An Encyclopaedia on Chinese History, Literature and Art

Zhang Lüxiang 張履祥

Feb 3, 2014 © Ulrich Theobald

Zhang Lüxiang 張履祥 (1611-1674), courtesy name Kaofu 考夫 (or 考甫), style Nianzhi 念之 or Yangyuan xiansheng 楊園先生, was an early Qing period 清 (1644-1911) philosopher. He hailed from Tongxiang 桐鄉, Zhejiang, from a very poor family unable to equip him with the necessary education. Zhang's mother told him that Confucius and Mencius 孟子, the two great Confucian philosophers, too, were raised in poor families, and it was only their will and inspiration by which they became immortal men. It was also his mother who instructed him in the teachings of the Confucian Classics Lunyu 論語 and Mengzi 孟子. He participated two times part in the juren examination, but failed twice. When the Ming dynasty 明 (1368-1644) was overthrown by the Manchus, founders of the Qing, Zhang decided not to serve them but to live his life as a poor scholar.

The philosophy of Zhang Lüxiang is influenced by Liu Zongzhou 劉宗周 (1578-1645), Wang Ji 王畿 (1498-1583) and the famous late Ming master Wang Yangming 王陽明 (Wang Shouren 王守仁), but he studied also Zhu Xi's 朱熹 (1130-1200) Jinsilu 近思錄 from the Southern Song period 南宋 (1127-1279).

Zhang pointed out that in Wang Yangming's writings, particularly the book Chuanxuelu 傳習錄, it was to be seen that Neo-Confucian thoughts had lost ground and produced only vain theories. The assumption that everyone had the ability to become a "saint" (sheng 聖) degraded the value of Confucius' personal achievements. In his book Liuzi cuiyan 劉子粹言, he listed Liu Zongzhou's arguments for a rectification of Wang Yangming's propositions. Yet Zhang was not able to make himself free from the Neo-Confucian influence propagated in the teachings of Zhu Xi and the brothers Cheng Hao 程顥 (1032-1085) and Cheng Yi 程頤 (1033-1107), for instance, the theorem that the true philosopher had to "stay in quiet reverence to thoroughly achieve the Heavenly principle" (ju jing qiong li 居敬窮理). The only duty was therefore to nourish the principle and to "preserve it in the heart" (cun xin 存心). For this reason Zhang Lüxiang was highly admired by the Qing period Neo-Confucians.

Zhang Lüxiang's writings are assembled in the collections Yangyuan xiansheng quanji 楊園先生全集 and Zhang Yangyuan xiansheng yiji 張楊園先生遺集.

Pang Pu 龐樸, ed. (1997). Zhongguo ruxue 中國儒學 (Shanghai: Dongfang chuban zhongxin), Vol. 2, 199.