Today we kick off the unit that will take us to the end of the class: Unit V: Late Imperial China. Our focus will be the last of the two dynasties, highlighted in red, below. In a moment we will talk about some pendulum swings as forces that we can see over the course of the millennium that preceded the twentieth century. First, however, try to anticipate some ways the late imperial period might be different than that of earlier periods.
Pendulum swings during these eras:
Neo-Confucianism and Wang Yangming (王陽明, 1472–1529):
Neo-Confucianism (lixue 理學) was an effort to find Confucian answers to metaphysical problems that had been the preserve of Daoism and Buddhism. It also aimed at translating a complex set of ideas into practices that were accessible to ordinary Chinese. The revivalist trend had roots in the Tang, but became firmly established by the Song. By the time of Wang Yangming’s birth, Neo-Confucianism was already a well-developed, with an orthodoxy built upon the work of philosophers Cheng Yi (程頤, 1033–1107), Cheng Hao (程顥, 1032–1085), and—perhaps most notably— Zhu Xi (朱熹, 1130–1200). Within China, Neo-Confucianism served as the official ideological framework of the imperial examination system all the way until its end in 1905. Outside China, Neo-Confucianism heavily influenced political, social, and intellectual life in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.