Back to OWR Homepage Back
to Confucianism flowchart

Modern Neo-Rationalistic Confucianism

Doctrines The doctrines of modern Neo-Rationalistic Confucianism are a development of the metaphysical and moral principles and the way of life propagated by the rationalistic scholars of the Sung-Ming dynasties, in the light of other traditions, especial ly that of western philosophies. Its metaphysics derives from combining the teachings of the School of Cheng-Chu with the realistic philosophy of the West, using the latter to adapt and explain the former. At the centre of its metaphysics are the concepts of principle (li) and material force (ch'i) . The modern rationalists maintain that there exists a harmonious and interactive relation between the universal and the particular.
In the context of political and social affairs, Neo-Rationalistic Confucians interpreted the conflict between China and the West as one between the ancient and the modern, and the essence of their differences is that the former was a society based on family while the latter was based on community. They believed that the way to adapt traditional China to modern China was through industrialisation.
The interaction of nature and society are basic to human life, and metaphysical and moral principles derive from the relationship between nature and society. As a human, one must understand the proper relations between individuals and society and between humanity and the cosmos, a proper understanding of the former leads one to become an ideal person, while the proper grasp of the latter leads one to the stage of oneness with Heaven and Earth, which is itself the manifestation of the Confucian sagehood. The doctrine of Confucian morality is believed to be superior to that of the West, and thus Chinese culture must be revived and the State strengthened on the basis of Confucian ethics.

History Neo-Rationalistic Confucianism as a new development of Confucianism in modern times began in the thirties and forties of the present century, when China faced another crisis imposed by the Japanese invasion. The neo-rationalistic scholars identif ied the confirmation and revival of Confucianist values with the salvation of the nation.
Modern Neo-Rationalistic Confucianism was closely related to the works of Fung Yu-an (1895-1990), such as the New Learning of Principle (1939), the New Exposition on Affairs (1940), the New Original Person (1943) as well as his well-known A History of Chinese Philosophy, which follows from and develops the Rationalistic tradition of the Sung-Ming dynasties.
In contrast to the early neo-Confucianism represented by Liang Su-ming and Hsiung Shih-li, who essentially rejected and refuted the impact of western philosophy on Confucianist doctrines, the Neo-Rationalistic Confucianists insisted that western philosophies should be used as a means to criticise and reconstruct Confucianist metaphysics, morals and social principles.
Mainly for political reasons, and because of the separation of Mainland China, Hong Kong and Taiwan after 1949, the neo-rationalism propagated by Fung Yu-lan was not followed up by prominent Confucianists in Taiwan and Hong Kong, although his theories and books have had a great effect on the development of Confucian studies in this century, and their impact on Confucianists and on the students and readers of Confucianism in general is obvious.

Symbols Modern neo-rationalist Confucianism does not have a distinctive symbol system.

Adherents It is impossible to determine the numerical size of the school.

Main Centre
 The school does not have a headquarters or main centre.