Itō Jinsai and the cross-cultural development of neo-confucianism: The ancient meaning school and the rise of restorationism

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A case study of Itō Jinsai's Gomō jigi (The Meaning of Terms in the Analects and Mencius) and its relationship with Chen Chun's Xingli ziyi (The Meanings of Neo-Confucian Terms), this article traces and analyzes the cross-cultural development of Neo-Confucian learning in East Asia during the 17th and 18th centuries. This development was characterized by a restorationist interest, calling for a return to the original in Confucian study and circumventing the influence of the Cheng-Zhu School. The author argues that while Itō Jinsai and his Ancient Meaning School were often given the credit for pioneering the effort, this restorationism actually had already emerged in Ming China and Chosen Korea, as shown, for instance, in the writings of Wang Yangming, his Mind-Heart School and Wang's critics such as Luo Qinshun. Thus, there was a certain connection between Jinsai's Ancient Meaning School and Ming Confucian learning, for through the Korean-Japanese War, Japanese scholars had gained access to many Confucian texts from both Korea and China, which possibly included Chen Chun's Xingli ziyi. However, though Jinsai followed Chen's format in writing his Gomō jigi, he also departed from Chen because the two apparently were motivated by a different interest. The article also discusses the later development of this restorationism in the 18th century and concludes that though Jinsai's work was anterior to Qing evidential learning, it had little tangible bearing on Qing scholars such as Dai Zhen.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)87-127
Number of pages41
JournalTaiwan Journal of East Asian Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - Dec 2008

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Cultural Studies
  • Arts and Humanities(all)


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