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Li Zhi, Confucianism, and the Virtue of Desire

Pauline C. Lee

Publication Year: 2012

A philosophical analysis of the work of one of the most iconoclastic thinkers in Chinese history, Li Zhi, whose ethics prized spontaneous expression of genuine feelings.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. ix-xi

Completion of this book gives me the treasured opportunity to express my deep gratitude to the people who have supported, taught, and inspired me through these many years. There are three to whom I owe an immeasurable debt of gratitude, and without whom this book could certainly not have been...

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pp. xiii-

In Romanizing the Chinese, I use the pinyin system. Two exceptions to my use of pinyin are with proper names and published works that have become commonly known under another Romanization system. When quoting translations by other...

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1. Introduction

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pp. 1-16

Li Zhi 李贄 (1527–1602), widely known as one of the foremost iconoclastic thinkers in Chinese history, was born in the commercial southern district of Jinjiang 晉江 in the port city of Quanzhou 泉州, the southern province of Fujian, in the sixth year

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2. Life Stories (傳): Reading A Sketch of Zhuowu: Written in Unnan

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pp. 17-43

In this chapter we turn to a close textual analysis of “A Sketch of Zhuowu: Written in Yunnan” (Zhuowu lunlüe: Dian zhong zuo 卓吾論略:滇中作),1 one of the most widely cited, though not so often critically analyzed,2 of Li’s essays.3 The title of the essay identifi es the piece as a “commentary” or lun (論) and indeed...

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3. The Heart-Mind (心): Reading “On the Child-like Heart-Mind”

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pp. 45-67

Upon reading the title of Li Zhi’s famous essay “On the Child-like Heart- Mind,”2 surely any literatus in his time would immediately have recalled earlier references to the term of art at the heart of Li’s philosophy.3 Its locus classicus is the canonical historical...

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4. Virtue (德): Reading “Miscellaneous Matters”

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pp. 69-99

In the previous chapter we studied Li Zhi’s concept of the child-like heart-mind and showed that resources for living the good life—genuine feelings—reside within this heart and mind. In this chapter I turn to the question of how one knows that a genuine feeling...

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5. Genuineness (真)

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pp. 101-113

In The Ethics of Authenticity, Charles Taylor writes, “I believe that in articulating the ideal [of authenticity] over the last two centuries, Western culture has identifi ed one of the important potentialities of human life.”1 While our study...

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Appendix A: “A Sketch of Zhuowu: Written in Unnan”

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pp. 115-121

Kong Ruogu2 孔若谷 said, “I am old enough to have met the Layman Zhuowu 卓吾居士 and I am able to provide some general comments about him. The Layman is known by many names. ‘Zhuowu’ is simply one of them. The character...

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Appendix B: “On the Child-like Heart-Mind”

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pp. 123-125

In the concluding remarks to his preface for the Western Chamber2 the Farmer of the Dragon Ravine stated: “Those who understand me shall not say I still possess the child-like heart-mind.”3...

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Appendix C: “Miscellaneous Matters”

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pp. 127-129

Moon Prayer Pavilion2 and the Western Chamber3 are from the “skills of Nature“ (hua gong 化工). The Lute (Pipa ji 琵琶記)4 is created by the “skills of an artisan“ (hua gong 畫工). As for those who use the “skills of an artisan,” they use these abilities to seize...


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pp. 131-160

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 161-177


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pp. 179-186

Back Cover

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E-ISBN-13: 9781438439280
E-ISBN-10: 1438439288
Print-ISBN-13: 9781438439273
Print-ISBN-10: 143843927X

Page Count: 202
Publication Year: 2012

Series Title: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Li, Zhi, 1527-1602.
  • Confucian ethics.
  • Desire (Philosophy).
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