The Recluse of Loyang: Shao Yung and the Moral Evolution of Early Sung Thought

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9780824817558: The Recluse of Loyang: Shao Yung and the Moral Evolution of Early Sung Thought
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Few thinkers have stood as squarely at both the center and the periphery of an intellectual movement as has Shao Yung (1011-1077). Ethical model and eccentric, socialite and eremite, Shao Yung is perhaps not only the greatest enigma of early Neo-Confucianism, but also one of its undisputed giants. In this impressive life-and-thought study, Don J. Wyatt painstakingly sifts through all available evidence relating to Shao Yung and his scholarship to provide a portrait that fully exposes the moral center of the man and his work. Drawing on the abundant store of letters and accounts by Shao's contemporaries and his own much-neglected poetry, Wyatt has assembled a study that intimately relates Shao's life to his thought. He challenges the assumptions of previous Western scholarship by persuasively arguing against the acceptance of works traditionally ascribed to Shao - specifically, the Kuan-wu wai-p'ien (Outer Chapters on Observing Things), the Yu-ch'iao wen-ta (Fisherman and Woodcutter Dialogue), and the cryptic quasi-autobiographical essay Wu-ming kung chuan (Biography of the Nameless Lord).
Shao is presented as an independent thinker whose philosophical lexicon functioned according to a profound interdependence that was unique among the systems of his peers. His metaphysical concepts, which appear impervious to and beyond the scope of human influence - namely, his ching-shih (world ordering), kuan-wu (observing things), and I-Ching - derived hsien-t'ien (before Heaven) methodologies - are essentially the products of a morally reflective life. Wyatt's discoveries, therefore, refute the common assertion of Shao Yung's moral indifference. Moreover, by meticulously integrating the progress of this Neo-Confucian's thought into the course of his life, the author has produced one of the most textured and accessible works on a philosopher of the Sung era.

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Don J. Wyatt is associate professor of history at Middlebury College.

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