and Culture Review
VOLUME3·Number 4 ·December 2016
Overseas Confucian Studies
4 Discourses on Renzheng in East Asian Confucianism and Their Theoretical Problems
Special Theme: The Li–Fa Tradition and Rule of Law in Modern China
16 What Is Meant by Li–Fa?
30 The Traditional Chinese Legal System: Ritsuryō or Li–Fa?
44 The Evolution of Traditional Succession System in China
54 Xunzi’s Theory of Li–Fa
63 The Significance of Wang Yangming’s Theory of ‘the Unity of Knowledge and Action’ in Constructing Morality
72 Three Forms of Jiang Xin’s Political Thinking and Their Values
80 Life Wisdom of Confucianism
91 A Different Voice in Qing Thought: Revisiting the Political Philosophy of Wang Fuzhi
101 Transformation of Confucian Classics: A Study of the Image of Wang Yi in the Textbooks of Late Qing and Republican China
Main articles Abstract
Discourses on Renzheng in East Asian Confucianism and Their Theoretical Problems
Abstract: Renzheng (benevolent governance) was Confucius’s and Mencius’s “counter-factual” discourse criticizing the reality of the actual world. Mencius’s discourse on renzheng represented a form of maternal thinking. Chinese Confucian ideas of renzheng have benevolence as their core value, the place where the body and the mind find their rest. The interaction between “self” and “other” is based on “love for others,” which is also true in politics. Chinese Confucianism focused more on the fulfillment of the ruler’s moral responsibility (as an “art of politics”) for supporting and educating the people rather than uncovering “political principles.” Japanese Confucians adopted an ethics of efficacy rather than of intention when talking about renzheng. The Korean Confucians of the Joseon Era put more emphasis on the economic system and the livelihood of the people in their interpretations of renzheng. However, there are two problems concerning these discourses: (1) Renzheng is taken as an extension and expansion of renxin (the benevolent heart-mind); (2) In a case where the ruler does not fulfill his moral responsibility of renzheng, what shall the people do? In general, in East Asian autocratic political traditions, Confucian discourses on renzheng fail to check and balance the power of the ruler, and thus constitute an “unaccomplished project.”
Keywords: East Asia, Confucianism, renzheng, Japan, Korea
Huang Chun-chieh is Director and chair professor of the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Sciences at Taiwan University.
What Is Meant by Li–Fa?
Abstract: This article takes a positive stance, exploring the connotations and basis of the Chinese term li–fa (rites–laws) through an analysis of its semantic and structural components. The author holds that li–fa should not be understood as rites plus laws, as subordinating laws to rites, or as any combination of rites and laws. Li–fa as a ritual–legal system of ancient Chinese society has its own distinctive features and denotations. It consists of three sub-systems: ritual code, penal code, and customary law, which function independently and coordinately, forming an apparatus that works at multiple levels, through multiple facets, and for manifold purposes. The li–fa system, rooted in ancient Chinese ritual, is compatible with the Chinese legal mindset. It has been shaped into a ritual–legal tradition that evolved over thousands of years of history.
Keywords: li–fa, ritual code, penal code, customary law
Yu Ronggen is professor and PhD supervisor of the Southwest University of Political Science and Law.
The Traditional Chinese Legal System:Ritsuryo or Li–Fa?
Abstract: Japanese scholars hold that the traditional Chinese legal system was centered on specific laws and decrees (ritsuryo). This assertion was actually an embodiment of their code complex when Japan imitated the Continental legal system in the Meiji era. Though garbed in traditional Chinese legal terminologies, the notion of ritsuryo could not adequately cover the overall history of traditional Chinese law. Functionally, it can be used to describe the statutory criminal and administrative laws in ancient China, but not the basis of the traditional Chinese legal system, that is, the most orthodox and universal laws of the Great Way and ancestors. The traditional Chinese legal system is actually a li–fa system, consisting of three subsystems: ritual code, penal code, and customary law. Its history was characterized by four phases of development: birth, reformulation, maturity, and decline.
Keywords: rits uryo, traditional Chinese legal system, system of law and decree, li–fa system
Qin Tao, J.D., teaches at the School of Administrative Law at Southwest University of Political Science and Law.
The Evolution of Traditional Succession System in China
Abstract: China’s traditional system of succession is guided by the li–fa and patriarchal system. Lineal primogeniture is practiced in family identity succession, wherein even sharing is practiced with property succession. The Xia, Shang, and Zhou dynasties were all patriarchies and held identity succession as their central premise. In the era of Legalists, property succession superseded identity succession. In the era of Confucianism, the succession system took a pluralistic turn to include some new elements, such as the succession of family traditions. In today’s China, where national laws and civil acts are detached from each other, the build-up of an effective system of succession necessitates a retrospection of history and learning from the refined Confucian traditions of succession.
Keywords: li–fa, patriarchy, traditional succession system
Deng Changchun, Doctor of Laws, is associate professor of the School of Political Law and Public Administration at Luoyang Normal University.
Xunzi’s Theory of Li–Fa
Abstract: Xunzi is known for his objective theory of knowledge, as opposed to an emphasis on values and ren. He integrates various schools of thought to establish a theory of li–fa, which unavoidably inherits their contradictions in its attempt to combine good order and rigorous government, inherently evil human nature and just laws, the rule of law and dictatorship, as well as natural order and man-made order. Entrenched in the values of his era, Xunzi’s contradictions can be reduced to that between Confucianism and Legalism; a necessary outcome of his endeavor to balance the aristocratic tradition of rites in the Spring and Autumn period and the monarchical dictatorship of the Warring States period.
Keywords: Xunzi, theory of li–fa, institutional design, contradictions between Confucianism and Legalism
Song Daqi, PhD in jurisprudence and postdoctoral researcher in philosophy, is an independent scholar and Editor-in-Chief of the online journal New Forum of Chinese Classics [新诸子论坛].
The Significance of Wang Yangming’s
Theory of the ‘Unity of Knowledge and
Action’ in Constructing Morality
Abstract: Wang Yangming disagreed with the Cheng–Zhu School’s idea of knowledge before action and instead proposed the theory of the unity of knowledge and action. By answering three questions—why did Wang come up with such theory, what is knowledge and what is action, and what is the unity of knowledge and action—this article will conclude that Wang’s theory significantly affects our understanding of how to construct morality. First, it denies that the heart can hide any trace of non-good, and thus assures the goodness of the motivation of moral practice. Second, on a theoretical level, it refutes the possible obstacles to moral practice suggested by the ideas to know is easy while to act is difficult and knowledge before action. Wang emphasizes the inevitable unity of moral action, practice, and moral knowledge, and thus deepens the Confucian ethical theory that has always put more emphasis on practice.
Keywords: Wang Yangming, unity of knowledge and action, Neo-Confucian, morality
Pan Hsiao-huei is professor of Philosophy of Fu Jen Catholic University in Taiwan.
Three Forms of Jiang Xin’s Political Thinking and Their Values
Abstract: The mid-late Ming scholar-officials attributed politics to the philosophy of the mind, which was actually a reflection on the political and intellectual environment of that time. Jiang Xin’s political thinking based on the philosophy of the mind has three forms: politics and the mind, politics and morality, and politics and learning, extending in the dimensions of ontology, moral cultivation, and practice. They demonstrate different connotations: politics is based on the mind and manifests the mind; cultivating oneself with morality and governing the state by benevolent customs, which emphasizes the relationship between morality and body; criticizing philistinism, opposing Buddhism, and combining learning with politics. Jiang Xin’s political thin king based on the philosophy of the mind reflects the academic rationality and necessity of his era. They can, to some extent, illuminate the present individual management, civil governance, political governance and their intellectual construct.
Keywords: Jiang Xin, politics and the mind, politics and morality, politics and learning
Lu Yongsheng, PhD, is professor from the Institute of Yangmingism and the Qian School, Guiyang University.
Life Wisdom of Confucianism
Abstract: Life wisdom delivers clear insights into the essence of life. Confucians regard existence (living) as the essence of life and believe their life wisdom provides a type of understanding on the principles and the value of human existence. This wisdom can be observed in the following five aspects: (1) Advocating a way of life whereby righteousness defines social status of the people who establish membership in social groups; (2) Focusing on the self and this life in solving current issues—never entrusting one’s fate and happiness to gods and the afterlife; (3) Promoting positive attitudes and ways of life in order to achieve greater meaning in one’s life; (4) Believing in a consistency between morality and happiness—seeking happiness through ethical conduct; and (5) Valuing the art of life that pursues the most sublime aspirations and follows the Way of Centrality. In conclusion, the life wisdom of Confucianism concerns the positive side of human life, which is of greater significance because people live for life and not for death.
Keywords: Confucianism, living, life wisdom, human existence
Jiang Guobao is professor and PhD supervisor in the School of Politics and Public Administration at Soochow University.
A Different Voice in Qing Thought:
Revisiting the Political Philosophy of Wang Fuzhi
Abstract: Understandings of Wang Fuzhi in modern China have been prone to the influence of two preexisting notions. One highlights his ethnic theory and uses it to promote the anti-Manchu revolution, and the other regards him as an Enlightenment thinker. However, an examination of his Complete Works of Wang Fuzhi shows that it contains little Enlightenment thought and instead shows Wang as something of a reactionary in the context of the enlightening trends of his day. Both the philosophical legacy of Wang Yangming and Qing text-critical research, though different or even opposite in form, functioned to deconstruct the traditional rank hierarchy, whereas Wang Fuzhi was a defender of hierarchy and took it as the basis for his theory of human nature and ethics.
Keywords: Wang Fuzhi, political philosophy, growing and attaining completion daily, skipping over necessary steps
Gu Jiming, Ph.D. in Philosophy, is assistant professor of the Department of Philosophy at Tongji University.
Transformation of Confucian Classics:
A Study of the Image of Wang Yi in the Textbooks
of Late Qing and Republican China
Abstract: The elementary school textbooks of late Qing and Republican China portrayed Wang Yi as a typical patriotic child. In diverse ways, the textbook compilers constructed a patriotic characterization based on Wang’s life experiences. It was not only inherited from the traditional study of Confucian classics but also affected by contemporaneous media publicity strategies. The image of Wang Yi became increasingly well rounded, magnified, and even ideologically exaggerated. Negative historical descriptions and comments that are not conducive to establishing this patriotic image were censored out of the textbooks. By understanding the compilers’ intentions and strategies for selecting and extracting patriotic materials from classical texts, we can assess the advantages and disadvantages of these strategies for reinterpreting the classics and thus gain reference points for compiling today’s textbooks to inherit and promote the classics more effectively.
Keywords: Wang Yi, late Qing, Republican China, textbook, classics, patriotism
Wang Shiguang, Doctor of History, is associate senior editor of Liberal Arts at People’s Education Press.