensions and contradictions that were work-
ing themselves out, and Wang Yangming’s seeking the subjective basis for moral au-
thority through an inward turn was the natural outcome, and although Wang was
truly an outstanding individual and a great philosopher, he was constrained by the
limited horizons of his time and societal background. Zeng Jun’s summary of Zhang
Liwen’s paper conveys well such consensus thinking:
After the mid-Ming, the Learning of the Way of Cheng [Yichuan] and Zhu [Xi] gradually
became rigidified and dogmatic, turning into a tool for scholars to obtain fame and for-
tune, [thus] losing its original theoretical vitality. Add to that a laying bare of its own inner
contradictions, [and this] indicated an inner tension in the Learning of Principle, and
signified a turning point in the Learning of the Way. Wang Yangming was the person who
represented the resolution of this tension and the actualization of this philosophical turn-
ing point. He both responded to the clashes within Ming society and made adjustments
to what had apparently become intellectual rigidity, theoretical emptiness, and a sham
morality of the Learning of the Way of Cheng and Zhu, hence pouring into the Learning
of Principle a vital and genuinely meaningful content. This required that Wang Yangming
return to the self, and more so [that he] point to the original essence of the mind. . . .
Wang Yangming’s philosophical turn was to transform an objectified principle of Heaven
into an interiorized innate knowledge of the good.30
The 1990s was also an active period in Guizhou, where even more conferences
were held. In 1994, the Wang Yangming Research Society was established in Gui-
yang (Guiyang Wang Yangming Yanjiuhui) and began publishing its own newsletter.
Judging from the Guiyang Yearbook, it served largely organizational purposes: to
share news concerning activities related to the field and establish communication
between society members and relevant government officials.31 That same year, the
“China and Japan Yangming Studies International Conference” was held in correla-
tion with the opening ceremony for the restored Yangming Shrine in Guiyang. A
bronze sculpture of Wang was also unveiled.32 At the conference, the noted Confu-
cian theorist Jiang Qing delivered a paper, “Liangzhi (innate knowledge of the good)
is the Only Hope for Humankind’s History.” Jiang first set out to define what the
“innate knowledge of the good” means: the highest good that is the substance of
mind and nature; an eternally existing universal human nature; a wise teacher who
provides standards of conduct; and the humaneness, perpetually reborn, of the one
body of heaven, earth, and the ten thousand things. Jiang then explained why this
George L. Israel 1007
was the only hope for countering all the ills and misguided theories that afflict
humanity in our times
many of these from the West, including empiricism, utilitar-
ianism, Marxism, scientism, existentialism, behaviorism, rationalism, individualism,
and materialism. All of these have failed to get at the actual reality of the transcen-
dent nature of the innate knowledge of the good and therefore cannot provide a
fundamental basis for solving the world’s problems.33
In 1995 three smaller conferences were held in Xiuwen County, Guiyang the
location of the courier station and cave where Wang had lived in exile for two years
followed by the formation of its own Yangming Studies Study Society. In 1996, the
very year that Guizhou Normal University established its Center for Research on
Wang Yangming, Guizhou’s provincial government, the China Confucius Founda-
tion, and the people’s governments of Yuyao and Guiyang jointly organized a large
international symposium on Wang. Over one hundred scholars participated, largely
from East Asia but also from the United States and Canada, and approximately eighty
papers and five monographs were submitted. A conference volume was published in
1997.34 According to Wang Luping’s summary report, all scholars present agreed that
“the path of enlightenment at Longchang” marked the birth of Wang Yangming’s
School of the Mind. Because his essential doctrines were first proposed and taught
here, “it can be said that Guizhou is the sacred place (sheng di) where Yangming’s
School of the Mind originated.” Not surprisingly, aside from the usual topics for
the development of his thought, his relation to prior Confucian philoso-
phers, his impact on New Confucians, and comparative philosophy several papers
were presented on his impact on Guizhou minorities and education, as well as the
followers of his school of thought from this province. A common theme was Wang
Yangming’s influence on “Guizhou’s early modern humanist spirit.”35
The year 1999 saw the culmination of events held in Guizhou during this de-
cade. That year, funds allocated by the People’s Government of Guiyang Prefecture
for the purpose of renovating or building historical sites related to Wang Yangming’s
time in Xiuwen County bore fruit. In 1999, Yangming Park was opened, and it in-
cluded a statue of Wang Yangming, a statuary display showing him teaching students,
a memorial museum, and an exhibition. All of these were situated next to the for-
ested hill that contained the cave where Wang had resided, meditated, and experi-
enced his own enlightenment. In fact, a week-long “Festival of Yangming Culture”
was organized by Xiuwen to commemorate the 490th anniversary of his Longchang
enlightenment. During the festival, an opening ceremony was held for the museum,
followed by the “Guiyang International Symposium on Wang Yangming’s Thought.”36
Three more of these will follow in the new millennium, as will ongoing construction
of historical sites and parks centered on cultural themes. I will discuss these in the
next section.
The New Millennium
The trends that began in the 1980s and 1990s have continued into the new millen-
nium and have only further expanded in scale: more Yangming Studies scholarship,
1008 Philosophy East & West
conferences, institution building, and historical site construction. No doubt the single
most important driving force has been the party policy that promotes (and funds)
history and tradition for political, economic, and social reasons, followed by the hard
work and enthusiasm of academics and scholars who teach and write in this field.
Guizhou and Zhejiang remain the locations for most of these activities, but other
locales where Wang Yangming spent time were also added. As well, projects were
undertaken that aimed at bringing a Yangming Studies curriculum into primary and
secondary education as well as training programs for civil servants.
More generally, scholarship in this field has exploded, and although this essay
cannot do justice to this phenomenon, the extent of research and publication can be
readily grasped by reading through the existing bibliographical essays or the relevant
sections of the China Confucian Studies Yearbook (published annually since 2001).37
The most complete essay as of 2009 is Qian Ming’s “Looking back on and Future
Prospects for Research on Ming Dynasty Confucianism.”38 What is notable about his
coverage is that Qian situates mainland Chinese historiography in the context of
what he characterizes as a broader transnational East Asian field and cultural realm.
Thus, he also brings the work of scholars from Korea, Japan, and Taiwan into view.
While acknowledging the continued productivity in research on Yangming Studies,
he emphasizes that in the new millennium what most stands out is the extraordinary
volume and quality of work on Wang Yangming’s followers and their schools of
thought. As well, Qian highlights a diversity of approaches that includes everything
from traditional classical exegesis and textual criticism to placing philosophy and
intellectual history in the context of religious studies, literary studies, social psychol-
ogy, political culture, and social and cultural history.39 Indeed, research in all these
areas has grown to such an extent that in breadth and depth it exceeds scholarship in
any other part of the world. This can be contrasted with the leadership provided by
the most outstanding scholars working in this area in Japan, Taiwan, and Hong Kong
during the Maoist years and into the 1980s. One example is two separate Yangming
Studies Research Series (Yangming xue yanjiu congshu) sponsored by Guiyang Col-
lege’s Center for Research on Wang Yangming Studies and Local Culture and the
Center for Yangming Studies at the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences. Each in-
cludes several volumes on topics related to Wang Yangming and the schools of
thought of his followers.40
Looking at broader developments by province, in Guiyang and Xiuwen Counties
in Guizhou, International Yangming Culture festivals were held in 2002, 2005, and
2009. The organizers varied but included a combination of Guiyang and Xiuwen
government and party bureaus and scholarly societies. The 2002 festival, for exam-
ple, was organized by the Guiyang Wang Yangming Research Society and Guiyang’s
municipal party committee, people’s government, and propaganda department.41
The 2005 festival organizers included Guiyang’s party committee and people’s gov-
ernment but also the culture bureau and International Confucian Studies Federa-
tion.42 Naturally, the purpose of these festivals, as defined by the organizers, was
similar, but they also varied over time. Promoting scholarship and academic ex-
change, raising cultural awareness, promoting tourism and the arts, and getting infor-
George L. Israel 1009
mation out were important to all of them. The 2005 platform highlights the extent to
which these were very much sponsored by and integrated with party aims: it was to
serve “promoting the outstanding culture of the Chinese people,” “strengthening the
construction of social culture and spiritual culture,” and “building a harmonious
society.” To that end, a forum for the discussion of “Innate Knowledge of the Good
and Harmonious Society” was held.43 Each of these festivals also included large
academic symposiums with an international presence.
Due to accelerated efforts by party officials to tap traditional culture as a source
of ideological legitimation and tool for economic development, 2014 was yet an-
other active year for Xiuwen County. According to one report, at the Twelfth Plenary
Session of the Chinese National People’s Congress, President Xi Jinping met with the
Guizhou delegation and stressed the importance of Wang Yangming’s enlighten-
ment in Guizhou and how that gave the province an advantage in terms of promot-
ing traditional culture.44 Xi called for further work in this regard. No doubt this
proposal was connected to the policy of “constructing a cultural China” discussed
at the seven
teenth plenary session of the Central Committee of the Communist Party.
In 2014, an investigative team including the deputy director of the China National
Studies and Exchange Center was dispatched from Beijing to Xiuwen for the purpose
of probing how “Yangming culture” can be inherited and promoted. They were met
by the county’s mayor and party secretary, as well as other officials from the propa-
ganda bureau, the travel and culture bureau, the Yangming Culture Park Directing
Bureau, and representatives of the Guizhou Tourism Investment Group Corporation.
In 2006, Yangming cave had already been designated as an important national cul-
tural relic. Now, the investment group was developing plans for enlarging Yangming
park so that it would be situated at the center of the town’s commercial development
and serve as a symbol of Xiuwen’s identity.45 After the team arrived from Beijing, they
visited the cave, museum, and other related sites, and were then taken to participate
in a symposium on promoting Yangming culture. Local leaders pointed out that Xiu-
wen had introduced important elements of this culture into a program of education
by compiling teaching materials that “permeated” teachers and students, construct-
ing a lecture hall for discussing morality, and engaging in other efforts to publicize
Wang’s thought.46
Academic institutions and scholarship in Guizhou have kept pace with these
events. In 2003, to support research and publication, the Academy of Chinese Cul-
ture at Guizhou University established a Research Institute for Yangming Studies.
Aside from a monograph series, perhaps the most important publication was the
Journal of Yangming Studies (Yangming xuekan), which first appeared in 2004,
through the efforts of Professor Zhang Xinmin of Guizhou University.47 At the time,
Zhang was aware of the importance of Yangming Studies outside China. Unlike
China, for example, even Japan had its own journal for this field. Indeed, among
academics in the field it was a common sentiment that China had needlessly fallen
behind in areas of scholarship that are rightfully China’s. Here one finds a degree of
patriotism and cultural pride, but also the conviction that cultures have something
essential that must be preserved and transmitted from within. Zhang had always
1010 Philosophy East & West
desired to establish a publication that both recovered the Confucian “orthodox trans-
mission of the Way” (daotong) and conveyed what he felt to be the peacefulness,
fairness, and strength of spirit of Chinese culture. He believed that amidst the hubbub
of so many clashing cultures, the Chinese people must stand upon their own great
traditions. Among these, of course, is the tradition of the Learning of the Mind and its
many schools, and the origins of these can be traced to Wang Yangming’s enlighten-
ment in Guizhou. It was there that Wang, based on his own experiential awakening
to the deepest layers of mind and nature, began to teach his fundamental doctrines.
In the final analysis, then, the purpose of the journal was to convey “what is from
ancient times until today, knowledge that provides meaning and direction to life for
the [Chinese] people.”48
Zhejiang Province, as the other center of Yangming Studies, has also seen a great
deal of activity in the new millennium, including a voluminous scholarly production.
The first substantial event took place in 2007. That year, a ceremony was held in
Yuyao to mark the opening of a reconstructed Wang Yangming residence and sites
where he lectured when he returned to his place of birth periodically throughout his
life. A Wang Yangming square with a statue of Wang was also constructed. These
tourist sites included exhibitions about his life and his impact on Yuyao. In tandem
with this, Yuyao also sponsored a “Wang Yangming International Cultural Events
Week” and a major international symposium. The volume of collected articles edited
by Qian Ming of the Center for Yangming Studies at the Zhejiang Academy of Social
Sciences begins with congratulatory letters and opening remarks sent from or given
mostly by officials. A letter from the former assistant minister of the Central Propa-
ganda Section of the Communist Party highlights the “great significance” of these
many events for promoting outstanding cultural traditions.49 The opening speech of
Yuyao’s party secretary affirmed that although Wang Yangming died five hundred
years ago, Wang will remain forever in the hearts of the people of his home town.
Hence, to cherish his memory, the town has invested much in these projects.50
Developments between 2011 and 2013 shed further light on the motivations
behind the government’s promotion of Yangming Studies. In 2011, the International
Center for Research on Yangming Studies was formally opened. Located in Wang’s
restored residence, this center is jointly sponsored by the Chinese Academy of Social
Sciences and the Yuyao People’s Government. Its purpose is to support research,
produce an annual publication, sponsor visiting researchers, compile and organize
scholarship, and encourage academic exchange. In tandem with the inauguration of
the center, the first volume of International Research on Yangming Studies (Guoji
Yangming xue yanjiu) was issued and a major international symposium was con-
vened. Two more volumes and conferences followed in 2012 and 2014. At the open-
ing ceremony, the address by the Yuyao deputy party secretary stressed the local and
national significance of Wang Yangming and why it was so important to promote his
philosophy in the city’s new institutional venues. In many ways, this reflected efforts
on the part of Yuyao officials to foster economic development and local identity by
enhancing and promoting local history and culture.51
George L. Israel 1011
Yuyao was indeed making an effort, and nothing makes this clearer than an ar-
ticle written by members of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences Chinese Honest
Governing Research Center Task Force. This appeared at the end of a volume of col-
lected articles titled Research on Wang Yangming’s Thought on Honest Governance
and Conduct. It was co-authored by this research center and the International Center
for Research on Yangming Studies in Yuyao, expressly for the purpose of promoting
government policies. According to the task force, beginning in 2005, the central
government began proposing policies aimed at quickening the pace of “building
culture” in China by promoting an honest political culture.52 In 2009, the Discipline
Inspection Commission of the Central Government issued an opinion regarding
building a socialist culture of integrity and an uncorrupt political culture, and part
of that process included drawing upon traditional culture. And again, in 2013,
President Xi Jinping called for “proactively borrowing from our country’s historical
experience with outstanding uncorrupt political culture, and ceaselessly raising our
capacity to repudiate corruption, prevent disturbances, and withstand hazards.”53
One method for accomplishing this, according to the article, was “to excavate and
develop the honest political culture of local areas.”54 For Yuyao, that meant finding
ways to renovate and publicize the four worthies of the town (Yan Ziling, Wang Yang-
ming, Zhu Shunshui, and Huang Zongxi) and the resistance to the Japanese invasion
staged at Siming Mountain. So Yuyao poured a great deal of money into construction
projects related to this local history, and Wang Yangming was very much at the center
of it all. Indeed, as stated by the authors of the Research Center Task Force, “Zhejiang
Province’s Yuyao City capitalized on Wang Yangming’s superior position, excavating
the elements of uncorrupt political culture in his doctrines and actions as an official,
and synthesizing and utilizing the resources of the native locale to build a political
culture of honesty.”55
In fact, the authors praised Zhejiang for taking the lead years earlier in 1999,
when a conference was held that aimed at promoting a culture of honesty not only in
the party but also in society in general. Another example was Yuyao Middle School’s
establishment of the Yuyao Society for the Study of Wang Yangming’s Thought. One
of their proposed topics was “Awakening the Innate Knowledge of the Good, Pursu-
ing Excellence,” and to that end members produced a monograph titled Awakening
the Innate Knowledge of the Good and Pursuing Excellence: Education in the Theory
and Practice of Innate Knowledge of the Good.56 In 2003, the province adopted this
as a critical research topic for scientific education.
Indeed, the purpose of the 2013 volume was not only to influence political cul-
ture but also to bring what were viewed as “local resources” into schools and
communities. In the case of Wang Yangming, intellectual sources were identified
throughout the collection of articles on Wang and his followers, and these include
such ideas as his insistence that ruling elites demonstrate integrity and character, an
emphasis on education for the masses, and a focus on moral consciousness and an
ethical orientation. Now, it seems, the man who had once been called a “butcher”
during the Maoist era, whose misguided idealism had served to suppress the desires
1012 Philosophy East & West
of the masses, had now become an important resource for developing an ethics train-
ing program for party members and government officials and an educational curric-
ulum for students. In fact, although most of the articles are no longer concerned
with the bygone issue of reassessing Wang, so common in the 1980s, the preface to
the 2013 volume and the present article do bring it up again. Wang is duly situated
in his time a world of feudalism, landlords, social crisis, stagnant thought, and
and celebrated for triumphing over harrowing trials. And although there
are “weeds mixed in” with his life and thought, once these are removed it can be
seen that Wang Yangming revived philosophy, rescued the people from the mal-
practices of the time, and articulated ideas of extraordinarily pragmatic value that
transcend time and place.57
Throughout the present article, the focus has been on activities in Zhejiang and
Guizhou. But in the new millennium, owing to the impact of the same policies and
trends that brought about a Yangming Studies renaissance in these provinces, other
places where Wang’s life had an impact have joined in with their own array of
scholarship, conferences, societies, restoration of historical sites, museums, and
parks. One excellent example is Heping County in Guangdong, which Wang estab-
lished in 1517 after suppressing armed disturbances in the region. Ever since that
time he has been celebrated for bringing peace to and civilizing the area. In 2011, to
commemorate these events, the Yangming Museum was opened in Yangming Park,
which is located in the eastern part of Heping in the mountain foothills and contains
a giant statue of Wang.58 A Wang Yangming Study Society was established as well, at
the behest of the Heping government.59 In 2013, Yuyao’s policy of appropriating
Wang Yangming for the purpose of building an honest political culture was similarly
implemented in Heping. That year, alongside the already existing exhibition covering
the history of Wang in Heping, another one was set up illustrating his “teachings on
honest government.”60 Once again, this was described as “excavating” and “mobiliz-
ing” local historical resources for educational purposes and engaging in an anti-
corruption campaign. County party members were to study his philosophy of the
unity of knowledge and action and to read the same volume on his “thought on
honest governing” previously discussed.61 In addition, Heping arranged for public
security bureau employees to go to the exhibition and listen to lectures, expressly
for the purpose of raising their awareness of “opposing corruption and advocating
honest governing.”62 Similar stories could be told for Zhangzhou in Fujian and Gan-
zhou in Jiangxi.
The fourth volume of the journal International Research on Yangming Studies was
distributed at the third major conference held by Yuyao’s International Center for
Research on Yangming Studies in 2014. It included a paper submitted by Dr. Wu
Guang, then distinguished head of the Philosophy Institute of the Zhejiang Academy
of Social Sciences. The title, “Discussing the Theoretical Structure, Fundamental
Spirit, and Contemporary Significance of Yangming Studies,” captures well what he
George L. Israel 1013
attempts to crystallize in a few pages. According to Wu, “the spirit of Ming philoso-
phy of principle is to be found in Yangming, and the fundamental spirit of Yangming
is to be found in the ‘innate knowledge of the good.’” Wang’s ideas on human na-
ture, the ontology of moral knowing (innate knowledge of the good), and doctrines
concerning extending that knowing in practical action define his learning. It is a
philosophy rich in humanist spirit that transcends time and place and still has signif-
icance for our times. The concept of the unity of knowledge and action has implica-
tions for officials who talk much about their ideals but are in reality corrupt. Wang’s
placing moral knowledge at the center provides an important counterbalance to a
society driven by materialism and the pursuit of profit. His ontology of the innate
knowledge of the good and his idea that its obscuration leads to individual and so-
cial ills more than ever is relevant today. His advocating love for the people and
attending to their livelihood is critical at a time when human rights are neglected by
society. Lastly, his emphasis on the mind and moral idealism brought to the fore the
notion of self-determination, thus setting the precedent for the democratic thought of
Huang Zongxi.63
Indeed, Dong Ping also believes that as an individual with a compelling per-
sonal story and vision for humankind Wang Yangming has been the principal driving
force behind the outpouring of scholarship since the 1980s. By pointing to the mind
and heart, Wang provides answers to questions of a spiritual nature in an age when
materialism still dominates in both a philosophical and an economic sense.64 What
the present article has attempted to demonstrate is that when other factors are added
to Dong Ping’s
government policy in matters of culture and education, economic
and commercial development, and the dedication of scholars working in this field
the astounding volume of activity in China since the 1980s then begins to make
sense. In fact, in 2014, two more major international conferences were held in both
Zhejiang and Guizhou, each with a host of activities that involved visiting sites where
Wang Yangming had lived, taught, governed, and experienced his enlightenment, or
where he is buried. Without doubt he will continue to inspire much work in China
well into the future.
I would like to express my thanks to Dr. Qian Ming and Dr. Wang Yu of the Zhe-
jiang Academy of Social Sciences for inviting me to their institute to conduct re-
search on this topic. Without their support and insight I could not have written this
1 See, for example, Daniel Bell, China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Every-
day Life in a Changing Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010);
Jesús Solé-Farràs, New Confucianism in Twenty-First Century China: The Con-
struction of a Discourse (New York: Routledge, 2014); and Umberto Bresciani,
Reinventing Confucianism (Taipei: Taipei Institute for Chinese Studies, 2000).
2 Bell, China’s New Confucianism, pp. x–xi.
1014 Philosophy East & West
3 Cf. Peng Guoxiang, “Contemporary Chinese Studies of Wang Yangming and His
Followers in Mainland China,” Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 2,
no. 2 (2003): 311–329. I am deeply indebted to Dr. Peng’s work and similarly
adopt a chronological approach. In general, Chinese scholars in the PRC refer
to scholarship pertaining to Wang Yangming as Yangming xue yanjiu (Research
on Yangming Studies) and scholarship on adherents of his school as Yangming
houxue yanjiu (Research on Yangming’s followers). This article will cover the
former, but is not intended as a bibliographical essay. For that the reader should
consult Peng’s article or, more recently, the much expanded discussion and list
of studies in Qian Ming, “Mingdai ruxue yanjiu de huigu yu zhanwang” (Look-
ing back on and future prospects for research on Ming dynasty Confucianism),
in Wang Yangming ji qi xuepai lun kao (Verifications of theories concerning
Wang Yangming and his school of thought) (Beijing: Renmin Chubanshe, 2009),
pp. 545–604. Qian’s essay is a revised and updated edition of the original
Chinese-language version of Peng’s article. See Peng Guoxiang, “Dangdai
Zhongguo de Yangming xue yanjiu: 1930–2003” (Present-day research in China
on Yangming studies: 1930–2003), Zhexue men 5, no. 1 (2004): 200–221. In
my notes here, only in some instances have I tried to distinguish which quota-
tions and conclusions appear first in Peng’s article and which belong solely to
Qian’s revised study.
Chen Lai, “Yangming xue yanjiu de huigu yu qianzhan” (Looking back on and
future prospects for research on Yangming Studies), in Chen Lai de boke (last
modified July 7, 2010); accessed May 7, 2015, at
Qian, “Mingdai ruxue yanjiu,” p. 553.
6 Ibid., p. 555.
7 Ibid., p. 553. See also Peng, “Dangdai Zhongguo de Yangming xue yanjiu,”
p. 202.
Qian, “Mingdai ruxue yanjiu,” p. 555.
9 See Lun Song Ming lixue: Song Ming lixue taolunhui wenji (On Song-Ming
Learning of Principle: Collected papers from the Symposium on Song-Ming
Learning of Principle), ed. Zhongguo Zhexue Shixue Hui and Zhejiang Sheng
Shehui Kexue Yanjiusuo (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Renmin Chubanshe, 1983).
10 Shen Shanhong and Wang Fengxian, Wang Yangming zhexiu yanjiu (Research
on the philosophy of Wang Yangming) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Renmin Chuban-
she, 1981), pp. 124–127.
Ye Tu, “Yangming xue de yanjiu jiaoliu zai Zhejiang” (Exchange of research on
Yangming Studies in Zhejiang), Zhejiang xuekan 6 (1994): 123.
12 He Jun, “Shen Shanhong,” Dongfang zaobao, June 4, 2014, http://epaper. In China, teacher-
George L. Israel 1015
student relationships are important for understanding the social dimension of
the renaissance of Yangming Studies, as well as how credentials that lead to
career advancement are cemented. We can speak, for instance, of Shen Shan-
hong and Wang Fengxian training or influencing a generation of scholars at
the Zhejiang Academy who would continue to produce in this field, or of Chen
Lai studying under Deng Aimin, and Peng Guoxiang under Chen. But such
biographical work is beyond the scope of a brief article.
Ye, “Yangming xue,” p. 123. Some of the more notable studies from the 1980s
also include Deng Aimin, Zhu Xi Wang Shouren zhexue yanjiu (Research on
the philosophy of Zhu Xi and Wang Shouren) (Shanghai: Huadong Shifan Daxue
Chubanshe, 1989); Fang Erjia, Wang Yangming xinxue yanjiu (Research on
Wang Yangming’s Learning of the Mind) (Changsha: Hunan jiaoyu Chubanshe,
1989); and Deng Aimin, Chuan xi lu zhu shu (Instructions for Practical Living,
with annotations and commentary) (Taibei: Fayan Chubanshe, 2000). Deng’s
annotated commentary was completed in the 1980s.
14 Ye, “Yangming xue,” p. 124.
15 For Okada’s account, see Okada Takehiko, Ō Yōmei kikō ( Journal of Wang
Yangming’s travels) (Tokyo: Meitoku, 2007).
16 Cf. Zhejiang xuekan 2 (1989).
Okada Takehiko, “Jianyi de zhexue: Yangming xue de qisi huisheng zhi dao”
(Simple and easy philosophy: The way of rising from the dead and returning to
life in the thought of [Wang] Yangming), Zhejiang xuekan 2 (1989): 85–86.
Ye, “Yangming xue,” p. 124; Okada, Ō Yōmei kikō, pp. 102–105.
19 Yu Yingshi, Song Ming lixue yu zhengzhi wenhua (Song-Ming Learning of Prin-
ciple and political culture) (Taipei: Yunnong Wenhua, 1994), p. 277.
Tian Guanghui, “Wang Yangming xinxue taolunhui zongshu” (Summary of
the Symposium on Wang Yangming’s Learning of the Mind), Kongzi yanjiu 9
(1989): 128.
21 Ibid., p. 128.
22 Bresciani, Reinventing Confucianism, p. 436.
Qian, “Mingdai ruxue yanjiu,” p. 570.
Scholarship cited in the Chinese literature as being some of the more important
contributions includes, but is by no means limited to, Chen Lai, You wu zhi
jing: Wang Yangming zhexue de jingshen (The Realm between being and non-
being: The spirit of Wang Yangming’s philosophy) (Beijing: Renmin Chuban-
she, 1991); Zhang Xianghao, Wang Shouren ping zhuan (Critical biography of
Wang Shouren) (Nanjing: Nanjing Daxue Chubanshe, 1997); Yang Guorong,
Xinxue zhi si: Wang Yangming zhexue de chanshi (Thinking in the Learning of
the Mind: Explaining Wang Yangming’s philosophy) (Beijing: Sanlian Shudian,
1016 Philosophy East & West
1997); Ding Weixiang, Shijian yu chaoyue: Wang Yangming zhexue de chanshi,
jiexi, yu pingjia (Praxis and transcendence: Interpretation, explanation, and
analysis of Wang Yangming’s philosophy) (Xi’an: Shaanxi Renmin Chubanshe,
1994); and Wang Xiaoxin, Wang Yangming yu Guizhou (Wang Yangming and
Guizhou) (Guiyang: Guizhou Renmin Chubanshe, 1996).
For the history of this work see Qian, “Mingdai ruxue yanjiu,” pp. 591–599.
For the 1992 edition, see Wang Yangming, Wang Yangming quanji (Complete
works of Wang Yangming) (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 1992). For the
2010 edition, see Wang Yangming, Wang Yangming quanji (xin bian ben) (Com-
plete works of Wang Yangming [New edition]) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Renmin
Chubanshe, 2010).
Ye, “Yangming xue,” p. 124; Okada, Ō Yōmei kikō, pp. 327–340.
Tang Enjia, “Jinian Yangming Xiansheng, hongyang Wang xue jinghua” (Com-
memorate Master Yangming, promote the quintessence of Wang studies) Con-
fucius2000 (last modified July 23, 2001); accessed May 7, 2015, at http://www.
28 Wu Guang, ed., Yangming xue yanjiu (Research on Yangming Studies) (Shang-
hai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 2000). This volume consists of longer, revised
contributions, while the 2002 edition contains the rest.
29 Qian Ming, ed., Yangming xue xin tan (New explorations of Yangming Studies)
(Hangzhou: Zhongguo Meishu Xueyuan Chubanshe, 2002), p. 4.
Zeng Jun, “Jinian Yangming Xiansheng, hongyang Wang xue jinghua: Jinian
Wang Yangming shishi 470 zhounian guoji xueshu taolunhui zongshu” (Com-
memorate Master Yangming, promote the quintessence of Wang Studies: Sum-
mary of the International Symposium to Commemorate the 470th Anniversary
of Wang Yangming’s Death), Kongzi yanjiu 3 (1999): 1.
Li Youxue, “Guiyang Wang Yangming Yanjiuhui huikan wen shi” (Guiyang
Wang Yangming Research Society academic journal comes out [is published]),
Guiyang nianjian, 1996, /cyfd/N2010090358000888.html.
32 “Yangming xueshuo chuan huanyu,” Xiuwen Xian Renmin Zhengfu menhu
wangzhan (last modified May 9, 2015); accessed May 9, 2015, at http://www.
33 Jiang Qing, Ruxue de shidai jiazhi (The value of contemporary Confucianism)
(Chengdu: Sichuan Renmin Chubanshe, 2009), pp. 131–144.
34 Jiang Xiwen, ed., Wang Yangming guoji xueshu taolunhui lunwenji (Collected
papers of the International Academic Symposium on Wang Yangming) (Gui-
yang: Guizhou Jiaoyu Chubanshe, 1997).
Wang Luping, “Fajue Yangming xinxue ziyuan, hongyang Zhonghua minzu
wenhua: Zhongguo Guizhou Wang Yangming guoji xueshu taolunhui zongshu”
George L. Israel 1017
(Excavate the resources of the Learning of the Mind of Yangming, Promote the
culture of the Chinese people: Summary of the International Conference on
Wang Yangming in Guizhou, China), Kongzi yanjiu 2 (1997): 117–123.
36 Li Youxue, “Wang Yangming xueshu yantaohui” (Wang Yangming Academic
Symposium), Zhongguo zhexue nianjian (Zhexue Yanjiu Zazhi She, 2000).
37 The Yearbook contains detailed information on all scholarship and activities
(conferences and other events) related to Confucian studies. See Zhongguo
ruxue nianjian (China Confucian studies yearbook) (Qingdao: Shandong
Zhongguo Ruxue Nianjian She, 2007). There have been a variety of publishers
over the course of this periodical’s history since its inception in 2001.
38 Qian, “Mingdai ruxue yanjiu.”
39 Ibid., pp. 578–584.
40 For the series edited by Wu Guang of the Zhejiang Academy of Social Sciences,
monographs specifically concerning Wang Yangming include Dong Ping, Wang
Yangming de shenghuo shijie (The world in which Wang Yangming lived) (Bei-
jing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxui Chubanshe, 2009), and Zhu Xiaopeng, Wang
Yangming yu Daojia Daojiao (Wang Yangming and Daoists and Daoism) (Bei-
jing: Zhongguo Renmin Daxui Chubanshe, 2009). Other titles for some of the
most outstanding monographs in the new millennium may suffice to convey the
orientation this scholarship: Qian Ming, Ruxue zheng mai: Wang Shouren
zhuan (The true transmission of the Confucian school: Biography of Wang
Shouren) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Renmin Chubanshe, 2006); Zhou Jianhua,
Wang Yangming Gan Nan huodong yanjiu (Research on Wang Yangming’s
activity in Southern Gan) (Beijing: Zhongguo Wenlian Chubanshe, 2002); Chen
Lisheng, Wang Yangming wan wu yi ti lun: Cong shen yi ti de lichang kan
(Wang Yangming’s discourse on the one substance of the ten thousand things
examined from the standpoint of the one body) (Taipei: Taida Chuban Zhong-
xin, 2005).
41 Li Youxue, “Guiyang Wang Yangming yanjiuhui” (Guiyang Wang Yangming Re-
search Society), in Zhongguo ruxue nianjian (Shandong: Zhongguo Ruxue
Nianjian She, 2003).
Xu Cheng, “Zhongguo di san jie guoji Yangming wenhua jie” (Chinese Third
International Yangming Cultural Festival), in Zhongguo ruxue nianjian (Shan-
dong: Zhongguo Ruxue Nianjian She, 2006).
“Guoji Yangming wenhua jie 9 yue 14 ri zai Xiuwen juxing,” in Xinhua wang,
August 31, 2005; accessed May 12, 2015, at
44 “Zhongguo Guoxue zhuanjia weilin Xiuwen Xian diaoyan Yangming wenhua,”
Guizhou Sheng Renmin Zhengfu (modified August 13, 2014); accessed May
12, 2015, at
1018 Philosophy East & West
45 The plan can be accessed at the company’s website, under “Yangming wenhua
yuan” (Yangming Culture Park),
46 “Zhongguo guoxue zhuanjia.”
The Academy of Chinese Culture edits the journal and Guizhou People’s Press
(Guizhou Renmin Chubanshe) publishes it. The first edition appeared in 2004.
Zhang Xinmin, “Wo weishenme chuangban Yangming Xuekan” (Why I founded
Yangming Academic Journal) (last modified June 6, 2013); accessed May 12,
2015, at
49 Qian Ming, ed., Wang Yangming de shijie (Wang Yangming’s world) (Hang-
zhou: Zhejiang Renmin Chubanshe, 2008), p. 1.
50 Ibid., pp. 2–3.
Mao Xihao, “Mao Xihao Xiansheng zhi ci,” Guoji Yangming xue yanjiu (Inter-
national Yangming studies research) 1 (2011): 8–9.
52 Tian Kun et al., “Yuyao yi Wang Yangming lianzheng sixiang wei zhuti chuang-
jian lianzheng wenhua de shijian ji qishi” (Practical development of and infor-
mation for Yuyao’s establishing a culture of clean government by adopting
Wang Yangming’s thought on clean government as its theme), in Wang Yang-
ming lianzheng sixiang yu xingwei yanjiu (Research on Wang Yangming’s
thought on honest governance and conduct) (Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue
Chubanshe, 2013), pp. 300–301.
Li Qiufang, “Xiqu gudai lianzheng wenhua jinghua fuwu dangdai fan fu chang
lian jianshe” (Drawing lessons from the quintessence of the culture of incorrupt
governing in ancient times to serve the contemporary construction of anti-
corruption and promoting clean [government]), in Wang Yangming lianzheng
sixiang yu xingwei yanjiu, p. 2.
54 Tian et al., “Yuyao yi Wang Yangming,” p. 308.
55 Ibid., pp. 300–301.
56 Ge Yunhong, ed., Huan qi liangzhi zhuiqiu zhuoyue: Liangzhi jiaoyu de lilun
yu shijian (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Jiaoyu Chubanshe, 2001).
57 Tian et al., “Yuyao yi Wang Yangming,” pp. 302–304.
58 “Yangming Gongyuan,” Heping Xian Zhengfu Menhu Wangzhan (Heping
County Government Portal Website),
59 Chen Shujuan, “Wo xian jiang chengli Wang Yangming yanjiuhui,” Heping
Xian Zhengfu Menhu Wangzhan (last modified April 14, 2014); accessed May
16, 2015, at
“Heping Xian rang lianzheng ketang ru cunzhen,” in Heyuan xinwen wang,
March 23, 2014; accessed May 16, 2015, at
George L. Israel 1019
61 “Zai gongzuo zhong shijian Wang Yangming lianzheng sixiang,” Heyuan ribao,
April 4, 2014; accessed May 16, 2015, at
“Heping Xian Gong’an Ju zuzhi lingdao ganbu kaizhan lianzheng wenhua
jiaoyu huodong,” Heyuan Shi Gong’an Ju (last modified August 15, 2014);
accessed May 16, 2015, at
Wu Guang, “Lun Yangming xue de lilun jiegou, jiben jingshen ji qi shidai yiyi”
(On the theoretical structure, fundamental spirit, and contemporary signifi-
cance of Yangming Studies), Guoji Yangming xue yanjiu 4 (2014): 46–53.
Dong Ping (Professor of Philosophy, Zhejiang University), in discussion with the
author, January 2014.
Compiling and translating historical sourcebooks or anthologies can present specific translation challenges, including selecting source material, establishing a translation team, deciding on translation policy, and providing contextualising information. Translating and editing Homoeroticism in Imperial China: A Sourcebook (2013) involved a large range of text genres treating two thousand years or so of an easily misread aspect of Chinese cultural history. It is unusual to have a single translator or translation team prepare an entire anthology, and the article begins with the different skills that justified our “companion collaborative translation” approach throughout. The analysis then moves to areas of cultural and temporal distance and dangers of historical assumption, noting that sweeping sociocultural change in the twentieth-century left Chinese societies distant from aspects of their own pasts. Finally, it is argued that historical translation should be recognised by research bodies as fundamental humanities and social science research, providing valuable insights into human diversity.KeywordsCollaborative translationTraditional Chinese literatureAnthologies and sourcebooksHomosexualityPostcolonialism
Full-text available
Wang Yangming (1472-1529) and his School of Mind dominated the intellectual world of sixteenth-century Ming China (1368-1644), and his Confucian philosophy has since remained an essential component of East Asian philosophical discourse. Yet, the volume of publications on him and his school in the Western-language literature has consistently paled in comparison to the volume of scholarship on classical Chinese philosophy, modern Chinese philosophy, Buddhism, and Daoism. Studying Wang Yangming: History of a Sinological Field explains the history of writing in the West about the famed Ming dynasty scholar-official. From eighteenth-century French Jesuit books to English-language publications in 2020, this book provides an historical overview and summary of a literature published by scholars attempting to grapple with one of the most influential Confucians in the history of China, East Asia, and the world. 本书是:阳明学之欧美传播与研究(学苑出版社, 2022)的英文版本
Full-text available
It has often been said that the Zhuangzi 莊子 advocates political abstention, and that its putative skepticism prevents it from contributing in any meaningful way to political thinking: at best the Zhuangzi espouses a sort of anarchism, at worst it is “the night in which all cows are black,” a stance that one scholar has charged is ultimately immoral. This article tracks possible political allusions within the text, and, by reading these against details of social, political, and historical context, sheds light on another strand of the Zhuangzi—one that questions prevailing normative values because it is fiercely critical of scholarly complicity with violent imperial territorial consolidation.
This essay explores the philosophical insights of Zhu Xi, Wang YangMing, Kant, and Husserl and therefore proposes a new epistemic constructivism. It demonstrates that a knowing mind is a constructor, not merely a mirror-like copier or a camera-like copier in the experience of knowing. It argues that just as different kinds of machine produce kinds of product of different qualities, different kinds of mind produce different kinds of knowledge; to know X is to construct belief and understanding of X that has truth. Therefore, while Kant correctly indicated that before we set out to know things in the world, we should inquire what the mind can know, Confucian masters profoundly suggest that in order to know things in the world and know better, we should constantly expand our mind to the extent that it is broad(博), great(大), refined(精)and profound (深)so that our mind can know millions of things in the world.
The Ming dynasty Confucian philosopher Wang Yangming (1472–1529) has been the subject of a European and North American literature since at least the 18th century. But the rich history of writing about him in the West has been largely obscured by an English-language scholarship published in the 1960s and 1970s. This earlier literature nevertheless provides one window into the broader history of intellectual encounter between China and the West, shedding light on it from the angle of the discovery of one of late imperial China’s most influential scholar-officials. This article’s goal is to provide a history of writing about Wang Yangming in Europe and North America from the 17th century to 1950, demonstrating both how historical circumstances shaped his reception and interpretation, and that these earlier accounts shared valuable insights yet worthy of our attention today.
Mingdai ruxue yanjiu," p. 553. 6 -Ibid
  • Qian
Qian, "Mingdai ruxue yanjiu," p. 553. 6 -Ibid., p. 555.
Yangming xue de yanjiu jiaoliu zai Zhejiang
  • Tu -Ye
-Ye Tu, "Yangming xue de yanjiu jiaoliu zai Zhejiang" (Exchange of research on Yangming Studies in Zhejiang), Zhejiang xuekan 6 (1994): 123.
Jianyi de zhexue: Yangming xue de qisi huisheng zhi dao" (Simple and easy philosophy: The way of rising from the dead and returning to life in the thought of
  • Okada Takehiko
-Okada Takehiko, "Jianyi de zhexue: Yangming xue de qisi huisheng zhi dao" (Simple and easy philosophy: The way of rising from the dead and returning to life in the thought of [Wang] Yangming), Zhejiang xuekan 2 (1989): 85-86. 18 -Ye, "Yangming xue," p. 124;
Song-Ming Learning of Principle and political culture) (Taipei: Yunnong Wenhua
  • Yu Yingshi
  • Song Ming Lixue Yu Zhengzhi Wenhua
Yu Yingshi, Song Ming lixue yu zhengzhi wenhua (Song-Ming Learning of Principle and political culture) (Taipei: Yunnong Wenhua, 1994), p. 277.
Wang Yangming xinxue taolunhui zongshu" (Summary of the Symposium on Wang Yangming's Learning of the Mind
  • Tian Guanghui
Tian Guanghui, "Wang Yangming xinxue taolunhui zongshu" (Summary of the Symposium on Wang Yangming's Learning of the Mind), Kongzi yanjiu 9 (1989): 128. 21-Ibid., p. 128.
Mingdai ruxue yanjiu
  • Reinventing Bresciani
  • Confucianism
Bresciani, Reinventing Confucianism, p. 436. 23-Qian, "Mingdai ruxue yanjiu," p. 570.
Jinian Yangming Xiansheng, hongyang Wang xue jinghua" (Commemorate Master Yangming, promote the quintessence of Wang studies) Con-fucius2000 (last modified
  • Tang Enjia
Tang Enjia, "Jinian Yangming Xiansheng, hongyang Wang xue jinghua" (Commemorate Master Yangming, promote the quintessence of Wang studies) Con-fucius2000 (last modified July 23, 2001);
This volume consists of longer, revised contributions
Wu Guang, ed., Yangming xue yanjiu (Research on Yangming Studies) (Shanghai: Shanghai Guji Chubanshe, 2000). This volume consists of longer, revised contributions, while the 2002 edition contains the rest.
Yangming xue xin tan (New explorations of Yangming Studies)
  • Qian Ming
Qian Ming, ed., Yangming xue xin tan (New explorations of Yangming Studies) (Hangzhou: Zhongguo Meishu Xueyuan Chubanshe, 2002), p. 4.
Jinian Yangming Xiansheng, hongyang Wang xue jinghua: Jinian Wang Yangming shishi 470 zhounian guoji xueshu taolunhui zongshu
  • Zeng Jun
Zeng Jun, "Jinian Yangming Xiansheng, hongyang Wang xue jinghua: Jinian Wang Yangming shishi 470 zhounian guoji xueshu taolunhui zongshu" (Commemorate Master Yangming, promote the quintessence of Wang Studies: Summary of the International Symposium to Commemorate the 470th Anniversary of Wang Yangming's Death), Kongzi yanjiu 3 (1999): 1.