Response and Responsibility:
Chou Tun-i and Confucian Resources for Environmental Ethics
Joseph A. Adler
Dept. of Religious Studies
In Mary Evelyn Tucker and John Berthrong, eds.,
Confucianism and Ecology: The Interrelation of Heaven, Earth,
and Humans (Cambridge: Harvard University Center for the
Study of World Religions, 1998), pp. 123-149.
Issues in environmental ethics can be grouped broadly under two headings:
questions of human nature and destiny, and questions of moral responsibility.
Under the first, for example, are such questions as: What is the place
of human beings in the natural order? What is the relationship of human
nature to the nature of animals, plants, and non-living matter? Is human
nature (or destiny) fulfilled in shaping, developing, perfecting the
non-human natural world? Or is it fulfilled by adapting and conforming
to nature? Should we -- and if so, how can we -- strike a balance between
the anthropocentric and ecocentric (or biocentric) perspectives?
Questions of moral responsibility include: To what extent (if any)
are human beings morally responsible for the fate of the earth? For
the spotted owl? The snail darter? Is a concern with the natural environment
merely prudential, as a way of protecting human health and life? This
would imply that ecological concern is a matter of our responsibility
to human interests but not to the environment per se. If, on
the other hand, we accept some level of responsibility to the natural
world, how then do we balance it with our responsibility to the human,
In this paper I shall argue that the Neo-Confucian concept of "moral
responsiveness" (ying)(1) plays
a role functionally equivalent to that of moral responsibility to the
natural world, and is particularly well-suited to serve as a basis for
an environmental ethic -- despite the fact that environmental concerns
never figured prominently enough in traditional Confucian agendas for
this to be developed. Moreover, by focusing on the thought of Chou Tun-i
(1017-1073),(2) we shall see how the
concept of moral responsiveness is linked to the concept of authenticity
(ch'eng), the moral-metaphysical basis of Sagehood. This complex
of ideas, therefore, addresses both sets of questions in environmental
ethics in an integrated, systematic fashion. It also establishes a basis
for mediation of the tension between anthropocentric and ecocentric
perspectives on environmental issues.
Response and Responsibility
The concept of moral responsibility in Western theology and philosophy
has generally been expressed in terms of questions of justice
and free will.(3) The "response"
implied by the term "responsibility" is the proper or just reward
or punishment for voluntary actions. To act responsibly is to act
in such a way as to deserve reward or approval (whether or not an actual
reward or response is likely to occur in the given situation). The root
metaphor here is that of judgment, whether legal, soteriological,
or moral; i.e. the judgment of either a representative of a sovereign
state (king or judge) meting out reward or punishment, or a personal
deity deciding one's fate, or simply a moral observer approving or disapproving
of the behavior in question.
While in Chinese philosophy the metaphor of judgment by a semi-personalistic
Heaven is sometimes invoked, in general the functional equivalent of
the concept of moral responsibility occurs in a different discursive
context.(4) In Classical Confucianism,
the most pertinent term in this connection is reciprocity (shu).
Reciprocity is defined against a background of social or kinship relations
between individuals as members of a family or a wider social group modeled
on the family. The root metaphor here is kinship, not judgment.(5)
An act that embodies the virtue of reciprocity is one that is correct
(cheng) in terms of the established norms of ritual propriety
(li), and appropriate (i) to the specific social relationship
The functional equivalent of "moral responsibility" in this context
is therefore twofold. First, it is the act's "correspondence" with the
normative patterns of social behavior.(6)
Secondly, it is the appropriateness of the act in "response" (so to
speak) to the given social circumstances, defined in terms of the personal
relationships obtaining between the subjects involved.
Reciprocity, as a functional equivalent of moral responsibility, thus
presupposes a relationship of conscious moral subjects. Although these
subjects can be either human or spiritual (ancestors and deities also
have relations of mutual reciprocity with living people), reciprocity
in Classical Confucianism does not apply directly to human relations
with the non-human natural world.
From the beginning of the Neo-Confucian revival in the Sung Dynasty
(960-1279), the term ying ("response") entered the Confucian
ethical lexicon in such a way as to extend the concept of reciprocity
to the natural world. The term was employed by such Northern Sung Confucians
as Chou Tun-i and Ch'eng Hao (1032-1085) to refer to a crucial aspect
of Sagehood. The Sage is the "authentic" (ch'eng) human being
whose thoughts, intentions, desires and behavior naturally and spontaneously
respond in an active sense to the natural/moral order (t'ien-li/tao-li)
in which he is embedded.(7) Thus the
Sage responds morally not only to other moral subjects but also to the
myriad things of Heaven and Earth. What the Chung-yung had
called "assist[ing] (ts'an) in the transforming and nourishing
process of Heaven and Earth"(8) was reformulated
by the Ch'eng-Chu Neo-Confucians in terms of the metaphysics of li
(order, principle) and an epistemology in which mind was considered
to be a natural organ (or substance) that followed the same principles
as non-human things.
"Moral responsiveness," under this model, is not conceived as a just
reward or punishment meted out by a king or judge to a freely-acting
subject; rather it is the subject's own proper response to his or her
environment. What is "proper" or "right" is determined not by an abstract
or divinely decreed standard of justice, but rather by the actual conditions
defining the subject's relationship with the object; by the interrelationship
and interdependence of the moral subject with his or her environment.
In Neo-Confucian terms, then, moral responsiveness, rather than moral
responsibility, provides a framework for the discussion of environmental
Both reciprocity and moral responsiveness imply a network of concrete
relations as the context in which actions can be morally evaluated.
Kinship relations are, of course, the fundamental model of all human
relations in Confucian discourse. The extension of kinship to the non-human
natural world is seen most eloquently in Chang Tsai's (1020-1077) "Western
Inscription," which begins:
Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother, and even such
a small creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst. Therefore
that which fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs
the universe I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and
sisters, and all things are my companions.(9)
It is instructive to compare and contrast this notion of kinship with
the etymology of the word "ecology," which was coined by Ernst Haeckel
in 1866(10) from the Greek roots oikos
"house" and logia "discoursing." "Ecology" thus means the science
of the household.(11) The closely-related
word "economy" comes from oikos "house" and nemein
"to manage"; an oikonomos was a person who managed a household,
i.e. a steward.(12) The notion of stewardship
is commonly used by Jewish and Christian theologians to provide a basis
for a Biblically-based environmental ethic. In the stewardship model,
it should be noted, the "owner" of the house is God; human beings are
Given the connection of the word "ecology" with the concept of the
household, Chang Tsai's use of the family as the model for an authentic
relationship with the natural world is a perfectly appropriate starting
point for an environmental ethic. In fact, it suggests the potential
for a deeper relationship than that implied by the Jewish and Christian
concept of "stewardship," for a steward is one who is appointed to care
for the household, not a family member.
However, the kinship model begs the question: What precisely is the
common nature shared by the human being and the natural object? Members
of a family share a common genotypic and phenotypic inheritance; what
do human beings and rocks share?
On one level it is ch'i (vital energy, or psycho-physical
stuff) that is the philosophical basis of human beings' kinship with
the natural world, as expressed in Chang Tsai's "Western Inscription"
and in Ch'eng Hao's statement that "The man of humanity (jen)
forms one body with all things without any differentiation."(13)
Let us call this the organic level of commonality.(14)
As Tu Wei-ming puts it,
Forming one body with the universe can literally mean that
since all modalities of being are made of ch'i, human life
is part of a continuous flow of the blood and breath that constitutes
the cosmic process. Human beings are thus organically connected with
rocks, trees, and animals.(15)
Parallel to this organic commonality there is also, in Neo-Confucian
thought, the metaphysical continuity described in terms of
li "order/principle."(16) This
concept rose to prominence in the school of the Ch'eng brothers during
the Northern Sung (960-1126) and was later codified by Chu Hsi (1130-1200),
through whose influence this school (referred to here as the Ch'eng-Chu
school) became the dominant school of Confucian thought.(17)
Linking the metaphysical and organic levels of Neo-Confucian discourse
is the concept of "authenticity" (ch'eng), a term that is most
prominent in the Classical Confucian text Chung-yung ("Centrality
and Commonality")(18) and in Chou Tun-i's
T'ung-shu ("Penetrating the Book of Change").(19)
In Chu Hsi's formulation, ch'eng means "actualized order" (shih-li),(20)
i.e. the metaphysical order instantiated in a concrete thing or activity;
hence its mediating role between the metaphysical and organic levels
of discourse. It is closely related in the T'ung-shu to the
terms ying "responsive" and t'ung "penetrating, circulating,
comprehensive." The dynamism of these concepts reflects both the organic
process implied by the term ch'i and the developmental (yet
atemporal) order implied by li. By pursuing this functional,
dynamic sense of commonality or "kinship" in Neo-Confucian discourse
we can show that the concept of responsiveness functions not only as
the equivalent of moral responsibility, but also as an authentic expression
of the metaphysical ground of human nature. Moral responsiveness in
Neo-Confucian thought therefore constitutes, at least in part, both
the goal and the basis of a proper and healthy relationship with the
Responsiveness (ying) in early
Like such notions as harmony, unity, and order, the concepts of reciprocity
and responsiveness, broadly conceived, have been characteristic of Chinese
thought since the beginning of the written record. For example, the
relationship between the Shang king and his ancestors, as evidenced
in the oracle bone inscriptions, can clearly be understood as the same
type of reciprocity or interdependence that still characterizes the
relationship between the living and the dead (as well as deities) in
Chinese popular religion. Likewise, the early Confucian concept of t'ien-ming,
or Mandate of Heaven, can be seen as the responsiveness of Heaven to
the moral character of the ruling family. Conversely, the term "responding
to Heaven" (ying-t'ien) was used to mean being attentive to
Heaven's decree.(21) Both reciprocity
(in the case of relations between conscious subjects) and responsiveness
(as a more general concept operative in the natural as well as the social
realms) can be conceived as corrolaries of the holistic, organic tendencies
in traditional Chinese thought, according to which particulars are defined
in terms of their functional relationships with larger wholes.(22)
Philosophical use of the term ying probably goes back to
the Yin-Yang school of the late Warring States period, whose chief exponent
was Tsou Yen (3rd century BCE), since the term emerges as an important
concept in texts influenced by yin-yang thought. It is found, for example,
in the Lü-shih ch'un-ch'iu and in Tung Chung-shu's Ch'un-ch'iu
fan-lu. In chapter 57 of the latter text we read that "things of
the same kind arise in response to each other" (lei chih hsiang-ying
erh ch'i yeh).(23) The "kinds"
(lei) referred to here are chiefly the categories of yin and
yang and the Five Phases (wu-hsing). The nearly-contemporaneous
Huai-nan Tzu (139 BCE), one of the central texts of Huang-Lao
Taoism, says in a similar vein, "The mutual response (hsiang-ying)
of things belonging to the same category (lei) is darkly mysterious
and extremely subtle (shen-wei)."(24)
Acccording to Charles Le Blanc, the concept of "resonance," or "stimulus-response"
(kan-ying), is the central conception of the Huai-nan Tzu,
where it is used to explain the classical Taoist concept of "non-action"
(wu-wei) and is a hallmark of the "True Man" (chen-jen)
or perfect ruler.(25) This True Man
or Sage is "merged with the Grand Harmony (t'ai-ho) and holds
fast to the Responses of the Natural (tzu-jan chih ying);"(26)
he therefore "is like a mirror, neither sending [things] away nor welcoming
[things], responding (ying) but not storing."(27)
People can become Sages
by concentrating their essences (ching) and disciplining
their thoughts, discarding all concerns and gathering together their
when the Sage rules, he treasures Tao and does
not speak; yet his kindness (tse) reaches the Ten Thousand
People. [But] when ruler and minister distrust each other in their
heart, concave and convex halos appear in the sky [on each side of
the sun]. These are indeed evidences of the mutual influence (hsiang-ying)
of the marvellous ch'i (shen-ch'i)(29)...
because Yin and Yang share a common ch'i
and move (tung) each other.(30)
Under the rule of a Sage,
[T]he Son of Heaven reigns supreme, sustaining [all] with
Tao and Te, assisting [all] with human-heartedness
(jen) and equity (i).(31)
This fusion of cosmology, self-cultivation, and ethics, although distinctly
Taoist (the Confucian concepts jen and i are subsumed
under Taoist ones(32)), foreshadows
in significant ways certain features of Neo-Confucian thought, especially
that of Chou Tun-i, who was strongly influenced by Taoism. (Chou, of
course, subsumed his Taoist concepts under a Confucian framework.) Le
Blanc's account of the epistemological basis of the Taoist Sage's capacity
to respond to all things is also worth quoting here, for it bears on
the topic of environmental ethics:
[T]he human mind [according to the Huai-nan Tzu],
being itself in continuity with nature, has the capacity 'to know',
'to become' and 'to reproduce' the cosmic process, not through divinely
granted revelation, reflection or contemplation, but on the affective
and participative level of being. In this sense true knowledge (chen-chih)
is not a mirror-image -- neither a representation of 'what's out there'
nor a focal or peripheral vision of the intellect -- but rather a
direct and immediate affectus of things themselves, an affinitive
correspondence and union that precedes any reflected awareness of
it. It is this ontological relation of an affinitive rather than causal
type that actualizes in the discrete world of space, time, species
and individuals the primal unity of the cosmos.(33)
The organic basis of the human mind's "continuity with nature," in
both Huang-Lao Taoism and Neo-Confucianism, is the immanence of ch'i.
Neo-Confucianism adds to this the metaphysical commonality of li.
The Confucian Sage realizes or instantiates the perfection of
the natural/moral order in his or her thought and action. Thus in Chou
Tun-i's thought we shall find the same kind of "affinitive correspondence"
of the Sage and the natural world as we see in the Huai-nan Tzu,
but worked out in Confucian terms (with a substantial Taoist flavor).
Chou Tun-i and the conceptual framework
The word "responsive" occurs only once in the T'ung-shu,
and not at all in the T'ai-chi t'u shuo ("Explanation of the
Supreme Polarity Diagram"). But in the T'ung-shu it is situated
in a conceptual framework that enables us to say more about it than
we could by reading only the passage in which it occurs. That passage
is chapter 4, which reads (in its entirety):
4. The Sage (sheng)(35)
(a) That which is "silent and inactive" (chi-jan pu-tung)(36)
is authentic (ch'eng). That which is "penetrating when
stimulated" (kan erh sui t'ung)(37)
is spiritual (shen). That which is active but not yet formed,
between existence and nonexistence, is incipient (chi).
(b) Authenticity is essential (ching), and therefore
clear. Spirit is responsive (ying), and therefore mysterious.
Incipience is subtle (wei), and therefore obscure.
(c) One who is authentic, spiritual, and incipient is called a
Here we have a definition of Sagehood in terms taken from three of
Chou Tun-i's most important sources. The concept of "authenticity" (ch'eng)
is most prominently discussed in the Chung-yung (Centrality
and Commonality). The concepts of activity and stillness (tung-ching),
spirit (shen), penetration (t'ung) and incipience
(chi) together form an important theoretical unit in the "Appended
Remarks" (Hsi-tz'u) wing of the I-ching.(39)
And the concept of "responsiveness" (ying), as we have seen
above, is associated with "spirit," "essence" (ching,) and
the "subtle" (wei) in the Taoist Huai-nan Tzu.(40)
Overall there are eight key terms in the chapter:
1. Authenticity (ch'eng)
2. Spirit (shen)
3. Incipience (chi)
4. Activity-stillness (tung-ching)(41)
5. Penetrating (t'ung)
6. Responsive (ying)
7. Essential (ching)
8. Subtle (wei)
By examining other chapters of the T'ung-shu that contain
these terms (mainly chapters 1, 2, 3, 9, 16 and 20), we can construct
a conceptual framework in which the significance of responsiveness
can be elucidated.
"Authenticity" is the central topic of the first four chapters of
the T'ung-shu. The major textual source of this term is the
Chung-yung ("Centrality and Commonality"), which, in chapter
22, contains the classic Confucian statement of a moral relationship
with the natural world:
Only those who are absolutely authentic (ch'eng,)
can fully develop their nature. If they can fully develop their nature,
they can then fully develop the nature of others. If they can fully
develop the nature of others, they can then fully develop the nature
of things. If they can fully develop the nature of things, they can
then assist in the transforming and nourishing process of Heaven and
Earth. If they can assist in the transforming and nourishing process
of Heaven and Earth, they can thus form a trinity with Heaven and
Ch'eng, in Tu Wei-ming's words, is "the most genuine manifestation
of human virtue" and "the truth and reality of man's heavenly endowed
nature."(43) This alludes to the first
two lines of the Chung-yung, which make the claim that human
nature is endowed by Heaven and that its natural course of development
is the Way (tao), which is to say that it is good.(44)
The connection with Heaven -- what Tu calls the "transcendent anchorage"
of Confucian morality(45) -- suggests
"a strong belief in the organismic unity of man and nature,"(46)
which of course is quite explicit in the last two lines of Chung-yung
22 (quoted above). In these lines we have what Tu calls a "covenant"
with Heaven (in which the concept of "moral duty" is not entirely out
of place),(47) and an attitude of "reverence"
(ching) toward Heaven that is the counterpart of "filial piety"
(hsiao) in the social realm. These two are, in this context,
"ecological principles humanly designed but heavenly inspired for the
primary purpose of bringing peace and harmony to the universe."(48)
Note that reverence and filial piety are forms of reciprocity; they
are dyadic relationships in which mutual obligations are understood.
But in Chung-yung 22, the implied dyadic relationships (self
and others, self and things) are subsumed under the concept of ch'eng,
which does not easily lend itself to a dyadic, personalistic model.
Ch'eng, understood as "authenticity," is in fact the link between
the personalistic concept of reciprocity and the naturalistic concept
of moral responsiveness.
Chu Hsi, in his commentary on the T'ung-shu, defines ch'eng
as "being perfectly actualized (chih-shih),"(49)
or "actualized principle/order" (shih-li).(50)
Ch'eng in this sense is the actualization in moral activity
(or function, yung) of the true nature (hsing) or
fundamental substance (pen-t'i) of a thing. Only human beings
can fail to be ch'eng -- a rock is a rock, but not every human
is humane (jen).(51) As Tu
puts it in reference to human beings, "Ch'eng as a state of
being signifies the ultimate reality of human nature and, as a process
of becoming, the necessary way of actualizing that reality in concrete,
ordinary human affairs."(52) It is manifested
in a human being when one is truly being or actively manifesting what
one truly is by nature; when one is a morally-actualized agent.(53)
Chapter 1 of the T'ung-shu primarily concerns the metaphysical
foundation or substance of authenticity, framed in terms of the "Way
of Ch'ien" (hexagram 1 of the I-ching), creativity and transformation.
Being authentic is the foundation of the Sage. "Great indeed
is the originating [power] (yüan) of Ch'ien! The myriad
things rely on it for their beginnings."(54)
It is the source of being authentic. "The Way of Ch'ien is transformation,
each [thing] receiving its correct nature and endowment."(55)
In this way authenticity is established.
Here the substance or source of authenticity is identified with the
order or principle underlying the ceaseless transformation of the cosmic
process of "life and growth" (sheng-sheng).(56)
From the perspective of ch'eng as "actualized order," this
underscores the notion that the ultimate cosmic order (t'ien-li),
while atemporal itself, is the pattern of change, mutual response, and
Chapters 2, 3, 4 and 9 contain the core of the conceptual matrix of
responsiveness. They are reproduced below (with chapter 4 repeated for
the convenience of the reader). Following the texts is a chart of the
key terms of these chapters, intended as a helpful interpretive device.
(Chinese words in the texts indicate terms included in the chart.) Chapters
16 and 20 will be included in the discussion following the chart.
In the T'ung-shu Chou Tun-i refers to ch'eng mainly
in the cosmological terminology of the I-ching, not in terms
of li. But by applying Chu Hsi's interpretation of ch'eng
to this text (as the later tradition invariably did), we can flesh out
Chou's often cryptic pronouncements.
2. Being Authentic (ch'eng) (B)(57)
(a) Sagehood (sheng) is nothing more than being authentic
(b) Being authentic is the foundation (pen) of the Five
Constant [Virtues] (wu-ch'ang) and the source of the Hundred
(c) It is imperceptible when still (ching-wu) , and perceptible
when active (tung-yu),(58)
perfectly correct and clearly pervading.
(d-h) When the Five Constants and Hundred Practices are not authentic,
they are wrong; blocked by depravity and confusion.Therefore one
who is authentic has no [need for] undertakings. It is perfectly
easy, yet difficult to practice; when one is determined and precise,
there is no difficulty with it. Therefore [Confucius said], "If
in one day one could subdue the self and return to propriety, then
all under Heaven would recover their humanity."(59)
3. Authenticity, Incipience, and Virtue (ch'eng chi
(a) In being authentic there is no [intentional] acting (ch'eng
(b) In incipience there is good and evil (chi shan-wu).
(c-f) As for the [Five Constant] Virtues (te), loving
is called humanity, being right is called appropriateness, being
principled is called propriety, being penetrating is called wisdom,
and preserving is called faithfulness. One who is by nature like
this, at ease like this, is called a Sage. One who recovers it and
holds onto it is called a Worthy. One whose subtle signs of expression
are imperceptible, and whose fullness is inexhaustible, is called
4. The Sage (sheng)
(a) That which is "silent and inactive" (chi-jan pu-tung)
is authentic (ch'eng). That which is "penetrating when
stimulated" (kan erh sui t'ung) is spiritual (shen).
That which is active but not yet formed, between existence and not
existence, is incipient (chi).
(b) Authenticity is essential (ching), and therefore
clear. Spirit is responsive (ying), and therefore mysterious.
Incipience is subtle (wei), and therefore obscure.
(c) One who is authentic, spiritual, and incipient is called a
9. Thinking (ssu)
(a) The Hung-fan [Great Plan] says: "[The virtue of ]
thinking is called perspicacity.... Perspicacity makes one a Sage."(60)
To be without thinking (wu-ssu) is the foundation (pen).
When thinking is penetrating (t'ung), this is its function
(yung). When there is incipient activity (chi-tung)
on the one hand, and authentic activity (ch'eng-tung) on
the other, with no thinking and yet penetrating everything (wu-ssu
erh wu pu-t'ung)(61) one is
(b-e) If one does not think, then one cannot penetrate subtleties.
If one is not perspicacious, then one cannot penetrate everything.
Thus, [the ability] to penetrate everything arises from penetrating
subtleties, and [the ability] to penetrate subtleties arises from
thinking. Therefore thinking is the foundation of the Sage's achievement
and the opportunity for good fortune or misfortune. The I
says, "The superior person perceives incipience and acts, without
waiting all day."(62) It also says,
"Knowing incipience is his spirituality."(63)
As the congruence of activity with the natural/moral order, authenticity
per se is not activity (chs. 3 and 4); yet it is imperceptible
in the absence of activity (ch. 2). It becomes perceptible when a stimulus
(kan) produces a response (ying) that "penetrates"
like a spirit (ch. 4) -- when incipient activity emerges or develops
without the intervention of deliberate thought and is expressed as authentic
activity (chs. 3 and 9), i.e. activity that is perfectly consonant with
the natural/moral order (ch. 2). (While it may seem surprising to find
the absence of thought valorized in a Confucian text, the point
here is not that thinking is misleading but that the responsiveness
of a Sage is spontaneously correct.(64))
"Penetrating" (t'ung) here refers to activity that, because
of its consonance with li, resonates with, responds to, and
pervades the entire natural/moral order, beyond the empirically immediate
and observable situation. Hence it is like a spirit (shen),
which is not limited to empirical cause-effect conditions.
Further light may be shed on the key terms of the T'ung-shu
by extracting them and placing them under the major categories found
in the "Explanation of the Supreme Polarity Diagram" (T'ai-chi t'u
shuo). In the chart below, the numbers on the left side correspond
to the chapters and sections of the T'ung-shu given above:
| Figure 1:
|| Supreme Polarity
| yin / stillness
|| yang / activity
| 4 (c) Sage: authentic,
| (a) silent and inactive
|| stimulated and
|| then penetrating
| chi-jan pu-tung
|| kan erh
|| sui t'ung
| (b) essential
| 2 (c) Authenticity:
| imperceptible when
|| perceptible when
| still (ching-wu)
|| active (tung-yu)
| perfectly correct
|| clearly pervading
| (b) the foundation
|| of the Five Constants
|| and Hundred Practices
|| wu-ch'ang pai-hsing
| 3 (a) Authenticity:
| no [intentional] acting
| (ch'eng wu-wei)
|| good and evil
|| chi shan-wu
|| [Five Constant] Virtues
|| te (jen, i, li, chih, hsin)
| without thinking:
|| thinking penetrates:
| pen (= t'i)
|| incipient activity
|| authentic activity
The two outer columns of the chart correspond on the most general
level to the yin-yang polarity (manifested as stillness and activity)
discussed by Chou in the T'ai-chi t'u shuo, which outlines
the Taoist-influenced cosmogonic scheme that became a standard element
in the Neo-Confucian synthesis:
Non-polar (wu-chi) and yet Supreme Polarity (t'ai-chi)!
The Supreme Polarity in activity (tung) generates yang; yet
at the limit of activity it is still (ching). In stillness
it generates yin; yet at the limit of stillness it is also active.
Activity and stillness alternate; each is the basis of the other.
In distinguishing yin and yang, the Two Modes are thereby established.(65)
The relationship between stillness and activity here is primarily
a temporal one: the two are different phases of the cosmic process.
But in chapter 16 of the T'ung-shu ("Activity and Stillness"),
Chou implies that the two modes interpenetrate one another:
(a-d) Activity as the absence of stillness and stillness
as the absence of activity characterize things (wu). Activity
that is not [empirically] active and stillness that is not [empirically]
still characterize spirit (shen). Being active and yet not
active, still and yet not still, does not mean that [spirit] is neither
active nor still. For while things do not [inter-]penetrate (t'ung),(66)
spirit subtly [penetrates/pervades] the myriad things.
(e-h) The yin of water is based in yang;
the yang of fire is based in yin. The Five Phases
are yin and yang; yin and yang
are the Supreme Polarity. The Four Seasons revolve; the myriad things
end and begin [again]. How undifferentiated! How extensive! And how
Here Chou is speaking of the metaphysical foundation of stillness
and activity. On this level they are interpenetrating, not mutually
exclusive, categories. This underlying unity became the basis, in Chu
Hsi's system, for access to the ultimate reality by the mind in its
In the terminology of the Ch'eng-Chu school, the two outer columns
of the chart correspond to the substance (t'i) and function
(yung) of the human mind, or human nature (hsing)
and dispositions (ch'ing), or order (li) and psycho-physical
stuff (ch'i).(68) Note that
"authenticity" occurs in both outer columns: under "stillness" in lines
4c and 2c, and under "activity" in 9a and (by implication) 2c. This
reflects the notion that authenticity is the condition in which the
metaphysical substance is fully realized in function.
The center column corresponds to the crucial moment of incipient
(chi) change or response, when a stimulus has been received
but the response has not yet become manifest. I have discussed this
phase of change elsewhere,(69) so here
I will be brief; it will suffice to quote some of Chu Hsi's comments
on Chou's treatment of incipience in chapter 3 of the T'ung-shu.
Incipience is the imperceptible beginning of activity.
It is that according to which good and evil are distinguished. With
the first sign of activity in the human mind, the Heavenly/natural
order (t'ien-li) will certainly appear there; yet human desires
(jen-yü) have already sprouted amidst it.(70)
Incipiencies, or the subtle indications of activity, lie between
deciding to act and imminent activity, where there is both good
and evil. One must understand them at this point. If they reach
the point of becoming manifest, then one cannot help anything....
The point of subtle incipience is extremely important.(71)
Thus, according to Chu Hsi, the incipient phase of mind is the critical
point at which either evil human desires or the original goodness of
human nature and the natural order can become actualized in the world;
hence its importance in the task of moral cultivation.
Equally significant to Chu is moral responsiveness, which in our
chart falls under the right column as an aspect of moral activity. In
commenting on chapter 4 Chu says:
The primary and unmanifest [ground] is the substance of
the actualized order (shih-li, i.e. ch'eng). Good
(shan) yet unfathomable response is the function of the actualized
order. Between activity and stillness, substance and function, suddenly
in the space of an instant there is the beginning of the actualized
order and the auspicious and inauspicious omens of the multitudinous
"Good yet unfathomable response" refers to the "spiritual" (shen)
characteristic of the Sage, which, as we have seen above, Chou Tun-i
defines as "penetrating" (t'ung) and "responsive" (ying).
The overall picture we have here is that of a mind that is perfectly
still and therefore perfectly good (since good and evil arise first
in incipient activity, according to line 3b). When stimulated, this
Sagely mind immediately and without deliberation responds to and penetrates,
or comprehends, the external object. In line 9(a) we have a similar
scenario: "With no thinking and yet penetrating everything, one is a
Thus the Sage is one who effortlessly, spontaneously and properly
responds to external stimuli. The significance of this spontaneously
moral response to things was widely acknowledged in the Ch'eng-Chu tradition
of tao-hsüeh (Learning of the Way). For example, in Ch'eng
Hao's "Letter on Stabilizing Human Nature" (written to his uncle, Chang
Tsai) he says:
The constant principle of Heaven-and-Earth is that its
mind pervades all things, yet it has no [personal] mind. The constant
principle of the Sage is that his dispositions accord with all phenomena,
yet he has no [private, selfish] dispositions. Therefore, in the education
of the chün-tzu (gentleman or superior person), there
is nothing like being completely broad and impartial, and responding
in accordance with things as they come (wu-lai erh hsün-ying).(73)
The significance of moral responsiveness was also frequently noted
by Chu Hsi. In his commentary on Mencius 7A.1, he says:
Mind is man's spiritual clarity (shen-ming). It
is that by which one embodies (chü) the various principles
and responds to the myriad phenomena.(74)
And in his "Treatise on the Examination of the Mind" Chu says:
The learning of the Sages is to base one's mind on fully
investigating principle, and to accord with principle by responding
The Sage responds to things not only with clear understanding, but
also with moral activity. This we see in T'ung-shu 2(b) and
3(a-c), where Chou describes the response of the still substance of
the mind as the Five Constant Virtues and the Hundred Practices, referring
to "moral activity" (te-hsing).(76)
In chapter 11, Chou suggests that this moral activity applies as much
to the non-human world as to the human:
Heaven gives birth to the myriad things through yang, and
completes the myriad things through yin. Giving birth is humanity.
Completion is appropriateness. Therefore when a Sage is above [on
the throne], he nourishes (yü) the myriad things with
humanity and corrects the myriad people with appropriateness.
Here we are reminded again of Chung-yung 22: "If they can
assist in the transforming (hua) and nourishing (yü)
[process] of Heaven and Earth, they can thus form a trinity with Heaven
and Earth." Responding to the non-human world is not just a matter of
passively fitting into the flow of nature, nor is it merely a cognitive
understanding of the natural order for the benefit of the social order.
The Confucian Sage actively "transforms" the world around him by "nourishing
the myriad things with humanity/humaneness (jen)." This is
not limited to the social world and it does not mean manipulating the
natural world to suit human purposes. As Ch'eng Hao said (above), "The
constant principle of the Sage is that his dispositions accord with
all phenomena, yet he has no [private, selfish] dispositions." By "according"
with things, or "responding in accordance with things as they come,"
the Sage does not impose his own will on nature. According to Shao Yung
(1011-1077), the Sage
reflects the universal character of the feelings (dispositions)
of all things. The Sage can do so because he views things as things
view themselves; that is, not subjectively but from the viewpoint
The Sage benefits things and forgets his own ego.(78)
Thus it is the Sage's identification with things and his active,
nourishing, life-giving response to things (including but not limited
to human beings) that constitutes his transforming influence on the
world. In Chou Tun-i's terms, this is what it means to be an authentic
Responsiveness as authenticity
We have seen that Chou Tun-i defines Sagehood in terms of (a) authenticity,
(b) the capacity to perceive incipient change, and (c) the spiritual
capacity to penetrate (or comprehend) and to respond spontaneously to
things, i.e. without deliberate mental activity or thought. Adding to
these propositions Chu Hsi's interpretation of authenticity as "actualized
order" (shih-li), we find that moral responsiveness is a defining
characteristic of the Sage (one of several -- i.e. necessary but not
sufficient) because responsiveness and interpenetration are essential
characteristics of the natural world. The Sage is responsive because
he or she fully manifests the natural principles (t'ien-li)
of yin-yang, stillness-activity (tung-ching) and stimulus-penetration
(kan-t'ung) or stimulus-response (kan-ying). As Chu
Hsi describes the responsiveness of the Sage:
When there is nothing happening then his mind is silent
(chi-jan), and no one can see it. When there is something
happening then the operation of his spiritual understanding (shen-chih)
responds when stimulated (sui kan erh ying).(79)
In chapter 20 of the T'ung-shu, Chou explicitly links Sagehood
to stillness and activity (as also in chapter 4); the chapter title
is "Learning to be a Sage":
Someone asked:] "Can Sagehood be learned?"
Reply: It can.
"Are there essentials?"
Reply: There are.
"I beg to hear them."
Reply: To be unified (i)(80)
is essential. To be unified is to have no desire. Without desire
one is vacuous when still (ching-hsü) and direct in
activity (tung-chih). Being vacuous when still, one will
be clear (ming); being clear one will be penetrating (t'ung).
Being direct in activity one will be impartial (kung);
being impartial one will be all-embracing (p'u).(81)
Being clear and penetrating, impartial and all-embracing, one is
almost [a Sage].
Thus we can conclude that the Neo-Confucian Sage, who symbolizes
the perfection of human virtue and fulfillment, is attuned to the conditions
and changes in the environment, even in their incipient (chi)
stages, with no intervening egoistic or prudential considerations. He
responds to the environment spontaneously and directly, i.e. as a direct
expression of his essential nature, with "penetrating thought," "spiritual
clarity", and "authentic activity," which includes "nourishing things."
Confucian spirituality is therefore not just interiority, as it is sometimes
conceived; it involves contact, sensitivity, and interpenetration with
external things.(82) In fact,
"spirit" (shen) in Neo-Confucian discourse is a characteristic
of ch'i itself: it refers to the underlying continuity and
interpenetration (kuan-t'ung) of natural processes, whether
empirically observable or not.(83) For
the mind of the Sage, such spiritual interpenetration is based on and
enabled by authentic contact with and expression of the ultimate reality
Furthermore, in Neo-Confucian theory at least, the distinction between
ecocentric and anthropocentric interests is a false one. A situation
that seemed to demand a choice between them from this perspective would
not been fully understood; it would be necessary to dig deeper to discover
the level of order/principle on which human and natural interests coincided.
In practice, of course, this would be extremely challenging; it would
require the subject to confront a bedrock article of faith on which
the Confucian worldview rests: the claim that the underlying order of
things (li), or the Way (tao), comprehends both the
natural order and the moral order.
Authentic selfhood, according to this way of thinking, manifests
itself (among other ways) by nourishing, creative responsiveness with
the environment. The authentic human being fully manifests his or her
inherent nature and moral potential by actualizing in practice the natural/moral
order, which includes the principles of creativity, life and growth.
One completes oneself by participating in the completion of heaven,
earth, and humanity. Thus nourishing, moral responsiveness to the natural
environment, in Neo-Confucian terms, is a necessary expression
of an authentic or genuine human life.
1. Ying is more literally translated
simply as "response" or "responsiveness." But since the Confucian
use of the word clearly means "moral responsiveness," I shall use
this term where appropriate.
2. Chou Tun-i (or Chou Lien-hsi) lived during
the period of the revival of Confucianism that has come to be known
in the West as Neo-Confucianism. He was for a short time the teacher
of the Ch'eng brothers, Cheng Hao (1032-1085) and Ch'eng I (1033-1107),
who were instrumental in this revival. Although he did not play a
prominent role in intellectual circles during his lifetime, he was
posthumously declared by Chu Hsi (1130-1200) -- the real architect
of what became the orthodox version of the tradition -- to be the
founder of the revival and the first true Confucian Sage since Mencius
in the 4th century BCE. His two major works are the "Explanation of
the Supreme Polarity Diagram" (T'ai-chi t'u shuo) and a longer
text called T'ung-shu ("Penetrating the Book of Change").
For the translation of t'ai-chi as "supreme polarity," see
note 65 below.
3. See Arnold S. Kaufman, "Responsibility, Moral
and Legal," in Paul Edwards, ed., The Encyclopedia of Philosophy
(NY: Macmillan and The Free Press, 1967).
4. In Chinese popular religion the picture is
quite different. There, judgment is quite explicitly an important
role of the Ten Kings of Hell to whom the recently deceased must report.
See Stephen F. Teiser, The Scripture on the Ten Kings and the
Making of Purgatory in Medieval Chinese Buddhism (Honolulu: University
of Hawaii Press, 1994).
5. It is also worth noting that the etymology
of the word shu suggests similarity or likeness (ju).
6. One could add the further point that by fitting
with the general patterns or principles of ritual propriety (li),
the act also matches (p'ei) the natural principles upon which
the li are based (e.g. according to the Li-chi,
ch. 17; see Fung Yu-lan, A History of Chinese Philosophy,
trans. Derk Bodde [Cambridge: Harvard Univ. Press, 1952], vol. 1,
pp. 343-344). But this correspondence with natural principle is more
explicit in Neo-Confucian discourse, and will be discussed below.
7. I translate li here as "order," in
the sense of the natural order and the moral order, because the conception
of li in the Ch'eng-Chu school of Neo-Confucianism is precisely
the sum or confluence or congruence of these two concepts. The common
terms t'ien-li and tao-li correspond roughly to
these two aspects of order: the former connotes more the natural order,
and the latter the moral order. While in most cases I find the word
"principle" too vague as a translation of li , in some cases
it is appropriate; for example when a particular principle is meant,
such as the principle of yin-yang bipolarity.
8. Chung-yung 22; trans. Wing-tsit Chan,
A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton
University Press, 1963), p. 108.
9. Chan, op. cit., p. 497.
10. Donald Worster, Nature's Economy: The
Roots of Ecology (Garden City, NY: Anchor Books, 1979), p. 192;
cited in David Kinsley, Ecology and Religion: Ecological Spirituality
in Cross-Cultural Perspective (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice-Hall,
1995), p. xv.
11. This is the reason for the title of Gary
Snyder's book of poems and essays, Earth House Hold (New
York: New Directions, 1969). The Oxford English Dictionary
(1971 reprint of 1933 ed.) defines "cology" as "The science of the
economy of animals and plants; that branch of biology which deals
with the relations of living organisms to their surroundings, their
habits and modes of life, etc."
13. Ho-nan Ch'eng-shih i-shu, in Erh
Ch'eng chi (Beijing: Chung-hua shu-chu, 1981), 2A, p. 15. Trans.
Chan, op. cit., p. 523.
14. I take "organic" to mean "having parts arranged
and subordinated as instruments (organa) towards the end
of keeping the whole being alive and enabling it to perform its function"
(W. K. C. Guthrie, A History of Greek Philosophy [Cambridge:
Cambridge University Press, 1962], v. 1, p. 207). Regarding the "instrumental"
sense of "organic," cf. the well-known passage from the Book of
Change (I-ching), "What is above form is called the
Way; what is below [and within] form is called an instrument (ch'i)."
Hsi-tz'u (Appended Remarks), A.12.4; in Chu Hsi, Chou-I
pen-i (Original Meaning of the Book of Change) (1177;
rpt. Taipei: Hua-lien, 1978) 3:16a.
15. Tu Wei-ming, "The Continuity of Being: Chinese
Visions of Nature," in J. Baird Callicott and Roger T. Ames, Nature
in Asian Traditions of Thought (Albany: SUNY Press, 1989), p.
74. It should be added that there is clearly another level to Ch'eng
Hao's remark, since "one body" (i-t'i) also means "one substance,"
referring to the metaphysical ground or principle (li) which
the man of humanity fully expresses in his moral activity. Without
taking account of this level it would be difficult to explain the
implication that only the man of humanity, or the humane
person, is continuous with the natural world.
16. The precise relationship between li
and ch'i has been the subject of vigorous debate at least
since the 12th century, but we shall conveniently sidestep it here.
17. After the 12th century, the term tao-hsüeh,
or "Learning of the Way," came to be used primarily in reference to
this school -- although during the Northern Sung it had included a
much wider variety of thinkers. See Hoyt Cleveland Tillman, Confucian
Discourse and Chu Hsi's Ascendancy (Honolulu: University of Hawaii
18. Frequently translated as "Doctrine of the
Mean." See Chan, Source Book, pp. 95-114, and Tu Wei-ming,
Centrality and Commonality: An Essay on Confucian Religiousness
(Albany: SUNY Press, 1989).
19. Chan, Source Book, pp. 465-480.
20. See Chu's comments on T'ung-shu,
chs. 2-4, in Chang Po-hsing, comp., Chou Lien-hsi hsien-sheng
ch'üan-chi (Complete Collection of Master Chou Lien-hsi;
1708), in Cheng-i t'ang ch'üan-shu (Pai-pu ts'ung-shu
chi-ch'eng ed.), 5:9a-11a, 17b. Hereafter cited as Chou Lien-hsi
21. The traditional adage "Heaven and man are
one" (t'ien jen ho i) expresses this dyadic relationship
subsumed under a more fundamental unity.
22. See Joseph Needham, Science and Civilisation
in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956), vol.
2, p. 281. By "holistic" I mean both (a) that the whole is more than
the sum of its parts and (b) that the whole is reflected in each of
23. Tung Chung-shu, Ch'un-ch'iu fan-lu
(Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn Annals) (Shanghai:
Ku-chi Publishers, 1989), p. 75. Trans. Chan, op. cit., p. 283.
24. Huai-nan Tzu 6:3a. Trans. Charles
Le Blanc, Huai Nan Tzu: Philosophical Synthesis in Early Han Thought
(Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1985), p. 116. For the claim
that the Huai-nan Tzu is a major Huang-Lao Taoist text, see
ibid., pp. 6-7, 37, and Harold D. Roth, "Psychology and Self-Cultivation
in Early Taoistic Thought," in Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies,
51:2 (1991), pp. 599-650.
25. Le Blanc, op. cit., pp. 8-9. Chen-jen
is Chuang Tzu's term for the fully-realized person.
26. Huai-nan Tzu 6:6a; trans. Le Blanc,
op. cit., p. 133.
27. Ibid., 6:6b; trans. Le Blanc, p. 135, again
echoing Chuang Tzu (ch. 7).
28. Ibid., 6:1b; trans. Le Blanc, p. 104.
29. Ibid., 6:4a; trans. Le Blanc, p. 118.
30. Ibid., 6:4b; trans. Le Blanc, p. 121.
31. Ibid., 6:15a; trans. Le Blanc, pp. 180-181.
32. See Le Blanc, p. 186. Note that these passages
refer to the three fundamental "substances" of the human body understood
as a microcosm of the universe: ch'i (psycho-physical stuff,
or vital energy), ching (vital essence), and shen
(spirit). See Thomas Boehmer, "Taoist Alchemy," in Michael Saso and
David W. Chappell, eds., Buddhist and Taoist Studies I (Honolulu:
University of Hawaii Press, 1977), p. 66. See also Kristofer Schipper,
The Taoist Body (Berkeley: University of California Press,
33. Le Blanc, pp. 207-208.
34. Here I will be examining only those aspects
of Chou's concept of Sagehood that are most directly related to our
topic. And since I am not primarily concerned here with isolating
Chou's own ideas as distinct from their interpretation and use in
the later tradition, I shall freely make use of Chu Hsi's (1130-1200)
interpretations, identifying them as such in cases where they go beyond
what Chou might have intended. Where there are differences, it is
clear that Chu Hsi's interpretations were the more historically influential,
as it was his commentaries that became the "orthodox" basis of the
civil service examinations. Chu's interpretations are in any case
much more accessible to us, since he not only wrote commentaries but
also discussed Chou's texts extensively with his students. And Chou's
texts are epigrammatic at best, and in some places probably corrupt
35. The chapter titles are those of Chu Hsi.
The divisions into sections simply indicate where Chu Hsi divided
the text for his commentary; they are used here to facilitate reference
to the following chart.
36. Chou-I, Hsi-tz'u A.10.4
(Chou-I pen-i, 3:12b).
38. Chou Lien-hsi chi, 5:17b-18a.
39. I have elsewhere discussed the significance
of responsiveness, spirit, and incipience in relation to Chu Hsi's
understanding of divination and self-cultivation. See Kidder Smith,
Jr., Peter K. Bol, Joseph A. Adler, and Don J. Wyatt, Sung Dynasty
Uses of the I Ching (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1990),
40. It should be noted, however, that Chou apparently
does not use the term "essence" (ching) in its standard Taoist
meaning, which is a concentrated form of vital ch'i, such
as semen. See T'ung-shu 30 for his use of ching
in a way that is clearly different from this.
41. Although ching "stillness" does
not occur literally in the chapter, "silent and inactive" (chi-jan
pu-tung) is clearly synonymous with it, and ching is
paired with tung in chapter 16.
42. Trans. Chan, op. cit., pp. 107-108, with
"authentic" substituted for "sincere."
43. Tu Wei-ming, Centrality and Commonality,
44. "What Heaven imparts to man is called human
nature. To follow our nature is called the Way (Tao)." Trans. Chan,
op. cit., p. 98.
45. Tu, op. cit., p. 69.
46. Ibid., p. 78.
47. Ibid., pp. 98-99.
48. Ibid., p. 107.
49. Chou Lien-hsi chi, 5:2b.
50. Ibid., 5:9b, 5:11b, etc.
51. In the Mencian tradition of Confucianism,
which by the Sung dynasty had become normative, humanity or humaneness
(jen) is the hallmark of human nature (hsing); human
nature is the principle (li) of being human, and is thus
continuous with the natural/moral order (t'ien-li/tao-li).
52. Tu, op. cit., p. 80.
53. Given this interpretation of ch'eng,
I think it is clear that "authenticity" is a better translation than
"sincerity" (the usual translation), as "authenticity" connotes the
reality and genuineness of one's moral subjectivity, agency or "authorship".
54. Chou-I, T'uan commentary
on hexagram 1 (Chou-I pen-i, 1:3a).
56. See Hsi-tz'u A.5.6 (Chou-I
57. This is a continuation of the first chapter.
58. I take wu and yu here
to mean "without characteristics" and "having characteristics"; hence
"imperceptible" and "perceptible."
59. Analects 12:1, referring to the
60. Hung-fan chapter of the Shu-ching.
See James Legge, trans., The Chinese Classics, 2nd ed. (1893;
rpt. Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 1960), v. 3, p. 327.
61. This is undoubtedly a pun on Lao Tzu
37, "No doing and yet nothing undone" (wu wei erh wu pu wei).
62. Hsi-tz'u B.5.11 (Chou-I pen-i,
64. The terms "without thinking" and "without
acting" (wu-ssu, wu-wei), which we have here in chapters
3 and 9, are both taken from the "Appended Remarks" wing of the I-ching:
"Change [both the book as an oracle and, by extension, the
universal cosmic process] is without thinking and without acting.
Silent and unmoving, when stimulated it penetrates all situations
under Heaven" (Hsi-tz'u A.10.4; Chou-I pen-i 3:12b).
It should also be noted that, despite Chu Hsi's enshrinement of Chou
Tun-i as the first true Sage since Mencius, Chou's Confucian credentials
were not entirely beyond reproach. Lu Hsiang-shan (1139-1193), in
a famous exchange of letters with Chu Hsi, argued strongly that Chou's
ideas were too Taoist to include in the Confucian tradition (see Tillman,
Confucian Discourse and Chu Hsi's Ascendancy , ch. 9). In
fact, Chou's T'ai-chi t'u shuo (but not the T'ung-shu)
was included in the Taoist Canon (Tao-tsang).
65. For a complete translation of the T'ai-chi
t'u shuo, see Chan, op. cit., pp. 463-464; and Joseph A. Adler,
"Zhou Dunyi: The Metaphysics and Practice of Sagehood," in Wm. Theodore
de Bary and Irene Bloom, eds., Sources of Chinese Tradition,
2nd ed. (Columbia University Press, 1999).
T'ai-chi is usually translated as "Supreme Ultimate," which
in my view fails to convey a clear idea of what the term means to Chou
Tun-i and Chu Hsi (although it is justifiable). The clearest support for
translating t'ai-chi as "Supreme Polarity" comes from Chu Hsi.
According to him, the most fundamental ordering principle (li)
is the yin-yang polarity; it is this pattern or principle of interaction,
not yin and yang themselves, that is t'ai-chi. Commenting on
the line from the I-ching (Hsi-tz'u A.11.5), "In change
there is the Supreme Polarity," he says: "Change is the alternation of
yin and yang. The Supreme Polarity is this principle
(li)" (Chou-I pen-i, 3:14b). Also: "[The sentence] 'The
alternation of yin and yang are called the Way' (T'ung-shu 1,
quoted from Hsi-tz'u A.5.1) refers to the Supreme Polarity"
(Chou Lien-hsi chi, 5:5b). In other words, t'ai-chi
is the name for the most fundamental, all-embracing pattern of the natural/moral
order (li), and this pattern is the principle of yin-yang bipolarity.
Hence the translation "Supreme Polarity" for t'ai-chi, and "Non-Polar"
66. I.e. they are limited by their physical forms.
67. See Joseph A. Adler, Divination and Philosophy:
Chu Hsi's Understanding of the I-ching (Ph.D. diss.: Univ. of California
at Santa Barbara, 1984), ch. 4.
68. Although this is not precisely consistent
with the system of the Ch'eng-Chu school, it clearly constitutes a logical
precursor. The major discrepancy is that in Chu Hsi's system, only t'ai-chi
or li is classified as metaphysical substance; yin and yang
are cosmological function. Also, Chou's claim that the Supreme Polarity
acts was a problem for Chu Hsi because he defines t'ai-chi
as li, and li as order itself is atemporal. Chu's
solution was to say that t'ai-chi does not act but contains
the principle of activity. Of course, if this were what Chou Tun-i had
really meant to say he could have expressed it quite easily, rather
than saying "T'ai-chi tung..." (literally, "The Supreme Polarity
69. Smith, Bol, Adler and Wyatt, Sung Dynasty
Uses of the I Ching, pp. 190-192.
70. Chou Lien-hsi chi, 5:10b.
71. Ibid., 5:12b.
72. Ibid., 5:17b.
73. Ming-tao wen-chi, in Erh Ch'eng
chi, vol. 1, p. 460. Cf. Chan, op. cit., pp. 525-526.
74. Chu Hsi, Ssu-shu chi-chu (Collected
Commentaries on the Four Books) (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), 7:1a.
75. Chu Wen-kung wen-chi (Ssu-pu pei-yao
ed., entitled Chu Tzu ta-ch'üan), 67:19b. Cf. Chan, op.
cit., p. 604.
76. There is another slight discrepancy here with
Chu Hsi's system: for Chu, the "virtues" (te) are principles
(li) of moral activity, and so would properly belong in the
left column of this diagram. But for Chou, the virtues clearly refer
to moral activity.
77. Shao Yung, Kuan-wu (Contemplating
Things), Nei-p'ien 12, in Huang-chi ching-shih shu
(Book on Supreme Principles Governing the World) (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.),
6:26b. Trans. Chan, op. cit., p. 488.
78. Shao Yung, Hsin-hsüeh (Learning
of the Mind), in ibid., 8B:27b. Trans. Chan, op. cit., p. 494, slightly
79. Chou-I pen-i, 3:13b.
80. This means to focus the mind on fundamentals,
to be composed and reverently attentive (ching) to the seriousness
of the task.
81. Cf. Ch'eng Hao's "Letter on Stabilizing the
Nature," quoted above.
82. Note the importance of the term "investigating
things" (ko-wu), or "contacting things" (chi-wu),
in Chu Hsi's program of self-cultivation. See Chu Hsi's commentary on
the Great Learning, especially his "supplement" to chapter
5, in Ssu-shu chi-chu (Ssu-pu pei-yao ed.), Ta-hsüeh
83. According to Chu Hsi (quoting Chang Tsai),
"Ch'i has [the two modes] yin and yang. When it proceeds slowly,
it is transformation (hua). When it is unified and unfathomable,
it is shen" (Chou-I pen-i, 3:21a). For a more extended
discussion see Smith, Bol, Adler and Wyatt, Sung Dynasty Uses of
the I Ching, pp. 190-194.