Genealogical Self and a Confucian Way of
Both in the Anglo-European West and in the East Asia, moral philosophy
starts from an attempt to understand the true nature of self.1
Different conceptions of self or different answers to the questions
such as "what am I?" and "how do I become myself?"
often lead to the different ways of moral life, that is, to the different
answers for the question "what ought I to live in my life?" In
this paper I would like first to discuss three main ways in understanding
the relationship between my self and the surrounding contextual others in
contemporary studies of Confucianism. I call the three conceptions of the
self the "universal self," the organismic self," and the
"relational self." I shall argue that all these three
influential understandings of the Confucian conception of self either
still stand in the shadow of the Indo-European metaphysical traditions of
self or are not sufficient enough to go beyond that shadow. Thus they may
not be able to lead us to a full and appropriate understanding of the
unique and the true spirit of the conception of self in Confucianism.
Based on the ways how Chinese characters get themselves generated
"genealogically," I shall then propose an alternative
understanding of the Confucian conception of self as a "genealogical
self." I claim that this genealogical conception of self is rooted
much deeper in the Chinese social, cultural and linguistic traditions than
any of the other three conceptions. Finally, I will show how this
genealogical conception of self leads us to understand the nature of the
Confucian ethics as communal and exemplary ethics rather than absolute
individualistic and commandant ethics.
I. " Many and One
" Model and the Universal Self
It is commonly accepted now that a Confucian self cannot be understood
as an isolated, atomic being. That kind of self as person is often
described as a free, abstract and disinterested individual agent. That
means, a self, in a Confucian view, can not be cut off, in one or another
way, from its surrounding others, i.e., from its historical, social and
cultural contextual environment. Although most scholars who study
Confucianism share this common position, their positive understanding of
how a Confucian should identify or derive himself from his relations to
others and from his historical, cultural and social environment are
different. In the contemporary scholarship of Confucianism there seem to
be at least three major ways in understanding the Confucian self and its
relationship to others.
The first way is to understand a Confucian self from its surrounding
whole as something absolutely "ultimate" and
"universal." It is ultimate in the sense that it cannot be
reduced into the existence of any particular things in the universe. It
rather serves as the transcendental ground for them. It is
"universal" in the sense that it is at the same time partaken by
or is immanent in each individual kind of things. Among the modern
Confucianists, Fung You-lan (1895-1990) is a representative of this view.
Following the Sung Neo-Confucianism, Fung calls this universal whole the
"Supreme Ultimate" or the "Principle of Heaven," and
refers to Plato's "Idea of Good" and Aristotle's "God"
in Western Philosophy in his interpretation of the universal whole.2
Fung sees his interpretation as a historical continuation or the
neo-realistic development of the Sung Neo-Confucianism, especially the
Cheng-Zhu School of Principle (
cheng-zhu li xue).
According to Fung, the whole Sung Neo-Confucianism is based on the
metaphysics of "one and many." This metaphysics holds that an
individual self should derive and identify itself from a general
principle, which is called either the "principle of heaven" (tian
li ) or "Way" (dao)
or the "Supreme Ultimate" (tai
ji). For example, Zhu Xi (1130-1200), a leading Sung Neo-Confucianist
describes his metaphysical theory of "one and many" in the
"Everything has an ultimate, which is the
ultimate li. … That which
unites and embraces the li of
heaven, earth, and all things is the Supreme Ultimate." 3
As the Supreme
Ultimate, Zhu Xi also says,
" [It] is simply what is highest of all, beyond which nothing can
be. It is the most high, most mystical, and most abstruse, surpassing
get a double characteristic of the li
or the Supreme Ultimate from Zhu Xi. First, it is the summation of the
li of the universe as a whole. It cannot be reduced into any specific
and particular individual being. It is eternal, incorporeal, unchanging
and always good. Second, it is at the same time immanent in the individual
examples of each category of things. It is a constituting principle that
produces and reproduces all particular existential beings that are many,
phenomenal, physical, transitory, and changeable. These existential beings
are thus the mixture of good and evil.
The moral application of this Neo-Confucian metaphysics is the theory of
the distinction between the "tian
li" (principle of heaven), which is one, universal, incorporeal
and always good and the "rena
yu" (desires of human self)
5, which is many, individual, corporeal and by its nature,
not good. For any individual thing that exists, a certain universal "li"
is already inherent in it. It is the "li"
that makes the individual thing what it is and constitutes its nature. By
the same token, a human being, like other beings, has the "li" in his nature. That is the "li" of humanity, which makes everyone of us to have the
possibilities to know good and to be good. However, a human self is not
only an embodiment of "li"
or "principle," but also an embodiment of "qi" or
"matter." That is to say, every one of us is a particular and
corporeal being in this concrete and physical world. The li for all people is the same while the qi makes them different. Zhu Xi uses this theory to explain why we
have evil in our life.
" Everything depends on its physical endowment. Li, on the other hand, is nothing but good, for since it is li,
how can it be evil? What is evil lies in the physical endowment."
Zhu Xi, the relationship between the principle of heaven and the human
selfish desires are like that between fire and water. They cannot be
interwoven and mixed together. Therefore, the task of moral learning or
self-cultivation is to "overcome and eliminate selfishness and return
to the principle of heaven." 7
Starting from a very similar metaphysical grounding as we have found in
Zhu Xi, Fung You-lan comes to a similar conception of self. In his book, The
New Treatise on the Nature of Man, Fung divides human spheres of
living into four general grades. They are the innocent sphere, the
utilitarian sphere, the moral sphere, and the transcendental sphere. These
four spheres, according to Fung, represent the four levels or grades how a
human person realizes and arrives at his true self. According to Fung, the
first two levels belong to the world of "is" while the last two
spheres belong to the world of "ought to be." In Fung's words,
"The former two are the gifts of nature, while the latter two are
the creations of the spirit. The innocent sphere is the lowest, the
utilitarian comes next , then the moral , and finally the transcendent.
They are so because the innocent sphere requires almost no understanding
and self-consciousness, whereas the utilitarian and the moral require
more, and the transcendent requires most. The moral sphere is that of
moral values, and the transcendent is that of super-moral values."
To arrive at
the sphere of "moral value" and that of "super-moral
value," a human being, on the one hand, must abandon his or her
spontaneous and individual self because they are natural, partial, and
unintelligent. On the other hand, the society and the universe as a whole
should be the ground of the existence and the source of the value of any
"This society constitutes a whole and he [a human being] is a part
of that whole. Having this understanding, he does everything for the
society, or as the Confucianists say, he does everything 'for the sake of
righteousness, and not for the sake of personal profit.' ... [A man] is
not only a member of society; ... [he] is a citizen of Heaven, as Mencius
says. Having this understanding, he does everything for the benefit of the
To me, both Zhu Xi's and Fung You-lan's pictures of the true human self
indicate serious problems of the metaphysics of "one and many"
in the School of Principle. First, they assume the existence of a
transcendental entity. They call it the universal whole or the principle
of heaven and grant this universal whole an absolute existential/moral
priority without a real justification. Second, they assume a hierarchical
order and an antagonistic relation between the individual self and the
universal self. Although both Zhu and Fung stress the relational and the
holistic characteristic of the Confucian self, they ignore and even
suppress the uniqueness and individuality of the self, which a Confucian
may not necessarily want to exclude from his conception of self.10
Obviously enough, the real focus of this "many-one" dichotomy is
the one as the wholeness. This is only a Chinese cousin of the Buddhist
model of reality/illusion and the Platonic model of being/appearances.
According to these theories, the world of the phenomenon, which is
composed of the myriad individual beings, is either a world of non-living
mathematical/mechanical pieces or a world of illusions. They do not have
or they are lacking of reality. Thus, there are less or even no real
meanings and values of this phenomenal world. The very reason for the
existence of the phenomenon world is that it serves only as a way to
denounce itself and thus could lead us toward the real world of nirvana or
to that of the transcendental reality. Following this understanding a self
may not be called as a real self. It is rather selfless or a
II. " Part and Whole
" Model and the Organismic Self
In comparison to the metaphysical conception of "many-one,"
from which we have the "universal conception of self," the
second way is that of the organismic "part-whole." In light of
this conception, the universe should be seen as a big organic whole like a
living organism. All individual beings in the universe, including myself,
are put into different places and play different roles. They are thus not
indifferent or abstract ones like instances of the universal form or the
principle of heaven. They are rather integrated parts of the organic
whole. Individuals that occupy different places and play specific roles
are inter-dependent and inter-related. They together serve for the
teleological goal of growth of the whole organism and share their common
Many contemporary scholars seem to like this cosmological/metaphysical
model in understanding the Confucian as well as the Chinese conception of
selfhood. For example, Joseph Needham, one of the greatest Sinologists in
our time, holds that the Confucian philosophical tradition is essentially
based on an organic model.
"The Neo-Confucians arrive at essentially an organic view of the
universe. Composed of matter-energy and ordered by the universal principle
of organization, it was a universe which, though neither created nor
governed by any personal deity, was entirely real, and possessed the
property of manifesting the highest human values (love, righteousness,
sacrifice, etc.) when beings of an integrative level sufficiently high to
allow of their appearance, had come into existence."
Wei-ming, a well-known contemporary Confucianist at Harvard University says also
that "... the appropriate metaphor for understanding the universe was
biology rather than physics." 12
Different from Fung You-lan, Tu thinks that
"[at] issue was not the eternal, static structure but the dynamic
process of growth and transformation. To say that the cosmos is a
continuum and that all of its components are internally connected is also
to say that it is an organismic unity, holistically integrated at each
level of complexity." 13
Although Needham and Tu take our surrounding universe as an organically
integrated wholeness, and this position implies a criticism against the
Platonic universal wholeness in Fung You-lan's and Zhu Xi's doctrine of
"li," they do not really stay far away from the Sung
Neo-Confucian tradition. We can easily trace this idea back to Zhang Zai
(1020-1077), Cheng Hao (1032-1085), both of them are founders and
important figures in the Sung Neo-Confucianism and to Wang Yang-ming (1472-1528),
the founder and the most important philosopher in the Ming
Neo-Confucianism. For example, in the "Recorded Sayings of Cheng Hao"
we are told,
" A book on medicine describes paralysis of the four limbs as
absence of humanity (bu ren).
This is an excellent description. The man of humanity regards heaven and
earth and all things as one body. To him there is nothing that is not
himself. Since he has recognized all things as himself, can there be any
limit to his humanity? If things are not part of the self, naturally they
have nothing to do with it. As in the case of paralysis of the four limbs,
the vital force no longer penetrates them, and therefore they are no
longer parts of the self." 14
A similar idea
can be found in Zhang Zai's well-known "Western Inscription."
"Heaven is my father and Earth is my mother, and even such a small
creature as I finds an intimate place in their midst. Therefore that which
fills the universe I regard as my body and that which directs the universe
I consider as my nature. All people are my brothers and sisters, and all
things are my companions." 15
The idea of forming one body with the universe is actually even not new
in Zhang Zai or Cheng Hao. Upward, this tradition can be traced back
philosophically even to Zhuang Zi (369?-286? BCE )
(371?-289? BCE) in ancient time, and downward, it has an extension to Wang
Yang-ming's doctrine of mind. The difference among these Sung and Ming
Neo-Confucianists is in their understanding of the key element, which
makes everything in the universe one integrated body. This element for
Zhang Zai is "qi," the
original vital force, which is perpetually interfusing and intermingling
in the universe, while in Cheng Hao it is "sheng,"
the spontaneous and natural principle of life. Different from both Zhang
and Cheng, Wang Yang-ming develops this idea into a radical form. He calls
this fundamental element "xin,"
or "liang zhi," and
interprets it as the innate moral mind shared by everyone and all things
in the world. In Wang's words, the reason why a man
"can regard Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things as one body is not
because he deliberately wants to do so, but because it is natural to the
human nature of his mind
that he do so. ... Therefore, when he sees a child about to fall into
a well, he cannot help a feeling of alarm and commiseration. This shows
that his humanity (ren) forms one body with the child. ... Again, when he observes the
pitiful cries and frightened appearance of birds and animals about to be
slaughtered, he cannot help feeling an 'inability to bear' their
suffering. ...Yet even when he sees tiles and stones shattered and
crushed, he cannot help a feeling of regret. ... Such a mind
is rooted in his Heaven-endowed nature, and is naturally intelligent,
clear, and not beclouded. For
this reason it is called the 'clear character.'" 16
Wang comes to discuss about the true nature of the mind, he is influenced
by the Buddhist dualistic metaphysics of the bodily mind and the spiritual
mind. He thus ends up with a
similar conclusion as Zhu Xi does in his distinction between the principle
of heaven and the bodily desires of individual person.
"What is it that is called the person? It is the physical
functioning of the mind. What is it that is called the mind? It is the
clear and intelligent master of the person."
The evil comes
because we let our innate clear and moral mind be "aroused" and
"obscured" by the bodily and selfish desires.
"When it [the mind] is aroused by desires and obscured by
selfishness, compelled by greed for gain and fear of harm, and stirred by
anger, he will destroy things, kill members of his own species, and will
do everything. ... Thus the learning of the great man consists entirely in
getting rid of the obscuration of selfish desires in order by his own
efforts to make manifest his clear character, so as to restore the
condition of forming one body with Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things, a
condition that is originally so, that is all."18
By "reducing" the cosmic whole into my original moral mind as
the special and fundamental "part" of the whole, Wang Yang-ming
goes actually beyond the "part-whole" model, which is
presupposed in Zhang Zai's and Cheng Hao's sayings. He returns to some
extent back to the "many and one" model advocated by the School
of Cheng-Zhu. However, the "one" this time is no more the
external, non-human principle of heaven, but the humane and immanent mind
within myself. This
understanding of the true self switches the attention of searching for the
grounding of morality from external authority to an internal and primitive
moral consciousness and thus it puts the power of moral evaluation and
judgment back into the hand of myself. That is to say, to be moral, or to
fulfil the moral obligations, which are assigned to me in the different
situations of my life and for the different social roles I play, is
nothing external to me. Rather, it should be the fundamental request from
the deep and original mind of myself as long as I am a human person.
Furthermore, morality is no more a static application of those dry and
fixed principles, laws or rules, it becomes a dynamic living way of a
personal growing. This growth, on the one hand, requires the individual's
deferring to the surrounding organic whole as its inseparable part. On the
other hand, it enables the natural way of the organic wholeness to fulfill
Nevertheless, an organismic whole is by its nature teleological and thus
still holistic. First, it assumes that the inter-connective relationship
among components of the whole is internal, pre-established and necessary
one. Second, it assumes that all components of this whole, though each of
them is inseparable and non-replaceable, exist and live for the sake of
the organismic wholeness. They
are governed by a common destiny or by the "goal" of growth of
the organism as a whole. Thus understood, an organismic self is no less
holistic than a universal self because within both conceptions we are
lacking the true spirit of individuality. The self becomes actually
something that is selfless, just as Otto Gierke said when he criticized a
medieval European account of the organic Universe Whole:
" ... Since the World is One Organism, animated by One Spirit,
fashioned by One Ordinance, the self-same principles that appear in the
structure of the World will appear once more in the structure of its every
Part. Therefore every particular Being, in so far as it is a Whole, is
diminished copy of the World." 19
Is Gierke's criticism of the holistic nature of both the universal and
the organismic self also applicable to Wang Yang-ming? According to Wang's
conception of self, as we have discussed above, my innate moral feeling
and conscience in its all-embracing fullness forms one body with Heaven,
Earth, and the myriad things. Viewed superficially, Wang's conception of
self, which starts from inner-ness of myself, should lead to a theory of
self-affirmation rather than to that of self-abnegation. However, a
further observation of Wang's conception of self shows that this
self-affirmation can only be realized through a way of purification of
myself, that is, of denunciation of my corporeal and bodily self.
Therefore, when Wang claims that I form one body with Heaven, Earth, and
the myriad things, his focus is the "one"
rather than the "body."
That is to say, by "one body" Wang does not really mean a real
"body," a concrete, partial, corporeal thing with flesh and
blood. Here the principle of body is replaced by the principle of mind,
because only the mind can realize the value of One and that of Wholeness,
as Wang's predecessor Lu Xiangshan (1139-1193)
"The mind is one and the principle is one. Perfect truth is reduced
to a unity; the essential principle is never a duality." 20
Here my mind
and the mind of the universe become one and the same. Along with this
replacement, the characteristics such as partiality, uniqueness and
other-ness, which should be implied in the Confucian conception of "organismic
self," get completely lost.
III. " This and That
" Model and the Relational Self
We may call the third conception, which is used by contemporary scholars
in their discussions of the Confucian self, the "relational
self" or "correlative self." Different from both the
"universal self" and the "organismic self," which are
derived from the metaphysical models of "one and many" and
"part and whole," the "relational self" is based on
the model of "correlations of this and that." Inspired by the
models used in sciences, some Confucian scholars take an anti-metaphysical
way in their re-defining or re-constructing the conception of an authentic
self. Their attempt can be seen first from their abandoning of the
metaphysical conception of the wholeness, no matter whether it is a
universal whole or an organismic whole. That is to say, a true self does
not have a transcendental origin or ground. It can be neither an
externally transcendental one nor an immanently transcendental one. There
is no such a thing as a holistic entity but different ontic relations or
correlations among particulars and individuals. These ontic relations or
correlative contexts in which I live and with which I deal in my everyday
life help to formulate what I am and what you are.
As Professor Ambrose Y.C. King points out, among the modern Chinese
scholars, Liang Shu-ming (1893-1988), a well-known philosopher and a
social reformer, is one of those who hold that Chinese social life is
neither individual-based nor society-based, but relation-based.21
According to Liang,
"The focus is not fixed on any particular individual, but on the
particular nature of the relations between individuals who interact with
each other. The focus is placed upon the relationship." 22
Liang's conception of "relation" implies the principle of
"other-ness" rather than the principle of "wholeness."
This relation-based rather than individual-based or wholeness-based moral
life presents itself in the Chinese word "lun
." Thus understood, a
Chinese individual is a relational being who conceives of the
"other" in concrete and differentiated relational terms.
Therefore, the essence of lun
lies in the differentiated relationship between particular individuals. In
his article, "The Individual and Group in Confucianism: A Relational
Perspective," King makes this point very clear.
"The significant point is that in Confucianism, though the concept
of group is recognized, the individual tends only to identify his moral
relation with particular individuals of the group, not with the group per
se. Lun exists only in relation to individuals, not in relation to the
group. ...What should be stressed here is that in the relational context,
the individual's relations with others are neither independent nor
dependent but interdependent." 23
Influenced by Dewey's and Mead's American Pragmatism, two North American
philosophers and Sinologists, David Hall and Roger Ames come to a similar
conclusion as Liang Shu-ming did in his observation of the Chinese social
life. In their book, Thinking
Through Confucius, Hall and Ames go further and define the Confucian
correlative self in light of a hologrammatic model of "focus and
field." According to this conception,
"A particular is a focus that is both defined by and defines a
context -- a field. The field is hologrammatic; that is, it is so
constituted that each discriminate 'part' contains the adumbrated
there is no single context or an overarching whole that contains and
controls all foci. The totality is nothing but a full range of particular
foci and each focus defines itself and its own particular field.
"Alternative foci entail the notion of alternative wholes. ...
Relationships among individual foci are defined by the differential
perspectives each focus provides on the totality. The totality per
se, abstracted from its alternative characterizations, is merely the
additive sum of all orders defined by the alternative foci." 25
While Liang, King, Hall and Ames stress that the nature of the Confucian
conception of self is neither individualistic nor holistic and that it is
relational or correlative, they have touched, I believe, the deepest
ground of Confucianism as well as that of the whole Chinese culture.
Compared with the "universal self" and the "organic
self" discussed above, the conception of the "relational
self" may have three advantageous philosophical implications. First,
if a self by its nature is relational or correlative, it must have a
pluralistic character. That is to say, a relational self cannot be a
single one. Its very existence assumes ontologically the existence of the
other selves. The characteristic of the other-ness is implied within the
very concept of relational self. Second, the understanding of the
"relational self" also contains the concept of action and that
of interaction. According to this understanding, we are not simply what we
"are," but also and more importantly, we are what we
"do." As a relational and correlative self, I do not passively
fit the role or roles determined by the fixed relations with others. I am
also capable of shaping actively what kind of relationships to have with
others. That is, I am, to some extent, both the subject and sovereign of
my own relational and correlative nets. Third, the pluralistic and
interactive characteristics of relational self also indicate openness of
the relational "wholes." The interactive selves do not accept a
fixed boundary of one totalitarian whole. On the one hand, they ask many
"wholes" instead of one overarching "Whole." On the
other hand, these wholes are never fixed. They are always changing, i.e.
emerging in and emerging out.
I fully share the idea that the Confucian conception of self is
relational and correlative. I also like the anti-metaphysical tone implied
in the conception of the "relational self." However, when we
come to the point how to understand the nature of these relations, I
believe that neither Liang and King nor Hall and Ames provide us a real
and a satisfying picture of the Confucian self. The main problem in Liang
and King is that their understanding of the relational and correlative
self seems too vague and too general. For example, although they point out
that a Confucian self is relation-based and that one's relation with the
others is neither dependent nor independent but interdependent, both of
them fail to go further in telling us on what
kind of relations a human self is "based," and how
human selves are interdependent to each other in such relational contexts.
Understood in a broader sense, both the "universal self" and the
"organismic self" could be seen as one kind of "relational
self." The difference is only that the "universal self"
stresses logistic relations while the "organismic self" focuses
on teleological relations. By using a model of "focus and
field," Hall and Ames do attempt to give us a concrete picture of
some unique relations. Nevertheless, it seems to me that the very idea of
"focus and field" is a little bit far away from a Confucian
tradition and thus it fails to recognize some essential features of the
Confucian conception. For example, when we use the words "focus"
and "field," which may be borrowed from modern physics, we have
a tendency to understand the relations in an anti-substantial way. This
conception might be more close to a Daoist, or to a Buddhist, or even to a
Pragmatist picture of self rather than to a Confucianist one. As we know,
when a Confucianist thinks and talks about one's surrounding relations,
out of which he identifies himself or herself, he often means some more
concrete and realistic interpersonal relations between I and Thou. Yes,
relationships are important to a Confucianist, but the persons who make
the relationships possible cannot be simply reduced or be forfeited within
the relations. Therefore, a Confucian does not only think that a human
self is relational or inter-personal.
More importantly, a self is an inter-personal
being. The emphasis on the personal nature of human social and
communal relations, I believe, will help us to understand better the
historical, hierarchical and the bodily characteristics of the Confucian
IV. Genealogy of Chinese Characters
In what follows I would like to propose a different understanding of the
Confucian conception of self and to call it the "genealogical
self." By the term
"genealogy" people originally meant a study of the pedigreed
relations among the different members in different generations of a big
and extended family in its historical development. Later, we use the term
also for an etymological study of "familial relations" of words,
or in B. Karlgren's word, a study of "word families." 26
In Chinese, we call the former the analysis of family pedigree (
jia pu fen xi ) and the latter the
analysis of the genealogy of graphs and characters ( wen zi luan ru ).
Because many scholars have already discussed the important roles of
the traditional Chinese family system in understanding the deep structure
of the Chinese culture, I would like to focus my discussion here on the
genealogy of Chinese characters. I will try to demonstrate how the
genealogical process of formation and re-formation of a Chinese character
can shed light upon the question how a human being gets himself
established in the real and historical life practice.
we know, the study of the ways of the formation and re-formation of
Chinese characters started from very early years of Chinese history. In
the Shuo-Wen Lexicon, one of the oldest Chinese dictionaries compiled
almost 2000 years ago, Xu Shen (58-147 ) summarizes six traditional ways
of character formation (liu shu).
According to Goeran Malmqvist 27
the logical sequence of the liu shu
Above I have
introduced a conception of self as "
genealogical self ." I
have tried to use the model to suggest an alternative Confucian
understanding of self. I believe that this model has some advantages
compared with the other existing conceptions such as the universal
conception of self, the organismic conception of self, and the relational
conception of self, which I have discussed in the first part of the
article. However, I do not want to claim that the way of "
genealogical formation " of Chinese characters is the only way of the
moral formation of a Confucian self. What I hope to say is that a serious
study of the genealogical relations among the existing Chinese characters
should throw light upon and enrich our understanding of the nature of an
authentic Confucian construction and re-construction of self in our age.42
Philosophical Quarterly (2002 Spring issue)
The concept of "self" in philosophy could be studied from
different perspectives. In this article, I use the concept mainly as a
2 Fung You-lan, A
History of Chinese Philosophy, trans.
by Derk Bodde, (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1953), vol.2,
3 Zhu Xi , Zhuzi
Recorded Sayings of the Master Zhu), ed. Ni Jing-de (Beijing: Zhong
Hua Books, 1994), p.2375.
5 Many Chinese characters have the same Pin-yin spelling, but different
in tones or in writing. In
this essay, I will use superscript to distinguish between them. See the attached Chinese glossary for these characters.
6 See Fung You -lan, A Short
History of Chinese Philosophy, (New York: The Free Press, 1966),
7 Wing-Tsit Chan, A Source Book in
Chinese Philosophy (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1963),
8 Fung, A Short History of Chinese Philosophy, p.339
Tu Weiming has an excellent discussion of this issue in his
Confucian Thought -- Selfhood
as Creative Transformation (Albany: SUNY Press, 1985).
Joseph Needham, Science and
Civilization in China (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956),
Tu, Confucian Thought, p.39
Chan. A Source Book in Chinese
Otto Gierke, Political Theories of
the Middle Ages, trans. Fred W. Maitland (Cambridge: Cambridge
University Press, 1900), p.9. Here I quoted from Donald J. Munro,
"Introduction" in Individualism
and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values, ed. Donald J.
Munro, (Ann Arbor: The University of Michigan, 1985), p.23.
Chan, A Source Book in Chinese
Ambrose Y. C. King, "The Individual and Group in Confucianism: A
Relational Perspective," in Munro ed. Individualism
and Holism: Studies in Confucian and Taoist Values, p.63.
Liang Shu-ming, zhong guo wen hua
yao yi (Essential Features of
Chinese Culture), quoted in King, p.63.
King, in Munro, p.61.
David L. Hall & Roger T. Ames, Thinking
through Confucius (Albany: SUNY Press, 1987), p.238.
B. Karlgren, Word Families in
Chinese, in Bulletin of the
Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, No.5., 1934.
Goeran Malmqvist, "Chinese linguistics," in History
of Linguistics. Vol.1: The
Eastern Traditions of Linguistics, London: Longman, 1994, pp.1-24.
I learned this sequence from Kwan Tze-wan 's
unpublished article "Willhelm Von Humboldt
on the Chinese Language -- Interpretation and Reconstruction"
(forthcoming in Journal of Chinese Linguistics). I would like to express my
gratitude to Professor Kwan for his allowing me to read his unpublished
article. Also see Kwan's "Constitution in the Chinese Language: A
Humboldtian Perspective", in Kwan Tze-wan, From a Philosophical Point of View, pp.269-340, (Taipei, Dongdai
original sequence in the book is: 1. ideographs (zhi shi), 2. pictographs (xian
xin), 3. phonetic compounds (xin
sheng), 4. compound ideographs (hui
yi), 5. annotative derivation (zhuan zhu), 6. loan characters (jia jie).
As for translation of the liu shu,
I follow Malmqvist and Kwan basically, but with minor modification.
30 It should be noted
that several Qing Scholars call the first four categories as "the
principles of the formation of characters" ( zhao zi zhi fa ) while taking the last two as "the principles
of the use of characters" (
yung zi zhi fa ). This saying may be misleading.
As Zhanga Tai-yan
says:" Both 'the character
and 'annotative derivation' are indeed the principles of the character formation.
Though people later also call the 'exegesis based on similar meaning (tong xun )' 'the
annotative derivation,' it is not the same as the annotative derivation in liu
shu. By the same token, the replacement of extant homophonic
characters (tong sheng tong yong )
that people also call 'character loaning' is not the 'character loaning'
in the liu shu." See Zhanga, guo gu lun heng
vol.A. Furthermore, the fact that they are classified as the last two ways of the character formation
does not mean that they are less valuable or less important than the first
four. The opposite might have
more truth. As Sun Yongchang points out,
"annotative derivation " in a broader sense is the "most
productive way" in formation of Chinese characters. See Sun Yongchang,
Zhuang Zhu Lun ( Chang Sha：Yue Lu Shu She, 1991), p.69. Kwan Tze-wan
also has some insightful discussions on this issue in his above mentioned
See Lo Chang Pei , Yu
Yan Yu Wen Hua , (Beijing: Language Press, 1989)
Gao Ming Xiao Xue Lun Cong (
Taipei: Niming Wenhua Co. 1978), pp.158-159.
33 The most well-known
doctrines are the "you wen shuo
" (doctrine of right graph based character). This tradition can be
traced back as early as to Wang Shengmei in North Sung and it was fully developed by Qing and Early Republican Scholars
like Wang Niansun, Wang yinzhi, Zhu Junsheng, Yang Shuda and Shen Jianshi.
Another theory is Zhanga Taiyan's
shuo " (doctrine of root-characters).
34 See Xua
Tongqiang, Yu Yan Lun (Jilin: Northeast
Formal University Press, 1997).
Zhu Junsheng ,
Shuo Wen Tong Xun Ding Sheng (
Beijing: Classical Culture Pub. Co. 1993);
Sun Yongchang , Zhuang Zhu Lun.
Shuo-Wen Lexicon (Beijing: Zhong Hua Books, 1963), p.319.
Analects, 6-28, See Chan, A
Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p.31.
This change, I think, is part of the reason why many
people have confusion in understanding the conception of human rights in
China right now.
Analects, 15-28. See Chan, A
Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p. 44.
Analects, 12-1. See Chan, A
Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, p.38.
See Qingjie James Wang, "
The Golden Rule and Inter-personal Care, " Philosophy
East & West, vol.49 (1999) pp.415-438.
presented this paper in July of 2000 at Kyoto, Japan at the International
Conference on "Self and Future Generations." I would like to
express my thanks to the Future Generations Alliance Foundation and the
Institute for the Integrated Study of Future Generations for their kindly
inviting me for the conference. My gratitude goes also to Yong Qu, Lina
Chen, Michael Zimmerman, May Sim, Chenyang Li, Chang-yuan Liu, Robert
their encouragement, critical comments and helps in various stages of
writing this article. Finally, I would like to thank the anonymous
reviewer of IPQ for the valuable comment.
Qingjie James Wang
Department of Philosophy
The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong /
Oklahoma State University, USA