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Neo-Confucianism


During the middle period of the Northern Song a new school known as Neo-Confucianism came into existence. Combing Confucianism with Buddhism and Taoism, it defined the doctrines of Confucian in such a way as of to serve better the interests of the landlord class. As progenitor of this school, Zhou Dunyi (1016-1073) put forward the idea of “the Absolute” which he said was the essence of the universe that transcended all material things. According to him, feudal order was a manifestation of “the Absolute” in social relations. Hence the eternity of the feudal system. Zhou Dun yi wrote An Explanation of the Diagram of the Absolute. His philosophy falls into the category of objective idealism. A contemporary of Zhou Dunyi, Zhang zai held the view that the materialist “vitality” was the essence of all things in the universe. According to him, the interaction between the yin and yang led to changes in the “vitality” and in the course of changes, things were formed. Proceeding from the idealist thought that men and universe were one; he believed that the people and the monarchs formed an inseparable whole. In his view, contradictions between them could be eased out.

Cheng Hao(1032-1085), from Luo yang, was a conservative theoretician. Together with his brother Cheng yi he became a principal exponent of New-Confucianism first advocated by Zhou Dunyi. Known as the “Cheng brothers”, they were the first to advance the idea of “reason” as the essence of the universe, which had existed before anything else. According to them, “there is only one reason under heaven”, men and all material things were just one, forming an inseparable whole. Different as people were in social position, they said, each must act according to this duties and thus conform to “reason”. A theory of this kind also falls into the category of objective idealism, according to which the broad masses must resign themselves to a life of poverty and humiliation, place themselves at the disposal of the feudal order, and refrain from the thought of changing things.
                                                         

 
 

 

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