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WANG YANGMING IN BEIJING, 1510–1512: “IF I DO NOT AWAKEN OTHERS, WHO WILL DO SO?”*

  • George Lawrence Israel (a1)
  • Please note a correction has been issued for this article.
Abstract

After being recalled to Beijing in 1510 for evaluation and reassignment in the wake of his two-year exile to Guizhou and his period of service as a magistrate, Wang Yangming was assigned to a succession of posts at the capital that kept him there through 1512. During that short time, he remained disillusioned with the Ming court and high politics and chose to put his energies into fostering a philosophical movement. He believed that by restoring the “way of master-disciple relations and friendship,” he could help propagate the learning of the sages. To that end, he held jiangxue gatherings with colleagues and friends and carried on an active correspondence. In those venues, Wang Yangming engaged others with his ideas about the goal of sagehood, the obstacles to attaining it, and the methods for overcoming those obstacles. The following article reconstructs this critical period in Wang Yangming's philosophical development and the intellectual movement he sought to foster, as well as the status of his philosophy as of this point in time.

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I would like to thank Professor Dong Ping of Zhejiang University for providing me the unfettered free time I needed to complete this article.

Footnotes
References
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1 Where possible, I have changed dates from the Chinese to the western calendar.  When sources only indicate months (following the Chinese calendar), I have retained those.

2 Yangming, Wang 王陽明, Wang Yangming quan ji 王陽明全集, vol. 2 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 1992), 33.1231. Hereafter, WYMQJ.

3 Linchang, Liu 劉麟長, “Ming Yueren xiansheng Xu Ai 明曰仁先生徐愛,” in Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji 徐愛, 錢德洪, 董澐集, edited by Ming, Qian 錢明 (Nanjing: Fenghuang chubanshe, 2007), 384–85.

4 Zongxi, Huang 黃宗羲, “Langzhong Xu Hengshan xiansheng Ai 郎中徐橫山先生愛,” in Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Ming, Qian (Nanjing: Fenghuang chubanshe, 2007), 388–89. For a translation, see Tsung-hsi, Huang, The Records of Ming Scholars, edited by Ching, Julia (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 1987), 109–11.

5 Liu, “Ming yueren xiansheng Xu Ai,” 384.

6 Mingfeng, Xiao 蕭鳴鳳, “Ming gu feng yi dafu Nanjing gongbu du shui qing li si langzhong Xu jun muzhiming” 明故奉義大夫南京工部都水清吏司郎中徐君墓誌銘, in Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Ming, Qian (Nanjing: Fenghuang chubanshe, 2007), 92 .

7 Liu, “Ming Yueren xiansheng Xu Ai,” 385.

8 Xiao, “Ming gu feng yi dafu,” 92.

9 Ai, Xu 徐愛, “Tongzhi kao xu” 同志考序, in Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Ming, Qian (Nanjing: Fenghuang chubanshe, 2007), 56 .

10 Xu, “Tongzhi kao xu,” 56–57.

11 Xu, “Tongzhi kao xu,” 57.

12 Ai, Xu 徐愛, “ Chuan xi lu xu” 傳習錄序, in Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Ming, Qian (Nanjing: Fenghuang Chubanshe, 2007), 90. The translation is adopted from Philip Ivanhoe's work. See his Readings from the Lu-Wang School of Neo-Confucianism (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2009), 131 .

13 Xu, “Chuan xi lu xu,” 91.

14 Xu, “Chuan xi lu xu,” 90. For this translation, see Ivanhoe, Readings, 132.

15 Ai徐愛, Xu, “ Chuan xi lu ba 傳習錄跋,” in Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Ming, Qian (Nanjing: Fenghuang chubanshe, 2007), 90.

16 Ai, Xu 徐愛, “ Chuan xi lu ti ci” 傳習錄題辭, Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Ming, Qian (Nanjing: Fenghuang chubanshe, 2007), 89.

17 Xu, “Chuan xi lu ti ci,” 89. For this translation, see Ivanhoe, Readings, 133.

18 Dehong, Qian 錢德洪, ed., “Nianpu” 年譜, in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 33.1235. Hereafter, NP.

19 For an intellectual biography in Japanese that touches upon Wang Yangming's years in Beijing, see Takehiko, Okada 岡田武彥, Ō Yōmei taiden 王陽明大伝, vol. 2 (Tokyo: Meitoku, 2003), 233–95. Okada covers the historical background, albeit without more recently published materials, and then explains why Wang Yangming turned to the old edition of the Great Learning 大学, as well as his new interpretation of key Neo-Confucian terminology, including the highest good, investigation of things, and making the will sincere. A more recent historical study in Chinese of the development of his philosophy at this time can be found in Zhengxian, Yang 仰正顯,  Jue shi zhi dao: Wang Yangming liangzhi shuo de xingcheng 覺世之道 :王陽明良知說的形成 (Beijing: Beijing Shifan Daxue chubanshe, 2015), 5677 . He explains how a dark political environment led Wang Yangming to focus on individual morality, especially the “learning of the noble man,” which primarily entailed illuminating mind.

20 Bryant, Daniel, The Great Recreation: Ho Ching-ming (1483–1521) and His World (Leiden: Brill, 2008), 287 . For memorials calling for the impeachment of officials with ties to Liu Jin or recall of others who had been cashiered by him see, for example, Xia Xie 霞燮, Ming tong jian 明通鑑 (1873; several modern editions), juan 43, 8/18/1510; juan 44, 1/26/1511.

21 NP, 33.1231. Qian states that Wang entered the capital for evaluation in the eleventh month and received the Nanjing assignment in the twelfth month. But Wang's 1517 memorial listing his series of appointments states that the assignment was received in the tenth lunar month (WYMQJ, vol. 1, 9.299), making that month the more likely time of his arrival in the capital.

22 NP, 33.1231.

23 Ruoshui, Zhan 湛若水, “Yangming xiansheng muzhiming” 陽明先生墓誌銘, in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 38.1403.

24 NP, 33.1230–31.

25 For a discussion of the evidence, see Jingnan, Shu 束景南, Yangming yi wen ji kao biannian 王陽明佚文稽考編年, vol. 1 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2012), 320 .

26 Hongmin, Zhang 張宏敏, Huang Wan shengping xueshu biannian 黃綰生平學術編年 (Hangzhou: Zhejiang Daxue Chubanshe, 2013), 35 .

27 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 47.

28 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 47.

29 Wan, Huang 黃綰, “Yangming xiansheng xingzhuang” 陽明先生行狀, in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 39.1409. Huang's recollections leave the impression that this advice dates to 1510, yet Chu stated this in a letter sent to Huang Wan in 1507. For this letter, see Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 41.

30 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 39.1409.

31 Wan, Huang 黃綰, Huang Wan ji 黃綰集 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2014), 11.186–87.

32 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 39.1409.

33 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 39.1409.

34 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” 39.1409–10.

35 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” 39.1409–10.

36 Yun-chip, Tse 謝雋曄, Yang Yiqing de zhengzhi shengya 楊一清的政治生涯 (Taizhong: Bai Xiang Wenhua, 2011), 4548 .

37 Both served in the capital under the Hongzhi emperor, and Yang Yiqing composed an epitaph for Wang Hua. See Yiqing, Yang 楊一清, “Hairi xiansheng xingzhuang” 海日先生行狀, in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 38.1385.

38 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 39.1409.

39 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 51.

40 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 20.722.

41 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 20.723.

42 Shu, Yangming yi wen ji kao, vol. 1, 314.

43 Tingyu, Zhang 張廷玉, ed., Ming shi 明史, vol. 2, (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2003), “Ben ji” 本紀, 16.205.

44 Robinson, David, Bandits, Eunuchs, and the Son of Heaven: Rebellion and the Economy of Violence in Mid-Ming China (Honolulu: University of Hawai‘i Press, 2001), 14 .

45 Robinson, Bandits, Eunuchs, 14–16.

46 For a discussion of the nine-rank system and these titles, see Hucker, Charles, A Dictionary of Official Titles in Imperial China (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1985).

47 Huang, “Yangming xiansheng,” in WYMQJ, vol. 2, 39.1410.

48 Shu, Yangming yi wen ji kao, vol. 1, 341.

49 Shu, Yangming yi wen ji kao, vol. 1, 346.

50 Shu, Yangming yi wen ji kao, vol. 1, 346.

51 Shu, Yangming yi wen ji kao, vol. 1, 346.

52 Shu, Yangming yi wen ji kao, vol. 1, 341–42.

53 For a classic study, see Geiss, James, “The Cheng-te Reign, 1506–1521,” in The Cambridge History of China, vol. 7: The Ming Dynasty, 1368–1644, ed. Mote, Frederick and Twitchett, Denis (Cambridge University Press, 1988), 403–8.

54 Geiss, “Cheng-te Reign,” 342.

55 Jingnan, Shu 束景南, Wang Yangming yi wen ji kao biannian (zeng ding ben) 王陽明佚文稽考編年(增訂本), vol. 1 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2015), 361 .

56 Shu, Wang Yangming yi wen ji kao biannian (zeng ding ben), vol. 1, 362.

57 Shu, Wang Yangming yi wen ji kao biannian (zeng ding ben), vol. 1, 342.

58 I haven't been able to locate information for Sun Hu. As for Wei Tinglin, Wang Yangming refers to him as a mensheng (student of his gate) in a letter he composed in 1514 (Shu, Wang Yangming yi wen, vol. 1, 425). Xu lists both of these men as having accepted instruction (shou xue) from Wang in 1512. It is likely that they also took the examinations, and Wang Yangming was their grader. Vital and jinshi dates largely come from the Zhongyang Yanjiuyuan Renming Quanwei Ziliao Ku. See http://archive.ihp.sinica.edu.tw/ttsweb/html_name/build.php.

59 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.145.

60 Ruoshui, Zhan 湛若水, Zhan Ganquan xiansehng wenji 湛甘泉先生文集, in Si ku quan shu cun mu congshu, ji bu, vol. 56 (Tainan: Zhuangyan wenhua, 1997), 17.701.

61 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.228.

62 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.154–55.

63 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.154–55.

64 Zongxi, Huang 黃宗羲, Ming ru xue an 明儒學案, vol. 2 (Beijing: Zhonghua shuju, 2008), 42.1035.

65 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.232. For a different translation, see Wing-tsit Chan, A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, 91.

66 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.232.

67 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.154.

68 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.154. Part of this letter is translated in Ching, Julia, The Philosophical Letters of Wang Yang-ming (Columbia: University of South Carolina Press, 1973), 18 . Wang is quoting the Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong 中庸), ch. 14.

69 Xu Ai, Qian Dehong, Dong Yun ji, edited by Qian Ming, 5.

70 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 8.146–47.

71 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.154–55.

72 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 508–9.

73 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.254.

74 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.254.

75 Analects, 7.27 and 4.22. For the translation, see Leys, Simon, The Analects of Confucius (New York: W.W. Norton and Company, 1997), 17 and 70.

76 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7:255.

77 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7:255. Wang is citing Analects 2.9. See Leys, The Analects, 7.

78 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7:255. The reference is to Zhong Yong, ch. 33.

79 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7:255. The reference is to the Book of Changes, “Appended Remarks,” 1.12.

80 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7:255. Wang is citing Analects 17.19. See Leys, The Analects, 88.

81 Zou Shouyi 鄒守益, “Ying fang bo Liang muzhi” 應方伯良墓誌, in Qingyun, Li 李青云, “Zhezhong Wang men xuezhe Ying Liang lun kao” 浙中王門應良論考, Guizhou Shifan Daxue Xuebao, no. 4 (2015), 39.

82 Zhan Zhan Ganquan xiansheng wenji, 701.

83 NP, 33.1231.

84 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.145–46.

85 WYMQJ,  vol. 1, 4.147. For a translation, see Ching, The Philosophical Letters of Wang Yang-ming, 9.

86 “Ying Liang” 應良, in Han ji dianzi wenxian ziliao ku–Ming ren zhuanji ziliao suoyin, 9226. http://archive.ihp.sinica.edu.tw/ttsweb/html_name/search.php.

87 Li, “Zhezhong Wang men xuezhe,” 41.

88 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.234.

89 Li, “Zhezhong Wang men xuezhe,” 42.

90 Mingfu, Pan 潘明福 and Cheng Qingqing 陳清清, “Ming Huzhou ci ren Gu Yingxiang kao lüe” 明湖州詞人顧應祥考略, Huzhou Shifan Xueyuan Xuebao, 31:6 (2009), 29 .

91 Pan and Cheng, “Ming Huzhou ren ci ren Gu Yingxiang kao lüe,” 29.

92 Qifeng, Sun 孫奇逢, Sun Qifeng ji 孫奇逢集, vol. 3 (Zhengzhou: Zhongzhou guji chubanshe, 2003), 1091 .

93 Huang, Ming ru xue an, vol. 1, 12.1035.

94 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.231–32.

95 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.231–32.

96 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.231–32.

97 Yue, Zhou 周悅, “Fang Xianfu nianpu jianbian” 方獻夫年譜簡編, Hunan keji xueyuan xuebao 34:6 (June 2013), 78 .

98 Huang, Ming ru xue an, vol. 1, 30.654.

99 Zhang Tingyu, ed., Ming shi, 191.5058–60.

100 WYMQJ, vol. 2, 36.1431.

101 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.146.

102 WYMQJ, vol 1, 4.146–47.

103 Doctrine of the Mean, ch. 1. For another translation, see Chan, A Sourcebook in Chinese Philosophy, 98.

104 Book of Changes (Yijing, 易經), “Appended Remarks” (Xi ci 繫辭), 1.10. For a translation, see Chan, A Sourcebook of Chinese Philosophy, 267.

105 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.147.

106 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.147.

107 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.147.

108 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.147.

109 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 17.

110 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 30.

111 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 16.302.

112 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 16.302.

113 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 16.306–7.

114 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 23–24. Yi Yin was a revered—albeit possibly legendary—high minister of the early Shang. Zhou Gong, of course, was the brother to King Wu of Zhou, who played a critical role in the dynasty's founding.

115 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 16.302.

116 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 27.

117 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 46–47.

118 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 8.147.

119 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 53.

120 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.227.

121 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 8.146.

122 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 8.146.

123 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 23.

124 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 58.

125 Huang, Huang Wan ji, 11.191.

126 Zhang, Huang Wan shengping, 45.

127 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.233.

128 The most complete study is Ichirō Shiga 志賀一朗, Tan Kansen to Ō Yōmei no kankei 湛甘泉と王陽明の関係 (Tokyo: Kazama Shobō, 1985). For the years under discussion, see pp. 49–71.

129 Yong, Liu 劉勇, “Wang Yangming ‘Daxue guben’ de dangdai jingzhengzhe: Zhan Ruoshui yu Fang Xianfu zhi li” 王陽明‘大學古本’的當代競爭者: 湛若水與方獻夫為例, in Journal of Chinese Studies 60 (January 2015), 161 .

130 Yeming, Li 黎業明, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu 湛若水年譜 (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2009), 39 .

131 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 40.

132 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 44.

133 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.230.

134 Cf. Zhan, Zhan Ganquan xiansheng, 17.701.

135 Zhan, Zhan Ganquan xiansheng, 17.699.

136 Zhan, Zhan Ganquan xiansheng, 17.699.

137 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.230.

138 Zhan, Zhan Ganquan xiansheng, 17.699.

139 Cf. You Tengda 游騰達, “Zhan Ganquan zhexue sixiang de fazhan yu wancheng” 湛甘泉哲學思想的發展與完成 (PhD diss., Guoli Taiwan Shifan Daxue, 2013), 15–16.

140 Zhan, Zhan Ganquan xiansheng, 17.701.

141 Zhan, Zhan Ganquan xiansheng, 17.701.

142 WYMQJ, vol. 2, 38.1401.

143 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 29.

144 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 15.

145 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 15.

146 Shu, Wang Yangming yi wen (zeng ding ben), vol. 1, 361.

147 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 28–30.

148 Li, Zhan Ruoshui nianpu, 28.

149 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 4.230.

150 See Israel, George Lawrence, Doing Good and Ridding Evil in Ming China (Leiden: Brill, 2014), 2633 ; Ming, Qian 錢明, Wang Yangming ji qi xuepai lun kao 王陽明及其學派論考 (Beijing: Renmin chubanshe, 2009), 257–61.

151 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 21.812–13. For a discussion, see Israel, Doing Good and Ridding Evil, 39–41. For this translation, see Ching, Philosophical Letters, 20–21.

152 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 21.813. For a translation, see Ching, Philosophical Letters, 20.

153 Yangming, Wang, Chuan xi lu zhu shu, annotated with commentary by Aimin, Deng (Shanghai: Shanghai guji chubanshe, 2012), 9 . For this translation, see Ivanhoe, Readings, 139.

154 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 21.813.

155 I am indebted to David Tien for his useful translation of si yu 私欲 as “self-centered desires,” as opposed to “selfish desires.” See Tien, David W., “Oneness and Self-Centeredness in the Moral Psychology of Wang Yangming,Journal of Religious Ethics 40:1 (2012), 5256 .

156 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.230.

157 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 21.724.

158 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.233.

159 WYMQJ, vol. 1,  21.812–14.

160 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 7.233.

161 Xi, Zhu 朱熹, Si shu zhang ju ji zhu 四書章句集注 (Shanghai: Zhejiang guji chubanshe, 2014), 5 .

162 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 5.

163 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 15.

164 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 16.

165 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 8. For a translation, see Ivanhoe, Readings, 139.

166 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 8.

167 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 10.

168 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 8.

169 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 7.

170 Xi, Zhu, Si shu zhang ju ji zhu (Shanghai: Zhejiang gu ji chubanshe, 2013), 78 .

171 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 9–10.

172 I am here simplistically referencing Lawrence Kohlberg's stage of moral development. Cf. Crain, William, Theories of Development: Concepts and Applications (New York: Routlege, 2010), 157165 .

173 Wang, Chuan xi lu, 15.

174 WYMQJ, vol. 1, 21:811. Ching, Philosophical Letters, 23.

* I would like to thank Professor Dong Ping of Zhejiang University for providing me the unfettered free time I needed to complete this article.

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