Forthcoming in Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy

Zhu Xi's Spiritual Practice
as the Basis of his Central Philosophical Concepts
Joseph A. Adler
1

Department of Religious Studies
Kenyon College

In this paper I am attempting to connect three aspects of Zhu Xi's ¨' (1130-1200) life
and work. They are: (1) the "spiritual crisis" he experienced in his thirties; (2) his identification
of Zhou Dunyi ¹¹¦ (1017-1073) as the first true Confucian sage since Mencius; and (3) his
concepts of taiji ·| and li T. My hypothesis is difficult to squeeze into one sentence.
Basically, I am suggesting that (1) the spiritual crisis that Zhu Xi discussed with Zhang Shi ¬r
(1133-1180) and the other "gentlemen of Hunan" from about 1167 to 1169, which was resolved
by an understanding of what we might call the "interpenetration" of the mind's stillness and
activity (dong-jing |[) or equilibrium and harmony (zhong-he ¹|), (2) led directly to his
realization that Zhou Dunyi's thought provided a cosmological basis for that resolution, and that
(3) this in turn led Zhu Xi to understand (or construct) the meaning of taiji in terms of the
polarity of yin and yang; i.e. the "Supreme Polarity" as the most fundamental ordering principle
(li T).
The first of these items (the spiritual crisis) has long been well-studied, but has only
peripherally been connected with Zhou Dunyi.
2
The connection, in simple historical terms, is that

1
This paper was presented to the Neo-Confucianism and Global Philosophy Conference
at the Mansfield Freeman Center for East Asian Studies of Wesleyan University in February,
2006. I am grateful to the conference organizer, Stephen Angle; to the other participants in the
conference, especially P.J. Ivanhoe, who made very helpful comments on an earlier version of
the paper; and to the anonymous reviewers of this version.
2
Zhou Dunyi's written legacy consists of three items: (1) the Taiji (Supreme Polarity)
Diagram (Taijitu !¦), which originally came from Daoist circles; (2) the very short
"Explanation of the Taiji Diagram" (Taijitu shuo !¦¯), which puts it into a Confucian


2
Zhou's writings had been preserved by Hu Hong v/ (1106-1161), Zhang Shi's teacher. But the
fact that Zhu began writing his commentaries on Zhou Dunyi's major works immediately after he
came to the resolution of his crisis – after many conversations with Zhang Shi – has not, to my
knowledge, been interpreted as anything more than coincidence.
3
The second item – specifically
the question why Zhu Xi declared Zhou Dunyi to be the first sage of the Song -- is a puzzle that
has not, in my estimation, been fully solved.
4
The third item (the interpretation of taiji and li) is
indeed a hoary one, but I was led back to it by the first two, which provide the context for a
useful new way of understanding these fundamental terms in Zhu Xi's philosophy.

(1) Zhu Xi's "spiritual crisis"
5

The critical turning point in the development of Zhu Xi's philosophy was his resolution of
a problem that had occupied him from about 1158 to 1169, a problem that fundamentally
concerned the methodology of self-cultivation but that necessitated a philosophical solution.
6


theoretical context; and (3) the Tongshu ´¯, a text in forty short sections commenting on the
Yijing ¹º (Scripture of Change), certain concepts from the Zhongyong ¹m (Centrality and
Commonality), and various other topics. Tongshu literally means something like "Penetrating
Writing," but Zhu Xi claimed that the original title was Yi tongshu ¹´¯ (Penetrating writing
on the Yijing), and so it is customarily given as "Penetrating the Yi." See Adler 1999.
3
Zhu Xi published an early version (no longer extant) of his commentary on the Tongshu
in 1166. In the third month of 1169 he had the "realization" (wu ¹) of the solution to the crisis
(see next section), and immediately proceeded to write and publish a commentary on the Taijitu
and a revision of his commentary on the Tongshu, followed a few months later by a commentary
on the Taijitu shuo. He continued working on Zhou's texts until 1187. See Zhang Boxing's note
to Zhu's preface to the Tongshu in Zhang 5:2a (hereafter cited as Zhou Lianxi ji ¹J¬+), and
Shu 1:406-412.
4
A. C. Graham discussed the puzzling nature of Zhu's choice in his 1958 book, Two
Chinese Philosophers: Ch'eng Ming-tao and Ch'eng Yi-ch'uan. Wing-tsit Chan offered a solution,
which I think is inadequate for reasons that will be developed here, in his 1973 article, "Chu
Hsi's Completion of Neo-Confucianism."
5
The term "spiritual" here should not be construed as it generally has been in the Western
religous and philosophical traditions, implying a categorical distinction from a
"physical/material" realm. Confucian "spirit" (shen +) should be understood as a form of qi ´
(psycho-physical stuff), which comprehends the spectrum of matter-energy-spirit. See Adler
2004.
6
This has been fully discussed by Qian 2:123-182; Metzger: 93-99; Thompson 1985: 90-


3
Thomas Metzger offers an illuminating discussion of the philosophical and spiritual context of
this issue in his 1977 book, Escape from Predicament: Neo-Confucianism and China's Evolving
Political Culture. The issue arises from Neo-Confucian theories of mind, which Metzger
describes in terms of what he calls "the naturally given phases of the mind." Briefly, these phases
are:
1. "total stillness," in which the mind has access to the "good cosmic force" represented by
"Heaven" (tian ¯); it is the aspect of mind that Zhu Xi calls the "moral mind" (daoxin .
(); or it is the principle (li T) of the mind, which is human nature (xing ¹).
7

2. "sensation of an outer object" or stimulus (gan ¯), necessarily preceding the following;
3. "imminent issuance," i.e. the point at which feelings and other responses to stimuli are
"not yet expressed" (weifa ×´) and are in perfect "equilibrium" (zhong ¹);
8

4. "incipient issuance," or what I have elsewhere called simply "incipience" (ji -) (Smith et.
al.: 190-199; Adler 1998).
5. "accomplished issuance," i.e. the "already expressed" (yifa ¯´) feelings and other
mental activities, which should be but are not necessarily in "harmony" (he |) with the
still, unexpressed phases of the mind (Metzger: 87).
Zhu Xi frequently used terminology from the Xici ?= appendix of the Yijing ¹º to

118; Chen Lai 106-133; Levey 1991: 86-144; Tillman: 59-64; and Taylor 1997: 46-56.
7
An anonymous reviewer has suggested that "principles are inherently linguistic and fit
into logical arguments, whereas li are never used in this fashion," and that "pattern" is a better
translation of li. I agree that "pattern" conveys some of the Cheng/Zhu (Cheng Yi / Zhu Xi) sense
of li, but I think it fails to capture its depth of meaning. For example, "the pattern of a boat"
suggests its shape and structure, but the li of a boat is what makes it a boat (Kim 26). It is
therefore closer (but not identical) to the Aristotelian concept of "form" (what that concept lacks
is the sense of li as dynamic; see Levey 1991: 146-189). When li is used as a comprehensive
term, as in Cheng Yi's claim, "Li is unitary, its manifestations are multiple" (li yi fen shu T´
/; Chan 1963: 550), "order" often works as a translation, conveying the sense of "the order of
things," or "the natural order" (for tianli ¯T) and "the moral order" (for daoli .T). Zhu Xi's
concept of li is metaphysical in the sense that it signifies the abstract order – or better yet, the
ordering – of things, and is therefore categorically distinct from the qi-based existence of the
things themselves. Yet li itself has no existence apart from things, unlike Plato's ideal forms.
8
These terms and those in phase 5 come from Zhongyong ¹m (Centrality and


4
discuss the phases of mind, especially Xici A.10.4: "jiran budong, gan er sui tong" |/´|,¯
ìl´ ("quiet and inactive; when stimulated it then penetrates") (Zhu Wenji 67:3b; Zhu Zhouyi
3:12b). Although the referent in the text is the Zhouyi itself, in its "spiritual" mode as an oracle,
Zhu Xi comments on it, "The mystery of the human mind, in its stillness and activity, is also like
this" (Zhu Zhouyi 3:13a). Under these headings, phase 1 is jiran budong and phases 2-5 are gan
er sui tong. Alternatively, we can say that phases 1-3 are the "substance" (ti |) of mind and
phases 4-5 are its "functioning" (yong ¹).
The problem of self-cultivation in terms of this schema – or more specifically the
problem of "rectifying the mind" (zheng xin ¯() and "making one's intentions authentic"
(cheng yi .:)
9
– is simply "how to bridge the phases" (Metzger: 90); how to connect the
substance of mind (phases 1-3) with its functioning (phases 4-5); or, as Zhu Xi put it, "how to
make the principle of zhong [equilibrium] manifest in outer actions" (Metzger: 94).
10
That is:
how to ensure that one's experienced mental functioning and one's moral activity (de xing ^·)
will authentically (cheng .) reflect the goodness that is inherent in the human mind in the form
of its "principle," or the principle of being human, otherwise known as human nature (ren xing
´¹). This is obviously the crux of the problem of self-cultivation, in that one's Heaven-
endowed moral potential (de ^) is the creative power to transform oneself into a sage and
ultimately to transform or "pacify (balance) the world" (ping tianxia ¬¯¯).
11
For someone as
conscious as Zhu Xi of the difficulty of even this initial step in the process of gaining access to
the inborn moral nature, given the opposing forces he saw in his day, it was a problem whose
solution was critical to his entire project.
12


Commonality), 1 (Chan 1963: 98).
9
Two of the "eight steps" of the Daxue ' (Higher Learning) (Chan 1963: 86-87).
10
Quoting Zhu Xi from Qian 1971 2:152.
11
Daxue 1. I am grateful to one of the reviewers for the idea of ping as "balancing."
12
These opposing forces would include, on the individual psycho-physical level, the
clouding effect of one's psycho-physical nature (qizhi zhi xing ´).¹); on the political level,
the failure during the Northern Song, despite the best efforts of his predecessors, to put into
effect a humane government (ren zheng |i); and on the social level the insidious popularity of
Buddhism and Daoism during the Song.


5
For the purposes of this essay, "activity and stillness" are the key terms. They are, of
course, the "Two Modes" (liangyi E') of the Yijing, the primary cosmological manifestations
of the yin-yang ¦| polarity, whose oscillating flow is described in the opening passage of
Zhou Dunyi's Taijitu shuo ·|[¯ (Explanation of the Taiji Diagram; see below, section 2).
13

The relationship of activity and stillness was a central cosmological and epistemological problem
in Song Neo-Confucianism, with ramifications involving the methodology of self-cultivation and
the self-definition of Confucianism vis-à-vis Buddhism and Daoism. For Zhu Xi, Lu Jiuyuan ¦
'· (1139-1192), and many of their contemporaries, "stillness" (jing [) and its associated
practice of "quiet-sitting" (jingzuo ['; more on this below) were both fraught with the
"danger" of slipping into Buddhism or Daoism, both of which were extremely popular among
Song literati. It was precisely in this problematic space between traditional Confucian "activism"
and Buddhist/Daoist "quietism" that Zhu Xi had to work out the solution to his spiritual crisis.
Song Confucian objections to Buddhism, although often based on caricatures of Buddhist
thought, had both ethical and metaphysical grounds. While some were attracted by the Buddhist
notion of self-perfection based on inherent Buddha-nature, with its obvious parallels to Mencian
thought, they were repelled by Buddhism's alleged socio-ethical failings. Cheng Yi |¦ (1033-
1107), for example, repeatedly accused the Buddhists of selfishness in leaving behind social and
familial relationships. Even though their teachings may be "lofty and profound," he said, they are
essentially wrong because one simply cannot deny one's relationships even if one flees from

13
Shao Yong '¶ (1011-1077) had also emphasized the stillness/activity polarity. In
one of his diagrams he illustrates the evolution of stillness and activity into eight subdivisions,
which Zhu Xi and his followers interpreted as Taiji unfolding into the Eight Trigrams. The
diagram begins with dong and jing, which unfold into yang, yin, firm (gang N) and yielding
(rou ´), which in turn each divide into "young" and "mature" phases that clearly parallel the
Eight Trigrams (Huang and Quan 10:21b). The diagram is called the Jingshi yan yi tu º¹^¹
[, which might be translated as the "The Huangji jingshi's diagram of the evolution of the Yi."
Huangji jingshi shu ¬|º¹¯ (Supreme Principles for Governing the World) is the title of
Shao's magnum opus, where the diagram originally appeared (although it is missing from the
Sibu beiyao edition). See Birdwhistell:240 and Wu:17. It is also found in the Xingli daquan shu
¹T´¯ (Great Compendium on Nature and Principle), a Ming-era classified compendium
of the Song Cheng/Zhu school (Hu 8:1b).


6
them (Chan 1963: 555, 564).
14
In Zhu Xi's view, the popularity of Buddhism in the Song was a
threat to Chinese culture because it undermined the traditional social-mindedness of the Chinese
spirit. It did so ultimately on the basis of its highly sophisticated (and therefore attractive)
theories of mind, ignorance, and human suffering, theories that denied the ultimate truth of
cognitive categories and the socio-ethical values and institutions that were so central to the
Confucian worldview. On the metaphysical questions, Zhu Xi said that the major difference
between Buddhism and Confucianism could be seen in their different interpretations of the first
line of the Zhongyong ¹m (Centrality and Commonality), "What Heaven imparts to man is
called human nature" (Chan 1963: 98). Buddhists, he said, understand "human nature" (xing ¹)
as "empty awareness," while Confucians interpret it as "concrete principle" (Chan 1963: 616,
647-648). The Confucian interpretation meant, for Zhu Xi, that even when the mind is "vacuous"
or unoccupied and peaceful it is "full" of moral principle, since every thing (including the mind)
has a principle/pattern/order (li), and the li of the mind is the moral nature. "Principle" in
Mahayana Buddhist theory refers to the principle that all elements of existence (dharmas / fa .)
are "empty" (unya / kong ¬) of "own-being" (svabhva / zixing 1¹); that is, they they have
no self-existent, knowable nature. Principle for Confucians has definite, intelligible, and
ultimately moral content. And self-actualization, or the process of becoming a sage, requires
knowledge and fulfillment of the "five-fold nature" -- the nature characterized by the "five
constant virtues" -- not an "empty" Buddha-nature. As Mencius had said, "He who fully develops
his mind knows his nature; knowing his nature he knows Heaven. To preserve the mind and
nourish the nature is the way to serve Heaven" (Mencius 7A1). Daoism did not receive as much
Confucian criticism as did Buddhism, but terms such as "vacuity" (xu !) and "nonexistence"
(wu =) in the Laozi made many Confucians nervous for the same reasons.
Quiet-sitting had a long pedigree in China, with some forms of meditation dating back at
least to the late Warring States period; for example, Zhuangzi's "sitting and forgetting" (zuowang
'!) and fasting the mind (xinzhai (¯), and the Guanzi's "maintaining the One" (shouyi ')

14
This was also the theme of Han Yu's ·) (768 - 824) critique of Buddhism (Chan
1963: 454-456).


7
and "concentrating the mind" (zhuanxin "() (Watson 57, 90; Roth 82-83, 107, 155, 167).
15

Nevertheless, the incorporation of quiet-sitting into Song Confucian practice was almost
certainly a response to the popularity of Buddhism, even though most Song Confucians took
pains to distinguish it from Chan sitting-in-meditation (zuochan '^, Japanese zazen) (Okada;
Taylor 1988). The fact that Zhou Dunyi, Cheng Hao |Ï (1032-1085), Luo Congyan ¨·¯
(1072-1135), and Li Tong ´" (1093-1163) had taught "quiet-sitting" as a Confucian
alternative to or version of Chan "sitting in meditation" necessitated a careful and thorough
examination of the correct Confucian use of quietistic techniques. According to Zhu Xi:
Quiet-sitting should not be like entering samadhi in zazen, cutting off all thoughts.
Just collect the mind and don't let it go and get involved with idle thoughts. Then
the mind will be profoundly unoccupied and naturally concentrated. When
something happens, it will respond accordingly. When the thing is past it will
return to its [still] depth. (Zhu Yulei 12:345-346)
Despite the negative Confucian overtones of "stillness," Zhu Xi considered it essential to
incorporate a theory of stillness/activity or equilibrium/harmony into his system, and most
importantly to incorporate that theory into the practice of self-cultivation. His efforts to develop
a satisfactory solution to the problem went through three stages, beginning with his visits to Li
Tong (or Li Yanping ´í¬) in 1158, 1160, and 1162.
16
Li was a student of Luo Congyan, who
had been a student of Cheng Yi and later of Cheng's student Yang Shi || (1053-1135) (Huang
and Quan 15:1a-2a, 25:1a-b). It was through Yang Shi and his student Hu Hong that the writings
of Zhou Dunyi were preserved. The key doctrine that Zhu learned from Li was the view that
stillness or quietude (jing [) was fundamental; associated with this was the importance of quiet-
sitting in the practice of self-cultivation. Both of these, of course, were highly susceptible to the

15
It should be noted, however, that all we have of these early forms of meditation are
textual references. While some scholars, such as Roth, believe that there must have been lineages
of teachers who transmitted the actual practices, I know of no concrete evidence for them.
16
One could also say that his thinking on the subject went through four stages, because
before visiting Li Tong and adopting his views, he had accepted Cheng Yi's understanding of the
matter, as he explains in his letter of 1169, quoted below. But presumably at that stage he did not
regard it specifically as a problem.


8
criticism that they were significant steps down the slippery slope to Buddhism and Daoism.
Nevertheless, Li Tong, who was familiar with Zhou Dunyi's writings, passed on to Zhu the idea
of an "emphasis on stillness" (zhu jing [), which Zhou had espoused in his Taijitu shuo. And
quiet-sitting, which had allegedly been practiced by both of the Cheng brothers, was especially
favored by Li Tong. It was through his influence that Zhu Xi came to the view that the mind's
access to equilibrium (zhong), and hence to the mind's creative principle, had to be gained
directly by practicing quiet-sitting and focusing on the mind in its still phase.
Zhu Xi held this view until 1167, when he first visited Zhang Shi ¬r in Tanzhou .!
(modern Changsha +:, Hunan), after corresponding with him for two years. Zhang had been a
student of Hu Hong, whose father, Hu Anguo v·[ (1074-1138), is considered the founder of
the "Hunan school" of Song learning.
17
Although Zhu Xi never met Hu Hong personally, they
exchanged letters on the subject of stillness and activity, and Hu criticized Zhu for his emphasis
on stillness and equilibrium. The Hunan school supported the view that only in activity (both
mental and physical) could the creative power of Heaven be experienced; that stillness or
equilibrium was to be found within the activity of daily life. For example, Hu Hong, in a
discussion with a student, cited Mencius' dialogue with King Xuan of Qi (Mencius 1A.7) in
which they discuss the King's compassion for an ox about to be sacrificed. Hu Hong said,
"When the King of Qi saw the ox and could not bear its being slaughtered, that was the sprout of
the originally good mind seen in the midst of desire for profit." Zhang Shi cited this comment in
an essay he wrote in 1166 (Schirokauer: 484).
Zhu Xi and Zhang Shi had discussed the stillness-activity / equilibrium-harmony issue in
their correspondence, and they continued to do so during Zhu's two-month visit with Zhang in
the fall of 1167. During that visit Zhu was convinced by Zhang's arguments. As Metzger
describes it, Zhang
suggested that accomplished issuance [yifa ¯´] is all that exists, that it is an

17
Hu Anguo, who was originally from Zhu Xi's province of Fujian, had a nephew, Hu
Xian v÷ (1082-1162), who was one of three men asked by Zhu Xi's father, Zhu Song ¨|, to
become Zhu Xi's teachers after his father's death in 1143. Zhang Shi became Zhu Xi's close
friend and frequent correspondent.


9
indivisible process, and that in its very indivisibility it comprehends the
equilibrium of imminent issuance [the zhong ¹ of weifa ×´]. To apprehend
equilibrium, therefore, was to revise and broaden our understanding of
accomplished issuance [yifa], looking in it, so to speak, rather than behind it for
zhong. The advantage of this view was that by locating zhong in a completely
manifest form of experience, it not only directed moral effort toward the proper
Confucian business of "daily affairs," rather than to the unworldly realm of
Buddhism, but also raised hopes that zhong could be more easily apprehended.
(Metzger: 96)
The implication of this position was that quiet-sitting and the effort to apprehend the mind in
perfect stillness is misguided; thus it directly challenged what Zhu Xi had learned from his
revered teacher, Li Tong.
A taste of Zhu Xi's spiritual practice at this time is conveyed by a letter he wrote to
Zhang Shi the following year (1168):
From the time one has life, one has some kind of knowledge. Affairs and
things come into his life, and he responds to and is in contact with them without a
moment's rest. His thoughts are changing continuously until he dies. Essentially
this state of affairs does not come to a halt for even an instant. Thus it is for the
whole world. Yet sages and superior men have spoken of what is called the
equilibrium of imminent issuance (weifa zhi zhong ×´.¹), and the state of
total stillness without movement (jiran budong |/´|). How can we
reasonably suppose that they regarded the concrete flow of daily affairs as
accomplished issuance, and a temporary interruption of this flow, some point
lacking contact with affairs, as the time of imminent issuance?
When I tried to think of it in this way, I only found moments without
awareness, during which false and dark notions would clog up my mind, hardly
the substance of pure consciousness responding to things. Moreover, as soon as I
became conscious of any feeling just at that subtle moment of incipience, then this
consciousness itself was just a recurrence of accomplished issuance, not what is


10
referred to as total stillness. One may say that the more I sought it, the less I
could see it.
So I withdrew from this course and looked for it by examining daily affairs. I
considered the fact that any case of becoming aware of an object and
empathetically pervading it with one's response, that is, any instance of becoming
conscious of something after coming into contact with it, can reasonably be
regarded as an indivisible whole. In its inexhaustibility, the process of responding
to things is the concrete possibility in terms of which the will of heaven is realized
and things come into being without end. Even as things arise and are destroyed
ten thousand times a day, the ultimate substance of total stillness is never anything
but totally still. What is called imminent issuance is simply like this. (Zhu Wenji
30:19a-b; trans. Metzger: 96-97)
Thus Zhu at this point agreed with Zhang that it was pointless to seek a state of perfect
stillness. Since the conscious mind can never be perfectly still (that is, the only possible perfect
stillness is found in "moments without awareness"), one can only seek for one's moral nature in
activity.
Soon after his visit with Zhang, though, Zhu began again to have doubts, and finally
decided that the Hunan solution was lacking. The decisive issue seems to have been the failure of
that solution to include a concrete praxis. It is all very well to say that stillness can only be
apprehended in activity, but what does this mean in terms of actual practice? What does one
look for or strive for in one's consciousness that reflects stillness in activity?
Zhu announced his final solution in his 1169 "letter to the gentlemen of Hunan on
equilibrium and harmony" (Zhu Wenji 64:28b-29b, trans. Chan 1963: 600-602). Here he first
explains that, before studying with Li Tong, he had accepted Cheng Yi's teaching that
before there is any sign of thought or deliberation and prior to the arrival
[stimulus] of external things, there is the state before the feelings of pleasure,
anger, sorrow, and joy are aroused [weifa]. At this time, the state is identical with
the substance of the mind, which is absolutely quiet and inactive [jiran budong],
and the nature endowed by Heaven should be completely embodied in it. Because


11
it is neither excessive nor insufficient, and is neither unbalanced nor one-sided, it
is called equilibrium [zhong]. When it is acted upon and immediately penetrates
all things [gan er sui tong ¯ìl´], the feelings are then aroused. In this state
the functioning of the mind can be seen. Because it never fails to attain the proper
measure and degree and has nowhere deviated from the right, it is called harmony.
(Chan 1963: 600-601)
But now, he says (skipping the intermediate points in the evolution of his thought, i.e. his periods
of agreement with Li Tong and the very gentlemen to whom he is writing), he realizes that "there
are many incorrect points in Master Cheng's works." The identification of weifa with nature and
yifa with mind is a false distinction; in fact, as Cheng Yi himself had said, "the mind is one," and
it is never in a state of total stillness. As he had said in his earlier letter to Zhang Shi, "any
instance of becoming conscious of something after coming into contact with it can reasonably be
regarded as an indivisible whole."
So far, the argument is still consistent with the Hunan position. But when he describes his
own experiences of cultivation, he comes to the practical sticking point: the lack of any practical
application of the Hunan position:
Right along, in my discussions and thinking, I have simply considered the mind to
be the state after the feelings are aroused, and in my daily efforts (riyong gongfu
|¹¯7) I have merely considered examining and recognizing the clues [of
activities or feelings] as the starting points [i.e. focusing on the beginnings of
mental activity]. Consequently I have neglected the effort of daily self-cultivation
[pingri hanyang yiduan gongfu ¬|.¯]¯7], so that my mind was
disturbed in many ways and lacked the quality of depth or purity. Also, when it
was expressed in speech or action, it was always characterized by a sense of
urgency and an absence of reserve, and there was no longer any disposition of
ease or profoundness. For a single mistake in one's viewpoint can lead to as much
harm as this. This is something we must not overlook. (Chan 1963: 601-602,
slightly modified)
So, if both weifa and yifa are phases of the active, functioning mind, how is it possible to


12
gain access to the inactive substance (ti |) or principle (li T) of the mind? The answer Zhu Xi
found was also in Cheng Yi's writings:
In the final analysis what he said was no more than the word "seriousness" (jing
¬). This is why he said, "Seriousness without fail is the way to attain
equilibrium." (Chan 1963: 601)
18

Jing ¬ can also be translated as "reverence" or "reverent composure;" I shall henceforth
use the latter. It was classically defined as the properly respectful and reverent attitude one
should have when performing a sacrifice, but the Neo-Confucians extended it beyond that
context. Cheng Yi had said, "the effort to maintain reverent composure joins the states of
activity and stillness at their point of intersection" (Metzger: 98).
19
Jing thus functioned as a
unifying concept, providing an attitudinal (not philosophical) foundation for self-cultivation.
One could not actually experience perfect stillness while engaging in worldly activity, but one
could experience a form of composure in both activity and stillness (e.g. quiet-sitting), so that
this attitude would comprehend stillness and activity and allow for the possibility of orienting
both phases, as a coherent whole, according to moral principle. As Zhu Xi continues in his letter
to the gentlemen of Hunan:
So long as in one's daily life the effort at reverent composure and cultivation
(hanyang .¯) is fully extended and there are no selfish human desires to disturb
it, then before the feelings are aroused it will be as clear as a mirror and as calm
as still water, and after the feelings are aroused it will attain due measure and
degree without exception. This is the essential task in everyday life. As to self-
cultivation when things occur and seeking understanding through inference when
we come into contact with things, this must also serve as the foundation. If we

18
Quoting Henan Chengshi yishu .ì|u¨¯, 2A:23b. The Yishu contains the bulk
of the Chengs' teachings on jing, and Zhu Xi had compiled the text in 1168, the year before this
letter was written. It was Zhu's work on this text that therefore precipitated the resolution of his
crisis. See Van Ess: 295-298.
19
Substituting "reverent composure" for "reverence." For more on jing see Graham: 67-
73; Chan 1963: 522, 547, 593, 785; and Chen Chun: 100-104. See also Zhu Yulei 12:338; Qian
2:298-335; Yoshikawa and Miura: 115-119.


13
observe the state after the feelings are aroused, what is contained in the state
before the feelings are aroused can surely be understood in silence. (Chan 1963:
601)
In other words, the relationship between the stillness and activity of the mind, or the
weifa and yifa states of the feelings, or equilibrium and harmony, can be described as
interpenetration. That is, stillness and equilibrium can be found within harmonious activity, and
harmonious or moral activity can be found in stillness – as long as one maintains the attitude of
reverent composure. Stillness in the midst of moral activity can be understood as a sense of calm
purpose combined with a sense of the ultimate significance (or ultimate concern, to use Paul
Tillich's term) of one's engagement in the process of moral transformation. Activity in the midst
of stillness can be understood in the sense that in a practice such as quiet-sitting, or even in sleep,
one is nourishing one's Heaven-endowed moral potential. An example of this would be Mencius'
description of the restorative effects of the "morning qi" in his famous Ox Mountain allegory
(Mencius 6A.8). In his commentary on this passage Zhu Xi quotes the Yijing's statement (as
quoted by Cheng Hao) that the noble person (junzi (¬) uses "reverent composure to straighten
oneself internally" (jing yi zhi nei 0¹¡[).
20

In Zhu Xi's view – or more precisely, his own personal practice – the attitude of reverent
composure is the experiential common ground linking the still and active phases of the mind.
This allows him to understand the still and active phases in a non-dual manner, seeing them as
different but inseparably linked as phases of the one undivided mind.
21
Thus both quiet-sitting

20
Zhu Sishu, Mengzi 6:7b. The original text is in the Wenyan commentary on line two of
the hexagram Kun ('); see Zhu Zhouyi 1:12b. Cheng Hao's reference to the line is from Zhu
Henan 1:5b. See also Zhu and Lu Reflections: 126, where it is mistakenly translated as
"Seriousness [jing ¬] is to straighten the external life." It is correctly translated on p. 139, where
Cheng Hao quotes the full line, "Seriousness is to straighten the internal life and righteousness
[yi ¯] is to square the external life."
21
I use "non-duality" here in the sense of the yin-yang model: the difference between
them is real, but they cannot exist separately and each implies the other. This differs from the
advaita form of non-dualism found in Sankara (8th century C.E.), which is really monism (all
differences are illusory). It is closer to the later Vedantic philosopher, Ramanuja (11th century
C.E), whose philosophy is called visistadvaita, or "qualified non-dualism." See Radhakrishnan
and Moore: 506-555.


14
and active study and engagement in affairs are legitimate and necessary methods of self-
cultivation, and both provide access to the creative, transformative power of Heaven.
22


(2) Zhu Xi and Zhou Dunyi
The standard lineage of the Daoxue .' (Learning of the Way) or Cheng/Zhu |¨
school has, for 800 years, placed Zhou Dunyi at the head, followed by the brothers Cheng Hao
|Ï (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi |¦ (1033-1107), Zhang Zai ¬+ (1020-1077), and, in a
somewhat subordinate position, Shao Yong '¶ (1011-1077). Zhen Dexiu !^^ (1178-1235),
one of the leading figures in the Cheng/Zhu school after Zhu Xi's death, summarized the
prevailing view this way:
The Way of Confucius was rediscovered by Master Zhou [Dunyi], the Way of
Master Zhou was further clarified by the two Cheng brothers, and the Way of the
Chengs was brilliantly expounded by Master Zhu. (Trans. de Bary: 9)
Zhu Xi, the great systematizer of daoxue, was entirely responsible for Zhou Dunyi's
retrospective place in this lineage. Until Zhu’s reformulation of the daotong .¬ (succession of
the Way) gained the dominant position after the 12
th
century, the prevailing view had been that
the Cheng brothers were the forefathers of the Cheng/Zhu school. And this view was well-

22
This point raises an important question regarding the consistency of Zhu Xi's
philosophical position: if li, in its instantiation as human nature (xing ¹), is ontologically
distinct from qi and the dispositional/affective aspect of mind (qing ]), how can the latter be
transformed by the former? How can the mind unite and control human nature and the
dispositions (xin tong xing qing ´¹])? (This was Zhang Zai's claim and was endorsed by
Zhu Xi; Chan 1963: 517.) How can the "human mind" (renxin ´() ever come to reflect the
"moral mind" (daoxin .()?
The claim that this is a fatal flaw in Zhu Xi's system has been made Mou Zongsan and
recently reiterated by Matthew Levey, who says, "Chu Hsi's program is unable to provide the
means of attaining the kind of insight it seeks because the program operated only on the
empirical level [of "investigating things," gewu |"] and the goal was noumenal insight into the
reality of the Moral Principles of human life" (p. 247). I would argue that this view misinterprets
Zhu Xi's non-dualism (as defined above) as an ontological dualism, and fails to take into account
the claim that learning "transforms the psycho-physical endowment" (bianhua qizhi ´¦´)),
another proposition of Zhang Zai's that Zhu Xi endorsed (Chan 1963: 516). But this is a complex
issue that cannot be fully dealt with here.


15
founded. Zhou Dunyi was a very minor figure during his lifetime and for a century thereafter.
For example, according to the Song Yuan xue-an, Zhou had only two students (the Chengs),
while between them they had about thirty (Huang and Quan 11:1a, 13:1-2, 15:1-2; Tillman: 115-
119; Wilson 197-227). Nevertheless, Zhu was not the first to consider Zhou Dunyi to be the first
Confucian sage since Mencius. Zhou's writings had been preserved by the Hunan school, and it
was Hu Hong who first credited him with reviving the dao in the Song.
23

The problematic nature of Zhou Dunyi's position in this constructed lineage raised
questions even during Zhu Xi's lifetime, notably by Lu Jiuyuan and his elder brother, Lu Jiushao
¦'´, in their famous exchange of letters with Zhu Xi between 1186 and 1189.
24
While the Lu
brothers' objections were on sectarian grounds – they strongly objected to Zhou's use of Daoist
terminology and thought him unfit to be considered a Confucian sage – modern scholars have
raised serious historical issues. While the claim that the Cheng brothers briefly studied with
Zhou when they were teenagers is not disputed, it clearly fails to provide solid ground for the
claim that the Chengs "received" the core of their ideas – indeed any of their ideas – from Zhou.
Yet, this brief contact seems to be Zhu Xi's only basis for making that claim. In fact, it seems
rather that Zhou was hardly known for his ideas at all during the 11
th
century. While his writings
were preserved by students of the Chengs (probably Yang Shi, from whom they could have
passed to Li Tong and Hu Hong), it was not until Hu Hong that the claim was made that he was
the source of the dao that the Chengs later developed.
A. C. Graham, in his first book, Two Chinese Philosophers: Ch'eng Ming-tao and Ch'eng
Yi-ch'uan (1958), covers this ground quite thoroughly, arguing that the Chengs' philosophy based
on li, which Zhou did not discuss systematically, was in an entirely different league from Zhou's.
Among the points he adduces concerning the Chengs' possible philosophical debts to Zhou

23
Around the same time that Zhu Xi was developing this position, Li Yuangang ´·¬
published, in 1170, a diagram called Daozhuan zhengtong ."¯¬ (Legitimate succession of
the transmission of the Way), in which the Cheng brothers were shown as the first sages since
Mencius. This view never completely died out; even in a postface to Zhu Xi's own Yi-Luo yuan-
yuan lu |´·1+ (Record of the sources of the Cheng school), a Qing dynasty editor would
say that the two Chengs were the first to apprehend the dao after Mencius, although "their
learning was received from Master Zhou" (Zhu Yi-Luo 14:1a). See also note 28.
24
For a good analytical summary of this exchange see Tillman: ch. 9.


16
Dunyi are these (Graham 152-175):
25

• The Chengs never spoke of taiji ·|,
26
which was the major concept that Zhu Xi
adopted from Zhou; nor of the Taijitu ·|[, which was Zhou's most famous
contribution to the tradition.
27
In fact they did not discuss any of Zhou's doctrines.
• The Chengs referred to Zhou by his personal name, Maoshu ¯], yet Cheng Yi referred
to his teacher Hu Yuan v: as Master Hu (Hu xiansheng v''). Moreover, Zhou
changed his name from Dunshi ¹" to Dunyi ¹¦ in 1063 (to avoid an Imperial
taboo), sixteen years after the Chengs had studied with him. The second part of his new
name (Yi) is the same as Cheng Yi's personal name, which would have been unlikely if
Zhou had considered Cheng his disciple.
• Cheng Yi said that Cheng Hao had independently rediscovered the Way (in the Classics),
in a memorial tribute to him, and this was the prevailing view at least up to the mid-
twelfth century.
28

• Zhou was said to have received the Taijitu from the Daoist Mu Xiu ¦", who got it
through Chong Fang 1tfrom the famous Daoist priest Chen Tuan |L. Zhu Xi was,
for the most part, rather hostile towards Daoism.
29

• Zhou did not make much use of the concept of li T (principle or order), which was a

25
See also Qian 3:49-52; Zhang Delin: 31-32; and Wilson: 197-227.
26
Not counting an anonymous preface to Cheng Yi's Commentary on the Yi ¹", which
is not considered to be his.
27
Zhu claimed that the Taijii Diagram and its Explanation were esoteric teachings that
Zhou had revealed to the Cheng brothers, which they were unwilling to share with their own
students (Ching 39).
28
Cheng Yi's tribute to Cheng Hao is partially translated in de Bary: 3-4. In his 1189
Preface to the Zhongyong, Zhu mentions only the Chengs as Song revivers of the Way, not Zhou.
According to Wilson, this was because he wanted to legitimize the Cheng brothers' authority
specifically on the Four Books (Wilson: 198-199).
29
He basically ignored this reputed Daoist origin of the Diagram, even when it was
mentioned by opponents, such as Lu Jiuyuan. In an important tribute to Zhou Dunyi
("Commemoration of the Reconstruction of Master Lianxi's Library in Jiangzhou" ·!·¯J
¬''¯`¯, in Zhu Wenji 78:12b), he says that Zhou created the Diagram. For a good
discussion of Zhu's relations with Daoism see Ching: ch. 9.


17
central concept for the Chengs.
• The Chengs' immediate disciples never mentioned Zhou in their writings. No one seems
to have claimed a significant role for Zhou in the Cheng school until Hu Hong.
Given all these problems and the lack of historical evidence for any philosophical link
between Zhou and the Chengs, why did Zhu Xi raise Zhou Dunyi to such a position of
prominence in the tradition? Why did he declare that Zhou, for the first time since Mencius, had,
"without following a scholarly tradition, silently registered the substance of the Way" (Zhu Wenji
78:12b) – i.e. that he had apprehended the dao directly, without "hearing" it from any teacher
(much like a pratyeka-buddha)? Why did he place Zhou at the head of the Daoxue .'
"fellowship" in his Yi-Luo yuan-yuan lu |´·1+ (Record of the sources of the Cheng
school)?
An argument could be made that, for different reasons, Zhu could not accept either of the
Cheng brothers as independent revivers of the Way. First of all, as mentioned above, Cheng Yi
had claimed that Cheng Hao had revived the way, so that would eliminate Cheng Yi. The usual
explanation for Zhu's rejection of Cheng Hao is that he felt that Cheng's idea that "the humane
person forms one body with all things" (Chan 1963: 523, modified) was too idealistic. But could
Zhu not have argued that Cheng Yi really was the one, and that Cheng had merely been
respectful to his elder brother in giving him the credit? It was Cheng Yi, after all, to whom Zhu
was philosophically most indebted. This would have presented much less of a problem than
those listed above. So it is difficult to accept that Zhu had no choice but to nominate Zhou
Dunyi.
Since the 12
th
century, much of the discussion of Zhou Dunyi's role in the origins of
daoxue has focused on Zhu Xi's arguments with the Lu brothers over the "Explanation of the
Taiji Diagram" (Taijitu shuo). The prevailing view has been that it was Zhou's concept of taiji,
and the use he makes of it in the Taijitu shuo, that attracted Zhu to Zhou and persuaded him to
give Zhou the exalted status of sole founder of daoxue (Chan 1973). As is well-known, Zhu
interpreted taiji as li – an equation he apparently learned from Li Tong. The equation of taiji and
li – a rather forced one, as A. C. Graham cogently argues (Graham 162-165) – enabled Zhu Xi to
forge a linkage between the metaphysical realm of li and the cosmological realm of yin-yang qi,


18
which the Taijitu shuo claims is produced by taiji. This is a philosophical correlate of the
psycho-physical linkage between weifa equilibrium and yifa harmony that he had established by
means of Cheng Yi's concept of reverent composure. The key passages for this point comprise
the first half of the Taijitu shuo:
Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity (wuji er taiji =|ì·|)!
30
The
Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang; yet at the limit of activity it is still.
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.
The alternation and combination of yang and yin generate water, fire, wood,
metal, and earth. With these five [phases of] qi harmoniously arranged, the Four
Seasons proceed through them. The Five Phases are simply yin and yang; yin and
yang are simply the Supreme Polarity; the Supreme Polarity is fundamentally
Non-polar. [Yet] in the generation of the Five Phases, each one has its nature.
31

The reality of the Non-polar and the essence of the Two [Modes] and Five
[Phases] mysteriously combine and coalesce. "The Way of Qian ¹ becomes the
male; the Way of Kun ' becomes the female;"
32
the two qi stimulate each other,

30
Readers are probably familiar with the more common translations of this non-sentence,
including "The Ultimate of Non-being and also the Great Ultimate" (Chan 1963: 463), "The
Ultimateless! And yet also the Supreme Ultimate!" (Derk Bodde's translation in Fung: 435), and
"It is the ultimate of nothing which is the Supreme Ultimate" (Graham: 156). My translation is
closest to Joseph Needham's, "That which has no pole and yet (itself) the Supreme Pole"
(Needham: 460). Needham, however, concretizes the two terms in such a way as to miss the
point that they refer to patterns or principles, not things. While Zhou Dunyi is ambivalent, or
rather noncommittal, on this distinction, Zhu Xi is very clear. See the following section for my
reasons for translating taiji as Supreme Polarity. See also Thompson 1996: 156-158, 163, 169.
31
In other words: seen as a whole system, the Five Phases are based on the yin-yang
polarity; the yin-yang polarity is the Supreme Polarity; and the Supreme Polarity is
fundamentally Non-polar. However, taken individually as temporal phases, the Five Phases each
have their own natures (as do yin and yang).
32
Yijing, Xici A.1.4 (Zhu Zhouyi 3:1b). Qian and Kun are the first two hexagrams,
symbolizing pure yang and pure yin, or Heaven and Earth, respectively.


19
transforming and generating the myriad things.
33
The myriad things generate and
regenerate, alternating and transforming without end.
34

Taiji here is the generative source of the two modes of qi (yin and yang), the Five Phases
(wu-xing ¯·), and the myriad things (wan-wu $"). As Zhu Xi explains it, this means that
taiji, as the fundamental order (li) of the cosmos as a whole, includes the principle of
activity/stillness and is fully contained in every particular thing composed of qi (Zhou Lianxi ji
1:7b).
35

This claim – that taiji links the metaphysics of li with the cosmology of yin-yang qi – is
the reason given by Wing-tsit Chan for Zhou Dunyi's position in Zhu Xi's version of the daotong
(Chan 1973/1987: 125-127). But I would suggest that there was more to it than that. Given the
centrality of the terms "activity" (dong |) and "stillness" (jing [) in the problem of self-
cultivation over which Zhu Xi "agonized for over a decade" (Metzger: 93), I propose that we
look at those terms in both the Taijitu shuo and Zhou Dunyi's other major work, the Tongshu ´
¯, and see where they lead us.
36


(3) Taiji ·| ·| ·| ·| and li T TT T in light of Zhou Dunyi's thought
However strong the Daoist influence may have been on Zhou Dunyi, it is clear that his
interpretation of the Diagram is basically Confucian, especially in the latter parts, where it places
human beings at the center or apex of the natural world. In fact, if we can accept that the

33
Paraphrasing Yijing, Tuan ´ commentary to hexagram 31 (Xian !): "The two qi
stimulate and respond in mutual influence, the male going beneath the female.... Heaven and
Earth are stimulated and the myriad things are transformed and generated" (Zhu Zhouyi 2:1a-b).
34
Cf. Xici A.5.6, "Generation and regeneration are what is meant by yi ¹ (change)"
(Zhu Zhouyi 3:6a).
35
In a somewhat different formulation, Zhu says, "Stillness is the substance (ti) of taiji
and activity is the function (yong) of taiji (Zhu Yulei 94:8a; Levey 1991: 157).
36
Zhu says that the Tongshu (Penetrating Writing, or Penetrating the Yi) and the shorter
Taijitu shuo "complement each other," and that "each part of the Tongshu explains the
Explanation of the [Diagram of the] Supreme Polarity" (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:1a, 4a). Accordingly,
throughout his commentaries and discussions on the two texts he uses this as a hermeneutic
principle; i.e. he assumes their consistency and uses them to clarify each other. As John
Henderson has shown, this is a common strategy employed by commentators on "canonical"


20
Diagram itself was used by Daoist practitioners prior to or during Zhou's lifetime, it is fair to say
that he literally turned their interpretation on its head by reading the Diagram top-down rather
than bottom-up. Nevertheless, we are still left with the question: What is the meaning of the
enigmatic opening line, "Wuji er taiji =|ì·|"? The two key terms had been primarily (taiji)
or exclusively (wuji) Daoist terms until Zhou's Explanation. Thus for our purposes we must
address two questions: how did Zhou Dunyi interpret them and how did Zhu Xi. I will deal here
with both, bearing in mind that since Zhu's interpretations are much more accessible than Zhou's
it may be difficult to disentangle them. Nevertheless, I shall argue that wuji and taiji are best
translated as "Non-polar(ity)" and "Supreme Polarity" for both Zhou and Zhu. Without wishing
to beg the question, I will continue to use these translations here.
37

Of the two key terms, wuji had the stronger and more exclusively Daoist associations,
appearing in the classical Daoist texts, Laozi (¬ (chapter 28), Zhuangzi ¯¬(chapter 6), and
Liezi ¹¬ (chapter 5), where it basically means "the unlimited," or "the infinite." In later
Daoist texts it came to denote a state of primordial chaos, prior to the differentiation of yin and
yang, and sometimes equivalent to dao .. This more developed sense is consistent with its
usage in Laozi 28,
38
and with the more general sense of wu = in Laozi as the state of
undifferentiation (perhaps undifferentiated qi) that precedes the existence (you T, e.g. ch. 40) of
discrete things and/or is interdependent with it (ch. 2).
Taiji was found in several classical texts, mostly but not exclusively Daoist. For the
Song Neo-Confucians, the locus classicus of taiji was the Appended Remarks (Xici ?=), or
Great Treatise (Dazhuan "), of the Yijing: "In change there is Taiji, which generates the Two
Modes [yin and yang] ¹T·|,`'E'" (A.11.5). Taiji here is the source of the yin-yang
principle of bipolarity, and is contained or inherent in the universal process of change and
transformation.

texts (Henderson chs. 4-5).
37
The following three paragraphs are based primarily on Robinet and are adapted from
my section on Zhou Dunyi in Sources of Chinese Tradition, 2
nd
ed. (Adler 1999).
38
"If you are a model to the empire / Then the constant virtue will not be wanting / And
you will return to the infinite" (trans. Lau: 43).


21
But the term was much more prominent and nuanced in Daoism than in Confucianism.
Taiji was the name of one of the Daoist heavens, and thus was prefixed to the names of many
Daoist immortals, or divinities, and to the titles of the texts attributed to them. It was sometimes
identified with Taiyi ·¯, the Supreme One (a Daoist divinity), and with the pole star of the
Northern Dipper. It carried connotations of a turning point in a cycle, an end point before a
reversal, and a pivot between bipolar processes. It became a standard part of Daoist cosmogonic
schemes, where it usually denoted a stage of chaos later than wuji, a stage or state in which yin
and yang have differentiated but have not yet become manifest. It thus represented a "complex
unity," or the unity of potential multiplicity. In Daoist neidan !" meditation, or physiological
alchemy, it represented the energetic potential to reverse the normal process of aging by
cultivating within one's body the spark of the primordial qi, thereby "returning" to the primordial,
creative state of chaos from which the cosmos evolved. The Taiji Diagram in Daoist circles,
when read from the bottom upwards, was originally a schematic representation of this process of
"returning to wuji" (Laozi 28), i.e. returning to the "non-polar," undifferentiated state (Berling; C.
Chang: 165-167).
Thus, in the major Confucian source of the term taiji (the Xici), and in the whole complex
of Daoist ideas surrounding both wuji and taiji, the notion of polarity, based of course on the
word ji | (the core meaning of which is the ridgepole of a house), is quite prominent. There is
also a Confucian correlate to the Daoist symbolism of the pole star -- Analects 2.1 -- which
remains in place while the other stars circle around it. Even in the colloquial usage of ji as
"very" or "ultimate," the idea of the end point or extremity in a cyclical (or alternating) process
carries at least the potential connotation of polarity.
39
Since the yin-yang model does not shape
our thinking as much as it did the Song Confucians', we may be mistaken in interpreting such
ideas as "end point" and "extreme" according to a linear model.
How does an interpretation of wuji and taiji in terms of polarity help us to make sense of
Zhou Dunyi's thought? The fact that the second sentence of the Taijitu shuo -- where one would
expect there to be a clarification of the problematic opening exclamation – immediately

39
Joseph Needham says that a ji is "a polar or focal point on a boundary" (Needham:
464).


22
discusses the bipolar relationship of activity and stillness ("The Supreme Polarity in activity
generates yang; yet at the limit of activity it is still …" ) certainly makes sense with this model.
In other words, the model makes it clear in what way the second sentence actually explains the
first. None of the other English translations I have seen clarifies the logical connection between
the two.
A few sentences later we read, "The Five Phases are simply yin and yang; yin and yang
are simply the Supreme Polarity; the Supreme Polarity is fundamentally non-polar." Just as the
Five Phases are a further developmental stage or unfolding of yin and yang, so too yin and yang
are the natural expression of bipolarity, and bipolarity itself is an integral, unified concept. Here
we have (1) a direct equation of yin and yang with taiji and (2) the further implication that the
"dual" nature of taiji / bipolarity is somehow also non-dual.
This last observation leads to a crucial point for Zhu Xi. With Zhu, in contrast to Zhou,
we have a much larger written corpus and a thoroughly worked-out system in which taiji plays a
central role, in part through its identification with li (order, principle).
40
My hypothesis, in brief,
is that Zhu Xi understood taiji to be the most fundamental cosmic ordering principle, which is, to
be specific, the principle of yin-yang polarity. That is, the simplest, most basic ordering
principle in the Chinese cosmos is the differentiation of unity into bipolarity (not duality). Wuji
er taiji, then, means that this most fundamental principle, bipolarity – despite its evident
"twoness" and its role as the ultimate source of multiplicity – is itself, as a rational ordering
principle, essentially undifferentiated. And since any concrete instance of differentiation or
polarity embodies this integral, non-polar principle, the two – non-polarity and ultimate polarity
– themselves have a non-dual relationship. Hence every concrete thing embodies both polarity
(as its order or pattern) and non-polarity (as the principle of that order), or differentiation and
undifferentiation, or multiplicity and unity.
What I am suggesting is that the solution to at least some of the difficulty of Neo-
Confucian metaphysics – especially in the ways in which it is commonly translated into English

40
Although Yu Yamanoi argues that taiji is "an alien element in Chu Hsi's theoretical
system" (Yu: 86), I take my argument here to be a refutation of his.


23
– may be as simple and obvious as the concept of yin and yang.
41
Let us now check this
hypothesis by examining some of Zhu's comments on the key terms.
42
First, his commentary on
the enigmatic opening sentence of the Taijitu shuo:
The operation of Heaven above has neither sound nor smell,"
43
and yet it is the
pivot (shuniu |-) of the actual process of creation and the basis of the
classification of things. Thus it says, "Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity!" It is
not that there is non-polarity outside of the supreme polarity. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:5a)
The word "pivot" is important here, especially given its prominent location in the first
sentence of Zhu's published commentary on the Taijitu shuo. "Shu" is also the word used by
Zhuangzi, in chapter 2 of his work, where he refers to "the axis of dao" (daoshu .|), the
central point where “'this' and 'that' no longer find their opposites" (Watson: 40; Wang: 10).
Zhu's first sentence here means that the creative principle and ground of being – what he
elsewhere calls the "principle of Heaven" or "natural principle" (tianli) – is characterless or
undifferentiated and yet contains within it the potential for change and differentiation. This is
the paradox that Zhou attempts to express with the enigmatic "Wuji er taiji."
44

A more explicit statement is found in a conversation on the topic of the next few
sentences of the Taijitu shuo (from "Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang" to "Two Modes
are thereby established"):

41
I was earlier led to a similar observation by finding that Zhu Xi's commentary on the
Yijing is almost entirely based on his attempt to retrieve the yin-yang meanings of the original
lines of the hexagrams, which had for centuries been buried under multiple layers of
numerological and socio-ethical interpretations. I found that Zhu Xi, the moralistic and devoted
follower of Cheng Yi, had harshly criticized Cheng for ignoring this basic level of meaning in
the Yi and imposing his own – albeit entirely excellent and praiseworthy – socio-ethical
meanings on the text. See Smith et. al., ch. 6.
42
These comments are drawn both from his published commentaries on Zhou's two main
texts and from his Classified Conversations (Zhuzi yulei). Both are found, compiled together, in
Zhang Boxing's Zhou Lianxi xiansheng quanji (Zhou Lianxi ji). Italicized portions are, of course,
my emphases.
43
Zhongyong ¹m33 (last line), quoting Shijing .º, no. 235.
44
One might draw an analogy here with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic paradox of God as
the unmoved mover, or uncreated creator. Philosophically, this again raises the potential fatal
flaw in Zhu Xi's system mentioned above (note 22).


24
Within Heaven and Earth, there is only the principle of activity and stillness, in an
endless cycle; there is absolutely nothing else. This is called change. And since
there is activity and stillness, there is necessarily the principle of activity and
stillness. This is called the Supreme Polarity. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b)
The following passage from Zhu's commentary on a line in the first section of the
Tongshu -- "The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way" (quoted from Yijing, Xici A.5.1) -
- combined with two comments from his Classified Conversations (Zhuzi yulei) on the same line,
lead to the same conclusion:
"Yin and yang" are qi, that which is within form [i.e. physical]. That by which
there is "alternation of yin and yang" is order/principle (li), which is above form
[i.e. metaphysical]. "The Way" means the same as order/principle (li). (Zhou
Lianxi ji 5:3a)
Here the commentary defines li (not taiji) as bipolarity, and then equates dao with li. But in
conversation with his students Zhu brings taiji into the equation:
"The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way" is the Supreme Polarity.
45

Question on "The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way": Is this Supreme
Polarity? Reply: Yin and yang are simply yin and yang. The Way is Supreme
Polarity – that by which there is alternation of yin and yang.
46

In these passages, taiji is clearly defined as the principle/pattern of activity and stillness
or yin and yang, or that by which (suoyi ¹¡) this alternation occurs. Finally, here is Zhu's
published comment on the following line from section 22 of the Tongshu:
[Zhou:] The two [modes of] qi and the Five Phases transform and generate the
myriad things. The five are the differentia (shu /) and the two are the actualities
(shi "); the two are fundamentally one. Thus the many are one, and the one
actuality is divided into the many. Each one of the many is correct; the small and
the large are distinct.

45
A comment by Zhu from Zhuzi yulei, appended to his commentary on the Tongshu,
where the line from the Xici is quoted (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:5b).
46
A question and answer from Zhuzi yulei, appended to Zhu's commentary on the Taijitu


25
[Zhu:] ... "The two [modes of] qi and the Five Phases" are that by which Heaven bestows
the myriad things and generates them. From the product (mo ×) we can deduce the
origin (ben ¨); thus the differentiation of the Five Phases is the actuality of the two qi,
and the actuality of the two qi in turn is based on the polarity of the one order (yili zhi ji
T.|). (Zhou Lianxi ji 6:11a)
47

In the last sentence, it would make no sense at all to translate ji | as "ultimate," "extremity," or
some such. The actuality (shi ") of the two qi is clearly based on the principle of bipolarity, not
on some vague ultimacy, all-inclusiveness, or finality.
48

To conclude thus far: I have tried to show that the best way to interpret wuji and taiji in
both Zhou Dunyi's and Zhu Xi's writings is by means of a model of polarity. The model is based
on the literal or original meaning of the word ji | (the ridgepole of a roof), while the argument
is based on the usage of the terms by both figures. Furthermore, this interpretation clarifies Zhu
Xi's central concept of li, which in the most general sense is order per se, and in more specific
senses refers to particular patterns or principles. The most basic of these principles is that of
yin/yang bipolarity, called "Supreme Polarity" (or polarity per se),
49
which in its simplest
manifestation takes form as activity and stillness (dong-jing), as in Zhou's philosophical
cosmogony.
If Zhu Xi had simply wanted to use taiji to express the idea of the ultimate reality, he
could easily have limited himself to the aforementioned line from the Xici appendix of the Yijing

shuo (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:8a).
47
On translating li as "order" see above, note 7.
48
Similarly, what Zhu means by "the differentiation of the Five Phases is the actuality of
the two qi" refers to the "young" (shao ") and "mature" (tai ·or lao () phases of of yin and
yang, yielding four permutations corresponding to four of the five phases, with earth being the
fifth, perfectly balanced one:
| yang | yin |
| fire | water |
mature | |earth | |
| wood | metal |
young | | |

49
"Ultimate Polarity" would be a better expression, since what it really means is polarity
per se. But this might be confusing, since ji is more commonly translated as "ultimate."


26
("In change there is taiji, which generates the Two Modes"), whose Confucian authority was
unquestioned (even if Confucius himself did not write it, as Ouyang Xiu ||" had argued). In
this way he could have avoided the unpleasantness of relying so strongly on Zhou Dunyi, with
his dubious Daoist connections. As we have seen above, taiji's linking function between the
metaphysics of li and the cosmology of yin and yang was an important factor. But it only works
when taiji is equated with li, and that is a real stretch, given the context of the Taijitu shuo,
where it is certainly more reasonable to interpret taiji as undifferentiated qi, as Zheng Xuan ¯÷
(127-200) and Liu Mu '1 (11
th
century) had done (Graham: 155, 163). Given Zhu Xi's
ingenuity in creatively interpreting texts,
50
it is not difficult to imagine that he could have found
some way of linking metaphysics and cosmology that would have spared him the difficulties
Zhou Dunyi presented – had that been his only reason for focusing on Zhou.
I am therefore proposing that the primary reason why Zhu could not do without Zhou was
Zhou's elaboration of polarity in terms of the unquestionably Daoist concept of wuji; that it was
the "interpenetrating" relationship of wuji and taiji, and more importantly the extension of that
model to activity and stillness, that helped him work out the major spiritual-intellectual crisis of
his career; and that this was the primary reason for Zhou Dunyi's elevation to the position Zhu Xi
gave him.

Interpenetration
The relationship between activity and stillness is outlined by Zhou Dunyi in the first
section of the Taijitu shuo and in section 16 of the Tongshu:
Taijitu shuo:
Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity (wuji er taiji)! Supreme Polarity in
activity generates yang; yet at the limit of activity it is still. 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. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:2a)

50
The prime example, of course, is his "supplement" to chapter 5 of the Daxue. See
Gardner: 37, 55-56, 104-105.


27
Tongshu 16: Activity and Stillness (dong-jing)
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. [Zhu's comment: There
is stillness within activity, and activity within stillness.] For while things do not [inter-]
penetrate (tong ´; i.e. they are limited by their physical forms) spirit subtly [penetrates]
the myriad things.
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
endless! [Zhu's comment: Substance is fundamental and unitary; hence
"undifferentiated." Function is dispersed and differentiated; hence "extensive." The
succession of activity and stillness is like an endless revolution. This continuity refers to
(the relationship of) substance and function. This section clarifies the ideas of the
Diagram, which should be consulted]. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:33b-34b)
The crucial idea for Zhu Xi is that the relationship of activity and stillness is not only
temporal alternation, but also metaphysical interpenetration. That is, the nature of activity
includes stillness and vice versa. Thus in other comments Zhu says:
On Taijitu shuo:
[Wuji er taiji:] Calling it "non-polar" correctly clarifies (zheng ¯) its non-spatial
form. It exists prior to things, and yet at no time is it not established after the
existence of things. It exists outside of yin-yang, and yet at no time does it not
operate within things. It penetrates and connects the "complete substance;" there
is nothing in which it does not exist. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:5b)
"The activity of Supreme Polarity produces yang" does not mean that after there
is activity then yang is produced. Rather, once there is activity, this is classified
as yang; and once there is stillness, this is classified as yin. The original ground
(chu ben ¹¨) of the yang produced by activity is stillness. Likewise, for


28
stillness there must be activity. This is what is meant by "activity and stillness
without end." (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b)
Within the stillness of yin is the basis of yang itself; within the activity of yang is
the basis of yin itself. This is because activity necessarily comes from stillness,
which is based in yin; and stillness necessarily comes from activity, which is
based in yang. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b)
The material of water is yin, yet its nature is based in yang. The material of fire is
yang, yet its nature is based in yin. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:12a)
[On Tongshu 16:]
Question: Things are limited by having physical form. But since human beings
have stillness in activity and activity in stillness, how can we say that they are like
the myriad things? Reply: Human beings are certainly active within stillness and
still within activity, yet they are still called things. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:34b)
"Being active and yet not active, still and yet not still, does not mean that [spirit]
is neither active nor still" refers to the metaphysical order (xing'er shang zhi li )
ì.T). This order is spiritual and unfathomable. When it is active, it is
simultaneously still. Therefore [Zhou] says "no activity." When it is still, it is
simultaneously active. Therefore [Zhou] says "no stillness." Within stillness
there is activity, and within activity there is stillness. When still it is capable of
activity, and when active it is capable of stillness. Within yang there is yin, and
within yin there is yang. The permutations are inexhaustible. (Zhou Lianxi ji
5:35a)
The idea of metaphysical interpenetration is a prominent doctrine in Huayan Buddhism,
and it is quite possible that Zhu Xi was aware of it. The key Buddhist term is wu-ai =í, or
"non-obstruction;" the doctrines are li-shi wu-ai T"=í (the non-obstruction of principle and
phenomenon) and shi-shi wu-ai ""=í (the non-obstruction of phenomenon and
phenomenon) (Gimello: 454-510; G. Chang: 141-171, 207-223). This means that since all
phenomena are empty of "own-being," therefore each one fully manifests the ultimate principle
(namely emptiness), and thus each thing fully contains the reality of every other thing (the


29
principle of emptiness); hence their mutual "non-obstruction." The formal structure of this
argument is basically the same as the argument I have outlined here for the interpenetration of
activity and stillness.
Zhu Xi uses basically the same terminology of "non-obstruction" (wu fang-ai =/í) in
reference to the relationship between wuji and taiji:
"Non-polar, yet Supreme Polarity" explains existence [polarity or differentiation]
within non-existence [non-polarity or undifferentiation]. If you can truly see it, it
explains existence and non-existence, or vice versa, neither obstructing the other
(dou wu fang-ai ¶=/í) (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:6a)
Zhu's use of the term "non-obstruction" in this context is very close to the Buddhist concept, and
supports my contention that metaphysical interpenetration is the key to understanding the
importance of wuji and taiji in his system.

For Zhu Xi, the practice of self-cultivation was the purpose of his entire philosophical
and educational system. Everything in it should be understood in that light. And he was never
satisfied until he could establish a solid philosophical grounding for that practice. Accordingly,
Zhu found in Zhou Dunyi's discussions of the interpenetration of activity and stillness, based on
the interpenetration of wuji and taiji, exactly the underpinning he needed for the methodology of
self-cultivation that he worked out through his struggle with the problem of equilibrium and
harmony. His statement in the 1169 letter to the gentlemen of Hunan, "If we observe the state
after the feelings are aroused, what is contained in the state before the feelings are aroused can
surely be understood in silence" (quoted above) is an example of this praxis that required a
supporting theoria – preferably a cosmological theory, since like all Confucians he believed that
their ethics and moral psychology were grounded in the natural world. What he found in Zhou's
Taijitu shuo and Tongshu fit that bill.
To conclude, it is useful to look at Zhu's comments on section 20 of the Tongshu, which
is entitled "Learning to be a Sage" (shengxue ¬'), where he integrates Cheng Yi's concept of
"reverent composure" (jing ¬) with Zhou's concept of activity and stillness. The linchpin here is
Zhou's notion of "unity" ¹yi ) which Zhu relates to Cheng Yi's characterization of jing as a


30
state of mind that "emphasizes unity" (Graham: 68-70). Zhu Xi further applies Cheng Yi's
concept of jing to Zhou Dunyi's teaching on stillness in such a way as to minimize the latter's
Daoist and Buddhist implications. The text reads:
[Someone asked:] "Can Sagehood be learned?"
Reply: It can.
"Are there essentials (yao ¨)?"
Reply: There are.
"I beg to hear them."
Reply: To be unified (yi ) is essential. To be unified is to have no desire.
Without desire one is vacuous when still (jing xu [!) and direct in activity
(dong zhi |¯). Being vacuous when still, one will be clear (ming ¹); being
clear one will be penetrating (tong ´). Being direct in activity one will be
impartial (gong ¨); being impartial one will be all-embracing (pu '). Being
clear and penetrating, impartial and all-embracing, one is almost [a Sage]. (Zhou
Lianxi ji 5:38b)
51

Zhu Xi claims that what Zhou Dunyi meant here by "desirelessness" ¹wuyu =^)is the
same as what Cheng Yi meant by jing ¬or reverent composure -- thus redefining in Confucian
terms a proposition with obvious Buddhist resonances -- because both terms were defined in
terms of unity or unification.
52
Zhu discusses two senses of "unity" here. In metaphysical terms,
he identifies unity with the Supreme Polarity inherent in the mind.
53
In terms of self-cultivation,

51
Note the similarity of the term "direct in activity" (dong zhi |¯) to the important
term in section 14 of the Platform Sutra, "direct mind" (zhi xin ¯() (Yampolsky: 136, where it
is translated as "straightforward mind").
52
Although Zhu Xi, like the Buddhists, acknowledged the potential for evil (or suffering)
in human desire (renyu ´^), he taught that desires should be not eliminated but selectively
cultivated and trained to accord with the Way. Only selfish desires (siyu |^) should be
eliminated. The basic Buddhist approach was to extinguish desire or "thirst" (tanha).
53
In his published commentary on the first line of section 20 he says, "the truth of the
Non-Polar (wuji) and the origin of the Two Modes and the Four Images are not external to this
mind, and in the realm of daily functioning itself there is no separation from the power to use
them" (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:39a). In his commentary on the first line of section 22 of the Tongshu he


31
he says that both Zhou and Cheng interpret "unity" of mind as a "clear-sighted unity, not a
muddle-headed unity," and not "lumping everything together" (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:39b). It is
neither concentration on one thing to the exclusion of all else, nor concentration on unity and
neglect of diversity. Both the one and the many are preserved.
Zhu Xi considered the state of mind described by the terms "unity" and "reverent
composure" to be the spiritual basis of self-cultivation, including intellectual cultivation
(investigating things and extending knowledge), moral cultivation (rectifying the mind), and
moral activity (in the family, community, and state). It is a state of composure that remains
unchanged by external stimuli and yet enables one to respond to them -- a state of fluid
responsiveness.
54
This condition is independent of the mind's content or activity at any particular
moment. In the absence of stimuli the mind characterized by reverent composure is equable and
poised; when stimulated it responds immediately, because it is not preoccupied with private
motivations or with fixed concentration. Since it is not preoccupied with anything it cannot be
disturbed. Jing provides an experiential, unchanging ground or orientation for mental activity.
"Vacuous when still" [in Tongshu 20, above] means the mind is like a clear mirror
or still water. There is not the slightest bit of selfish desire added to it. Thus in its
activity everything flows out along with Heavenly principle, and there is not the
slightest selfish desire to disturb it. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:40a)
55

If things [i.e. incoming stimuli] come and get the better of it [the mind], then it is
full. If it is full, it will be obscured; if obscured then blocked. Directness in
activity is simply having absolutely no obstruction in its activity. (Zhou Lianxi ji
5:40a)
56

Thus the quality of the mind in its still phase determines the quality of its activity -- in
particular its capacity for "directness in activity" or immediate, intuitive response to changing
events. The purpose of "emphasizing stillness" is to "nourish activity" (Zhu Yulei 71:2855). In

says, "Were it not for the perfect intelligence of the Supreme Polarity of the human mind, how
would one be able to discern it?" (Zhou Lianxi ji 6:1b).
54
For a discussion of responsiveness in Neo-Confucian discourse, see Adler 1998.
55
This is a statement by a student to Zhu Xi, with which he agrees.
56
This is part of Zhu Xi's response to the above statement.


32
this way Zhu Xi, with the help of Cheng Yi, "saves" Zhou Dunyi from Daoist and Buddhist
quietism and establishes a Confucian quietism that fundamentally entails activity. This was a
middle ground between the "quietistic" application of Zhou's thought he had learned from his
teacher, Li Tong, and the emphasis on activity and the active mind that was taught by the Hunan
school. This was the solution to his spiritual crisis, and it may be the best explanation for his
curious appropriation of Zhou Dunyi and for the use he made of Zhou's ideas – in particular the
concept of polarity as the key to understanding taiji.


33
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Confucian Anthology. Trans. Wing-tsit Chan. New York: Columbia University Press, 1967.

2 Zhou's writings had been preserved by Hu Hong 6 c (1106-1161), Zhang Shi's teacher. But the fact that Zhu began writing his commentaries on Zhou Dunyi's major works immediately after he came to the resolution of his crisis – after many conversations with Zhang Shi – has not, to my knowledge, been interpreted as anything more than coincidence.3 The second item – specifically the question why Zhu Xi declared Zhou Dunyi to be the first sage of the Song -- is a puzzle that has not, in my estimation, been fully solved.4 The third item (the interpretation of taiji and li) is indeed a hoary one, but I was led back to it by the first two, which provide the context for a useful new way of understanding these fundamental terms in Zhu Xi's philosophy. (1) Zhu Xi's "spiritual crisis"5 The critical turning point in the development of Zhu Xi's philosophy was his resolution of a problem that had occupied him from about 1158 to 1169, a problem that fundamentally concerned the methodology of self-cultivation but that necessitated a philosophical solution.6

theoretical context; and (3) the Tongshu E , a text in forty short sections commenting on the Yijing 3g (Scripture of Change), certain concepts from the Zhongyong (Centrality and Commonality), and various other topics. Tongshu literally means something like "Penetrating Writing," but Zhu Xi claimed that the original title was Yi tongshu E (Penetrating writing on the Yijing), and so it is customarily given as "Penetrating the Yi." See Adler 1999. 3 Zhu Xi published an early version (no longer extant) of his commentary on the Tongshu in 1166. In the third month of 1169 he had the "realization" (wu s ) of the solution to the crisis (see next section), and immediately proceeded to write and publish a commentary on the Taijitu and a revision of his commentary on the Tongshu, followed a few months later by a commentary on the Taijitu shuo. He continued working on Zhou's texts until 1187. See Zhang Boxing's note to Zhu's preface to the Tongshu in Zhang 5:2a (hereafter cited as Zhou Lianxi ji <%–$~L ), and Shu 1:406-412. 4 A. C. Graham discussed the puzzling nature of Zhu's choice in his 1958 book, Two Chinese Philosophers: Ch'eng Ming-tao and Ch'eng Yi-ch'uan. Wing-tsit Chan offered a solution, which I think is inadequate for reasons that will be developed here, in his 1973 article, "Chu Hsi's Completion of Neo-Confucianism." 5 The term "spiritual" here should not be construed as it generally has been in the Western religous and philosophical traditions, implying a categorical distinction from a "physical/material" realm. Confucian "spirit" (shen /2 ) should be understood as a form of qi ! (psycho-physical stuff), which comprehends the spectrum of matter-energy-spirit. See Adler 2004. 6 This has been fully discussed by Qian 2:123-182; Metzger: 93-99; Thompson 1985: 90-

3 Thomas Metzger offers an illuminating discussion of the philosophical and spiritual context of this issue in his 1977 book, Escape from Predicament: Neo-Confucianism and China's Evolving Political Culture. The issue arises from Neo-Confucian theories of mind, which Metzger describes in terms of what he calls "the naturally given phases of the mind." Briefly, these phases are: 1. "total stillness," in which the mind has access to the "good cosmic force" represented by "Heaven" (tian ); it is the aspect of mind that Zhu Xi calls the "moral mind" (daoxin F' ); or it is the principle (li ) ) of the mind, which is human nature (xing ß ).7 2. "sensation of an outer object" or stimulus (gan ), necessarily preceding the following; );8

3. "imminent issuance," i.e. the point at which feelings and other responses to stimuli are "not yet expressed" (weifa ,P ) and are in perfect "equilibrium" (zhong

4. "incipient issuance," or what I have elsewhere called simply "incipience" (ji R) (Smith et. al.: 190-199; Adler 1998). 5. "accomplished issuance," i.e. the "already expressed" (yifa ˘,P) feelings and other mental activities, which should be but are not necessarily in "harmony" (he ‘ ) with the still, unexpressed phases of the mind (Metzger: 87). Zhu Xi frequently used terminology from the Xici 4?E appendix of the Yijing 3g to 118; Chen Lai 106-133; Levey 1991: 86-144; Tillman: 59-64; and Taylor 1997: 46-56. 7 An anonymous reviewer has suggested that "principles are inherently linguistic and fit into logical arguments, whereas li are never used in this fashion," and that "pattern" is a better translation of li. I agree that "pattern" conveys some of the Cheng/Zhu (Cheng Yi / Zhu Xi) sense of li, but I think it fails to capture its depth of meaning. For example, "the pattern of a boat" suggests its shape and structure, but the li of a boat is what makes it a boat (Kim 26). It is therefore closer (but not identical) to the Aristotelian concept of "form" (what that concept lacks is the sense of li as dynamic; see Levey 1991: 146-189). When li is used as a comprehensive term, as in Cheng Yi's claim, "Li is unitary, its manifestations are multiple" (li yi fen shu ) !^ ; Chan 1963: 550), "order" often works as a translation, conveying the sense of "the order of things," or "the natural order" (for tianli ) ) and "the moral order" (for daoli F') ). Zhu Xi's concept of li is metaphysical in the sense that it signifies the abstract order – or better yet, the ordering – of things, and is therefore categorically distinct from the qi-based existence of the things themselves. Yet li itself has no existence apart from things, unlike Plato's ideal forms. 8 These terms and those in phase 5 come from Zhongyong (Centrality and

1 (Chan 1963: 98). . on the individual psycho-physical level. or.12 Commonality). in its "spiritual" mode as an oracle. how to connect the substance of mind (phases 1-3) with its functioning (phases 4-5). "The mystery of the human mind.11 For someone as ultimately to transform or "pacify (balance) the world" (ping tianxia G conscious as Zhu Xi of the difficulty of even this initial step in the process of gaining access to the inborn moral nature." 12 These opposing forces would include. Zhu Xi comments on it. 9 Two of the "eight steps" of the Daxue ß L (Higher Learning) (Chan 1963: 86-87). "how to make the principle of zhong [equilibrium] manifest in outer actions" (Metzger: 94). gan er sui tong" –' Æ ' 5 L_E ("quiet and inactive. it was a problem whose solution was critical to his entire project." or the principle of being human. as Zhu Xi put it. given the opposing forces he saw in his day. I am grateful to one of the reviewers for the idea of ping as "balancing. in its stillness and activity.10 That is: how to ensure that one's experienced mental functioning and one's moral activity (de xing > ) will authentically (cheng @t) reflect the goodness that is inherent in the human mind in the form of its "principle. to put into effect a humane government (ren zheng ).4 discuss the phases of mind. The problem of self-cultivation in terms of this schema – or more specifically the problem of "rectifying the mind" (zheng xin !7 ) and "making one's intentions authentic" (cheng yi @t ª )9 – is simply "how to bridge the phases" (Metzger: 90). the clouding effect of one's psycho-physical nature (qizhi zhi xing ! B ß ). 11 Daxue 1. Although the referent in the text is the Zhouyi itself.10. Under these headings. This is obviously the crux of the problem of self-cultivation. phase 1 is jiran budong and phases 2-5 are gan er sui tong. we can say that phases 1-3 are the "substance" (ti P¤ ) of mind and phases 4-5 are its "functioning" (yong *ü). despite the best efforts of his predecessors.4: "jiran budong. in that one's Heavenendowed moral potential (de ) is the creative power to transform oneself into a sage and ). the failure during the Northern Song. especially Xici A. when stimulated it then penetrates") (Zhu Wenji 67:3b. on the political level. otherwise known as human nature (ren xing ß ). Alternatively. 10 Quoting Zhu Xi from Qian 1971 2:152. and on the social level the insidious popularity of Buddhism and Daoism during the Song. Zhu Zhouyi 3:12b). is also like this" (Zhu Zhouyi 3:13a).

Cheng Yi / Mł (10331107). both of which were extremely popular among Song literati. The diagram begins with dong and jing.13 The relationship of activity and stillness was a central cosmological and epistemological problem in Song Neo-Confucianism. In one of his diagrams he illustrates the evolution of stillness and activity into eight subdivisions. and many of their contemporaries. They are. repeatedly accused the Buddhists of selfishness in leaving behind social and familial relationships." he said. For Zhu Xi. with its obvious parallels to Mencian thought. The diagram is called the Jingshi yan yi tu 3g Œ>! Œ . It was precisely in this problematic space between traditional Confucian "activism" and Buddhist/Daoist "quietism" that Zhu Xi had to work out the solution to his spiritual crisis. which in turn each divide into "young" and "mature" phases that clearly parallel the Eight Trigrams (Huang and Quan 10:21b). It is also found in the Xingli daquan shu ß) ß < (Great Compendium on Nature and Principle). they are essentially wrong because one simply cannot deny one's relationships even if one flees from Shao Yong F L¡ (1011-1077) had also emphasized the stillness/activity polarity. yin." Huangji jingshi shu . which unfold into yang. See Birdwhistell:240 and Wu:17. with ramifications involving the methodology of self-cultivation and the self-definition of Confucianism vis-à-vis Buddhism and Daoism. Song Confucian objections to Buddhism. "activity and stillness" are the key terms. where the diagram originally appeared (although it is missing from the Sibu beiyao edition). the primary cosmological manifestations of the yin-yang LDLQpolarity. Even though their teachings may be "lofty and profound. for example. 13 . section 2). they were repelled by Buddhism's alleged socio-ethical failings. had both ethical and metaphysical grounds. While some were attracted by the Buddhist notion of self-perfection based on inherent Buddha-nature. firm (gang / ) and yielding (rou ¤ ). which might be translated as the "The Huangji jingshi's diagram of the evolution of the Yi. although often based on caricatures of Buddhist thought. "stillness" (jing M0 and its associated ) practice of "quiet-sitting" (jingzuo M0 $ more on this below) were both fraught with the .5 For the purposes of this essay. Lu Jiuyuan LL 1# (1139-1192). the "Two Modes" (liangyi = ) of the Yijing. which Zhu Xi and his followers interpreted as Taiji unfolding into the Eight Trigrams. see below.[ I3g Œ (Supreme Principles for Governing the World) is the title of Shao's magnum opus. a Ming-era classified compendium of the Song Cheng/Zhu school (Hu 8:1b). of course. "danger" of slipping into Buddhism or Daoism. whose oscillating flow is described in the opening passage of Zhou Dunyi's Taijitu shuo I Œ@~ (Explanation of the Taiji Diagram.

On the metaphysical questions. 14 . It did so ultimately on the basis of its highly sophisticated (and therefore attractive) theories of mind. 647-648). Zhuangzi's "sitting and forgetting" (zuowang $ ‹ ) and fasting the mind (xinzhai U).the nature characterized by the "five constant virtues" -.6 them (Chan 1963: 555. for example. Buddhists. and ultimately moral content. Principle for Confucians has definite. knowable nature. To preserve the mind and nourish the nature is the way to serve Heaven" (Mencius 7A1). he said. Zhu Xi said that the major difference between Buddhism and Confucianism could be seen in their different interpretations of the first line of the Zhongyong (Centrality and Commonality). theories that denied the ultimate truth of cognitive categories and the socio-ethical values and institutions that were so central to the Confucian worldview. understand "human nature" (xing ß ) as "empty awareness. and the Guanzi's "maintaining the One" (shouyi \ ) This was also the theme of Han Yu's M§ (768 . And self-actualization. "Principle" in Mahayana Buddhist theory refers to the principle that all elements of existence (dharmas / fa "') are "empty" ( unya / kong 0N of "own-being" (svabh va / zixing 7 ß). ) Quiet-sitting had a long pedigree in China. that even when the mind is "vacuous" or unoccupied and peaceful it is "full" of moral principle. intelligible. "What Heaven imparts to man is called human nature" (Chan 1963: 98). ignorance. Daoism did not receive as much Confucian criticism as did Buddhism. they they have ) no self-existent. but terms such as "vacuity" (xu </) and "nonexistence" (wu &ı in the Laozi made many Confucians nervous for the same reasons. "He who fully develops his mind knows his nature. that is.14 In Zhu Xi's view. since every thing (including the mind) has a principle/pattern/order (li). As Mencius had said.not an "empty" Buddha-nature. The Confucian interpretation meant. the popularity of Buddhism in the Song was a threat to Chinese culture because it undermined the traditional social-mindedness of the Chinese spirit. 564)." while Confucians interpret it as "concrete principle" (Chan 1963: 616. knowing his nature he knows Heaven.824) critique of Buddhism (Chan 1963: 454-456). for Zhu Xi. requires knowledge and fulfillment of the "five-fold nature" -. with some forms of meditation dating back at least to the late Warring States period. and the li of the mind is the moral nature. or the process of becoming a sage. and human suffering.

such as Roth. 1160.7 and "concentrating the mind" (zhuanxin ) (Watson 57. The fact that Zhou Dunyi. as he explains in his letter of 1169.15 Nevertheless.16 Li was a student of Luo Congyan. 155. Then the mind will be profoundly unoccupied and naturally concentrated. and 1162. quoted below. that all we have of these early forms of meditation are textual references. Japanese zazen) (Okada. and most importantly to incorporate that theory into the practice of self-cultivation. When the thing is past it will return to its [still] depth. His efforts to develop a satisfactory solution to the problem went through three stages. who had been a student of Cheng Yi and later of Cheng's student Yang Shi LQ (1053-1135) (Huang and Quan 15:1a-2a." Zhu Xi considered it essential to incorporate a theory of stillness/activity or equilibrium/harmony into his system. (Zhu Yulei 12:345-346) Despite the negative Confucian overtones of "stillness. Just collect the mind and don't let it go and get involved with idle thoughts. he had accepted Cheng Yi's understanding of the matter. 16 One could also say that his thinking on the subject went through four stages. believe that there must have been lineages of teachers who transmitted the actual practices. were highly susceptible to the It should be noted. 107. When something happens. But presumably at that stage he did not regard it specifically as a problem. Luo Congyan 5Y r 9 (1072-1135). however. associated with this was the importance of quiet) sitting in the practice of self-cultivation. According to Zhu Xi: Quiet-sitting should not be like entering samadhi in zazen. Roth 82-83. It was through Yang Shi and his student Hu Hong that the writings of Zhou Dunyi were preserved. of course. 25:1a-b). I know of no concrete evidence for them. Both of these. because before visiting Li Tong and adopting his views. 90. Taylor 1988). The key doctrine that Zhu learned from Li was the view that stillness or quietude (jing M0 was fundamental. even though most Song Confucians took pains to distinguish it from Chan sitting-in-meditation (zuochan $/~ . and Li Tong " k (1093-1163) had taught "quiet-sitting" as a Confucian alternative to or version of Chan "sitting in meditation" necessitated a careful and thorough examination of the correct Confucian use of quietistic techniques. 15 . the incorporation of quiet-sitting into Song Confucian practice was almost certainly a response to the popularity of Buddhism. While some scholars. cutting off all thoughts. 167). it will respond accordingly. Cheng Hao / N9 (1032-1085). beginning with his visits to Li Tong (or Li Yanping " ˚ G ) in 1158.

And quiet-sitting. who was familiar with Zhou Dunyi's writings. and Hu criticized Zhu for his emphasis on stillness and equilibrium. in a discussion with a student. that was the sprout of the originally good mind seen in the midst of desire for profit. Hu Hong. Hu Hong said. who was one of three men asked by Zhu Xi's father.P] is all that exists. Zhang suggested that accomplished issuance [yifa ˘. to become Zhu Xi's teachers after his father's death in 1143. Nevertheless.7) in which they discuss the King's compassion for an ox about to be sacrificed. which had allegedly been practiced by both of the Cheng brothers. student of Hu Hong." Zhang Shi cited this comment in an essay he wrote in 1166 (Schirokauer: 484). that it is an 17 Hu Anguo. that stillness or equilibrium was to be found within the activity of daily life. Zhu Xi and Zhang Shi had discussed the stillness-activity / equilibrium-harmony issue in their correspondence. Zhang Shi became Zhu Xi's close friend and frequent correspondent. whose father. Hu Anguo 6 ] (1074-1138). had to be gained directly by practicing quiet-sitting and focusing on the mind in its still phase. and they continued to do so during Zhu's two-month visit with Zhang in the fall of 1167.17 Although Zhu Xi never met Hu Hong personally. During that visit Zhu was convinced by Zhang's arguments. and hence to the mind's creative principle. The Hunan school supported the view that only in activity (both mental and physical) could the creative power of Heaven be experienced. who was originally from Zhu Xi's province of Fujian. is considered the founder of the "Hunan school" of Song learning. For example. Zhang had been a . Zhu Song R . cited Mencius' dialogue with King Xuan of Qi (Mencius 1A. passed on to Zhu the idea of an "emphasis on stillness" (zhu jing M0).8 criticism that they were significant steps down the slippery slope to Buddhism and Daoism. after corresponding with him for two years. was especially favored by Li Tong. Zhu Xi held this view until 1167. "When the King of Qi saw the ox and could not bear its being slaughtered. had a nephew. they exchanged letters on the subject of stillness and activity. when he first visited Zhang Shi in Tanzhou %A † (modern Changsha KK"mHunan). Hu Xian 6 (1082-1162). which Zhou had espoused in his Taijitu shuo. Li Tong. . As Metzger describes it. It was through his influence that Zhu Xi came to the view that the mind's access to equilibrium (zhong).

hardly the substance of pure consciousness responding to things." rather than to the unworldly realm of Buddhism. rather than behind it for zhong.P ]. it not only directed moral effort toward the proper Confucian business of "daily affairs. as soon as I became conscious of any feeling just at that subtle moment of incipience. Yet sages and superior men have spoken of what is called the equilibrium of imminent issuance (weifa zhi zhong . (Metzger: 96) The implication of this position was that quiet-sitting and the effort to apprehend the mind in perfect stillness is misguided. To apprehend equilibrium.9 indivisible process. Thus it is for the whole world. Affairs and things come into his life. Essentially this state of affairs does not come to a halt for even an instant. and the state of total stillness without movement (jiran budong –' Æ ' ). therefore. and that in its very indivisibility it comprehends the equilibrium of imminent issuance [the zhong of weifa . His thoughts are changing continuously until he dies. Moreover. during which false and dark notions would clog up my mind. looking in it. A taste of Zhu Xi's spiritual practice at this time is conveyed by a letter he wrote to Zhang Shi the following year (1168): From the time one has life. but also raised hopes that zhong could be more easily apprehended. as the time of imminent issuance? When I tried to think of it in this way. so to speak. How can we reasonably suppose that they regarded the concrete flow of daily affairs as accomplished issuance. thus it directly challenged what Zhu Xi had learned from his revered teacher. was to revise and broaden our understanding of accomplished issuance [yifa].P ). and a temporary interruption of this flow. Li Tong. one has some kind of knowledge. and he responds to and is in contact with them without a moment's rest. I only found moments without awareness. then this consciousness itself was just a recurrence of accomplished issuance. some point lacking contact with affairs. not what is . The advantage of this view was that by locating zhong in a completely manifest form of experience.

one can only seek for one's moral nature in activity. Metzger: 96-97) Thus Zhu at this point agreed with Zhang that it was pointless to seek a state of perfect stillness. So I withdrew from this course and looked for it by examining daily affairs. At this time. the process of responding to things is the concrete possibility in terms of which the will of heaven is realized and things come into being without end. that is. the ultimate substance of total stillness is never anything but totally still. he had accepted Cheng Yi's teaching that before there is any sign of thought or deliberation and prior to the arrival [stimulus] of external things. The decisive issue seems to have been the failure of that solution to include a concrete praxis. trans. and joy are aroused [weifa]. (Zhu Wenji 30:19a-b. It is all very well to say that stillness can only be apprehended in activity. can reasonably be regarded as an indivisible whole. sorrow. any instance of becoming conscious of something after coming into contact with it. Here he first explains that. trans. In its inexhaustibility. the less I could see it.10 referred to as total stillness. What is called imminent issuance is simply like this. the only possible perfect stillness is found in "moments without awareness"). One may say that the more I sought it. and the nature endowed by Heaven should be completely embodied in it. Even as things arise and are destroyed ten thousand times a day. Zhu began again to have doubts. though. Because . and finally decided that the Hunan solution was lacking. anger. Since the conscious mind can never be perfectly still (that is. which is absolutely quiet and inactive [jiran budong]. the state is identical with the substance of the mind. there is the state before the feelings of pleasure. I considered the fact that any case of becoming aware of an object and empathetically pervading it with one's response. but what does this mean in terms of actual practice? What does one look for or strive for in one's consciousness that reflects stillness in activity? Zhu announced his final solution in his 1169 "letter to the gentlemen of Hunan on equilibrium and harmony" (Zhu Wenji 64:28b-29b. Chan 1963: 600-602). before studying with Li Tong. Soon after his visit with Zhang.

As he had said in his earlier letter to Zhang Shi. as Cheng Yi himself had said. For a single mistake in one's viewpoint can lead to as much harm as this." and it is never in a state of total stillness. But when he describes his own experiences of cultivation. his periods of agreement with Li Tong and the very gentlemen to whom he is writing). (Chan 1963: 600-601) But now. he comes to the practical sticking point: the lack of any practical application of the Hunan position: Right along. In this state the functioning of the mind can be seen. Also. "the mind is one. slightly modified) So.11 it is neither excessive nor insufficient. in fact. When it is acted upon and immediately penetrates all things [gan er sui tong 5àL_E ]. the feelings are then aroused. functioning mind. I have simply considered the mind to be the state after the feelings are aroused. and is neither unbalanced nor one-sided. Because it never fails to attain the proper measure and degree and has nowhere deviated from the right. and there was no longer any disposition of ease or profoundness.e. when it was expressed in speech or action." The identification of weifa with nature and yifa with mind is a false distinction. This is something we must not overlook. and in my daily efforts (riyong gongfu „*ü „ ) I have merely considered examining and recognizing the clues [of activities or feelings] as the starting points [i. it was always characterized by a sense of urgency and an absence of reserve. it is called equilibrium [zhong]. Consequently I have neglected the effort of daily self-cultivation [pingri hanyang yiduan gongfu G „ # N ! „ ]. "any instance of becoming conscious of something after coming into contact with it can reasonably be regarded as an indivisible whole. in my discussions and thinking. he realizes that "there are many incorrect points in Master Cheng's works. (Chan 1963: 601-602. he says (skipping the intermediate points in the evolution of his thought.e." So far. if both weifa and yifa are phases of the active. so that my mind was disturbed in many ways and lacked the quality of depth or purity. it is called harmony. i. focusing on the beginnings of mental activity]. how is it possible to . the argument is still consistent with the Hunan position.

quiet-sitting). This is why he said. As Zhu Xi continues in his letter to the gentlemen of Hunan: So long as in one's daily life the effort at reverent composure and cultivation (hanyang # N is fully extended and there are no selfish human desires to disturb ) it. 18 . 2A:23b. As to selfcultivation when things occur and seeking understanding through inference when we come into contact with things. but one could experience a form of composure in both activity and stillness (e." (Chan 1963: 601)18 Jing @ can also be translated as "reverence" or "reverent composure. One could not actually experience perfect stillness while engaging in worldly activity. Chan 1963: 522. according to moral principle. Yoshikawa and Miura: 115-119. 19 Substituting "reverent composure" for "reverence.12 gain access to the inactive substance (ti P¤) or principle (li ) ) of the mind? The answer Zhu Xi found was also in Cheng Yi's writings: In the final analysis what he said was no more than the word "seriousness" (jing @).g. It was Zhu's work on this text that therefore precipitated the resolution of his crisis. 785. this must also serve as the foundation. then before the feelings are aroused it will be as clear as a mirror and as calm as still water. and after the feelings are aroused it will attain due measure and degree without exception. If we Quoting Henan Chengshi yishu " +/ !ªFN ." I shall henceforth use the latter. Qian 2:298-335. The Yishu contains the bulk of the Chengs' teachings on jing. and Chen Chun: 100-104. but the Neo-Confucians extended it beyond that context. "Seriousness without fail is the way to attain equilibrium. the year before this letter was written. It was classically defined as the properly respectful and reverent attitude one should have when performing a sacrifice." For more on jing see Graham: 6773. as a coherent whole. providing an attitudinal (not philosophical) foundation for self-cultivation. "the effort to maintain reverent composure joins the states of activity and stillness at their point of intersection" (Metzger: 98). and Zhu Xi had compiled the text in 1168. See also Zhu Yulei 12:338. so that this attitude would comprehend stillness and activity and allow for the possibility of orienting both phases. See Van Ess: 295-298.19 Jing thus functioned as a unifying concept. 593. This is the essential task in everyday life. Cheng Yi had said. 547.

and harmonious or moral activity can be found in stillness – as long as one maintains the attitude of reverent composure." 21 I use "non-duality" here in the sense of the yin-yang model: the difference between them is real. or equilibrium and harmony. Activity in the midst of stillness can be understood in the sense that in a practice such as quiet-sitting. can be described as interpenetration.8).). Mengzi 6:7b. An example of this would be Mencius' description of the restorative effects of the "morning qi" in his famous Ox Mountain allegory (Mencius 6A. where Cheng Hao quotes the full line. whose philosophy is called visistadvaita. See also Zhu and Lu Reflections: 126. (Chan 1963: 601) In other words. his own personal practice – the attitude of reverent composure is the experiential common ground linking the still and active phases of the mind." It is correctly translated on p. what is contained in the state before the feelings are aroused can surely be understood in silence.E.20 $ ) uses "reverent composure to straighten In Zhu Xi's view – or more precisely.E). to use Paul Tillich's term) of one's engagement in the process of moral transformation. In his commentary on this passage Zhu Xi quotes the Yijing's statement (as quoted by Cheng Hao) that the noble person (junzi oneself internally" (jing yi zhi nei — 4 ). see Zhu Zhouyi 1:12b. That is.21 Thus both quiet-sitting Zhu Sishu. Stillness in the midst of moral activity can be understood as a sense of calm purpose combined with a sense of the ultimate significance (or ultimate concern.13 observe the state after the feelings are aroused. "Seriousness is to straighten the internal life and righteousness [yi 5}] is to square the external life. or the weifa and yifa states of the feelings. where it is mistakenly translated as "Seriousness [jing @] is to straighten the external life. It is closer to the later Vedantic philosopher. but they cannot exist separately and each implies the other. Cheng Hao's reference to the line is from Zhu Henan 1:5b. one is nourishing one's Heaven-endowed moral potential. This differs from the advaita form of non-dualism found in Sankara (8th century C. which is really monism (all differences are illusory). Ramanuja (11th century C." See Radhakrishnan and Moore: 506-555. or "qualified non-dualism. 20 . or even in sleep. the relationship between the stillness and activity of the mind. The original text is in the Wenyan commentary on line two of the hexagram Kun ( 8 ). This allows him to understand the still and active phases in a non-dual manner. 139. stillness and equilibrium can be found within harmonious activity. seeing them as different but inseparably linked as phases of the one undivided mind.

placed Zhou Dunyi at the head.) How can the "human mind" (renxin ) ever come to reflect the "moral mind" (daoxin F' )? The claim that this is a fatal flaw in Zhu Xi's system has been made Mou Zongsan and recently reiterated by Matthew Levey.22 (2) Zhu Xi and Zhou Dunyi The standard lineage of the Daoxue F' L (Learning of the Way) or Cheng/Zhu / school has. summarized the The Way of Confucius was rediscovered by Master Zhou [Dunyi]. Zhang Zai D (1020-1077). 247). and both provide access to the creative. for 800 years. And this view was wellThis point raises an important question regarding the consistency of Zhu Xi's philosophical position: if li. Until Zhu’s reformulation of the daotong F'3E (succession of the Way) gained the dominant position after the 12th century. another proposition of Zhang Zai's that Zhu Xi endorsed (Chan 1963: 516). Shao Yong F L¡ (1011-1077)." gewu (= ] and the goal was noumenal insight into the reality of the Moral Principles of human life" (p. prevailing view this way: one of the leading figures in the Cheng/Zhu school after Zhu Xi's death. and fails to take into account the claim that learning "transforms the psycho-physical endowment" (bianhua qizhi A^ Œ! B ). the great systematizer of daoxue. 22 .⁄ c )? (This was Zhang Zai's claim and was endorsed by Zhu Xi.14 and active study and engagement in affairs are legitimate and necessary methods of selfcultivation. and. followed by the brothers Cheng Hao / N9 (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi / Mł (1033-1107). "Chu Hsi's program is unable to provide the means of attaining the kind of insight it seeks because the program operated only on the empirical level [of "investigating things. in its instantiation as human nature (xing ß ). who says. Chan 1963: 517. how can the latter be transformed by the former? How can the mind unite and control human nature and the dispositions (xin tong xing qing ¤ . somewhat subordinate position. (Trans. the Way of Master Zhou was further clarified by the two Cheng brothers. and the Way of the Chengs was brilliantly expounded by Master Zhu. transformative power of Heaven. de Bary: 9) Zhu Xi. was entirely responsible for Zhou Dunyi's retrospective place in this lineage. But this is a complex issue that cannot be fully dealt with here. is ontologically distinct from qi and the dispositional/affective aspect of mind (qing ). in a / (1178-1235). Zhen Dexiu . I would argue that this view misinterprets Zhu Xi's non-dualism (as defined above) as an ontological dualism. the prevailing view had been that the Cheng brothers were the forefathers of the Cheng/Zhu school.

Among the points he adduces concerning the Chengs' possible philosophical debts to Zhou Around the same time that Zhu Xi was developing this position. Lu Jiushao LL 1M˚in their famous exchange of letters with Zhu Xi between 1186 and 1189. Graham. Wilson 197-227). Li Yuangang " 3… published. Two Chinese Philosophers: Ch'eng Ming-tao and Ch'eng Yi-ch'uan (1958). 15:1-2.15 founded. it seems rather that Zhou was hardly known for his ideas at all during the 11th century. brothers' objections were on sectarian grounds – they strongly objected to Zhou's use of Daoist terminology and thought him unfit to be considered a Confucian sage – modern scholars have raised serious historical issues. C. 24 For a good analytical summary of this exchange see Tillman: ch. Yet. covers this ground quite thoroughly. it clearly fails to provide solid ground for the claim that the Chengs "received" the core of their ideas – indeed any of their ideas – from Zhou. which Zhou did not discuss systematically. While the claim that the Cheng brothers briefly studied with Zhou when they were teenagers is not disputed. While his writings were preserved by students of the Chengs (probably Yang Shi. 9. although "their learning was received from Master Zhou" (Zhu Yi-Luo 14:1a). from whom they could have passed to Li Tong and Hu Hong). notably by Lu Jiuyuan and his elder brother. For example. and it was Hu Hong who first credited him with reviving the dao in the Song. according to the Song Yuan xue-an. Tillman: 115119. Zhou had only two students (the Chengs). A. in which the Cheng brothers were shown as the first sages since Mencius. 23 . a diagram called Daozhuan zhengtong F' !73E (Legitimate succession of the transmission of the Way). it was not until Hu Hong that the claim was made that he was the source of the dao that the Chengs later developed. was in an entirely different league from Zhou's. Zhu was not the first to consider Zhou Dunyi to be the first Confucian sage since Mencius. This view never completely died out. this brief contact seems to be Zhu Xi's only basis for making that claim. In fact.23 The problematic nature of Zhou Dunyi's position in this constructed lineage raised questions even during Zhu Xi's lifetime. while between them they had about thirty (Huang and Quan 11:1a. 13:1-2. a Qing dynasty editor would say that the two Chengs were the first to apprehend the dao after Mencius. in his first book. Zhou Dunyi was a very minor figure during his lifetime and for a century thereafter. See also note 28. arguing that the Chengs' philosophy based on li. in 1170. Nevertheless.24 While the Lu . even in a postface to Zhu Xi's own Yi-Luo yuanyuan lu " # $dH (Record of the sources of the Cheng school). Zhou's writings had been preserved by the Hunan school.

Zhu Xi was.26 which was the major concept that Zhu Xi I Œ . 26 .28 • Zhou was said to have received the Taijitu from the Daoist Mu Xiu 0 ´. According to Wilson. 29 He basically ignored this reputed Daoist origin of the Diagram. which they were unwilling to share with their own students (Ching 39). even when it was mentioned by opponents. Maoshu 8 to his teacher Hu Yuan 6 *+ as Master Hu (Hu xiansheng 6 * changed his name from Dunshi : ” to Dunyi :Mł in 1063 (to avoid an Imperial taboo). The second part of his new name (Yi) is the same as Cheng Yi's personal name. In an important tribute to Zhou Dunyi ("Commemoration of the Reconstruction of Master Lianxi's Library in Jiangzhou" "3 †G¡ ˛%– $~ * ? . nor of the Taijitu • contribution to the tradition. rather hostile towards Daoism. Zhou adopted from Zhou. sixteen years after the Chengs had studied with him. and Wilson: 197-227.16 Dunyi are these (Graham 152-175):25 • The Chengs never spoke of taiji I . which was Zhou's most famous ¤ yet Cheng Yi referred ). this was because he wanted to legitimize the Cheng brothers' authority specifically on the Four Books (Wilson: 198-199). in a memorial tribute to him. • Cheng Yi said that Cheng Hao had independently rediscovered the Way (in the Classics). not Zhou. Moreover. Zhang Delin: 31-32. 9. in Zhu Wenji 78:12b). which was a 25 See also Qian 3:49-52. such as Lu Jiuyuan. for the most part. who got it through Chong Fang /¡ • from the famous Daoist priest Chen Tuan LG J. 28 Cheng Yi's tribute to Cheng Hao is partially translated in de Bary: 3-4. which is not considered to be his. The Chengs referred to Zhou by his personal name.27 In fact they did not discuss any of Zhou's doctrines. In his 1189 Preface to the Zhongyong. and this was the prevailing view at least up to the midtwelfth century. 27 Zhu claimed that the Taijii Diagram and its Explanation were esoteric teachings that Zhou had revealed to the Cheng brothers. he says that Zhou created the Diagram. Zhu mentions only the Chengs as Song revivers of the Way. For a good discussion of Zhu's relations with Daoism see Ching: ch.29 Zhou did not make much use of the concept of li ) (principle or order). which would have been unlikely if Zhou had considered Cheng his disciple. Not counting an anonymous preface to Cheng Yi's Commentary on the Yi .

17 central concept for the Chengs. to whom Zhu was philosophically most indebted. that attracted Zhu to Zhou and persuaded him to give Zhou the exalted status of sole founder of daoxue (Chan 1973). Since the 12th century.e. as mentioned above. " # $dH (Record of the sources of the Cheng . The usual explanation for Zhu's rejection of Cheng Hao is that he felt that Cheng's idea that "the humane person forms one body with all things" (Chan 1963: 523. as A. But could Zhu not have argued that Cheng Yi really was the one. • The Chengs' immediate disciples never mentioned Zhou in their writings. C. This would have presented much less of a problem than those listed above. modified) was too idealistic. and that Cheng had merely been respectful to his elder brother in giving him the credit? It was Cheng Yi. much of the discussion of Zhou Dunyi's role in the origins of daoxue has focused on Zhu Xi's arguments with the Lu brothers over the "Explanation of the Taiji Diagram" (Taijitu shuo). so that would eliminate Cheng Yi. The prevailing view has been that it was Zhou's concept of taiji. Cheng Yi had claimed that Cheng Hao had revived the way. "without following a scholarly tradition. The equation of taiji and li – a rather forced one. Graham cogently argues (Graham 162-165) – enabled Zhu Xi to forge a linkage between the metaphysical realm of li and the cosmological realm of yin-yang qi. Zhu interpreted taiji as li – an equation he apparently learned from Li Tong. for different reasons. So it is difficult to accept that Zhu had no choice but to nominate Zhou Dunyi. As is well-known. why did Zhu Xi raise Zhou Dunyi to such a position of prominence in the tradition? Why did he declare that Zhou. Given all these problems and the lack of historical evidence for any philosophical link between Zhou and the Chengs. First of all. No one seems to have claimed a significant role for Zhou in the Cheng school until Hu Hong. Zhu could not accept either of the Cheng brothers as independent revivers of the Way. after all. silently registered the substance of the Way" (Zhu Wenji 78:12b) – i. that he had apprehended the dao directly. had. and the use he makes of it in the Taijitu shuo. without "hearing" it from any teacher (much like a pratyeka-buddha)? Why did he place Zhou at the head of the Daoxue F' L "fellowship" in his Yi-Luo yuan-yuan lu school)? An argument could be made that. for the first time since Mencius.

In stillness it generates yin. and the Supreme Polarity is fundamentally Non-polar. 169. the Two Modes are thereby established. on this distinction. My translation is closest to Joseph Needham's. Zhu Xi is very clear. the yin-yang polarity is the Supreme Polarity. yet at the limit of stillness it is also active. 32 Yijing. 31 In other words: seen as a whole system. The Five Phases are simply yin and yang. See the following section for my reasons for translating taiji as Supreme Polarity. The key passages for this point comprise the first half of the Taijitu shuo: Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity (wuji er taiji &ı I5 I )!30 The Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang.18 which the Taijitu shuo claims is produced by taiji. [Yet] in the generation of the Five Phases. not things. however."32 the two qi stimulate each other. or rather noncommittal. "That which has no pole and yet (itself) the Supreme Pole" (Needham: 460). symbolizing pure yang and pure yin.1. yin and yang are simply the Supreme Polarity. Xici A. the Five Phases each have their own natures (as do yin and yang). However. the Way of Kun 8 becomes the female. While Zhou Dunyi is ambivalent. The alternation and combination of yang and yin generate water. each is the basis of the other. See also Thompson 1996: 156-158. metal. including "The Ultimate of Non-being and also the Great Ultimate" (Chan 1963: 463). Needham. fire. the Five Phases are based on the yin-yang polarity. or Heaven and Earth.31 The reality of the Non-polar and the essence of the Two [Modes] and Five [Phases] mysteriously combine and coalesce. Qian and Kun are the first two hexagrams. Activity and stillness alternate. taken individually as temporal phases. respectively. 30 . yet at the limit of activity it is still. the Supreme Polarity is fundamentally Non-polar. Readers are probably familiar with the more common translations of this non-sentence. "The Way of Qian R becomes the male. each one has its nature.4 (Zhu Zhouyi 3:1b). concretizes the two terms in such a way as to miss the point that they refer to patterns or principles. This is a philosophical correlate of the psycho-physical linkage between weifa equilibrium and yifa harmony that he had established by means of Cheng Yi's concept of reverent composure. With these five [phases of] qi harmoniously arranged. 163. and earth. wood. In distinguishing yin and yang. and "It is the ultimate of nothing which is the Supreme Ultimate" (Graham: 156). the Four Seasons proceed through them. "The Ultimateless! And yet also the Supreme Ultimate!" (Derk Bodde's translation in Fung: 435).

I propose that we look at those terms in both the Taijitu shuo and Zhou Dunyi's other major work. 36 Zhu says that the Tongshu (Penetrating Writing. 34 Cf. this is a common strategy employed by commentators on "canonical" 33 . this means that taiji. 4a). Given the centrality of the terms "activity" (dong ') and "stillness" (jing M0 in the problem of self) cultivation over which Zhu Xi "agonized for over a decade" (Metzger: 93). if we can accept that the Paraphrasing Yijing. Xici A.. includes the principle of activity/stillness and is fully contained in every particular thing composed of qi (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b).. As John Henderson has shown. and see where they lead us.e.5. "Stillness is the substance (ti) of taiji and activity is the function (yong) of taiji (Zhu Yulei 94:8a. he assumes their consistency and uses them to clarify each other. 35 In a somewhat different formulation. the Tongshu E .33 The myriad things generate and regenerate. Accordingly. the male going beneath the female. it is clear that his interpretation of the Diagram is basically Confucian. or Penetrating the Yi) and the shorter Taijitu shuo "complement each other. In fact.35 This claim – that taiji links the metaphysics of li with the cosmology of yin-yang qi – is the reason given by Wing-tsit Chan for Zhou Dunyi's position in Zhu Xi's version of the daotong (Chan 1973/1987: 125-127). "Generation and regeneration are what is meant by yi (change)" (Zhu Zhouyi 3:6a). Levey 1991: 157). i. Zhu says.19 transforming and generating the myriad things. But I would suggest that there was more to it than that.6. As Zhu Xi explains it. and the myriad things (wan-wu : (= ).34 Taiji here is the generative source of the two modes of qi (yin and yang). where it places human beings at the center or apex of the natural world.." and that "each part of the Tongshu explains the Explanation of the [Diagram of the] Supreme Polarity" (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:1a. alternating and transforming without end. the Five Phases (wu-xing h> ).36 (3) Taiji I and li ) in light of Zhou Dunyi's thought However strong the Daoist influence may have been on Zhou Dunyi. throughout his commentaries and discussions on the two texts he uses this as a hermeneutic principle. as the fundamental order (li) of the cosmos as a whole. Tuan * commentary to hexagram 31 (Xian ): "The two qi stimulate and respond in mutual influence. Heaven and Earth are stimulated and the myriad things are transformed and generated" (Zhu Zhouyi 2:1a-b). especially in the latter parts.

11. 37 The following three paragraphs are based primarily on Robinet and are adapted from my section on Zhou Dunyi in Sources of Chinese Tradition. where it basically means "the unlimited. e. Taiji here is the source of the yin-yang . 2nd ed.38 and with the more general sense of wu &ı in Laozi as the state of undifferentiation (perhaps undifferentiated qi) that precedes the existence (you discrete things and/or is interdependent with it (ch. I will deal here with both.5). of the Yijing: "In change there is Taiji. 40) of principle of bipolarity. Nevertheless. Laozi 5 $ (chapter 28).20 Diagram itself was used by Daoist practitioners prior to or during Zhou's lifetime. Taiji was found in several classical texts. For the Song Neo-Confucians. Lau: 43). the locus classicus of taiji was the Appended Remarks (Xici 4?E )." or "the infinite. bearing in mind that since Zhu's interpretations are much more accessible than Zhou's it may be difficult to disentangle them.g. wuji had the stronger and more exclusively Daoist associations. we are still left with the question: What is the meaning of the enigmatic opening line. appearing in the classical Daoist texts. mostly but not exclusively Daoist. I shall argue that wuji and taiji are best translated as "Non-polar(ity)" and "Supreme Polarity" for both Zhou and Zhu. it is fair to say that he literally turned their interpretation on its head by reading the Diagram top-down rather than bottom-up. 38 "If you are a model to the empire / Then the constant virtue will not be wanting / And you will return to the infinite" (trans. 4-5). prior to the differentiation of yin and yang. Thus for our purposes we must address two questions: how did Zhou Dunyi interpret them and how did Zhu Xi. ch. "Wuji er taiji &ı I5à I "? The two key terms had been primarily (taiji) or exclusively (wuji) Daoist terms until Zhou's Explanation. and sometimes equivalent to dao F' .37 Of the two key terms. 2). and Liezi º $ (chapter 5). I will continue to use these translations here. I * = " (A. which generates the Two Modes [yin and yang] transformation. (Adler 1999). texts (Henderson chs. Without wishing to beg the question. Zhuangzi 9^ $ (chapter 6). Nevertheless." In later Daoist texts it came to denote a state of primordial chaos. and is contained or inherent in the universal process of change and . or Great Treatise (Dazhuan ß ). This more developed sense is consistent with its usage in Laozi 28.

How does an interpretation of wuji and taiji in terms of polarity help us to make sense of Zhou Dunyi's thought? The fact that the second sentence of the Taijitu shuo -.e.where one would expect there to be a clarification of the problematic opening exclamation – immediately 39 464). it represented the energetic potential to reverse the normal process of aging by cultivating within one's body the spark of the primordial qi. It thus represented a "complex unity. we may be mistaken in interpreting such ideas as "end point" and "extreme" according to a linear model. i. and to the titles of the texts attributed to them. where it usually denoted a stage of chaos later than wuji. when read from the bottom upwards. a stage or state in which yin and yang have differentiated but have not yet become manifest. It carried connotations of a turning point in a cycle. the notion of polarity.39 Since the yin-yang model does not shape our thinking as much as it did the Song Confucians'.21 But the term was much more prominent and nuanced in Daoism than in Confucianism. C. Taiji was the name of one of the Daoist heavens.1 -.. was originally a schematic representation of this process of "returning to wuji" (Laozi 28). or physiological alchemy. in the major Confucian source of the term taiji (the Xici).which remains in place while the other stars circle around it." or the unity of potential multiplicity. based of course on the word ji I (the core meaning of which is the ridgepole of a house). and in the whole complex of Daoist ideas surrounding both wuji and taiji. the Supreme One (a Daoist divinity).Analects 2. Joseph Needham says that a ji is "a polar or focal point on a boundary" (Needham: . The Taiji Diagram in Daoist circles. and with the pole star of the Northern Dipper." undifferentiated state (Berling. an end point before a reversal. or divinities. and thus was prefixed to the names of many Daoist immortals. There is also a Confucian correlate to the Daoist symbolism of the pole star -. meditation. returning to the "non-polar. and a pivot between bipolar processes. It became a standard part of Daoist cosmogonic schemes. thereby "returning" to the primordial. Even in the colloquial usage of ji as "very" or "ultimate. creative state of chaos from which the cosmos evolved. It was sometimes identified with Taiyi . In Daoist neidan ." the idea of the end point or extremity in a cyclical (or alternating) process carries at least the potential connotation of polarity. Chang: 165-167). Thus. is quite prominent.

principle). Wuji er taiji. In other words. and bipolarity itself is an integral. yin and yang are simply the Supreme Polarity. the two – non-polarity and ultimate polarity – themselves have a non-dual relationship. Here we have (1) a direct equation of yin and yang with taiji and (2) the further implication that the "dual" nature of taiji / bipolarity is somehow also non-dual. we have a much larger written corpus and a thoroughly worked-out system in which taiji plays a central role. is that Zhu Xi understood taiji to be the most fundamental cosmic ordering principle. non-polar principle. in brief. bipolarity – despite its evident "twoness" and its role as the ultimate source of multiplicity – is itself. 40 . or differentiation and undifferentiation. as a rational ordering principle. A few sentences later we read. or multiplicity and unity. the simplest. I take my argument here to be a refutation of his. so too yin and yang are the natural expression of bipolarity. That is. in contrast to Zhou. to be specific. Hence every concrete thing embodies both polarity (as its order or pattern) and non-polarity (as the principle of that order). then. most basic ordering principle in the Chinese cosmos is the differentiation of unity into bipolarity (not duality).40 My hypothesis. And since any concrete instance of differentiation or polarity embodies this integral." Just as the Five Phases are a further developmental stage or unfolding of yin and yang. in part through its identification with li (order.22 discusses the bipolar relationship of activity and stillness ("The Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang. None of the other English translations I have seen clarifies the logical connection between the two. means that this most fundamental principle. essentially undifferentiated. the model makes it clear in what way the second sentence actually explains the first. "The Five Phases are simply yin and yang. What I am suggesting is that the solution to at least some of the difficulty of NeoConfucian metaphysics – especially in the ways in which it is commonly translated into English Although Yu Yamanoi argues that taiji is "an alien element in Chu Hsi's theoretical system" (Yu: 86). which is. the principle of yin-yang polarity. yet at the limit of activity it is still …" ) certainly makes sense with this model. With Zhu. the Supreme Polarity is fundamentally non-polar. unified concept. This last observation leads to a crucial point for Zhu Xi.

had harshly criticized Cheng for ignoring this basic level of meaning in the Yi and imposing his own – albeit entirely excellent and praiseworthy – socio-ethical meanings on the text. or uncreated creator. "Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity!" It is not that there is non-polarity outside of the supreme polarity. 235. quoting Shijing @=3gno. of course. See Smith et. Italicized portions are. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:5a) The word "pivot" is important here. which had for centuries been buried under multiple layers of numerological and socio-ethical interpretations.42 First. 44 One might draw an analogy here with the Judeo-Christian-Islamic paradox of God as the unmoved mover.. his commentary on the enigmatic opening sentence of the Taijitu shuo: The operation of Heaven above has neither sound nor smell. the moralistic and devoted follower of Cheng Yi. 43 Zhongyong 33 (last line). my emphases. .41 Let us now check this hypothesis by examining some of Zhu's comments on the key terms. Wang: 10). in Zhang Boxing's Zhou Lianxi xiansheng quanji (Zhou Lianxi ji)."43 and yet it is the pivot (shuniu 2 ) of the actual process of creation and the basis of the classification of things."44 A more explicit statement is found in a conversation on the topic of the next few sentences of the Taijitu shuo (from "Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang" to "Two Modes are thereby established"): 41 I was earlier led to a similar observation by finding that Zhu Xi's commentary on the Yijing is almost entirely based on his attempt to retrieve the yin-yang meanings of the original lines of the hexagrams. Philosophically. "Shu" is also the word used by Zhuangzi. This is the paradox that Zhou attempts to express with the enigmatic "Wuji er taiji. 6. where he refers to "the axis of dao" (daoshu F' ). I found that Zhu Xi. the central point where “'this' and 'that' no longer find their opposites" (Watson: 40. this again raises the potential fatal flaw in Zhu Xi's system mentioned above (note 22). al. Both are found. Zhu's first sentence here means that the creative principle and ground of being – what he elsewhere calls the "principle of Heaven" or "natural principle" (tianli) – is characterless or undifferentiated and yet contains within it the potential for change and differentiation. . 42 These comments are drawn both from his published commentaries on Zhou's two main texts and from his Classified Conversations (Zhuzi yulei). ch. especially given its prominent location in the first sentence of Zhu's published commentary on the Taijitu shuo.23 – may be as simple and obvious as the concept of yin and yang. compiled together. in chapter 2 of his work. Thus it says.

(Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b) The following passage from Zhu's commentary on a line in the first section of the Tongshu -. there is only the principle of activity and stillness. and the one actuality is divided into the many. Thus the many are one.e.45 Question on "The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way": Is this Supreme Polarity? Reply: Yin and yang are simply yin and yang."The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way" (quoted from Yijing.46 In these passages. This is called the Supreme Polarity. or that by which (suoyi „ ) this alternation occurs.combined with two comments from his Classified Conversations (Zhuzi yulei) on the same line. But in conversation with his students Zhu brings taiji into the equation: "The alternation of yin and yang is called the Way" is the Supreme Polarity. appended to his commentary on the Tongshu. Each one of the many is correct. Finally. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:3a) Here the commentary defines li (not taiji) as bipolarity. here is Zhu's published comment on the following line from section 22 of the Tongshu: [Zhou:] The two [modes of] qi and the Five Phases transform and generate the myriad things. the small and the large are distinct. in an endless cycle.e. A comment by Zhu from Zhuzi yulei. The five are the differentia (shu !^ ) and the two are the actualities (shi ” ).5. and then equates dao with li. "The Way" means the same as order/principle (li). Xici A. physical]. that which is within form [i. where the line from the Xici is quoted (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:5b). metaphysical]. appended to Zhu's commentary on the Taijitu 45 . This is called change. there is necessarily the principle of activity and stillness. And since there is activity and stillness. 46 A question and answer from Zhuzi yulei. taiji is clearly defined as the principle/pattern of activity and stillness or yin and yang.24 Within Heaven and Earth. the two are fundamentally one. That by which there is "alternation of yin and yang" is order/principle (li). there is absolutely nothing else. The Way is Supreme Polarity – that by which there is alternation of yin and yang. lead to the same conclusion: "Yin and yang" are qi. which is above form [i.1) .

" or some such. which in the most general sense is order per se. But this might be confusing. yielding four permutations corresponding to four of the five phases. The actuality (shi ” ) of the two qi is clearly based on the principle of bipolarity. since what it really means is polarity per se. and in more specific senses refers to particular patterns or principles. all-inclusiveness.. 47 On translating li as "order" see above. 48 Similarly. "The two [modes of] qi and the Five Phases" are that by which Heaven bestows the myriad things and generates them. and the actuality of the two qi in turn is based on the polarity of the one order (yili zhi ji I ). with earth being the fifth. while the argument is based on the usage of the terms by both figures. From the product (mo origin (ben ) ) we can deduce the ).25 [Zhu:] . The most basic of these principles is that of yin/yang bipolarity. since ji is more commonly translated as "ultimate." . as in Zhou's philosophical cosmogony.. perfectly balanced one: | | mature | | young | 49 yang fire | yin | water |earth | wood | metal | | | | | | "Ultimate Polarity" would be a better expression. Furthermore. he could easily have limited himself to the aforementioned line from the Xici appendix of the Yijing shuo (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:8a). If Zhu Xi had simply wanted to use taiji to express the idea of the ultimate reality. or finality. it would make no sense at all to translate ji I as "ultimate. this interpretation clarifies Zhu Xi's central concept of li.49 which in its simplest manifestation takes form as activity and stillness (dong-jing). (Zhou Lianxi ji 6:11a)47 In the last sentence. thus the differentiation of the Five Phases is the actuality of the two qi. not on some vague ultimacy.48 To conclude thus far: I have tried to show that the best way to interpret wuji and taiji in both Zhou Dunyi's and Zhu Xi's writings is by means of a model of polarity. called "Supreme Polarity" (or polarity per se). note 7." "extremity. The model is based on the literal or original meaning of the word ji I (the ridgepole of a roof). what Zhu means by "the differentiation of the Five Phases is the actuality of the two qi" refers to the "young" (shao ) and "mature" (tai or lao 5 ) phases of of yin and yang.

the Two Modes are thereby established. as Zheng Xuan G )X (127-200) and Liu Mu ](. with his dubious Daoist connections. I am therefore proposing that the primary reason why Zhu could not do without Zhou was Zhou's elaboration of polarity in terms of the unquestionably Daoist concept of wuji. See Gardner: 37. Given Zhu Xi's ingenuity in creatively interpreting texts. Activity and stillness alternate. In stillness it generates yin. 163). As we have seen above. and that is a real stretch.50 it is not difficult to imagine that he could have found some way of linking metaphysics and cosmology that would have spared him the difficulties Zhou Dunyi presented – had that been his only reason for focusing on Zhou. 104-105. as Ouyang Xiu !$LQ ´had argued). But it only works when taiji is equated with li. that it was the "interpenetrating" relationship of wuji and taiji. (11th century) had done (Graham: 155. In this way he could have avoided the unpleasantness of relying so strongly on Zhou Dunyi. yet at the limit of activity it is still. In distinguishing yin and yang. taiji's linking function between the metaphysics of li and the cosmology of yin and yang was an important factor. each is the basis of the other. which generates the Two Modes"). whose Confucian authority was unquestioned (even if Confucius himself did not write it.26 ("In change there is taiji. that helped him work out the major spiritual-intellectual crisis of his career. 55-56. 50 . (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:2a) The prime example. of course. where it is certainly more reasonable to interpret taiji as undifferentiated qi. yet at the limit of stillness it is also active. and more importantly the extension of that model to activity and stillness. is his "supplement" to chapter 5 of the Daxue. and that this was the primary reason for Zhou Dunyi's elevation to the position Zhu Xi gave him. given the context of the Taijitu shuo. Interpenetration The relationship between activity and stillness is outlined by Zhou Dunyi in the first section of the Taijitu shuo and in section 16 of the Tongshu: Taijitu shuo: Non-polar and yet Supreme Polarity (wuji er taiji)! Supreme Polarity in activity generates yang.

the myriad things end and begin [again]. for .e. The yin of water is based in yang. hence "extensive. It exists prior to things." Function is dispersed and differentiated. and yet at no time does it not operate within things. does not mean that [spirit] is neither active nor still. the nature of activity includes stillness and vice versa. and once there is stillness. Being active and yet not active. hence "undifferentiated. Yin and yang are the Supreme Polarity. [Zhu's comment: There is stillness within activity.27 Tongshu 16: Activity and Stillness (dong-jing) Activity as the absence of stillness and stillness as the absence of activity characterize things (wu (=). they are limited by their physical forms) spirit subtly [penetrates] the myriad things. The original ground (chu ben æ ) of the yang produced by activity is stillness. which should be consulted].] For while things do not [inter-] penetrate (tong E . It exists outside of yin-yang. The Five Phases are yin and yang. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:5b) "The activity of Supreme Polarity produces yang" does not mean that after there is activity then yang is produced. This section clarifies the ideas of the Diagram. but also metaphysical interpenetration. still and yet not still." The succession of activity and stillness is like an endless revolution. Rather. and yet at no time is it not established after the existence of things. The Four Seasons revolve. It penetrates and connects the "complete substance. This continuity refers to (the relationship of) substance and function. once there is activity. the yang of fire is based in yin. Activity that is not [empirically] active and stillness that is not [empirically] still characterize spirit (shen /2 )." there is nothing in which it does not exist. and activity within stillness. How undifferentiated! How extensive! And how endless! [Zhu's comment: Substance is fundamental and unitary. this is classified as yang. Likewise. That is. i. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:33b-34b) The crucial idea for Zhu Xi is that the relationship of activity and stillness is not only temporal alternation. this is classified as yin. Thus in other comments Zhu says: On Taijitu shuo: [Wuji er taiji:] Calling it "non-polar" correctly clarifies (zheng !7 ) its non-spatial form.

(Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b) The material of water is yin. and when active it is capable of stillness. and within activity there is stillness. it is simultaneously still.28 stillness there must be activity. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:35a) The idea of metaphysical interpenetration is a prominent doctrine in Huayan Buddhism. This order is spiritual and unfathomable. The key Buddhist term is wu-ai &ı." the doctrines are li-shi wu-ai ) phenomenon) and shi-shi wu-ai _ _&ı. This means that since all phenomena are empty of "own-being." (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:7b) Within the stillness of yin is the basis of yang itself. yet its nature is based in yin. within the activity of yang is the basis of yin itself." Within stillness there is activity. yet they are still called things. Chang: 141-171. This is because activity necessarily comes from stillness." therefore each one fully manifests the ultimate principle (namely emptiness). and stillness necessarily comes from activity. or "non-obstruction. Therefore [Zhou] says "no activity. But since human beings have stillness in activity and activity in stillness. Therefore [Zhou] says "no stillness. (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:12a) [On Tongshu 16:] Question: Things are limited by having physical form." When it is still. still and yet not still. and thus each thing fully contains the reality of every other thing (the . and within yin there is yang. (the non-obstruction of principle and (the non-obstruction of phenomenon and phenomenon) (Gimello: 454-510. it is simultaneously active. yet its nature is based in yang. how can we say that they are like the myriad things? Reply: Human beings are certainly active within stillness and still within activity. 207-223). This is what is meant by "activity and stillness without end. When still it is capable of activity. which is based in yin. When it is active. The material of fire is yang. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:34b) "Being active and yet not active. and it is quite possible that Zhu Xi was aware of it. does not mean that [spirit] is neither active nor still" refers to the metaphysical order (xing'er shang zhi li 6 5à ) ). G. _&ı. Within yang there is yin. The permutations are inexhaustible. . which is based in yang.

) (Zhou Lianxi ji 1:6a) Zhu's use of the term "non-obstruction" in this context is very close to the Buddhist concept. Accordingly. If you can truly see it. neither obstructing the other (dou wu fang-ai F &ı |. What he found in Zhou's Taijitu shuo and Tongshu fit that bill. or vice versa. since like all Confucians he believed that their ethics and moral psychology were grounded in the natural world. hence their mutual "non-obstruction. For Zhu Xi. yet Supreme Polarity" explains existence [polarity or differentiation] within non-existence [non-polarity or undifferentiation]. Zhu found in Zhou Dunyi's discussions of the interpenetration of activity and stillness." The formal structure of this argument is basically the same as the argument I have outlined here for the interpenetration of activity and stillness. "If we observe the state after the feelings are aroused. it is useful to look at Zhu's comments on section 20 of the Tongshu. Zhu Xi uses basically the same terminology of "non-obstruction" (wu fang-ai &ı |.29 principle of emptiness). what is contained in the state before the feelings are aroused can surely be understood in silence" (quoted above) is an example of this praxis that required a supporting theoria – preferably a cosmological theory. exactly the underpinning he needed for the methodology of self-cultivation that he worked out through his struggle with the problem of equilibrium and harmony. And he was never satisfied until he could establish a solid philosophical grounding for that practice. which is entitled "Learning to be a Sage" (shengxue 6* L ). based on the interpenetration of wuji and taiji. The linchpin here is Zhou's notion of "unity" yi which Zhu relates to Cheng Yi's characterization of jing as a . where he integrates Cheng Yi's concept of "reverent composure" (jing @) with Zhou's concept of activity and stillness. To conclude. Everything in it should be understood in that light. it explains existence and non-existence. the practice of self-cultivation was the purpose of his entire philosophical and educational system. ) in reference to the relationship between wuji and taiji: "Non-polar. His statement in the 1169 letter to the gentlemen of Hunan. and supports my contention that metaphysical interpenetration is the key to understanding the importance of wuji and taiji in his system.

(Zhou Lianxi ji 5:38b)51 Zhu Xi claims that what Zhou Dunyi meant here by "desirelessness" wuyu &ı! is the same as what Cheng Yi meant by jing @or reverent composure -. 53 In his published commentary on the first line of section 20 he says. The basic Buddhist approach was to extinguish desire or "thirst" (tanha). 52 Although Zhu Xi.52 Zhu discusses two senses of "unity" here. To be unified is to have no desire. "the truth of the Non-Polar (wuji) and the origin of the Two Modes and the Four Images are not external to this mind. "direct mind" (zhi xin .thus redefining in Confucian terms a proposition with obvious Buddhist resonances -.¨ ) (Yampolsky: 136. one is almost [a Sage].53 In terms of self-cultivation.¨) to the important term in section 14 of the Platform Sutra. he identifies unity with the Supreme Polarity inherent in the mind. The text reads: [Someone asked:] "Can Sagehood be learned?" Reply: It can. "Are there essentials (yao ?U)?" Reply: There are. Zhu Xi further applies Cheng Yi's concept of jing to Zhou Dunyi's teaching on stillness in such a way as to minimize the latter's Daoist and Buddhist implications. where it is translated as "straightforward mind"). Without desire one is vacuous when still (jing xu M0</ and direct in activity ) (dong zhi '. Note the similarity of the term "direct in activity" (dong zhi '. being impartial one will be all-embracing (pu $y). and in the realm of daily functioning itself there is no separation from the power to use them" (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:39a).because both terms were defined in terms of unity or unification.30 state of mind that "emphasizes unity" (Graham: 68-70). In metaphysical terms. acknowledged the potential for evil (or suffering) in human desire (renyu ! ). like the Buddhists. Being clear and penetrating. he taught that desires should be not eliminated but selectively cultivated and trained to accord with the Way. Being vacuous when still." Reply: To be unified (yi ) is essential. Only selfish desires (siyu / ! ) should be eliminated. one will be clear (ming ). being clear one will be penetrating (tong E ). impartial and all-embracing. "I beg to hear them. In his commentary on the first line of section 22 of the Tongshu he 51 .¨). Being direct in activity one will be impartial (gong @).

with which he agrees. Directness in activity is simply having absolutely no obstruction in its activity. 55 This is a statement by a student to Zhu Xi.31 he says that both Zhou and Cheng interpret "unity" of mind as a "clear-sighted unity.54 This condition is independent of the mind's content or activity at any particular moment. and moral activity (in the family. In says. Both the one and the many are preserved. community." and not "lumping everything together" (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:39b). intuitive response to changing events. how would one be able to discern it?" (Zhou Lianxi ji 6:1b). then it is full. and there is not the slightest selfish desire to disturb it. moral cultivation (rectifying the mind). "Vacuous when still" [in Tongshu 20. Thus in its activity everything flows out along with Heavenly principle.e. if obscured then blocked. Jing provides an experiential. unchanging ground or orientation for mental activity. There is not the slightest bit of selfish desire added to it. Since it is not preoccupied with anything it cannot be disturbed. Zhu Xi considered the state of mind described by the terms "unity" and "reverent composure" to be the spiritual basis of self-cultivation.a state of fluid responsiveness. not a muddle-headed unity. The purpose of "emphasizing stillness" is to "nourish activity" (Zhu Yulei 71:2855). If it is full. It is neither concentration on one thing to the exclusion of all else. and state). . 54 For a discussion of responsiveness in Neo-Confucian discourse. It is a state of composure that remains unchanged by external stimuli and yet enables one to respond to them -. because it is not preoccupied with private motivations or with fixed concentration. nor concentration on unity and neglect of diversity. 56 This is part of Zhu Xi's response to the above statement. it will be obscured.in particular its capacity for "directness in activity" or immediate. see Adler 1998. including intellectual cultivation (investigating things and extending knowledge). above] means the mind is like a clear mirror or still water. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:40a)55 If things [i. (Zhou Lianxi ji 5:40a)56 Thus the quality of the mind in its still phase determines the quality of its activity -. In the absence of stimuli the mind characterized by reverent composure is equable and poised. when stimulated it responds immediately. incoming stimuli] come and get the better of it [the mind]. "Were it not for the perfect intelligence of the Supreme Polarity of the human mind.

and the emphasis on activity and the active mind that was taught by the Hunan school. This was the solution to his spiritual crisis. Li Tong. with the help of Cheng Yi.32 this way Zhu Xi. This was a middle ground between the "quietistic" application of Zhou's thought he had learned from his teacher. . "saves" Zhou Dunyi from Daoist and Buddhist quietism and establishes a Confucian quietism that fundamentally entails activity. and it may be the best explanation for his curious appropriation of Zhou Dunyi and for the use he made of Zhou's ideas – in particular the concept of polarity as the key to understanding taiji.

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