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70 China Review International: Vol. 5, No. 1, Spring 1998 Anne D. Birdwhistell. Li long (1627-1705) and Epistemological Dimensions ofConfucian Philosophy. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1996. xi, 285 pp. Hardcover $45.00, isbn 0-8047-2605-1. This is Professor BirdwhisteU's second book on Neo-Confucianism. The first, Transition to Neo-Confucianism: Shao Yangon Knowledge and Symbols ofReality (Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1989), is a widely admired study of the contributions that Shao Yong W>M (1011-1077) made to the Neo-Confucian synthesis of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism—in particular: (1) his new formulation of concepts and use ofterminology, (2) a new clarification of the relationship among qi H, (subsensorial primal substance), tiandi wanwu ^.i&Mffi) (Heaven, Earth, and the myriad things: the phenomenal world or physical universe as experienced through the human senses), and the theoretical symbols or images and numbers (xiangshu MWl), derived from the Classic ofChanges Ufe necessary to explain change and activity in the human realm, and (3) his reaffirmation of the sage {sheng^M) as "perfect" knower and teacher and a new, more sophisticated definition of his essential role as restorer ofpolitical, moral, and cosmological unity. Professor BirdwhisteU's "Acknowledgments" at the head of Transition to Neo-Confucianism (p. vii) states: My study of Shao Yung began more than ten years ago, after I had completed my dissertation [at Stanford, directed by David Nivison] on the early Ch'ing philosoper Li Yung. I realized then that I did not satisfactorily understand the philosophical problems and arguments of the early Ch'ing period, an age very critical of Sung philosophy. Thus I felt compelled to try to understand the beginnings ofNeo-Confucianism. Therefore, her book on Shao Yong and a subsequent period of seven years of further thought and research contributed to the transformation of Professor BirdwhisteU 's former Stanford dissertation into this new book on Li Yong ^PiI. A reading ofit leaves no doubt that she now does "understand the philosophical problems and arguments" ofthe early Qing period. It is both an erudite study based on thorough familiarity with the origins and development of Neo-Confucianism up to Li's own day and a sophisticated examination of Li Yong's own thought as a quadripartite philosophical system: (1) learning as a body ofknowledge and values, (2) teaching as the practice of sagely learning, (3) teachings as responses to the problems of one's own times, and (4) techniques needed to learn© 1998 by University how to transform behavior so that it accords with the ideals of the sages. HowofHawai 'i Pressever( this is more than the study ofone particular thinker, for Professor Birdwhistell also utilizes a "metaphilosophical" approach to demonstrate how these four elements were typically appropriated by many thinkers from the broad tradi- Reviews 71 tion ofConfucian thought, in antiquity as well as later times, and how they, as a set ofoverlapping paradigmatic contexts, constitute an integral "Confucian philosophical system." It is on this level that Professor Birdwhistell makes some brief comparisons with Western philosophy, about which she ponders: What are the fundamental premises about the world and about thought? How are ideas verified? What issues and interests are most important? Ifwe ask these kinds of questions about ideas in different philosophical systems, we will have a basis for comparison that is not simply a matter ofpersonal preferences, idiosyncratic interpretations, or superficial similarities, (p. 224) This sounds like the starting point for another interesting and valuable book. I hope Professor Birdwistell writes it. As excellent as this study is of Li Yong's philosophy and its implications for understanding Chinese thought in general, I wish it had done more to introduce Li Yong himself, who is not at all well known in either East or West. The one brief section devoted to "The Person" of Li Yong (pp. 20-25) gives us only a broad oudine, die essentials ofwhich are that he was a native ofGuanzhong IS? (Shaanxi) and brought up by his mother after his father Li Kecong ^"BJÍíÉ (15991642 ), a minor Ming military official, was killed fighting the rebel Li Zicheng ^IÜ F¿0. His mother, née Peng &Í, made great sacrifice and effort so he would become "a great...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1527-9367
Print ISSN
1069-5834
Pages
pp. 70-73
Launched on MUSE
2011-03-30
Open Access
No
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