Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) (朱子学)

Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) was the new learning system of Confucianism reconstructed by Hsi CHU in Southern Sung. Shushigaku was the term used in Japan. In China, it was called Teishugaku and Teishugakuha together with Yi CHENG in Northern Sung Dynasty who was positioned by Hsi CHU as his pioneer. At the time, Shusigaku was called Dogaku, as a learning system derived from the school sect of Yi CHENG and others which practiced the way of saints.

Shusigaku was also called Sominrigaku (Neo-Confucianism in the Sung and Ming dynasties) since its theory was based on 'Li' (reasons), which innately exist in human beings and things, together with Wang LU Shin school (Wang LU Mind school). Further in Qing Dynasty, Shusigaku was called Sogaku (the Sung Study) from Kangaku (Sinology) which was based on Kanto kunkogaku (exegetics).


Hsi CHU organized various and contradictory theories in Northern Sung Dynasty into a great learning system which replaced these previous theories, and was based on a theory unique to Confucianism, by being based on the Seisokuri setsu (Chinese philosophy, a theory that 'sei' [human inborn nature] is 'Li' [the law of moral act]) advanced by Yi CHENG, and the Tenri (a theory that 'ten' [providence] is 'Li' [the law of moral act]) advanced by Hao CHENG, while adapting the logical system of Buddhistic thought, the generative theory of Taoism, and gyoho (method of ascetic practices) of sitting calmly and quietly. In this learning system, the thought of unification of an individual and the society was advocated, that is the self and the society, and the self and the universe were tied together by 'Li' as universal principles (Chinese philosophical theory in which it is believed that the universe and one are connected through his reason), and that the maintenance of social order (governing people) could be achieved through understanding of 'Li' through self-discipline.

According to 'Li' of Shushigaku, 'Li' is a metaphysical existence, 'Ch'i' is a physical existence, and these two are completely different, however, each of them cannot solely exist and they are an 'inseparable' relation. Further, 'Ch'i' is a component of everything and has mobility, and 'Li' gives order to the movement of 'Ch'i' as a fundamental existence.
The investigation of 'Li' was called 'plumb the principle.'
The theory advocated by Hsi CHU was called the Seisokuri setsu and compared with the theory by Xiangshan LU, the Shinsokuri setsu (Chinese philosophical theory in which it is believed that one's mind is the law of moral acts). Hsi CHU criticized the Shinsokuri setsu in that the theory is to separate an individual from the society and emphasize only individual self-discipline. On the other hand, Hsi CHU criticized Liang CHEN and others of the utilitarianism school sect (事功学派) that the theory ignored individual self-discipline and valued only the social relation.

The learnings of Hsi CHU were accepted as learnings for the Shitaifu (Scholar-bureaucrats) class, who were in charge of social governance; during the Yuan dynasty, the state for interpretation of classic Confucian writings stipulated that the Kakyo shiken (examinations for Chinese state bureaucrats) should conform to these learnings, and changes were made to the national education.

During the Ming Dynasty, Shushigaku (Neo-Confucianism) became the national education and learning was practiced for worldly profit to pass the Kakyo, and was used by the establishment to create community morals in autonomous villages, causing the learning of the saints, which valued moral practice, to deteriorate. Therefore, Neo-Confucian scholars in Ming Dynasty adopted the Shin school (Mind school) by Jiuyuan LU to complement moral practice learning. Thus, Yomeigaku (Neo-Confucianism based on teaching of Yangming WANG) by Shoujen WANG was born. On the other hand, like Juren HU, there was a person who sought the conventional Neo-Confucianism and tried to maintain purity of the learning.

Neo-Confucianism in the Qing Dynasty focused on Reigaku (courtesy science), which Hsi CHU concentrated in his later years, rather than the theory of Li-Ch'i and the theory of Mind, and interest in 'courtesy' increased, which was practically responsible for the establishment of public order, so that Neo-Confucianism was narrowed down from learning having a grand world view to becoming practicable and concrete. Research for documentation about Reigaku later became part of the study of old documents. Even during the Qing Dynasty, Neo-Confucianism was inherited as system teaching and learning, and used to create the national policy based on Reikyo, and utilized only in the narrow range, such as ethics of master and servant.

Transmission to the Korean Peninsula and its influence

Neo-Confucianism was introduced to Korea in the 13th century and used as the national governing principle of Korean Dynasties. Korea discarded Buddhism that was the previous state religion of Goryeo an set Neo-Confucianism as the only method of learning (government school).

During the Yi Dynasty Korea period, yangban (traditional ruling class or nobles of dynastic Korea during the Joseon Dynasty), which had Neo-Confucianism permeate their daily lives as their ideological foundation, grew into a status hierarchy that produced intellectual people and ethical leaders. Especially, the learning of The Ghe LEE affected Razan HAYASHI, Ansai YAMAZAKI, and others in Japan.

Influence on Ryukyu

Shunze CHENG, who was a poet and Confucian scholar active from the late 17th century to the 18th century, proposed the foundation of the Meirindo school, the first school in Ryukyu, and greatly contributed to learning in Ryukyu. He also worked as an interpreter to Qing and took "Rikuyu engi" (interpretation of Rikuyu) back and distributed in Ryukyu. This book affected Japan via Ryukyu.

Its transmission to Japan and its influence

Generally, the first introduction of Neo-Confucianism into Japan was said to have occurred through Shunjo, a monk of the Shingon sect who entered Sung in 1199, and brought back Neo-Confucianism to Japan, however, it is not certain, since there are many different opinions. By the late Kamakura period, Neo-Confucianism was spread as basic education for monks in training and others among gosan (Zen temples highly ranked by the government), and its theory was completed by annotations brought by the monk Ichinei ISSAN (Yining YISHAN), who visited Japan in 1299 from the Yuan Dynasty.

It seems Emperor Godaigo and Masashige KUSUNOKI were keen followers of Neo-Confucianism, and there are several points that point to the fact that their principle of behavior from the fall of Kamakura to Kenmu Restoration might be based on Neo-Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism then stagnated for years, but in the Edo period, Razan HAYASHI revived it by his 'the theory of fixed division between uppers and lowers' and its theory of ethical duty of the social class as the fundamental principle of the military rule, and Neo-Confucianism was designated as the official scholarship by the Edo bakufu (Japanese feudal government headed by a shogun). Sadanobu MATSUDAIRA issued Kansei Igaku no Kin (Prohibition of heterodoxy in the Kansei era) in 1790. Ironically, however, the rise of Neo-Confucianism triggered the sonnoron (the thought respecting the Emperors) and the movement to show reverence for the emperor for establishing an Emperor-centered nation, which led to the movement to overthrow the Shogunate and the Meiji Restoration.

The thought of Neo-Confucianism had a strong influence on modern Japan. When the "Imperial Rescript on Education" was granted as an Imperial gift in 1890, Neo-Confucianism was seriously adopted as the ideology of the modern nation. There are many keen devotees of Neo-Confucianism in parts of the military, and it is said that they affected the February 26th Incident and the Manchurian Incident to some degree. Hiroshi FURUTA expressed his opinion that the reason why the army in the Showa period became an organization that lost its sense of reality was the commitment to Confucianism, especially the commitment to Neo-Confucianism.

Groups conformed with so-called Sogaku (Neo-Confucianism).

Major followers
Sekigo MATSUNAGA, Jozan ISHIKAWA, Razan HAYASHI, and others.

Confucianists who serve under Shogunate or the Imperial court
Hayashi group
So-called Hayashi group including Razan HAYASHI, and others

Junan group
A group of Junan KINOSHITA, who was the follower of Sekigo MATSUNAGA

Major followers
Hakuseki ARAI, Kyuso MURO, Nankai GION, Hoshu AMENOMORI, and others.

Issai group
Issai SATO
Major followers
Shozan SAKUMA, Soan IKEDA, and others

Nangaku school
Jichu TANI
Major followers
Ansai YAMAZAKI, Kenzan NONAKA, Sansei OGURA, and others.