When Confucius criticizes Zhu Xi and more stories…
I have had the chance to come across fascinating interpretations of the Great Learning in a book titled Daxue zhengshi 大學證釋 (Evidential Interpretation of the Great Learning). To be more accurate, the striking part of the story lies less in the philosophical originality of the interpretations than in the identity of the commentators.
In this volume, the original Daxue text is commented upon by a series of sages (liesheng qishu 列聖齊述) including Confucius, Yan Hui, Zengzi and Mencius… Zhu Xi was also a contributor to this volume and wrote a nice self-criticism piece about his problematic Song-dynasty interpretations of the text. He finally admitted that he got it completely wrong with his former discussions on the “extension of knowledge lying in the investigation of things” (zhizhi zai gewu 致知在格物), etc… Among the other contributions, the one of Confucius was interesting but I doubt that Zhu Xi enjoyed it much because it happens that he was wrong again ! Kongzi’s line of argument was the following: basing himself on Zhu Xi’s edited introductory sentence of the Daxue (大學之道，在明明德 , 在親民，在止於至善) he criticized Zhu’s replacement of the original 在親親 , 在新民 by 在親民 (understood as: 在新民). He posited that these changes did not reflect “the entirety of Confucian doctrine” (fei rujiao jiaoyi zhi quan yi 非儒教教義之全矣) and highlighted the fact that ideas such as “ruling the country primarily requires to regulate the family” (zhi guo bi xian qi jia 治國必先齊家) or “the foundations of the country lie in the family” (guo zhi ben zai jia 國之本在家) all originated from the “affection to the kindred” (親親), that is, from characters cut off by Zhu Xi….
I will skip my comments on these comments and concentrate on some background information that might be more interesting. Continue reading →