- Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and the Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea and Japan by Philip J. Ivanhoe
Despite the breadth of material covered, Philip J. Ivanhoe's Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and the Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea, and Japan traces a central narrative: the reception of and eventual reaction against Song-dynasty Confucianism throughout East Asia. The reception of these discourses speaks to the far-reaching influence of Song-dynasty Confucian philosophy, especially the so-called Cheng-Zhu school associated with the work of Zhu Xi (1130–1200). The reaction against them speaks to a turn against Song-era metaphysical speculation and towards fidelity to the much earlier and supposedly authentic Confucianism of Mengzi (372–289 BCE). As Ivanhoe remarks, if we grant Alfred North Whitehead the claim that all Western philosophy can be said to be a footnote to Plato, then we might similarly characterize the Confucian tradition as "a series of footnotes to Mengzi" (p. 2). Three Steams follows the development and spread of this dominant Mengzian element in Confucianism up to the latter half of the eighteenth century.
The book is divided into three parts--on China, Korea, and Japan, respectively--each of which follows a similar pattern Each section begins with the reception of Cheng-Zhu orthodoxy in that geographic region, followed by a discussion of major figures who reacted against the innovations of Cheng-Zhu speculation and advocated a return to what was seen as the practical and moral core of Confucian learning. The first section begins with a chapter each on Cheng Hao (1032–1085) and Cheng Yi (1033–1107), whose ideas influenced both the Cheng-Zhu school and the competing Lu-Wang school associated with Lu Xiangshan (1139–1193) and Wang Yangming (1472–1529). As Ivanhoe explains, Cheng Yi and Cheng Hao set the stage for the Song-era "metaphysical view of the world in which 'principle' (li 理) combines with an inherently lively but material element called qi 氣 to produce, sustain, and regulate the actual world in which we live" (p. 5). They also initiate a debate that marks the development of the Cheng-Zhu and Lu-Wang camps: Does the human heart-mind (xin 心) naturally and easily accord with li thanks to its own tendencies toward compassion and moral correctness? Or does the heart-mind in fact tend toward unruliness and pettiness and hence only achieve such accord through disciplined training? [End Page 1] Participants in this debate become associated with two competing methods of learning, i.e., the "learning of principle" (lixue 理學) associated with the Cheng-Zu school and the "learning of the heart-mind" (xinxue 心學) associated with the Lu-Wang.
On the one hand, this debate moves into and influences philosophy in both Korea and Japan, as seen in the Four-Seven and Horak debates of Korea (chapters four and five) and the work of Japanese Confucians such as Nakae Tōju (1608–1648) and Yamazaki Ansai (1619–1682) (chapters seven and eight). On the other hand, despite the careful historical and philosophical attention that Ivanhoe pays to these various schools and thinkers, the true stars of the show, as it were, are the three philosophers who reject the terms of the debate altogether through their critiques of its underlying metaphysics. The first is these is Dai Zhen (1724–1777), the subject of the third chapter. As Ivanhoe says, from Dai's perspective, "neo-Confucians like Cheng Yi and Zhu Xi profoundly misunderstood the nature of moral order and the process that leads to its attainment; under the influence of Daoism, Buddhism, and their own idiosyncratic speculations, they came to misconstrue and deform the original teachings of early Confucianism and especially the teaching of Mengzi" (p. 57). Accordingly, "Dai reinterpreted the views of both Cheng brothers in ways that carved out their heady metaphysical foundations and replaced them with highly naturalized underpinnings" (p. 55) grounded in Mengzi's agricultural metaphors (such...