An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History and Literature

Fang Xiaoru 方孝孺

Jan 7, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Fang Xiaoru 方孝孺 (1357-1402), courtesy name Fang Xizhi 方希直 or Fang Xigu 方希古, style Xunzhi 遜志 or Zhengxue xiansheng 正學先生, was a Confucian scholar during the early Ming period 明 (1368-1644). He came from Ninghai 寧海, Zhejiang, and was a disciple of Song Lian 宋濂, and a teacher of the oldest son of the Prince of Shu 蜀王. Under the reign of the Jianwen Emperor 建文帝 (Emperor Hui 明惠帝, r. 1398-1402) he became an academician (xueshi 學士) in the Hanlin Academy 翰林院. When the emperor's uncle, Zhu Di 朱棣, the Prince of Yan (Emperor Chengzu 明成祖, the Yongle Emperor 永樂, r. 1402-1424), usurped the throne Fang Xiaoru vehemently criticized the usurper, and was therefore cruelly put to death. His whole family and even his disciples were executed.
Fang was educated in Neo-Confucian philosophy. The basic substance of all objects was, in their imagination, "breath" (qi 氣). Its movements, changes and transformations were incessant, and likewise, the circulation of the Way (dao 道) between the different conditions of matter was ceaseless. The most important precondition of knowledge was to study. The reason why Confucius was a Saint (shengren 聖人) was not only because he had the predisposition of a saint, but also because he had studied during his whole life the canon of the texts that were later to become the canon of Confucian Classics, namely Shijing 詩經 "Book of Songs", Shangshu 尚書 "Book of Documents", Yijing 易經 "Book of Changes" and Yili 儀禮 "Ceremonies and Etiquette". Confucius' teaching was, as Fang Xiaoru said, of an all-pervading unity, but it was important to grasp the essence of a wide knowledge, and this was only possible when all aspects were covered by learning.
Fang Xiaoru's collected writings are called Xunzhizhai ji 遜志齋集.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 164.