Chu Hsi Criticism - Essay

Herbert A. Giles (essay date 1901)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “History—Classical and General Literature,” in A History of Chinese Literature, D. Appleton and Company, 1931, pp. 212-31.

[In the excerpt below, Giles offers a brief overview of Chu Hsi's life and his major contributions to Chinese philosophy.]

… The name of Chu Hsi (1130-1200) is a household word throughout the length and breadth of literary China. He graduated at nineteen, and entered upon a highly successful official career. He apparently had a strong leaning towards Buddhism—some say that he actually became a Buddhist priest; at any rate, he soon saw the error of his ways, and gave himself up completely to a study of the orthodox doctrine. He was...

(The entire section is 954 words.)

J. Percy Bruce (essay date 1923)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Moral Order,” in Chu Hsi and His Masters: An Introduction to Chu Hsi and the Sung School of Chinese Philosophy, Probsthain & Co., 1923, pp. 161-83.

[In the essay below, Bruce analyzes the concept of Tao and examines how Chu Hsi's interpretation of it differed from that of contemporary Taoists. Bruce emphasizes that Chu Hsi opposed the “ultra-transcendental” view of Tao held by the Taoists of his day.]

… [The] fundamental meaning of the word Li is Law; that it is essentially ethical; and that, while it derives its name from the fact that every single thing has its own rule of existence, it also has a universal application....

(The entire section is 6451 words.)

Wing-tsit Chan (essay date 1963)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Great Synthesis in Chu Hsi,” in A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, translated and compiled by Wing-tsit Chan, Princeton University Press, 1963, pp. 588-604.

[In the essay below, Chan discusses Chu Hsi's contribution to Neo-Confucianism, arguing that Chu Hsi eliminated the remnants of Buddhist and Taoist traditions in Neo-Confucianism, as well as refined and synthesized the six major concepts advocated by various Neo-Confucian philosophers. Chan also introduces several brief essays by Chu Hsi, included here.]

No one has exercised greater influence on Chinese thought than Chu Hsi (Chu Yüan-hui, 1130-1200), except Confucius, Mencius, Lao Tzu, and Chuang...

(The entire section is 8050 words.)

Wing-tsit Chan (essay date 1967)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: An introduction to Reflections on Things at Hand: The Neo-Confucian Anthology, compiled by Chu Hsi and Lu Tsu-Ch’ien, translated by Wing-tsit Chan, Columbia University Press, 1967, pp. xvii-xli.

[In the essay that follows, Chan examines the way in which Chu Hsi's anthology, Reflections on Things at Hand, treats three major doctrines of Neo-Confucianism. Chan also maintains that Chu Hsi was objective in selecting and editing the sayings of the Confucian masters included in the text.]

Reflections on Things at Hand is the classic statement of Neo-Confucian philosophy by its leading exponent, Chu Hsi. It brings together the views of the Sung dynasty...

(The entire section is 11235 words.)

Tomoeda Ryūtarō (essay date 1971)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Characteristics of Chu Hsi's Thought,” in Acta Asiatica, Vol. 21, 1971, pp. 52-72.

[In the following essay, Ryūtarō examines the way in which Chu Hsi criticized his predecessors and developed his own philosophical system. In particular, Ryūtarō traces the influence of Zen Buddhism on Chu Hsi's thought and discusses the differences between the Zen and Neo-Confucian treatment of various philosophical principles. Chinese characters have been deleted from this essay.]


What are the characteristics of Chu Hsi's philosophy? I shall try to elucidate its outline in this article by re-examining my past studies which I...

(The entire section is 8265 words.)

Allen Wittenborn (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Some Aspects of Mind and the Problem of Knowledge in Chu Hsi's Philosophy,” in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 1, March, 1982, pp. 11-43.

[In the essay below, Wittenborn studies Chu Hsi's theory of the mind, maintaining that although the theory represents the least successful facet of Chu Hsi's philosophical synthesis, his investigation of this issue resulted in a theory of knowledge rooted in a “firm psychological foundation.” Wittenborn further contends that Chu Hsi argues convincingly for the existence of li, or constitutive principle, rather than simply presupposing its existence, as did many of his predecessors and contemporaries.]


(The entire section is 12960 words.)

Russell Hatton (essay date 1982)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “A Comparison of Li and Substantial Form,” in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 9, No. 1, March, 1982, pp. 45-71.

[In the essay that follows, Hatton compares Chu Hsi's conception of li with the Western notion of “substantial form.” Hatton traces the origins of this debate, and challenges those critics who have suggested that li and substantial form are equivalent.]


The concept of lia is central in the philosophy of the Sung Dynasty Neo-Confucian philosopher Chu Hsib (1130-1200). In discussions of his philosophy by Western or Westernized interpreters, li...

(The entire section is 10474 words.)

Daniel K. Gardner (essay date 1983)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Chu Hsi's Reading of the Ta-hsueh: A Neo-Confucian's Quest for Truth,” in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 10, No. 3, 1983, pp. 183-204.

[In the following essay, Gardner investigates Chu Hsi's fascination with the shortest text in Confucian canon, the Ta-hsueh, reviewing the evidence of Chu Hsi's “endless” revision of his commentary on it. He argues that Chu Hsi's intensive study of the text resulted in an understanding of it that challenged the traditional reading of the Ta-hsueh.]

The Ta-hsüeha is the shortest text in the Confucian canon. With its scant 1747 characters it can be read, even memorized, in a matter of...

(The entire section is 7307 words.)

John Borthrong (essay date 1987)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Chu Hsi's Ethics: Jen and Ch’eng,” in Journal of Chinese Philosophy, Vol. 14, No. 2, June, 1987, pp. 161-178.

[In the following essay, Borthrong contends that although Chu Hsi's views on ethics have been criticized as unoriginal and derivative, they display an ingenious approach based on the concept of humanity. Borthrong goes on to explore how Chu Hsi's conception of jenand ch’eng contribute to his views on the development of one's full humanity.]


For over a decade Chu Hsi's thought has fascinated me—in a positive sense. I further think that Master Chu deserves to be considered second...

(The entire section is 6044 words.)

Wing-tsit Chan (essaydate 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Chu Hsi's Jen-shuo” (Treatise on Humanity),” in Chu Hsi: New Studies, University of Hawaii Press, 1989, pp. 151-83.

[In the essay below, Chan studies Chu Hsi's Jen-shuo (“Treatise on Humanity”), examining the reasons Chu Hsi wrote the treatise, discussing the likely period of composition, and reviewing the major concepts—the character of the mind and the principle of love—explored by Chu Hsi within the treatise.]

Chu Hsi's philosophical thought centered on the basic concepts of the Great Ultimate (T’ai-chi), principle (li), material force (ch’i), humanity (jen), righteousness (i), equilibrium...

(The entire section is 15485 words.)

William Theodore De Bary (essay date 1989)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “The Learning of the Mind-and-Heart in the Early Chu Hsi School,” in The Message of the Mind in Neo-Confucianism, Columbia University Press, 1989, pp. 24-52.

[In the essay below, De Bary examines the way in which the interpretation of Chu Hsi's teachings concerning the learning of the mind has resulted in confusion regarding the role of the “mind-and-heart” in his philosophy.]

In Neo-Confucian Orthodoxy and the Learning of the Mind-and-Heart1 I reported on developments in the thirteenth through fifteenth centuries which saw the rise of the new Learning of the Mind-and-Heart as an accompaniment to Neo-Confucianism's establishment as an...

(The entire section is 14347 words.)

Hoyt Cleveland Tillman (essay date 1992)

(Classical and Medieval Literature Criticism)

SOURCE: “Chu Hsi and Chang Shih,” in Confucian Discourse and Chu Hsi's Ascendancy, University of Hawaii Press, 1992, pp. 59-82.

[In the essay that follows, Tillman states that much of Chu Hsi's philosophical development resulted from his relationship with Chang Shih and the correspondence exchanged between the two philosophers. Tillman reviews the issues they discussed, including self-cultivation and the understanding of the mind; Hu Hung's text on the relationship between goodness and one's actions and original inner nature; and humaneness and how it is achieved. Overall, Tillman notes, Chu Hsi's focus was on theory, whereas Chang Shih's emphasis was on practice.]


(The entire section is 12816 words.)