Wang Fu-chih (1619-1692)


Wang Fu-chih (Wang Ch'uan-shan) was born at the end of the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). His father was a learned scholar, so he grew up in a highly intellectual environment. At the age of seven, Wang has completed reading all thirteen classics. When he was twenty-five, some bandits kidnapped his father and demanded his service in exchange for his father's life. Wang injured himself badly and had himself carried to the bandits. The bandits had no way but to let the father and the son go. The following year the Manchus invaded China and established a new dynasty (the Qing dynasty, 1644-1911). The Ming royalties fled to the south and established a new government. Upon reflection on how Neo-Confucianism in the Ming dynasty has brought about the dynasty's cultural as well as political downfall, Wang began his writing career to renew what he took to be the true spirit of Confucianism. The next few years saw the constant struggles between the rump Ming government and the new powerful Manchu government. Wang participated in the resistance movement but eventually concluded that it would be a futile task. In 1661, the last emperor of the Ming dynasty was caught and the Manchus took control over the whole China. Refusing to collaborate and to avoid being constantly solicited by local authorities for his service, Wang escaped to remote mountains and fled from one place to another. He eventually settled down in a hut at the foot of a barren mountain which he named 'Ch'uan-shan' (literally 'boat mountain', named after a huge boulder in the shape of a boat on this mountain). Wang stayed here for the remainder of his life, and hence took up the name 'Ch'uan-shan.' He died at the age of seventy-four. He devoted over forty years to writing and completed over one hundred books, the manuscripts of which were collected and organized by his son fourteen years after his death. It was not until 1842 that his complete works were put into print. Some of his works were thus lost forever.

Philosophical Heritage

Wang Fu-chih saw that Neo-Confucianism in the Ming dynasty was dominated by Lu-Wang School, which, in his opinion, deviated from the real Confucian teaching. Therefore, he devoted his life to the study of the classics. His philosophical thinking can be traced back to The Book of Changes (I Ching), on which he completed five different commentaries. The Book of Changes contains the root of Wang Fu-chih's cosmological view. He also wrote several commentaries on The Book of History (Shu Ching), The Book of Odes (Shih Ching), Ch'un-Ch'iu, The Book of Rites (Li Chi), and The Four Books (Ssu-shu), all of which represent the origin of classical Confucianism. Among Neo-Confucianists, Wang respects Chang Tsai (1020-1077) the most. He thinks that Chang Tsai's philosophy comes closest to the essence of I Ching, and his own philosophy is basically the continuation of Chang Tsai's theory. Thus the two major sources of Wang Fu-chih's philosophy can be summed up as the Book of Changes and Chang Tsai. But Wang Fu-chih also draws from many other books and thinkers. In his earlier years, Wang praised Chu Hsi and the whole Cheng-Chu School. He later refuted many of the interpretations that Chu Hsi made of the Four Books. There can be no denial, however, that Wang Fu-chih was greatly influenced by Chu Hsi. Wang Fu-chih also draws philosophical as well as literary inspiration from Lao Tzu and Chuang Tzu, even though he strongly criticizes the later Buddhist association of Taoism.


One prominent feature of Wang Fu-chih's cosmology is his materialistic monism. His view is not strictly materialism, since he does not deny the existence of principle (li). But Wang criticizes Chu Hsi's separating principle from material force (chi) and rendering the former transcendent. Even though Chu Hsi often emphasizes the co-existence and inseparability of principle and material force, he does put them into different logical categories and consider them two different entities. When Chu Hsi was pressed to trace the origin of principle and material force, he would put principle prior to material force. Wang Fu-chih thinks that it is this separation of logical priority and posteriority that shows Chu Hsi's mistake. Under Chu Hsi's picture, principle becomes a metaphysical dangler. Wang takes material force to be the fundamental element (the arché) of the universe. Principle is simply the principle of material force; it is the order inherent in ch'i itself. Therefore, principle does not have any transcendental status; it is also not logically prior to material force. Wang says, "Principle is simply the principle of material force. The way material force ought to be is principle itself. Principle is not prior and material force is not posterior." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, vol. 10] In this respect Wang's view is very similar to that of Chang Tsai. However, for Chang Tsai, material force itself is the substance (ti) of the cosmos. When it consolidates, it forms material objects; when it disintegrates, it is simply a massive formless ch'i which he calls 'The Great Vacuity (T'ai-hsü).' Thus, material force for Chang Tsai remains to be an abstract entity which is divided into two levels of existence: its substance (ti), and its function (yung). Material objects are the manifestations of material force; they are where the function of material force is revealed. The Great Vacuity (T'ai-hsü) is the substance of material force; it is invisible and formless. Wang Fu-chih, on the other hand, does not posit a separate substance (ti0 independent of its function (yung). He carries Chang Tsai's monism one step further to argue that the universe is One not just in its constitutive elements, but also in its ontological order. Wang Fu-chih says, "When we talk about substance and function, we cannot separate the two." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, vol. 7] Therefore, it is wrong of Chang Tsai to assume that there is another state of being for material force that is separate from, and logically prior to, the existence of material objects. It is also wrong of Chu Hsi to treat principle as the substance and material force as the function. Wang Fu-chih thinks that principle and material force can serve as each other's substance or function. There is thus no substance that stands behind reality. The reality is nothing but material force and its function (concrete things).

The emphasis on material objects and concrete existence is another important aspect of Wang Fu-chih's cosmology. 'Concrete existence' (ch'i) is a notion derived from the Book of Changes, which puts the Way (Tao) as meta-physical (what is above shapes, hsing erh shang) and concrete existence (ch'i) as physical (what is within shapes, hsing erh hsia). Confucianists generally put the Way on a transcendental level, treating it as superior to concrete existence and prescribing the way concrete things should be. Wang Fu-chih's theory is thus revolutionary in his rejection of the division between the two realms. He especially criticizes posing an ontological level above the physical world. Wang argues that the Way does not pre-determine the world; rather, it is developed as the world evolves. He says, "What exist in this world are nothing but concrete things. The Way (Tao) is simply the Way of concrete things, while concrete things may not be called concrete things of the Way." [Chou-I wai chuan, vol. 5, p. 25] He further explains, "There is no Way of the father before there is a son, there is no Way of the elder brother before there is a younger brother. There are many Ways that could exist but are not yet existent. Therefore it is indeed true that without a concrete thing, there cannot be its Way." [Chou-I wai chuan, vol. 5, p. 25] The world as we experience it, the physical realm, is what Wang Fu-Chih takes to be the only existence.

The notion of Heaven (tian) is also washed off its meta-physical color. In contrast to Cheng-Chu's remark "Heaven is nothing but li," Wang argues that Heaven is nothing but material force. Wang says, "Heaven has its principle, but Heaven itself cannot be separated from material force. Only when we recognize the Principle as the principle of material force, can we define the Principle of Heaven. If we abandon talk of material force to discuss the principle, then we cannot even find the Principle of Heaven." [ta-ch'üan shuo, p. 719] Furthermore, in Wang's view, Heaven is simply the totality of nature: natural phenomena and natural objects. Natural phenomena and natural objects are made up of the two kinds of material force: yin and yang. The principle of Heaven lies in the order of transmutation between yin and yang. There is no virtue such as humanity (jen), creativity (sheng), impartiality (kung), sincerity (ch'eng), diligence (chien), etc. inherent in Heaven itself. These are all humanly assigned values. Nature itself is value-free. In this respect Wang Fu-chih's cosmology can also be seen as naturalism.

Another feature of Wang Fu-chih's cosmology is his theory of Being. He advocates realism, the theory that the world exists independently of the mind. In this respect his theory directly opposes Wang Yang-ming's idealism. Wang Fu-chih's says, "The Way (Tao ) is real." [Chou-I wai-chuan, vol. 5, p. 44] He strongly criticizes the Neo-Confucianists in Lu-Wang school for their mixing Confucianism with the Taoist teaching of Non-being (wu) and the Buddhist teaching of emptiness (k'ung). To him, the universe is simply the whole of material objects. Individual objects may not exist eternally, but the totality has always been here. Being does not come from Non-being because there was never a Non-being. Being simply is; in other words, it exists all the time. Nothing precedes reality. Wang says, "People cannot see the beginning or the end of the universe, so they conclude that there was an initial beginning at the ancient past, and that there will be an end of everything in the far future. This is really stupid." [Chou-I wei-chuan, p. vol. 4, p. 35] Wang thinks that the talk of creation and annihilation results from the bad influence of Buddhism.

Wang also argues that the universe was not generated by the Great Ultimate (T'ai-chi) as Chou Tun-i and Chu Hsi advocate, not was it preceded by the Great Vacuity as Chang Tsai upholds. The universe has always been here since material force has always been in existence. According to Chou Tun-i, the Great Ultimate through movement generates yang, and through tranquilly generates yin. [Chou Tzu Ch'üan-shu, p. 4] Wang argues, "'T'ai ' means great, 'chi' means ultimate. The term 'the Great Ultimate' is simply a description of the combination of yin and yang." [Chou-I nei-chuan, p. 517] Therefore, the Great Ultimate is not something over and above yin and yang, from which yin and yang get generated. To Chang Tsai's notion of the Great Vacuity, Wang comments: "The so-called 'the Great Vacuity,' I don't know what it can refer to.... The Heaven is principle as well as the emanation of material force. It is not at all empty or unreal." [Li-chi chang-chü, vol. 42, p. 21] The world consists of material force manifested in material objects. This is reality, and nothing can be more real than the totality of material objects.

In conclusion, Wang Fu-chih's cosmology, in his emphasis on the concrete existence of material objects, is a revolution to all the theories that preceded him. His monism brings about his rejection of any abstract, transcendental entity -- be it Non-being, principle, mind, the Great Vacuity, the Great Ultimate, or the substance. Ultimately his interest lies in this real, living, full, visible, tangible world that surrounds us.

Philosophy of Human Nature

Neo-Confucianists, in Cheng-Chu School and Lu-Wang School alike, treat human nature (hsing) as that which Heaven confers on man. Humans and other creatures derive their nature from Heavenly principle (tian-li). It is the same Heavenly principle that makes possible the nature of different creatures. Therefore, humans and other creatures share the same nature. What makes humans different from other creatures lies in the endowment of material force (chi). The purity or impurity of the material force in each being is responsible for the good or evil in different lives. Wang Fu-chih, however, rejects the theory of sameness of nature. He argues that nature is determined by the matter from which a life is formed. Humans and animals are made of different matter, and thus, they have different natures. The nature of vegetation includes growth and decay; the nature of animals includes perception and motion. Human nature, on the other hand, includes moral consciousness.

Furthermore, human nature is not just "that which at birth is so" as most Neo-Confucianists take it to be. Wang Fu-chih thinks that nature is not simply what one is endowed with at birth; it is also what is developed throughout one's life. Wang says, "Nature is principle (li) at one's birth; it gets perfected daily from its daily renewal." [Shang-shu yin-i, vol. 3, p. 6]. Our nature is not determined at birth, since the external environment and later cultivation help to make up the way we are. To him, there is no sharp division between nature and nurture. At any moment of our lives, we can change our nature for the better or for the worse. This view clearly opposes the a priority of human nature advocated by Mencius, and promoted by most Neo-Confucianists.

Wang Fu-chih also departs from Neo-Confucianism in his confirmation of the value of human desires. Cheng-Chu School emphasize that it is only at the extinction of human desires can we see the prevalence of Heavenly principle. Wang argues against setting up an antithesis between Heavenly principle and human desires. Basic human desires are nothing but culinary and sexual desires. Wang thinks that even the saints could not rid themselves of these desires. Desires are not evil; they do not stand in the way of our moral cultivation. On the contrary, to cultivate one's moral self, one has to appreciate the Heavenly principle inherent in human desires. Wang says, "There cannot be Heaven apart from human; there cannot be principle apart from desires." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, vol. 8] This thought is derived from Chang Tsai's view on principle and desire. Chang Tsai thinks that food and sex are nothing but nature, and Wang comments, "principle lies within them." [Cheng-meng chu, p. 274] Wang defines desire as our hearts' interaction with that which is desirable. He says, "Things like music, women, goods, wealth, power and success, anything that is desirable such that I desire it, is called 'desire.'" [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, p. 369] As long as we are alive, we cannot avoid interacting with objects; once we interact with objects, we cannot avoid the generation of our desires. Therefore, "to expect one to completely rid oneself of human desires, is an impossible demand." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, p. 371] Wang criticizes Cheng-Chu's treating indulgence in material possession as the source of evil. He also rejects Buddhism's denouncing desirable material objects and the whole material world. He says, "All desirable objects are the products of heaven and earth. To blame natural products of heaven and earth and not blaming people, is like blaming the owner for having too many treasures while acquitting the thieves." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, p. 675]

Wang Fu-chih does not condone indulgence in material desires, however. He thinks that the basic rule is 'moderation'. If one's desires are moderated, then they are in accord with principle (li). Wang's notion of moderation is paired with the notion of fairness (kung). He says, "fairness lies in everyone's getting a share of his own." [Cheng-meng chu, p. 141] In other words, if everyone's desires can be gratified, then there is nothing wrong with desires themselves. If the gratification of one's desires means the sacrifice of others' desires, then those desires are not one's entitlement. That is why one needs to modify one's selfish desires so that the gratification of everyone's desires is fair. "When everyone gets his desires met, there is the prevalence of Heavenly principle." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, p. 248] On the other hand, principle is nothing but the moderation and fairness of desires; it does not have a separate ontological status. Wang Fu-chih compares principle without desires to a pond without water -- both are simply empty. The relationship between the two can be best summarized as such: "Without principle, desires become excessive; without desires, principle gets abolished." [Chou-I nei-chuan, p. 212]

Basically, Wang Fu-chih believes that there is innate goodness in human nature. Human nature is not separable from the material force that makes up human existence, while "there is nothing that is not good in material force." [Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo, vol. 10, p. 2] Evil is the lack of moderation of desires and the absence of consideration for others. Since Wang also argues that human nature is developed and perfected on a daily basis, he does not think that evil is external to human nature. Individuals are thus responsible for their being good or bad; their nature does not determine the way they are.

Theory of Knowledge

Theory of knowledge for Neo-Confucianism consists mostly in the discourse on the meaning and the order of "investigation of things" (ko wu) and "extension of knowledge" (chih chih) from The Great Learning (Ta-hsüeh). Wang Fu-chih's theory of knowledge opposes Wang Yang-ming's theory. According to Wang Yang-ming, 'things' mean the objects towards which the activity of the mind is directed. Extension of knowledge begins with investigation of things, and 'investigation of things' means rectification of one's thoughts. Therefore, knowledge is not to be sought from outside one's mind. One's mind is originally endowed with innate knowledge of the good, and thus one needs to examine one's own mind to gain this intuitive knowledge. To Wang Yang-ming, 'extension of knowledge' turns out to mean 'extension of mind,' and he argues that principle and mind are "made one" in this way. Wang Yang-ming's theory of knowledge is thus a form of subjectivism or mentalism. Wang Fu-chih criticizes this theory as being too close to Buddhism's emptiness and Taoism's inactivity. Wang Fu-chih's theory of knowledge is based on his realism. Since reality is not the product of our mental activities, principle of reality is external to, and independent of, our mind. To investigate the objective principle of different objects, we need to study these objects themselves. This studying makes up the first step towards knowledge of the external world.

To Wang Fu-chih, knowledge can only be obtained through practice and experience. One cannot acquire experience without activities; hence, one's activities or action (hsing) precedes knowledge (chih). Thus he also rejects Wang Yang-ming's doctrine of the "unity of knowledge and action(chih hsing ho yi)." Wang Fu-chih argues that the doctrine of the unity of knowledge and action is actually to replace action with knowledge; it is to assume that action lies within knowledge itself. But to Wang Fu-chih, action is the only way through which one can accrue knowledge. Wang says, "Knowledge has to rely on action to be complete; action does not have to rely on knowledge to be complete. Through acting one can gain the effect of knowing, but just through knowing one does not gain the effect of acting." [Shang-shu yin-i , vol. 3, p. 25] Therefore, action is the foundation, and the completion, of knowledge. Knowledge and action must be separated.

Wang Fu-chih divides knowledge into two stages: knowledge of sense organs and knowledge of the mind. The former refers to studying; the latter refers to thinking. He thinks that Chu Hsi overemphasizes the latter and undervalues the former. Wang stresses that without studying objects, our thinking becomes futile. Therefore, knowledge of the mind begins with knowledge of sense organs. Through the accumulation of our studying we can acquire knowledge of the external world. The learning process is progressive and never-ending. Wang Fu-chih also rejects the theory of "sudden enlightenment" which Chu Hsi seems to endorse. To him, there is no leap of understanding. The universe is daily renewed, our knowledge must also be daily renewed.

Philosophy of History

Wang Fu-chih's philosophy of history is another of his major contributions. He takes a progressive, modernistic view on history. Wang thinks that the universe constantly renews itself, within it, human civilization continues to advance. In opposition to those who praise the ancient civilization and view human history as engaged in an ongoing decline, Wang argues that in the primitive society where rites and culture were not established, men were no different from beasts. If we see how much human efforts have transformed human society, then there is no need to exaggerate the merit of the ancients and to disparage modern civilization. This is clearly the modernist's view against the ancient's view.

On the other hand, even though Wang argues that history keeps progressing, he also sees it as exemplifying a cyclical pattern: after prosperous times, chaotic times ensues; and vice versa. He calls this pattern 'one prosperous era followed by one chaotic era' (i chi i luan), which is the manifestation of the rotation between yin and yang. Wang Fu-chih calls this pattern the principle (li) of human history. Wang claims that the unfolding of human history reflects the movement of yin and yang. When yang is manifested in human history, it results in prosperity and order. When yin is manifested in human history, it results in decline and chaos. Material force is forever dynamic, and thus the two forms of material force are in constant motion and mutation. When one rises, the other declines. Therefore, human states of affairs never stay still. The transition from order to chaos or from chaos to prosperity in human history is inevitable. Wang says, "One prosperity and one chaos, such is Heaven, just like the sun brings us day and night, the moon has its wax and wane. Human subjects cannot use their virtues to determine the fate of Heaven." [T'ung-chien lun, p. 1108]

However, human history is not predetermined by principle, since principle does not precede historical development. This view is consistent with his cosmological interpretation of the relationship between principle and material force. Principle is nothing but the order of material force, and it is only realized after material force has developed in a certain way. Wang argues that before there were ritual and musical instruments, there was no the proper way (Tao) governing rites and music; before there were bows and arrows, there was no proper way (Tao) of archery. Principle comes to be defined as the result of the actual development of the human world. Furthermore, the principle or the proper way for an earlier dynasty, however ideal that dynasty was, is not necessarily the principle or the proper way for a later dynasty. There is no perfect li or Tao for all times. Material force is in constant dynamic state; human states of affairs never stay the same either. Historical characters must therefore recognize the different situations they are in and react accordingly.

The tension between human history's having an inevitable cyclical pattern and its freedom from predeterminacy is resolved through Wang's notion of tendency (shih). When events develop in a certain way, states of affairs naturally follow. This is called 'tendency.' As Wang defines it, "A tendency (shih) is what naturally follows with no forced alteration. High ground yields to low land, largeness incorporates smallness, the tendency is what one cannot defy." [ta-ch'üan shuo, p. 601] For instance, extreme wealth and prosperity easily breeds negligence and corruption in a government, which, if unheeded to, would eventually bring about the destruction of the government. On the other hand, when society is at its worst extreme, there would be an outcry from the people for its regeneration. These natural developments of worldly affairs are tendencies. The notion of tendency can also be explained in terms of the development of material force. Human deeds and states of affairs contribute to the ongoing development of yin or yang. Yin is enforced by turbulence and degradation, while yang is enforced by order and peacefulness in the human world. When the government and the society at large do not check their performance, there emerges a tendency for their downfall. When rulers and the people possess virtues such as diligence and honesty, there emerges a tendency for the society's advancement. At the same time, the movement of material force is governed by the continuing competition between yin and yang. When yin rises, yang descends; when yang rises, yin descends. Each of the two forms of material force would then find the opportunity to regain its force. Wang Fu-chih says, "All tendencies of the world are such that if one follows a tendency, it will grow to its extreme; once it reaches the extreme, the opposite will come." [Ch'un-ch'iu shih lun, vol. 4, p. 12] Hence, the pattern of 'one prosperous era followed by one chaotic era (i chi i luan)' exists for human history. This pattern represents the principle (li) of human history. The notion of principle and the notion of tendency are closely related. Wang Fu-chih says, "Following what is inevitable in tendencies, this is principle; being what is natural according to principle, this is Heaven." [Sung Lun, vol. 7, p. 1] "What is natural according to principle or tendency is simply what is right for that time." [Li-chi chang-chü, vol. 10, p. 5] Even though history is not determined before the human world has developed into a certain state, there is a dominant tendency present in each particular state. Human efforts can revert these tendencies most of the time. Hence, it is crucial that historical figures recognize the tendencies of the times. However, when the tendency is fully matured, there is no stopping it. In his commentaries on historical dynasties, Wang Fu-chih often describes 'the tendency of inevitable destruction.' This is probably how Wang fu-chih viewed the fate of the Ming dynasty, to which he dedicated his life-long loyalty, but not his futile effort to resurrect.

Political Philosophy

The basic political ideology of traditional Confucianists is that of feudal propriety: the emperor should act like an emperor; the subjects should act like subjects. Each has its proper place and usurpation is deemed morally unacceptable. But the true spirit of Confucian political philosophy is not to uphold blind loyalty to the ruler. The demand for loyalty from the subjects is matched with the demand for humanity from the ruler. Under the basic framework of feudal loyalty, there are different ways a Confucianist can justify people's right to revolution. Mencius, for example, denies the ruler's legitimacy. Mencius argues that a ruler that disrespects humanity and righteousness is not a legitimate ruler. He should be regarded as a bandit. Murdering a ruler may be unacceptable, murdering a bandit is totally justified. In other words, if the emperor is not a humane ruler, then the people have the right to revolt.

Wang Fu-chih seems to be greatly influenced by Mencius in his political thinking. The emperors of China were called 'The Son of Heaven' (tian-tzu), but Wang Fu-chih says, "What people's hearts share in common, principle is here, and Heaven is here." [Cheng-meng chu, p. 47] In other words, the emperor is the son of what people desire in common. This remark seems to reflect Mencius' political view. Mencius says that to win the empire is to win the people, and to win the people is to win their hearts. To win the people's hearts, Mencius further suggests, is nothing but to amass for them what they desire and to avoid doing what they resent. [Mencius, 4A: 9] Similarly, Wang also thinks that what determines political success or failure is ultimately people's affection or resentment. Wang says, "To appease a dangerous situation, the main thing to do is to win the people's hearts." [Tu T'ung-chien lun, p. 393] Wang Fu-chih also derives his view on the relationship between Heaven and the people from the classic Book of History (Shang-shu), which says, "The Heaven sees and hears what the people see and hear; the Heaven manifests its power through the people's manifested power." Wang states that people's desire is where the will of Heaven lies. What he calls 'the tendency of inevitable destruction' is formed by the accumulation of the despot's cruelty, stinginess, injustice, and intemperance. Thus, under Wang's view, the emperor does not have the Heavenly mandate to be the sure ruler. If he does not do his job properly, eventually there will be an inevitable destruction for his rulership. This outcome, to Wang Fu-chih, reveals the natural development of principle (li).

We may say that Wang Fu-chih's political view is government for the people. He does not advocate government of the people or by the people, however. From historical observation, he concludes that one should use caution in following the people's hearts. The masses can be fickle and short-sighted. They can turn their back on the ones they loved a moment ago, or they can worship someone whom they despised earlier. Therefore, Wang Fu-chih does not think that whatever the people desire is what the ruler should comply with. What people's hearts share in common is not simply what the masses want as a fad or a vogue; it is rather what the universal human nature would desire. Wang thinks that what humans desire in common begins with food and sex and expands to power and wealth. What the ruler should do is to put himself in his people's shoes and exercise empathy. Wang says, "The way of an enlightened ruler (wang-tao) is based on human sentiment." [Ssu-shu hsün-i, p. 5243] Therefore, the political ideal that Wang advocates is one where the ruler understands his people's desires and promotes the satisfaction of his people's desires. It is a political ideology that sets economic and social well-being as primary goals.

It will be a stretch to say that Wang Fu-chih's political view is comparable to the modern notion of democracy. It is not even clear that he would deem revolution justifiable. Ultimately Wang Fu-chih is a supporter of traditional monarchy. He says, "There can only be one king, just like there cannot be two fathers." [Tu T'ung-chien lun, p. 680.] He thinks that an intellectual should select his sovereign in entering politics. If the sovereign is not a suitable one, then the proper thing for the intellectual to do is simply to quit politics. Wang himself has certainly lived up to his own standard. This attitude is not pessimistic, since Wang also believes in the existence of principle (li) in the human world. If the ruler defies the Heavenly principle, which is nothing but what the people desire in common, then he has put himself into the tendency of inevitable destruction. We may conclude that Wang's support for traditional monarchy is certainly not support for despotism or tyranny. Wang Fu-chih thinks that if traditional monarchy can be continued in China for thousands of years, then it has withstood the test of "what the people's hearts have in common." At least in Wang's mind, his times is not yet the time for the abolishment of monarchy. As he remarks, "What can be practiced for a thousand years without change represents what people want; it also represents Heaven.... What are stealthily passed along as popular customs represent what people want, but they do not represent Heaven." [Tu T'ung-chien lun, p. 626] He thus gives his defense of monarchy on the basis of its endurance in Chinese history.

The Significance of Wang's Philosophy

Wang Fu-chih's philosophy can be said to be the real summation of Neo-Confucianism of the Sung-Ming Era. He refused to partake in the endless debate between Cheng-Chu School and Lu-Wang School on the issue of principle and mind. Instead, he redirected the attention towards material force and concrete existence. He opened the door to pragmatism prominent in the Qing dynasty. Yen Yüan (1635-1704) and Tai Chen (1723-1777) continued this direction and gave both the School of Principle and the School of Mind further critique. Later in the nineteenth century and the twentieth century philosophers such as T'an Ssu-t'ung (1865-1898) and T'ang Chun-i were also greatly influenced by him.

Major Works by Wang Fu-chih

1. External Commentary on the Book of Changes(Chou-I wai-chuan), 1655.

2. Internal Commentary on the Book of Changes (Chou-I nei-chuan), 1685.

3. Interpretation on the Images of he Book of Changes (Chou-I Ta-hsiang chieh), 1676.

4. The Extended Meaning of the Book of History (Shang-shu yin-i ), 1663.

5. Discourse on Reading the Great Collection of Commentaries on the Four Books (Tu Ssu-shu ta-ch'üan shuo), 1665.

6. A Contemporary Interpretation of the Meaning of the Four Books (Ssu-shu hsün-i), 1679.

7. A Treatise on Reading T'ung-chien (Tu T'ung-chien lun), 1687-1691.

8. A Treatise on the Sung Dynasty (Sung lun), 1691.

9. A General Treatise on Ch'un-ch'iu (Ch'un-ch'iu shih lun), 1668.

10. A Textual Annotation on the Book of Rites (Li-chi chang-chü), 1673-1677.

11. Commentary on Chang Tsai's Cheng-meng (Chang Tzu's Cheng-meng chu), post 1677.

12. Extended Interpretation on Lao Tzu (Lao Tzu yen), 1655.

13. Interpretation on Chuang Tzu (Chuang Tzu chieh), 1681.

14. Record of Thoughts and Questions (Ssu-wen Lu), post 1677.


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7. JeeLoo Liu, A Treatise on the Problem of "Heavenly Principle As Manifested in Human History" in Wang Fu-chih's Philosophy (in Chinese), [Taipei, Taiwan: National Taiwan University], 1984.

8. Ch'un-chien Liu, The Chronology of Wang Fu-chih's Scholarship (in Chinese), [He-nan, China: Chung-chou Ku-chi Publishing], 1989.

9. Pei-yüan Meng, The Development of Li-hsueh: From Chu Hsi to Wang Fu-chi and Tai Chen (in Chinese), [Taipei, Taiwan: Wen Jin Publishing], 1990.

10. S. Y. Teng, 'Wang Fu-chih's Views on History and Historical Writing,' Journal of Asian Studies 28, pp. 111-123.

11. Fu-chih Wang, The Complete Collection of the Posthumous Works of Ch'uan-shan (Ch'uan-shan i-shu ch'uan-chi, Vol. 1-22, [Taipei, Taiwan: Chinese Ch'uan-shan Association & the Liberty Press], 1972.