Guest Lecture: The relationship between Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism in Song Dynasty taking Zhu Xi as an example

The teaching of Buddha Sakyamuni. Zhang Shengwen (Chang Sheng-wen). Song dynasty, circa 960-1279. National Palace Museum. From Wikimedia Commons.


Time: Monday, December 6, 2021, 10:00 AM – 12 PM PST


Abstract: Since the introduction of Buddhism to China, the debate between Confucianism and Buddhism has experienced a long-lasting discussion. It became more and more intense during the middle and late Tang Dynasty with the rise of Confucianism. The focus of the debate changed from practical problems, such as the argument between Yi 夷 (‘Barbarian’) and Xia 夏 (Chinese), etiquette and education, politics, economy, to philosophical analysis. Neo-Confucianism flourished during the Song dynasties and reignited a vigorous debate between Confucianism and Buddhism. In an effort to uphold their tradition’s independence, Neo-Confucians waged a long and bitter series of debates with Buddhism, to which they considered to be their major opponent. On the one hand, Confucian scholars in the Song Dynasty took it as their mission to revive Confucianism and re-interpret the essence of Confucianism through the construction of subtle metaphysics and the theory of mind and nature. On the other hand, they rejected Zen Buddhism, which had flourished in thought, etiquette and customs since the Sui and Tang Dynasties, in order to draw a clear distinction between Confucianism and Buddhism, and establish the scope of Confucianism. These two systems are so deeply intertwined that the development of Neo-Confucianism is often defined by rejected and adapted doctrines from Buddhism. Zhu Xi 朱熹 is the most important person at the center of this debate in terms of time, thought, and influence. By analyzing his thoughts, it could help us better understand the complex relationship between Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism.


About the Speaker:

Li Chunying is an associate professor and associate dean of International Confucian Academy at China University of Political Science and Law. She has been a visiting scholar at Columbia University in the US. Her research interests include Neo-Confucianism, Pre-Qin Dynasties’ Confucianism and Chuang Tzu’s philosophy. These years she focuses on the relationship between Neo-Confucianism and Buddhism. Prof. Li has published two books and about 30 articles, including: Hengpu wenji explanatory note (2018), and A Collection works of Zhang Jiucheng (2020).

Prof. Li is visiting the University of British Columbia from August 2021 – August 2022.