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Full text of "The philosophy of Wang Yang-ming"

THE PHILOSOPHY OF 1 



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THE LIBRARY 

OF 

THE UNIVERSITY 

OF CALIFORNIA 

LOS ANGELES 



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THE PHILOSOPHY OF 
WANG YANG-MING 




The Image of Wang Yaxg-ming in a Small Temple 
on the Hill in Ylyao City, Chekiang 



THE PHILOSOPHY OF 
WANG YANG-MING 



TRANSLATED FROM THE CHINESE 
BY 

FREDERICK GOODRICH HENKE 

(PH.D., CHICAGO) 

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AND EDUCATION IN ALLEGHENY COLLEGE. FORMERLY 

PROFESSOR OF PHILOSOPHY AND PSYCHOLOGY IN THE 

UNIVERSITY OF NANKING 



INTRODUCTION BY 

JAMES H. TUFTS, PH.D., LL.D. 

PROFESSOR AND HEAD 
OF THE DEPARTMENT OF PHILOSOPHY IN THE UNIVERSITY OF CHICAGO 




LONDON - CHICAGO 
THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING CO. 

1916 



Copyright 1918 by 
THE OPEN COURT PUBLISHING CO. 



THE TORCH PRESS 

CEDAR RAPIDS 

IOWA 



College 
Library, 



' I 



TO 
MY FATHER 

WHO SHOWED MB HOW TO CARRY A LONG 

DIFFICULT TASK TO 

COMPLETION 






INTRODUCTION 

Scholars, like other people, may be provincial; but the 
spirit of scholarship recognizes and values truth and wis- 
dom from every source. Such recognition and apprecia- 
tion have always been a factor in promoting mutual un- 
derstanding and good will between nations. Western 
scholars have for some time had access to the older Chi- 
nese classica A general esteem for Chinese ethics has re- 
sulted, which has contributed to ensure a friendly recep- 
tion to the Chinese students and travelers who have visited 
Europe and America. But previous intercourse between 
Orient and Occident is, we may well believe, only a prom- 
ise of far greater acquaintance. Everything points to a 
rapid increase of commercial and political relations. The 
East is learning what the West has thought and said ; it is 
highly important that the West should know much more 
of the East. Accordingly, I am glad of an opportunity to 
prefix a cordial word of welcome to the translation of an 
important Chinese author, which a friend and former stu- 
dent of mine is presenting to the world of scholars and to 
all who would understand better the civilization and ideals 
of China. 

Dr. Henke has resided for several years in China, first 
as a missionary and then as a teacher of philosophy in the 
University of Nanking. He has had the advice and cooper- 
ation of Chinese scholars and has given a translation which, 
I believe, will be valuable not only in making accessible an 
author whose ideas suggest many interesting comparisons 
with those of certain thinkers, but also in adding to our 
understanding and appreciation of the East. 

I have written "of the East," yet as Mr. Lowes Dickin- 
son says, China is in many respects more akin to the prac- 



viii INTRODUCTION 

tical mind of the West than to the contemplative mind of 
the East as represented hy India. Certainly the prevail- 
ing emphasis of Wang Yang-ming is upon the guidance of 
life, and the fact that he was a Viceroy and as administra- 
tor suppressed revolts and governed his province success- 
fully may suggest a certain kinship in thought to the Ro- 
man emperor who wrote so wisely upon the conduct of life 
— a kinship which will be born out by many passages. 

A Western reader is likely to be somewhat repelled by 
the form in which a Chinese author's thoughts are pre- 
sented. Instead of an essay or a logically planned system, 
we have for the most part detached sayings or comments of 
the sage drawn out by his disciples' questions and written 
down by them or else embodied in letters. Such a form of 
presentation involves repetition ; it requires an effort to put 
together various fragments and make from them a con- 
nected whole ; yet this very form is itself no doubt signi- 
ficant for an understanding of the respect for the personal 
source of thoughts, as distinct from their abstract or logi- 
cal content, which has been a character of Chinese culture. 

The central thought of the sayings and letters here trans- 
lated are stated in Dr. Henke's Preface. In reading the 
manuscript I have been impressed with the reiteration of 
the doctrine that "intuitive knowledge" is the one thing 
needful. It is "characteristic of all men." Though often 
obscured, "it is hard to obliterate." It is not merely an 
intellectual function ; its " place of manifestation is to be 
found in true sincerity and commiseration, ' ' or sympathetic 
feeling. Filial piety, respect for the elder brother, loyalty 
to the prince are different forms of its development. Nor 
is intuitive knowledge abstract and mystical. It is "just 
the opposite of the empty, meaningless, sudden enlighten- 
ment of the Buddhists." For "my sayings regarding the 
investigation of things, the development of the intuitive 
faculty, the making sincere of the purpose, and the recti- 
fying of the mind, refer to the student's use of his original 



INTRODUCTION ix 

nature in his various daily tasks, in order to investigate 
and firmly maintain the truth." To devote yourself to 
learning it is not necessary to have leisure. "Since you 
are engaged in trying law cases, you should devote your- 
self to learning in connection with these law cases, for 
thereby you will really be engaged in the investigation of 
things." 

Finally, the intuitive faculty which manifests itself in 
these various activities "is the embodiment of natural 
law." Nature is one. It is manifested in virtue. It is 
variously called heaven, Shang-ti (God), fate, disposition, 
mind. To study the mind is, then, to study nature. 

Whatever the differences in form of presentation, these 
thoughts will suggest to the student of Western ethics that 
seekers for truth speak a common language. Since Soc- 
rates urged the importance of knowledge and the Stoic 
bade men follow nature and Shaftesbury pointed to inner 
sources of moral certainty, the West has tended to look 
increasingly to scientific study of nature and society for 
guidance in detail. But if these Western thinkers could 
sit down with the Chinese Teacher, they would feel that 
they were dealing with congenial ideas. 

James H. Tufts 
University of Chicago 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

Little has been done to provide detailed information for 
the European student of the history of philosophy, con- 
cerning the trend of Chinese philosophic thought since the 
time of Confucius and Mencius. Owing to this the impres- 
sion prevails in some quarters that, apart from the Five 
Classics, the Four Books, and Lao-tzu's Tao-Teh-King, the 
Chinese have produced little that is worth while. 

In the year 1911, I was asked to make a special study of 
the philosophy of Wang Yang-ming (A.D. 1472-1529) for 
the North China Branch of the Royal Asiatic Society, of 
Shanghai. As a result, I undertook a thorough investi- 
gation of his standpoint; and in the autumn of 1912 read 
a paper before the Society on "A Study in the Life and 
Philosophy of Wang Yang-ming. ' ' * 

Having become greatly interested in his approach to the 
problems of philosophy and knowing that his thought is 
exercising a profound influence upon the Chinese and the 
Japanese, I decided to translate his "Biography," "In- 
structions for Practical Life," "Record of Discourses," 
and "Letters" into English. The present volume is the 
outcome, which I now offer to students everywhere, with 
the hope that it may inspire a desire for a fuller knowl- 
edge of the splendid achievements of the Chinese, and a 
deeper appreciation of their worth. 

The form and the content of the classic literature of 
China was fairly well fixed in the ante-Ch'in period by 
the work of Confucius, Mencius, and their disciples; and 
the classics would probably have been handed down intact 
to the present generation had it not been for Shih Huaug- 
ti (B.C. 246-221) of the Ch'iu dynasty. He called a 
great council in B.C. 212 to discuss the affairs of the king- 

i Journal of the North-China Brandt of the Eoyal Asiatic So- 
ciety, XLIV (1913), pp. 46-64. Vide "Wang Yang-ming, a Chinese 
Idealist," Afonist, XXIV (1914), pp. 17-34. 



xii TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

dom; and during this Li-ssu, the prime minister, pointed 
out that scholars had always been a source of endless dif- 
ficulty to the nation, because they offered their services to 
the highest bidder, irrespective of state affiliations. He 
suggested that all the classical literature be burned and 
that all students be required to engage in the study of law 
under the instruction of recognized officials of the Empire. 
Shih Huang-ti, pleased with the advice, promulgated an 
edict, ordering that all the classical books — except the 
Canon of Changes — be delivered into the hands of the 
nearest magistrate to be burned; that, under penalty of 
death, no scholars should converse together regarding the 
classics; and that entire families should be executed, if 
any member thereof expressed himself in favor of the tra- 
ditions and customs of the classics. The order was carried 
out strictly, and classical learning was greatly hindered. 
However, the classic literature had been committed to 
memory by large numbers of scholars, and portions had 
doubtless been hid away in walls, and buried in the earth. 

"When the Han dynasty came into power, an attempt was 
made to reassemble the lost books. An imperial edict urged 
the old men to bring forth from their memories portions of 
the classics not forgotten — a state of affairs which en- 
couraged scholars generally to write plausible substitutes 
for the lost books. For these reasons, we are reasonably 
certain that we do not have the classics in their original 
form. On the other hand, it is probable that the substance 
was preserved. 

As far as the scholars of China were concerned, those 
portions of the literature that were agreed upon as authen- 
tic, became the philosophic, moral, and literary criterion 
according to which excellence in these things was judged. 
In this way the Five Classics and the Four Books took the 
same place in the development of China, which the Vedic 
literature held in India. To start out with, there was a 
degree of latitude present in the matter of interpretation, 
for the classics are written in a very schematic style. 



TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE xiii 

Scholars made considerable use of this freedom, until the 
philosopher Chu Hui-an (A.D. 1130-1200) fixed the in- 
terpretation of the classics through his commentary. 

In Chu's time, Confucianism had gained decided as- 
cendency over its competitors, Taoism and Buddhism. Chu 
was a realist, believing that things exist in their own right 
apart from the mind: not, however, in such a way as to 
make knowledge of them impossible. He held that ex- 
ternal things partake of the principles of the mind, and 
that for this reason knowledge may be perfected by in- 
vestigating the principles of all things with which we come 
into contact. 

"Wang Yang-ming, who lived three and one half centuries 
after Chu, was an idealist of the monistic type. For him 
mind covered the entire gamut of existence: he thought 
that nothing exists independent of and apart from mind. 
His point of view was consequently at variance with Chu's. 
He had considerable difficulty in defending his break with 
the traditional interpretation of the classics, but he suc- 
ceeded remarkably well. 

As a rationalizing and socializing factor in the develop- 
ment of life, his exposition exhibits the following doctrines : 

1. Every individual may understand the fundamental 
principles of life and of things, including moral laws, by 
learning to understand his own mind, and by developing 
his own nature. This means that it is not necessary to 
use the criteria of the past as present-day standards. Each 
individual has the solution of the problems of the universe 
within himself. "Man is the measure of all things." 

2. On the practical side, every one is under obligation 
to keep knowledge and action, theory and practice together, 
for the former is so intimately related to the latter that its 
very existence is involved. There can be no real knowledge 
without action. The individual has within himself the 
spring of knowledge and should constantly carry into prac- 
tice the things that his intuitive knowledge of good gives 
him opportunity to do. 



xiv TRANSLATOR'S PREFACE 

3. Heaven, earth, man, all things are an all-pervading 
unity. The universe is the macrocosm, and each human 
mind is a microcosm. This naturally leads to the concep- 
tions, equality of opportunity and liberty, and as such 
serves well as the fundamental principle of social activity 
and reform. 2 

In the work of translation, I had a Chinese scholar of 
the old school at my side, to give advice and assist in the 
interpretation of difficult passages. The volume herewith 
presented is a faithful translation of volume one of the 
four volume edition of Wang's works distributed by the 
Commercial Press, of Shanghai. After I had completed 
the translation, three of my associates on the faculty of 
the University of Nanking went over the manuscript, mak- 
ing valuable changes and suggestions. Professor Liu 
Ching-fu read the Biography and Book III ; Professor 
Alexander Y. Lee, Books I and II; Professor Liu Ching- 
pan, Book IV. I hereby desire to express my indebtedness 
to them for the part they have contributed in this enter- 
prise. I am also under deep obligation to the Reverend J. 
E. Shoemaker, who furnished the photograph from which 
the frontispiece was made; and to my wife, who read the 
entire book in proof, and aided me very greatly in other 
matters, especially in points of style. 

The captions inserted in italics in the text were added 
at the suggestion of Dr. Paul Cams. Chinese names and 
characters have been spelled according to the system of Sir 
Thomas Wade. The numbers placed at intervals in the 
text within parentheses refer to the paging of the Chinese 
text. Those familiar with the Chinese will find these a 
great advantage in locating the place in the original. 

Frederick Goodrich Henke 
Meadville, Pa., February, 1916 



2 Vide The Popular Science Monthly, LXXXVII (1915), pp. 
78-89. 



CONTENTS 



PAGE 

The Biography of Wang Yang-ming ... 3 

BOOK I 

Instructions for Practical Life (Part I) . . 47 

Instructions for Practical Life (Part II) . . 73 

Instructions for Practical Life (Part III) . 109 

BOOK II 

Record of Discourses 143 

Inquiry regarding the Great Learning . . 204 

BOOK III 
Letters Written by Wang Yang-ming 

Answer to Wang T'ien-yu (First Letter) . 221 

Second Letter to Wang T'ien-yu . . . 222 

FmsT Letter to Lu Yuan-ching .... 227 

Second Letter to Lu Yuan-ching ... 230 

Third Letter to Lu Yuan-ching .... 234 

Letter to Lu Yuan-ching 257 

Answer to Shu Kuo-yung 259 

Second Letter to Huang Mlbn-chih . . . 262 

Reply to Chou Tao-t'ung (First Letter) . . 271 

Answer to Inquiries Made by a Friend . . 280 

Letter Answering Ou-yang Ch'ung-i . . . 284 

Reply to Ku Tung-ch 'iao 294 



BOOK IV 
Letters Written by Wang Yang-ming (Continued) 

Letter to the Students at Ch 'engchung . . 339 
Reply to Wang Shih-t'ang 341 



XVI 



CONTENTS 



Reply to Huang Tsung-hsien and Ying Yuan- 

chung 

Letter to Huang Tsung-hsien 

Letter to Huang Tsung-hsien 

Letter to Chu Yung-ming . 

First Letter to Wang Shun-pu . 

Second Letter to "Wang Shun-pu 

First Letter to Hsi-yuan . 

Second Letter to Hsi-yuan . 

Reply to an Inquiry regarding Immortals (Genii 

Letter to Huang Ch'eng-fu 

Letter to Li Tao-pu 

Letter to His Younger Brothers 

Answer to an Official Named Lo Cheng-an 

Letter to Yang Shih-ming .... 

Reply to Fang Shu-hsien .... 

Reply to Fang Shu-hsien .... 

Reply to Lun Yen-shih .... 

Reply to Ts 'u Ch'eng-chih (First Letter) 

Reply to Ts'ii Ch'eng-chih (Second Letter) 

Reply to Ts'u Ch'eng-chih . 

Reply to Liu Nei-chung 

Answer to Kan-ch'uan 

Letter to Hsi Yuan-shan . 

First Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

Second Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

Third Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chi 

Fifth Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

Letter to Chi Ming-te . 

Third Letter to Nieh Wen-wei . 

Reply to Wen-wei (Third Letter) 

Reply to Ch'u Cii'ai-hsu (Second Letter) 

Letter to the two Brothers, Wen-jen Pang 

vino and Wen-jen Pang-cheng 
Reply to Xan Yuan-shan .... 
Reply to Wei Siiiii-siiuo .... 



CONTENTS 



xvn 



Letter to Ma Tzu-hsin .... 

Letter to Mao Ku-an 

Instructions for his Disciples at Lungch 'ang 
Advice and Instruction to Yang Mao of T'aiho 
An Exposition on Fixing the Determination 
Monograph on the Fan of a Superior Official 
Instruction Written in the Chung T 'ien Ko to 

Encourage His Students .... 
Parting Instructions given to Kuo Shan-fu up 

on His Return Home .... 
Preface to a Collection of Essays from Tzu 

Yang College 

Preface to the Writings of Lu Hsiang-shan 

Preface to the Li Chi Tsuan Yen 

Instruction to Cheng Te-fu on the Occasion 

of His Return Home .... 
Preface to the Philosopher Chu's "Instruc 

tions Fixed in Later Life" 
Preface to the Ancient Edition of the Great 

Learning 

Index 



PAGE 

460 
461 
463 
467 
469 
474 

475 

477 

478 
481 
485 

490 

491 

494 
501 



THE BIOGEAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 



THE BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 
(3E m W) 

Ancestry and Birth 

The Teacher was named Shou-jen ( ^ £ ) and Po-an 
( jfi §5: J- 1 His -ances^r^at, the time of the Western 
Chin dynasty was Wang^Jlsi-chih, a general of the right 
division of the army; and the ancestral home was at 
Shanyin in the province of Chekiang. Twenty-three gen- 
erations later, Wang Shou, an official of rank, moved the 
home to Yiiyao, also in Chekiang. At the time when the 
Ming dynasty first came into power, Wang Kang, who 
lived six generations before Wang Yang-ming, lost his life 
in the service of his emperor, at the hands of the aborigines 
in Canton Province. His son, Wang Yen-ta, wrapped his 
father's remains in sheep's skin and took them back to 
Yiiyao. A censor named Kuo Shun reported this to the 
emperor, who had a temple erected in honor of the father 
at Tseng in the province of Canton. In the fourth gener- 
ation Wang Yu-chun was requested by Emperor Yung 
Lo to become an official, but refused, styling himself "the 
old man in obscurity among the rocks. ' ' In the third gen- 
eration, Wang Shih-chieh was honored with the degree of 
Chinshih, 2 because of superior knowledge of the classics. 
In the second generation Wang T'ien-hsii was the first of 

1 The Chinese have the custom of giving each person a number of 
different names at various periods of life. The name Po-an was 
probably given to Wang at the age of twenty. The name Yang- 
ming (|^| 9J ) was given to him by his students. The name Wen- 
ch 'eng (learning completed) was a posthumous title. 

2 A graduate of the third degree. 



4 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the Hanlin. 3 He and his son Wang Hua were vice-presi- 
dents of the Board of Rites. The latter, who was styled 
Long-shan, was the father of Wang Yang-ming. He was 
the first of the Chinshih, held the office of President of the 
Board of Civil Office at Nanking, and was given the title 
of Earl of Hsinchien. Seeing that at the old home at 
Shanyin there was excellent mountain water, and that it 
was really the original family home, he moved his effects 
from Yuyao to Yuehch'eng at Kuanghsiangfang. Wang 
Yang-ming built a home in Yang-ming Grotto about twenty 
li southeast of Yuehch'eng, and because of this was called 
Yang-ming by his students. 

Wang Yang-ming was born in the eighth year of the 
reign of Emperor Ch'eng Hua, in the ninth month and 
the thirtieth day, having been carried by his mother for 
fourteen months. His father's mother, named Ts'en, in a 
dream saw a spiritman clothed in dark red silk decorated 
with precious stones, playing and drumming in the clouds 
as he brought the child. When she awoke the child was 
already crying. His grandfather accordingly called him 
Yun (cloud) and the neighbors called the place Auspicious 

Cloud Loft, „ 7 T . , 

Early Life 

In the twelfth year of. Ch'eng Hua, at the age of five, 
he was still unable to speak. A passing Buddhist priest 
beholding him said, "A good child, but unfortunately his 
name has been made known." (2) Influenced thereby, his 
grandfather changed his name to Shou-jen, and forthwith 
he was able to speak. The boy often secretly repeated the 
contents of his grandfather's books. When his surprised 
grandfather asked him how this was possible, he said, "I 
remembered what I heard you read." In the seventeenth 
year of Ch'eng Hua, when he was ten, his father became a 
Chinshih. 



a The highest degree conferred upon scholars under the old system 
of education in China. 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 5 

When the hoy was eleven his father went to the capital, 
Peking, to be an official, and the grandfather, who accom- 
panied him, took Yang-ming along. When they passed 
Chinshan, near Chinkiang, the grandfather and a friend 
were writing a poem. As they did not finish it, Yang-ming 
helped with four sentences. The friend, greatly astonished, 
gave the boy the subject, "The Mountain Hides the Moon," 
and forthwith the child gave a verse, which is published in 
his writings. 

The next year he was studying in the capital city. 
One day when walking on the Ch'angan Street with some 
companions, he met a fortune teller, who said, ''I will 
tell your fortune. When your beard reaches your collar, 
you will enter the realm of the sage ; when it reaches your 
diaphragm, your knowledge will have begun; and when it 
reaches your abdomen, your knowledge will be complete^' 
Wang was profoundly influenced by these words, and when 
he returned to school asked his teacher, "What is the most 
important thing in life?" The teacher said, "Study to 
become a Chinshih." Yang-ming replied, "Perhaps not. 
Study to become a sage : that is the first and the greatest 
occupation. ' ' 

When he was thirteen, his mother died. In the twenty- 
second year of Ch'eng Hua, when he was fifteen, a rebel- 
lion occurred in the capital, led by Shih Ying and Wang 
Lung, and another in the province of Shansi, led by Shih 
Ho-shang and Liu Ch'ien-chin. At that time Yang-ming 
lived at Chuyungtuan and learned to ride horseback and 
to use the bow and arrow. He also asked the barbarous 
tribes there how they protected themselves against their 
enemies. At this occupation he spent a month before re- 
turning. In a dream he visited the temple of General Ma 
Yuan and while there wrote a poem, which is published in 
his works. Deploring the condition of the times, he wished 
to present a memorial to the throne, but his father refused 
to allow it. (3) 



6 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Marriage 

In the first year of Hung Chin, 4 the Teacher (Wang 
Yang-ming) was seventeen years of age. In the seventh 
month of that year he went to Hungtu, where he married 
a woman named Chu, the daughter of a state counselor. 5 
The day the betrothal presents were sent he happened to 
enter a temple called T 'iehchukung, and seeing a Taoist 
priest sitting with crossed legs, greeted him and sat down 
opposite him. As he forgot to return, his wife's father 
sent men in search of him, but failed to find him. He did 
not return until the next day. 

In the yamen 6 there were a number of boxes of paper 
which he soon used up, for he wrote daily and his knowl- 
edge of writing characters rapidly increased. He frequent- 
ly said, "When I first wrote characters, I followed the 
ancient models carefully and got merely the form of the 
letters. Afterwards I added thought to my effort and kept 
the shape of the characters in mind. In that way after a 
long time I succeeded in understanding the method. This 
continued until I had read the elder philosopher Ch'eng 
who said, 'When I write characters I am very reverent. 
It is not that I wish to write well, but because reverence 
itself is knowledge. ' Then I said, ' Since he did not wish 
the writing to be excellent, why did he learn to write?' 
However, I see this, that the ancients at all times and in all 
things learned from the mind itself. If the mind is dis- 
criminating and clear, skill in the writing of characters 
will be included. ' ' Later, when he spoke of philosophy to 
his students, he often referred to this. 

Early Efforts as a Scholar 
In the second year of Hung Chih the Teacher was eigh- 



* Name of the emperor. 

s Hungtu refers to Nanchang, the capital of the province of 
Kiangsi. 

6 The home and office of officials. 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 7 

teen years of age. In the twelfth month he took his wife 
and returned to Yiiyao by boat by way of Kuanghsin 
(Chekiang), where he visited his friend Lou Liang and 
talked with him about the ' ' investigation of things. ' ' Much 
pleased, the Teacher said, "One can learn to become a 
sage." Later when he read the works of K'ao T'ing, he 
realized that scholars of the past had said that things have 
an external and an internal, a minute (small) and a coarse 
(large). Every blade of grass and every tree has its prin- 
ciples. Seeing a bamboo, he sought to investigate it. He 
thought diligently, but being unable to discover the prin- 
ciple thereof he became ill. 

Receives the Degrees of Chiijen, Chinshih, and Han-Un 

In the autumn of the fifth year of Emperor Hung Chih, 
at twenty-one years of age, he received the degree of 
Chiijen 7 in his native province. At midnight while taking 
the examination he saw two giants, one of whom was clothed 
in dark red silk and the other in green. One stood toward 
the east and the other toward the west. (4) Both said, 
' ' Three men together can accomplish much. ' ' The Teacher, 
Suen Shui — later a governor — and Hu Shih-ling — lat- 
er the President of a Board — received the degree of Chii- 
jen together. When Ch'en Hao attempted to usurp the 
throne, Hu divulged his evil intention, Suen lost his life in 
the ensuing battle, and the Teacher crushed the usurper. 

At twenty-two years he took the examination for Chin- 
shih at the Nankung, but failed. A prime minister, Hsi 
Yai, who had profound respect for him, in jest said, 
"When you take another examination and become the first 
of the Hanlin, take the subject, 'A poem to the future first 
of the Hanlin.' " The Teacher forthwith took his pen and 
wrote a poem. Thereupon one envious of his attainment 
said. "If he should really become the first of the Hanlin, 
he would despise us." The next year he again took the 

7 A graduate of the second degree. 



8 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

examination for Chinshih, but was hindered by those envi- 
ous of him. A number of those who lived with him were 
ashamed because they had not received the degree, but the 
Teacher laughed, saying, "You are ashamed because you 
failed; I am ashamed because my mind is perturbed at 
my failure." 

During the tenth year of Hung Chih, Wang lived in 
Peking. The country at that time was harassed by enemies 
at the borders, and Emperor Hung Chih asked that the 
officials recommend a man able to lead an army, but no 
one was recommended. Wang accordingly carefully stud- 
ied military tactics. Whenever he was at a feast with 
guests, he took the kernels from the fruit that had been 
eaten and arranged them in the position of troops. 

At twenty-seven the Teacher read a memorial presented 
to Kuang Tsong (an emperor of the Sung dynasty) by 
K'ao T'ing, which said, "To be respectful and maintain 
one's purpose is the source of study. Following the reg- 
ular order with utmost discrimination is the method of 
study." In consequence the Teacher regretted that, not- 
withstanding great effort, he had not attained because of 
being too anxious to acquire. He began to study in a 
methodical way, but continued to consider the principles of 
things and his own mind as two separate things. His mind 
was troubled for a long time, and he again, as at a previous 
time, fell ill. But when he heard a Taoist priest explain 
the principle of nourishing life, his heart rejoiced. 

In the twelfth year of Hung Chih, when twenty-eight, 
he again took the examination for Chinshih and attained 
the second place, and later the seventh place in the second 
class of Hanlin. He then was appointed a member of the 
Board of Works. (5) While he was still a Hsiuts'ai 
(A.B.), at one time in a dream Wang Yueh, an Earl of Wei 
Ling in Kiangsi, gave him a bow and sword. In the fall of 
the year in which he received the Chinshih, he was ordered 
by the emperor to build the tomb of Wang Yueh. In super- 



BIOGBAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 9 

intending the workmen he had half of them work and half 
rest, with definite times both for rest and for meals. When 
he and the workmen ceased from work, he practiced the 
octagonal method of drilling soldiers with them. The 
tomb was finished, and Wang Yueh's people offered him 
gold and silk, but he refused to take them. They then 
brought forth the sword which Wang Yueh had carried, 
and since this was in harmony with his dream he received 
it. At that time the stars changed, and the emperor asked 
that his officials explain the reason. Yang-ming sent in a 
memorial stating eight things regarding the borders of 
the empire. 

He Investigates Immortality 

At twenty-nine he was given control of the Yuinnan 
section of the Board of Punishments, and at thirty he was 
Provincial Judge in Chiangpei, reversing many of the law 
cases that came under his jurisdiction. 

When not engaged in official duties he went to Chiuhua- 
shan. 8 There he met a Taoist priest named Ts'ai P'eng- 
t'ou and asked him regarding the magic of eternal youth 
and immortality. The priest answered, "You are not in 
a position to ask about it." A second time after sending 
away his servants he asked, and the priest again replied, 
"You are not in a position to make inquiry." A third 
time Wang asked. Ts'ai said, "Though you have an abund- 
ance of propriety, you still do not forget the manner of an 
official," and laughing aloud left him. 

In the Titsang Grotto there was a strange and extraordin- 
ary man who sat and slept on pine needles, and who never 
cooked his food. The Teacher climbed cliffs and passed 
dangerous places in order to see him. When he reached the 
cave, the man was sleeping. The Teacher sat a long time 
waiting for him to awaken, and when he finally awoke asked 
him, "What is the first virtue to be investigated?" There 

s A well-known sacred mountain near the Yangtze River in the 
province of Anhui. 



10 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

was no answer given until after a long time, when the 
strange man said, "Chou Lien-hsi and Ch'eng Ming-tao are 
two great Hsiuts'ai among scholars." When he had spoken 
he again fell asleep. The Teacher left, Returning the 
next day, he did not see the strange man again. 

In the fifteenth year of Hung Chih, in the eighth month, 
the Teacher was thirty-one. He resigned his official posi- 
tion to return to his home in Chekiang in order to care for 
his aged parent. He built a home at Yang-ming Grotto 
and there engaged in Taoist practices. His friends of the 
company of Wang Ssu-yu came to visit him, but he sent 
his servants to receive them. He revealed to them their 
entire past life just as a prophet would have done, while 
they marvelled at his power, believing that he had become 
perfect. (6) After some time the Teacher coming to a 
state of realization said, "This humbugging, these worth- 
less dregs, are not in accordance with the true way. ' ' He 
discontinued the Yoga practices. 

He Influences a Buddhist Priest to Abandon His Calling 
Though he wished to leave his home and go to a far- 
distant place, he remembered that his grandmother and his 
father still lived and consequently was unable to come to a 
decision. One day, however, he came to himself and said, 
"Though these are the thoughts of a child, yet should they 
perish, the original disposition (nature) would therewith 
be destroyed." Accordingly he moved to Hsihu, spending 
much of his time between Nanp'ing and Hupao. A Bud- 
dhist priest had been sitting for three years in contempla- 
tion without speaking or looking at anything. The Teacher 
in a loud voice said, "This priest sits here the entire day 
moving his lips. But what does he say? He sits here 
with his eyes open all day, and what does he see?" The 
priest was startled, and the Teacher made inquiry about his 
home. The priest said, "My mother lives." "Are you 
ever homesick for her?" asked the Teacher. "It is impos- 
sible not to have such thoughts," said the priest. The 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 11 

Teacher then talked to him about the natural love of one's 
own. The priest wept and thanked him; then took his 
almsbowl and returned home. 

At thirty-three the Teacher was delegated to conduct the 
Chujen examinations in the province of Shantung, and 
himself examined all the essays. In the ninth month of 
this year he was placed in control of the officers of the 
army. 

At thirty-four he became the friend of Chan Kan-ch'uan 
(Jo-shui). Together they proclaimed the importance of 
devotion to the doctrines of Confucius. As a result many 
now first came to him to study these doctrines. 

Having Offended the Eunuch Liu Tsing, He is Exiled to 
Lungch 'ang 

In the first year of Cheng Te, Wang was thirty-five years 
of age. At that time a eunuch, Liu Tsing, usurped much 
power. Two Taotais 9 at Nanking, Tai Hsien and Po Yen- 
hui, sent a memorial to the emperor asking that he dis- 
miss Liu Tsing and thereby offended the emperor, who ac- 
cordingly had them cast into prison. In the second month 
the teacher sent in a memorial and rescued them, and 
thereby offended Liu Tsing. Liu Tsing then falsely in the 
emperor's name had him struck forty blows with the bam- 
boo and disgraced him by sending him to Lungch 'ang, 
Kweichow, in the governmental dispatch service. 10 (7) 

In the summer of the second year of Cheng Te, at the 
age of thirty-six, the Teacher, disgraced, started his journey 
and reached Ch'ient'ang. Liu Tsing deputized a man to 
follow him secretly. When the Teacher saw that he could 
not evade him, he pretended to drown himself in the river 
and secretly escaped to Choushan on a merchant vessel. A 
typhoon arose and in one night drove the ship to the bor- 

9 A Taotai under the old government was an official in charge of 
several prefectures. 

10 His principal duty was that of providing fresh horses for quick 
dispatch. 



12 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

der of Fukien. When the Teacher had landed he wandered 
in the mountains some tens of li. 11 As night came on he 
knocked at the door of a Buddhist temple, but the priest 
refused him hospitality. Hastening, he reached a deserted 
temple and supporting himself against the incense-table 
slept. The place was the resort of a tiger, who at mid- 
night prowled around roaring, but was afraid to enter. At 
the break of day the Buddhist priest, thinking that the 
Teacher had surely been killed by the tiger, went to get 
his bag, for he used the tiger to help him pillage strangers. 
When he saw that the Teacher was just waking up, he was 
alarmed and said, ' ' This is an extraordinary man ! ' ' Upon 
his invitation Wang Went with him to the temple, where 
he met the Taoist priest who had formerly sat with him in 
the T 'iehchukung. This one laughed and taking a poem 
from his sleeve gave it to the Teacher to see. The ode read : 
' ' Twenty years ago I saw the gentleman. Today he comes, 
but the news of his deeds precedes him. ' ' He asked Wang 
where he wished to go. "If the anger of Liu Tsing," he 
said, ' ' should fall upon your father, he would falsely report 
that you have either gone north to the Tartars or south to 
Kwangtung. What can be done ? ' ' The Teacher, alarmed, 
took refuge in divination and as a result returned home, 
leaving a verse written on the temple wall. He chose the 
nearest route, passing by Wu-i and crossing Poyang Lake. 
At Nanking he visited his father, and in the twelfth month 
started his journey for Lungch'ang anew. At that time 
his brother-in-law (younger sister's husband) Ts'ii Ai, 
with his face toward the north, gave him a gift, thereby 
fully determining to be his disciple. 

His Residence in Lungch'ang 

At thirty-seven, in the third month of the third year of 
Cheng Te, he reached Lungch'ang and took up his official 
position there. Lungch'ang was situated in the northwest- 
it A "li" is usually considered about a third of a mile. 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 13 

ern part of Kweichow, among the mountains. It was the 
resort of venomous snakes and poisonous worms, the habi- 
tat of babbling barbarians with whom it was impossible for 
him to converse. The only ones with whom he could speak 
were criminals who had made their escape to these distant 
parts. Liu Tsing at this time still hated Wang, but the 
latter counted as nothing gain or loss, glory or disgrace. 
Life and death alone he meditated upon. He had a sar- 
cophagus made and awaited the decree of Liu Tsing. (8) 
It happened that his followers all fell ill. The Teacher 
himself chopped wood, carried water, and made soft-boiled 
rice for them. Moreover, he sang songs, especially their 
home tunes for them, and recited humorous stories in order 
to drive away their sorrow and comfort them. 

The Enlightenment 

The great object of his meditations at this time was: 
What additional method would a sage adopt who lived 
under these circumstances ? One night it suddenly dawned 
upon him in the midnight watches what the sage meant 
by "investigating things for the purpose of extending 
knowledge to the utmost." Unconsciously he called out, 
got up and danced about the room. All his followers were 
alarmed; but the Teacher, now for the first time under- 
standing the doctrine of the sage, said, "My nature is, of 
course, sufficient. I was wrong in looking for principles 
in things and aifairs. " He meditated upon the words of 
the Five Classics and found them entirely in harmony with 
this. Subsequently he wrote a commentary on the Five 
Classics, "Thoughts on the Five Classics." 

The natives of the place daily became more intimate with 
him. Seeing that the house where he lived was damp, they 
built him a schoolhouse and called it Lungkang, also a 
guestroom, a study, a pavilion, and a den. The prefect of 
Ssuchou sent men to deceive him, but the natives were 
enraged and beat them. The prefect was incensed and 



14 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

reported it to a higher official, who ordered Wang to go to 
the prefect and apologize. But Wang, unwilling to do 
this, sent a letter to the higher official. When the prefect 
heard of this he was humiliated. A higher official named 
An sent the Teacher rice and pork from Shuihsi. He also 
sent servants, gold, silver, and a saddled horse, but the 
Teacher did not receive the gifts. At one time the emperor 
had determined to establish a military post at Shuihsi and 
build a wall (city) around it, but later abandoned the plan. 
The station for transmitting dispatches, however, was still 
there. The official named An did not like it because it was 
in his way, and wished to dispose of it. He consulted with 
the Teacher, who wrote him a letter in which he showed 
that the power and influence of the imperial court should 
be extended. An was satisfied. A tribal chief named 
Ochia-ochia stirred up the natives to rebellion. Wang wrote 
a letter to An, exhorting him; whereupon An, much 
alarmed, crushed the rebellion. 

At thirty-eight, the deputy commissioner of education of 
Kweichow, Hsi Shu by name, asked the Teacher to take 
charge of Kueiyang College. At that time the Teacher first 
taught that knowledge and action must go together. What 
he said is found in his writings. 

He is Restored to Honor and Receives Official Promotion 

At the age of thirty-nine, Wang was promoted to the 
magistracy of Lulinghsien in Shansi, and during the seven 
months he was there he used no violent punishments. (9) 
By selecting three classes of old men to be elders and to ad- 
monish the people in virtue, he influenced many. In the 
eleventh month of that year (Cheng Te, the fifth year) he 
went to Peking to have an audience with the emperor, and 
while there stayed in a temple called Hsinglungssu. At 
this time Huang Tsung-hsien first heard the Teacher dis- 
course on learning. Wang was pleased and had him study 
with Chan Kan-ch ? Uan. In the twelfth month he was 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 15 

promoted to President of the Board of Punishment for 
Szchuan at Nanking. 

In the first month of the sixth year of Cheng Te, Wang 
was made head of the inspection department of the Board 
of Civil Offices. He then first discoursed upon the learning 
of Chu Hui-an and Lu Hsiang-shan. He also sent a letter 
to Ts'ii Ch'eng-chih. At that time Fang Hsien-fu on the 
same board, but of higher rank, gave Wang the gift of a 
student to a teacher. In the second month of that year 
Wang was appointed associate examiner of the Chinshih 
essays. In the tenth month he was delegated to be the 
official who reports to the Vice-President of the Board of 
Civil Offices regarding letters received. 

In the seventh year of Cheng Te, in the second month, he 
was promoted to clerk of the merit department of the Board 
of Civil Offices. In the twelfth month he was promoted to 
Nanking as Vice-President of the Court of the Emperor's 
Studs. Inasmuch as the road was convenient, he returned 
to his native home. In that year Ts'ii Ai, who at the time 
was prefect at Ch'ichou, was promoted to membership on 
the Board of Works at Nanking. Together with the Teacher 
in the same boat he went to Yiiyao. On the way they dis- 
coursed upon the purport of the Great Learning. The con- 
versation is recorded in his works. 

In the eighth year of Cheng Te, when he was forty-two 
years of age, the Teacher went to Ch'uchou. By day he 
sauntered near the Langya Spring with his disciples. In 
the evening when the moon was bright several hundred 
men gathered around the Dragon Pool and sang that the 
valleys resounded with the echo. Students of the old 
learning daily increased. 

In the ninth year of Emperor Cheng Te, at forty-three, 
Wang was promoted to President of the Court of Cere- 
monies. In that year he first turned specifically to intui- 
tive knowledge for instructing his disciples. (10) 

At forty-four he selected his cousin 's son, Cheng Hsien, 



16 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

as heir, for neither he nor his three brothers had any sons. 
His father had chosen Cheng Hsien, who was eight at that 
time, as the heir. In the eighth month of this year ( Cheng 
Te tenth), "Wang determined to send in a memorial in order 
to remonstrate with the emperor against his receiving Bud- 
dhism. The servants of the emperor said that in the western 
country (India) there lived a Buddhist priest who could 
prognosticate three generations, 12 and who in consequence 
was called by the Tartars a living Buddha. Cheng Te sent 
an ambassador named Liu Yuin to welcome him with all 
dispatch. He used a string of five-hundred pearls on a 
pendant scroll, and carried silver amounting to more than 
ten thousand taels, besides gold. Cheng Te ordered that 
Liu Yuin should return within ten years, and gave him 
power to act. Liu Yuin asked for seventy thousand ying 
of salt to cover his travelling expenses. A prime minister 
named Yang Ting-ho sent in a memorial advising Cheng 
Te against this, but he paid no attention. Wang had 
written a memorial with the intention of sending it in, but 
desisted. Instead he sent in a memorial, and later a second 
one, asking leave to return home and care for his grand- 
mother, who at the time was ninety-six years of age. 

In the ninth month of the eleventh year of Cheng Te, 
the Teacher was promoted to Military Governor of Kiangsi, 
having been recommended by Wang Ch'iung, President of 
the Board of War. Wang Ssu-yii said to Chi Pen, "Wang 
will surely acquire merit this time. I am unable to attack 
him single handed." In the tenth month he returned to 
his home at Yiiyao. 

The Robbers at Wanan Are Subdued by Wang 

In the first month of the twelfth year of Cheng Te, he 
reached Kanchou. He passed Wanan, where several hun- 
dred robbers along the road plundered the passers-by. 
Merchant vessels did not dare to advance, but the Teacher 

12 That just past, the present, and the next. 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 17 

united them into a fleet. Hoisting flags and beating drums, 
they went forward as if to battle. The robbers became 
frightened and surrendered. "We are famine-stricken 
people, ' ' they said. ' ' Kindly relieve us in our extremity. ' ' 
Wang ordered men to tell them that when he reached 
Kanchou he would send an official to help them. "You 
should continue your regular occupations," he said, "and 
not bring punishment upon yourselves by committing mis- 
demeanors. " The robbers all returned home. When he en- 
tered Kanchou, he forthwith selected and raised soldiers from 
the people to introduce the ten-family register system. (11) 

Since the Kanchou official helpers and yamen runners 
all knew the ways and devices of the robbers, the robbers 
were forewarned whenever the officials tried to do anything. 
At the camp gate there was an old underling who was es- 
pecially villainous. The Teacher, knowing his ways, had 
him called into a secret chamber and given his choice 
whether he would live or die. As the old underling di- 
vulged the truth, Wang permitted him to live. Moreover, 
what he said was tested and proven true, and thereby the 
Teacher learned the actual condition of the thieves. 

In the second month of this year he subdued the rebellion 
at Changchou, and in the fourth he returned the soldiers. 
At that time it had not rained for three months. The 
Teacher and his soldiers were at Shanghang. He prayed at 
the Hsing T'ai yamen and it rained for three days. The 
magistrate of the place asked the Teacher to change the 
name from Hsing T'ai to Favorable Rain Hall (Shih- 
yut'ang. 

He is Made Provincial Commander-in-Chief 

In the fifth month he established a military tally. He 
sent up a memorial asking that the P'ingho magistracy be 
established at Hotou, and that the sub-district deputy mag- 
istrate be moved from Hsiaohsi to Fangtou. In the sixth 
month he sent a memorial asking for a reorganization of 



18 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the salt gabelle. In the ninth month he was made Pro- 
vincial Commander-in-chief of the army at Kanchou, Ting- 
chou, and Changchou in Kiangsi. The emperor gave him 
a banner and authority to act on his own initiative. He 
sent up a memorial explaining rewards and punishments 
and asked that he be given power to act in such matters. 
Some of the people laughed and called him foolish, but 
Wang Ch'iung said, "If the government does not give this 
kind of power to that type of men, to whom shall it be 
given?" The Teacher sent in a second memorial and re- 
ceived the authority for which he had asked. 

Pi Chen, a Kiangsi eunuch delegated to keep watch, 
plotted with his favorites that the emperor should appoint 
him to examine the Teacher's army. Wang Ch'iung sent 
up a memorial saying, ' ' That which in military matters is 
most to be dreaded is command from the distance. In case 
Wang must use soldiers at Kanchou, he must first wait until 
plans are made at the capital. Thus will he be defeated. 
But if there is a disturbance at the capital, then it may be 
heard that the Kanchou government came to the rescue." 
Thereupon Pi Chen's plotting ceased. Because the Teacher 
settled the rebellion at Changchou he gained merit. His 
salary was increased and a present of two thousand taels 
of silver and four rolls of silk was given to him. 

In the tenth month he quieted the rebellion at Huenshui 
and T'ungkang. The chief of the robber band, Hsie Chih- 
shan, was captured, and questioned by the Teacher, who 
asked, "How did you accumulate such a gang?" Chih- 
shan said, "It was not easy. When I saw a man of ex- 
cellent ability, I was unwilling to let him go and used many 
devices to get him. I assisted him in trouble, or gave him 
help in his extremity, or appealed to his love of wine and 
women, until he was grateful for kindness. (12) Then, when 
I plotted with him, he invariably was willing." The Teacher, 
turning to his disciples, said, "When we really wish to find 
a friend, we too should use the same method." In the 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 19 

twelfth month he returned with his soldiers and sent in a 
memorial asking that a magistrate be sent to Huenshui, a 
guard be placed at the Ch'aliao Pass, and a sub-district 
magistracy be established at Shangpao, Ch'iench'ang, and 
Ch 'anglung. 

In the thirteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te, the Teacher 
was forty-seven. In the first month he attacked Sanli; 
in the third month he reduced to submission the thieves 
at Tamao and Lit'ou; and in the fourth month he re- 
turned with the troops and established primary schools in 
the country. Holding up the wine, he thanked his fol- 
lowers, saying, ' ' Thank you, Sirs, for your help ! I use 
this feast to requite you in a measure." The disciples, 
surprised, asked him the reason. The Teacher said, "When 
I first went up into the hall to reward and punish the sol- 
diers, I experienced a fear of making mistakes and dis- 
gracing you. I did not dare to be careless. When I left 
the hall to meet you face to face, I still remembered the 
rewards and punishments and Was unhappy, until finally 
when I went up into the hall and when I met you face to 
face my mind was at rest. Then I was at peace. This is 
the matter in which you have helped me." In the fifth 
month Wang sent up a memorial asking that a magistracy 
be established at Hopingt'ung and that the sub-district 
magistrate at Hoping be sent to Lit'ou. In the sixth 
month, because of the merit accruing to him for having 
reduced the rebellion at Huenshui and T'ungkang, he was 
promoted to first assistant to the President of the Cen- 
sorate, and one son was honored with the office of Ching I 
Wei 13 for all time and with the income of one hundred 
families. 

Hsieh K'an Cuts the Blocks of the "Instructions for 
Practical Life" 

Tn the seventh month he cut the original text of the 



is A sort of imperial commissioner. 



20 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Great Learning in wood, and also the philosopher Chu's 
"Wan Nien Ting Luen" (Discussions of Later Life). In 
the eighth month his disciple Hsieh K'an cut the blocks of 
the ' ' Instructions for Practical Life " at Ch 'ien in Kiangsi 
— a book which Ts'ii Ai has transmitted. When Ts'ii Ai 
died, Wang mourned deeply and sacrificed two funeral ora- 
tions at his grave. In the ninth month he repaired the 
Lienhsi College for the students from all quarters. In the 
tenth month he reestablished village headmen, and in the 
eleventh month he sent a second memorial asking for a 
reorganization of the salt gabelle. 

In the fourteenth year of Cheng Te the Teacher was for- 
ty-eight. In the first month because of merit as a result 
of having reduced the rebellion at Sanli, his son was made 
a Ching I Wei with the income from one-thousand families. 
Wang sent a memorial refusing, but the emperor would not 
listen. He then sent up a memorial resigning his position 
because his grandmother was ill, but the emperor would not 
accept the resignation. 

He Subdues the Rebellious Prince Ch'en Hao 

In the sixth month he received command from the em- 
peror to go to Fukien to investigate a rebellion among the 
soldiers. (13) Starting from Kanchou on the ninth, he 
reached Fengch'eng on the fifteenth and heard that Prince 
Ch'en Hao had rebelled. Quickly returning to Chian, he 
raised troops by public solicitation. Ch'en Hao ordered 
troops to pursue him, but by scheming he escaped them. On 
the nineteenth Wang reached Chian and sent in a memorial 
regarding the rebellion. Fearing that the rebels might 
utilize the down-river current to reach Nanking and unex- 
pectedly invade the two capital cities (Peking and Nan- 
king), he devised a scheme to deceive the messenger of 
Ch'en Hao. thinking that if the latter could be detained 
from ten days to a month all would be well. He secretly 
counterfeited the urgent dispatch board of the Provincial 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 21 

Commander-in-chief of Kwangtung and Kwangsi, the official 
dispatch asking the soldiers from the capital and the bor- 
ders of the Empire to come to the rescue, a letter from Li 
Shih-shih and Liu Yang-cheng (two of Ch'en Hao's gen- 
erals) revealing treachery in the camp, and also a petition 
of submission from Min Nien-ssu and Ling Shih-i. He or- 
dered Lei Chi and Lung Kuang to devise a plan whereby 
Ch'en Hao might learn this. When Ch'en Hao heard it, he 
was frightened and did not know what preparation to make. 
The details of this matter are recorded in the Fan Chien I 
Shih. On the twenty-first he sent in another memorial re- 
garding the rebellion, fearing that, because of the violence 
of the uprising, the former memorial had perhaps not 
reached the emperor. On the same day he sent in a me- 
morial asking permission to return to Chekiang that he 
might bury his grandmother. 

On the fifth day of the seventh month he sent in a me- 
morial stating that Ch'en Hao was slandering the emperor 
in an official dispatch, and on the thirteenth he led troops 
out of Chian. On the fifteenth a consultation was held at 
Changshu, ordering the magistrate of Fenghsin, called Liu 
Shou-hsii, secretly to destroy Ch'en Hao's ambush soldiers 
at Hsinchiuf ench 'ang. On the nineteenth, Wang left 
Shihch'a and on the twentieth he and his soldiers captured 
Nanchang. On the twenty-fourth the Teacher fought 
against Ch'en Hao near the Poyang Lake at Huangchiatu, 
and on the twenty-fifth at Patzunao. On the twenty-sixth 
Wang captured Ch'en Hao at Ch'iaoshi. Kiangsi was at 
rest, and the government did not yet know of the affair. 

The Emperor and the Rebellion 

At that time Li K'o-ssu, President of the Censorate, sent 
in a special memorial regarding this matter. The emperor 
called together the court officials for deliberation, but they 
did not dare to find fault with Ch'en Hao. The President 
of the Board of War. Wang Ch'iung, alone said, "His 



22 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

character has always been bad. That he should thus sud- 
denly rebel should not be enough to alarm you. Wang 
Shou-jen (Yang-ming) will take the matter in hand from 
upstream, pursue him, and capture him. Yet according to 
ancient custom it is necessary to send a general. " (14) "Wang 
Ch'iung sent in a memorial asking Cheng Te to issue an 
edict disowning Ch'en Hao as relative (prince) and calling 
him a rebel. He also asked that a general with troops be 
sent to Nanking, and that the Earl of Nanho, named Fang 
Shou-hsiang, and the official in charge of the guard at 
Yangchow, a censor, Yii Chien by name, lead Anhui troops 
to guard Nanking; and further that Wang Shou-jen lead 
Kiangsi troops from Lingchi and that a President of the 
Censorate, named Ch'in Chin, lead Hupeh troops from 
Chingjui to Nanchang. He further asked that Li K'o-ssu, 
who guarded Chinkiang, Hsu T'ing-kuang, who guarded 
Chekiang, and Ts'ung Lan, who guarded Ichen, check the 
rebels, and that dispatches be sent to all parts of Kiangsi 
announcing that whoever should raise public troops and 
capture the rebels would be made a marquis. At that time 
there were many ignoble people who persuaded the em- 
peror to go in person so that he prohibited any general f rom 
being sent. He said, "I myself ought to lead six regi- 
ments and in the name of Heaven demand justice." He 
used the standard, ' ' Stern Commander-in-Chief, Duke Who 
Guards the Country," and ordered two eunuchs, Chang 
Yung and Chang Chung, and an earl named Hsu T 'ai and a 
lieutenant-general Liu Hui, to lead the capital troops and 
the border troops amounting to more than ten thousand, 
and to follow him. A deputy named Chu Hsu and a censor 
named Chang Lun followed the army to record merit. 

On the sixteenth of the eighth month Wang sent in a 
memorial advising the emperor not to come himself, and 
on the same day he for a second time asked for leave of 
absence to bury his grandmother. On the eleventh of the 
ninth month Wang left Nanchang for Peking, to hand 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 23 

over his prisoner of war. At this time Chang Chung, Hsii 
T'ai, and their followers planned to send someone to use 
the "Stern Commander-in-Chief" dispatch board, receive 
(from Wang) the rebellious Ch'en Hao, and liberate him 
on the Poyang Lake, that the emperor himself might battle 
against him, and that when a victory had been reported 
merit might be meted out. The Teacher had reached 
Kuanghsin, when Chang Chung and Hsii T'ai sent a mes- 
senger ordering him to return to Kiangsi. Wang did not 
obey, but instead by night passed the Yushants 'aop 'ing 
dispatch station. At Hangchow he met Chang Yung and 
said, ' ' The people of Kiangsi have long endured the injur- 
ies of Ch'en Hao. They have passed through the rebellion, 
and in addition they suffer from the dry weather. If now 
is added the furnishing of supplies for the troops from 
the capital and the borders of the Empire, the poverty will 
be unendurable. The outcome will be that they will flee 
into the mountain valleys and rebel. Those who in the past 
helped Ch'en Hao did so because they were forced. Under 
the present weight of poverty there will be great confu- 
sion if rebellion ensues. You have in the past surrendered 
your life to your country : can you not now think of your 
countrymen?" Chang Yung answered, "Certainly! I 
have come because a great band of ignoble fellows sur- 
rounds the emperor. My purpose is to protect and safe- 
guard him. (15) I have not come because I wish to rob 
others of just merit; but the disposition of the emperor is 
such that the situation may be saved if I follow his ideas. 
Should I disobey him, I would needlessly anger his ignoble 
followers and there would then be no way of solving the 
difficulty." The Teacher believed him and delivered Ch'en 
Hao up to him, but himself feigned illness and dwelt at 
Hsihu in a temple. 



24 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Wang Returns to Nanchang as Governor 

In the eleventh month, at the command of the emperor, 
he returned to Nanchang as governor of Kiangsi. At that 
time Chang Chung and Hsu T'ai in Kiangsi devised many- 
schemes to detect him in some wrong. Chu Hsu and Chang 
Lun, hoping for benefit from them, adopted their views and 
circulated rumors on all sides. When "Wang returned, the 
troops from the north reviled him and tried to stir up a 
feud. He was not aroused to anger, but was the more 
courteous to them. Secretly he ordered the inhabitants to 
move to the country and used weakened old men at the 
yamen gate. He intended to reward the northern troops, 
but Chang Chung and Hsu T 'ai had previously forbidden 
them to receive anything. He issued the following proclam- 
ation: "The northern soldiers have left their homes and 
suffered privations. The people of this city should extend 
toward them the courtesy of a host to his guest. ' ' "When 
he met northern soldiers who had lost one of their number 
through death, he would have his conveyance stopped, speak 
comforting words to them, and after contributing ample 
money for the coffin pass on sighing. After a time the 
northern soldiers were moved by his kindness. At the 
feast of the winter solstice he ordered the people to pre- 
pare wine and pork to sacrifice to those who had lost their 
lives in the rebellion. The sound of the weeping did not 
cease day or night, and when the northern troops heard 
this, they could not but think of home and weep. Chang 
Chung and Hsu T'ai arranged for a test shooting-match 
with bow and arrow, thinking that Wang was unable to use 
the bow and that in this way they could vanquish him. 
Thrice he shot and thrice he hit the target. The northern 
troops standing alongside shouted and held up their hands 
in admiration. Chang Chung and Hsu" T'ai greatly alarmed 
said, "May not all our soldiers follow Wang?" — and with- 
drew their troops. In that year, on the sixteenth of the 
twelfth month, the emperor reached Nanking. 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 25 

He is Persecuted by Chang Chung and Hsu T'ai 

In the fifteenth year of Cheng Te, Wang was forty-nine 
years old. At that time the emperor was at Nanking. 
Chang Chung and Hsu T'ai, since they hated Yang-ming, 
sent false imperial decrees calling him, but he did not leave. 
They also secretly slandered him in the presence of the 
emperor, saying, "Wang Shou-jen will certainly start a 
rebellion. ' ' The emperor said, ' ' What evidence have you ? ' ' 
They said, "Try to summon him: he will not come." (16) 
In the first month Cheng Te summoned Wang. Chang Yung 
ordered a private secretary, Ch'ien Ping-chung, to notify 
the Teacher. When he heard it he immediately started the 
journey, but was hindered at Wuhu by Chang Chung and 
Hsu T'ai. He then went to Chiuhuashan, where he dwelt 
in a temple made of grass. Cheng Te secretly sent a mes- 
senger to see him, who upon returning reported, "Wang 
Shou-jen is learning to be a Taoist priest: how would he 
stir up a rebellion ? ' ' The emperor ordered Wang to re- 
turn to Kiangsi. Passing a temple called K'aihsien, he 
engraved the following on a stone in the study loft: "In 
the fourteenth year of the reign of Cheng Te, in the sixth 
month and the fourteenth day, Prince Ning (Ch'en Hao) 
rebelled at Nanchang. He led troops toward Nanking, and 
both Nanking and Kiukiang were captured. He then at- 
tacked Nganking (Anking). The whole country was in a 
state of excitement. In the seventh month on the thirteenth 
day I, Shou-jen, led troops from another city, retook Nan- 
chang, captured Ch'en Hao and crushed the rebellion. At 
that time Cheng Te, having heard of the rebellion, was 
angered and led six regiments to avenge himself. I turned 
over the prisoner of war to him and he returned. Great is 
the majesty of the emperor. Holy in warfare, he yet does 
not kill. It may be compared to the thunders which shake 
and without striking cease. The throne belongs to him. 
Who would attempt to usurp it? Heaven beheld Ch'en 
Hao. vindicated the intelligence of the emperor, and re- 



26 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

stored peace within the empire. ' ' It was a vision of Shih 
Tsung (who was known as Chia Ching) mounting the 
throne. Was the Teacher able to forecast this? 

He Inspects the Troops at Kiukiang and Kanchou 

In the second month the teacher went to Kiukiang to in- 
spect drill. In the third month he sent in a memorial ask- 
ing that the taxes be rescinded for that half-year. For the 
third time he sent in a memorial asking for leave of ab- 
sence in order to bury his grandmother, but the emperor 
refused. In the fifth month there was a great flood in 
Kiangsi, and he sent in a memorial impeaching his own 
character. When in the sixth month he went to Kanchou 
to review the troops and teach them military tactics, Chiang 
sent a man to Watch him secretly. The people were all 
afraid of Wang, who wrote the following ode : 

"In the East an old man protected himself from the ravages 

of a tiger. 
The tiger entered his house at night and bit his head. 
The small child in the western home did not know the 

tiger ; 
He took a bamboo pole in his hand and drove the tiger as 

he drove the cattle. ' ' 

His disciples were solicitous about his welfare, but the 
Teacher said : "Formerly I lived at the capital in the midst 
of mighty ones, at the point of the bayonet and sword ; but 
my mind was at rest. Why should you be so anxious 
today?" 

As it was said that there were many warriors at Wanan, 
he ordered an official to go there and choose a company 
from among them. "Choose only those of great strength," 
he said, "and do not inquire about military skill." He 
chose three hundred men. (17) Lung Kuang made inquiry, 
saying, "Ch'en Hao has been subdued, why do you select 
these?" The Teacher laughed and said, "Chiao Chi 



BIOGKAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 27 

(Cochin China) is in a state of rebellion. To advance 
against the rebels while they are not suspecting, affords an 
excellent opportunity. ' ' 

How They Disposed of Ch'en Hao 

Ch'en Hao had not been beheaded at that time, because 
Emperor Cheng Te was still at Nanking. Moreover, it 
was exceedingly difficult to surmise the plans of Chiang 
Pin, for at Niushou Mountain there were startling things 
happening at night. Chiang Pin feared Wang and did not 
dare to move. Why Wang conducted drills at Kiukiang 
and Kanchou and selected the Wanan warriors, could not 
well be told to the public. In the seventh month Wang a 
second time sent up a memorial reporting good news from 
Kiangsi. At that time the Chiang Pin clique planned to 
claim the merit of delivering over the prisoner of war, but 
Chang Yung said, ' ' That will not do ; for we had not left 
the capital when Ch'en Hao was captured. Wang sent 
the prisoner forward to Peking, passing Yiishan and cross- 
ing at Ch'ient'an. The people have already seen and 
heard this : it cannot be disavowed. ' ' They therefore used 
the banner of the Stern Commander-in-Chief ordering the 
Teacher to send in a second memorial regarding the victory 
in Kiangsi. He sent in a memorial containing the gist of 
the first, adding the names of the parties concerned. In 
the eighth month he sent in a memorial to the Board of 
Punishment, clearing up the wrong done to Chi Yiian- 
heng. In the intercalary eighth month, on the eighth day, 
the emperor received the prisoner at Nanking, and on the 
twelfth the emperor left Nanking. 

Hou T 'ao said, ' ' This affair was due to his officials. As 
the criminal had been taken, why create a disturbance by 
taking out the soldiers at all? Since the country was at 
peace, why kill the people for the sake of the report of a 
victory and thereby involve the dynasty in a wrong ? Why 
endanger the dynasty by disturbing the country ? Because 



28 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Chang Chung and Hsu T'ai sought the merit of another 
and violated the principles of righteousness. This wrong 
overflowed the heavens. Moreover, Chu Hsu and Chang 
Lun cunningly followed the evil group. The wickedness of 
the gang lacked ingenuity and intelligence. ' ' 

For the fourth time Wang sent up a memorial asking for 
permission to bury his grandmother, but the emperor re- 
fused. At Kanchou he heard that his grandmother had 
died and his father had taken ill, and in consequence he 
wished to lay aside his official position and return home. 
One of his disciples, Chou Yung, said, "The Teacher's 
thought of returning home seems to be justified." After 
a long pause the Teacher replied, ' ' How can it be otherwise 
than justified?" In the ninth month he returned from 
Kanchou to Nanchang. 

Wang Ken, the Strange Man from T'aichou, Visits Wang 

At that time there was a man at T'aichou named Wang 
Ken, who wore the cap and costume of the ancients. He 
held a wooden tablet in his hand, and using two odes came 
to visit the Teacher. (18) Wang was astonished when he saw 
him, and coming down asked him to sit in the place of 
honor. ' ' What cap are you wearing ? ' ' Wang asked. He 
answered, "The cap of the time of Emperor Shun." 
"What costume are you wearing?" He answered, "The 
clothes of Lao Lai-tzu." The Teacher said, "Are you 
learning to be like Lao Lai-tzu?" The man said, "Yes." 
The Teacher said, "Do you merely imitate the wearing of 
his costume or do you imitate his coming into the room and 
artfully falling?" Wang Ken's conscience troubled him 
and he gradually sat farther away. They conversed about 
the purport of ' ' investigating things for the sake of extend- 
ing knowledge." When the conversation was ended, Wang 
Ken understood. On the following day he changed his 
costume and brought to Wang the gift of a disciple. 

On the third of the twelfth month the emperor was at 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 29 

T'ung-chou and had Ch'en Hao beheaded. On the eighth 
he returned to Peking. 

In the first month of the sixteenth year of Cheng Te, 
the teacher, at fifty years of age, dwelt at Nanchang and 
selected the descendants of Lu Hsiang-shan 14 for employ- 
ment. On the fourteenth of the third month Cheng Te 
died in a house made of leopard skins, 15 and in the fourth 
month Shih Tsung ascended the throne. In the fifth 
month the teacher gathered together his disciples at Pailu- 
tung. 16 In the sixth month the emperor called him to 
come to the capital by the dispatch route. On the twen- 
tieth he left Nanchang, though the prime minister attempt- 
ed to prevent his going to the capital. He was promoted 
to President of the Board of War, and was ordered to 
advise and aid in military matters. When he reached 
Ch'ient'an he sent in a memorial asking that he might use 
the convenient road home to bury his grandmother. 

He Visits His Old Home and Receives Further Honors 

In the eighth month he reached Yuehch'eng and in the 
ninth month Yiiyao, where he visited the grave of his 
grandmother. He made inquiry about the Shuyiinlou 
(Auspicious Cloud Loft.) He wept a long time because his 
beloved mother had not lived long enough to have his care, 
and because he had not been able to be present at the 
death of his grandmother to dress her for burial. In the 
twelfth month he was made Earl of Hsinchien and entrust- 
ed to Heaven's protecting care that he might display sin- 
cerity and strength in guarding aright the civil offices. In 
addition the emperor added the title, ' ' Master of the Ban- 
quetting Office and Pillar of the Government." He also 
filled the office of President of the Board of War at Nan- 
king, and thus advised and aided in military affairs as be- 

i*Lu Hsiang-shan was a philosopher of the Sung dynasty. 

is He was fond of dissipation and luxury. 

16 An ancient college near Kiukiang, in the province of Kiangsi. 



30 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

fore. His salary was one thousand picul of rice per year. 17 
Three generations, including wives, obtained posthumous 
honors, and his descendants for all time obtained the offi- 
cial rank of baron. 

On the day when the proclamation arrived Yang-ming's 
father celebrated his birthday. The Teacher took the wine 
goblet to drink to the age of his father, who wrinkling his 
brow said, "Formerly at the time of Prince Ning's rebel- 
lion everybody said you had died, and yet you were not 
dead. Everybody said that the rebellion would be difficult 
to settle, yet you subdued it. Many arose who slandered 
you. Calamity threatened at every hand. During the last 
two years danger has been avoided with difficulty. (19) Now 
the clouds have scattered and sun and moon appear to make 
your faithfulness and your virtue manifest. We are both 
unworthy to receive official merit, high official position, and 
a high degree of nobility. Is it not fortunate that we again 
meet in one room as today ? And yet the time of greatest 
prosperity is the beginning of decline, and happiness is at 
the base of misfortune. Though we may rejoice, we may 
also fear." The Teacher washed the goblet and kneeling 
before his father said, "This has been the instruction of 
my father. I, your son, will constantly heed it. ' ' 

The Death of Wang's Father 

In the first year of Emperor Chia Ching, the Teacher 
was fifty-one years old. In the first month of that year 
he sent in a memorial declining the titles of nobility, but 
the emperor refused to consider it. In the following month 
his father died. The Teacher wept himself nearly to death, 
and vowed that his entire family should eat no meat for 
one hundred days. Not many days after taking this vow, 
he ordered his brothers and nephews to eat a little dry pork. 
He said, "They have eaten pork for a long time, I cannot 
force them. It will give the reins to them to do it secretly, 

" A picul is equal to 133% pounds avoirdupois. 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 31 

and thus it is better that I be liberal with them and allow 
them to do as they think best. ' ' He mourned a long time 
and then stopped. A guest came to make inquiry after the 
death of his father, and one of his servants said to Wang, 
' ' You ought to weep. ' ' The Teacher said, ' ' Weeping comes 
from the heart. If I utilize the coming of a guest to weep 
and the going of the guest to stop, that is to gloss over the 
feelings and act falsely, like the ordinary man, who does 
this at the death of his parents. ' ' 

Wang is Charged with Heterodoxy 

In the seventh month he again sent in a memorial de- 
clining the titles of nobility, but there was no reply. At 
that time there were a censor, Ch'eng Ch'i, and an under- 
secretary in the censorate named Mao Yu who, in compli- 
ance with the ideas of a prime minister, first impeached the 
Teacher as heterodox. One of Wang's disciples, the secre- 
tary of the Board of Punishments, a man named Lu Ch 'eng, 
sent in a memorial discussing and refuting this in six ways. 
When the Teacher heard of it, he stopped him. In the 
ninth month he buried his father at Shich'uanshan. 

In the second year of Chia Ching, Wang was fifty-two 
years old. In the second month the examination for 
Chinshih took place. Ethical themes were propounded in 
order to controvert the Teacher. One of his disciples, Ch'ii 
Shan, left the examination hall without answering; an- 
other, Ch'ien Te-hung, wrote but returned unsuccessful. 
When the Teacher saw him he was glad to welcome him and 
said, "From this time the learning of the sage will be well 
understood. ' ' (20) Te-hung said, ' ' Since affairs are as they 
are, how will it be well understood?" The Teacher re- 
sponded, ' ' My exposition of learning will be published all 
over the country through the present examination. Even 
in the most impoverished village or the deepest valley all 
will hear of it. In case my doctrines are wrong, someone 
will surely arise to investigate the truth." In the ninth 



32 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

month he removed the body of his father to T 'ienchuf eng 
and his grandmother to Hsiishan. He did this because of 
a flood at Shihch'uan. 

He Gives Advice to a Prefect 

In the eleventh month he discussed the doctrines of 
Buddhism and Taoism with Chang Yuan-ch'ung, who held 
that the application of the two religions also brought merit 
to the Confucian scholar. ' ' Should we not also unite with 
them ? " he asked. The teacher replied, ' ' You say unite ? 
No! If the sage exhausts his nature in arriving at fate, 
there is nothing that has not been made ready for him. 
Why should we unite with them ? Their culture and learn- 
ing are also ours. If I exhaust my whole nature in arriv- 
ing at the decree of Heaven and nourish my person com- 
pletely, I am styled an 'immortal.' If I am not affected by 
worldly ties, I am styled a Buddha. Later generations of 
Confucian scholars have not recognized the perfection of 
the sage's knowledge, and thus emphasize the difference be- 
tween it and Taoism and Buddhism. Compare it with a 
house which has three rooms. When a Confucian scholar 
sees a Buddhist coming, he gives him the room to the left, 
and when he sees a Taoist, he gives him the room to the 
right, while he himself lives in the middle room. All 
choose one and cast aside other things. ' ' 

He Gives Advice to a Prefect 

In the first month of the third year of Chia Ching, a 
prefect from Chekiang named Nan Ta-chi came to see the 
Teacher. He said he was fully occupied with his admin- 
istration of the government, and asked Wang why he did 
not have a word of instruction for him. Wang said, "I 
have long since spoken." Ta-chi did not understand. 
The Teacher said, "If I had not spoken, how would you 
have known?" He said, "I know this through my intuitive 
faculty." The Teacher said, "Have I not frequently spoken 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 33 

of intuitive knowledge of good 1 ' ' Ta-chi laughed, thanked 
him and left. After some days he came again saying, 
"After making mistakes I am very repentant. Though I 
desire earnestly to change, still it is better that someone 
first tell me not to transgress. ' ' Wang replied, ' ' That some- 
one tell you is not really equal to repenting yourself. " (21) 
After several days he came saying, ' ' The transgressions of 
the body I have overcome. How about the transgressions 
of the mind?" The Teacher said, "If the mirror has not 
been wiped clear, it will hide filth. Your mirror is now 
clean, so that if a little dust settles on it, it cannot stay. 
This is your opportunity to become a sage, if you exert 
yourself. ' ' 

A Feast with His Disciples 

On the fifteenth of the eighth month the Teacher feasted 
with his disciples at T'iench'iianch'iao. That night the 
moon was as bright as day and there were over one hun- 
dred disciples present, who, having drunk until they were 
merry, began to sing. They pitched arrows into a vase, 18 
beat the drum, and went boating. "When the Teacher saw 
that they all enjoyed the sport, he returned and wrote the 
following ode : 

"Though placed aside, the lute sounded in the spring 
breeze. 
Though T'ien was enthusiastic, he was according to my 
liking." 19 

The next day the disciples came to thank him. He said : 
"Formerly Confucius at Ch'en thought of the pedants of 
Lu, because his disciples had not buried the desire for 
wealth and honor. They (his followers) were as though 
bound and imprisoned, and did not comprehend him. A 
few of the wisest ones dropped this desire and understood 

is "An ancient game consisting in pitching arrows into the three 
long necks of a vase designed for that purpose. ' ' 
i» Vide Confucian Analects, Book XT, Ch. 25, 1 7. 



34 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

that all worldly affinity is unnatural, and that unless it is 
really suppressed for the sake of entering into the very 
essence of things, it will gradually ruin mankind. There 
is also the defect of neglecting natural relationships and 
things. Although one who does this is different from the 
ordinary mean man, yet he too has not brought his life into 
conformity with the doctrine. For this reason Confucius 
determined to return to moderate their views. Today, Sirs, 
you are thoroughly acquainted with this, and it is well that 
you should use your greatest energy and your strength to 
reach the right path. Do not think that knowledge of one 
kind is sufficient, and finally end by being merely ec- 
centric. ' ' 

Wang's Disciples at Work 

Ch'ien Te-hung, Ch'ien Te-chou, Wei Liang-cheng, and 
Wei Liang-ch'i studied at the south of the city. They 
visited many renowned places at Yuhsueh, but forgot to 
return. The father of the two Ch'iens made inquiry of 
the Wei brothers, saying, "Will you not all neglect your 
studies?" The two brothers said, "There is work every- 
where for the student." He said, "Do you also pay atten- 
tion to the sayings of the philosopher Chu?" The two 
brothers said, "We investigate the sayings of the phil- 
osopher Chu by means of the intuitive faculty. If one 
strikes the snake in the vital spot, why should he be 
solicitous about getting it?" The father of the two Ch'iens 
doubted and was not convinced. He went in and made 
inquiry of the Teacher, who said, "Learning to be a sage is 
like a man governing his family. His possessions — houses, 
clothes, provisions, furniture — all are of his own provid- 
ing. If he wishes to invite guests, he brings out all his be- 
longings for their use. When the guests leave, his things 
are all left for him to use without limitation to the end of 
life. He who is studying to be a scholar is like one who 
takes it upon himself to borrow the things necessary for his 
use. (22) If he wishes to invite guests, everything is bor- 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 35 

rowed from the guest-room furniture on down. When the 
guests come, he appears to be prosperous and wealthy ; but 
as soon as the guests leave, everything must be returned, 
for not a single thing belongs to him. If he invites guests 
and they do not come, his luck has failed him and things are 
borrowed in vain. To the end of his life he bustles and 
toils as a poverty-stricken man. He asks and receives that 
which is useless, for he seeks it in external things." The 
next year Wei Liang-cheng was the first on the list of the 
successful graduates of the second degree. The father of 
the Ch'iens heard it and laughingly said, "He struck the 
snake in the vital spot." 

At that time the great ceremony was discussed. 20 Huo 
Wu-yai, Hsi Yuan-shan, Huang Tsung-hsien, and Huang 
Tsung-ming asked the Teacher but he made no reply. In 
the tenth month one of his disciples, Nan Ta-chi, cut the 
blocks of a part of the Ch'uan Hsi Lu (Instructions for 
Practical Life). 

In the fourth year of Chia Ching, Wang was fifty-four 
years of age. In the first month his wife died. In the fourth 
month she was buried at Hsiishan. In the sixth month 
he put aside mourning for his father. A president of the 
Board of Rites, named Hsi Shu, sent in a special memorial 
recommending that the Teacher be made an official. The 
memorial read: "Among those born before me, I saw a 
man whose name was Yang I-tsing; among those born 
after me, I know a man named Wang Shou-jen. " In the 
ninth month Wang returned to Yiiyao to visit the graves. 
He gathered all his disciples at Lungchuenshi in a coun- 
cil chamber. In the tenth month the Yang-ming College 
in Chekiang was founded. 



20 The emperor had elevated his own father to the rank of father 
of the emperor, whereas according to Chinese custom it should have 
been conferred upon Cheng Te. 



36 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Censor Nieh Pao Becomes One of Wang's Disciples 

In the fifth year of Chia Ching, Wang was fifty-five. 
In that year Nieh Pao investigated Fukien as censor, cross- 
ing at Ch'ient'an and visiting the Teacher, who was pleased 
and said, "Tzu-ssu, Mencius, and the philosophers Chou 
and Ch'eng did not purpose mutually to meet a thousand 
years later." However, at that time Nieh Pao was re- 
ceived as a guest. Six years later when the Teacher had 
been dead for four years, Pao was an official at Soochow. 
He told Ch'ien Te-hung and Wang Chi that he had been 
greatly helped by the Teacher, and said, "I had hoped to 
see him again and bring an offering, but failed to reach 
him in time. (23) You now are my witnesses that I have 
arranged this incense altar to honor him in worship. I may 
thus be called his disciple." In the twelfth month his son 
Cheng-i was born by his second wife named Chang. 

Wang as Viceroy and Teacher 

In the sixth year of Chia Ching, Wang was fifty-six. 
In the fourth month Tsou Shou-i cut the blocks for Wang's 
essays and memorials at Kuangtechou. In the fifth month 
Wang was made Viceroy of Kwangtung, Kwangsi, Kiangsi, 
Hunan and Hupeh. He reduced Ssut'ien to submission. 
Leaving Yuehch'eng in the ninth month, he passed Nan- 
chang in the tenth. Before this, when the Teacher's ship 
stopped at Kuanghsin, the disciple Ch 'ii Yiieh, who at that 
time had just arrived from Pailutung, where he was learn- 
ing to sit cross-legged with the purpose of becoming a 
Buddhist priest, boarded the ship. When the Master saw 
him and realized his idea, he had him mention any sim- 
ilarity he might detect between Buddhism and Confucian- 
ism. The Teacher said, "No." After a moment he changed 
his reply somewhat, saying, "No. Are our principles con- 
fined to a particular place? They may be compared to the 
light of this candle. Light is everywhere. One cannot say 
that the candle alone is light." Referrinsr to the inside of 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 37 

the ship he said, "Here is light. Here is light." And al- 
luding to the surface of the water outside the ship he said, 
' ' There too is light. " Ch 'ii Yueh acceded. The next day 
when they reached Nanp'uh, they were heartily welcomed 
by the people. Loudly rejoicing, the populace blocked 
the road, so that they could not advance. Old men quar- 
reled about carrying the Teacher's chair into the captain's 
yamen. He ordered that those who came to visit him 
should enter at the east and leave at the west. Those who 
could not let him go, after leaving came in again. Start- 
ing at eight in the morning, they did not leave until three 
in the afternoon, and then first did he allude to the carry- 
ing out of the usual etiquette. The next day he went to 
the Confucian temple and discussed the Great Learning in 
the Minglunt'ang. All his disciples surrounded him as a 
screen, so that many could not hear him. A man named 
T'ang Yao-ch'en, who usually did not believe what he said, 
under guise of bringing tea reached the room and listened 
at the side. Astonished he said, "Since the Three Dy- 
nasties has there been such bearing?" In the eleventh 
month the Teacher reached Wuchou and thanked the em- 
peror through a memorial in which he spoke of his own 
superficial judgment. 

In the second month of the seventh year of Chia Ching, 
at the age of fifty-seven, the Teacher had reduced Ssut'ien 
to submission, and in the fourth month he established a 
college there. (24) In the seventh month he reduced to 
submission eight military outposts and broke through the 
mountain pass. He then sent in a memorial regarding his 
administration of Ssut'ien and his success in opening the 
mountain pass. In the ninth month, because of the merit 
accruing from reducing Ssut'ien. he was given fifty taels 
and four suits made of hemp-cloth. 



38 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Wang's Illness and Death 

In the tenth month he was so ill that he sent in a me- 
morial asking permission to leave office, but there was no 
reply. He visited the temple of Ma Fu-po of the Han 
dynasty at Wumant 'an, which he had seen in a dream in his 
youth, and inscribed two odes on its walls. He also visited 
the ancestral temple at Canton — the temple of "Wang Kang 
of six generations before Yang-ming. Kang was State 
Counselor when he lost his life in a rebellion of the wild 
tribes, called Miao. Though exceedingly ill, he removed the 
troops to Tayiiling in the eleventh month. He said to 
"Wang Ta-yung, a provincial treasurer, "Do you not know 
how K'ung Ming trusted Chiang Wei?" Ta-yung there- 
upon had troops protect him. He also had a carpenter 
make a coffin for him. On the twenty-fifth when he 
reached Nanan, a disciple called Chou Chi came to see him. 
The teacher sat up and slowly said, "How have you pro- 
gressed in your study of late?" Chou Chi spoke of his 
government affairs and inquired regarding "Wang's state of 
health. The Teacher said, "The disease is very severe. 
That I am not dead is due to my strong constitution. ' ' On 
the twenty-eighth the boat reached Chinglungp 'u. The 
next day the Teacher called Chou Chi to him. He opened 
his eyes, and seeing him said, ' ' I am leaving. ' ' Chou wept 
and asked whether he had a last word to leave behind. 
The Teacher in a low voice said, "My mind is very bright 
and clear. "What more is there to say?" After a little 
while he closed his eyes and died. A disciple named Chang 
Ssu-ts'ung, a military official at Kanchou, received the 
body in the postal dispatch yamen at Nanyeh, where it was 
washed and clothed. 

In the twelfth month Ssu-ts'ung, his under-officials, and 
the disciples offered a sacrifice and placed the body in the 
coffin, which was placed on the ship the next day. The 
scholars and people from far and near blocked the way, and 
the noise of the weeping shook the earth. When they 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 39 

reached Kanchou, the people along the way crowded about 
and wept. From Nanan they proceeded to Nanchang, 
where two disciples — an inspector censor, Ch'u Liang- 
ts'ai, and a provincial literary chancellor, Chao Yen — 
asked them to delay going until the next year. The people 
wept both morning and evening. 

Wang's Remains are Taken to Yuehch'eng 

In the first month of the eighth year of Chia Ching, the 
remains left Nanchang. At that time the wind was so un- 
favorable for several days that the ship could not proceed. 
Chao Yen prayed at the coffin saying, ' ' Sir, can it be that 
you are left at Nanchang for the sake of the scholars and 
the people? (25) From Chekiang your relatives and dis- 
ciples came here and have waited a long time for you." 
Suddenly a west wind arose so that they reached Iyang in 
six days. In the second month the remains reached Yueh- 
ch 'eng. 

Huang Kuan Sends in a Memorial in Defense of Wang 

In the court there was a diversity of opinion about Wang, 
so that no hereditary ranks, posthumous honors, and other 
customary honors were granted ; but instead an order from 
the emperor came prohibiting the disseminating of the 
false doctrine. Huang Kuan of the Imperial Supervisorate 
of Instruction sent in a memorial saying: "A loyal min- 
ister serving his prince with righteousness does not enter 
into illicit relations. When a superior man establishes 
himself his doctrine is not servile. At one time I was an 
assistant secretary; now I am a Shaopao. 21 Kuei was 
at that time a second-degree man. I chose him in an 
emergency and was his friend, until I became Secretary of 
Records of the Court Censors at Nanking. Then I saw 
that he did not understand the great ceremony and we dis- 
cussed it together. From that time on for more than 



2i An official a little lower than a viceroy. 



40 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

twenty years we were constantly together. At another 
time I recommended Wang Shou-jen, the Earl of Hsin- 
chien, that he might help increase the virtue of the em- 
peror. was not friendly toward Shou-jen, and for that 
reason did not agree to it. The mean man improved his 
opportunity, yet I did not because of this put him aside. 
But in accordance with the principle of a serving prince 
and the doctrine of a teacher and friend, I am compelled to 
divulge this fact. I myself knew Shou-jen thoroughly be- 
cause of his merit and his learning. It was owing to his 
great merit that others envied him. His learning was that 
of the ancients but was not recognized as such, and for this 
reason Shou-jen was not endured on the earth. 

Wang's Fourfold Merit 

"His merit was fourfold. First, Ch'en Hao (Prince 
Ning) was disorderly, and his machinations were not of a 
day. Within the court the Wei Pin clique, favorites like 
Ch'ien Ning, Chiang Pin and their associates, as well as 
the Lu Wan group, were perfidious. Outside such guards 
as Pi Chen and Liu Lan were treacherous, and the court 
officials and the officials throughout the country nearly all 
looked on. Had it not been that Shou-jen was loyal and 
did not permit himself to dwell on the misfortune of ex- 
terminating his own family, but took upon himself the re- 
sponsibility of punishing the rebel, it would be hard to tell 
whether the country would now be at peace or in danger. 
Today everybody supposes that this accrues to the merit of 
Wu Wen-ting. This is an instance of esteeming the shoot- 
ing too lightly and overestimating the dog. The second is as 
follows: The camps of Tamao, Ch'aliao, Lit'ou, and T'ung- 
kang represented the combined force of four provinces. 
Soldiers had collected there for a number of years. (26) 
When Shou-jen reached the place as guard, he subjugated 
them all. His third merit is as follows: At T'ienchou 
and Ssuen confusion had reigned for years, so that quiet 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 41 

could not be restored, nor could the people be pacified. 
In consequence, Shou-jen was sent there and caused Prince 
Lu's followers to bow their heads in submission. Moved to 
tears, they received their punishment and thus brought the 
trouble of this place to an end. His fourth merit is as 
follows: Originally the eight military outposts were the 
disgrace of the interior of the two Kwangs. 22 The govern- 
ment soldiers cooperated with the rebels, and there was no 
way of getting at them. Shou-jen made use of the troops 
that were returning to Yungshun, and Lu Wang's soldiers 
yielded to them. By a surprise attack he exterminated 
them as quickly and easily as though they had been dead 
wood. It accrues to the merit of Shou-jen, that he averted 
great calamity and was ready to work unto death. Can 
this merit be taken from him? 

Huang Lauds Wang's Learning 

1 ' Moreover, his learning was great in three respects. In 
the first place, he emphasized the development of intuitive 
knowledge. The extension of knowledge through an in- 
vestigation of things, he took from Confucius, and intu- 
itive knowledge from Mencius. How then can he be 
charged with heterodoxy ? In the second place, his love for 
the people is to be identified with loving such of the people 
as are not one 's relatives. Whosoever loves, deems worthy, 
delights, and benefits the people, also shares with the 
people their likes and dislikes and stands for a system of 
proper restraint. Loving the people is to be interpreted 
in this way, and thus is not the creation of Shou-jen. In 
the third place, he insisted on the unity of learning and 
practice. This idea is found in the Canon of Changes, in 
the words: 'If one knows the best and highest essence, 
one should attain to it. When one knows the end, one 
should reach it.' Shou-jen expressed the same thought in 
these words: 'T would that the talk and the practice of 

22 Refers to the provinces Kwangtung and Kwangsi. 



42 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

men agreed ! Men should not merely talk. ' In this he 
was in perfect harmony with, and supplemented the learn- 
ing of Confucius and Mencius. Why should he be ma- 
ligned? has used these things to injure Shou-jen, and 
has thereby caused the emperor to lose an able minister. 
He did not allow Shou-jen to make the emperor as perfect 
as Yao and Shun. Who, in last analysis, is to blame? 
Therefore I dare not say that is right in this; for the 
facts of Shou-jen 's learning and the extent of his merit 
are as I have stated. Instead of being rewarded as he 
should be, punishment is meted out to him. The old 
beneficence given to a faithful servant has been cast aside 
and learning has anew been put under the ban. What do 
you think of O's trying in this way to help our illustrious 
Emperor? 

"Shou-jen died last year in the twelfth month; his wife 
and children are enfeebled; his servants have carried out 
his remains, and after wrapping them in straw have buried 
them on a hill. It is enough to arouse pity among the 
spirits, when they learn of it! How much more among 
men and sages! (27) Had Shou-jen been born in a differ- 
ent generation, you as Emperor would have the more given 
him posthumous honors. Why, having yourself seen him, 
should you lose this opportunity? For twenty years I 
was the friend of Shou-jen. I had been unable for a single 
day to arouse myself to real effort in decreasing my wrong- 
doing, but when I followed Shou-jen I realized that I had 
suddenly come to a knowledge of my need. Therefore I 
look upon him as my teacher. It Was not that I without 
circumspection believed him as ordinary teachers and 
friends believe one another. In the presence of the Em- 
peror I now recognize Shou-jen as teacher and friend. 
Inasmuch as I have it on my mind, I must finish. For- 
merly was slandered by mean men, and I rose up to de- 
fend him. He was exonerated and I was glad for him, 



BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 43 

though it was not my private concern. The injustice har- 
bored against Shou-jen at this time may be compared to 
the former wrong endured by 0. I would that you might 
make manifest similar kindness, send a special command 
to the department, and magnanimously using the regula- 
tions for bestowing posthumous honors, confer upon Wang 
posthumous honors as well as hereditary titles; also, that 
you might remove the prohibition against his learning, and 
thereby display your virtue. If this affair is not cleared 
up, I shall ever be mindful of 0. I take it upon myself to 
speak thus straightforwardly, that I may exhaust my 
faithfulness in service to the Emperor and cover the wrong- 
doing of 0." There was no answer to the memorial. 

Wang is Buried at Hungch'i 

In the eleventh month the Teacher was interred at Hung- 
ch'i. Hungch'i lies thirty li beyond Hangchow, and in 
reaching it one must enter Lant'ing for five li. The 
Teacher had himself selected this spot. The waters of the 
stream surrounded it from right to left and wore it away 
at the right. The magician did not like it. In a dream he 
saw a sage in a purple garment and a gem-inlaid sash, 
standing on the water of the stream, saying, "I desire to 
change the old bed of the stream. ' ' The next day during 
a heavy storm, as the stream became turbulent, it suddenly 
widened several hundred feet to the south in front of the 
grave. Therefore they determined that the grave should re- 
main there. At that time more than a thousand of Wang's 
followers, who had come from all directions, mourned for 
him. 

Posthumous Honors 

In the fifth month of the first year of Lung Ch'ing, 
the Teacher was by imperial order made Marquis of 
Hsinchien, and was given the posthumous title of Wen- 
ch 'eng ( 2fiC J!^- (28) In the second year of the Emperor 



44 BIOGRAPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Lung Ch'ing, in the sixth month, his son, Cheng-i, was 
given the rank of Earl of Hsinchien. In the twelfth year 
of Emperor Wan Li, an imperial order was issued to sac- 
rifice to the Teacher in the Confucian temple after sacri- 
ficing to Confucius. 



THE PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 
BOOK I 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 
Part I x 

Wang's Standpoint and Personality 

In all that the Teacher said regarding the "investigation 
of things ' ' of the Great Learning, he always considered the 
use of the original edition as correct — the one which 
former scholars considered mistaken. When I first heard 
this I was startled, after that I doubted, and finally I 
studied it with all my energies, and compared what I con- 
sidered mutual mistakes in order to ask the Teacher. 
Then first did I understand that his exposition was so cor- 
rect that the sage a hundred generations hence would not 
doubt it. 

The wisdom of the Teacher was from Heaven. He was 
interesting and unrestrained, though not imposing in ex- 
ternal appearance. In youth he seemed to have the martial 
bearing of age. He wrote many long themes, but did not 
use unnecessarily many words. He investigated and re- 
jected the learning of the two religions (Buddhism and 
Taoism). When this was heard by others, they looked 
upon him as a man seeking to be different from others, and 
not giving anything thorough consideration, but they did 
not know that he had dwelt three years among the bar- 
barians, enduring physical torture and cultivating tran- 
quility of mind. In his discrimination and undividedness 
he had already entered into the company of the sages and 
belonged completely among the orthodox. 

Both morning and evening I was in his presence and saw 

' These were recorded by Ts'ii Ai, arranged by Shih Ssu-ming, and 
later revised by Ts'ii K 'un and Chu P'ei-hsing. 



48 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

that his doctrines were simple, yet superior. Though to 
some they appeared rough and uncouth, examination 
showed them to be very complete. In following them they 
seemed near, and in attaining to them one received benefit 
without end. For more than ten years I was unable to see 
within his bamboo fence. 2 How could any man of the 
world, who possibly saw the Teacher but once, or did not 
even hear his voice, carelessly or impatiently determine the 
true value of his doctrines after merely hearing his brief 
remarks on some insignificant subject, or from hearsay re- 
ports concerning his teachings? (2) Some scholars who 
followed the Teacher heard his instruction but received one- 
third while they neglected two-thirds of what he said ; like 
one who in examining a horse sees whether it is male or 
female, black or yellow, and overlooks the fact that it is 
a thousand li horse. 3 I have made a record of what I 
heard that I may secretly reveal it to those of like aspira- 
tion, and that thus we may mutually examine and correct 
it with a view to not losing the Teacher's instruction. I, 
his disciple Ts'ii Ai, have written this book. 

He Discusses the Text of the Great Learning 

1 made inquiry regarding "to love the people", 4 which 
the philosopher Chu said should be translated "to renovate 
the people, ' ' 5 the evidence being that a later chapter uses 
"to renovate the people." "You feel," I said, "that it is 
correct to follow the original, 'to love the people.' Is there 
any evidence for your point of view?" 

The Teacher said: "The character hsin ( Uf ) in the 
later chapter naturally means that the people renovate 
themselves, a thought which differs from the meaning of 
this particular passage. Is your evidence for the new edi- 

2 Meaning that the depth of his learning was still unfathomed. 
s A horse of exceptional ability. 

4 Great Learning, Introduction, Paragraph 1. 
s Ibid., Ch. 2, t 2. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 49 

tion sufficient? The character 'to make' when used with 
the character 'to love' does not have the import of reno- 
vating. The statement further down, 'govern the state 
and bring mankind to a state of peace,' does not elucidate 
the meaning of renovate. For instance, the expressions, 
' The princes deem worthy what the people deemed worthy 
and love what the people loved ' ; 6 ' The common people 
delight in what delighted the princes and benefit by their 
beneficial arrangements ' ; or ' Act as if you were watching 
over an infant ' ; 7 ' Love what the people love and hate 
what the people hate, ' 8 imply that the superior men are as 
parents to the people. This gives the meaning of love. The 
term 'loving the people' (fj| Jj*) is the same as Mencius' 
expression, 'loving one's parents.' Thus loving is an in- 
ward and spiritual love of mankind. The people did not 
love (those above them) and Shun sent Hsieh as minister of 
instruction reverently to make known the five lessons of 
duty. 9 This means that he loved them. The canon of Yao 
which says: 'He was able to make illustrious his lofty 
virtue,' implies that he made illustrious his own lofty 
virtue. 10 By loving the nine agnatic relatives up to the 
point where he made no distinctions between the people 
and united and harmonized the various states, he illus- 
trated the idea of loving the people and manifested his 
lofty virtue on all the earth. Again, it is like Confucius' 
saying, 'To cultivate one's self so as to give peace to the 
people.' 1X To cultivate one's self is to make illustrious lofty 
virtue. Giving peace to the people implies loving the 
people. Loving the people embraces the idea of nourishing 

e Great Learning, Ch. 3, H 5. 

7 Ibid., Ch. 9, If 2. 

s Ibid., Ch. 10, f 3. 

9 These correspond to the five human relationships: (1) sovereign 
and subject; (2) father and son; (3) husband and wife; (4) 
brothers; (5) friends. 

io Great Learning, Ch. 1, H 3. 

ii Confucian Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 45. 



50 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and educating. In saying, 'To renew the people,' one be- 
comes conscious of error. ' ' 

The Highest Virtues are Innate 

I made inquiry regarding the saying from the Great 
Learning, ''Knowing where to rest, the object of pursuit is 
determined." 12 "The philosopher Chu," I said, "held 
that all affairs and all things have definite principles. This 
appears to be out of harmony with your sayings." (3) 

The Teacher said : ' To seek the highest virtue in affairs 
and things is only the objective side of the principles of 
righteousness. The highest virtues are innate to the mind. 
They are realized when the manifesting of lofty virtue has 
reached perfection. Nevertheless, one does not leave the 
physical realm out of consideration. The original notes 
say that the individual must exhaust heaven-given prin- 
ciples to the utmost and that no one with any of the preju- 
dices of human passions will attain to the highest virtue." 

1 made inquiry saying, "Though the highest virtue be 
sought within the mind only, that may not enable the in- 
dividual to investigate thoroughly the laws of the physical 
realm." 

The Mind is the Embodiment of Natural Laiv 

The Teacher said: "The mind itself is the embodiment 
of natural law. Is there anything in the universe that ex- 
ists independent of the mind? 13 Is there any law apart 
from the mind ? ' ' 

I replied: "In filial obedience in serving one's parents, 
or faithfulness in serving one's prince, or sincerity in in- 
tercourse with friends, or benevolence in governing the 
people, there are many principles which I fear must be 
examined." 

The Teacher, sighing, said: "This is an old evasion. 
Can it be fully explained in one word ? Following 

'-Great Learning, Introduction, r 2. 

13 May in modern terminology best be translated "experience." 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 51 

your order of questions I will make reply. For in- 
stance, in the matter of serving one's father, one cannot 
seek for the principle of filial obedience in one's parent, or 
in serving one 's prince one cannot seek for the principle of 
faithfulness in the prince, or in making friends or governing 
the people one cannot seek for the principle of sincerity and 
benevolence in the friend or the people. They are all in the 
mind, for the mind is itself the embodiment of principles. 
When the mind is free from the obscuration of selfish aims, it 
is the embodiment of the principles of Heaven. It is not 
necessary to add one whit from without. When service of 
parents emerges from the mind characterized by pure 
heaven-given principles, we have filial obedience ; when 
service of prince emerges, faithfulness; when the making 
of friends or the governing of the people emerge, sincerity 
and benevolence. It is only necessary to expel human pas- 
sions and devote one's energies to the eternal principles." 

I said, ' ' Hearing you speak thus, I realize that I under- 
stand you in a measure, but the old sayings trouble me, 
for they have not been completely disposed of. In the 
matter of serving one's parents, the filial son is to care for 
their comfort both in winter and summer, and inquire after 
their health every evening and every morning. These 
things involve many details. I do not know whether these 
details are to be investigated in the mind or not." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Why not investigate them ? (4) Yet 
in this investigation there is a point of departure ; namely, 
to pay attention to the mind in getting rid of selfish aims 
and to foster the eternal principles. To understand the 
providing of warmth for one's parents in winter, is merely 
a matter of exhausting the filial piety of one 's mind and of 
fearing lest a trifle of selfishness remain to intervene. To 
talk about providing refreshing conditions for one's par- 
ents during the summer, is again a matter of exhausting 
the filial piety of the mind and of fearing lest perhaps 
selfish aims be intermingled with one's efforts. But this 



52 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

implies that one must seek to acquire this attitude of mind 
for one's self. If the mind has no selfish aims, is perfectly 
under the control of heaven-given principles (natural law), 
and is sincerely devoted to filial piety, it will naturally 
think of and provide for the comfort of parents in winter 
and summer. These are all things that emanate from a 
mind which truly honors the parents; but it is necessary 
to have a mind that truly honors the parents before these 
things can emanate from it. Compare it to a tree. The 
truly filial mind constitutes the roots ; the many details are 
the branches and leaves. The roots must first be there, and 
then later there may be branches and leaves. One does 
not first seek for the branches and leaves and afterwards 
cultivate the roots. 

"The Book of Rites says: 'The filial son who sincerely 
loves surely has a peaceful temper. Having a peaceful 
temper, he surely has a happy appearance. Having a 
happy appearance he surely has a pleasant, mild coun- 
tenance. ' It is because he has a profound love as the root 
that he is naturally like this." 

The Highest Excellence 

Cheng Chao-shuo asked whether it is not also necessary 
to seek for the highest virtue in objective affairs and things. 
The Teacher said : ' ' The highest excellence consists in 
nothing else than a mind completely dominated by heaven- 
given principles (natural law). As for the method by 
which it may be sought in affairs and things, attempt to 
name a few and see. " 

Chao-shuo said: "Serving one's parents is an instance. 
Why should one carry out the warmth and refreshing 
formality, as well as the duty of honoring and caring for 
one's parents? One must search for an ought in such mat- 
ters. The highest virtue thus carries with it the work of 
study, investigation, thought and discrimination." 

The Teacher said : "If there is nothing further involved 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 53 

than the formalities of providing comfort for parents in 
winter and summer, and the duties of honoring and nour- 
ishing them, then one or two days will suffice to investigate 
them completely. What study, investigation, thought, and 
discrimination are required for this? (5) At the time of 
providing warmth and coolness, it is necessary to have the 
mind completely dominated by heaven-given principles ; and 
at the time of honoring and nourishing the same holds true. 
Without applying study, investigation, thought, and dis- 
crimination to the mind, it will be difficult to avoid a slight 
error on the subjective side, with a resultant gross mistake 
on the objective side. Even in the case of a sage, it is highly 
important to urge the necessity of being discriminating and 
undivided. If the highest virtue is only a matter of mood, 
manner or ceremony, the actor of today who disguises him- 
self in much providing of warmth, coolness, honoring, and 
nourishing according to usage, may be classed as having 
the highest virtue." That day I again comprehended. 

The Unitary Character of Knowledge and Practice 

Because I did not understand the admonition of the 
Teacher regarding the unitary character of knowledge and 
practice, Tsung-hsien, Wei-hsien and I discussed it back 
and forth without coining to any conclusion. There- 
fore I made inquiry of the Teacher regarding it. He said : 
"Make a suggestion and see." I said: "All men know 
that filial piety is due parents, and that the elder brother 
should be treated with respect; and yet they are unable to 
carry this out in practice. This implies that knowledge 
and practice really are two separate things. ' ' 

The Teacher replied : ' ' This separation is due to selfish- 
ness and does not represent the original character of knowl- 
edge and practice. No one who really has knowledge fails 
to practice it. Knowledge without practice should be in- 
terpreted as lack of knowledge. Sages and virtuous men 
teach men to know how to act, because they wish them to 



54 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

return to nature. They do not tell them merely to reflect 
and let this suffice. The Great Learning exhibits true 
knowledge and practice, that men may understand this. 
For instance, take the case of loving what is beautiful and 
despising a bad odor. Seeing beauty is a result of knowl- 
edge; loving the beautiful is a result of practice. Never- 
theless, it is true that when one sees beauty one already 
loves it. It is not a case of determining to love it after one 
sees it. Smelling a bad odor involves knowledge; hating 
the odor involves action. Nevertheless, when one perceives 
the bad odor one already hates it. One does not determine 
to hate it after one has smelt it. A man with his nostrils 
stuffed may see the malodorous object before him, but does 
not smell it. (6) Under such circumstances it is a case of 
not perceiving it, rather than of disliking it. No one should 
be described as understanding filial piety and respectful- 
ness, unless he has actually practiced filial piety toward his 
-parents and respect toward his elder brother. Knowing 
how to converse about filial piety and respectfulness is not 
sufficient to warrant anybody's being described as under- 
standing them. Or it may be compared to one's under- 
standing of pain. A person certainly must have experi- 
enced pain before he can know what it is. Likewise to 
understand cold one must first have endured cold ; and to 
understand hunger one must have been hungry. How, then, 
can knowledge and practice be separated? This is their 
original nature before selfish aims have separated them. 
The sage instructs the individual that he must practice be- 
fore he may be said to have understanding. If he fails to 
practice, he does not understand. How thoroughly im- 
portant a task this is! Why do you so insistently say that 
knowledge and practice are two separate things, while the 
sage considers them as one ? Tf one does not understand 
the purport of well-established truths but merely repeats 
one or two, what advantage accrues?" 

I said: "The ancients said that knowledge and practice 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 55 

are two different things. Men should also understand this 
clearly. One section treats of knowledge, another of prac- 
tice. Thus may one acquire a starting-point for one's 
task." 

The Teacher said : "But thereby you have lost the mean- 
ing of the ancients. I have said that knowledge is the pur- 
pose to act, and that practice implies carrying out knowl- 
edge. Knowledge is the beginning of practice ; doing is the 
completion of knowing. If when one knows how to attain 
the desired end, one speaks only of knowing, the doing is 
already naturally included ; or if he speaks of acting, the 
knowing is already included. That the ancients after hav- 
ing spoken of knowledge also speak of doing, is due to the 
fact that there is a class of people on earth who foolishly 
do as they wish and fail to understand how to deliberate 
and investigate. They act ignorantly and recklessly. It is 
necessary to discuss knowledge so that they can act cor- 
rectly. There is another class of people who vaguely and 
vainly philosophize but are unwilling to carry it out in 
practice. (7) This also is merely an instance of estimating 
shadows and echoes. The ancients of necessity discussed 
doing, for only then can such people truly understand. 
The language of the ancients is of necessity directed toward 
rectifying prejudices and reforming abuses. When one 
comprehends this idea, a word is sufficient. Men of the 
present, however, make knowledge and action two different 
things and go forth to practice, because they hold that one 
must first have knowledge before one is able to practice. 
Each one says, ' I proceed to investigate and discuss knowl- 
edge ; I wait until knowledge is perfect and then go forth 
to practice it.' Those who to the very end of life fail to 
practice also fail to understand. This is not a small error, 
nor one that came in a day. By saying that knowledge 
and practice are a unit, I am herewith offering a remedy 
for the disease. I am not dealing in abstractions, nor im- 
posing my own ideas, for the nature of knowledge and 



56 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

practice is originally as I describe it. In case you com- 
prehend the purport, no harm is done if you say they are 
two, for they are in reality a unit. In case you do not 
comprehend the purport thereof and say they are one, what 
does it profit ? It is only idle talk. ' ' 

The Philosopher Chic's Mistaken Interpretation of "Inves- 
tigation of Things" 

I made inquiry saying: "Yesterday I heard the Teach- 
er's instructions about resting in the highest virtue. I 
realize that I am beginning to get a grasp of this task. 
Nevertheless, I think that your point of view cannot be 
reconciled with the philosopher Chu's instruction with ref- 
erence to the investigation of things. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Investigation of things is what is 
meant by resting in the highest excellence. He who has 
knowledge of the highest excellence also understands the 
investigation of things. ' ' 

I said : ' ' Using the instruction of the Teacher, I yester- 
day pushed forward in the investigation of things, and it 
seemed as though I comprehended it in general ; and yet the 
instruction of the philosopher Chu is all substantiated in 
what is called 'a state of discrimination and undividedness' 
by the Book of History, 'extensive studying and the keeping 
of one's self under restraint' by the Confucian Analects, 
and ' the exhausting of one 's mental constitution in knowing 
one's nature' by Mencius. As a result, I am unable to 
understand fully." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Tzu-hsia was earnest in his belief 
in the sages, while Tseng-tzu sought within himself for 
help. To be earnest in belief surely is correct, but not as 
much so as genuineness in application. Since you cannot 
grasp this, why should you cling to the sayings of the 
ancients and thereby fail to apply yourself to what you 
ought to learn? The philosopher Chu believed the phil- 
osopher Ch'en, and yet when he reached places in which he 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 57 

did not understand him, did he ever suddenly and thought- 
lessly accept his point of view? (8) Discrimination, undi- 
videdness, 'extensive studying,' 'keeping one's self under 
restraint,' and 'exhausting one's mental constitution' are ab 
initio harmoniously blended with my sayings. But you have 
never thought about this. The philosophic teaching of Chu 
cannot but be related to and adapted from the views of 
others. It does not express the original meaning of the 
sages. Devotion to the essence implies a united task; ex- 
tensive studying implies keeping one's self in restraint. I 
say that the virtuous man already knows that knowledge 
and practice are a unity. The mere saying of this is enough 
to show it. ' To exhaust one's mental constitution in order to 
understand one 's nature and know heaven, ' implies that the 
individual is born with knowledge of the duties and carries 
them out with ease. Preserving one's mental constitution 
and nourishing one's nature so as to serve heaven, 14 implies 
that the individual acquires knowledge of them by study and 
practices them from a desire for advantage. The saying, 
' Neither a premature death nor a long life causes a man any 
double-mindedness, ' 15 implies that the individual acquires 
knowledge of them after a painful feeling of his ignorance 
and practices them by strenuous effort. The philosopher Chu 
made a mistake in his teaching regarding the investigation 
of things because he inverted this idea, using 'the exhaust- 
ing of one's mental constitution in knowing one's nature' 
as 'investigation of things for the purpose of extending 
knowledge to the utmost.' He wanted those who were 
learning for the first time to act as though they had been 
born with knowledge of duties and carried them out with 
natural ease. How can that be done?" 

I made inquiry saying, "In what way can exhausting 
one's metal constitution in knowing one's nature be con- 



14 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 1, If 2. 
is Ibid., Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 1, If 3. 



58 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

strued as acting with ease as a result of innate knowl- 
edge?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' Nature is the original character of 
the mind (one's mental constitution). Heaven is the source 
of nature. To exhaust one's mind means to exhaust one's 
nature. Only he who is possessed of the most complete 
sincerity is able to exhaust his nature and understand the 
nourishing power of heaven and earth. He who preserves 
his mental constitution has not exhausted it. Knowledge 
of heaven is as the knowledge of the Chihchou and 
Chihhsien, whose knowledge of the territory they gov- 
ern is a thing in line with their duty. It implies con- 
sidering one's self as one with Heaven. Serving Heaven is 
like the son serving his parents, and the minister serving 
the prince. It must be done reverently if it is to be per- 
fect. The implication is that the individual may consider 
himself as separated from Heaven. At this point the sage 
and the virtuous man are different from others. As for the 
saying, 'Neither premature death nor long life cause 
doublemindedness, ' this teaches the student to apply him- 
self to virtue with a whole heart, and not to allow failure 
or success, premature death or long life, to alter his mind, 
but to cultivate his person while awaiting the decrees of 
Heaven. The failure or success, premature death or long 
life which he experiences, are for him the decrees of 
Heaven, and therefore they do not excite and disturb his 
mind. Though the idea of serving Heaven carries with it 
the idea that the individual is in a way separated from 
Heaven, it also means that he lives in the presence of 
Heaven. To await the decree of Heaven implies that one 
does not know it, but is waiting for it. Here wo have the 
starting-point of learning and of fixing one's mind, and of 
course weariness and strenuous effort are implied. Present- 
day scholars are reversing the order, so that the student 
has no place where to begin." (9) 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 59 

Wang's Interpretation of a "Thing" 

I said, "Yesterday when I heard your teaching I clearly 
realized that the task is as you describe it : having heard 
your words today,I am still less in doubt. Last night I 
came to the conclusion that the word 'thing' of 'investi- 
gating things' is to be identified with the word 'affair.' 
Both have reference to the mind. ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' Yes. The controlling power of the 
body is the mind. The mind originates the idea, and the 
nature of the idea is knowledge. Wherever the idea is, 
we have a thing. For instance, when the idea rests on 
serving one's parents, then serving one's parents is a 
'thing'; when it is on serving one's prince, then serving 
one's prince is a 'thing' ; when it is occupied with being be- 
nevolent to the people and kind to creatures, then benevo- 
lence to the people and kindness to creatures are 'things'; 
when it is occupied with seeing, hearing, speaking, moving, 
then each of these becomes a 'thing.' I say there are no 
principles but those of the mind, and nothing exists apart 
from the mind. The Doctrine of the Mean says: 'Without 
sincerity there would be nothing. ' 16 The Great Learning 
makes clear that the illustrating of illustrious virtue con- 
sists merely in making one's purpose sincere, and that this 
latter has reference to investigating things." 

The Teacher spoke again saying: "The 'examine' of 'ex- 
amining into the nature of things', just as the 'rectify' of 
'the great man can rectify the mind of the prince', of Men- 
cius, 17 has reference to the fact that the mind is not right. 
Its object is to reinstate the original Tightness. But the idea 
conveyed is that one must cast out the wrong in order to 
complete the right, and that there should be no time or 
place in which one does not harbor heaven-given principles. 
This includes a most thorough investigation of heaven-given 

le Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 25, H 2. 

it Works of Meneius, Book IV. Part I, Ch. 20. 



60 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

principles. 18 Heaven-given principles are illustrious vir- 
tue; they include the manifesting of illustrious virtue." 

Innate Knowledge 

Again he said: "Knowledge is native to the mind; the 
mind naturally is able to know. When it perceives the 
parents it naturally knows what filial piety is; when it 
perceives the elder brother it naturally knows what re- 
spectfulness is ; when it sees a child fall into a well it nat- 
urally knows what commiseration is. This is intuitive 
knowledge of good, and is not attained through external 
investigation. If the thing manifested emanates from the 
intuitive faculty, it is the more free from the obscuration of 
selfish purpose. This is what is meant by saying that the 
mind is filled with commiseration, and that love cannot be 
exhausted. (10) However, the ordinary man is subject to 
the obscuration of private aims, so that it is necessary to 
develop the intuitive faculty to the utmost through inves- 
tigation of things in order to overcome selfishness and rein- 
state the rule of natural law. Then the intuitive faculty 
of the mind will not be subject to obscuration, but having 
been satiated will function normally. Thus we have a 
condition in which there is an extension of knowledge. 
Knowledge having been extended to the utmost, the pur- 
pose is sincere." 

Propriety in Its Relation to Principles 

I made inquiry of the Teacher saying, ' ' Though I ponder 
deeply I am unable to understand the use of 'extensive 
study of all learning' in the task of keeping one's self un- 
der the restraint of the rules of propriety. 19 Will you 
kindly explain it somewhat?" 

The Teacher said: "The word 'propriety' carries with 
it the connotation of the word 'principles.' When prin- 

18 Used here and hereafter largely in the sense of natural law. 
is Confucian Analects, Book VI, Ch. 25. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 61 

ciples become manifest in action, they can be seen and are 
then called propriety. When propriety is abstruse and 
cannot be seen, it is called principles. Nevertheless, they 
are one thing. In order to keep one's self under the restraint 
of the rules of propriety it is merely necessary to have a 
mind completely under the influence of natural law (heav- 
en-given principles) . If a person desires to have his mind 
completely dominated by natural law, he must use effort 
at the point where principles are manifested. For in- 
stance, if they are to be manifested in the matter of serving 
one's parents, one should learn to harbor these principles 
in the serving of one's parents. If they are to be mani- 
fested in the matter of serving one's prince, one should 
learn to harbor them in the service of one's prince. If 
they are to be manifested in the changing fortunes of life, 
whether of wealth and position, or of poverty and lowli- 
ness, one should learn to harbor them whether in wealth 
and position, or in poverty and lowliness. If they are to be 
manifested when one meets sorrow and difficulty, or is 
living among barbarous tribes, one should learn to harbor 
them in sorrow and difficulty, or when one is among bar- 
barous tribes. Whether working or resting, speaking or 
silent, under no conditions should it be different. No mat- 
ter where they are manifested, one should forthwith learn 
to harbor them. This is what is meant by studying them 
extensively in all learning, and includes the keeping of 
one's self under the restraint of the rules of propriety. 'Ex- 
tensive study of all learning' thus implies devotion to the 
best (discrimination). 'To keep one's self under the re- 
straint of the rules of propriety' implies devoting one's 
self to a single purpose (undividedness)." 

The Mind is a Unity 

I made inquiry saying: "An upright (righteous) mind 
is master of the body, while a selfish mind is always subject 
to the decrees (of the body). Using your instruction re- 



62 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

garding discrimination and undividedness, this saying ap- 
pears to be mistaken." 

The Teacher said: "The mind is one. In case it has 
not been corrupted by the passions of men, it is e?!led an 
upright mind. If corrupted by human aims and passions, 
it is called a selfish mind. When a selfish mind is rectified 
it is an upright mind ; and when an upright mind loses its 
Tightness it becomes a selfish mind. Originally there were 
not two minds. ( 11 ) The philosopher Ch 'eng said, ' A selfish 
mind is due to selfish desire; an upright mind is natural 
law (is true to nature).' Even though his discourse sepa- 
rates them, his thought comprehends the situation correct- 
ly. Now, you say that if the upright mind is master and 
the selfish mind is subject to decrees, there are two minds, 
and that heaven-given principles and selfishness can not 
co-exist. How can natural law be master, while selfishness 
follows and is subject to decrees?" 

Wang Compares Wen Chung-tzu xvitk Han T' ui-chih 

I asked concerning Wen Chung-tzu and Han T 'ui-chih. 20 

The Teacher said : ' ' T 'ui-chih was one of the best of 
literary men, while Wen Chung-tzu was a virtuous scholar. 
Because of T 'ui-chih 's literary style, later generations gave 
him a position of honor, whereas he was really much in- 
ferior to Wen Chung-tzu." 

I asked: "How is it that Wen Chung-tzu was faulty 
in his estimation of the classics?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' Perhaps he was not entirely mis- 
taken in his estimation of the classics. Tell me how the 
ideas of later commentators compare with his." 

I answered: "There are none among the ordinary com- 
mentators who are not writing for reputation. It is true 
that they aspire to understand and elucidate the doctrine, 

20 Wen lived at the time of the Three Dynasties and was a virtuous 
scholar. Han lived in the T 'ang dynasty and was also a scholar, but 
did not emphasize ethics. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 63 

but their interpretation of the classics is influenced by 
their desire for reputation." 

The Teacher said : "Is there not some one or something 
that can be used as a pattern when making comments to 
elucidate the doctrine?" 

Confucius Revised the Six Classics 

I said, "Confucius revised the Six Classics in order to 
shed light on the doctrine." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Yes. But in interpreting the classics 
does one not follow Confucius?" 

I said : ' ' The writing of comments implies that there is 
something to be made clear in the doctrine. Interpreting 
the classics refers only to judging their effect and may not 
add anything to the doctrine itself. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Sir, do you consider him who un- 
derstands the doctrine as thereby returning to honesty, re- 
verting to sincerity, and perceiving the genuine method of 
conduct? Or do you think that he improves his composi- 
tion, but merely for the sake of being able to dispute? 
The great confusion in the Empire is due to the victory of 
false learning and the decay of genuine conduct. It is not 
necessary to publish the Six Classics in order to cause the 
doctrine to be understood. Confucius revised them because 
that was the only thing feasible. From the time when Fu 
Hsi drew the eight diagrams up to the time of Wen Wang 
and Chou Kung, portions of the Book of Changes, such as 
Lienshan and Kueits'ang, were discussed, often in a noisy, 
disorderly way. 21 I do not know how many scholars dis- 
cussed them, but the doctrine of the Book of Changes was 
greatly perverted. Because the custom of admiring lit- 
erary style daily increased within the Empire, Confucius, 
realizing that the discussions about the Book of Changes 

21 The eight diagrams consist of eight combinations of a line and 
a divided line. They are said to have been copied from the back of 
a tortoise by the legendary monarch Fu Hsi. They were used in 
philosophizing and in speculating about nature. 



64 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

would be endless, chose the interpretation of Wen Wang 
and Chou Kung and eulogized it as being the only one that 
grasped the underlying idea. (12) Thereupon the confused 
interpretations were entirely discarded and a unanimity of 
opinion was reached among expositors. The same situa- 
tion prevailed in the case of the Book of History, the 
Book of Poetry, the Book of Rites and the Annals of Spring 
and Autumn. In the Book of History from the Tienmo 
on, and in the Book of Poetry from the Erhnan on — as, for 
example, in the Chiuch'iu and the Paso — all expressions 
of lewd wantonness and licentious excess, including I know 
not how many hundreds or thousands of leaves, were re- 
jected, expunged, or revised by Confucius. Moreover, he 
did the same with the names of distinguished persons, 
things, and measures without limit. This was the first time 
that such sayings were discarded. 

"Where did Confucius add a single sentence to the 
Books of History, Poetry, or Rites ? The many present-day 
interpretations of the Book of Rites have all been agreed 
upon and adopted by later scholars, and are not the inter- 
pretation of Confucius. Though the Annals of Spring and 
Autumn are attributed to Confucius, in actual fact they 
are an ancient record of the history of Lu Kuo. The one 
said to have written it wrote about ancient things ; he who 
corrected it expunged much, abbreviating without making 
any additions. When Confucius transcribed the Six Class- 
ics, he was afraid that multitudinous characters would 
confuse the Empire. He decided to abridge them in 
order that the scholars of the Empire might get rid of the 
mere literary learning of the classics, and, seeking for what 
was genuine about them, no longer teach merely by using 
the literary style. After the revision of the Annals of 
Spring and Autumn, the more the multitude of characters 
increased, the more confused the Empire became. 



INSTEUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 65 

The Work of Confucius Has Been Partly Undone 

" (Ch'in) Shih Huang mistakenly burned the books from 
private motives, though he had no justification for doing 
so. If his purpose at that time was to exhibit the doctrine, 
he should have known enough to collect and burn all the 
sayings that were opposed to the classics and violated moral 
principles. That would have been in accord with the idea 
of revision. From the time of the Ch 'in and Han dynasties, 
literary productions again daily increased in number. 
Though anyone should desire to dispose of them entirely, it 
would be utterly impossible. One should adopt the plan 
of Confucius: record that which is approximately correct, 
and publish it. All superstitious and perverse sayings 
should, of course, gradually be dropped. I do not know 
what interpretation of the classics prevailed contempo- 
raneously with Wen Chung-tzu. As I look the matter over 
privately, I believe that a sage had arisen but was unable 
to effect a change. The misrule of the Empire was due to 
the fact that literary productions were abundant, but sin- 
cerity had decayed. Men, following their own opinions, 
sought for new mysteries that they might increase their 
fame. Ostentatious for the sake of becoming prominent, 
they confused the wise of the Empire, dulled the ears and 
eyes of the people, and caused them to dispute extrava- 
gantly. (13) They assiduously corrected literary style in 
order to seek notoriety before the world, but did not under- 
stand the practice which is generously original and nobly 
true, and which returns to honesty and reverts to sincerity. 
All commentators use their literary productions to promote 
this." 

I said: "Among commentators there are some that are 
indispensable. The classic called the Annals of Spring and 
Autumn would probably be difficult to understand if it 
were not for the Tso Chuan." 22 



22 The famous commentary of Tso Ch'iu-ming upon the Spring 
and Autumn Annals. 



66 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Teacher said : ' ' You say that the interpretation of 
the Annals of Spring and Autumn depends upon the Tso 
Chuan and can be understood only after tht latter has been 
read. The Annals of Spring and Autumn consists of 
abridged sayings. Why should the sage devote himself 
strenuously to profound, abstruse phraseology? The Tso 
Chuan consists mostly of the ancient history of Lu Kuo. 
If the Annals of Spring and Autumn can really be under- 
stood only after the reading of the Tso Chuan, why did 
Confucius revise it?" 

I said : ' ' The philosopher Ch 'eng also said that the Tso 
Chuan is the case (speaking from a legal standpoint) and 
the Spring and Autumn Annals are the judgment, For 
example, a certain book gives an account of the murder of 
a prince or the devastation of a state by war. But if the 
individual lacks knowledge of the particular affair it is 
difficult for him to pass judgment." 

Why the Sages Commented on the Classics 

The Teacher said : ' ' Perhaps this saying of the philoso- 
pher Ch'eng also was influenced by the sayings of the or- 
dinary scholar, so that he did not comprehend the idea of 
the original writer of the classic. As for the account of 
the murder of the prince, just this murdering of the prince 
is the crime. What necessity is there of instituting in- 
quiry into the details of the murder? A declaration of 
war should come from the emperor. The attacking of the 
state is itself the crime. Why institute inquiry into the 
details of the attack? The sages comment on the Six 
Classics because they wish to rectify the minds of men and 
because they wish to preserve moral principles and drive 
out selfish aims. In evidence notice how often they refer 
to the keeping of Heaven's principles and the dispelling of 
selfish aims. In case anyone makes inquiry, each speaks 
according to his capacity, but without being willing to say 
much. They fear that men are merely seeking an expres- 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 67 

sion of their (the sages') opinion. It was for this reason 
that Confucius said, 'I prefer not to speak.' How could 
he be willing to exhibit in detail those things that tolerate 
passion and violate heaven-given principles? Such things 
increase disorder and point out the way to adultery. Men- 
cius said, 'None of the disciples of Chung-ni (Confucius) 
spoke about the affairs of Hwan (sic) and Wang, and there- 
fore they have not been transmitted to later generations. ' 23 
This is what is meant by the domestic discipline of the 
Confucianists. The ordinary literary man expounds an 
education of force, and for that reason strives to know how 
to acquire many secret plans and artful devices. All his 
desires center in honor and wealth. They are entirely con- 
trary to the idea of the sages who wrote the classics. (14) 
How, then, can they hope to understand?" Therefore the 
Teacher said, sighing, "Because they do not understand 
moral excellence, it is difficult to converse with them re- 
garding this." 

Not Everything in the Book of History Should Be Believed 

Again he said : ' ' Confucius said, ' In my early days the 
historiographer left a blank in his text. ' 24 Mencius said, 
' To believe the books without question is worse than having 
no books. It would be better not to have the Book of 
History than to believe it entirely. In "The Completion 
of the War," I select only two or three passages which I 
believe. ' 25 In the books Confucius edited covering the 
T'ang, Yii, and Hsia dynasties, a period of four or five 
hundred years, he did not expunge more than a few sections, 
nor did he reject any affairs. Moreover, his revision went 
no further. The idea of the sage may be known from this, 
that he simply endeavored to eliminate multitudinous char- 
acters. Later literary men, on the other hand, desire to 
increase their number/' 



23 Mencius, Book I, Pt. I, Ch. 7, If 2. 

24 Analects, Book XV, Ch. 25. 

25 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. II, Ch. 3, If 1 and 2. 



68 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Wang Discusses the Revision of the Classics 

I said: "When the sages wrote the classics their aim 
was to get rid of the passions of men and harbor natural 
law. They preferred not to give to others a minute ex- 
planation of the events which occurred after the five rulers 
of the sixth century. That was right. But why is it that 
the affairs of the period prior to Yao and Shun were still 
less fully discussed?" 

The Teacher said : "In the time of Hsi and Huang, im- 
portant events occurred rarely and those who transmitted 
them were few in number. From this one may conclude 
that at that time all was well ordered, unpretentious, and 
without special elegance. The methods of government of 
the most ancient times were of that nature. Later genera- 
tions have not been able to reproduce them.'' 

I said : ' ' Inasmuch as the records of the first three rulers 
had been handed down, why did Confucius revise them?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' Granting that there were those who 
transmitted them, yet in a changing world they gradually 
proved inadequate. The attitude of the community was in- 
creasingly disclosed and literary taste increased daily until 
we reach the end of the Chou dynasty. At that time they 
desired to adopt the manners and customs of the Hsia and 
Shan dynasties, but it was even then impossible to do so. 
How much less would they have been able to adopt those 
of the T 'ang and Yii dynasties, or those of the time of Hsi 
and Huang! However, the path of duty was the same, 
though their methods of government had changed. Con- 
fucius recorded the doctrine of Yao and Shun as if they 
had been his ancestors, and elegantly exhibited the regula- 
tions of Wen and Wu, which were really the principles of 
Yao and Shun. 26 But the methods of proper government 
were different, and thus it was not feasible to introduce the 
professions of the Hsia and Shan dynasties into the Chou 
dynasty. It was for this reason that the Duke of Chou . 

so Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 30, 1 1. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 69 

desired to exhibit the virtues of the three emperors in his 
own person. When, however, he saw anything in them not 
suitable to the time, he hesitated and pondered on it from 
daylight to night. How much less would it be possible to 
restore the government of the most ancient times! This 
the sages surely could abridge." (15) 

Speaking again, the Teacher said : "To devote one 's self 
to an affair without effecting anything and without being 
able, as were the three emperors, to govern according to 
the times ; and to desire to carry out the manners and cus- 
toms of the ancients, these must be considered as devices of 
the Buddhists and Taoists. To desire to govern according 
to the times, and yet not to find the source thereof in the 
path of duty as did the three emperors ; and to rule with a 
mind seeking honor and wealth, this is an occupation lower 
than that of a tyrant. Though numerous later scholars 
discussed back and forth, they merely discussed violent, 
audacious moral conduct." 

The Restoring of Ancient Methods of Government 

Speaking again, he said: "The method of government 
previous to the T'ang and Yii dynasties can not be restored 
by later generations, but a sketch may be made of it. 27 
The government after the Three Dynasties cannot be imitat- 
ed by later generations. 28 It should be sloughed off. Only 
the method of government of the Three Dynasties may be 
followed. But those who discuss the Three Dynasties do 
not understand their fundamental principles, and vainly 
devote themselves to the results. It cannot be restored in 
that way." 

The Six Classics May Be Viewed as History 
I said: "When former scholars discussed the Six Clas- 



27 The T 'ang and Yii dynasties were those of Yao and Shun, 2357- 
2255 B.C. 

28 The Three Dynasties were those of Hsia, Shang, Chou, 2205- 
255 B.C. 



70 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

sics, they regarded the Annals of Spring and Autumn as 
history. History merely records events. Are not the 
Annals of Spring and Autumn perhaps somewhat different 
in this from the other books of the Five Classics?" 

The Teacher said: "The narrating of events is called 
history; the discoursing on the principles of the path of 
duty is called a classical work. But events are really iden- 
tical with the path of duty, and this path is identical with 
events. The Annals of Spring and Autumn is a classic 
work, and the Five Classics are history. The Canon of 
Changes is the history of the emperors P'ao and Hsi; the 
Book of History, of the time following Yao and Shun ; the 
Book of Poetry and the Canon of Rites, the history of the 
Three Dynasties. Inasmuch as the affairs and principles 
discussed in the Annals are the same, how can the books 
be said to be different?" 

The Teacher spoke again, saying: "The Five Classics 
also are merely history — history for the purpose of ex- 
plaining good and evil, and for the sake of instruction and 
warning. The good may well be used for such instruction. 
Time has left its foot-print in order to exhibit precepts. 
The evil may well serve as a warning. If one heeds the 
warning and corrects in himself the corresponding evils, it 
may serve as a preventative of wickedness." 

The Moral Purpose of the Sages 

I said : ' ' Leaving foot-prints in order to exhibit pre- 
cepts also implies cherishing and defending the source of 
moral principles. Does not correcting the corresponding 
evils in order to prevent wickedness keep the passions of 
men from shooting forth?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' Surely the sage wrote the classics 
with this in mind. (16) But one need not dote on literary 
expressions." 

I again made inquiry saying: "The evil may serve as a 
warning signal. If one heeds the warning and corrects the 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 71 

evils, it may serve to prevent wickedness. Since they are 
only in the Book of Poetry, why not expunge Chen and 
Wei (two odes) ? Is the assertion of former scholars true, 
that the evils may serve to regulate the easy-going habits 
of men?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The Book of Poetry is not the orig- 
inal book of the Confucianists. Confucius said, 'Banish 
the songs of Cheng. The songs of Cheng are licentious. ' 29 
He also said, 'I hate the way in which the songs of Chen 
confound the music of Ya. ' 30 That the songs of Chen and 
Wei are the sounds of a decaying state is according to the 
domestic discipline of the Confucianists. The three hun- 
dred sections which Confucius chose are all called the music 
of Ya. 81 All may be played in the temple of Heaven or 
for a village clan. All, therefore, were played pleasantly 
and harmoniously and greatly promoted virtuous disposi- 
tion and changed evil usages. Why were the songs of Chen 
and Wei omitted? Because they fostered the growth of 
licentiousness and led to adultery. They doubtless were 
again adopted by ordinary scholars after the burning of 
the books by Emperor Ch'in, for the sake of making up 
full three hundred sections. They are expressions of de- 
bauchery such as are frequently gladly transmitted by 
ordinary vulgar people. The alleys of today are full of 
that sort of conversation. That wicked men may serve as 
a warning to the easy-going tendency of men, is a manner 
of approach which seeks verbal form without getting any 
real advantage, while at the same time it engages in 
apologizing discussions. ' ' 

Because of interest in the loss of the original sayings of 
the ancients, I at first listened to the instruction of the 
Teacher, but was really fearful, doubtful, and without any 

29 Analects, Book XV, Ch. 10, f 6. 
so Ihid., Book XVII, Ch. 18. 

3i Refined, elegant music. Professor Alexander Y. Lee prefers to 
call it civil music. 



72 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

point of contact. After I had heard the Teacher 's instruc- 
tion for a long time, I gradually realized that I must face 
about and rectify my steps. After that I first began to 
have faith that the learning of the Teacher had come direct 
from Confucius, and that the remaining discussions were 
all by-paths. Such discussions intercept the stream. He 
says that the investigating of things consists in making the 
purpose sincere ; the understanding of virtue, in cultivating 
one's self; the investigation of heaven-given principles, in 
exhausting one's disposition; the maintaining of constant 
inquiry and study, in honoring one's virtuous nature; the 
extending of learning, in keeping one's self under the re- 
straint of the rules of propriety; being discriminating, in 
being undivided ; and other like sayings. At first these are 
hard to harmonize, but after one has thought about them 
for a long time one spontaneously gesticulates with hands 
and feet. (17) 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 
Part II x 

Practical Ethical Instruction 

The Teacher said: "Seize hold of a good resolution as 
if the mind were distressed. Will there be any time to 
engage in idle talk or to care for idle affairs, if the mind 
is fully occupied with its distress?" 

I, Lu Ch 'eng, made inquiry saying : ' ' There is the mat- 
ter of mastering one's mind. If in studying one is en- 
gaged entirely with study, or in receiving guests one is com- 
pletely engaged in receiving guests, may these be consid- 
ered as examples of being undivided ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : " If in being fond of women one gives 
one's self completely to salaciousness, or in desiring wealth 
one devotes one's self entirely to covetousness, may these be 
considered as instances of mastering one's mind? This is 
what is called urging things and should not be considered 
as mastering the mind. To master one 's mind implies mas- 
tering moral principles. ' ' 2 

1 made, inquiry regarding the fixing of one's determina- 
tion. The Teacher said : " It is simply a question of keep- 
ing heaven-given principles in mind; for this in itself is 
what is meant by fixing one 's determination. If one is able 
to remember this, it will obviously become gradually fixed 
in the mind. It may be compared to the Taoists' saying, 
'a matrix which brings forth the virtues of the sage.' One 
who constantly harbors a regard for natural law little by 

i Eecorded by Lu Ch 'eng. 

2 "Moral principles" here as elsewhere may also be translated 
"heaven-given principles" or "natural law." 



74 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

little becomes a beautiful, great sage and spirit-man. But 
it is also necessary, in obedience to this thought, to nurture 
and practice these principles." 

The Teacher said: "If during the day one feels that 
work is becoming annoying, one should sit and rest. One 
should study though one feels an aversion to it. This is 
also giving a remedy for disease. In having intercourse 
with friends, mutually strive to be humble; for then you 
will derive benefit from your friendship. In case you 
strive for superiority you will be injured." 

Later Scholars Wrote to Show Their Own Skill 

I made inquiry saying, "There have been many com- 
mentators in the past. It is possible that some of them 
have brought confusion into right learning. ' ' 

The Teacher replied : ' ' The mind of man completely em- 
braces natural law. The books written by sages and vir- 
tuous men, just as the artist's work that gives a life-like 
expression, show men the general outline so that they may 
earnestly seek the truth in them. The mental energy of 
the sages, as well as their bearing, their sayings, their joys, 
their actions, and their behavior, assuredly are things that 
could not be transmitted. When later generations wrote 
commentaries they took the things the sages had outlined, 
and transcribed them according to the pattern. (18) But 
they did more than this; for they also falsely separated 
them and interpolated them so that they might thereby 
show their own skill. In doing so they have strayed far 
from the truth." 

The Sage Lives True to Nature 

I made inquiry saying, "Does the unlimited adaptability 
of the sage not also first have to be acquired ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "How can so much be acquired? 
The mind of the sage is like a bright mirror. There is 
only brightness there, and thus the response will be true 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 75 

to the influence brought to bear upon it. It will reflect 
everything truly. Past forms do not linger there ; nor does 
it need to prepare for those which it has not reflected. If 
according to the expositions of later generations it is neces- 
sary that preparation be made, it is quite contrary to the 
learning of the sages. Chou Kung regulated the rites of 
propriety and provided music in order to educate the Em- 
pire; and this all sages are able to accomplish. But why 
did not Yao and Shun accomplish it? Why was it de- 
layed until the time of Chou Kung? Confucius revised 
the Six Classics in order to instruct all later generations. 
This, too, all sages are able to do. Why did not Chou 
Kung first accomplish it? Why was it delayed until the 
time of Confucius? One may know from these situations 
that when the sage meets with definite conditions, he does 
a definite work to meet the specific conditions. The only 
fear one need entertain is lest the mirror be clouded. One 
need not fear that when the thing comes before it, it will 
fail to reflect. Investigation of the change of events must 
also be carried on in accordance with the times. Naturally 
the student must first complete the task of brightening up 
the mirror. He should be grieved if his mind cannot be- 
come like a bright mirror, and should not grieve because 
things are continually changing." 

I said, "Surely what you have said is of no immediate 
concern to me, for I have already made preparation for all 
sorts of imaginable circumstances. What do you think of 
such a reply?" 

He said, ' ' That way of talking is originally good. But if 
you do not carefully consider it, it brings distress." 

The Principles of Righteousness Are Inexhaustible 

The Teacher said : ' ' The principles of righteousness have 
no fixed abode and are inexhaustible. I say unto you, Do 
not because of having acquired some virtue say, I will 
cease acquiring." He said again, "In ten years, twenty 



76 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

years, fifty years, do not cease." At another time he 
spoke again, saying, ' ' Sageness is like the evil of Chieh and 
Chou. 3 Truly after their time evil was inexhaustible. If 
Chieh and Chou had not died, would evil have ceased? 
If virtue may be exhausted, why did King Wen look 
toward the right path as if he could not see it?" 4 (19) 

I made inquiry saying: "When I am tranquil I am 
conscious of good ideas, but when I meet with events (am 
subject to stimulation) the situation is different. How 
do you account for this?" 

The Teacher said: "This shows that you know how to 
cultivate tranquility but do not understand how to control 
yourself. For this reason you are prostrate whenever you 
meet with a difficulty. When one has experience in affairs, 
he is able to stand firmly. Whether at rest or occupied, 
his purpose is fixed." 

The Nature of Advanced Learning 

I asked concerning the advancement of learning. The 
Teacher said: "When later scholars in instructing the 
people understood the minutiae, they called it advanced 
learning. When they had not learned them, they called 
it lower learning. This implies that they differentiated 
between lower and advanced learning. That which deals 
with things that can be seen with the eyes, heard with ears, 
expressed with the tongue, and thought with the mind is 
all lower learning. On the other hand, that which cannot 
be seen with the eyes, heard With the ears, expressed with 
the tongue, or contemplated with the mind must be con- 
sidered advanced learning. The planting and watering 
of a tree would stand for lower learning. But when the 
tree rests while growing both night and day, and its branch- 

3 The Emperor Chieh ruled about 1818 B.C. He was detested for 
his cruelty. The Emperor Chou was the last ruler of the Shang 
dynasty. His crimes caused the overthrow of the dynasty at about 
1154 B. C. 

*Mencius, Book IV, Pt. II, Ch. 20, f 3. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 77 

es spread luxuriantly, this stands for progressive learning. 
How can these two be separated? The method by means 
of which a man prepares himself so that whenever he is 
able to act he can tell those who talk with him how to pro- 
ceed, is lower learning. The progressive higher learning 
is, however, included within the lower learning. What 
the sages have said, though it be given in great detail, is 
all lower learning. As the student applies himself in ac- 
cordance with this he naturally proceeds to rise in his pen- 
etration. It is not necessary to look anywhere else for work 
that makes progress." 

The Teacher said: ''In ancient times there were only 
these sages." Again he said, "Man born on earth has 
only this one affair to which he should direct his atten- 
tion." 5 

The Meaning of the Expression, ''Being Discriminating 
and Undivided" 

I made inquiry saying, "What sort of effort is involved 
in being discriminating and undivided ? " 6 

The Teacher said: "Being undivided carries with it the 
purpose of being discriminating; and discrimination in- 
cludes the task of being undivided. (20) It does n©t mean 
that in addition to exercising discrimination there is undi- 
videdness. The character ch'ing (meaning best, or essence) 
is derived from the character mi (rice) and thus should be 
compared with mi (rice). You wish to get the rice unmixed 
and of a clean white. This implies giving it undivided 
attention. Moreover, unless one adds hulling, winnowing, 
sifting, and selecting, discrimination is not complete. The 
use of discrimination includes hulling, winnovving, sifting 
and selecting, but in all one really does not desire more 
than that the rice be unmixed with tares, and pure white. 
Applying this, we see that extensive study, accurate in- 

5 To strive to become a sage is the only occupation worth while. 
« Refers to man's nature, of which all things are the development. 



78 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

quiry, careful reflection, clear discrimination, and earnest 
practice are included in being discriminating and undi- 
vided. The extending of learning consists in keeping one's 
self under the restraint of the rules of propriety; the in- 
vestigation of things for the extension of knowledge con- 
sists in making one's purpose sincere; the maintaining of 
constant inquiry and study consists in honoring one's vir- 
tuous nature; understanding virtue consists in making the 
person sincere. There is no other way of explaining it." 
The Teacher said: "Ch'i Tiao-k'ai said, 'I am not yet 
able to rest in the assurance of this.' The master was 
pleased. 7 Tzu-lu got Tzu-kao appointed governor of Pi. 
The master said, 'You are injuring this man's son.' 8 . 
Tseng Tien spoke of his wishes. The master permitted 
this. 9 The purpose of the sage can be seen from this." 

Tranquility of Mind Explained 

I made inquiry saying, "May the time in which one is in 
a tranquil state of mind be said to be a state of equili- 
brium ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Men of today stay their minds 
only by controlling their passion nature, and thus when 
they are in a state of tranquility the passion nature alone 
is tranquil. This cannot be considered as the state of 
equilibrium in which there are no stirrings of feeling." 

I said : ' ' Though they are not in the state of equili- 
brium, are they not striving for it ? " 

He said : ' ' The individual must expel passion and cher- 
ish natural law before he really engages in the task. When 
in a state of tranquility, one should constantly meditate 
how to get rid of passion and how to cherish natural law ; 
and when at work one should also strive for the same end. 
It makes no difference whether one be in a state of tran- 



7 Analects, Book V, Ch. 5. Confucius wished him to enter official 
employment and this was his answer. 
s Ibid., Book XI, Ch. 24, f 1 and 2. 
Qlbid., Book XI, Ch. 25, fl 7. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 79 

quility or not. If one depends upon the state of tranquili- 
ty, the fault of loving tranquility and despising activity 
gradually develops, and in connection therewith a great 
many other faults that are hidden away in the mind and 
will never be dislodged. As soon as conditions are favor- 
able, they flourish as of old. In case action according to 
principles is the motivating purpose, how can there fail to 
be tranquility? But if tranquility itself is made the pur- 
pose, there will certainly be no compliance with prin- 
ciples." (21) 

The Harm of Foregone Conclusions 

I made inquiry saying, "The disciples of Confucius dis- 
cussed their wishes. Yu (Tzu-lu) and Ch'iu (Jan-yu) 
wished to be entrusted with a government position; Kung- 
hsi Chih wished to be responsible for ceremony and music. 
All these are very useful. But when one reaches the words 
of Tseng Hsi (Tseng Tien), only play is mentioned. Yet 
the sage favored him. 10 How is this to be interpreted ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "The three disciples had foregone 
conclusions and arbitrary predeterminations. Having 
these, they certainly would be turned aside from their 
purpose. In case they were able to carry out their de- 
sires, they would not be able to do the other important 
thing. Tseng Tien's wish, on the other hand, was without 
preconceived ideas and arbitrary predeterminations, and 
implied doing what is in accord with one 's station and not 
desiring to go beyond this. Such a viewpoint means that 
when situated among barbarous tribes one does what is 
proper among barbarous tribes; that in sorrow and diffi- 
culty one adapts one 's self to a position of sorrow and diffi- 
culty ; and that there is no situation in which one is not 
self-possessed. According to the language of the three 
disciples, the individual is merely a tool. Tseng Tien's 
wish implied that the individual is not to be a tool. Since 

10 Ibid., Book XI, Ch. 25. If 3-7. 



80 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

each of the three disciples wished to perfect his ability 
with majesty, they were not like the ordinary man who 
speaks vainly and lacks genuineness. For these reasons 
the master also favored their desires. ' ' 

How to Make Progress in Knowledge 

I made inquiry saying, "What shall the individual do 
when he finds that he is making no progress in know- 
ledge?" 

The Teacher said : "In devoting one 's self to study, one 
must have a point of departure. One should work from 
the starting-point forward, and advance by gradually com- 
pleting each branch of study. The immortals have a good 
simile when speaking of small children: 'The child in its 
mother's womb consists only of pure vital force.' What 
knowledge can it have ? After birth it is first able to cry ; 
a little later, to laugh ; still later, to recognize its parents 
and brothers; and after that it is able to stand, walk, 
grasp, and carry. This is universally true. It implies that 
mental and physical energy increases, that strength be- 
comes more vigorous, and intelligence more ample as the 
days pass. These capacities are not acquired through di- 
rect endeavor nor through a series of investigations after 
birth. This shows that there is a source. That the sage 
(Confucius) assumed regal sway over heaven and earth 
and nourished all things, is merely the result of progressive 
development from the equilibrium in which there is no 
stirring of pleasure, anger, sorrow, or joy. Later scholars 
do not understand what is meant by 'the investigation of 
things.' They see that the sage was omniscient and omni- 
potent, and thereupon desire at the very beginning to com- 
plete their quest. Is that in harmony with natural law?" 

He spoke further saying: "Tn fixing the determination 
one must work as though he were cultivating a tree. (22) 
When the young tree has the first rootlets it does not yet 
have a trunk, and when the trunk appears it does not yet 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 81 

have branches. After the branches come the leaves, and 
after the leaves, the flowers and the fruit. When you first 
cultivate the roots you need only care for them by watering 
them. You should not think of cultivating branches, leaves, 
flowers, and fruit. What advantage is there in being 
anxious? But you should not forget to care for the tree 
and water it, lest perchance there be no branches, leaves, 
flowers, or fruit." 

I said : ' ' What shall be done when one studies and is 
unable to understand?" 

The Teacher said : "It shows that the quest is confined 
to the meaning of the individual characters, and that there- 
fore one does not understand the thought of what is read. 
This is not equal to the method of those who devoted 
themselves to education in ancient times, for they read 
much and were able to explain it. But the unfortunate 
thing was that though they were able to expound very 
clearly, they did not really gain any advantage. It is 
necessary to work on the base of native endowment. Who- 
soever is unable to understand or unable to practice 
should return in his work to his original mind. Then he 
should be able to comprehend. The Four Books and the 
Five Classics discuss the original nature of the mind. The 
original nature of the mind is to be identified with the path 
of duty (truth). He who understands the original nature 
of his mind thereby understands the path of duty, for the 
two cannot be distinguished. This is the point of depar- 
ture in studying." 

Some one inquired about the philosopher Chu, saying, 
"In case a man devotes himself to study, he need pay at- 
tention only to mind and principles. How is this to be 
interpreted ?" 

The Teacher said. "Mind is nature, and nature includes 
law and order. The character yii (and) after 'mind' per- 
haps makes it inevitable that they be considered as two. 



82 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

It will depend upon the way the student uses his good 
judgment with reference to this." 

A Tentative Explanation of Evil 

Some one said, "All men have natural endowment 
(mind), and the mind is the embodiment of heaven-given 
principles (natural law). Why then do some devote them- 
selves to virtue and others to vice?" 

The Teacher said, ' ' The mind of the evil man has lost its 
original nature." 

I made inquiry saying: "Analyze heaven-given prin- 
ciples and you will find them extremely pure and not in 
the least confused ; unite them again and you will have ex- 
hausted their greatness and there will be nothing left. How 
is this to be understood V ( 23 ) 

The Teacher replied : ' ' Perhaps they will not be ex- 
hausted. Is it really possible that natural laws will admit 
of being analyzed, and how can they be reassembled? 
When one attains what the sages call the state of being 
discriminating and undivided, they have then been ex- 
hausted." 

The Teacher said: "Self-investigation should be nur- 
tured when one is busy with the affairs of life; the nur- 
ture of self should be investigated when one is not thus 
occupied." 

The Great Problems of Life 

I frequently made inquiry about Hsiang-shan 's sayings 
regarding the way in which one should expend his energy 
with reference to human feelings and passions, as well as 
with reference to the vicissitudes of life. 11 

The Teacher said: "There are no crises and problems 
beyond those of passion and change. Are not pleasure, 
anger, sorrow, and joy passions of men? Seeing, hearing, 
talking, working, wealth and honor, poverty and lowliness, 
sorrow' and difficulty, death and life, all are vicissitudes of 

II Vide Biography, footnote 14, p. 29. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 83 

life. All are included in the passions and feelings of men. 
These need only to be in a state of perfect equilibrium and 
harmony, which, in turn, depends upon being watchful over 
one's self." 

I made inquiry saying, "Is it true that we have the 
names benevolence, righteousness (duty to one's neighbor), 
propriety, and wisdom because we ourselves have mani- 
fested them ? " The Teacher said, ' ' Yes. ' ' 

The Connotation of the Word "Nature" 

On another day I said, "Are the feelings of commisera- 
tion, shame, dislike, modesty, complaisance, approval, and 
disapproval to be considered as nature manifesting virtue ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' Benevolence, justice, propriety, and 
wisdom are nature manifesting virtue. There is only one 
nature and no other. Referring to its substance, it is called 
heaven; considered as ruler or lord, it is called Shang-ti 
(God) ; viewed as functioning, it is called fate; as given to 
men it is called disposition; as controlling the body, it is 
called mind. Manifested by the mind, when one meets par- 
ents, it is called filial piety ; when one meets the prince, it is 
called loyalty. Proceeding from this on the category is in- 
exhaustible, but it is all one nature, even as there is but one 
man (generic sense). As compared with his father, man is 
called son ; as compared with his son, he is called father. 
Proceeding from this one may go on indefinitely, yet there 
is but one man and no more. Man should use his energy on 
his nature. If he is able to understand clearly the connota- 
tion of the word nature, he will be able to distinguish ten 
thousand principles. ' ' 

What is Included in Study 

On a certain day I discussed studying. The Teacher 
said: "In teaching anyone to study, prejudice should be 
avoided. "When man begins to learn, the mind is like that 
of an ape, and the will is like that of a horse which can- 



84 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

not be tethered. His thoughts are largely directed toward 
human desires. He should be taught to sit quiet and cease 
his cares. After a while the desire of his heart will be some- 
what fixed. (24) Merely to have him sit quiet in empty 
speculation, like a decayed tree which has crumbled to 
dust, is of no advantage. He should be taught to examine 
and control himself, and to allow none of the affairs of life 
to interrupt this task. If one wishes to drive out robbers 
and thieves, one must proceed with the determination of 
expelling them and of inaugurating a clean, clear state of 
things. When one has leisure, salaciousness, covetousness, 
the desire for honor, and all like passions should be followed 
up and sought for individually. The root of evil must be 
pulled out, and never be allowed to appear again. Then 
first has a condition of joy been instituted. One should 
always be like a cat which is trying to catch a rat. When 
it sees or hears the rat, immediately a determination arises 
and it proceeds to catch the rat. persisting in spite of ob- 
stacles. 12 One must not be lenient with the passions, con- 
ceal them, or give vent to them ; for only thus may one be 
said to use his energy genuinely, and may succeed in ex- 
pelling them and inaugurating a clear, clean state of 
affairs. When one reaches the condition in which there 
is no passion to control, naturally the time has arrived when 
one may sit upright with the hands before the breast and 
the thumbs coming together. 13 Albeit it is said that the 
what of thinking and pondering is not the work of begin- 
ners. The beginner must ponder on matters of self-inves- 
tigation and self-control, and this means pondering upon 
sincerity. He needs to think about heaven-given princi- 
ples. When he reaches the condition in which his princi- 
ples are pure, a pure state is the thing about which he 
should think and ponder." 

i 2 Literally, "cutting nails and gnawing through iron." 
is This implies that the task has been accomplished and one lias 
come to a complete realization of one's self. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 85 

The Fear of Spirits and the Spirit of Fear 

I made inquiry saying, ' ' What do you say regarding the 
man who at night is afraid of spirits ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' This is due to the fact that in 
every-day life he is unable to assemble deeds of righteous- 
ness, and that his mind is timid about something. If his 
ordinary conduct is in harmony with the spirits, why 
should he be afraid of anything?" 

Tzu-hsin said, "It is not necessary to be afraid of up- 
right spirits, but perhaps the evil spirits will not differenti- 
ate between good and evil men. Consequently one cannot 
but be afraid." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Can an evil spirit delude and con- 
fuse an upright man ? Only this one thing need be the ob- 
ject of fear : that the mind is depraved. Therefore, if any- 
one is deluded or confused, it is not that a spirit has de- 
luded or confused him, but that his own mind has confused 
and deluded him. For instance, if a man is fond of women, 
it is the spirit of salaciousness that confuses; if he is cov- 
etous, it is the spirit of covetousness that deludes him ; 
when a man is angry when he should not be angry, it is the 
spirit of anger that seduces him ; and when a man is fearful 
at that which is not fearful, it is the spirit of fear that 
confuses and deludes him." 

The Teacher said : " It is natural law that the mind in its 
original nature be fixed and established (self-possessed). 
This holds true of its activity as well as of its rest." (25) 

The Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean 
Compared 

I made inquiry as to whether the Great Learning and 
the Doctrine of the Mean were alike or different in doc- 
trine. The Teacher said: "Tzu-ssu incorporated tby fun- 
damental idea of the Great Learning in the first chapter of 
the Doctrine of the Mean." 



86 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

How Confiicius Adjusted Mutual Relationships 

I made inquiry saying: ''Confucius corrected the mu- 
tual relationships of the people. Former scholars said: 
'Upward one tells the emperor, downward one tells the 
financial commissioner, that Che has been cast aside and 
Ying established.' What do you hold of this?" 

The Teacher said : " It is perhaps as described. Can it 
be that a man who with the utmost respect exhausts pro- 
priety in waiting for me to take up official business would 
be the first discarded by me? Would this be reasonable 
and right? Since Confucius was willing to give the gov- 
ernment to Che, Che certainly had thoroughly repented, 
restored the state to his father and obeyed the sage. Con- 
fucius, a man of staunch virtue and complete sincerity, 
had certainly brought Che of the state of Wei to a realiza- 
tion that he who has no father cannot be counted a man, 
and that he must go and welcome his father speedily with 
tears. The love of father and son is in accordance with 
nature. In case Che truly and thoroughly repented in this 
manner, could K'uai Wai fail to be influenced and satis- 
fied? When K'uai Wai had returned, Che would give him 
the state and ask to be executed. Since Wai would then 
have been influenced by his son, and the master, a man of 
complete sincerity, would have used his influence for peace 
in this matter, the father in turn would be unwilling to re- 
ceive the state and would order Che to rule. The body of 
ministers and the people would then also desire Che to act 
as ruler. Che, on the other hand, would confess his crime, 
request the emperor and tell the financial commissioner 
and all the noblemen that he wished to give the state to his 
father. Wai, the body of ministers, and the people would 
then publish the excellence of Che's new awakening and 
unselfish filial piety, and would request the emperor and 
tell the financial commissioner and noblemen that they 
truly desired Che to be the prince. Thereby the requests 
would center on Che to cause him again to be the prince of 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 87 

the State of Wei. Che would have no recourse except to 
do as in the story of a later emperor's father; that is, com- 
mand the ministers and people to honor Wai as father of 
the duke, prepare the things necessary for the comfort of 
his father, and not till then step back and take up his posi- 
tion. In that way the prince would have carried out the 
doctrine of the prince, the minister that of the minister, the 
father that of the father, the son that of the son. The mu- 
tual relations would have been corrected, and conversation 
become filial. When once Che had promoted this, he would 
be able to govern the Empire. The adjustment which Con- 
fucius made of the mutual relationships was perhaps of 
this kind." (26) 

Sorrow as a Test of True Learning 

While I was the official in charge of the granaries of the 
Court of Ceremonies, I unexpectedly received a letter from 
home saying that my son was dangerously ill. My mind 
was filled with unendurable sorrow. 

The Teacher said : "At this time you certainly should 
apply yourself to the truth (path of duty). If you allow 
this opportunity to slip by, of what advantage will it be 
for you to expound learning when you are in prosperity? 
You should gain experience now. The love of a father for 
his son is by nature the highest type of affection ; but in 
accordance with natural law there is a state of equilibrium 
and harmony, which when exceeded leads to selfishness. 
If at this point men understand that the carrying out of 
natural law means love, then they will not realize that 
former sorrows and afflictions are examples of the saying, 
' If the mind be under the influence of sorrow and distress, 
a man will be incorrect in his conduct.' The influence of 
the seven passions is in most people excessive; in a few 
only does it fail to reach its proper proportion. When it 
is excessive, it is not in accordance with the original nature 
of the mind. It must be adjusted to reach the mean, for 



88 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

then first is it right. For instance, at the death of parents, 
is it not true that the son desires to mourn unto death be- 
cause in that way his mind is put at rest ? But it is never- 
theless said, 'The collapse should not injure the natural 
disposition.' This does not imply that the sage is trying 
to quell it by force, but that nature has its limits which 
cannot be exceeded, and that everyone should recognize the 
nature of the mind. Nothing should be either added to or 
subtracted from this. ' ' 

Many Fail to Reach the Ideal of the Classics 

"Do not say that the equilibrium in which the passions 
are not manifested is kept by all men, that nature and its 
use have a common source, and that having nature, you 
also have its use. If one keeps the equilibrium in which 
the seven passions have been suppressed, one also is in the 
state of harmony in which they are manifested in proper 
degree. The present generation has been unable to acquire 
this harmony. From this one must know that the equilib- 
rium in which they are suppressed cannot have been com- 
pletely acquired. 

"The restorative influence of the night is spoken of with 
reference to ordinary men ; but the student, if he works dil- 
igently, may in the daytime, whether at work or at leisure, 
be the focus of the gathering and development of this 
restorative influence. It is not necessary to speak of the 
influence of night with reference to the sage." 

An Obscure Passage in Mencius Cleared Up 

I made inquiry regarding the chapter, "Hold it (mind) 
fast and it remains with you, let it go and you lose it." 14 

He said: " 'Its outgoing and incoming cannot be de- 
fined as to time and place' Though this is said of the 
common man, the student must certainly know that the 
nature of the mind is precisely of this type. (27) The task of 

14 Mencius, Book VI, Pt, I, Ch. 8, U 4. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 89 

holding fast the mind is then free from any defects. One 
cannot say that the outgoing implies losing or the incoming 
means keeping, for the original nature (essence) has ab 
initio neither outgoing nor incoming. If, however, one re- 
fers to the outgoing and incoming, then its serious thought 
and its exercise would be the outgoing. However, the con- 
trolling power is continually manifested in these. Where 
has there been any outgoing; where has there been any in- 
coming? The character ch'iang (breast or throat) used 
by the philosopher Ch'eng refers to nothing more than 
natural law. In case one entertains guests all day and 
does not depart from heaven-given principles, one remains 
Within the idea of the character ch'iang. If one departs 
from natural law, he may be spoken of as letting go and 
losing it (the mind's original nature)." He spoke again 
saying, "Outgoing and incoming also are really no more 
than action and rest. When action and rest are not right, 
how can there be a criterion ? ' ' 

Wang Chia-hsiu Asks for an Explanation of the Investiga- 
gation of Principles 

Wang Chia-Hsiu made inquiry saying: "The Buddhists 
use Nirvana (to pass from life and leave death), and the 
Taoists use the idea of immortality (living long and seeing 
a long time), to induce men to believe their doctrines. 
Their expositions should not be construed as though they 
wished men to do evil. Investigate them to the very ex- 
treme and you will see a bit of the doctrine of the sage. 
However, this is not the true way of entering upon the path 
of duty. It may be compared to officials of the present 
day, some of whom have become high officials through ex- 
aminations, some through offerings, some through the pro- 
mulgation of service rendered or through similar meaus. 
In last analysis they have not become officials in the right 
way, for the superior man does not become an official 
through such methods. 



90 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

' ' Taoists and Buddhists are somewhat like Confucianists 
in that they devote themselves to one thing only, but they 
do not know that this thing should be natural law (heaven- 
given principles). When they are occupied they cultivate 
empty contemplation. The Confucianists, whether occu- 
pied or unoccupied, devote themselves (their entire mind) 
to natural law alone. 

' ' In consequence, the cherishing of reverence also implies 
a thorough examination of principles. The carrying out 
of the saying, 'to devote one's self particularly to the thor- 
ough examination of principles,' is what is called cherish- 
ing reverence. The carrying out of the saying, 'Cherish 
the very essence of reverence,' is what is called thoroughly 
examining principles. This does not imply that in addi- 
tion to the cherishing of reverence the mind also thoroughly 
examines principles, or that at the time of carrying on a 
thorough investigation of principles the mind also cherishes 
reverence. Though the names are different, the task is the 
same. This is in accordance with the saying of the Book 
of Changes that reverence is for the purpose of rectifying 
the inner nature, while righteousness is for the purpose of 
correcting the external conduct. Reverence is the right- 
eousness of the time when one is unoccupied, while right- 
eousness is the reverence of the time when one is occu- 
pied. (28) When the two are harmonized, they are one. 

"When Confucius, for example, said, 'In cultivating 
himself he uses reverence,' he did not need to speak of 
righteousness. 15 When Mencius spoke of 'the accumulation 
of righteousness,' he did not need to say reverence. 16 At the 
time when they are brought together, though you discuss 
them from any angle, the task is the same. If one dotes on 
literary style and expressions, and does not know the origin 
or arrangement, separation and division of the doctrine 
ensue, and all the work is then left unsettled. I wish to ask 



is Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 45. 

i6 Mencius, Book II, Part I, Ch. 2, 1f 15. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 91 

in what way the thorough investigation of principles means 
exhausting nature." 

The Teacher said: "The original nature is the embodi- 
ment of natural law (heaven-given principles). He who 
thoroughly investigates the principles underlying benevo- 
lence, must be benevolent, very benevolent; he who thor- 
oughly investigates the principles underlying righteousness, 
must be righteous, very righteous. Benevolence and right- 
eousness are natural disposition. Therefore the thorough 
investigation of natural law implies the exhausting of 
righteousness. For instance, Mencius says, ' If a man gives 
full development to his natural sympathies he will attain 
more benevolence than can be used. ' 17 This is what is 
called thorough investigation of natural principles." 

Jih-fu remarked: "Former scholars said that a single 
blade of grass and a single tree also have underlying prin- 
ciples which must be examined. How is this to be con- 
strued?" 

The Teacher said: "Just now I have no leisure. Sir, 
first understand your own disposition. One should first be 
able to give full development to the natural disposition of 
mankind, and then one is in a position to give full develop- 
ment to the nature of things." Jih-fu was awed and 
understood fully. 

Adaptability is Indispensable 

Wei Ch'ien made inquiry regarding the saying of Men- 
cius, ' ' By holding the medium without leaving room for the 
exigency of circumstances, it becomes like their holding 
their one point." 18 

The Teacher said : ' ' The medium is merely natural law. 
And yet at any time it may change ? How then can it be 
held? It certainly means that it must be suitably regu- 

17 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. II, Ch. 31, U 2. 
™IMd., Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 26, f 3. 



92 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

lated in accordance with the occasion, and for that reason 
it would be difficult to establish a rule in advance. It 
would be as though later scholars through their expositions 
undertook to determine a pattern without leaving a loop- 
hole for any change. That would carry with it the idea of 
holding." 

T'ang Hsu made inquiry saying: "Is it true that in 
fixing the determination one should constantly cherish good 
thoughts, do good, and expel evil?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The cherishing of good thoughts is 
in accordance with natural law. Such thoughts are them- 
selves virtue. What other virtue shall one deliberate upon ? 
They are not evil. What evil shall one expel? Thoughts 
are like the roots and rootlets of a tree. He who is fixing 
his determination need only fix his thoughts for a long 
time. When one is able to follow the desire of the heart 
without overstepping propriety, one's determination has 
become habitual. 19 (29) 

' ' It is of first importance that mental and animal energy, 
virtue, words, and acts should for the most part be con- 
trolled (gathered together). That they will lack unity at 
times is inevitable. Heaven and earth, man and things, 
are all alike in this." 

The Character of Wen Chung-tzu 

He (T'ang Hsu) made inquiry saying, "What sort of a 
man was Wen Chung-tzu?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' He had nearly all the characteristics, 
but in small proportion. 20 Unfortunately he died young." 

He again asked, "Why did he make the mistake of add- 
ing (by writing in a similar way) to the classics?" 

The Teacher said: "To add to the classics is not an un- 
mitigated evil." 

He questioned the Teacher a long time. The Teacher 

19 Analects, Book II, Ch. 4, «J 6. 

20 Refers to the characteristics of a sage. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 93 

said : ' ' You should the more realize that the mind of a 
good workman is distressed. ' ' 

Selfishness is a Root of Evil 

The Teacher said: "Pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy are 
in their natural condition in the state of equilibrium and 
harmony. As soon as the individual adds a little of his 
own ideas, he oversteps and fails to maintain the state of 
equilibrium and harmony. This implies selfishness. 

' ' In subduing one 's self, one must clear out selfish desire 
completely, so that not a bit is left. If a little is left, all 
sorts of evil will be induced to make their entrance. ' ' 

The Methods of Music are of Secondary Importance 

He asked regarding the Lu Lii Hsin Shu. 21 The Teacher 
said : ' ' Scholars should give their attention to the most 
urgent things. When these methods (referring to the 
music) have become familiar, they are perhaps of little 
value. It is important that the mind should first cherish 
the source from Which ceremonies and music come. More- 
over, the book (Lii Lii Hsin Shu) says, 'In the winter 
use a flageolet and wait till the wind blows out the dust 
from the reed. At the very time of the winter solstice the 
dust in the reed will be blown out.' Whether it be before 
or after, how can it be known that just at that time the 
reed has truly happened upon the winter solstice ? It cer- 
tainly is necessary that one's own mind should first know 
the time of the winter solstice. Thus there is an incon- 
sistency. The scholar must first use his efforts upon the 
source of ceremonies and music." 

The Mind May Be Compared to a Mirror 

Yueh-jen said: "The mind may be compared to a mir- 
ror. The mind of the sage is like a bright mirror, the mind 
of the ordinary man like a dull mirror. The saying of 

21 Literally translated, "A New Book on Keyed Tones." 



94 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

more recent natural philosophy may be compared to using 
it as a mirror to reflect things. If effort is expended in 
causing the mirror to reflect while the glass is still dull, 
how can one succeed? The natural philosophy of the 
Teacher is like a polished and brightened mirror. When 
after having been polished the mirror is bright, the power 
of reflecting has not been lost. ' ' 

He asked regarding the general plan and the details 
(fineness and coarseness) of the doctrine. 22 The Teacher 
said : ' ' The doctrine has neither general plan nor detailed 
structure. What men consider the general plan and the 
details may be made clear in examining a house. (30) When 
one first enters it, one sees only the general plan. After a 
while one sees the supports and walls. Later still such 
things as the ornamental duckweed upon the supports be- 
come apparent. But all this is only a part of the same 
house. ' ' 

Lack of Effort Involves Selfishness and Hinders Progress 

The Teacher said : ' ' Sirs, how is it that recently when 
you approach me you have so few questions to ask regard- 
ing the things about which you are in doubt? When a 
man fails to put forth effort, he invariably believes that he 
well knows how to devote himself to study, and that all 
that is necessary is to follow the order and act (i.e. study). 
He certainly does not know that selfish desire increases 
every day like the dust of the earth. If one neglects to 
sweep for a day, another layer is added. If one really 
works with determination one realizes that the doctrine is 
inexhaustible. The more one searches, the profounder it 
becomes, until its essence and purity are fully compre- 
hended." 

Some one made inquiry saying: "After knowledge has 
been completed one can say that the thoughts are sincere. 

2 2 Translated literally. May perhaps be freely translated ' ' min- 
utiae. ' ' 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 95 

At present neither moral law nor the passions of men are 
thoroughly understood. 23 Under such circumstances how 
is anyone in a position to begin to subdue himself?" 

The Teacher said : ' * If a person unceasingly applies him- 
self truly and earnestly, he will daily better comprehend 
the subtle essence of the moral principles of the mind, as 
well as the subtlety of selfish desires. If he does not use 
his efforts in controlling himself, he will continually talk 
and yet never comprehend the meaning of moral principles 
or of selfish desire. The situation may be likened to a man 
traveling. When (by walking) he has covered a stage, he 
understands that stage. When he reaches a fork in the 
road and is in doubt he makes inquiry, and having made 
inquiry he again proceeds. In this way he gradually 
reaches his destination. Men of today are unwilling to 
abide by the moral principles which they already know, and 
to expel the passions they have already recognized ; but are 
downcast because they are unable to understand completely. 
They merely indulge in idle discussions. Of what advan- 
tage is this ? They should wait until in the process of sub- 
duing and controlling themselves there are no more selfish 
motives to subdue, for then it would not be too late to sor- 
row because of their inability to understand fully." 

The Discussions of Truth Vary Because Truth is Inex- 
haustible 

He made inquiry saying : ' ' Though there is but this one 
doctrine, yet the doctrinal discussions of the ancients were 
frequently not alike. Are not some things more essential 
than others in seeking the path ? " 24 

The Teacher said: "Truth (the path) has no form; it 
cannot be grasped or felt, (31) To seek it in a bigoted and 
obstinate way in literary style or expression only, is far 

23 Moral law in its psychological aspects. May be translated ' ' na- 
tural law. ' ' 

2* May also be translated "seeking the truth." 



96 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

from correct. It may be compared to men discussing 
heaven. As a matter of fact, when have they ever seen 
heaven? They say that sun, moon, wind, and thunder are 
heaven. They cannot say that men, things, grass, and 
trees are not heaven, while the doctrine is heaven. When 
the individual once comprehends, what is there that is not 
truth? People for the most part think that their little 
corner of experience determines the limits of truth, and in 
consequence there is no uniformity in their discussions. If 
they realized that they need to seek within in order to un- 
derstand the nature of the mind, there would be neither 
time nor place that would not be pregnant with truth. 
Since from ancient times to the very present it is without 
beginning and without end, in what way would there be 
any likenesses or differences in truth? The mind is itself 
truth and truth is heaven. He who knows the mind there- 
by knows both truth and heaven." 

Again he said: "Sirs, if you would truly comprehend 
truth, you must recognize it from your own minds. It is 
of no avail to seek it in external things." 

The Development of the Original Nature of the Mind is of 
First Importance 

He made inquiry saying: "Is it necessary first to in- 
vestigate the mutual human relationships, the things of 
nature, measures, and numbers?" 

The Teacher said : " It is necessary to develop the original 
nature of the mind ; then its use will include the state of 
equilibrium. In case one nourishes the original nature of 
the mind and attains to the equilibrium in which there is 
no stirring of feelings, there surely is present the state of 
harmony which results when the feelings are stirred and 
act in due degree. Of course it must be exhibited. If 
mind is lacking, the mutual human relationships, the things 
of nature, as well as measures and numbers, would have no 
relation to the self, though one explain them first; but 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 97 

would simply imply pretension and superficiality. When 
at times the feelings are displayed, the individual naturally 
does not maintain the equilibrium. I do not wish to say 
that the mutual relationships, the things of nature, meas- 
ures, and numbers should be entirely left out of considera- 
tion. If the individual knows what is first and what is last, 
he will be near the truth." 

He spoke again saying: "Man must develop in accord- 
ance with his capacity. Capacity constitutes his ability to 
accomplish things. For instance, the music of K'uei and 
the agriculture of Chi were noteworthy because they were 
in harmony with their natural endowment. 24 He who would 
complete himself need only preserve the nature of his mind 
guileless in natural law. When the occasions on which he 
acts all take their origin from nature itself, he may be said 
to have ability. When a person reaches the state in which 
he is completely in accord with natural law, he is no longer 
a mere utensil. Had K'uei and Chi been ordered to ex- 
change professions and engage in them successfully, they 
would have been able to do so." (32) 

Again he said: "In a position of wealth and honor to 
do what is proper to a position of wealth and honor, in a 
position of sorrow and difficulty to do what is proper to a 
position of sorrow and difficulty, implies that one is not a 
mere machine. 25 This can be accomplished only by the 
man who cultivates an upright mind." 

The Teacher said : "To dig a pond several hundred m« 26 
in size, but without a spring, is not equal to digging a well 
a few feet deep with a spring in it that runs without ceas- 
ing. " The Teacher said this as he sat at the side of a 
pool near which there was a well. Subsequently he used 
this figure in elucidating learning. 

2* K 'uei was an officer who acted as director of music at the 
request of Emperor Shun. Chi was Emperor Shun's minister of agri- 
culture. 

25 The Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 14, H 2. 

26 The "mu" is about one-sixth of an acre. 



98 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Mind Should Ride the Senses 

He made inquiry saying, "In what way may the mind 
devote itself to things?" 

The Teacher said: "When the people's prince is up- 
right, reverent, and majestic, and the six boards distinguish 
their respective official duties, the Empire is well governed. 
In the same way the mind should govern the five senses. 
In our day when the eye wishes to see, the mind applies 
itself to color, and when the ear wishes to hear, the mind 
devotes itself to sound. It is as though the people's prince 
were himself to take a seat on the Board of Civil Offices, 
when he wishes to choose an official, or on the Board of 
War, when he wishes to move the troops. In this way the 
original character of the prince would be sacrificed and in 
addition the six boards also would be unable to perform 
their official duties." 

The Manner of Thinking May Be Indicative of Selfishness 

I said: "Love of lust, love of gain, love of fame, and 
similar dispositions of mind surely are selfish desires; but 
why should it also be called selfish desire when at a time 
of leisure one thinks anxiously and confusedly?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' For the reason that, after all, such 
thinking emerges out of love of lust, love of gain, love of 
fame, and similar roots. If you search for the roots, you 
will see. For instance, if you know that your mind is free 
from anxious thought about robbing, what does this imply ? 
It means that you have had no such thoughts. If, as in the 
case of robbing, you also destroy the love of lust, fame, gain, 
and others, and the original character of the mind alone is 
left, what anxious thought will occupy your mind when 
you are at leisure? This implies being perfectly calm, and 
is the equilibrium of not manifesting the passions, and the 
open field without favoritism. Naturally it means to be 
influenced but at the same time to see clearly; to manifest 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 99 

the feelings but with moderation; and, of course, when af- 
fairs arise to respond properly. " (33) 

The Place of the Will in the Mental and Moral Life 

I made inquiry regarding (the saying) : "The will is 
first and chief, and the passion nature is subordinate to 
it." 27 

The Teacher said: "In whatsoever respect the will is 
great the passion nature may also be said to be great; and 
this does not imply that the will is chief and the passion 
nature is subordinate to it. Maintaining a firm will in- 
cludes nourishing the passion nature, and doing no violence 
to the passion nature also includes maintaining a firm will. 
Mencius, in order to rescue Kao-tzu from his partiality, 
spoke thus to support him." 

A Virtuous Man Does Not Exalt Himself 

I made inquiry saying : ' ' Former scholars said : ' The 
truths expressed by the sage show him forth as lowly and 
humble. The words of a virtuous man exhibit and exalt 
his personality. ' Do you consider that true ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' No. A statement such as that is 
false. The sage may be compared to heaven. There is no 
place where heaven is not present. Above the sun, moon 
and stars heaven is found, and below the nine divisions it is 
also found. How can heaven descend and make itself 
lowly? The implications here are greatness and the exer- 
cise of a transforming influence. The good man may be 
compared to a lofty mountain peak, maintaining his lofty 
height. Nevertheless, one a thousand feet high cannot 
stretch and become ten thousand feet high, and one ten 
thousand feet high cannot stretch and become a hundred 
thousand feet high. The good man does not exhibit and 
exalt himself. It is false to say, 'exhibits and exalts him- 
self.' " 



27 Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, 1f 9. 



100 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

How the State of Equilibrium is to be Acquired 

I made inquiry saying: "I-ch'uan said, 'One should 
not seek the state of equilibrium before pleasure, anger, 
sorrow, and joy have manifested themselves. ' 28 Yen P 'ing, 
on the other hand, taught the student to pay special atten- 
tion to his bearing before the feelings have manifested 
themselves. What do you hold of this ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Both are correct. I-ch'uan feared 
that the individual might seek the equilibrium before he 
had experienced the feelings, and thereby come to regard 
the equilibrium as a thing (rather than as an experience). 
This is in accord with my former statement that one ac- 
quires the equilibrium at the time of knowing how to bring 
the passion-nature to a proper state of control. It is for 
this reason that I enjoin upon you to expend your efforts 
in patient cultivation and close watching. Yen P'ing 
feared that the individual might lack a starting-point, 
and for that reason urged that he always seek the bear- 
ing of one who has not manifested his feelings. He 
influenced his followers to see and hear this only. This is 
what is meant by the task of being cautious with reference 
to that which is not seen, and fearful of that which has not 
been heard. These are sayings which the ancients were 
constrained to use to encourage the people." 

I made inquiry saying: "An ordinary man surely is 
unable completely to attain the equilibrium and the har- 
monious development of pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy. 
For instance, he who in some small thing should be either 
pleased or angry ordinarily has no inclination to be either 
pleased or angry, but when the time comes the feelings may 
be manifested in due degree. (34) May not this be called a 
state of equilibrium and harmony ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "At that time in that particular 
affair it certainly may be called a state of equilibrium and 

2* I-ch'uan is the name by which the philosopher Ch 'eng was 
known — the brother of Ch 'eng Ming-tao. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 101 

harmony, but it cannot be described as the great root or 
the universal path. 29 The nature of all men is good. The 
state of equilibrium and harmony is originally possessed 
by all men. How, then, can they be said not to have it? 
However, the mind of the usual man has things that be- 
cloud, and therefore, though nature is manifested at times, 
the condition is such that it is sometimes manifested and 
sometimes extinguished. It does not represent the func- 
tioning of the entire being. When a condition has been 
reached in which there is a continuous state of equilibrium, 
it is designated as the great root (great fundamental vir- 
tue). When a condition of continuous harmony has been 
acquired, it is designated as the universal way. Only when 
a condition of the most complete sincerity under heaven is 
reached, is it possible for the individual to establish him- 
self in this great fundamental virtue of humanity." 

I further said: "I do not yet clearly understand the 
meaning of the equilibrium. ' ' 

He said : ' ' You must recognize this from the nature of 
the mind itself, for it cannot be revealed by means of 
words. The equilibrium is to be identified with heaven- 
given principles." 

I said, ''Why is it the same as heaven-given principles?" 

The Teacher said, ' ' When passions have been cast out one 
understands heaven-given principles. ' ' 

I said, "Why should heaven-given principles be des- 
ignated as a state of equilibrium ? ' ' 

He said, "Because they are not prejudiced or selfish." 

I said, "What kind of an attitude and bearing does this 
lack of selfishness give ? ' ' 

He said. "It may be compared to a bright mirror, all of 
which is perfectly clear and not spotted with a particle of 
dust." 

I said: "Selfishness then implies being infected. If 
one is infected with love of lust, love of gain, love of fame, 

29 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. I, H 4. 



102 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and similar things, the selfishness is apparent. When they 
have not manifested themselves, when the lust, -fame, and 
gain have not been experienced, how can one know that he 
is selfish?" 

The Teacher said: " Though they may not have been 
experienced, yet ordinarily the individual has not been free 
from love of lust, gain, and fame. Since he has not been 
free from them, he may be said to have them ; and since 
he may be said to have them, he cannot be free from lean- 
ing on them. It may be compared to a man who is sick 
with intermittent fever. Though at times the fever is not 
manifest, nevertheless as long as the root of the disease has 
not been extirpated he cannot be said to be free from the 
disease. It is necessary to sweep out and wash out the 
every-day love of lust, fame, and similar things — a lot of 
passions — so that not the least bit will be retained. Then 
the mind will be completely filled with unmixed heaven- 
given principles. (35) Thereupon it may be said to be in 
the state of equilibrium in which there are no stirrings of 
pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy ; and this is the great fun- 
damental virtue of humanity." 

Wang Eulogizes Yen-tzu 

I made inquiry saying: " 'Yen-tzu died and the learn- 
ing of the sage perished. ' This saying cannot be called in 
question." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Yen alone saw the perfection of the 
sage's doctrine. If you observe the sigh (of Yen in ad- 
miration of the sage's doctrine), you can see that only after 
having thoroughly realized it could he say, 'The Master, 
by orderly methods, skillfully leads men on. He enlarged 
my mind with learning and taught me the restraints of 
propriety. ' 30 In what way is the enlarging of the mind 
with learning and the bringing of the individual under the 
restraint of propriety to be construed as skillfully leading 

30 Analects, Book IX, Ch. 10, If 2. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 103 

men on? The scholar should ponder on these things. It 
was difficult for the sage to explain the doctrine in every 
detail. The scholar must cultivate himself and bethink 
himself. Though Yen-tzu wished to carry out the doctrine 
of the sage, he found no way to do so. 31 Wen Wang (King 
Wen) turned his attention to the doctrine as though he had 
not understood it. That he did this really shows that he 
understood it. When Yen-tzu died, the idea running 
through the sage's doctrine could not be entirely trans- 
mitted to succeeding generations. ' ' 

I made inquiry saying, "The mind is the master of the 
body ; knowledge is the intelligence of the mind ; purpose 
is the manifestation of knowledge ; the place where the 
purpose is applied is called a thing. Is this correct?" 

The Teacher said, "It is." 

Wang's Idea of True Learning 

The Teacher said : " It is only necessary to cherish the 
mind and see that it is continually present, for this is learn- 
ing. What advantage is there in considering either that 
which is past or that which has not taken place? Such 
procedure implies needlessly losing one's mind." 

The Unperturbed Mind of Mencius and Kao 

Shang-ch'ien made inquiry as to whether there was a 
difference between the "unperturbed mind" of Mencius 
and that of Kao-tzu. 

The Teacher said : ' ' Kao-tzu forcefully controlled his 
mind because he wished it to be unperturbed. Mencius, on 
the other hand, gathered together righteousness until it 
naturally was unperturbed." 

He spoke again saying, "It is natural for the mind to be 
unperturbed. Disposition should be construed as being the 
real nature of the mind, and as the embodiment of heaven- 
given principles. The disposition is originally unper- 

31 Ibid., Book IX, Ch. 10, ^ 3. 



104 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

turbed ; heaven-given principles are by nature unperturbed 
(not subject to alteration or open to influence). The 
gathering of righteousness means returning to the original 
nature of the mind. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "When all nature is exuberant in 
growth, it is also peaceful, calm, and free from any thought 
for itself (i.e. without selfishness). This peace, calm, and 
lack of selfishness is the token of exuberant growth. Peace, 
calm, and lack of selfishness are the monitors of undivided- 
ness. (36) Exuberant growth is the matrix of discrimina- 
tion. Undividedness includes discrimination and discrim- 
ination includes undividedness." 

Wang Rebukes the Superficial Scholar 

The Teacher said: "Very many of those whom I de- 
scribe as students of philosophy merely allow it to circulate 
in their ears and mouth. "Would that those mouth and ear 
students might reverse their procedure! If by continual 
use of effort the minutiae of moral principles and of the 
passions of men are investigated and controlled, they may 
gradually be understood. Today at the very time they are 
discussing these principles, they do not realize that they 
already are subject to many selfish desires, which they are 
secretly and unwittingly manifesting. Though one make 
an effort to investigate them, it is difficult to understand 
them. Can it be that those who vainly speak about them 
are able to understand them completely? They pay atten- 
tion only to the exposition of moral principles, and then lay 
them aside and do not act in accordance with them. They 
expound the meaning of passion, and then resting do not 
expel it from their minds. How can this be considered a 
type of learning which emphasizes the investigation of 
things for the purpose of extending knowledge? The lit- 
erary accomplishment of later generations will at its best 
produce no more than superficial results." 32 

32 Mencius, Book IT, Pt. I, Ch. 2, *f 5. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 105 

Shang-ch'ien made inquiry saying: "Should one ex- 
pend effort in the investigation of things at the point where 
the mind is stimulated?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The difficulty of the task interrupts 
neither activity nor tranquility. Rest itself should be con- 
sidered a thing. Mencius said, 'One must be occupied.' 
Whether at work or at rest, the mind is occupied. ' ' 

Investigations Should Proceed for the Purpose of Develop- 
ing the Intuitive Faculty 

(The Teacher said) : "The difficulty of the task rests 
wholly in investigating things for the purpose of develop- 
ing the intuitive faculty to the utmost. It is really the 
task of making the purpose sincere. Since the purpose is 
sincere, the mind will in the main naturally be right, and 
the person regulated (controlled). Both rectifying the 
mind and regulating the body require specific effort. The 
regulating of the body has already manifested itself ex- 
ternally ; the rectifying of the mind has not manifested it- 
self externally. "When the mind has been rectified, the state 
of equilibrium will have been attained; and when the per- 
son has been cultivated, the harmony of a proper use of the 
feelings will have been attained. 

1 ' From the investigation of things for the purpose of de- 
veloping the intuitive faculty to the utmost, to the prin- 
ciples which underlie all things up to the point of making 
the world peaceful and happy, is all merely a matter of 
manifesting one's illustrious virtue. 83 Though loving the 
people is also illustrious virtue, the illustrious virtue here 

33 < < Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. Their 
knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sincere. Their 
thoughts being sincere, their hearts were then rectified. Their hearts 
being rectified, their persons were cultivated. Their persons being 
cultivated, their families were regulated. Their families being regu- 
lated, their States were rightly governed. Their States being rightly 
governed, the whole kingdom was made tranquil and happy. ' ' — The 
Great Learning, Introduction, f 5. 



106 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

referred to is the original virtue of the mind — benevolence. 
(37) He who is benevolent considers heaven, earth and all 
things as an all-pervading unity. If one thing loses its 
relative place, benevolence has not been wholly achieved. 
To say that one manifests his original illustrious virtue, and 
yet not to say that he loves the people, is to be like the 
Taoists and Buddhists." 

Nature is the Highest Good 

The Teacher said : ' ' Nature is the highest good. Nature 
is in its original condition devoid of all evil, and for this 
reason is called the highest good. To rest in the highest 
good implies returning to one 's natural condition. ' ' 

He (Shang-ch'ien) made inquiry saying, "Knowledge 
of the highest good is characteristic of my nature, and my 
nature is to be identified with my mind. My mind, how- 
ever, is the place in which the highest good rests. In that 
case I should not, as of old, seek for the highest good con- 
fusedly in external things, but should fix my determination. 
When the determination has been fixed, it will not give 
trouble. Confusion will give place to quietude; quietude 
and absence of disorderly activity will usher in peace. 
When there is peace, both mind and will are interested in 
this alone. If in all planning and thinking I earnestly 
seek, I will surely get this highest good ; but it can be ac- 
quired only after one is able to take serious thought for it. 
Is this manner of expounding the situation correct or not?" 

The Teacher replied, "In general, it is." 

Benevolence is the Principle of Continuous Creation and 

Growth 

Shang-ch'ien made inquiry saying: "The philosopher 
Ch'eng said. 'The benevolent person considers heaven, earth, 
and all nature as an all-pervading unity.' How, then, 
does it come that the philosopher Mo, who loved all things, 
said nothing about benevolence?" 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 107 

The Teacher said : ' ' It is very hard to give an adequate 
reason for this. You yourselves, Sirs, will need by means 
of introspection to investigate this thoroughly up to the 
point where you understand it, for then first will you get 
satisfaction. Benevolence is the fundamental principle of 
continuous creating and growth. Though these are bound- 
less in extent and everywhere present, their progress and 
manifestation proceed gradually. For instance, at the win- 
ter solstice one Yang is brought forth, and from this one 
Yang later six other Yangs are gradually developed. 3,4 
Were it not for the development of this one Yang, how 
could the six Yangs be generated? And the same holds 
true of the Yin. Because it is gradual in its operation, 
there is a beginning; and because there is a beginning, 
there is a bringing forth. Because it continues to bring 
forth, there is no ceasing. The tree begins by developing a 
bud. This is the point at which the tree 's purpose to grow 
starts. After the bud has developed the trunk appears, 
and then the branches and leaves; and from that time it 
grows continually. (38) If it has no bud, how can it have 
trunk, branches, and leaves? Its ability to develop a bud 
surely depends upon the root underneath ; for if there is a 
root there can be growth, and without the root it must die. 
From what shall the buds develop if there is no root? The 
love of father and son, elder brother and younger brother, 
is the point at which the purpose of man's mind to de- 
velop begins. Just as in the tree the buds shoot forth, 
thus from this love toward the people and love of things 
trunk, branches, and leaves develop. The man named Mo 
loved all things without difference of degree. He looked 
upon his own father, his own son, his own elder brother, 
and his own younger brother even as he did upon the 
stranger ; and for that reason he lacked a point from which 
he might start to develop. Where there is no ability to 
grow a bud, there are no roots, and consequently no con- 

34 Yang and Yin are the two primeval forces. 



108 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tinuous development. How can such a condition be called 
benevolence? Filial piety and respectfulness toward the 
elder brother are the beginning of benevolence; benevo- 
lence, however, must be manifested from within." 

Action According to Moral Principles is Unselfish 

Shang-ch'ien made inquiry saying: "Yen P'ing said, 
' He who acts in accordance with moral principles does not 
have a selfish mind. ' In what way should I distinguish be- 
tween moral principles and unselfishness ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "The mind is to be identified with 
moral principles. When one's mind is freed from selfish- 
ness, acting in accordance with moral principles is a neces- 
sary accompaniment. If one does not act in accordance 
with moral principles, his mind is selfish. Perhaps it would 
be better not to distinguish between mind and moral prin- 
ciples in expounding this." 

He made further inquiry saying: "The Buddhists are 
not infected by any of the selfishness of lust, and thus ap- 
pear to have a mind free from selfishness. On the other 
hand, they outwardly disregard human relationships, and 
thus do not appear to be acting in accordance with moral 
principles. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "This belongs to the same class of 
things. They all carry out the mind of a selfish person- 
ality." 



INSTRUCTIONS FOE PRACTICAL LIFE 
Paet III x 

The Why and What of Learning are Important 

I made inquiry saying: "To devote one's self to cherish- 
ing heaven-given principles and yet not energetically to 
seek them is apt to eventuate in identifying passion with 
heaven-given principles. How is this to be interpreted?" 

The Teacher said: "The individual must know how to 
learn. (39) Seeking includes the idea of cherishing. Lack of 
seeking implies that one does not cherish one's purpose 
with determination." 

I said, ""What do you mean by saying that one must 
know how to learn ? ' ' 

He said : "I meant to say that one should know why 
he is learning and what is to be learned. ' ' 

I said, "I have frequently heard the Teacher giving in- 
struction in learning how to cherish heaven-given prin- 
ciples. You said that the original nature of the mind is to 
be identified with heaven-given principles, and that knowl- 
edge of them means clearing selfish motives from one's 
mind." 

The Teacher said : "In that case it is only necessary to 
prevail over selfish motives and to be solicitous lest some 
heaven-given principle or passion be not understood." 

I said: "I am afraid that I do not truly understand 
selfish motives." 

He said : ' ' That would imply that you lack a will which 
is in full earnest. When the will is wholly sincere, the 
eyes will see it and the ears will attend to it. How can 

1 Recorded by Hsieh K 'an. 



110 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

there be the possibility of not truly understanding? The 
ability to distinguish between right and wrong is common 
to all men, so that it avails nothing to seek them in external 
things. Investigation implies appreciation of that which 
one's own mind experiences. It will not do to go outside of 
the mind for this, as though there were additional possibil- 
ity of understanding." 

Growth in Virtue Should Not Be Forced Nor Should It Be 
Sought in External Things 

The Teacher asked his friends who were seated with him 
how they were getting on in recent years with their task of 
learning. One of them spoke of the meaning of being emp- 
tied of selfishness and of understanding natural law. The 
Teacher said: "This refers to the circumstances in which 
one is." Another one spoke of the differences and sim- 
ilarities of the present and the past. The Teacher said: 
"This refers to result." Two friends, not knowing ex- 
actly what to do, asked questions. The teacher said : "In 
our efforts at this time we need a mind earnest in doing 
good. When the mind which is truly in earnest sees virtue, 
it will advance toward it ; and when it has erred, it will re- 
form. When that condition has been attained, we have 
what is called devotion, in all earnest, to the task. Then 
passion will daily decrease and natural law will be increas- 
ingly comprehended. He who merely seeks better circum- 
stances, or speaks of results, fosters the development of the 
defect of forcing the growth and of going to external 
things. It should not be identified with pursuing the 
task." 

The Student Should Not Criticise Hwi-an 

When his friends studied, there were many who selected 
Hui-an for criticism. 2 The Teacher said: "If vou seek 



2 Chu Hui-an (Chu Hsi), commonly known as the philosopher 
Chu, was the well-known commentator of the Sung Dynasty. He 
lived 1130-1200 A.D. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 111 

differences (between the philosopher Chu's exposition and 
mine), you are pursuing the wrong course. My exposition 
is at times different from what he has said. There are 
both small and great differences in the place and manner 
of beginning to study, so that I must of necessity distin- 
guish between them. But, in all, there is no difference be- 
tween my purpose and that of Hui-an. (40) If the rest of 
his ideas can be explained with a proper degree of clear- 
ness, why should a single character be changed?" 

Wang Gives His Idea of What a Sage is 

Hsi Yen made inquiry saying : ' ' The sage has been able 
to learn until he has attained. Po I and I Ying, however, 
never had the capacity of Confucius. How is it that they 
also are termed sages ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "That the sage is a sage, is due 
solely to the fact that his mind is completely domi- 
nated by heaven-given principles, and not hampered by 
passion. As the gold is termed the finest when it has 
the quality and is free from brass and lead, so a man who 
has become fully dominated by heaven-given principles 
is a sage. When gold has the degree of quality required, 
it is the finest. The capacity of the sages varies just 
as the weight of gold may be light or heavy. Yao and 
Shun are as two hundred thousand ounces of gold; Wen 
Wang and Confucius as one hundred eighty thousand; 
Yii, T'ang, and Wu Wang as one hundred forty to sixty 
thousand ; Po I and I Ying as eighty to one hundred thou- 
sand ounces. Their capacity varied, but in the matter of 
being dominated by a mind of pure heaven-given principles 
they were all alike. They may all be called sages. Though 
the weight varies, the quality is the same. They may be 
designated as the finest gold. That he who corresponds to 
one hundred thousand ounces may enter the class of two 
hundred thousand, is due to the fact that the quality is the 
same. To place I and Ying in the series of Yao and Con- 



112 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

fucius implies that all are completely dominated by heaven- 
given principles. It is because of quality and not quantity 
that they are compared to the finest gold. They are called 
sages not because of their capacity, but because of the fact 
that they are completely under the control of heaven-given 
principles. 

"Albeit, whosoever is willing to devote himself to study 
may become a sage, provided he devotes his mind to heaven- 
given principles. It is as if an ounce of gold be compared 
with two hundred thousand ounces. Though there is great 
difference in weight, yet if the ounce has the quality it is 
without fault. I venture to say that every man can be as 
Yao or Shun ; for in learning to be a sage, the student need 
only expel passion and cherish natural law. It may be com- 
pared to refining gold and striving for proper quality. If 
one does not strive much for the quality, the work of refin- 
ing will be comparatively light and easy ; but if the quality 
is too low, the work of refining will be made over-difficult. 
(41) The dispositions of men are bright and stupid, docile 
and contradictory. There are those who rank above the or- 
dinary man, and those who fall below. As regards the 
truth, some are born with the knowledge of it ; some prac- 
tice it with natural ease ; some know it by study, and prac- 
tice it from a desire for advantage. The remaining ones 
surely belong among those who, if others succeed by one 
effort, must use a hundred efforts, and if others succeed 
by ten efforts, must use a thousand. 3 Nevertheless, when it 
comes to the matter of completing the task, the outcome is 
the same. 

"Later generations did not know that the point of de- 
parture in becoming a sage is in being completely dom- 
inated by heaven-given principles, but devoted themselves 
to seeking to become sages by means of knowledge and 
power ; for they thought that sages are all-knowing and all- 
powerful. Each said to himself : ' I must comprehend the 

3 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, U 20. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 113 

exceedingly great knowledge and power of the sages, before 
I can rest. ' For this reason they did not devote themselves 
energetically to moral principles, but vainly dulled their 
mental energies and exhausted their strength that they 
might worm it out of books, or search it out of nature, or 
surmise it from various signs left by the sages. With 
greater increase in knowledge there came greater increase 
in passion; and the greater the power they attained, the 
more they obscured moral principles. It may well be com- 
pared to a man who has two hundred thousand ounces of 
the finest gold and fails to use his energies in refining 
the quality. He seeks freedom from reproach in the mat- 
ter of fineness, but absurdly places his hope in the weight, 
They use their energies as this man his hundred thousand 
ounces of gold. The more the weight increases, the lower 
is the quality, until at last there is no gold left." 

At that time Yiieh-jen (Ts'ii Ai) was near by and said: 
' ' This comparison is sufficient to dispel the divergent doubts 
of present-day scholars regarding the Teacher. It repre- 
sents a great achievement for later generations." 

The Teacher spoke again: "We work for the sake of 
daily decreasing passion, and not for the purpose of in- 
creasing it. If we are able to decrease passion a little bit, 
we have thereby made another small advance in heaven- 
given principles. How comfortable and satisfying, how 
simple this work is!" 

Wang Discusses Wen-kung's Strength and Weakness 

Ssu Te made inquiry saying: "The sayings regarding 
the investigation of things as taught by the Teacher are 
easily understood, so that everybody is able to comprehend 
them. How is it that Wen-kung, who was a paragon of 
wisdom, was unable to investigate the principles of phi- 
losophy?" 

The Teacher said: "Wen-kung's mental energy and 
vigor were great, so that he early adjusted himself to the 



114 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

principles of philosophy. (42) He desired to continue the 
things of the past and initiate things for the future, and 
for that reason devoted himself temporarily to investigation 
and "writing. If he had at the beginning earnestly reno- 
vated himself, he would not have had time for this, and 
after he had reached the state of abundant virtue he cer- 
tainly would have been grieved because of inability to com- 
prehend the doctrine. He would then have done as Con- 
fucius, who returned to his home and revised the Six 
Classics by correcting and expunging the text where there 
was too much, thereby making it terse and disclosing the 
meaning for later scholars. What is more, he spent no 
great amount of time in carrying on investigation. Wen- 
kung, on the contrary, wrote many books in his early 
years, and later repented because he had written them the 
reverse from what they should have been." 

Ssu Te said: "The repentance of later years would 
seem to indicate that he had discovered the mistakes in his 
writings. It would further indicate that though he studied 
the books, he had reaped no practical advantage. Or it 
would show that his study had no relation to preserving 
the contents of the books and bigoted discussions. When 
he reached the point where he deplored the mistakes of his 
former work, he earnestly proceeded to renovate himself." 

The Teacher said, "Yes. This is the condition he was 
unable to attain in earlier years. However, his strength 
was great, for when he once repented he faced about. Un- 
fortunately, he died soon after that. Many of his ordinary 
mistakes he never really rectified." 

The Nature of Good and Evil 

I (K'an) was pulling the weeds out from among the 
flowers, and for that reason said, "How difficult it is to 
cultivate the good in heaven and on earth, and how hard it 
is to get rid of the evil ! ' ' 

The Teacher said, "You should neither cultivate the good 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 115 

nor expel the evil. ' ' A little later lie said, ' ' This view of 
good and evil has its source in the body (is personal), and 
thus is probably mistaken. ' ' 

I was not able to comprehend. The Teacher said : ' ' The 
purpose of heaven and earth in bringing forth is even as in 
the instance of flowers and grass. In what way does it dis- 
tinguish between good and evil? If you, my disciple, take 
delight in seeing the flowers, then you will consider flowers 
good and grass bad. If you desire to use the grass you 
will, in turn, consider the grass good. This type of good 
and evil has its source in the likes and dislikes of your 
mind. Therefore I know that you are mistaken." 

I said, "In that case there is neither good nor evil, is 
there?" The Teacher said: "The tranquility resulting 
from the dominance of natural law is a state in which no 
discrimination is made between good and evil; while the 
stirring of the passion nature is a state in which both good 
and evil are present. If there are no stirrings of the pas- 
sion nature, there is neither good nor evil, and this is what 
is called the highest good." 

I said, "Buddhism also fails to discriminate between 
good and evil. In what way is it different from what you 
say?" 

He said : ' ' Buddhism gives attention to the lack of good 
and evil and then pays no attention to anything else, and 
for that reason cannot enter actively into matters of gov- 
ernment. (43) The lack of good and evil in the case of the 
sage implies that he does neither that which he desires nor 
that which he does not desire. Having no stirring of the pas- 
sion nature, he naturally carries out the doctrine of the 
kings (Yao and Shun). Having become most highly skilled 
in this, it transpires that in his compliance with natural 
law there is adaptation for the purpose of rendering mutual 
assistance." 

I said, "Since the grass is not bad, it should not be pulled 
out." 



116 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

He said, ' ' That accords with the view held by the Budd- 
hists and Taoists. If the grass impedes progress, what hin- 
ders you from plucking it out?" 

I said, "In that case you again have action in accord- 
ance with likes and dislikes. ' ' 

He said. "It is not action in accordance with likes and 
dislikes; but this does not mean that there is a complete 
lack of likes and dislikes, for a man without these would 
be devoid of consciousness. Saying that one does not act 
in accordance with likes and dislikes means simply that in 
both likes and dislikes one follows the lead of natural law 
and does not act while one is harboring a single selfish 
purpose. Thus one is as though he had neither likes nor 
dislikes. ' ' 

I said, "How can weeding be construed as obedience to 
natural law and as showing a lack of private motives ? ' ' 

He said, "If the grass hinders progress, natural law 
demands that it be uprooted. It should be uprooted, and 
that is all. Should one be unable to pull it out imme- 
diately, the mind should not be embarrassed. If one har- 
bors the least selfish purpose, the very structure of the 
mind will be involved and there will be much stirring of 
the passion nature." 

I said, ' ' In that case good and evil are not at all present 
in things." 

He said, 'They are only in j r our mind. Obedience to 
natural law is to be identified with good ; and the stirring 
of the passion nature is evil." 

I said, "After all, then, things are devoid of both good 
and evil." 

He said, ' ' As the mind is, so also are the things ; but the 
ordinary scholar of today fails to realize this. He neg- 
lects the mind, strives for things, and in so doing makes a 
mistake in his view of the investigation of things. To the 
end they all eagerly search for the principle of things in 
external matters. They are able to obtain it by incidental 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 117 

deeds of righteousness only. During their entire lives they 
act but without really manifesting it, and learn without 
investigating it." 

I said, ' ' How does this apply in the case of loving beauty 
and despising evil odors?" 

He said, "These are all in accordance with natural law. 
Natural law is in harmony with this, for originally there 
were no selfish motives manifested in carrying out likes or 
dislikes. ' ' 

I said, "How can love of beauty and dislike of evil odors 
be other than selfish purposes?" 

He said, "On the contrary, they are sincere, not selfish, 
purposes; and sincere purposes are in accordance with nat- 
ural law. Though they are in accordance with natural law, 
they must not contain the least trace of selfish purposes. 
If a person is under the influence of anger or of joy, he will 
not attain their true use (will not be correct in conduct). 
He must be open-minded and without favoritism, for then 
he is manifesting the original nature of the mind. (44) 
Know this and you know the state of equilibrium." 

Po Sheng said, "The teacher has said that if the grass 
impedes progress, natural law demands that it be uprooted. 
Why, then, does he say that it is a thought emanating from 
the body (a purely personal affair) ?" 

He said, "You must learn, from introspection, what man- 
ner of mind you harbor at the time you wish to pull the 
weeds. Chou Mei-shu did not pull up the grass in front 
of his own window. What was his state of mind ? ' ' 

The Aim of Study Should Be Definite 

The Teacher said to his disciples: "When one devotes 
himself to study he needs a clue, for then he will have a 
definite thing on which to work. If interruptions must 
come, he should be as a boat with a rudder. The mere 
mentioning should cause him to rouse up. Otherwise, 
though he devotes himself to study, he will merely be able 



118 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

to do incidental deeds of righteousness. He will act with- 
out manifesting natural law, and practice it without in- 
vestigating it. This is not the great root nor the universal 
path." Again he said: "When one comprehends it, it 
will be recognized no matter in what way it is mentioned. 
If one understands it in one aspect but fails in another, he 
has not really comprehended it. ' ' 

Some one made inquiry saying, ' ' Because of his parents, 
a student cannot avoid the embarrassment of writing the 
Chiijen 's composition. ' ' * 

The Teacher replied, "You say that for the sake of his 
parents the student becomes embarrassed in his study by 
the writing of the Chiijen 's composition. Would this, then, 
imply that he who cultivates the field for the sake of his 
parents is thereby embarrassed in his study?" 

Hsien Cheng said, "I fear lest the purpose be inter- 
rupted, but perhaps the purpose of the student is not really 
earnest. ' ' 

Passion Causes Distraction 

Ch'ung-i made inquiry saying, "What is your estimate 
of the following: One's purpose is ordinarily much dis- 
tracted by care; when one is occupied it certainly is dis- 
tracted by care ; and when one is at leisure it is also dis- 
tracted?" 

The Teacher said: "The motions of heaven and earth 
are by nature ceaseless. Moreover, there is a Lord of all, 
and for that reason they are neither early nor late, fast nor 
slow. Though there be a thousand changes and ten thou- 
sand transmutations, all are determined by the Lord of 
all. Man partakes of this motion and lives, if the Lord 
determines the time. Just as heaven in its ceaseless motion, 
he, too, will not rest. Though his pledges change ten thou- 
sand times, he is continually dignified and at ease. 5 (45) 

* This refers to the composition set for the examination leading to 
the second degree. 

5 His pledges as host and guest. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 119 

This is the condition described by the saying, ' The heavenly 
prince is exalted (majestic) ; all the members carry out his 
will. ' If there is no Lord, the passion nature will be hur- 
riedly released, and then how can there be anything but 
distraction ? ' ' 

Love of Fame is a Great Defect of Students 

The Teacher said: "The great defect of students is to 
be found in love of fame." 

I said: "A few years ago I said to myself that this 
defect had become negligible. Since I have recently made 
a thorough examination, I have learned that the contrary 
prevails. It is due to the fact that I am energetic in ex- 
ternal things for the sake of men. I need only hear praise 
to be delighted, and words of deprecation to be heavy at 
heart. These are manifestations of the defect." 

The Teacher said: "They surely are, for devotion to 
fame and devotion to truth are contrary to one another. 
When devotion to truth is increased a little, devotion to 
fame is decreased a little. In case one is completely de- 
voted to the truth, devotion to fame will be entirely absent. 
When the mind is devoted to truth — just as when one is 
hungry one seeks food, or when one is thirsty one seeks for 
a drink — how can one have time to love fame? 'The su- 
perior man dislikes the thought of his name not being men- 
tioned after his death.' 6 The character ch'en (meaning 
"to mention") should be read in the fourth tone. 7 When 
he hears his reputation mentioned beyond the bounds of 
fact the superior man is ashamed; and if his name is not 
mentioned he may, if alive, still make amends, and if he is 
dead there is no help. Should a man at forty or fifty not 
have heard his name mentioned, it is because he has not 
heard the truth, and not because he has no reputation which 

e Analects, Book XV, Ch. 19. 

7 The tone, of which there are four in parts of China, to some 
extent determines the meaning of the character. 



120 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

may be heard. Confucius said, 'This is notoriety and not 
distinction. ' 8 How can anyone be willing to place in others 
his hope for this?" 

Repentance is a Remedy for Disease 

I was often repentant. The Teacher said : ' ' Repentance 
is a remedy for disease. However, it is well that it should 
cure the defect. In case repentance persists, you have a 
condition in which disease arises because of the remedy." 

The Sage May Be Compared to the Finest Gold 

Te Chang said : "I have heard the Teacher compare the 
sage to the finest gold, the sage's rank to the weight of the 
finest gold, and the task of the scholar to the refining of the 
gold. I consider such a comparison very profound. It 
was only when you said that Yao and Shun stood for two 
hundred thousand ounces of gold and Confucius for only 
one hundred eighty thousand that I was in doubt as to the 
propriety of the remark." 

The Teacher said : ' ' This is a thought that is superficial 
and personal. Because of that you contend about the 
weight of the sage (Confucius). Were it not private and 
superficial, you would not consider two hundred thousand 
ounces too much for Yao and Shun, nor one hundred eighty 
thousand too little for Confucius. (46) The two hun- 
dred thousand of Yao and Shun belong to Confucius, and 
the one hundred eighty thousand of Confucius belong to 
Yao and Shun. There is ab initio no distinction between 
them. It is for this reason that they are designated sages. 
One speaks in this connection of the discrimination and 
undividedness, and not of the quantity. That they are 
called sages means only that there is agreement in the mat- 
ter of complete devotion to natural law. How can there 
be exact agreement in the matter of strength and faculties? 
Later scholars have instituted comparisons of weight only, 

s Analects, Book XII, Ch. 20, f 4. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 121 

and for that reason have drifted into discussions regarding 
merit and gain. If everyone could expel the idea of com- 
parison by weight, and in proportion to his strength and 
mental energy use his efforts in devoting his mind wholly 
to natural law, all might themselves reach the rank of sage 
— yes, completely reach it. Those with great capability 
could become great sages, and those with small ability small 
sages. That one does not avail one's self of desire for ex- 
ternal things and is thoroughly satisfied in himself, is a 
matter which requires a knowledge of the good and a sin- 
cere (guileless) personality. Later scholars did not under- 
stand the learning of the sage, nor know that in making 
use of the intuitive knowledge and innate ability of their 
own minds they could learn how to appreciate and fulfil 
them. On the contrary, they sought to know that which 
they could not know, and to do that which they could not 
do. They hoped only for exalted position, and desired 
greatness. They did not know that they had the evil mind 
of Che and Chou, and attempted to act as Yao and Shun. 
How could they succeed ? They were unwearied year after 
year, until they died in old age; and yet who knows that 
they accomplished anything? How lamentable this is!" 

The Mind is Both Tranquil and Active 

I made inquiry saying: "Former scholars considered 
the tranquility of the mind as its natural condition, and its 
activity as its functioning. What do you think of this?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The tranquility and activity of the 
mind should not be considered as the natural condition of 
the mind and as its functioning. Whether active or at rest, 
if one speaks of the natural condition of the mind, its func- 
tioning is included ; and if one speaks of its functioning, 
the natural condition is included therein. The import of 
this is that structure and natural condition have a common 
source. It creates no special difficulty to say that the natu- 



122 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ral condition of the mind is seen when it is at rest, and its 
use when it is in action." 

I made inquiry saying, "Why is it impossible to change 
the wise of the highest class and the stupid of the lowest ? ' ' 9 

The Teacher said, " It is not that they cannot be changed, 
but that they are unwilling to change." (47) 

I made inquiry saying, "The disciples of Tzu-hsia made 
inquiry regarding the chapter which discusses the prin- 
ciples of mutual intercourse. ' ' 10 

The Teacher said, "Tzu-hsia discussed the principles of 
mutual intercourse as pertaining to children, while Tzu- 
chang referred to adults. If you apply the ideas of both 
carefully, you will find that each is correct." 

The Truly Educated Man Expels Passion and Cherishes 
Natural Law 

Tzu Jen made inquiry saying: "The Master said, 'Is it 
not pleasant to learn with a constant perseverance and 
application ? ' X1 A former scholar held that education im- 
plied imitating the things those before us understood. 12 
How do you interpret this?" 

The Teacher said: "Education means learning to expel 
passion and harbor natural law. If one occupies himself 

9 Vide Analects, Book XVII, Ch. 3. 

io « < The disciples of Tsze-hsia asked Tsze-chang about the prin- 
ciples that should characterize mutual intercourse. Tsze-chang asked, 
'What does Tsze-hsia say on the subject ?' They replied, 'Tsze-hsia 
says: — "Associate with those who can advantage you. Put away 
from you those who cannot do so." ' Tsze-chang observed, 'This iB 
different from what I have learned. The superior man honors the 
talented and virtuous, and bears with all. He praises the good, and 
pities the incompetent. Am I possessed of great talents and virtue? 
— who is there among men whom I will not bear with? Am I de- 
void of talents and virtue? — men will put me away from them. 
What have we to do with the putting away of others V " — Confu- 
cian Analects, Book XIX, Ch. 3. 

ii Ibid., Book I, Ch. 1, f 1. 

12 Befers to the philosopher Chu. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 123 

with expelling passion and cherishing natural law, he will 
rectify all that which those before him understood, and 
will test all admonitions of the ancients. He will in all his 
efforts of inquiry and criticism, deep meditation and com- 
prehension, preservation and examination, subduing and 
governing himself, not go beyond a desire to get rid of 
passion and cherish natural law. If it should be said that 
imitation of the actions of those who have gone before 
refers only to the matter of learning the state of equili- 
brium, this, too, would appear to be seeking for culture in 
external things. He who learns with constant application 
how to sit as the image of an ancestor, applies himself not 
only to practicing how to sit, but at the same time to cul- 
tivating the correct attitude of mind ; or he who stands as 
though he Were respectful, applies himself not merely to 
standing, but while standing to practicing this attitude of 
mind. 13 Pleasure here implies the pleasure arising out of 
righteous principles — the pleasure of the mind. The hu- 
man mind naturally finds pleasure in the principles of 
righteousness, just as the eyes take pleasure in color and the 
ears in sound. He alone who is obscured and embarrassed 
by passion does not at first take pleasure in these principles. 
If the individual daily expels passion, he will daily be more 
imbued with the principles of righteousness. How can 
he then do otherwise than take pleasure in them?" 

The Philosopher Tseng's Study of Himself Did Not Proceed 
Far Enough 

Kuo Ying made inquiry saying: "Although the phil- 
osopher Tseng was earnest in daily examining himself in 
three respects, he had at that time perhaps not heard of 
the task of connecting them all into an all-pervading 
unity." 14 

is In ancient times at the time of sacrifice to deceased parents, the 
youngest son sat at the table dressed in the clothes of the deceased. 
Hence the expression, ' ' to sit as the corpse. ' ' 

14 "The philosopher Tseng said, 'I daily examine myself on three 



124 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Teacher said : ' ' Connecting them all into an all-per- 
vading unity implies that the Master saw that the phil- 
osopher Tseng had not mastered the essentials of applica- 
tion. Therefore he told him. If the scholar really is able 
to be loyal and humane, does not this imply unification? 
It may be compared to the roots of a tree, which are con- 
nected with its branches and leaves. If the roots have not 
been cultivated, how can there be branches and leaves? 
The structure of the tree and its function have a common 
source. If the structure has not been established, from 
whence shall its function proceed ? This means that the 
philosopher Tseng in the matter of his own service had al- 
ready made most careful investigation and had used effort 
in rendering it, but did not understand the character of his 
native disposition. Perhaps he had not fully realized 
this." (48) 

Interesting Facts Regarding Some of the Disciples of 
Confucius 

Huang Ch'eng-fu made inquiry regarding the chapter 
which begins: "Which do you consider superior, yourself 
or Hui?" 15 The Teacher said: "Tzu-kung learned much 
and remembered. He applied himself to carrying out that 
which he heard and saw. Yen-tzu applied himself to the 
mind. Therefore the sage (Confucius) made inquiry in 
order to inform him. The reply of Tzu-kung referred 
only to knowledge and observation. For this reason the 
sage sighed and did not agree (that he was equal to Hui)." 

points : — whether, in transacting business for others, I may have 
been not faithful ; — whether, in intercourse with friends, I may 
have been not sincere ; — whether I may have not mastered and prac- 
ticed the instructions of my teacher. ' " — Analects, Book I, Ch. 4. 
is « ' The Master said to Tsze-kung, ' Which do you consider su- 
perior, yourself or Hui?' Tsze-kung replied, 'How dare I compare 
myself with Hui? Hui hears one point and knows all about a sub- 
ject; I hear one point and know a second.' The Master said, 'You 
are not equal to him. I grant you, you are not equal to him. ' " — 
Analects, Book V, Ch. 8. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 125 

(The Teacher said) : "Yen-tzu did not transfer his 
anger nor repeat his faults. This implies that he had the 
initial capacity of the equilibrium in which there is no 
stirring of passion." 

Growth in Virtue Depends Upon Developing the Mind 

(The Teacher said) : "As he who grows a tree should not 
neglect to cultivate the roots, so he who desires to grow in 
virtue should develop his mind. If the tree is to grow, the 
branches must be reduced when they first appear in great 
number. If virtue is to flourish, love of external things 
must be expelled when the student first begins to learn. 
If he dotes on poetry and style, his mental energy will 
gradually be expended on poetry and style. The same 
holds true of all love of external things. ' ' He spoke again 
saying, "That I discuss learning in this way carries with 
it the task of begetting the equilibrium in a mind that does 
not have it. This it will be necessary for you to believe, 
Sirs. You will need to fix your purpose — the purpose of 
the scholar to consider doing good. The seed of the tree 
should neither be helped nor forgotten, but banked up. 
Then it will naturally grow larger, and its growth will 
daily be more complete and its leaves more luxuriant. 
When the tree first begins to grow, it shoots forth many 
branches which must be cut off, in order that the roots and 
trunk may grow large. Thus it is when one begins to learn. 
Therefore in fixing the determination it is important to 
devote one's self to that one thing." 

The Different Attitudes of Wang's Disciples 

Ying spoke about the disciples of the Teacher. "One," 
he said, ' ' applies himself to cherishing natural law ; another 
devotes himself to knowledge." 

The Teacher replied: "The one who devotes himself 
completely to cherishing natural law daily realizes his in- 
sufficiency, while he who devotes himself to knowledge daily 



126 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

holds himself to have a superabundance. He who daily 
deems himself insufficient daily has a superabundance, while 
he who deems himself to have a superabundance is daily 
suffering from insufficiency." (49) 

Cherishing a Reverent Mind and Investigating Principles 
Are One and the Same 

Liang Jih-fu made inquiry saying: "Cherishing a rev- 
erent mind and thoroughly investigating the principles of 
things are really two distinct things. How does it come 
that the Teacher identifies them?" 

The Teacher replied : "In heaven and on earth there is 
but one thing. How can there be two? If you say that 
there are innumerable differences, three hundred rules of 
ceremony, and three thousand rules of demeanor, how can 
there be two only? You, Sir, tell me what cherishing a 
reverent mind and thoroughly investigating the principles 
of things mean." 

Liang said, "Cherishing a reverent mind implies devot- 
ing one's self to harboring and nourishing; thoroughly in- 
vestigating the principles means a thorough investigation of 
the principles of events and things." 

The Teacher said, "Harboring and nourishing what?" 

Liang said, ' ' Harboring and nourishing the heaven-given 
principles of the mind." 

The Teacher said, ' ' In that case it also implies a thorough 
investigation of the principles. Moreover, tell me what is 
meant by a thorough investigation of events and things." 

Liang said, "It would imply that in caring for one's 
parents one must thoroughly investigate the principles of 
filial piety, or in serving one's prince one must thoroughly 
investigate the principles of loyalty. ' ' 

The Teacher said, "Are the principles of loyalty ami filial 
piety to be investigated on the bodies of the prince and 
parents or in the mind of the individual himself? If they 
are to be investigated in the mind, that would imply a 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 127 

thorough investigation of the principles of the mind. More- 
over, tell me, what does 'cherishing a reverent mind' 
mean?" 

Liang said, ' ' It means complete devotion to one thing. ' ' 

The Teacher said, "What do you mean by complete de- 
votion to one thing ? ' ' 

Liang said, ' ' When one studies he should devote himself 
entirely to study; when one takes charge of any affair he 
should devote his entire mind to that one thing. ' ' 

The Teacher said : "In that case, one should give his 
entire mind to drinking When one drinks wine, or to lust 
when one gives one's self over to lust; but that is striving 
for things. How can anyone in that way carry out to com- 
pletion the cherishing of a reverent mind ? ' ' 

Jih-fu asked for further information. 

The Teacher said, "The 'one thing' must refer to heaven- 
given principles. To devote one's self to one thing implies 
giving the entire mind to heaven-given principles. When- 
ever intelligence is able to prevent its being obscured by 
passion, and satisfies and improves itself completely, it is 
perfectly true to its original nature and is in harmony with 
the virtue of heaven and earth. The sage alone is able to 
prevent the obscuration of his mind. Therefore the inves- 
tigation of things is necessary for the purpose of develop- 
ing the intuitive faculty. ' ' 

Wang Explains What is Meant by Rectifying the Mind 

Shou Heng made inquiry saying, "The principal task 
of the Great Learning is that of making the purpose sin- 
cere. Making the purpose sincere implies the investiga- 
tion of things (philosophy). When the person has been 
cultivated, the family regulated, the state governed and the 
kingdom made tranquil, sincerity of purpose is present in 
the highest degree. 16 In addition to this there is the task 
of rectifying the mind. If one is under the influence of 

i« Great Learning, Introduction, If 5. 



128 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

passion or of joy, his conduct is not correct. What have 
you to say regarding this?" 

The Teacher said: "This must be acquired by the in- 
dividual himself through careful deliberation. (50) If one 
knows this, he understands the equilibrium in which there 
is no stirring of feelings." 

Shou Heng asked him for information two or three times. 

The Teacher said, "There are grades in application to 
study. If, when one first studies, one does not zealously 
and truly use his will in expelling love of the good and 
hate of the evil, how will he be able to do the good and 
expel the evil? Zealous and true use of one's will is what 
is meant by a sincere purpose. Moreover, if one does not 
realize that the mind is in its original character devoid of 
all things, and continues to add private purpose to one's 
effort in expelling love of the good and hate of the evil, 
there is just that particle of selfish purpose too much, and 
consequently the mind does not present a fair and open 
field. "What the Shu-ching describes as a state in which 
the individual does not carry out his likes and dislikes is 
really the original nature of the mind. 17 Therefore, if one 
is under the influence of passion or of joy, he has not ac- 
quired a rectified mind. Rectifying the mind involves the 
task of making the purpose sincere. In this, one must 
properly appreciate the real nature of one's mind and 
maintain it with power and equity, for this is the equili- 
brium. ' ' 

Apprehensiveness and Watchfulness Both Imply Thought 

Cheng-chih made inquiry saying, "Apprehensiveness is 
present as the result of one 's ignorance ; watchfulness over 
one's self as the result of what one is alone aware of. What 
do you think of this?" 

The Teacher said: "The two are really one task. When 

17 The Shu-ching, or Book of History, is one of the Classics. 
References in the footnotes usually read Shooking. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 129 

one is unoccupied one alone knows, and when one is occu- 
pied one also alone knows. If the individual does not know 
how to use his energy at the point where he alone has 
knowledge, but confines his work to that of which every- 
body knows, this is to act hypocritically and to disguise 
himself when he sees a superior man. The point at which 
one alone knows is the point where sincerity puts forth 
shoots and where there is no hypocrisy either about good 
or evil thoughts, so that if one thing is correct a hundred 
will be eorreet, and if one is wrong a hundred will be wrong. 
This is the dividing-place (boundary) between right and 
might, justice and gain, sincerity and hypocrisy, good and 
evil. If at this point the determination is firmly fixed, 
the foundation will be correct and the source clear; and 
that means that sincerity has been established. The an- 
cients permitted the expending of much effort in making 
the person sincere, so that mental power and vital energy 
were applied with full force at this point. Surely this has 
the implication that this task belongs to that which is in- 
visible and not subject to the categories of time and place. 
If you distinguish between this and being apprehensive 
with reference to that of which one has no knowledge, the 
task will not be clearly defined and there will be interrup- 
tion. (51) Since one is apprehensive one really knows. If the 
person himself does not realize it, who is it that is appre- 
hensive ? Interpreted in this way, it means that one must 
break off the habit of determining things through abstrac- 
tion." 

Cheng-chih said, "Does this mean that the more good 
and evil thoughts are devoid of hypocrisy, the more he who 
alone knows will be without an occasion in which he does 
not think?" 

The Teacher said, " Apprehensiveness also implies 
thought. The thoughts which occasion apprehension never 
cease. He who fails in any way to cherish an apprehen- 
sive mind is not dim-sighted, but has already begun to 



130 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

think evil thoughts. He who wishes to be without thought 
from morning to evening and from youth to old age fails 
to realize this, unless, perchance, it be that he is sound 
asleep or dead, or that he is a worthless fellow." 

Sincerity Has aw Important Place in the True Culture of 

the Mind 

Chih Tao made inquiry saying, "The philosopher Hsiin 
said, 'In cultivating the heart there is nothing as good as 
sincerity.' Former scholars did not agree with this. What 
construction do you put on it?" 

The Teacher said: "His saying cannot be construed as 
false. Sincerity can be made to have reference to the task, 
for sincerity is original to the mind. Seeking to return 
to the original nature of the mind implies application in 
reflecting upon sincerity. The saying of Ming-tao, 'Cher- 
ish sincerity and reverence', also has this meaning. 18 The 
Great Learning also says, 'Wishing to rectify their minds 
they first made their thoughts sincere. ' 19 Though the say- 
ings of the philosopher Hsiin have many mistakes, one 
should not go out of one's way to find weak points. In 
general, if in examining the sayings of anyone one has 
arbitrary predeterminations, there is excess of criticism. 
The saying, 'He who seeks to become rich will not be be- 
nevolent', was taken by Meneius from the sayings of Yang 
Hu. Here one can see the great justice of the mind of the 
sage and virtuous man. ' ' 

The Strong Man Controls His Passions and Devotes Him- 
self to the True Self 

Hsiao Hui made inquiry saying: "One's own passion is 
hard to control. What remedy is there for this?" 

The Teacher said, ' ' You must take your own passion and 
control it for yourself. ' ' He further said, ' ' The individual 

is Ming-tao was the elder philosopher Ch'eng. The philosopher 
Ch 'eng I-ch 'uan was his brother, 
is Great Learning, Ch. I. If 4. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 131 

must have a mind which devotes itself to self, for then he 
can control himself. Being able to control himself, he can 
complete himself." 

Hsiao Hui said, "I have a mind greatly devoted to my- 
self, but I do not know why I am unable to control my- 
self." 

The Teacher said, "Tell me what sort of devotion to self 
your mind manifests." 

After a long time Hui said, "With my whole mind I 
desire to be a good man. (52) Therefore I say that I have a 
mind greatly devoted to self. As I think of it, I realize 
that this devotion is to the bodily self alone and that it has 
not been devotion to the true self." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Has it, then, been the case that your 
true self has been separated from your bodily self ? I fear 
lest perhaps you have even failed to devote yourself to 
the bodily self. Tell me, is not what you call the bodily 
self to be identified with your ears, eyes, nose, hands, and 
feet?" 

Hui said, " It is just as you say. The eyes desire beauty, 
the ears music, the mouth tasty morsels, and the four mem- 
bers idleness and pleasure. In consequence of this I am 
unable to control myself." 

The Teacher said: "Lust causes one's eyes to become 
blind, licentious music causes his ears to become deaf, glut- 
tony causes his taste to fail him, wild pursuit on the hunt 
causes him to become violent. All these things are harm- 
ful to your ears, eyes, mouth, nose, hands, and feet. How 
can this be construed as devotion to them? If you are 
truly devoted to them, you must reflect upon the man- 
ner in which the ears, eyes, mouth, and four members 
are to be used, and if the situation is not in accordance 
with propriety, you should not see, hear, speak, or act. 
Then first are you able fully to realize the true function of 
ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and the four members, and can be 
said to have true devotion to ears, eyes, mouth, nose and 



132 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the four members. At present you constantly strive wildly 
for external things, and devote yourself to fame and gain. 
These are all things external to the body itself. When you 
devote yourself to your ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and four 
members, so that you do not see, hear, speak, or act that 
which is contrary to propriety, does this imply that your 
ears, eyes, mouth, nose, and four members have the ability 
in themselves not to see, or hear, or speak, or act? That 
ability must come from the mind. Seeing, hearing, speak- 
ing, and acting are to be identified with the mind. The 
sight of the mind manifests itself in the eyes; its hearing 
in the ears; its speech through the mouth; and its activity 
by means of the hands and feet. When your mind is ab- 
sent there are no ears, eyes, mouth, or nose. The mind is 
not merely to be identified with flesh and blood. If it were, 
how does it come that though flesh and blood are still pres- 
ent the dead man cannot see, hear, speak, or act? (53) It is 
the mind that is able to see, hear, speak, and act. It is na- 
ture, it is heaven-given principles. If one has this nature, 
he is able to develop the principle of the growth of nature 
— benevolence (the highest virtue). If the growth of the 
mind manifests itself in sight, one is able to see ; if in 
audition, one is able to hear; if in speech, one is able to 
speak; if in the four members, one is able to act. All are 
a development of natural law. In the capacity of ruler of 
the person it is called mind. The original character of 
the mind thus is in complete harmony with natural law 
and in complete accord with propriety. This is your true 
self, and this true self is the master of the body. If there 
is no true self, there is also no body. The true self is born 
from the body; and without it, it is dead. If you devote 
yourself truly to the bodily self, you must protect and 
maintain the original nature of the true self. You must 
be cautious with reference to that which you have not seen, 
and apprehensive of that which you have not heard. You 
need only fear lest perchance you have injured the true 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 133 

self and are in danger of acting counter to the rules of 
propriety. It is as though one were being cut with a knife 
or stuck with a needle until one cannot endure it. The 
knife and the needle must be taken out of the wound, be- 
fore one can have a mind devoted to self and be able to 
control one's self. 20 Since you frankly admit that you have 
a thief as a son (admit your shame), why do you say that 
you have a mind devoted to self and yet cannot control 
yourself ? ' ' 

One of the students had sore eyes, and was exceedingly 
melancholy about it, The Teacher said, "You evaluate 
your eyes too high and your mind too low." 

Wang Warns Hsiao Hui Against Taoism and Buddhism 

Hsiao Hui was very fond of Taoist and Buddhist doc- 
trines. 

The Teacher cautioned him saying : ' ' From youth I also 
was generously inclined toward the two religions. I said 
to myself, 'I have acquired their learning,' implying 
thereby that the doctrines of Confucius are not fully ade- 
quate. Later, while I lived in a distant part of the Empire 
among barbarous tribes for three years, I realized that 
though the learning of the sage is simple it is nevertheless 
profound. Sighing, I then regretted that I had wasted my 
energy for thirty years. In general, it may be said that 
the excellences of the learning of the two religions con- 
stitute but a small portion of those of the sage. What 
you have learned up to the present is but an effigy, but you 
believe in it and have become fond of it. It may be com- 
pared to an owl stealing a decayed rat." 

Hui made inquiry regarding the excellences of the two 
religions. 

The Teacher said : "When I speak to you about the sim- 
plicity and profundity of the learning of the sage, you do 
not care to make inquiry regarding the doctrine to a real- 

20 Action that is indecent and indecorous must be put aside. 



134 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ization of which I have come, but merely ask regarding 
that of which I have repented. ' ' 

Hui was ashamed and thanked. He then made inquiry 
regarding the learning of the sage. 

The Teacher said : ' ' Now you have made inquiry as to 
how the affairs of men may be accomplished. I will ex- 
plain this to you when you come seeking to acquire the 
mind of the sage." Hui asked him a third time. 

The Teacher said, ' ' I have finished telling you one thing, 
but you have not been able to comprehend it. ' ' 

Liu Kuan-shih made inquiry as to the meaning of the 
state of equilibrium in which there is no stirring of the 
feelings. 

The Teacher said : ' ' You need only be cautious regard- 
ing that which you do not see, apprehensive regarding that 
which you do not hear, and cultivate the mind until it is 
completely devoted to natural law. Then you will natural- 
ly understand." 

Kuan-shih asked that he might explain it somewhat 
more fully. 

The Teacher said : ' ' When a dumb man eats a bitter 
melon, he is unable to tell you. If you wish to become 
aware of the bitterness you must eat of it yourself." 

At that time Yiieh-jen, who was near by, said, "That is 
true knowledge ; it can forthwith be carried out. ' ' On 
this occasion all the friends who were sitting there came to 
a realization of the truth. 

What Death and Life Meant to Wang 

Hsiao Hui made inquiry regarding death and life. 

The Teacher said: "If you understand day and night, 
you know death and life. ' ' 

He then made inquiry regarding day and night. 

The Teacher said : "If you understand the day, you also 
know the night. ' ' 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 135 

Hsiao Hui said, ' ' Perhaps I do not fully understand the 
day." 

The Teacher said, "You are able to understand the day. 
Stupid yet arising, foolish yet eating, acting yet not mani- 
festing natural law, practicing yet not investigating prin- 
ciples, fuddled all day long, this is dreaming during the 
day. "When one cultivates natural law at every breath, and 
harbors it at every glance of the eye; when the mind is 
intelligent and clear, and natural law is not interrupted 
for a moment, then one is able to understand the day. This 
is the virtue of Heaven. This implies that one perceives 
and understands the path of duty by day and by night. 
How can there, then, be death and life any more?" 

The Fundamental Principles of Conduct Are Innate 

Ma Tzu-hsin made inquiry saying: "Referring to reg- 
ulating the path of duty, the old saying is that the funda- 
mental principles of the conduct of the sages are native to 
the individual. How would it be if this view were adopt- 
ed in the Empire in regulating ceremony, music, and pun- 
ishments?" (55) 

The Teacher said: "The path (doctrine) is nature and 
the decree of Heaven. Originally it is perfect, and should 
not be increased or decreased, nor need it be regulated. 
Why, then, should the sage's conduct be regulated, as 
though it were not a perfect thing? Since ceremony, 
music, and punishment are methods of governing the Em- 
pire, they surely can be designated as instruction. But 
this is not the original purpose of Tzu-ssu. If, as former 
scholars say, he in the following section passes from in- 
struction to doctrine, why does he neglect the sage's in- 
struction regarding ceremony, music, and punishment, and 
emphasize the state of being cautious and apprehensive? 
That would imply that the instruction of the sage had been 
devised in vain." 

Tzu-hsin asked for an explanation. The Teacher said : 



136 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

"Tzu-ssu's discussions of nature, the path of duty (truth), 
and instruction all come from the same source (the order 
of Heaven). When the decree of Heaven settles upon man 
it is called nature; when one acts in accordance with this 
nature it is called the path of duty. The regulating of the 
path, accompanied by learning, is called instruction. Obed- 
ience to nature is the outstanding characteristic of a sin- 
cere man, which is in full accord with the saying, 'When 
intelligence results from sincerity, we have a condition 
which is true to nature. ' 21 The regulation of the path 
of conduct is characteristic of a sincere man and is in 
accordance with the saying, 'When sincerity results from 
intelligence, this is to be ascribed to instruction.' When 
the sage follows his nature in his actions, he is on the path 
of duty. Those below the sage in qualities of character 
are unable to obey the natural disposition. Because some 
go too far and others not far enough, it is necessary to reg- 
ulate the path of conduct so that the good and wise cannot 
go too far and the stupid and degenerate cannot fail 
to reach it. They all must follow it. and thus the path of 
conduct becomes instruction. This word chiao (meaning 
"instruction") is in every way the same as the chiao of 
'the highest instruction of the laws of Heaven'; viz., of 
wind, rain, frost, and dew. The words hsiu tao (meaning 
"to regulate the path of conduct") have the same meaning 
as hsiu tao i jen (meaning "the path of conduct is to be 
regulated by means of benevolence"). 22 After the indi- 
vidual is able to regulate his path of conduct, he will be 
able to keep from trespassing. Because he has returned 
to this original nature, he is on the path of the sage, who 
obeys his nature. Exercising caution and apprehensiveness, 
as mentioned below, implies using one's energy in regulating 
the path of conduct. 23 The state of equilibrium and har- 

21 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 21, 1 1. 

22 Ibid., Ch. 20, 14. fg *g ft £ 

23 Refers to the Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 1. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 137 

mony means that the individual has returned to his original 
nature. It is in accordance with the saying of the Book of 
Changes, 'Use investigation of principles and completion of 
your nature, in order to attain to the decrees of Heaven.' 
The saying, 'Let the states of equilibrium and harmony 
exist in perfection, and a happy order will prevail through- 
out heaven and earth and all things will be nourished and 
flourish ', implies completing one 's nature in order to attain 
the decree of Heaven." 24 (56) 

The Tenth Chapter of the Fifteenth Book of the Analects 

Does Not Give Full Instructions on Methods 

of Government 

Huang Ch'eng-fu made inquiry saying: "Former 
scholars held that the instructions regarding the method of 
governing a country given by Confucius to the philosopher 
Yen are laws for all succeeding generations. 25 How do you 
view this?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The philosopher Yen was a perfect 
sage, so that in the matter of governing a country he was 
already prepared on the essential points. The Master knew 
that his learning was profound and thus did not need to 
speak about them, but confined himself to organization and 
ceremonial acts. These points can not be neglected, for 
thus alone can the good be fully realized. Nor would it 
do, because his own natural skill was sufficient, to become 
neglectful about being on his guard. It was necessary to 
do away with the songs of Cheng and send away specious 
talkers. 26 The philosopher Yen was a man who controlled 
himself, and who devoted himself to internal rightness. 
Confucius was afraid lest his external conduct would be 
regulated last or entirely forgotten, and for that reason 
he talked about things that would be of help to him. Had 

24 Analects, Book XV, Ch. 10, % 5. 

25 Ibid., If 1. 
2« Ibid., 1 6. 



138 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

it been some other individual, he certainly would have told 
him that the administration of government depends upon 
getting the men; that men are gotten by means of char- 
acter ; that character is cultivated by treading in the path 
of duty ; that the path of duty is to be regulated by means 
of benevolence. 27 He would have said that when the indi- 
vidual is able to carry out the duties of universal obliga- 
tion and the nine standard rules up to the point where 
character is sincere, then he is really able to govern the 
country. 28 At this point laws for all succeeding genera- 
tions emerge. But it was not thus in the case of the phil- 
osopher Yen. He needed only to follow the seasons of 
Hsia, ride in the state carriage of Yin, wear the ceremonial 
cap of Chou, and provide for the music, Shao, with its 
pantomimes, in order to rule the Empire. Later gen- 
erations merely see that the philosopher Yen was the first 
of the disciples of Confucius and that he made inquiry 
regarding the ruling of the country, and in consequence 
consider this one of the most important things under 
heaven. ' ' 

Sincerity of Purpose is the Best Point of Departure for the 
Investigation of Things 

Ts'ai Hsi-yiian made inquiry saying: "In the later 

27 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, If 4. 

28 ' ' The duties are those between sovereign and minister, between 
father and son, between husband and wife, between elder brother and 
younger, and those belonging to the intercourse of friends. ' ' — Doc- 
trine of the Mean, Ch. 20, If 8. 

"All who have the government of the kingdom with its States 
and families have nine standard rules to follow ; — viz. the cultiva- 
tion of their own characters; the honouring of men of virtue and 
talents; affection towards their relatives; respect towards the great 
ministers; kind and considerate treatment of the whole body of of- 
ficers; dealing with the mass of the people as children; encouraging 
the resort of all classes of artisans; indulgent treatment of men from 
a distance; and the kindly cherishing of the princes of the States. ' ' — 
Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, 1f 12. 



INSTRUCTIONS FOR PRACTICAL LIFE 139 

edition of the Great Learning, according to Wen-kimg 
(the philosopher Chu), the extension of knowledge through 
investigation of things precedes the task of making the 
purpose sincere. It seems as though this were in accord- 
ance with the order given in the first chapter. According 
to the sayings of the Teacher, which take the original as the 
authority, the task of making the purpose sincere precedes 
that of extending knowledge through investigation of 
things. I am not clear about this matter. ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' The fundamental task according to 
the Great Learning is to manifest illustrious virtue. The 
manifesting of illustrious virtue implies a sincere purpose. 
Making one's purpose sincere implies the investigation of 
things for the purpose of extending knowledge. If the in- 
dividual uses the making sincere of the purpose as the con- 
trolling motive and thus proceeds to devote himself to the in- 
vestigation of things, he has a point of departure. One can- 
not do good and expel evil without having a sincere purpose. 
(57) If one follows the revised edition and first investigates 
the underlying principles of things, the situation is so vast 
and incomprehensible that there is no point of departure. It 
is necessary first to add the feeling of self-respect and a due 
regard for all positions before the investigation of things 
can be related to one's person and mind. But even then 
there is no real foundation. If it is really necessary to add 
the word ching (meaning "reverence"), why did Con- 
fucianists leave out so very important a word, so that the 
world had to wait more than a thousand years until some 
one added it? 

" If a sincere purpose is used as controlling impulse, it is 
not necessary to add the feeling of self-respect and a due 
regard for all positions. Consequently, it is true that when 
one has selected sincerity of purpose as the starting-point 
of the exposition, one has begun at the very foundation of 
learning. If investigation does not start at this point, a 
small mistake will eventuate in a great error. Speaking in 



140 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

a general way, it may be said that according to the Doctrine 
of the Mean the task consists in making the person sincere, 
which, when it has reached its highest point, implies the 
highest degree of sincerity. The fundamental task of the 
Great Learning is that of making the purpose sincere, 
which, when it has reached its maximum, implies the high- 
est virtue (good). The task, notwithstanding, is one. To 
say at this time that reverence needs to be added here and 
sincerity there, makes an exaggeration inevitable." 

Self -righteousness and Love of Fame Are Great Defects 

Meng Yuan had the defects of considering himself always 
in the right and of loving fame. 

The Teacher reprimanded him a number of times. One 
day after he had warned him and reprimanded him, a 
friend asked the Teacher kindly to correct his recent ac- 
tions. 

Yuan said at one side, ' ' This implies that you are trying 
to search out my former condition. ' ' 

The Teacher said to Yuan, "Your old trouble has reap- 
peared. ' ' Yuan blushed and proposed something which he 
wished to dispute. The teacher said, "Your old trouble 
has returned." Therefore he used a comparison saying, 
' ' This is the root of all your defects. It may be compared 
to growing a large tree within an area ten feet square. 
The moisture of rains and dew, the growing power of the 
soil (the water courses of the earth), are made to nourish 
only the roots of that tree. Even if grain should be plant- 
ed on the four sides, it would be covered and shaded by the 
leaves of the tree on top and strangled by its roots below. 
How could it grow to fruition ? It will be necessary to cut 
down the tree and not leave a particle of the roots, before 
it will be possible to grow good seeds. If not, you may cul- 
tivate the soil, remove the grass, and bank up the earth 
around the root, and yet you will be able to grow only this 
one tree." 



BOOK II 



EECORD OF DISCOURSES 

Chiu-ch'uan Makes the Acquaintance of Wang and Be- 
comes His Disciple 

In the tenth year of the emperor Cheng Te, Chiu-ch'uan 
first saw the Teacher at Lungchiang. 1 The Teacher was at 
that time discussing the investigation of things with Ran- 
ch 'iian, who was holding to the old sayings. 2 The Teacher 
said: "This means that you are seeking for principles in 
external things." 

Kan-ch'iian said, "If you consider the principles under- 
lying the investigation of things as external, this minimizes 
the function of the mind. ' ' 

Chiu-ch'uan was much delighted to have the old sayings 
defended as correct. The Teacher also discussed the chap- 
ter in Mencius which treats of exhausting one 's mental con- 
stitution. 3 When Chiu-ch'uan heard this he no longer 
doubted. 

Later when at home he again made inquiry by letter 
about the investigation of things and the Teacher answered : 
"You need only use your energies in a true way, for then 
you will soon understand." Thereupon Chiu-ch'uan went 
into retirement in the mountains, and having made a record 

1 Chen Chiu-ch 'uan was one of the disciples of Wang Yang-ming. 
Lungchiang is at Nanking and is now called Hsiakwan. 

2 Kan-ch'iian was also one of Wang's disciples. 

3 ' ' He who has exhausted all his mental constitution knows his 
nature. Knowing his nature, he knows Heaven. To preserve one's 
mental constitution, and nourish one's nature, is the way to serve 
Heaven. When neither premature death nor long life causes a man 
any double-mindedness but he waits in the cultivation of his personal 
character for whatever issue, — this is the way in which he estab- 
lishes his heaven-ordained being. ' ' — Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 1. 



144 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

of the original copy of the Great Learning he studied it 
carefully. He then realized that the philosopher Chu was 
mistaken in his discussion of the investigation of things. 
But he also questioned the Teacher's position that a thing 
is identical with the presence of an idea or a purpose. He 
felt that he himself did not understand the meaning of the 
word "thing." 

Chiu-ch'uan Relates His Experience as a Beginner 

In the fourteenth year of Cheng Te, when he returned 
from the capital, he met the Teacher at Nanchang (in the 
province of Kiangsi). At the time, Wang was much 
pressed with military matters, so that he was able to confer 
with him only when he had a moment's leisure. The first 
question Wang asked was regarding the progress he had 
made in his studies in recent years. Chiu-ch'uan said 
that he had thoroughly investigated the fact that the man- 
ifesting of illustrious virtue really consisted in making 
one's purpose sincere. 

"From the point of manifesting illustrious virtue 
throughout the Empire," he said, "I have pushed for- 
ward step by step into fundamental virtues, until I 
reached the point of making the purpose sincere. From 
this point I could proceed no further, for how could 
it be that preceding this there is the task of thoroughly 
investigating things for the purpose of extending knowl- 
edge? Later I pushed my investigation further and real- 
ized that it was first necessary to become conscious of the 
distinction between a sincere and a hypocritical purpose. 
In confirmation of this I used the case of the philosopher 
Yen, who, when he had done wrong, not only knew it but 
also used this knowledge in not repeating the act. 4 (2) When 
I understood this beyond all doubt, there remained the 
matter of thoroughly investigating things. Again I 

* Yen was one of the disciples of Confucius. Also is written 
Yen-tzu. 



EECORD OF DISCOURSES 145 

thought : How is it that my cognitive powers did not know 
the good and evil of my purpose? Surely this was due 
to the fact that they had been obscured by a desire for 
things. I realized that it was necessary to get rid by in- 
vestigation of this desire for things, if I would be like the 
philosopher Yen and distinguish the good and evil in my 
purpose. Moreover, I feared that my efforts were wrongly 
directed and would not fit in with a sincere purpose. 

Since Body, Mind. Purpose, Knowledge, and Things Are a 
Unit, the Purpose Must Be Sincere 

Thereupon I made inquiry of Hsi Yen and he said, 'The 
Teacher says that the investigation of things for the pur- 
pose of extending knowledge is the highest type of devo- 
tion to making one's purpose sincere.' I said, 'In what 
way is it devotion to making the purpose sincere?' Hsi 
Yen urged me to think once more and look carefully at the 
original nature of a sincere purpose." 

To the end Chiu-ch'uan did not fully understand, and 
asked for an explanation. 

The Teacher said, ' ' Alas ! At one saying you should fully 
understand. What Wei-chiin said about this concerning 
the philosopher Yen is true — it is only necessary that one 
know that the person, mind, purpose, knowledge, and things 
are, in last analysis, one thing. ' ' 

Chiu-ch'uan doubted and said, "Since things are ex- 
ternal, how can they be a unit with body, mind, purpose, 
and knowledge ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "The ears, eyes, mouth, nose and 
four members constitute the body, yet without the mind 
how can the body see, hear, speak, or move? On the other 
hand, if the mind wishes to see, hear, speak, or move, it is 
unable to do so Without the use of ears, eyes, moutb, nose, 
and the four members. From this it follows that if there 
is no mind there is no body, and if there is no body 
there is no mind. If one refers only to the place it occu- 



146 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

pies, it is called body ; if one refers to the matter of control, 
it is called mind ; if one refers to the activities of the mind, 
it is called purpose ; if one refers to the intelligence of the 
purpose, it is called understanding ; if one refers to the re- 
lations of the purpose, it is called things. Yet it is all one. 
The purpose is not suspended in empty space, but is placed 
in some thing. Therefore, if one wishes to make the pur- 
pose sincere, it is necessary to correct the purpose, expel 
passion, and revert to natural law with special reference 
to the matter on which the purpose is fixed. He whose 
unobscured natural ability is devoted to this will develop it. 
This is what is meant by making the purpose sincere." 

Investigating Things Means Investigating and Recognizing 
Natural Law in One's Own Person 

Chiu-ch'uan at the time understood thoroughly and dis- 
pelled the doubt of many years. He again asked Ran- 
ch 'iian whether he, too, believed in the use of the original 
text of the Great Learning. 

Kan-ch'uan said, "This means that the investigation 
of things is an act of creating doctrines, and is like the 
investigating which one does when examining a den. One 
must go into it in person. It is clear, then, that the investi- 
gation of things is merely a task of investigating and rec- 
ognizing natural law in any place or condition, and that it 
is in practical conformity with the sayings of the Teach- 
er." (3) 

The Teacher said: "Kan-ch'uan has expended effort on 
this matter and accordingly has changed his view. At the 
time when I told him that it was not necessary to change the 
character ch'in (meaning "love"), he did not believe. 5 In 
the matter of investigating things he also is nearly correct, 
but it is not necessary to change the word wu {tify, meaning 
"thing") to the word li ( Jg, meaning "principles"). Let 
it continue to be the character for 'thing.' " 

s For a discussion of ch'in the reader is referred to pages 48 ff. of 
' ' Instructions for Practical Life. ' ' 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 147 

Later some one made inquiry of Chiu-ch'uan saying, 
' ' Why do you now no longer stand in doubt regarding the 
word wu (meaning "thing")?" 

He said, ' ' The Doctrine of the Mean says, ' Without sin- 
cerity there would be nothing. ' 6 The philosopher Ch 'eng 
said, 'If things come in a propitious way one should re- 
spond.' At another time he said, 'If all things are put 
into the class of external things, there will be no things 
within the personality.' These are words in constant use 
among the ancients. ' ' On that day the Teacher assented. 

Mental Activity is Always Present 

Chiu-ch'uan made inquiry saying, "In recent years be- 
cause of a dislike for excessive study I find that whenever 
I try to sit perfectly tranquil and put aside troublesome 
thoughts, I not only am unable to do so, but am the more 
troubled. How is this to be explained?" 

The Teacher said, "How can thinking cease? The 
thoughts should be correct." 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "Should there not be times when 
thoughts are absent?" 

The Teacher said, "Thoughts are present all the time." 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "In that case, how can one speak of 
tranquility ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : "When the individual is tranquil, he 
does not of necessity fail to evince activity, nor is he who is 
in a state of motion by virtue of that of necessity not in a 
state of tranquility. To be cautious and apprehensive also 
implies thinking. Why should you distinguish between 
motion and rest in this matter?" 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "Why did the philosopher Chou say, 
'In fixing the determination one should use the state of 
equilibrium and harmony, benevolence and righteousness, 
to regulate tranquility'?" 

The Teacher said, "Being without desire, the mind is 

e Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 25, If 2. 



148 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tranquil. Whether one is at rest or in motion, the word used 
for ' fixing the determination ' is the same. One must make 
the original nature of the mind the master. Cautious 
thoughts are the point of activity at which the mind nat- 
urally never is at rest. It is in harmony with the saying, 
' The ordinances of Heaven, how profound are they and un- 
ceasing! When once they stop, death ensues.' If the 
thoughts are not the product of the mind's original nature, 
they are selfish. ' ' 

Desire Should Not Go Out for External Things 

Chiu-ch'uan made further inquiry saying, "If at the 
time when the individual is guarding his mind with dili- 
gence, there is such music and show of color present as he 
is accustomed to hear and see, there is danger that he will 
not be able to devote himself completely to the one thing." 

The Teacher said, "Why should one wish not to hear 
or to see them? Except for a person devoid of all life or 
a man deaf and blind, it is not possible. However, though 
one hears and sees, the desire should not go out after the 
external thing. ' ' 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "Formerly there was a man who sat 
in tranquility while his son was studying on the other side 
of the wall, and yet did not know whether his son was dil- 
igent or slothful. The philosopher Ch'eng said that this 
man watched himself exceedingly well. How do you in- 
terpret this?" 

The Teacher said. "Perhaps the philosopher Ch'eng was 
ridiculing him." (4) 

Mind Can Have No Internal and External 

Chiu-ch'uan made further inquiry saying, "If I try 
while sitting quietly, 1 become fully aware that my mind 
is concentrated ; but when I meet with the affairs of life 
this concentration is interrupted. 1 then make a new res- 
olution, to carry on my investigation in the affairs of 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 149 

life. When, however, the affair under consideration has 
passed and I resume my effort, I still realize that experi- 
ence has subjective and objective aspects, and that they 
cannot be blended into one. ' ' 

The Teacher said, "You have not yet arrived at a full 
understanding of the principles underlying the investiga- 
tion of things. How can the mind have an internal and 
an external? For instance, when Wei-chiin (Ch'ien Te- 
hung) expounds, is it necessary that he have a mind within 
to manage attention to his words ? When you hear his ex- 
position and devote yourself respectfully to this, that is the 
mind of the time when one sits quietly. The task is a 
unified, connected one. Why must you bring up new 
thoughts ? Man must be polished and refined by the affairs 
of life, that the energy expended at work may be of ad- 
vantage. If one stops at love of tranquility, is distressed 
and confused when one meets the affairs of life, and to the 
end makes no progress, the energy expended while in the 
state of tranquility 'is misapplied. It is as though one were 
striving for concentration, while in reality the mind re- 
mained scattered and sunk in excess." 

Later Chiu-ch'uan again discussed the different opinions 
regarding the internal (subjective) and the external (ob- 
jective) at Nanchang with Yii Chung and Kuo-shang. 
They all said that with reference to things there naturally 
is an internal and an external, but that the internal and 
external should be united and not separated. They used 
this point of view in asking the Teacher. 

He said: "The task is confined to the original nature, 
and this is ab initio devoid of internal and external. The 
distinction between the internal and external was made 
later for the sake of students, and in that way the original 
nature was lost. If you wish truly to explain the task, you 
should not distinguish between external and internal, for it 
is in reality a task of the original nature. ' ' That day they 
all realized the situation. 



150 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

How Knowledge May Be Extended to the Utmost 

In the fifteenth year of the emperor Cheng Te, Chiu- 
ch'uan went to Ch'ienchou and there again met the Teacher 
and made inquiry. "Though in my recent efforts," he 
said, "I have reached the point where I understand in a 
measure the point of departure, I have little confidence 
and joy." 

The Teacher said, "You are searching for natural law in 
the mind, whereas it comes without search. This is truly 
an instance where natural law becomes a hindrance and an 
obstruction. There is a secret in this." 

Chiu-ch'uan asked for an explanation. The Teacher said, 
1 ' It is to extend knowledge to the utmost. ' ' 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "Extend it in what way?" 

The Teacher said, ' ' The little intuitive knowledge of good 
you have is your own standard. If your thoughts are right 
it is aware of it, and if they are wrong it also knows. You 
must not blind it nor impose upon it, but must truly follow 
its lead. (5) Whatever is good should be cherished; what- 
ever is evil should be discarded. What confidence and joy 
there is in this ! This is the true secret of the investigation 
of things, and the real method of extending knowledge to 
the utmost. If you do not depend upon these true secrets, 
how will you carry on an investigation of things? I, too, 
have appreciated only in the past few years that this is the 
explanation. At first I doubted that a simple obedience to 
the intuitive faculty would be sufficient, but when I had 
very carefully examined it I found that it is deficient at no 
point whatsoever." 

Extension of Knowledge to the Utmost is Progressive 

Ch'ung-i said, "If the Teacher's idea regarding the ex- 
tension of knowledge to the utmost is exhibited, it is exceed- 
ingly subtle and recondite. Once view it, and there is no 
possibility of further advance." 

The Teacher said, "Why do I speak of its simplicity? 



KECORD OF DISCOURSES 151 

Apply yourself a further half-year, and see what the out- 
come is; and then apply yourself for another year and see. 
The longer you apply yourself, the more you will realize 
that the application makes advance. This is difficult to 
explain." 

The Highest Type of Knowledge 

The Teacher asked Chiu-ch'uan what progress he was 
making in his investigation of the extension of knowledge 
to the utmost. 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "I realize myself that there is a dif- 
ference in my application. Formerly when I experimented 
I was never able to get what seemed to me to be just the 
thing, but now I am more fortunate. ' ' 

The Teacher said, "You now know that knowledge that 
comes from appreciation of nature itself is different from 
that which comes from hearing expositions. When I first 
expounded the meaning to you, I knew that you were care- 
less and not at all interested. It was only when you had 
investigated to the extreme this its exceeding wonderful- 
ness, that you saw that there daily was a difference, and 
that it is inexhaustible." He further said, "Those two 
characters, chih chih ($$CJfll , meaning "to extend knowl- 
edge to the utmost") are truly a secret that has been trans- 
mitted from the sages of thousands of years ago. 7 "When 
one has reached this point of view, he is prepared to wait 
for the rise of a sage a hundred years hence, and has no 
misgivings. ' ' 

The Teacher said, "In general it may be said that friends 
should seldom admonish and warn one another, but should 
lead, support, exhort, and encourage one another." Later 
he warned Chiu-ch'uan saying, "When you discuss learn- 
ing with your friends, you should be long-suffering, unas- 
suming, and magnanimous." 

Chiu-ch'uan was sick abed at Ch'ienchou. The Teacher 



7 To extend knowledge to the utmost means progressively to de- 
velop the intuitive faculty. 



152 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

said, "It is hard to investigate disease and realize just 
what it is. ' ' 

Chiu-ch 'uan answered, " It is a very difficult task. ' ' 
The Teacher said, "It is the task of always being cheer- 
ful." (6) 

Learning is Increased by Earnest Application to the Af- 
fairs of Life 

A subordinate official having for a long time heard the 
expositions of the Teacher regarding learning said, "This 
is very good, but unfortunately I am not able to devote 
myself to learning, because of its difficulty and the num- 
ber of my duties connected with accounts, letters, and liti- 
gation. ' ' 

When the Teacher heard this he said, "When did I teach 
you to drop these things and devote yourself only to the 
exposition of learning? Since you are engaged in trying 
law cases, you should devote yourself to learning in con- 
nection with these law cases, for thereby you will really be 
engaged in the investigation of things. For instance, when 
you judge an accused person, you should not become angry 
because his replies are disorderly, nor should you be glad 
because his arguments are well arranged ; you should not 
despise those to whom he has entrusted his case, and im- 
pose your own will in administering sentence; you should 
not, because of his beseechings, bend your will and be influ- 
enced in favor of him ; you should not, because of your own 
annoying and scattered affairs, judge him arbitrarily and 
carelessly; you should not, because of the praise, slander, 
and scheming of others, manage the case in accordance 
with the ideas of others. All these ideas are selfish. You 
need only know yourself. You should most carefully ex- 
amine yourself and control yourself, lest your mind be 
prejudiced and misjudge the right or wrong of anyone. 
Then you will be investigating things for the purpose of 
extending your intuitive knowledge to the utmost. Though 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 153 

it is done while the duties of registering, writing, and lit- 
igation are pressing, it is real learning. If you leave your 
daily affairs in order to devote yourself to study, it will be 
in vain." 

Yu Chung and Kuo-shang were feasting with the Teacher, 
who said: "We drink and eat only in order to nourish 
the body. The food which has been eaten must be digested ; 
for if it collects in the stomach it causes dyspepsia. How 
can it under such circumstances become muscle? Later 
scholars read extensively and know much, but what they 
read and know remains undigested. They all have dys- 
pepsia. ' ' 

Intuitive Knowledge of Good is Characteristic of All Men 

The Teacher said: "The sages, also, have first devoted 
themselves to study, and thus know the truth. The com- 
mon people, also, have knowledge of it from birth." 

Some one asked, "How can that be?" 

He replied : ' ' Intuitive knowledge of good is character- 
istic of all men. (7) The sage, however, guards and pro- 
tects it so that nothing obscures it. His contending and 
anxiety do not cease, and he is indefatigable and energetic 
in his efforts to guard his intuitive knowledge of the good. 
This also involves learning. However, his native ability is 
greater, so that it is said of him that he is born with knowl- 
edge of the five duties and practices them with ease. There 
is nobody who does not in the period from his infancy to 
his boyhood develop this intuition of good, but it is often 
obscured. Nevertheless, this original knowledge of good is 
naturally hard to obliterate. Study and self-control should 
follow the lead of intuitive knowledge. Only when the 
capacity for learning is great does the saying apply. 'Some 
know them from study and practice them from a desire of 
advantage or gain.' " 8 



s Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, % 9. 



154 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Man's Original Nature is All-inclusive 

Huang I-fang made inquiry regarding the Teacher's dis- 
cussion of the investigation of things to extend knowledge 
to the utmost. "At whatever time," he said, "one en- 
gages in the investigation of things in order to extend one's 
knowledge to the utmost, one realizes that it refers merely 
to knowledge in some specific instance and not to knowl- 
edge as a whole. How, then, can the sage reach the condi- 
tion in which it is said of him, 'All-embracing and vast he 
is like heaven ; deep and active like a fountain he is like the 
abyss'?" 9 

The Teacher said, "The mind of man is heaven and it is 
the abyss, for there is nothing that does not belong to the 
original nature of the mind. There is db initio this one 
heaven, but it is obscured by means of selfishness, and 
therefore its original character is lost. The principles of 
the mind are inexhaustible. The mind is ab initio an 
abyss, but it has been stopped up by selfishness, and thus 
its original nature has been lost. If you really contemplate 
extending the use of your intuitive knowledge of good to 
the utmost, you will need to clear away all the things that 
obscure and obstruct. Then nature will reassert itself and 
will be both heaven and the abyss. ' ' 

He then pointed to heaven in order to make it clear and 
said, "It may be compared to your seeing heaven before 
your eyes, — luminous, refulgent heaven. Though you see 
it from four sides, it is only the luminous, refulgent 
heaven. But because the walls of many houses obstruct 
your vision you cannot see the whole heaven. If you tear 
down the walls there is but one heaven. You cannot say 
that the visible heaven partly displays heaven, while that 
outside of your range does not. In this way you can see 
that one section of intuitive knowledge of good is complete 
intuitive knowledge of good, and that the latter includes 
the former. There is but this one nature." (8) 

9 Op. cit., Ch. 31, H 3. 



BECORD OF DISCOURSES 155 

Necessary Qualities of Clvaracter of the Sage 

The Teacher said, 10 ' ' Sages and good men serve their f el- 
lowmen and regulate their passions. When they render 
obedience to natural law, this is the path of duty ; but their 
service and self-control should not be made the foundation 
of their reputation." 

The Teacher said : ' ' The purpose of the sage is to be a 
man who in his eager pursuit forgets his food. 11 Men of 
this type never cease in their pursuit of knowledge. The 
practice of the sage is to be a man who in the joy of its at- 
tainment forgets his sorrows. Men of this type are never 
distressed. Perhaps it is not necessary to say whether he 
has been successful or not in his pursuit. ' ' 12 

Thoughts Are Incipient Acts 

I asked the Teacher regarding the union of knowledge 
and practice. He replied : ' ' You need to understand the 
purport of my sayings. Since in study and inquiry pres- 
ent-day men distinguish between knowledge and practice, 
they do not check their debased thoughts which have not 
been expressed in action. When I say that knowledge and 
practice are one, I wish others to know that at the very 
point at which thoughts are manifested, there is incipient 
action. If the inception is evil, the evil thought should be 
subdued. It is necessary to get at the root, to go to the bot- 
tom, and not allow evil thoughts to lurk in the breast. This 
is the purport of my dicta. ' ' 



10 From this point Huang Chin took up the record. 

11 Fide Analects, Book VII, Ch. 18, K 2. 

i 2 The philosopher Chu in his exposition of this passage, which re- 
fers to Confucius, says that he was a man who forgot his food when 
he was not successful in his pursuit of knowledge, and on the other 
hand his sorrows when he was successful. Wang's idea is that the 
sage is constantly pursuing and constantly attaining and that he 
consequently keeps his mind free from thoughts of food and sorrow. 



156 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Sage Does Not Need to Know the Details of Everything 

The Teacher said : ' ' The omniscience of the sage has ref- 
erence to natural law only ; his omnipotence has refer- 
ence to natural law alone. The mind of the sage is clear 
and intelligent; therefore in all things he knows the place 
of natural law and carries it out fully in practice. It is 
not that after the mind in its original nature is enlight- 
ened, he needs first to acquire knowledge with reference to 
the things of earth, before he can act. The things of the 
earth — sacred utensils, measures, numbers, grasses, trees, 
birds, and animals without number — the sage under- 
stands by nature. Why should he be able to know them 
completely? That which need not be known, the sage need 
not seek to know. About that which he needs to know he 
is able to make inquiry. For instance, when the Master 
(Confucius) entered the grand temple he made inquiry 
about everything. Former scholars said that one should 
ask even though one knows, for this shows reverence and 
caution in the highest degree. (9) But that saying cannot 
be made universal. The sages did not need to know every- 
thing about ceremonies, music, and the sacred utensils ; but 
they did understand natural law, and out of this arose 
many things, such as moderation, measures and numbers. 
To ask when one does not know also shows that principles 
and moderation are present." 

Wang Again Discusses the Problem of Good and Evil 

I made inquiry saying : ' ' The Teacher frequently says 
that good and evil are one thing, and yet these two things 
are as opposed to one another as ice and burning coal. 
How can they be said to be one and the same thing?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The highest excellence is from the 
beginning characteristic of the mind. When the individual 
has exceeded this, we have evil. This does not mean that 
we have virtue and evil standing in opposition to one an- 
other. Therefore good and evil are one thing." 



EECOKD OF DISCOURSES 157 

Because I had heard the Teacher's exposition I under- 
stood what the philosopher Ch'eng meant by saying that 
virtue is surely nature, and that evil also must be viewed 
as nature. 

The Teacher further said : ' ' Good and evil are both an 
outgrowth of natural law. That which is called evil is 
originally not evil, but consists in exceeding or in failing to 
realize nature. ' ' His exposition is not to be doubted. 

How to Become a Sage 
The Teacher frequently said : " To be a sage, a man need 
only love and desire virtue as men love and desire beauti- 
ful colors; he need only despise and shun evil as one de- 
spises and avoids an evil odor." When first I heard this, 
I felt that it was an easy matter. Later, when I had in- 
vestigated and tried this task, I realized that it really was 
difficult. For instance, as regards thought, though I under- 
stood how to love and desire virtue and to despise and shun 
evil, yet without knowing it I mixed the two ; and as soon as 
I mixed them I did not love virtue as men love and desire 
beautiful colors nor hate and shun evil as one despises and 
shuns an evil odor. When one really loves and desires 
virtue, all one 's thoughts are virtuous ; and when one really 
hates evil, no thoughts are evil. Why should such a man 
not be a sage? From this it is clear that the learning of 
the sage implies full sincerity. 

Wang Comments on the First Chapter of the Doctrine of 

the Mean 

I inquired about the chapter in the Doctrine of the Mean 
which refers to regulating the path, ' ' Does the saying, ' An 
accordance with the native disposition is called the path,' 
refer to the sages, while the saying, ' The regulation of this 
path is called instruction,' refers to the affairs of virtuous 
people?" 13 (10) 

The Teacher said: "The ordinary man also lives in ac- 

13 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 1, f 1. 



158 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

cordance with nature ; but it is carried out by the sage to a 
greater extent, and therefore the saying, 'An accordance 
with nature is called the path,' refers to the affairs of the 
sage. The sage also regulates the path ; but the regulation 
of the path refers more especially to virtuous men, and 
therefore the saying, 'The regulation of the path is called 
instruction,' refers to the affairs of virtuous men." 

He further said: "The entire Doctrine of the Mean 
gives an exposition of regulating the path of duty. Con- 
sequently, whenever it later describes the superior man, it 
calls attention to the fact that Yen Yen (Yen Hui) and 
Tzu-lu were able to regulate the path; and when it men- 
tions the inferior or mean man, it says that the good man 
knows and the foolish does not. When it discusses the com- 
mon people, it says that they are not able to regulate the 
path. For the rest, it says that Shun, Wen, Chou Kung, 
and Chung-ni (Confucius) — men belonging to the class 
the most sincere and holy — had the sage 's ability to regu- 
late the path. ' ' 

The Buddhist Priest and the Confucian Scholar Compared 

I made inquiry saying: "In the third watch the Con- 
fucian scholar banishes all care from his mind. 14 Empty 
in thought and resting, he is just like the Buddhist. Both 
the scholar and the Buddhist priest are free from care. 
What is the difference between them at that time?" 

The Teacher said : "Activity and tranquility are a unit. 
When the mind is empty and at rest in the third watch, it 
harbors heaven-given principles; and it is this same mind 
which today follows its work and takes charge of affairs. 
The mind which today follows its work and takes charge of 
affairs, also complies with heaven-given principles, and is 

i* The Chinese have five night watches of two hours each, from 
7 p.m. to 5 a.m. ' ' In each watch, the watchman makes five 
rounds beating his wooden rattle to warn off thieves, in each case 
with as many strokes as denote the number of the watch." (Giles, 
Herbert A.: Chinese Dictionary, Shanghai, Kelly and Walsh, 1892.) 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 159 

the same mind which is empty and at rest in the third 
watch. Therefore, whether it is active or tranquil you 
should make no distinction between the states in which it 
is, but know that they are a unity. The minute mistakes 
of the Buddhists you should, of course, not conceal. ' ' 

Over-preciseness is Indicative of Some Moral Defect 

While the disciples were sitting in the presence of the 
Teacher, some were exceedingly precise in their manners. 
The Teacher said : ' ' If a man is too precise, he surely has 
some defect." 

I said, "Why should an excess of precision imply some 
defect?" 

He said, "The individual has a great deal of mental and 
physical energy. If he pays attention only to his external 
appearance, he will lack greatly in the matter of guarding 
his mind." 

One of the disciples was too forward. The Teacher said, 
"As I now make my exposition of learning, you do not 
keep yourself in check even as to appearance, and thus 
make the mind a thing distinct and separate from affairs. ' ' 
(ID 

Buddhists Do Not Have Complete Success in Expelling 

Desire 

The Teacher frequently said that though the Buddhists 
do not emphasize the matter of watching mutual relation- 
ships and circumstances, still, as a matter of fact, they do 
pay attention to them. We scholars emphasize the matter 
of watching the circumstances, and yet in actual fact we 
are not influenced by them. 

I asked for an explanation and the Teacher said : ' ' The 
Buddhists are afraid of the responsibilities of father and 
son, and hence avoid such responsibility. They are afraid 
of the perplexities of prince and minister, and avoid be- 
coming prince or minister. They are afraid of the re- 
sponsibility of husband and wife, and hence avoid becoming 



160 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

husband and wife. This is due to the fact that they pay 
attention to the circumstances involved in being prince, 
minister, father, son, husband, and wife, and hence avoid 
such responsibilities. If we scholars have a father or a son, 
we recompense them with affection ; if we have a prince or a 
minister, we use righteousness in dealing with them ; if we 
have a husband or a wife we pay attention to differences. 
Have we then been influenced by the relationships of father, 
son, prince, minister, husband and wife?" 

Huang Mien-shu made inquiry saying, "I do not know 
whether the mind need harbor good thoughts when it has 
no evil thoughts and at the same time is empty and vast." 

The Teacher said, "Since evil thoughts have been ex- 
pelled, there must be good thoughts present, and thereby 
the original nature of the mind has been reinstated. It 
may be compared to the obscuring of the sunlight by the 
clouds. When the clouds are gone the light has returned. 
In case evil thoughts have been expelled and you then at- 
tempt to cherish good thoughts, it is as though you lighted 
a lamp in the sunlight. ' ' 15 

The Will Must Be Fixed Definitely on the Truth 

I made inquiry regarding the chapter which treats of 
fixing the will on the path of duty. 16 

The Teacher said : ' ' The statement, ' Let the will be set 
on the path of duty,' is embodied with those that follow 
into the same chapter. The task thereby is continuous. 
For instance, in building this house, if the will is fixed on 
the path the individual must think of selecting a plot of 
land, collecting the materials, marking out, and completing 
the house. Grasping firmly every virtue, means that when 
the making of the plan is completed, it can be firmly 
grasped. The sentence, 'Let every virtue be accorded 
with.' implies that one should constantly live in the house 

1 5 At this point Huang Hsui-i (Huang Mien-shu) begins to write, 
is Analects, Book VII, Ch. 6. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 161 

and not leave it. The sentence, 'Let relaxation and en- 
joyment be found in the polite arts, ' means that one is dec- 
orating and beautifying the house with colors. The idea 
conveyed by the polite arts is in accordance with natural 
law. For instance, singing songs, reading books, playing 
on stringed instruments, practicing with archery, and the 
like, regulate the mind and give it skill. They make it 
familiar with the path of duty. If the will is not fixed 
on the path and one finds enjoyment in the arts, one is like 
an ill-behaved child that does not first build the house, but 
attends only to buying pictures to hang up for show with- 
out knowing where it is going to hang them." (12) 

Kao Lacked Care in His Interpretation of Nature 

I made inquiry saying, ' ' The philosopher Kao also said, 
' Life is what is called nature. ' 17 Why did Mencius dis- 
agree with him in this?" 

The Teacher said: ''Surely it is nature, but the phil- 
osopher Kao understood only in part, and did not know 
the point of departure. Had he known this, to speak as 
he did would have been correct. Mencius has also said that 
'the bodily organs with their functions belong to our 
heaven-conferred nature. ' 18 This, too, was said with ref- 
erence to the passion nature." 

The Teacher further said : ' ' Whenever men say what 
comes uppermost in their minds or act in accordance with 
their own ideas, they all say that it happened in accordance 
with the nature of their minds. This is what is meant by 
'Life is to be understood as nature.' But under such cir- 
cumstances mistakes will creep in. If one knows where to 
begin to speak, and acts in accordance with his intuitive 
knowledge of good, the affairs of life will be satisfactorily 
settled and arranged. Nevertheless, intuitive knowledge 
of good also depends in its application upon using one's 

it Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 3, 11 1. 
i«Ibid., Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 38. 



162 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

speech and one's body. When the body acts, does it ac- 
quire vital force from the external environment? Is there 
any other way of acting or of speaking (than that of using 
the intuitive knowledge) 1 Therefore I say that to discuss 
nature without discussing temperament is incomplete, and 
to discuss temperament without discussing nature lacks 
clearness. Temperament is to be identified with nature, 
and nature with temperament. But the point of departure 
must be understood. ' ' 

TJie Development of Nature Slwuld Not Be Forced Nor 
Should It Be Hindered 

The Teacher spoke again saying: "Sirs, in your task (of 
internal development) , you must not in the least hinder or 
force the development, for the highest type of wisdom is 
seldom met with. The student cannot leap over into the 
principles of the sage. Rising, falling, advancing, reced- 
ing are the order of the task. The individual should not 
pose as being free from faults or blemishes on the strength 
of former efforts, while at the time he falls short of the 
mark. That would be a case of assisting the development, 
and thereby former efforts would be vitiated. This is not a 
small mistake. For example, when a traveler happens to 
stumble and fall and gets up and proceeds, he should not 
deceive others by acting as though he had not fallen. Sirs, 
you should cherish a mind which desires to leave the world 
without regret and which, when it does not see things com- 
ing its own way, is not melancholy. (13) You should pa- 
tiently act in accordance with your intuitive knowledge of 
good and give no heed to ridicule, slander, prosperity, or 
adversity. 'In accordance with the stage of the task, 
whether it be advancing or receding,' you should say, 'I 
will not cease in the matter of controlling and regulating 
my intuitive knowledge to the utmost.' After a while you 
certainly will gain strength, and no external things will be 
able to influence you. ' ' 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 163 

He further said: "If the individual devotes himself 
earnestly to his task — let men slander or let them insult — 
in all things he will gain advantage, in all things he will 
gain the advantage of progress in virtue. On the other 
hand, if he does not devote himself to the task, he is only 
a worthless fellow and will ultimately be ruined. ' ' 

Genuine Study Includes Introspection 

One of his friends easily became annoyed and upbraided 
others. The Teacher admonished him saying, "When you 
study you must introspect. If you merely reprove others, 
you see only the faults of others and do not come to a real- 
ization of your own mistakes. If you bring your study to 
bear upon yourself, you will realize that you are in many 
respects imperfect. How will you find time to reprove 
others? Shun was able to change the pride and arrogance 
of Hsiang. 19 The ingenious method by which he contrived 
to do this was by not noticing the mistakes of Hsiang. If 
Shun had wished only to correct his wickedness, he would 
have seen only the mistakes of Hsiang ; and since the latter 
was a proud, arrogant man he would have been unwilling 
to comply. Then how could he have influenced him?" 

The friend was influenced and repented. The Teacher 
said: "You should from this day on never discuss the 
right and wrong of others. Whenever anybody needs to be 
reproved or criticised you should expel the selfish desire to 
be the big man." 

Wang Discusses Divination 

I made inquiry regarding the Book of Changes saying, 
"The philosopher Chu depended upon divination by means 
of the tortoise shell and the stalks of plants, while the 
philosopher Ch'eng proclaimed that heaven-given principles 
should be in control. How do you construe this?" 

The Teacher said : "Divination by means of the tortoise 

is Hsiang was the half-brother of Shun. 



164 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

shell or plants is in accordance with the principles bestowed 
by Heaven, for these principles include divination by those 
methods. Of the principles of the earth who has any 
greater than these ? But because later generations referred 
these types of divination only to fortune-telling, they have 
become a profession. They do not know that the question- 
ing and answering of teacher and friend, extensive study, 
accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection on it, clear 
discrimination of it, earnest practice of it, and so forth, are 
all divination. He who practices divination by means of 
the tortoise shell and stalks of plants merely seeks to de- 
termine his suspicions and to understand as the gods do. 
The Book of Changes inculcates asking of Heaven. If 
anyone is in doubt, if his faith is insufficient, he may use 
the Book of Changes to ask Heaven. (14) It means that 
Heaven will not endure the false in anything that concerns 
the mind." 20 

The Importance of the Phrase, "Having No Depraved 
TJwughts" 

I made inquiry saying: "How does it come that the 
phrase, ' having no depraved thoughts, ' covers the meaning 
of three hundred pieces in the Book of Poetry ? " 21 

The Teacher said: "Is it true that it covers only three 
hundred poems? This phrase includes and connects the 
Six Classics, as well as all the sayings of sages and virtuous 
men in the past and the present. What more is to be said ? 
When this is said, provision has been made for a hundred 
other things." 

The Path of Duty Explained 

I made inquiry regarding the mind which is devoted to 
the path of duty and the mind which is given over to self- 
ishness and passion. 

20 From this point on the record was written by Huang Tseng- 
hsing, also called Huang Mien-chih. 
2i Analects, Book II, Ch. 2. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 165 

The Teacher said : ' ' Living in accordance with nature is 
what is to be understood by the path of duty, and this is 
what is meant by a mind devoted to the path. But as soon 
as a little selfish purpose is superimposed, it becomes a 
mind which is given over to selfishness and passion. The 
mind which is devoted to the path of duty is not subject to 
the influence of the senses. Therefore it is said that when 
one acts in the least in accordance with a selfish mind, 
there forthwith are many insecure, unsteady places. For 
this reason it is said to be dangerous. ' ' 

Wang Emphasizes a Clear- Grasp of What is Read 

One of his friends asked him why it was that he did not 
remember what he read and studied. 

The Teacher said: "You need only understand. Why 
should you remember? In wishing to understand, you 
have already passed on to another purpose. You need to 
understand your own original nature. If you merely wish 
to remember you will not understand. If you wish to 
understand merely what you have read, you will not be 
able to understand your own original nature. ' ' 

Self-preservation is of Less Value than the Preservation of 
One's Virtue 

I made inquiry regarding the chapter which reads : ' ' The 
determined man and the man of virtue will not seek to live 
at the expense of injuring their virtue. They will even 
sacrifice their lives to preserve their virtue complete. ' ' 22 

The Teacher said : ' ' Because the people of the world all 
think too highly of their physical being and do not ask 
whether it behooves it to die or not, but determine that 
whatever may happen they will preserve it, therefore they 
cast aside heaven-given principles, and giving way to their 
feelings violate these principles. What is there that they 
are not capable of doing? Since they disregard these prin- 

22 Ibid., Book XV, Ch. 8. 



166 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ciples there is no difference between them and animals. 
Should they live on earth for one hundred thousand years, 
they would be animals for that many years. (15) 
The student should have a clear understanding of this. Pi 
Kan and Lung Feng, because they fully realized and under- 
stood, became complete men. ' ' 

The Teacher said to Lu Yiian-ching: ' ' Yuan-ching, 
when you were young, you wished to explain the Five 
Classics, and your purpose was that of loving learning. 
The sages in instructing people were afraid that others 
would not simplify as they should. The rules which they 
gave had all been simplified. As those of the present day 
who find great pleasure in extending the range of the 
mind's observation view it, it would appear that the sages 
had made mistakes in their instruction. ' ' 

The Intuitive Faculty Does Not Sleep 

I made inquiry with reference to understanding day and 
night. 

The Teacher said: "Intuitive knowledge of good in- 
cludes knowledge of day and night. ' ' 

I made further inquiry saying, ' ' When the individual is 
in a deep sleep, is not the intuitive faculty also uncon- 
scious ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "If it is unconscious, how does it 
come that when the individual is called he answers?" 

I said, ' ' If the intuitive faculty is always conscious, how 
can it at times be asleep ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' Rest at night has always been a 
period of building up and creating. When night comes, 
heaven and earth are confused and hard to distinguish, 
form and color are obliterated, and man's eyes see nothing 
and his ears hear nothing, and all the channels of the mind 
are closed. This is the time when the intuitive faculty is 
renewed. When day returns and multitudinous things are 
disclosed, and man's eyes can see and his ears can hear and 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 167 

all the channels of the mind are open, the wonderful use 
of intuition is repealed. From this you can see that man 's 
mind is a unity with heaven and earth, for its (mind's) 
manifestations follow the movements of heaven and earth. 
The people of this generation do not know how to repose. 
If they do not sleep stupidly they forthwith think wildly 
and have bad dreams. ' ' 

I said, ' ' How can one use his efforts when asleep ? ' ' 
The Teacher said, "If you know day, you know night. 
In the day one's intuitive knowledge is free, graceful, and 
devoid of obscuration in its response to heaven-given prin- 
ciples; while in the night it is collected and consolidated. 
Before one dreams there is some omen. ' ' 

The Contemplation of the Taoists and Buddhists Obscures 

the Mind 

The Teacher said : ' ' In so far as the Taoists speak of the 
contemplative condition of the mind, is the sage able to add 
anything of real value to what they say? When the 
Buddhists say that they are free from desire, is the sage 
able to add anything to this? (16) The contemplation of 
which the Taoists speak comes from their attempt to pre- 
serve life, and the absence of desire of which the Buddhists 
speak comes from their attempt to escape the bitterness 
and pain of life and death. But if such ideas are inflicted 
on the original nature, the original meaning of contempla- 
tion and lack of desire has been abandoned and thereby na- 
ture has been obscured. The sage returns to the original 
condition of his intuitive knowledge, and thus the more 
refrains from superimposing his own ideas. The contem- 
plation (emptiness) of intuitive knowledge is the great 
emptiness of heaven, and the absence of desire in intuition 
is the lack of form of heaven. Sun, moon, wind, thunder, 
mountains, rivers, men, and things — in fact, all things that 
have figure and form — are manifested, used, and them- 
selves live and move within this formless, great emptiness 



168 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

called heaven. How can they obstruct and hinder heaven? 
The sage complies with the manifestations and use of his in- 
tuitive faculty. Heaven, earth, and all things are within the 
manifestations, use, and activities of my intuitive faculty. 
How can anything arise outside of my intuitive knowledge 
and obstruct or hinder it ? " 

Nourishing the Mind Does Not Include Asceticism 

Some one made inquiry saying, ' ' The Buddhists also de- 
vote themselves to preserving and nurturing the mind. 
But if one desires to do this he cannot act in official ca- 
pacity in the state. How do you interpret this ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "When we scholars preserve and 
nourish the mind, we do not leave affairs and things. We 
need only comply with Heaven's mandates in order to carry 
out the task. In contrast to this, the Buddhists desire to 
cast aside and abnegate all things, and view the mind as 
subject to metempsychosis and as gradually entering the 
state of Nirvana. Since this has no relation to this earth, 
they cannot govern and rule the Empire. ' ' 

Some one made inquiry regarding heterodoxy. The 
Teacher said : ' ' He who is like a simple husband or wife 
is said to be like them in virtue. He who differs from 
them is said to be heterodox. ' ' 

Plants and Inanimate Objects Have Intuitive Knowledge 

Chu Pen-ssu made inquiry saying, "When the mind is 
emptied of desire, the individual has intuitive knowledge of 
good. Have, then, such things as plants and stones intu- 
itive knowledge of good?" 

The Teacher said: "The intuitive knowledge of man is 
the intuitive knowledge of plants and stones. If plants and 
inanimate things lack the intuitive knowledge of man, they 
cannot be plants and inanimate things. (17) And is this 
true of plants and inanimate objects only? If heaven and 
earth lack the intuitive knowledge of good which man has, 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 169 

they cannot exist. But heaven, earth, and all things are 
ab initio one with man. The point at which this great 
unity (the absolute) manifests intelligence in its highest 
and best form is called the little intelligence and cleverness 
of man's mind. Wind, rain, dew, thunder, sun, moon, 
heavenly bodies, animals, plants, mountains, rivers, earth, 
and stones, are of one structure with man. It is for this 
reason that the grains, animals, and other things are able 
to nourish man, and the various medicines can heal dis- 
eases. Since they share the same vital principle they are 
similar. ' ' 

Wang Shows that Flowers Are Not External to the Mind 

The Teacher was taking recreation at Nanchen. 23 One 
of his friends pointed to the flowers and trees on a cliff and 
said: "You say that there is nothing under heaven ex- 
ternal to the mind. What relation to my mind have these 
flowers and trees on the high mountains, which blossom and 
drop of themselves?" 

The Teacher said: "When you cease regarding these 
flowers, they become quiet with your mind. 24 When you 
see them, their colors at once become clear. From this you 
can. know that these flowers are not external to your mind. ' ' 

He further said: "Perception has no structure upon 
which it depends : it uses the color of all things as its 
structure. The ear has no structure upon which it depends : 
it uses the sounds of things as its structure. The nose has 
no structure: it uses the odors of things as its structure. 
The mouth has no structure : it uses the taste of things as 
its structure. The mind has no structure : it uses the right 
and wrong influences of heaven earth and things as struc- 
ture." 



23 A village in the Chekiang Province. 

2* This would appear to imply that when the mind stops thinking 
about them they ipso facto are no more. 



170 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Sage Manifests Ability i/n the Use of His Intuitive 

Faculty 

The Teacher said : "He alone is possessed of the highest 
sagely qualities under heaven, who shows himself quick of 
apprehension, clear in discernment, far-reaching in intelli- 
gence, and all-embracing in knowledge. 25 How very mys- 
terious this formerly seemed ; but as I examine it today, I 
realize that all men originally have these characteristics. 
The ears are by nature quick in apprehension, the eyes 
clear in discernment, and the mind far-reaching in intelli- 
gence and all-embracing in knowledge. The sage is a man 
of unified ability. The point of his ability is just his in- 
tuitive faculty. The inability of the common people is due 
to a lack of extending knowledge to the utmost. How clear 
and simple this is ! ' ' 

Strength and Wisdom Are Indicative of Sageness and 
Wisdom 

Chu Pen-ssu made inquiry regarding the saying of Men- 
cius: "As a comparison of wisdom, we may liken it to 
skill, and as a comparison of sageness we may liken it to 
strength. " 26 " The philosopher Chu said that the three 
philosophers had more strength than they needed, but 
lacked skill. 27 What do you hold of this?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The three disciples surely had both 
strength and skill. (18) Skill and strength are really not 
two separate things. Skill is found only where strength is 
applied, and strength without skill is useless and vain. The 
three philosophers may be compared to archers. One is 
able to shoot an arrow while walking, another is able to 
shoot while riding a horse, and the third is able to shoot 
and hit from afar. In case the archer is able to reach the 
mark, he is said to have strength ; if he hits the mark, all 

25 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 31, 1 1. 

ze Mencius, Book V, Pt. II, Ch. 1, If 7. 

27 Disciples of Confucius, named Po I, I Ying, and Liu Hsia-hui. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 171 

say that he has skill. Nevertheless, he who is able to do so 
while walking may be unable to do so while riding, and he 
who is able to do so while riding a horse may be unable to do 
so at a distance. Each has his advantages, so that the por- 
tion of their capacity and strength varies. Confucius had 
advantages over all three. However, the kindly, accommo- 
dating character of Confucius reached only to the highest 
kindliness of Liu Hsia-hui. His purity reached only to 
the highest purity of Po I; his inclination to take office 
reached only to the greatest inclination of I Ying to take 
office. Why then should anything be added as though 
there were any insufficiency? If one says that the three 
philosophers had more strength than they needed while 
they lacked skill, it implies that their strength went beyond 
that of Confucius. Skill and strength merely illustrate the 
high character of sageness and wisdom. If one knows 
the real nature of sageness and wisdom, one will naturally 
understand." 

Intuitive Knowledge May Be Compared to the Sun, and 
Desire to the Clouds 

He (Chu) made inquiry saying, "Intuitive knowledge 
should be compared to the sun and desire to clouds. Though 
the clouds may obscure the sun, they nevertheless have 
their origin in the condensation of the vapors of heaven. 
Does not desire also originate from a fusion of the thoughts 
of the mind?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The seven passions — joy, anger, 
sorrow, fear, love, hatred, and desire — all have their origin 
from combinations within the mind. But you should under- 
stand intuitive knowledge clearly. It may be compared to 
the light of the sun. One cannot point out its location. 
Even when a little chink has been penetrated by the bright- 
ness of the sun, the light of the sun is located there. Al- 
though the fog of the clouds may come from all four sides, 
color and form can be distinguished. This, also, implies 



172 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

that at that point the light of the sun has not been de- 
stroyed. One cannot, for the simple reason that the clouds 
may obscure the sun, order heaven to desist from forming 
clouds. If the seven passions follow their natural courses, 
they all are functions of the intuitive faculty. They can- 
not be distinguished as good and evil. However, nothing 
should be added to them. When something has been added 
to the seven passions, desire results, and this obscures in- 
tuitive knowledge. Still, at the time that something is 
superimposed, the intuitive faculty is conscious thereof; 
and since it knows, it should repress it, and return to its 
original state. If at this point one is able to investigate care- 
fully, the task is easily and thoroughly understood." (19) 

The Mind is by Nature Joyous 

Chu made inquiry saying : ' ' Joy is by nature character- 
istic of the mind, but I do not know whether this joy is 
still present when, because of some great and adequate rea- 
son, I weep from grief. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Certainly; for when the period of 
great weeping and grief is past, you are filled with joy. If 
you do not weep you will not rejoice. Though you weep, 
the point at which the mind is at rest should be considered 
as joy. The original nature of the mind has not been in- 
fluenced. " 

Wang Judges a Litigation Between Father and Son 

Among the country people a father and son engaged in 
litigation, bringing it before the Teacher. His underlings 
desired to stop them, but the Teacher heard their case. He 
had not ceased speaking when father and son embraced one 
another and left weeping. Ch'ai Ming-chih entered and 
made inquiry saying, "What did the Teacher say that they 
should be influenced to repent so quickly?" 

The Teacher said: "1 said that Shun was the most un- 
filial son of all times, and that Ku Sou was the most loving 
of all fathers." 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 173 

This alarmed Ming-chili and he asked for an explana- 
tion. The Teacher said : "Shun always viewed himself as a 
most unfilial son, and for that reason was able to be filial. 
Ku Sou always considered himself as being very kind, and 
therefore could not be kind. He was able to remember 
only that Shun was a child whom he had raised. 'Why 
has he not appeared to love me?' he said. He did not 
know that his own mind had been influenced by his second 
wife. As he insisted that he himself was able to love, he 
was the more unable to do so. Shun only thought of how 
his father had loved him when he raised him. 'That he 
does not love me now is due to the fact that I am not fully 
filial,' he said. Since he daily thought that he was not 
completely filial, he became the more filial. Even at the 
time when Ku Sou was fully and finally pleased with his 
son, he (Ku Sou) did no more than revert to the love which 
is native to the mind. For that reason later generations 
have called Shun the most filial of all sons both of past and 
present, and Ku Sou a loving father. ' ' 

The Virtuous Shun Overcame the Evil in His Half-brother 

The Teacher said : "If one gradually makes progress in 
self-government, one will not drift into wickedness. The 
original commentary says that Hsiang had already entered 
upon a righteous course and hence could not drift seriously 
into doing evil. After Shun had been asked for and em- 
ployed (by Yao), Hsiang still sought daily to kill Shun. 
But while Hsiang was so wicked, Shun controlled himself, 
and by his self-control caused his advances to have a sweet 
savor. He did not go and attempt to correct his brother's 
wickedness. (20) The tendency of the evil man is always 
that of glossing over and mitigating his own mistakes and 
covering his own evil. If anybody wishes to point out the 
right and wrong of his conduct, he should influence the evil 
nature of the other person. When Shun first learned that 
Hsiang wished to kill him, he was over-anxious to get the 



174 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

good will of Hsiang, and that was his mistake. When it was 
past he realized that the real task rested with himself and 
that he should not reprove his brother. For that reason a 
state of harmony was reached. This implies that Shun's 
patience, when he was in a state of excitement, brought the 
advantage to him where he had been unable to realize his 
purpose. The sayings of the ancients all refer to things 
which they themselves experienced, and for that reason 
seem personal and sincere. Transmitted to later genera- 
tions, they conform to the passions of men of this day. Had 
they not themselves experienced these things, how could 
they have touched upon so much of the sorrow and bitter- 
ness of the mind?" 

The Teacher said : "The wisdom of Su Ch'in and Chang 
I had the essential characteristics of that of the sage. In 
later generations, a great many heroic, renowned and well- 
known men studied the methods they employed in their oc- 
cupations and essay writing. The plans and methods of 
the learning of I and Ch'in estimate well and accurately 
the passions of men. For this reason their dicta are in- 
exhaustible. I and Ch'in had also detected the wonderful 
function of the intuitive faculty, but they failed to make 
good use of it. " 

Some one made inquiry regarding the state in which 
there are no stirrings of the feelings, and the state in which 
these have manifested themselves. The Teacher said: "Be- 
cause later scholars separated the two states in explaining 
them, I boldly said that they should not be separated, so 
that others might think and understand. If I should say 
that there is a state in which the feelings have been mani- 
fested and a state in which they have not been manifested, 
those who hear would follow their old ideas and fall into 
the exposition of later scholars. If they truly understand 
that there are not two separate states, it will do no harm 
to speak of the two states — that in which there is no stir- 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 175 

ring of feeling and that in which there has been. These 
ideas are present from the beginning. ' ' 

He made inquiry saying, "Does this mean that he who 
has not experienced the stirring of feelings is not in a state 
of harmony, and he who has the same stirring of feelings is 
not in the state of equilibrium ? For instance, in the case of 
the sound of a bell, if the bell has not been struck one can- 
not say that it has no sound. And having been struck one 
cannot say that it has a sound. After all, there is the 
matter of striking or not striking the bell. What do you 
say to this?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' The state in which it is not struck 
is inherently one to startle and surprise the world, and the 
state in which it has been struck is the state of a quiet, 
silent heaven and earth." (21) 

The Teacher's Words Had a Refining Influence 

In refining and perfecting anyone, a word from the 
Teacher had a profound influence. One day when Wang 
Ju-chih returned from taking recreation the Teacher asked, 
"What did you see?" 

He answered, "I saw that all the people on the entire 
street were sages. ' ' 

The Teacher said, ' ' If you saw that all on the street were 
sages, the people on the street all viewed you as a sage. ' ' 

Another day Tung Lo-shih returned from walking about. 
When he saw the Teacher he said, ' ' Today I saw a strange 
thing." 

The Teacher said, "What was it?" 

He answered, "I saw that all the people on the entire 
street were sages." 

The Teacher said, "This is a frequent occurrence. Why 
should it be considered strange?" 

Since Ju-chih was not perfectly correct in his conduct, 
and Lo-shih was disturbed and aroused to a sense of his 
condition, the answer given to each was different though the 



176 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

questions were the same. He changed their words and 
proceeded. 

Hung Yii, Huang Cheng-chih, Chang Shuh-ch'ien, and 
Ju Chung returned from the examination, in the fifth year 
of Cheng Te, and on the way expounded the teacher's doc- 
trines. Some believed them ; others did not. 

The Teacher said: "You assume the bearing of a sage 
and expound learning to the people. When they see a 
sage coming they are all afraid and leave. How can you 
expound under such circumstances? You must be like a 
simple husband or wife; then you will be able to discuss 
learning with others." 

Hung replied, ' ' If one wishes to see the height and depth 
of anyone 's character today, it is very easy. ' ' 

The Teacher said, "How can it be seen?" 

Hung answered, "The Teacher may be compared to one's 
having the T'ai Shan in front of him. 28 He who does not 
look up to him with respect must be blind." 

The Teacher said, ' ' The T 'ai Shan is not as large as the 
level ground. How can the level ground be seen?" This 
one word of the Teacher's cut and laid open the perennial 
defect of striving for external things and desiring exalted 
position. All that were sitting in his presence Were struck 
with fear and trembling. 29 (22) 

I (Huang I-fang) made inquiry saying, " 'Extensively 
studying all learning,' whatever thing you may be doing 
learn to cherish heaven-given principles. 30 Then there is 
the saying, ' If he has strength in excess of requirements, he 
should employ it in the fine arts. ' 31 These two sayings do 
not seem to be in harmony one with the other." 

The Teacher said : ' ' The Book of Poetry, the Book of 
History, and the six liberal arts are all manifestations of 

28 The T 'ai Shan is a sacred mountain. 

29 From this point Huang T-fang takes up the record, 
so Analects, Book VI, Ch. 25. 

si Ibid., Book I, Ch. 6. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 177 

heaven-given principles. The character wen (meaning 
"literature") is included in this. In carefully studying 
the Books of Poetry and History and the six liberal arts, 
one is learning how to cherish heaven-given principles, for 
they do not manifest themselves peculiarly in affairs. Then 
first can one be said to be devoting one's self to learning. 
The matter of using excess strength in the fine arts also is 
included in extensively studying all learning." 

Wang Comments on the Analects, Book II, Chapter 15 

Some one made inquiry regarding the two sayings, 
"Learning without thought is labor lost," and "Thoughts 
without learning are perilous." 32 

The Teacher said, "This was also said in response to some 
definite situation. The real meaning is that thought im- 
plies learning. If in studying any doubt arises, one must 
give thought. Referring to 'thought without learning,' it 
is true that there are individuals who merely think. They 
desire to discover principles through thought, but do not 
really use their strength upon their own bodies and minds 
in order to learn how to cherish heaven-given principles. 
They make thought and learning two distinct things, and 
therefore have the defects of losing their labor and of be- 
ing in a perilous state. The real meaning of the two say- 
ings is that thought is to be given to that which is being 
learned. They do not have reference to two things." 

Through Actual Test Wang Found that Some of the Phil- 
osopher Chu's Sayings Are Impracticable 

The Teacher said: "The common people say that in in- 
vestigating things one should follow Hui (the philosopher 
Chu), but where is there anyone who has been able to carry 
out his teachings in practice? I myself have tried to do 
so. In former years I discussed this with my friend Ch'ien 
saying, 'If to be a sage or a virtuous man one must investi- 

32 Ibid., Book II, Ch. 15. 



178 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

gate everything under heaven, how can at present anyone 
acquire such tremendous strength?' Pointing to some 
bamboos in front of the pavilion, I asked him to investigate 
them and see. Both day and night Ch 'ien entered into an 
investigation of the principles of the bamboo. For three 
days he exhausted his mind and thought, until his mental 
energy was tired out and he took sick. At first I said that 
it was because his energy and strength were insufficient. 
Therefore I myself undertook to carry on the investigation. 
Day and night I was unable to understand the principles 
of the bamboo, until after seven days I also became ill be- 
cause of having wearied and burdened my thoughts. In 
consequence we mutually sighed and said, "We cannot be 
either sages or virtuous men, for we lack the great strength 
required to carry on the investigation of things." When, 
while living among the savage tribes for three years, I 
clearly saw through this idea, I knew that there was really 
no one who could investigate the things under heaven. The 
task of investigating things can only be carried out in and 
with reference to one's body and mind. (23) If it is actu- 
ally true that all men can reach the state of sage, there nat- 
urally is responsibility connected with this. The purpose 
therein contained I wish to explain so that you, Sirs, may 
understand." 

A Boy of Sixteen Can Engage in the Investigation of 
Things 

One of the desciples said, "Shao Tuan-feng argues that 
a boy under sixteen is unable to investigate things. He 
should be taught to sprinkle, sweep, answer, and reply. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Sprinkling, sweeping, and replying 
are also things. The intuitive knowledge of the boy reaches 
only to this point; therefore if he is taught to do these 
things, this small part of his intuitive knowledge is ex- 
tended to the utmost. Again, if the boy knows enough to 
stand in awe of his teachers and elders, this also is making 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 179 

contact with his intuitive knowledge. If while at play he 
happens to see his teacher or elder, he will bow and be 
reverent. This shows that he is able to investigate things 
so as to extend to the utmost his knowledge of reverencing 
his teachers and elders. The boy naturally has the boy's 
ability to investigate things in order to extend his knowl- 
edge to the utmost. ' ' 

He further said : ' ' My instruction regarding philosophy 
implies that from the boy to the sage there is just this sort 
of application. Nevertheless, the sage is more familiar 
with it, so that he does not need to exert his strength in 
order thus to investigate. Though he be a vender of 
kitchen fuel, he may investigate things; and though they 
be princes and high officials or even the Son of Heaven 
(emperor) himself, all must do this." 

Wang Discusses Knowledge and Practice 

One of the disciples made inquiry saying, ' ' In what way 
do knowledge and practice become a unity? The Doctrine 
of the Mean says 'extensive study,' and in addition speaks 
of 'earnest practice'. 33 This would clearly distinguish 
knowledge and practice as two distinct things." 

The Teacher said : ' ' Extensive learning implies that in 
all things one should learn how to cherish natural law, 
while earnest practice carries with it the idea of learning 
without ceasing." 

He made further inquiry about the saying of the Book 
of Changes: "He studies that he may bring together 
(combine) all learning in his mind," and the further say- 
ing, "He is benevolent in order that he may practice it." 
' ' How is this to be interpreted ? " he asked. 

The Teacher said : ' ' This, also, implies that in all things 
one should learn to harbor natural law. In that case the 
mind will the more never lose it. It is for this reason that 
the Book of Changes says, ' He studies in order that he may 

33 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, f 19. 



180 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

combine all.' Moreover, if the individual continually 
cherishes this natural law, selfishness will the less be able 
to interrupt the task. (24) This is the point at which the 
mind does not rest, and therefore the book says, 'He is 
benevolent in order that he may practice it. ' ' ' 

He made further inquiry saying, ' ' There is the saying of 
Confucius, 'When a man's knowledge is sufficient to attain, 
but his virtue is not sufficient to enable him to hold, what- 
ever he may have gained he will lose again. ' 3 * According 
to this, knowledge and practice are two." 

The Teacher said: "The saying, 'to attain it,' implies 
that he already has practiced it continually. Because sel- 
fish desires intervene, his virtue does not enable him to 
hold it." 

He made further inquiry saying, "There is the saying, 
' The mind is itself heaven-given principles, ' while the phil- 
osopher Ch'eng said, 'Principles are to be found in things.' 
How can it be said that the mind is these principles?" 

The Teacher said : "In the saying of the philosopher 
Chu the word 'mind' should be added so that it would be, 
'When the mind is engaged with things, that is principles.' 
In this way, when the individual's mind is engaged in 
serving his prince, he is loyal. ' ' 

Accordingly the Teacher said to them : ' ' Sirs, if you 
wish to know the original purport of my dicta, I will now 
explain what I mean by saying that the mind is heaven- 
given principles. It is only because people make a dis- 
tinction between mind and principles that there are so 
many diseases (evils). For instance, that the five famous 
rulers (of the sixth century B.C.) drove out the barbarians 
and dignified the Chou dynasty was entirely due to selfish- 
ness, and thus was not in accordance with heaven-given 
principles. People say that they acted in accordance with 
principles, but that their minds were not unaffected by 
selfishness. They always found joy in desiring what they 

34 Analects, Book XV, Ch. .'52, If 1. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 181 

themselves accomplished. People further say that their 
desire to make external things appear propitious had no 
relation at all to their minds. In this way they distinguish 
between mind and heaven-given principles. They drifted 
into the false condition of ruling by might and did not 
know themselves. Therefore, when I say that the mind is 
principles, I wish you to understand that mind and prin- 
ciples are one and the same thing. Then you will come 
to use your efforts on your minds and will not steal into 
righteousness with external things. This is the truth of 
ruling by law or right. This is the original purport of 
my dicta." 

He made further inquiry saying: "There are a great 
many sayings of sages and good men. "Why should they 
be combined into one dictum?" 

The Teacher said, "Not because I wish to combine them 
into one ; for it has been said, ' The path is one and one 
only. ' 35 Further it has been said, ' They are without any 
doubleness, and so they produce things in a manner that is 
unfathomable. ' 36 Heaven and earth and sages are all one. 
How can there be any distinction between them ? " (25) 

One Honors One's Virtuous Nature in Maintaining Con- 
stant Inquiry and Study 

I made inquiry regarding the section, "He honors his 
virtuous nature. ' ' 37 

The Teacher said : " ' He maintains constant inquiry and 
study,' and therefore honors his virtuous nature. Hui 
(the philosopher Chu) spoke of the sage's pondering in or- 
der to admonish the people to honor their virtuous nature. 
Do I in instructing others add anything to the maintaining 
~^ constant inquiry and study and thus separate 'honoring 
one's virtuous nature' and 'maintaining constant inquiry 

35 Mencius, Book III, Pt. I, Ch. 1, 1f 3. 

36 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 26, If 7. 

37 Ibid., Ch. 27, 1 6. 



182 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and study' into two? That I now explain, practice, seek, 
and discuss these many tasks, means nothing more than 
cherishing the mind so that it does not lose its virtuous 
nature. Is there such a thing as merely honoring one's 
virtuous nature, and not engaging in inquiry and study? 
Is there such a thing as merely inquiring and studying 
with no relation to one 's virtuous nature ? In that case I 
do not know what those who are making use of explanation, 
practice, inquiry, and discussion are really learning." 

I made inquiry regarding the two sentences, "He seeks 
to carry it out to its breadth and greatness, so as to omit 
none of the more exquisite and minute points which it em- 
braces, and to raise it to its greatest height and brilliancy, 
so as to pursue the course of the mean. ' ' 38 

The Teacher said : "He overlooks none of its finest points 
and therefore carries it out to its breadth and greatness. 
He pursues the course of the mean and therefore raises it 
to its greatest brilliancy, for the original nature of the 
mind is extremely broad and great (inclusive). If the in- 
dividual is not able to reach the state in which he omits 
none of its most excellent and minute points, his mind has 
been obscured and obstructed by selfish desires, the least of 
which he has not been able to overcome. If the individual 
overlooks none of the smallest and most involved points, 
selfish desire cannot obstruct his mind, and thus there nat- 
urally cannot be a great many points at which it is ob- 
structed and obscured. Why should he not carry it out to 
its greatest breadth and greatness?" 

The Minutiae of Thought Are the Minutice of Principles 

I made further inquiry saying, "Are these excellent and 
minute points of thought and experience, or do they refer 
to the principles of things?" 

The Teacher said: "The excellency and minutiae of 

38 Op. cit. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 183 

thought are the excellency and minutiae of the principles 
of affairs." 

The Teacher said: "Those who in this day discuss na- 
ture are numerous and have various points of view, but none 
realize what it is. Those who understand nature do not 
represent various points of view in their discussion." 

Wang Explains a Typical Practice of the Buddhists 

One of Yang-ming's friends mentioned the practice of 
the Buddhist when he displays his fingers to explain his 
point of view, while saying, "Have you all seen them?" 
They say, "Yes," and he then draws his fingers back into 
his sleeve again, saying, ' ' Do you all still see them ? ' ' They 
say, ' ' We do not. ' ' The Buddhist says, ' ' You have not yet 
seen nature." "I do not understand this," the friend 
said. 

The Teacher said : ' ' The fingers at times may be visible 
and at other times not. (26) You see the mind continually 
in the mind and intelligence of others, but you lose yourself 
in matters that can be seen and heard and do not use your 
energies in that which cannot be seen and heard. Since the 
original nature of our intuitive faculty cannot be seen, 
cautiousness and apprehensiveness are conditions that ex- 
tend intuitive knowledge to the utmost. When the student 
at all times sees what they do not see and hears what they 
do not hear, his efforts have a true point of departure. 
When after a time he becomes thoroughly familiar, he does 
not need to exert any strength nor wait until he may take 
his ease. His true nature does not rest. Can he allow 
the external seeing and hearing to embarrass him?" 

Heaven, Earth, Spirits, Gods, and Man Are a Unity 

I made inquiry saying: "The mind of man, and things, 
have a common structure. It may be compared to my 
body, in which blood and the vital force flow together. 
Therefore it may be said that they have a common struc- 



184 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ture. If they have a different structure from man, ani- 
mals and plants are still more distinct. Why should they 
all be said to have a common structure ? ' ' 

The Teacher said : ' ' You should judge this matter from 
subtleness of cause and effect, of stimulation and response. 
And does this refer only to animals and plants? Heaven 
and earth are one structure with me ; spirits and gods are 
in one all-pervading unity with me." 

I asked that the Teacher kindly explain it further. 

Whereupon he said : ' ' What do you consider the mind 
of heaven and earth to be?" 

I answered, "I have often heard that man is the mind 
of heaven and earth. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "What ha-s man that may be called 
mind?" 

I answered, "There is only his intelligence that can know 
how to fill heaven and earth. In the midst of heaven and 
earth there is only this intelligence. It is only because of 
his form and body that man is separated into body and 
mind. My intelligence is the ruler of heaven and earth, of 
spirits and gods. If heaven is deprived of my intelligence, 
who wall respect its eminence? If the earth lacks my intel- 
ligence, who will look into its depths? If spirits and gods 
lack my intelligence, who will distinguish between their 
happiness and their misfortunes? If heaven, earth, spirits, 
gods, and things separate themselves from my intelligence, 
then there will be neither heaven, nor earth, nor spirits, nor 
gods, nor things. If my intelligence departs from these 
things, it also will exist no more. Thus they are combined 
in one structure or substance. Why should they be sep- 
arated?" (27) 

I made further inquiry saying, "Heaven, earth, spirits, 
gods, and things have existed for thousands of years. Why 
should it be that when my intelligence is gone they all exist 
no longer?" 

The Teacher said: "Consider the dead man. His en- 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 185 

ergy and intelligence have been separated. Where are his 
heaven, earth, and things?" 

Pride is a Great Disease 

The Teacher said : ' ' The great disease of mankind is all 
expressed in the word nao (meaning "pride" or "haughti- 
ness"). The proud son certainly is not filial, nor the 
haughty minister loyal, nor the proud father loving, nor 
the proud friend sincere. The reason why Hsiang and 
Tan Chu were both degenerate was their pride. Sirs, you 
should appreciate that the mind of man is ab initio natural 
law. It is discriminating, clear and without the least spot 
of selfishness. Selfishness should not be cherished in one's 
breast, for its presence engenders pride. The many good 
characteristics of the sages of most ancient times were due 
to a selfless mind. Being selfless they were naturally 
humble. Humility is the foundation of all virtue ; pride 
is the chief of vices." 

Tsou Ch'ien-chih often spoke to Te-hung (Ch'ien Te- 
hung) saying, "Shuh Kuo-shang took a sheet of paper 
and asked the Teacher to write the following chapter: 
'Anybody who wishes to cultivate the t'ung or the tsze, 
which may be grasped with both hands, perhaps with one, 
knows by what means to nourish them. Is it to be sup- 
posed that their regard of their own persons is inferior to 
their regard for a t'ung or a tsze 9 : Their want of reflec- 
tion is extreme. ' 39 

' ' The Teacher took the pen and wrote it for him up to and 
including, 'In the case of their own persons, men do not 
know by what means to nourish them.' He looked at him 
and laughing said, 'Kuo-shang. you have through study 
acquired the title of Chuang Yuan. 40 Can it really be that 

39 Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. W, If 1. 

40 The title of the candidate who wins the first place at the Tri- 
ennial Palace Examination which is the final test of the already suc- 
cessful graduates of the third degree. The holder is thus, popularly 



186 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

you do not know by what means to nourish your person 
and still need to recite this in order to seek to warn your- 
self?' At that time all the friends that stood there were 
awed. ' ' 

Wang Advises Chiu-ch'uan to Devote His Energies on His 
Intuitive Faculty 

Chiu-ch'uan made inquiry saying, "I examine my 
thoughts to find whether they are connected with depraved 
and wrong things or are ready to grapple with the affairs 
of earth. When my thoughts are most intense and, being 
arranged in regular order, awaken interest, love of lust is 
difficult to expel. I realize that if I attempt to expel it 
early, it is readily done ; but if late, it is difficult. If I use 
effort in controlling myself, I realize its obstructing powers 
the more. Only when I gradually shift my thoughts to 
some other affair, does it give way and I forget. This 
method of making my thoughts magnanimous and pure also 
seems to do no harm." 

The Teacher said: "Why do you need to pursue that 
course? You need only earnestly devote your energies 
upon your own intuitive faculty." (28) 

Chiu-ch'uan said, "I may truly say that at such times 
I am not aware of its presence. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "If you devote yourself to the intu- 
itive faculty, why should evil thoughts come? Your in- 
tuitive faculty is obscured because your task is interrupted. 
You should connect up present endeavor with your former 
task. Why should you use the method you suggest?" 

Chiu-ch'uan said: "Lust is very difficult to extermi- 
nate. Though I know that it should be put aside, it does 
not leave me." 

The Teacher said : "You need to be courageous. If you 
devote yourself to this for a long time, you will naturally 

speaking, the best man of his year. (Giles, Herbert A.: Chinese Eng. 
Dictionary, Kelly & Walsh, Shanghai, 1892, p. 284.) 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 187 

have moral courage. Therefore it is said, 'It is produced 
by the accumulation of righteous deeds. ' 41 He who over- 
comes easily is a man of great virtue. ' ' 

Chiu-ch'uan made inquiry saying: "When I study, the 
idea of a literary degree comes up. I do not know how 
this can be avoided. I have privately heard that abject 
poverty and prosperity are fated, and that men of superior 
wisdom will perhaps not condescend to this. The degen- 
erate who is bound by a desire for fame and gain gladly 
undergoes futile painstaking work. If he seeks to drive 
out any desire for fame and gain, his parents restrain him. 
What do you think about this ? ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Many attribute this to their par- 
ents, but as a matter of fact they themselves lack purpose ; 
for when the purpose is fixed, all things whatsoever are 
unified. How can study and the writing of essays embar- 
rass such an individual? That he is embarrassed is owing 
to the fact that his mind is perplexed with getting or los- 
ing. " Therefore the Teacher sighed and said, "They do 
not understand this learning. They do not know how many 
men of ability have wasted their time at this point." 

The Intuitive Faculty is Discriminating in Its Application 
of Principles 

Pen-ssu made inquiry saying, "If the sage and things 
have a common structure, why does the Great Learning 
mention things of great importance and things of slight 
importance?" 42 

The Teacher said : ' ' Referring to the path of duty, there 
naturally are things of great importance and things of 
minor importance. The body, for instance, is a unity. 
When one uses the hands or feet to defend and protect the 
head and eyes, does not this imply that one is inclined to 
consider his hands and feet of slight importance? Prin- 

41 Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, If 15. 

42 Vide Great Learning, Introduction, f 7. 



188 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ciples manifest themselves in the same way. Though ani- 
mals and plants are both objects of regard for man, he 
gives plants to feed and nourish animals, and is able to 
endure it. Men and animals are objects of affection, yet 
one butchers the animals in order to feed one's parents, to 
offer sacrifice, or to entertain guests, and the mind endures 
it. Nearest parents and traveling companions (passing ac- 
quaintances) are both objects of regard and affection. But 
suppose that there is only one dish to eat and one bowl 
of soup, and that if the individual gets this he will live, 
otherwise not. (29) It is not possible to carry out both 
ideas. Under such circumstances it is better to save one's 
nearest relative and not the passing stranger — a fact 
which the mind allows. All this is in harmony with the 
doctrine. When comparing one's own body with that of 
one's parents, one should not distinguish between what is 
of great or slight importance in either case, for benevolence 
toward the people and regard for things have sprung from 
this. At this point one should be patient — patient in 
everything. The things of great importance and slight im- 
portance mentioned in the Great Learning are natural 
principles within the realm of intuitive knowledge. To be 
unable to transgress them is called righteousness ; to render 
obedience to them is called propriety; to know them is 
called wisdom; at all times and in all things to use them is 
called integrity and loyalty." 

The Result is of Less Importance than the Process 

I made inquiry saying : ' ' I realize that I have recently 
had less evil thoughts and that I have given less attention 
to the exact way in which I must apply myself; but I do 
not know whether this is working in the right direction or 
not." 

The Teacher said: "Go and apply yourself truly and 
earnestly. Then the matter of having these additional 
moments of giving thought will not interfere. After a 



KECORD OF DISCOURSES 189 

while you will be on a secure basis. If, when you attain 
genuine application, you speak of results, how can this be 
deemed sufficient to rely upon?" 

Inquiry on the Part of Others Stimulates the Sage to 
Greater Mental Activity 

I made inquiry saying, "Confucius said, 'Hui is not a 
man who helps me. ' ** Does this imply that the sage really 
hoped that his disciple might help him?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' It is true. The truth is by nature 
inexhaustible. The more inquiry is made about its diffi- 
culties, the more its fineness and its minutiae will be ap- 
parent. The words of the sage naturally are all-inclusive. 
But if anyone whose mind is obscured makes inquiry re- 
garding some difficulty, the sage will be moved (animated) 
by the difficulty and will thus increase his mental energy. 
If the philosopher Yen heard one thing he understood ten, 
for his mind was clear. Why should he make inquiry re- 
garding difficulties ? Therefore the sage was quiet in mind 
and not animated. Since there was nothing to influence 
him, he said that he received no assistance. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "In case the individual knows the 
secret of intuitive knowledge, no matter how many thoughts 
he has that are depraved, corrupting, and useless, they 
will all be dissipated when intuitive knowledge becomes 
aware of them. (30) Truly this is an efficacious pellet, which 
changes iron into gold." 

The Beginning of Learning is to be Found in Extending 
Intuitive Knowledge 

One of "Wang's friends sitting quietly came to a realiza- 
tion, and forthwith ran to make inquiry of the Teacher, 
who answered him thus: "When formerly I lived at Ch'u, 
I saw that all my disciples were earnestly devoted to the 
interpretation of learning. 44 What they said and heard 

43 Analects, Book XI, Ch. 3. 
** Ch 'u is a city in Anhui. 



190 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

was inconsistent one with the other, and they received no 
advantage. It was for that reason that I told them to sit 
quietly a while, so that they might get a glimpse of their 
condition and thereby gain ample results. After a while 
there were some who found delight in tranquility and had 
aversion to activity. They became dead and lifeless. 
Others of the disciples devoted themselves to profound ex- 
planations of wonderful experiences which moved men 
when they heard them. As a result, I have recently dis- 
cussed only the matter of extending intuitive knowledge to 
the utmost. When your intuitive knowledge is clear, it is 
well for you to sit and examine your mind and come to a 
state of realization; and it is also well to be polished and 
refined in the affairs of life. The intuitive faculty original- 
ly is neither active nor tranquil. It is the starting-point 
of learning. This saying I have explained through com- 
parison seven times since I lived at Ch'uchou. The three 
words, chih liang chih (meaning "to extend intuitive 
knowledge of the good to the utmost"), have no defect. 
After the doctor has had experience with a broken arm, he 
can investigate the principles underlying disease. 

There Are Various Degrees of Knowledge 

' ' The knowledge of the sage may be compared to the sun 
on a clear day; that of the virtuous man to the sun on a 
day of floating clouds ; that of a simple-minded, rustic man 
to the sun on a dark, foggy day. Though the darkness and 
clearness vary, they may all equally distinguish between 
black and white. Though there be the confusion and dark- 
ness of night, they may indistinctly distinguish black and 
white. This implies that the light of the sun is not com- 
pletely exhausted. Even study as a result of being dis- 
tressed because of ignorance proceeds only from careful 
examination at the point where there is a little light and 
clearness. ' ' 

I made inquiry saying, "If it is self-evident that the 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 191 

sage is born with knowledge of the truth and practices it 
with ease, what task remains for him to do?" 

The Teacher said: "Knowledge and practice are the 
task." 

Ancient Music Had a Vital Relation to Public Morals 

The Teacher said: "For many years the music of the 
ancients has not been used." 

Someone asked, ' ' Is the purpose of the present-day actors 
inconsistent with that of ancient music or not ? ' ' 

The Teacher said, "The nine chapters of the music of 
Shun constituted the book of the actors of his time, and 
the nine sections of the music of Wu constituted the book 
of the actors of "Wu's time. (31) The important affairs from 
the life of the sages were all exhibited in the music. When 
virtuous men heard it, they understood the exceeding good- 
ness and beauty of the music of Shun and the exceeding 
beauty of the music of Wu, as well as the points at which 
it was not perfectly good. When later generations com- 
pose music, they merely produce harmonized poetical com- 
positions which have no relation to changing public morals. 
How can they bring about good customs? 

"Most of the men who have faults spend their efforts 
on their faults — that is to say, in mending the rice-boiler. 
The direction of their efforts lies in glossing over the fault. 
Present-day people while eating, though they have nothing 
further to do, employ their minds and are not in a state of 
tranquility. For this reason the mind is habitually dis- 
tracted with care, and consequently they cannot control it. ' ' 

Nature May Be Discussed from Many Stayidpoints 

I made inquiry saying, ' ' The discussions of the ancients 
regarding nature are various. Whose shall be accepted as 
the criterion?" 

The Teacher said: "Nature has no fixed form, and the 
discussion of nature also takes no fixed form. There were 



192 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

those who discussed it from the point of its underlying sub- 
stance; there were those who based their discussions on its 
manifestations; there were those who proceeded from its 
source; there were those who proceeded from its defects 
and corruptions. Taking it all together, they all referred 
to this one nature, but there were degrees of depth in what 
they saw. Insisting on any one aspect involves mistakes. 
Nature is ab initio characterized neither by good nor evil; 
but its impulses may fix upon either good or evil. It may 
be compared to the eyes. There are the eyes of one who is 
joyous, and the eyes of the one who is angered. "When one 
sees direct and exactly, they are the eyes of one who sees. 
When one peeps with his eyes, the eyes are near-sighted. 
Taking it all together, they are eyes. If one sees the eyes 
of an angry person, one says he does not have eyes which 
express delight. If one sees eyes at the time they perceive, 
one says they are not peeping. This all implies an in- 
sistence on a fixed condition, and from this we know that 
there is a mistake. Mencius in discussing nature discussed 
it directly from the point of view of its source and thus 
spoke of it in this general way. The philosopher Hsiin's 
discussion of the evil of nature proceeded from its im- 
pulses toward evil. One cannot say that he was wrong. 
Nevertheless, he did not view the situation with discrimina- 
tion." (32) 

Wang's Disciples Discuss His Unpopularity 

Hsieh Shang-ch'ien, Ts'ou Ch'ien-chih, Ma Tzu-hsin, 
and Wang Ju-chih sat near the Teacher. They deplored 
the fact that from the time the Teacher had reduced Ning- 
fan to submission he had been slandered and criticised by 
many, and therefore requested that each in turn give his 
version of the reason. One said it was due to the fact that 
his merit and his power were daily increasing and the 
number of those who were envious of him in the state was 
also increasing. One said that the Teacher's learning was 



KECORD OF DISCOURSES 193 

daily becoming clearer, and that therefore the scholars who 
defended the philosopher (Chu) of the Sung dynasty were 
daily becoming more numerous. One said that after the 
Teacher had been at Nanchang, those who had the same 
purpose and followed him, daily congregated the more; 
while those who had been delegated from all sides to hinder 
him, daily exerted themselves the more. 

The Teacher said: "What you have said, Sirs, I believe 
is all true. However, the fact that I myself have come to 
self-realization, you, Sirs, have entirely overlooked. Be- 
fore I came to Nanchang, I harbored the purpose of the 
'good, careful people of the villages,' but today I believe 
that I reach what is right and wrong by means of the in- 
tuitive faculty.* 5 I do what comes uppermost, and not 
being involved in dissimulating, I present the front of one 
who is ardent. Therefore the people all say that my ac- 
tions do not cover my assertions. ' ' 46 

"Your Good, Careful People of the Village" Are Not Su- 
perior Men 

The disciples asked him to explain the difference between 
"your good, careful people of the village" and the "ardent 
man. ' ' 

The Teacher said: "Your good, careful people of the 
village, because their principles have a semblance of right- 
mindedness and their conduct of disinterestedness, are 
taken for superior men. They agree with current cus- 
toms, conspire with an impure age, and are not firm in 
holding their views in the presence of mean men. There- 
fore, if you blame them, you find nothing to allege ; and if 
you would criticise them you have nothing to criticise. 
However, if you examine their minds you will know that in 
their right-mindedness and truth, and in their disinterested- 
ness, they flatter the superior man ; and that in their agree- 

« MenchiB, Book VII, Pt. II, Ch. 37, If 8. 

40 Meaning that he does not carry out what he says. 



194 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ment with custom, and in their conspiracy with an impure 
age, they flatter the mean man. Their minds have been 
ruined, and therefore they are unable to enter upon the 
path of Yao and Shun. The will of the ardent, ambitious 
man cherishes the institutions of the ancients. 47 Neither 
the confused murmur of others nor the influence of custom 
are sufficient to embarrass his mind. He truly represents 
the phoenix soaring eight thousand feet in the air. When 
once he is able to control his thoughts, he forthwith be- 
comes a sage. Only because he is unable to control his 
thoughts is he perverse and offensive in affairs. But what 
he does he never covers up. Since he does not cover his 
actions, his mind is not ruined and may perhaps be regu- 
lated." 

The disciples asked: "Why give judgment that 'your 
good, careful people of the village' flatter and love the 
world (of people) ?" 

The Teacher said : "I know this from the fact that they 
ridicule the ardent and the cautiously-decided. Moreover, 
they say of them : ' Why do they act so peculiarly and are 
so cold and distant ? Born in this age, we should be of this 
age ; to be good is all that is needed. ' 48 Therefore, what- 
soever they do is mere form and never fixed. (33) Conse- 
quently they are said to have a semblance. Moreover, since 
the time of the Three Dynasties, the scholars who have ac- 
quired fame have attained no more than the semblance of 
'your good people of the villages.' If the loyalty, faithful- 
ness, and disinterestedness of such an individual is investi- 
gated, it is perhaps not possible to avoid his being sus- 
pected by his wife. Though one desires to be in the fullest 
sense one of these good country people, this also is not 
easy. And how much more is this true of the path of the 
sage ! ' ' 

The disciples said, ' ' Confucius had thoughts of the am- 

47 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. II, Ch. 37, 1 5 and 6. 
*sibid., Book VII, Pt. II, Ch. 37, H 9. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 195 

bitious ones and the cautious ones, but when it came to the 
matter of expounding the truth, why did he explain it to 
the philosopher Tseng and not to Ch'in and Chang and 
their class? Was it because the philosopher Tseng was 
cautious and decided?" 

The Teacher said: "No. Ch'in, Chang, and their com- 
panions were by disposition ardent and ambitious. Though 
they attained what they wanted, they remained ardent and 
ambitious to the end. The philosopher Tseng was a man 
who naturally acted in accordance with the mean, and for 
that reason was able to come to a state of realization and 
to enter the path of the sage. ' ' 

Te-hung and Ju-chung Discuss Learning 

In the sixth year of Chia Ching, in the ninth month, the 
Teacher was again in official position. As he was starting 
out to subdue Ssut'ien, Te-hung and Ju-chung were dis- 
cussing learning. Ju-chung spoke of the instruction of 
the Teacher as follows: "Being without virtue and with- 
out evil is the original nature of the mind, while the pres- 
ence of virtue and vice is due to the activity of the pur- 
pose (will). Knowledge of good and evil is due to the in- 
tuitive faculty. To do good and abhor evil implies the in- 
vestigation of things." 

Te-hung said : ' ' What do you think of it ? " 

Ju-chung said: "This perhaps is not the final word. 
If you say that the mind is characterized neither by virtue 
nor by vice, the will, knowledge, and things are all free 
from virtue or vice. If you say that the will is character- 
ized by virtue and vice, it is finally a fact that there still is 
good and evil in the original nature of the mind. ' ' 

Te-hung said : ' ' The mind is heaven-decreed nature, 
and thus is ab initio neither good nor evil. But in one as- 
pect the mind is the result of habit. In will and thought 
you can see that there is good and evil. Investigating 
things for the purpose of extending knowledge to the ut- 



196 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

most, making the purpose sincere, rectifying the mind, cul- 
tivating the person, and regulating the families, imply a 
return to nature. If there is originally neither good nor 
evil, it is not necessary to speak of these tasks. ' ' 

The Teacher Instructs Them 

That evening they sat near the Teacher at the T'ien- 
ch'iian-ch'iao and both asked that he might correct them. 
The Teacher said : " As I am about to leave, I really want 
you two men to disclose the purport of your ideas. Sirs, 
both points of view may render you some mutual assistance, 
but neither one of you should insist upon one aspect. (34) I 
originally welcome both types of men. The man who is by 
nature clever is able to comprehend immediately from the 
source. The mind in its original nature is clear and unob- 
structed, and is in a condition of equilibrium in which there 
is no stirring of passion. As soon as the clever man fully 
realizes the nature of the mind, he forthwith enters upon 
the task and understands everything — others, himself, 
things internal, and things external. On the other hand, 
there necessarily are those whose mind, by habit, takes 
definite grooves. Nature has been obscured. I gently in- 
struct them to do good and to abhor evil in their thoughts. 
When they have mastered this task and have entirely re- 
moved all feculence, nature is completely clear. 

"The point of view of Ju-chung is the one by means of 
which I receive those who are naturally clever. The point 
of view of Te-hung is the one I use in the second instance. 
If I use your two points of view, Sirs, I am able to lead 
individuals of the upper, middle, and lower classes upon 
the path. If each insists upon one aspect, you will lose 
men in your very presence. ' ' 

After a while he spoke again, saying: "When after this 
you discuss learning with your friends, you must not lose 
sight of my real purpose : ' To be free from good and evil 
is the nature of the mind, while good and evil are due to 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 197 

the activity of the thoughts (purpose). It is the intuitive 
knowledge of good that gives knowledge of good and evil. 
To do good and expel evil is what is meant by investiga- 
tion of things.' Following my words you should adapt 
yourselves to the individual when offering instruction, and 
then there will be no defects. This is a method whereby 
I reach both the upper and the lower classes. Men who 
are naturally clever are few. When once they realize what 
the task is they understand it fully. This Yen-tzu and 
Ming-tao did not dare to assume. Is it an easy matter to 
espy men from afar? If the individual has a mind fixed 
by habit, and is not taught to devote himself earnestly to 
furthering the good and keeping out the evil in his intu- 
itive faculty, but vainly thinks of reverting to nature while 
all his acts are not genuine, he will do no more than cul- 
tivate an empty, false tranquility. This is not a minute 
defect. I must dissipate such notions at the earliest op- 
portunity. ' ' 

Wang's Ideal for His Disciples 

The Teacher said: "Sirs, you should fix your minds 
upon definitely becoming sages. Whenever you strike, 
there should be a mark ; and whenever you hit there should 
be blood on the hand ; for not until then will you hear me 
speak and get virtue out of every sentence. (35) If you 
spend your days in a dazed and vague fashion, you may be 
compared to a lifeless piece of flesh that neither feels pain 
nor itches, though it is struck. I fear that under such cir- 
cumstances you will not be of any use. When you return 
home you Will be able to measure up only to the ability of 
former times. Would not that be unfortunate ? 

His Idea of Recapitulation 

"During a single day the individual experiences the 
world from the ancients up to the present time. Never- 
theless, people do not realize this. In the night when the 
night air is pure and clear, when nothing is seen or heard, 



198 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and man neither thinks nor works, and is indifferent and 
undisturbed, this is the age of Emperor Hsi. 49 In the 
morning when the air is transparent, peaceful and inspir- 
ing, this is the age of Yao and Shun. Just before the 
middle of the day, when the vital forces are blended and the 
various forms are regular and clear, this is the time of the 
Three Dynasties. 50 After the middle of the day, when the 
air gradually becomes unclear and moves confusedly, this 
is the time of the contending states in feudal times. When 
the day gradually becomes confused and dark, nature rests, 
and forms are lonely and solitary, this is the age when man 
and things are done away with. If the student has had 
faith in his intuitive knowledge of good he will not be dis- 
turbed by the passion nature, and thus will become an in- 
dividual, as it were, belonging to the period before Em- 
peror Hsi." 

He Inculcates Humility 

From the time when he was at Nanchang, the Teacher, 
whenever he made any explanation to the students, always 
urged them to cherish natural law and expel desire, as be- 
ing the very foundation of the truth. When anyone made 
inquiry regarding what he said, he ordered him to seek for 
himself. He had not yet explained or shown what natural 
law is. Kuo Shan-fu from Kuangkang helped his fol- 
lower Liang Chi to go to Yiieh to receive instruction. On 
the way they had a discussion without coming to an agree- 
ment, but, having arrived, they made inquiry of the 
Teacher. 

At that time he was in a pavilion eating congee. He 
did not answer their inquiry, but inspected Liang Chi sev- 
eral times. Pointing to his congee bowl, he said, "This 
bowl when underneath is able to contain this rice. This 



<9 Fu Hsi was the legendary monarch who is said to have discov- 
ered the diagrams on the back of a tortoise. (Giles.) 
so Vide footnote 28, p. 69. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 199 

table is able to hold this bowl from below. This pavilion 
is able to contain this table. The earth is able to carry this 
pavilion. Only by descending (being humble) is one truly 
great. ' ' 

A Quarrel Diagnosed 

One day there was the noise of fighting and angry speech 
on the street. One man said, "You are lacking in moral 
principles." The other said, "You are lacking in moral 
principles." The first one said, "You have a deceptive 
mind." The second one answered, "You have a deceptive 
mind." (36) 

The Teacher heard them, and calling his disciples said, 
' ' Hear them — these men that are screaming at one another 
— for they are discussing learning. ' ' 

His disciples answered, "They are scolding. How can 
it be learning that they are discussing?" 

The Teacher said, ' ' Do you not hear that they are speak- 
ing of moral principles and the mind? If this is not dis- 
cussing learning, what is it?" 

The disciples said, "Since it is learning, why do they 
speak angrily?" 

He said, "It is because these men know only how to re- 
prove others and do not know how to apply it to them- 
selves. ' ' 

Wang Relates His Experience in Acquiring a Full Under- 
standing of the Meaning of Intuitive Knowledge 
of Good 

The Teacher often said, "After I had been at Lungch'ang 
I did not discuss the meaning of the intuitive knowledge of 
good, for I was not able to interpret it. When I spoke 
with the students, I wasted a great many words. For- 
tunately I now comprehend the meaning. In one sentence 
I fully comprehended it at the time and was truly ex- 
tremely happy. Unconsciously I gesticulated with hands 
and feet. When the students heard it, they also were saved 



200 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

a great deal of troublesome work. Place the starting-point 
of learning there, and one is able to discuss it very def- 
initely. Yet there is danger that the students are unwilling 
directly to assume the responsibility involved." 

He further said, "My teachings regarding intuitive 
knowledge of good have been acquired with extreme diffi- 
culty. It has not been easy to reach my standpoint. Since 
this is the ultimate subject which the student gets, I can- 
not help discussing it fully with others at one time. But 
there is danger that if the students get this easily, they will 
consider it as a thing to trifle with, and thereby neglect 
it." 

He spoke to his friends saying, "For some time I de- 
sired to publish this, but I knew that there was one expres- 
sion which I was unable to give, though I held it moistened 
in my mouth." Soon after, however, he said, "Of late I 
realize that there is no other learning but this. ' ' 

Near by there was one who strongly desired to understand 
but did not. Accordingly the Teacher spoke again, "Even 
this did not give satisfaction. It was after I had changed 
at this point that I came forward with my teachings re- 
garding the intuitive faculty." 

One of his friends stood near. His eyebrows indicated 
that he was troubled in thought. The Teacher noticed him 
and said to another friend, "The intuitive faculty unques- 
tionably penetrates heaven and earth. Near us it is pen- 
etrating a person. (37) When a. man's person is not cheer- 
ful, it does not necessarily imply anything very serious. If 
only a hair falls from the head, the entire person is forth- 
with sorry. How can anything (selfishness) be allowed 
within it?" 

Wang Recognizes the Mistakes of His Youth 

When the Teacher first became a Chinshih, he sent in a 
memorial regarding eight essential things (pertaining to 
the border of the Empire). Shih Yen admired and praised 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 201 

him. When in later life someone used this memorial in 
asking the Teacher a question, the Teacher said : ' ' This is 
one of the affairs of my early life. It manifests a great 
deal of the spirit of opposition and oppression. If such 
a spirit is not expelled while one wishes to hold office in 
the state, how can one measure up to the requirements?" 
Someone made further inquiry regarding the pacifying 
of Ningfan. The Teacher said: ''At that time I acted 
in accordance with that standpoint, but now I realize that 
I formerly had this extravagance. Were I ordered to do it 
now, there would be a change." 

Wang Did Not Desire to Contrast His Standpoint in a Hos- 
tile Way with That of the Philosopher Chu 

Because of the judgment of others that the learning of 
the Teacher was different from that of the philosopher Chu, 
doubt was raised in the minds of men concerning its cor- 
rectness. The simple-minded thought there really was no 
difference between them. They held that though the say- 
ings of the two teachers were different, the two men were 
alike in the matter of defending the doctrine and under- 
standing the world. This was not due to the fact that the 
simple-minded ventured to use their own private ideas to 
observe them on the sly, but rather to the fact that they 
erroneously harmonized their sayings. I still made inquiry 
regarding the sayings of the two teachers. Wen-ch'eng 
(Yang-ming) said, "My sayings are sometimes different 
from those of Hui-an. 51 Since in the matter of beginning 
the task there are both small and great differences, I can- 
not but explain them. Nevertheless, my mind has not been 
different from his. Mencius loved to dispute only because 
he wished to rectify the minds of men. Since my mind 
and that of Hui-an are alike, why should there be any 
dispute?" 

si Wen-ch'eng was Wang's posthumous title; Hui-an was the 
philosopher Chu. 



202 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Wang's Standpoint is Completely Idealistic 

From this one can know that the Teacher did not argue 
regarding the learning of Hui-an. He disputed because 
he feared that there were those who studied Hui-an but 
lost the truth he taught. Hui-an 's writings say, "My 
learning is not of the kind that seeks without the mind and 
not within." The sage established his teachings (Con- 
fucianism) in order that one might silently treasure knowl- 
edge of the intelligence of the mind, and be dignified and 
peaceful, and further that one might consider these as the 
root of investigating principles. He caused the individual 
to know the wonderfulness of all principles, to study ex- 
tensively, to make accurate inquiry, to reflect carefully, 
and to use clear discrimination, for the purpose of extend- 
ing to the utmost the task of exhausting his mental con- 
stitution. 52 Thus in the mutual nourishing of the great 
and the small, in activity and tranquility, he will not 
choose between the inner and the outer, nor between the 
fine and the coarse. (38) He wall consider these as super- 
ficial and will desire that which is invisible. Further, he 
will desire to devote himself to that which is hid- 
den and profound. This is comparable to saying that 
difficulty will hinder and exterminate any choice between 
the inner and the outer, the fine and the coarse. To cause 
the student heedlessly to place his mind on words and lit- 
erary style implies falling into the one-sidedness, extrava- 
gance, depravity, and evasiveness of the Buddhists. How 
deep and how far-reaching is the anxiety which Hui-an 
has beforehand displayed regarding future scholars! 

Both Chu and Wang Wrote for Their Respective Ages 

In order to push inquiry into the reasons for the sayings 
of the two teachers one must realize that Hui-an lived 
after the five dynasties. At that time Buddhism and Tao- 
ism had spread over the Empire and precipitated it into 
dense ignorance of the true investigation of principles. 

52 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, H 19. 



RECORD OF DISCOURSES 203 

Therefore he turned toward the learning of the philosopher 
Ch'eng. He bore in mind and made known the learning 
(Confucianism) which advocated a reverent investigation 
of principles, and caused the people to have a fixed guide. 
Wen-eh'eng lived after Hui-an. At that time the writing 
of verbose essays and the practice of making comments on 
the classics had ruined the minds of men and precipitated 
them into a condition in which they saw and heard vain 
things. Therefore Wen-ch'eng illustrated the learning of 
Lu and made known the purport of combining knowledge 
and practice into one, so that they might know that it is 
necessary to return to nature. The solicitous mind of the 
two teachers in behalf of the doctrine was for no other pur- 
pose than to be a little factor in correcting one-sidedness 
and saving men from defects. It was not that Wen-ch'eng 
understood the inner and did not understand the outer, 
and that Hui-an understood the outer but not the inner. 
How could there have been any disagreement between 
them ? The path is one only. If it is observed from with- 
in, one does not see or hear it. It is the principle which 
contains, and is as vast as, heaven, earth, and all things. If 
it is viewed from without, it is the five human relations, 
things, and change. The mystery of wonder of having its 
roots in the person, mind, and life, is what is called virtue 
by natural disposition. This is the path of uniting the ex- 
ternal and the internal. The superior man devotes him- 
self to studying it, inquiring about it, reflecting on it, 
clearly discriminating it, and earnestly practicing it, in 
order to exhaust his nature. The two teachers are both 
my models. Inquiry should not be made into their differ- 
ences and agreements. If students do not emphasize their 
likeness of purpose, but vainly take the differences in their 
sayings and argue and wrangle about them, the two teach- 
ers will certainly be grieved in the corridors of the temple. 
The simple and unintelligent are not able to understand 
them. I venture to ask those who have the same purpose 
whether I am not correct. (39) 



INQUIRY REGARDING THE GREAT 
LEARNING x 

The Great Learning is Adapted to the Adult Mind 

Referring to the Great Learning, a former scholar held 
that it is adapted to adults. 2 I ventured to ask why learn- 
ing adapted to adults should consist in illustrating illus- 
trious virtue. 3 

Wang said: "The adult is an all-pervading unity — 
one substance — with heaven, earth, and things. He views 
the earth as one family and his country as one man. The 
youth makes a cleavage between things, and distinguishes 
between himself and others, while the adult's ability con- 
sists in considering heaven, earth, and all things as one 
substance. This is not because his own purpose is of that 
kind, but because the benevolent nature of the mind is 
of that type. It is one with heaven, earth, and things. 
But is this true only of adults? The mind of a youth is 
also of this type, but he views himself as small. When he 
sees a child fall into a well, he certainly will experience a 
feeling of alarm and distress, which implies that his kindly 
nature is of the same sort as that of the child and that the 
child belongs to the same class as he. When he hears the 
pitiful cry and sees the frightened appearance of a bird or 
an animal that is about to be slaughtered, his mind surely 
cannot endure it; and this implies that his kindly nature is 
one with that of birds and animals, and that birds and ani- 
mals may be said to be conscious and have feelings. If he 
sees plants destroyed, he surely feels sympathetic. This 

i Written by Ts'ii Ai. 

2 This refers to the interpretation of the philosopher Chu. 

s Great Learning, Introduction, f 1. 



THE GREAT LEARNING 205 

implies that his benevolence includes plants, and that plants 
may be said to have life. "When he sees tiles and stones 
being broken, he surely will have regard for them. This 
implies that his benevolence is one with inanimate things. 
They are all the benevolence of the same body (substance). 
Even a youth will have this type of a mind, which means 
that the source is in the heaven-given nature. But of 
course his intelligence must not be obscured. For this rea- 
son it is called illustrious virtue. Though the young man's 
mind is divided, hampered, and vile, his benevolence may 
not be obscured and darkened, for he may have had no 
stirrings of desire; and his mind may not be obstructed 
with selfishness. As soon as he has stirrings of desire and 
his mind is obscured because of selfishness, and these (de- 
sires) contend severely among themselves and angrily im- 
pede one another, then will he kill and destroy living things 
and will be equal to anything. (40) This may easily 
reach the place where brothers desire to kill one another; 
but thereby benevolence is completely destroyed. For this 
reason if the youth is free from the obscuration of selfish 
desire, his benevolence is as that of the adult, even though 
he is but a youth. When once the individual has been ob- 
scured by selfish desire, he is as divided and ignorant as 
the youth, even though he be an adult. Thus it is evident 
that learning adapted to adults merely clears away the ob- 
scuration of selfish desire from the mind so as to illustrate 
the mind's illustrious virtue and to cause it to revert to the 
original all-pervading unity of heaven, earth, and things. 
It is not possible to add anything to this original sub- 
stance. ' ' 

I said : "I venture to ask why learning for adults 
should consist in loving the people." 4 

He said: "He who manifests illustrious virtue estab- 



4 Ibid. Wan;,' keeps the original ch'in, meaning "to love." He 
refuses to accept the philosopher Chu's hsin, meaning "to reno- 
vate. ' ' 



206 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

lishes himself in the proper place in the great all of heaven, 
earth, and things. He who loves the people perceives and 
understands the use of his nature (common to heaven, 
earth, and things). The manifesting of illustrious virtue 
consists in loving the people, and loving the people in mani- 
festing illustrious virtue. For this reason, if I love my 
own father, the fathers of others, and even the fathers of 
all men, my benevolence will truly be one with that of my 
father, the fathers of others, and even with that of the 
fathers of all men. When they are truly one, then first 
will the illustrious virtue of filial piety be illustrated. 
When I love my elder brother, the elder brothers of others, 
and even the elder brothers of all men, my benevolence will 
be one with them. When it is truly one with them, then 
the illustrious virtue of a younger brother will first be il- 
lustrated. Everything, from prince, minister, husband, 
wife, friends, up to mountains, rivers, spirits, gods, birds, 
animals, and plants, should be truly loved in order to pro- 
mote my natural benevolence; then there will be nothing 
left unmanifested by my illustrious virtue, and I will be 
truly one with heaven, earth, and all things. This is what 
is called illustrating illustrious virtue throughout the king- 
dom. This is what is meant by, ' Their families being regu- 
lated, their states were rightly governed and the whole Em- 
pire was made tranquil. ' 5 It is called ' exhausting na- 
ture.'" (41) 

I said: "I venture to ask in what way learning for 
adults consists in the individual's 'resting in the highest 
excellence.' " 6 

The Teacher said : ' ' Resting in the highest excellence 
implies manifesting illustrious virtue and loving the people 
in the highest degree. When the heaven-given nature 
reaches a condition of complete excellence, its intelligence 
will not be darkened. This is a manifestation of highest 

5 Great Learning, Introduction, | 5. 
slbid., H 1. 



THE GREAT LEARNING 207 

excellence. It is really the original form of illustrious 
virtue, and is called intuitive knowledge of good. When 
the highest excellence manifests itself, right is right and 
wrong is wrong. Things of less and greater importance 
come and go as they will without ceasing, but none of this 
change is other than natural. This, moreover, implies 
that mankind holds fast to its natural disposition and has 
its various faculties and relations with their specific laws. 
However, it is not allowable that there be the least purpose 
to add to or subtract from them. If there is the least 
disposition to add to or diminish them, this implies self- 
ishness and shallow wisdom, and cannot be said to be the 
highest virtue. Naturally, one who does this does not at- 
tain to the condition of watching over himself when he is 
alone. How can he who is discriminating and undivided 
be like that? Later generations fail to realize that the 
highest excellence is in their own minds, but use their 
selfish wisdom to estimate and calculate how they may find 
it in things external to themselves. They hold that every 
affair and every thing has its own definite principles. This 
is due to the darkening of their ability to estimate right 
and wrong. They branch off from, and are at variance 
with, their heaven-given nature. Passion is excessive, while 
moral principles perish. Thus the learning which incul- 
cates illustrious virtue and love of the people becomes 
greatly confused in the Empire. Among former scholars 
there were some who desired to manifest their illustrious 
virtue, but who did not know how to rest in the highest ex- 
cellence. They used their selfish purposes to excess and 
lost the mind in vacuous, lifeless, and lonely contemplation. 
They did not regulate their families, govern their states, 
nor make the kingdom happy and tranquil. This means 
that they drifted into Buddhism and Taoism. Certainly 
some wished to love the people, but they did not know how 
to rest in the highest excellence. They sank their selfish 
minds into base and trifling things. This implies that they 



208 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

lost their power, strategy, wisdom, and craft, and that they 
did not have the sincerity of real benevolence and sym- 
pathy. Thus they became followers of the five rulers, de- 
voting themselves to might, merit, and gain, and all failed 
to realize their mistake in not resting in the highest virtue. 
Therefore resting in the highest excellence is to the mani- 
festing of illustrious virtue and loving the people as a pair 
of compasses and square are to the square and the circle, 
or rule and measure are to length, or the balances are to 
weight. (42) If the square and the circle do not correspond 
with the compasses and the square, they will be defective ; 
if the length and shortness fail to coincide with the rule 
and the measure, they lose their adjustment ; if the weight 
is not true to the balances, it loses its accuracy. If mani- 
festation of illustrious virtue and love of the people do not 
rest in the highest excellence, they lose their original char- 
acter. Therefore, resting in the highest excellence requires 
the previous use of loving the people and illustrating il- 
lustrious virtue. This is what is meant by saying that 
learning is adapted to adults." 

The Mind is Possessed of the Highest Excellence 

I said : "How is the following saying to be interpreted? 
'The point where to rest (in the highest excellence) being 
known, the object of pursuit is then determined, and that 
being determined, a calm unperturbedness may be attained 
to. To that calmness there will succeed a tranquil repose. 
In that repose there may be careful deliberation and that 
deliberation will be followed by the attainment (of the 
highest excellence).' " 7 

The Teacher said : ' ' People fail to understand that the 
highest excellence is in their mind and seek it in external 
things. They believe that all affairs and all things have 
definite principles, and seek the highest excellence in the 
midst of affairs and things. This shows that their heaven- 

i Great Learning, Introduction, U 2. 



THE GREAT LEARNING J09 

given nature has branched off and been disrupted. They 
are mixed up and confused, and do not know that there is 
a definite direction which they ought to take. Since you 
know that the highest excellence is in the mind and that 
there is no need of seeking it in external things, your pur- 
pose has taken a definite direction and you are not pre- 
cipitated into a condition in which nature branches off, is 
disrupted, or is all mixed up and confused. Moreover, if 
you are in that condition, your mind will not make mis- 
takes, but will be quiet and calm. If the mind does not 
make mistakes but is able to rest, then in its daily use, 
whenever it gets a moment's rest., it will be in tranquil re- 
pose. If the mind is in tranquil repose, your intuitive fac- 
ulty — Avhenever thought manifests itself or an affair in- 
fluences the mind — will naturally carefully inquire, 
minutely investigate, and thus be able earnestly to delib- 
erate, whether the thing under consideration is in accord- 
ance with the highest excellence. If it is able to deliberate 
carefully, it will choose only the finest, and do only what 
is proper. But in this the highest excellence is attained." 

As Roots and Branches are One Thing, thus Manifesting 
Virtue and Loving the People are One 

I said : ' ' ' Things have their roots and their branches. ' 8 
A former scholar (the philosopher Chu) considered illus- 
trious virtue as the root and 'renovating the people' as the 
branches. But these two, the one being within and the 
other without, are really opposed to one another. 'Affairs 
have their end and their beginning.' A former scholar 
held that knowing where to rest in the highest excellence 
was the beginning, and ability to attain (the highest ex- 
cellence) was the end. Every affair has its beginning and 
its end, and these are mutually connected. According to 
the teaching of the Master (Wang) one should change the 
character hsin (%ft , of the philosopher Chu's commentary 

« Ibid., If 3. 



210 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

on the Great Learning (meaning "to renovate") to the 
character ch'in (§£ , meaning "to love"). Would not this 
be at variance with the saying regarding the roots and the 
branches?" (43) 

The Teacher said : ' ' What has been said regarding the 
end and the beginning is, in general, correct. To use the 
original, ' love, ' in place of ' renovate, ' and then to say that 
the manifesting of illustrious virtue is the root and loving 
the people the branches, is also a legitimate method of pro- 
cedure. But root and branches should not be distinguished 
as being two different things. The trunk of this tree is 
called the root (source), and its twigs are called branches, 
but the whole is but one thing. If root and branches are 
two things, they should have been considered as two things. 
How, then, are they connected in the saying, ' Things have 
roots and branches ' ? If the idea expressed in ' renovating 
the people' is different from that of loving the people, then 
the task of illustrating virtue is naturally an entirely dif- 
ferent thing from renovating the people. If one under- 
stands that illustrious virtue is manifested by loving the 
people, and on the other hand that one loves the people in 
manifesting illustrious virtue, what occasion is there for 
separating them? The former scholar's exposition is due 
to his ignorance of the fact that manifesting virtue and 
loving the people are ab initio one thing, whereas he con- 
sidered them as two. This means that though he knew 
that root and branches ought to be considered as one thing, 
he could but distinguish them as two." 

Wang Offers Comments on the Great Learning, Introduc- 
tion, ft 4 

I said : ' ' ' The ancients who wished to illustrate illus- 
trious virtue throughout the kingdom first ordered well 
their own states. Wishing to order well their states, they 
first regulated their families. Wishing to regulate their 



THE GREAT LEARNING 211 

families, they first cultivated their persons. ' 9 In using the 
Master's idea of understanding the expressions, 'manifest- 
ing virtue' and 'loving the people,' I have been able to 
understand this. May I venture to ask regarding the ar- 
rangement of the task, and the way in which one should 
proceed, as implied in the following passage from the Great 
Learning? 'Wishing to cultivate their persons, they first 
rectified their hearts. Wishing to rectify their hearts, they 
first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be 
sincere in their thoughts, they first extended their Knowl- 
edge to the utmost. Such extension of knowledge lay in 
the investigation of things.' " 

The Teacher said : ' ' This saying is merely giving in de- 
tail the order of the task from the 'manifesting of illus- 
trious virtue' on to 'resting in the highest excellence.' The 
person, the mind, thought, knowledge, and things consti- 
tute the logical order of the task. Though each has its 
particular place, they are in reality one thing. Investi- 
gating, extending, being sincere, rectifying, and cultivating 
are the task in its logical sequence. Though each has its 
name, in reality it is only one affair. What is it that is 
called the person ? The form and body in its various exer- 
cises. What is it that is called mind ? The intelligence of 
the person, which is called lord or master. What is meant 
by cultivating the person ? That which is described by say- 
ing, 'Do good and expel evil.' (44) That my person is able to 
do good and abhor evil is due to the fact that its master — 
the will — desires to do good and abhor evil. After that 
the body in its various exercises is able to do good and ab- 
hor evil. Therefore he who desires to cultivate his person 
must first rectify his heart. Moreover, the mind in its 
original form is what is called nature. If nature is virtuous 
in everything, then the mind in its original form is at all 
times characterized by rectitude. From whence, then, the 

» 0[>. eit., Introduction, ^ 4. 



212 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

use of effort in rectifying it ? The mind is originally in a 
condition of perfect rectitude; it is only after there has 
been a stirring of its purposes and thoughts that it is wrong. 
Therefore he who wishes to rectify his mind will correct 
that which his will and thought bring forth. Whenever he 
manifests a virtuous thought, he will love it as one loves a 
beautiful color ; when he thinks an evil thought, he will hate 
it as one despises an evil odor. Since his purpose is per- 
fectly sincere, he will be able to rectify his heart. The 
purpose manifests both that which is virtuous and that 
which is evil, and has no knowledge of the difference be- 
tween good and evil. It confuses and mixes the right and 
the wrong. Though the individual desires to make his pur- 
pose sincere, he is unable to do so. Therefore he who 
wishes to make his purpose sincere must extend his knowl- 
edge of the good to the utmost by developing his intuitive 
faculty to the utmost. The utmost here is like the utmost 
of the saying, 'When mourning has been carried to the 
utmost degree of grief, it should cease. ' 10 

"The Book of Changes says, 'Knowing the utmost one 
should reach it. He who knows the utmost really knows. 
He who reaches it, reaches the utmost.' This signifies 
extending knowledge to the utmost. It is not what later 
scholars call filling and extending knowledge, but extend- 
ing to the utmost the mind's intuitive knowledge of good, 
— the knowledge of good which Mencius calls the good-evil 
mind and which all people have. The good-evil mind 
does not need to deliberate in order to know, nor does it 
need to learn in order to be able to act. It is for this rea- 
son that it is called intuitive knowledge of good. It is the 
heaven-given nature — the original character of the mind. 
It is naturally intelligent and clearly conscious. Whenever 
any purposes or thoughts are manifested, they are all 
known and recognized by the intuitive faculty. If they 
be good, the intuitive faculty naturally knows. Are they 

i" Analects, Book XIX, Ch, 14. 



THE GREAT LEARNING 213 

evil? This, too, the intuitive faculty naturally knows. 
This shows that it is no concern of others. (45) Therefore, 
though there is no evil to which the mean man will not 
proceed, yet when he sees a superior man, he will certainly 
disguise himself, conceal his evil, and display his virtue. 11 
In this it is manifest that his intuitive faculty does not 
leave him unenlightened. If he desires to distinguish be- 
tween good and evil in order to rectify his purpose, there 
is but the one way, that of extending the knowledge of his 
intuitive faculty to the utmost. How is it that when a pur- 
pose manifests itself, the intuitive faculty already knows 
whether it is good or not? Nevertheless, if the individual 
is not able to love the good sincerely, but rather turns his 
back on it and expels it, he uses the good to do evil and ob- 
scures his intuitive faculty, which knows the good. How is 
it that when the intuitive faculty knows that what the 
purpose has manifested is evil, nevertheless, if the indi- 
vidual does not sincerely hate the evil, he violates the good 
and does the evil, and thus uses the evil to do evil and 
thereby obscures his intuitive faculty, which knows the 
evil ? If this is true, then, though it is said that he knows, 
he is as though he did not know. How can his purpose be 
made sincere under such circumstances? If, in that which 
the intuitive faculty understands to be good and evil, there 
is nothing that is not sincerely loved and sincerely hated, 
then the individual does not deceive his own intuitive fac- 
culty and his purpose can be made sincere. 

"Again, if the individual wishes to extend his intuitive 
knowledge to the utmost, shall it be said that he, like a 
shadow and an echo, is vain and lacks genuineness? If in 
reality there is such an extension of intuitive knowledge, 
it must consist in investigating things. Things are affairs 
(experience). Whenever a purpose is manifested it cer- 
tainly is relative to some affair and the affair toward 
which it is directed is called a thing. Investigating means 

11 Great Learning, Ch. 6, f 2. 



214 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

rectifying — rectifying that which is not correct, that it 
may belong to the things that are, correct, rectifying that 
which is not true, and expelling evil. It implies that turn- 
ing to the true and the right is what is meant by doing 
good. This is called investigating. 

"The Book of History says, 'He (Yao) investigated 
heaven above and the earth beneath. 12 He (Shun) inves- 
tigated (in the temple of) the accomplished ancestors.' 18 
The individual investigates the evil of his heart. The 'in- 
vestigating' of 'investigating things' truly combines all of 
the above ideas. If one sincerely wishes to love the good 
which the intuitive faculty knows, but in reality fails to 
act with regard to the thing on which his purpose is fixed, 
this implies that the thing has not been investigated, and 
that the determination to love good is not sincere. (46) If 
one sincerely wishes to despise the evil which the intuitive 
faculty recognizes, but fails really to expel the thing upon 
which the purpose is fixed, this implies that the thing has 
not been investigated and that the purpose of despising 
the evil is not sincere. If the individual wishes the good 
which his intuitive faculty knows and he really does that 
upon which his purpose is fixed, is there anything which 
he may not accomplish? If in the matter of the evil which 
his intuitive faculty knows he really expels that upon 
which his purpose is fixed, is there anything which he may 
not complete? After that there is nothing that he does 
not thoroughly investigate. In that which the intuitive 
faculty knows, there will be no deficiency nor anything that 
is obscure, and it will have been extended to the utmost. 
After that the mind will be joyous, without remorse or re- 
gret, but modest and humble ; and all the manifestations of 

12 The expression referred to is found in the Shooking, Pt. I, The 
Book of T'ang, The Canon of Yao, U 1. The translation here given 
does not agree with Legge's but fits much better into Wang's dis- 
cussion. The whole paragraph is suggestive. 

is Shooking, Pt. II, The Books of Yu, Book I, The Canon of Shun, 
H 14. 



THE GREAT LEARNING 215 

the purpose will be free from self-deceit, so that the indi- 
vidual may be said to be sincere in thought. Therefore 
it is said, 'Things being investigated, knowledge became 
complete. Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts 
were sincere ; and their hearts being rectified, their persons 
were cultivated.' 14 These are the principles of the task. 
Though there may be said to be an order of first and last 
in this, it is in reality one connected whole and there is 
no distinction between first and last. Though the task for 
which these principles stand is not to be divided in an or- 
der of first and last, its use nevertheless implies great dis- 
crimination. Assuredly, there cannot be the least bit lack- 
ing. This is th'e correct exposition of investigating things, 
extending knowledge, making the thoughts sincere, and rec- 
tifying the mind. Therefore making known the true pre- 
cepts of Yao and Shun is made the Confucian heart-seal." 

The Investigation of Things is the Real Starting-point of 
the Task Outlined in the Great Learning 15 

If from the Great Learning the idea contained in "in- 
vestigating things" is expunged, there will be no real start- 
ing-point. There must be genuine investigation, before 
this can be appreciated. From the opening (creation) of 
heaven and earth, in heaven above and the earth beneath 
everywhere there are things. Even the person who seeks 
for the path is a thing. Taken together they have coher- 
ent principles, namely in what is called the source of the 
doctrine. Since the high and the low, altitude and depth, 
together constitute the great round, unmoved stillness, 
from what other point can knowledge of the doctrine be 
gained ? If the individual wishes to investigate conditions 
previous to heaven and earth, he will find it in the Taoist 
abstract learning of Lao-tzu and Chuang-tzu. This thing 
can be seen from the manifestations of the doctrine. This 



i* Great Learning, Introduction, *[ 5. 

is At this point Ts'ii Ai offers comments. 



216 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

is in conformity with, the saying of the Book of Changes: 
"When the form is directed upward it is called the doc- 
trine ; when it points downward it is called a finished ves- 
sel. ' ' If you cast aside the vessel, there is the more nothing 
that can be called the doctrine. (47) The thing referred to 
is my nature, my heaven-decreed nature. It is in accord- 
ance with the saying of Mencius that "all things are al- 
ready complete in us." 1C 

Man alone knows what is meant by being enticed by the 
influence of things, but is unable to carry on self-investi- 
gation with full sincerity or to carry out vigorously the 
law of reciprocity. He stops with recognizing his body as 
the person and external objects as things, and forthwith 
separates things and himself into two distinct realms, so 
that in last analysis his person represents but one thing 
among ten thousand. How, then, can he extend his knowl- 
edge to the utmost, be sincere in purpose, rectify his mind, 
cultivate his person, regulate his family, govern the king- 
dom, and tranquilize the empire, in order to complete and 
exhaust the doctrine of the Great Learning? Therefore it 
is said that the task is exhausted in extending knowledge 
to the utmost through the investigation of things. 

What is called investigating, does not consist in seeking 
within the realm of so-called external things. This excel- 
lency should be sought in extensive study of what is good, 
accurate inquiry about it, careful reflection upon it, clear 
discrimination of it, and earnest practice of it. This ex- 
cellency is sincerity. In this way, these things may be 
considered as things. The manifesting of this excellency 
consists in knowing how to rest in the highest virtue. If 
one knows how to rest in the highest virtue, he will be able 
to attain the desired end. Tf thus understood, all nature 
will be comprehended in this. It is for this reason that the 
Doctrine of the Mean says : ' ' Sincerity is the end and the 
beginning of things. The superior man regards the attain- 

i» Mencius, Book VTT. Pt. I, Oh. 4. 



THE GREAT LEARNING 217 

ment of sincerity as the most excellent thing." 17 Nat- 
urally he completes himself and things also. Once men- 
tioned he employs them and does nothing that is not prop- 
er. The task of investigating things having been com- 
pleted, all other things will be adjusted. Therefore, when 
the philosopher Chu in giving instruction regarding the 
investigation of things, said "to the utmost," he did that 
which was exceedingly proper. 

Whatever falls into the class of speculation or mere ab- 
stract thinking, as in considering extreme height, cannot 
be said to be to the utmost. What is here called the utmost 
means that the personality has developed to the utmost 
degree. Knowledge and practice also should be called 
activity and tranquility. This is what the Teacher re- 
fers to in the saying of the Book of Changes: "If you 
know the highest (utmost), attain to it." To attain to the 
utmost is the essence of staunch virtue. Beyond this there 
is no task which has reference to the essence, or is wonder- 
ful and godlike. But the people find too shallow a mean- 
ing in the "utmost" of the philosopher Chu and thus say: 
"When you take up anything, investigate it." This is the 
practice whereby the latest scholars branch off, though the 
philosopher Chu from the first gave no such explanation. 
Having received the plain exposition of the Teacher, I use 
it to explain the incomplete idea of the philosopher Chu. 



'" Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 25, r 2 and ?>. 



BOOK III 



®mtkft*m* 




A Picture op Wang Yang-ming, reproduced prom the 

(llIINEKE EDITION OP HIS PHILOSOPHY 

The Chinese characters may he translated : A transmitted picture of 

the Teacher, Wang Yang-ming 



LETTERS WRITTEN BY WANG YANG-MING 
Answer to Wang T'ien-yii's Letter (First Letter) 

Written in the ninth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Asks for More Explicit Information Regarding 
Wang T'ien-yii's Difficulties 

Your letter has been received. From it I note the ex- 
perimental efforts you make in your study, and am ex- 
ceedingly pleased and comforted. At present, there are 
not many who, even to a limited extent, have fixed their 
purpose on the learning of sages and virtuous men. How 
much more difficult is it to find anyone who really uses his 
energies! You have honored me beyond what you really 
should. I do not venture to claim the degree of attain- 
ment you ascribe to me. Referring to your inquiry about 
virtue in order that you may get some real advantage from 
it, I must confess that my own mind has not been as seri- 
ous and earnest as it should have been. That I have also 
gained you as a friend is more fortunate than words can 
express. Since your kindly feeling toward me has come 
to my knowledge. I dare not be false. Moreover, I admire 
and love you, but am unable really to help you. 

Perhaps there are a few things in your letter about which 
we may critically consult. You say that you have the 
purpose, but cannot make it earnest. I do not know to 
what sort of a purpose you refer, nor with reference to 
what particular things you are not able to be earnest. You 
say that the learning of the sages and virtuous men can 
utilize the quiescence and repose of the mind to control its 
stirrings. T do not know what you mean by being able 
to be in a state of tranquility. Is the mind when tranquil 



222 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and the mind when stimulated to be considered as two 
minds? You say that when you make a decision while 
transacting official business, you force the mind to follow 
the path of duty. Truly there are things here that should 
not be ! I do not know in what way cleaving to virtue in 
moments of haste and in seasons of danger is to be con- 
sidered as application to the task. You say that when 
you open a book to study, you gain something from it ; and 
that when you entertain virtuous and superior men, you 
are influenced. If you rely upon these two things and are 
influenced thereby, what do you earnestly do in addition to 
them ? At the time when you do these things, toward what 
is the purpose, of which you have spoken, directed? Un- 
less you had truly used your energies, you could not have 
attained to the numerous things you have mentioned in 
your letter. (2) But they suffice to show that you have not 
been clear in the discussion of learning, and thus still have 
these defects. If there are things which you have attained 
to through reflection, do not hesitate to tell me. 

Second Letter to Wang T'ien-yii 

Written in the ninth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Thank you for your favor! You make inquiry regard- 
ing the meaning of study, and are sufficiently more in 
earnest than formerly that I am able to know that you 
have entered the path. How fortunate this is! Yet in 
your progress you have not fully carried out some of my 
suggestions. Since I have been honored with your ques- 
tions, how can I fail to respond? Nevertheless, I hope 
that you will make a thorough investigation with a view 
to finding out whether there may not perhaps be something 
that will exhibit this truth. 

Your letter says : ' ' When first I read that I should use 
the investigating of things for the purpose of making my 
person sincere, I had strong doubts. Later, having care- 
fully asked Hsi Yen, I understood its exposition." 



LETTERS 223 

Wang Replies to T'ien-yii that Investigation of Things 
Signifies Making the Purpose Sincere 

I have not suggested that anyone should use the investi- 
gation of things as the correct method of making the per- 
son sincere. Has not this come from Hsi Yen? I say 
that in acquiring knowledge the superior man uses sin- 
cerity of purpose as the controlling factor. The investi- 
gation of things to extend knowledge to the utmost signifies 
making the purpose sincere ; just as the hungry man makes 
it his business to become satisfied, and food has the func- 
tion of satisfying hunger. Hsi Yen knows my idea very 
well; he should not give that interpretation, but perhaps 
at the time he was not clear. It is fortunate that you are 
carrying the investigation further. 

Your letter also says: "The ancients held that the 
Great Learning gave the order and method of learning. 
The philosopher Chu said: 'After investigating funda- 
mental principles to the utmost, the purpose will be sin- 
cere. ' This appears to contradict the saying, 'Reverently 
investigate fundamental principles. Unless you thus main- 
tain your mind, you are not able to extend knowledge to 
the utmost.' (3) The saying, 'Reverently maintain your 
mind,' is supplied in the commentary, while the teaching 
of the classics themselves distinctly says: 'Fundamental 
principles having been investigated, the mind was recti- 
fied. ' If he who is beginning to learn holds himself to the 
classic text alone and does not investigate the comments, 
how can he prevent mistakes?" 

Later Scholars Bo Not Emphasize the Classic Text Suffi- 
ciently and Neglect a Careful Study of Their Own Persons 

The order as given in the Great Learning is as follows: 
"Things being investigated, knowledge became complete. 
Their knowledge being complete, their thoughts were sin- 
cere. " If it is true that when fundamental principles have 
been investigated to the utmost, the thoughts are sincere, 



224 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

this is in accordance with the sayings of the philosopher 
Chu. While there is no great contradiction in this, it is 
perhaps not fully in accord with the original thought of 
the Great Learning. The saying, "Unless one thus main- 
tains his mind one is not able to extend knowledge to the 
utmost," is not fully in accord with the meaning of the 
Great Learning, and perhaps not with the saying of the 
Doctrine of the Mean, ' ' The superior man honors his virtu- 
ous nature and maintains constant inquiry and study. ' ' * 
But this class of sayings is so numerous that it is possible 
to discuss them only when talking face to face. Later 
scholars have agreed with reference to the commentary and 
have failed to investigate thoroughly the meaning of the 
classic text. Guided by the meaning of the characters, 
they fail to search out the real purport in their own per- 
sons and minds. Thus they constantly deviate from the 
right path and to the end fail to get what they desire. 
Perhaps this is not the mistake of holding to the classics 
and failing to study the commentaries. 

Wang Discusses Sincerity of Purpose and the Investiga- 
tion of Things 

Your letter also says: "If the individual does not start 
from an investigation of fundamental principles but im- 
mediately adds his own effort to be sincere in person, his 
sincerity is perhaps false rather than genuine. ' ' 

This is very well said. But I do not know how you 
proceed in making the person sincere. How fortunate it 
would be, if you would investigate and appreciate this 
further ! 

You say: "The expression, 'Rest in the highest ex- 
cellence,' may be compared to a traveler who is going to a 
large city as a place of rest. He does not excuse himself 
because of danger, hindrances, hardship, and difficulty, but 
goes forward with a fixed determination. This may be 

i Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27, U 6. 



LETTERS 225 

compared to maintaining one's mind. If this man does not 
know where the eity is, but recklessly desires to advance, 
he may go south to Chekiang or north to Kiangsu." (4) 

Your comparison is essentially correct. But if you use 
the traveler's not excusing himself because of danger, hin- 
drances, hardship, and difficulty, and his fixed determina- 
tion to go forward, as representing a maintaining of the 
mind, you will not avoid difficulties and will fail to get 
an understanding of the important thing. This "not ex- 
cusing himself because of danger, hindrances, hardship, 
and difficulty," and "having a fixed determination to go 
forward," really signify that he is sincere in purpose. 
That this is actually so is shown by the fact that he makes 
inquiry regarding the road. Preparing money for his ex- 
penses and making provision for boat and cart, are things 
which are indispensable. If not, how could he without 
them have the fixed determination to go forward, or how 
could he advance? The person who does not know where 
the large city is, but recklessly desires to go, really only 
desires to go, and has not actually gone anywhere. Be- 
cause he merely desires to go but has not gone, he makes no 
inquiry regarding the way, prepares no money for his ex- 
penses, and makes no provision for boat or cart. If he 
definitely determines to proceed, he will really go. Can 
he who actually goes be of such a type ? This is the most 
indispensable element of the task. For an individual of 
your high intelligence and real genuineness, the situation 
is clear before mention is made. 

Your letter says: "The people of the past used the 
investigating of things with the object in view of protect- 
ing themselves against external things. Having fended off 
external things, the mind itself was cherished. The mind 
was cherished that they might extend knowledge to the 
utmost. All this was for themselves." 

In speaking thus you imply that fending off external 
things and the extension of knowledge are two separate 



226 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

affairs. The saying, "To fend off external things," does 
no great harm ; but to carry on the resistance with refer- 
ence only to the things outside the mind does not carry 
with it the idea of eradicating the disease, nor is it in ac- 
cordance with the saying, "Subdue yourself and seek vir- 
tue." What is more, my own teaching regarding the in- 
vestigation of things is not in harmony with this. The 
saying, "To be sincere in purpose," taken from the 
Great Learning, is to be identified with the saying, "To be 
sincere in person," taken from the Doctrine of the Mean. 2 
The saying, "Investigation of things to extend knowledge 
to the utmost," taken from the Great Learning, carries 
with it the same idea as the saying, "Understand what is 
good." 3 The extensive study (of what is good), accurate 
inquiry (about it), careful reflection (on it), clear dis- 
crimination (of it), and the earnest practice (of it), may 
all be identified with the task of understanding the good 
and being sincere in person. 4 (5) This does not mean that 
beyond understanding what is good there is the additional 
task of attaining sincerity in person. Is there, in addition 
to the investigation of things in order to extend knowledge 
to the utmost, the further task of becoming sincere in pur- 
pose ? The saying, ' ' Be discriminating, ' ' from the Book 
of History, as the saying of the Analects, "The superior 
man extensively studies all learning and keeps himself un- 
der the restraint of the rules of propriety," and the saying 
of the Doctrine of the Mean, "The superior man honors 
his virtuous nature, and maintains constant inquiry and 
study," have this meaning. 5 These are important prin- 
ciples of the task of learning. It is said that a little dif- 
ference at this point may result in great mistakes. Since 

2 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, H 17; Great Learning, Introduction, 
K 4 and 5; Ch. 6, H 1 and 6. 

a Ibid. 

* Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. XX, % 19. 

•"> The Shooking, Pt. II, Books of Yii, Book II, f 15 ; Analects, 
Book VI, Ch. 25; Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27, <! 6. 



LETTERS 227 

the exquisite and minute manifestations of mind cannot 
be described in words, how can they be fully expressed 
with the pen ? 

I am delighted that you have been advanced in official 
position, and that a day has been appointed for your de- 
parture to Peking. If you can take a round-about route 
and come to the river bank, I will consult with you for a 
night. Perhaps there are points which I am able to ex- 
plain. Just now I am in the midst of business affairs, and 
thus cannot take up all the points fully. 

Comment — If the individual views the idea expressed 
in "investigating things" too superficially, he will branch 
off and thus fail to understand that there is only this one 
path on earth. When referred to things, it is principle; 
and when referred to the mind, it is virtue (excellence). 
The investigation of things is to be identified with under- 
standing the good. That it should be said in one word is 
appropriate. It implies that a house which has been dark 
for a thousand years has been lighted by a single light. It 
does not permit of being expounded in words. 

First Letter to Lu Yiian-ching 

Written in the sixteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Lu Proposes to Devote Himself to Cultivating His Health 

I sent a memorial to the emperor and received an auspi- 
cious reply when the courier returned, bringing your letter. 
I am much comforted. I note that because of protracted 
illness, you are going to devote yourself to cultivating 
your health. Formerly because of frequent illness, I also 
devoted myself to the same task. Later I understood that 
the matter of nourishing one's life is really another affair. 
At that time I redirected my entire purpose to the learning 
of the sages and virtuous men. The nourishing of virtue 
and the nourishing of one's body are essentially the same 
thing. 



228 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Lu Refers to the Physical Immortality of the Taoist 

You, Yiian-ching, said: "If in my effort to cultivate 
myself I really am cautious with respect to that which I 
do not see, and apprehensive of that which I do not hear, 
and devote my purpose to this task, my mental energy, my 
passions, and the very essence of my being endure and are 
stable. What the Taoists call living eternally and seeing 
always (physical immortality) are included." 

Wang Discusses Taoist Immortality 

The learning of the Taoists is different from that of the 
sages, and yet the help they gave in the beginning was 
given with the desire to lead men to the truth. (6) In the 
appendix of the Wu Chen P'ien we have the statement: 
"Huang Lao being grieved because of the desire of other 
men, used the magic of Taoism and gradually and system- 
atically led them." 6 If you take the Wu Chen P'ien and 
look it over, you will readily comprehend its purpose. 
From the time of Yao, Shun, Yii, T'ang. Wen and Wu, 
up to Chou Kung and Confucius, all virtuous men had 
a mind which had regard and love for things. Since there 
was nothing of virtue which they did not attain, it is un- 
fortunate that they did not use the fact, if there really is 
such a thing as immortality. Take the cases of Lao-tzu, 
P'en Ch'ien, and others. 7 Their long life was due to na- 
tive endowment, and not to ability in learning to reach it. 
After that there is a class of men to whom Pai Yii-ch'en 
and Ch'iu Chang-ch'un belong, all of whom, as far as 
learning is concerned, are designated patriarchs of the 
sect, yet they did not reach an age of over fifty or sixty 
years. Thus there are things about the expositions of im- 
mortality which need to be elucidated. Yiian-ching, since 
you have a low degree of vital energy and are often ill, you 

6 Wu Chen P'ien is a Taoist book, "Aid to Comprehending the 
Truth. ' ' 

7 P'en Ch'ien is said to have lived 767 vears. 



LETTERS 229 

should put aside mere reputation, purify your mind, bring 
your desires down to few, and fix your mind on the ac- 
complishments of holy men and sages. 

Lit is Admonished Not to Believe Heterodox Doctrines 

Referring to what you have said about cultivating your- 
self, you should not over-readily believe heterodox doc- 
trines and thereby needlessly confuse your own intelli- 
gence. In corrupting and enervating your mental and 
physical energies, you waste months and years. If for a 
long time you do not return to the path of sages and vir- 
tuous men, you will easily, because of your delay, become 
a person whose frenzy has injured his mind. Formerly it 
was said that he who has three times set a broken upper 
arm is a good physician. Though I am not a good physi- 
cian, I have three times set a broken arm. 8 Yuan-ching, 
you should carefully listen and heed. 

I have heard that the Board has consented to answer my 
request to visit my father. Having received permission 
from the emperor, I should withdraw into the mountains. 
It will not be long before the emperor will bestow a reward 
on you. and the day will come when you will be promoted. 
If you are in a position to consult with me at the Yang- 
ming Grotto at the foot of the mountain, I ought to be 
able to dispel the doubt which you express. 

Camment — The nourishing of virtue is nourishing one 's 
self. This is an admonition to him who seeks to nourish 
his life. That neither a premature death nor long life 
cause any doublemindedness, but one uses the cultivation 
of the person in waiting, is the truly correct learning of 
sages and virtuous men. 9 If a person deludes himself in 
the matter of physical immortality, it is evident that he is 
a mass of desire, sufficient in itself to injure the nourish- 
ing of virtue. (7) 

8 By this he means that he has had much experience in the matter 
under consideration. 

9 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 1, J 3. 



230 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 
Second Letter to Lu Yiian-ching 10 

Written in the first year of Emperor Chia Ching 
Wang and His Disciples Are Accused of Heterodoxy 

I am lacking both in filial piety and in faithfulness to 
my prince. I have brought this calamity upon my parent. 
The extreme punishment (of Heaven) is not sufficient. 
That I have reached the point where I am judged by many, 
is quite as it should be. I have troubled you — the vir- 
tuous one — to the extent of wilfully offending you and 
of causing you to be disliked by others because of having 
contended for my innocence. I have been the object of 
your love of reason and right. For all this I am pro- 
foundly grateful to you. Verily this is not what I, a 
stupid orphan, dared to hope. Do not contend for my 
innocence, and their vilifying will cease. Since I have al- 
ready heard the instruction of former scholars, I should 
the more rest in this. 

Because of the differences in the discussions of heroes 
and leaders everywhere regarding learning, deliberations 
on, and discussions of, learning arose. Can we fully an- 
alyze and discuss these things? We ought to change our 
method and seek within ourselves, whether perhaps what 
they say may be true, or may contain some things which we 
have not accepted. Under such circumstances, we ought 
to seek for the actual facts and not get into the habit of 
considering ourselves right and others wrong. Should 
their words be wrong and we already have believed our 
own point of view, we should the more reach the place 
where we take a firm stand on that which is genuine. We 
should use this to seek humility within ourselves. This 
is in accordance with the saying, "Think it over and you 
will attain it, do not speak and you will believe it," Since 
there is so much talking about us. why are we not influ- 
enced to be patient, and why do we not mutually admonish 

io Written after the death of Wang's father. 



LETTERS 231 

and refine one another? Moreover, that we are criticised 
is certainly not because others privately harbor ill will 
against us, but because they guard the doctrine. Their say- 
ings have originally come from the connected discourses of 
former scholars. Certainly each one of them has his evi- 
dence. Moreover, our words often differ from those of past 
scholars and appear to be empty and original. They do not 
know that the learning of the sages is from the beginning 
of that type, but drifting into tradition lose the truth itself. 

Wang Lays Bare the Mistakes of Later Scholars, Admitting 
that He, too, Has Fallen Short of the Ideal 

The discussions of earlier scholars have daily branched 
off more and more from the true learning, and later scholars 
have followed in the course of these practices and have 
multiplied their errors until they are very numerous. 
Since they have been perverse and have been harboring 
the thought of not believing, they are unwilling to make 
investigation with a receptive mind. Moreover, during 
discussion and criticism, perhaps having been overwhelmed 
by a desire to excel and by giddiness, we will not be able 
to avoid excess in our opposition and excitement. (8) Thus 
it is natural that they will either ridicule our views, or fear 
them and be suspicious of them. This reproof we cannot 
attribute wholly to their wrong doing. Alas! When we 
expound learning shall we strive to make our views either 
different from those of others or similar to them? Or 
shall we strive to use the good in overcoming others and in 
educating them? We have proclaimed with our lips only, 
the learning which exhibits the fact that knowledge and 
practice should be unified. Where have we really united 
knowledge and action ? If we push the investigation in 
order to find out why, then a man like me must have heavy 
transgressions. Ordinarily we merely use words to explain 
the situation, but have never made an investigation of our 
own person. Prior to having extended his knowledge to 



232 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the utmost, the individual says that the saying of former 
men, that knowledge should be extended to the utmost, 
cannot be exhausted. This may be compared to a poverty- 
stricken man who speaks about gold, but cannot resist 
following others and begging. Sir, our fault lies in mu- 
tually believing and loving one another to excess. We 
love, but do not know the evils that are inherent therein. 
Consequently we have all brought about the present disor- 
derly discussion. All this is due to my transgression. 

Those Who at First Criticise May Later Believe 

Although the superior men of the past were exhibited 
to the world as wrong, they paid no attention to the fact. 
Even though many generations considered them wrong, 
they did not heed it. for they sought only their own in- 
tegrity. Could then the temporary slander of their name 
move their minds? But this point of view has not yet 
been fully established within us. How, then, can we con- 
sider what others say to be completely wrong? If I- 
ch'uan and Hui-an, in their time, were unable to avoid 
calumniation and abuse, what can we expect ? ll In our 
actions we often fall short, so that it is right that we bear 
calumniation and abuse. Scholars that wrangle and dis- 
pute about learning and its method in this day, certainly 
also have their purpose set on study. They cannot be said 
to be heterodox and consequently more than ordinarily re- 
miss. All men have a mind which is able to discriminate 
between right and wrong. 12 But they are hindered through 
long-standing practices, and in consequence cannot easily 
analyze my learning. When first you, Sirs, heard me 
speak, did not some of you ridicule and slander my ex- 
position? After a while you became enlightened through 
reflection, until you were influenced beyond what you 
should have been. (0) How can I know that those who now 

11 Hui-an refers to the philosopher Chu. Vide footnote 28, p. 100. 

12 Vide Mencius Book VI, Pt. 1, Ch. 6, "R 7. 



LETTERS 233 

mutually criticise and oppose me will not later believe in 
me profoundly? 

I am in the midst of mourning and weeping, so that this 
is not the time to discuss learning. However, the welfare 
of the truth does not permit me to cease thinking. Un- 
consciously, I have talked to this extent though my words 
have not developed the thought consecutively. Fortunate- 
ly, you will make allowances for my intention. In Kiangsi 
I formerly fully discussed the saying, "extending knowl- 
edge to the utmost," with Wei-chun, Ch'ung-i, and my 
many friends. Recently Yang Ssu-ming visited me and I 
again discussed it very minutely. Now Yiian-ch'ung and 
Tsung-hsien are returning to you. Sirs, you should still 
mutually investigate this matter. There should be noth- 
ing abstruse left. Mencius says: "The mind which is 
able to discriminate between right and wrong has knowl- 
edge. ' ' ll3 This is characteristic of all men and is what I 
call intuitive knowledge of good. Who lacks this intuitive 
knowledge? But the individual is unable to extend it to 
the utmost. The Book of Changes says: "If one knows 
the utmost one should attain it." He who knows the ut- 
most really knows, and he who attains what he thus knows 
extends knowledge to the utmost. Thus knowledge and 
practice are a unity. Recently in speaking of investigating 
things in order to extend knowledge to the utmost, the 
matter of knowing is not emphasized and thus the task 
has not even been slightly touched. Thus knowledge and 
practice become two different things. 

Comment — Not to grumble against men, is learning 
which sages and virtuous men naturally acquire. If the 
individual discusses right and wrong with others, it ap- 
pears as though he were trying to influence all the world 
to consider his learning perfectly good. This implies that 
he does not fully understand the truth. 

13 ibid. 



234 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 
Third Letter to Lu Yuan-ching 

Written in the third year of Emperor Chia Ching 
Lu Complains that His Mind is Never Quiet and Tranquil 

Your letter, which has come to hand, says: "When I 
begin to work (study), I realize that my mind is not for 
a moment quiet and tranquil, but that the unmannerly, dis- 
orderly mind of a certainty begins to stir, and the mind 
which has regard for this condition also bestirs itself. 
Since the mind is constantly stirring in this way, it does 
not cease even temporarily." (10) 

You are dominated by the purpose to seek tranquility, 
and for that reason the mind is the more unquiet. The 
disorderly, unmannerly mind thus bestirs itself, but the 
mind which has regard for this does not really begin to 
be exercised. If it constantly has regard for its condi- 
tion, it will always be stirring and always be tranquil. 
Heaven and earth endure, and yet are always in motion 
and always tranquil. The mind which has regard for its 
own condition surely cares for itself ; and the disorderly, 
unmannerly mind also has regard for itself. They are not 
two things, and thus they do not rest. If it temporarily 
stops, it has stopped permanently, and has not reached the 
condition expressed in the words, "To entire sincerity 
there belongs ceaselessness. " 14 

Intuitive Knowledge of Good Has No Beginning 

Your letter further says, "Does intuitive knowledge of 
good also have a beginning?" 

Perhaps you have heard this and have not yet investi- 
gated it. Intuitive knowledge of good is native to the 
mind and is to be identified with what I have above called 
the characteristic of having constant regard for itself. The 
original nature of the mind has no beginning, and yet it 
does not lack a beginning. Although disorderly thoughts 

n Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 26, % 1. 



LETTERS 235 

are manifested, the intuitive knowledge of good has been 
present; but the individual does not know how to cherish 
and evaluate it, and thus there are times when it may be re- 
jected. Though the mind is darkened and obstructed, the 
intuitive knowledge of good is clear. But the individual 
does not know how to observe it closely, and thus there may 
be times when it is concealed. Though there may be times 
when it is rejected, it has in reality not been absent. It 
should be cherished. Though there may be times when it is 
obscured, it really has not been unclear. It should be care- 
fully scrutinized. If you say that the intuitive knowledge 
of good has a point at which it begins, that would imply 
that there are times when it is absent. This does not con- 
vey the idea of its being the mind's original nature. 

Your letter makes the following inquiry : "Is the form- 
er discourse upon being discriminating (devoted to the 
essence) and undivided to be identified with doing the task 
of the sage?" 15 

The Task of the Sage Does Not Go Beyond Being Discrimin- 
ating and Undivided 

The character ching ( 1ffi , meaning ' ' unmixed " or "es- 
sence") of "devotion to the essence" (being discrimi- 
nating), should be construed as referring to moral prin- 
ciples. The same word ching (meaning "essence"), of 
"mental essence" (energy), is to be construed as referring 
to the vital force. Heaven-given principles are the prin- 
ciples of the vital force. The vital force represents the 
functioning of the heaven-given principles. Without these 
principles there could be no functioning of the vital force, 
and without this functioning those things that are called 
principles could not be seen. Devotion to the essence (dis- 
crimination) implies mental energy and includes the mani- 
festing of virtue. It signifies being undivided. It is 
mental energy and sincerity of purpose. Being undivided 

is English and Chinese Shooking, Books of Yii, Book II, ^ 15. 



236 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

is devotion to the essence. It implies manifesting illus- 
trious virtue. It is what is called being transformed. 16 
It is being sincere in purpose. They are not originally 
two things. (11) But the sayings of the later scholars and 
of the Taoists are prejudiced in this one aspect, that they 
do not use them interchangeably. Though my former dis- 
cussion of devotion to the essence and being undivided was 
occasioned by your desire to nourish your mental energy 
and animal spirits, the task of the sage does not go beyond 
this. 

Your letter says that the original energy (spirit), the 
original temper (feeling), and the essence (germinating 
principle) have a place where they are stored up and from 
which they come forth. You further say that there is an 
essence (germinating principle) characteristic of the in- 
ferior (receptive) power, called Yin, and a temper (feel- 
ing) characteristic of the directing (forming) power of the 
universe, called Yang. 

Wang Asserts the Unity of Yin and Yang 

There is but one intuitive faculty. When reference is 
made to its wonderful use, it is called energy (spirit) ; 
when reference is made to its natural manifestations, it is 
called temper (feeling) ; when reference is made to its ag- 
gregated fulfillment, it is called essence (germinating prin- 
ciple). How cau it be sought for in any form or image? 
The essence of the true Yin is the matrix of the temper 
of the Yang. 17 The temper of the Yang is the father of 
the essence of the true Yin. The Yin is the cause of the 
Yang, and the Yang is the cause of the Yin. They are 
really not two. In case my sayings regarding intuitive 
knowledge of good are understood, then such things as 
these are all explained without speaking about them. If 

i« Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 23. 

if The Yin is the inferior or receptive power of the dual powers 
of Chinese philosophy. The Yang is the superior or forming, direct- 
ing power. 



LETTERS 237 

this is not understood, then, as your letter says, though the 
three organs of sense (ear, eye, voice) return to it seven 
times and again nine times, there still remain an infinite 
number of things that can be doubted. 

Does Intuitive Knowledge of Good Exceed the Natural 
Functioning of the Mind? 

Your letter says: "Intuitive knowledge of good is db 
initio characteristic of the mind and is to be identified with 
the following: the virtuous disposition, the equilibrium 
of having no stirrings of feelings, the state of perfect tran- 
quility, and the state of perfect fairness and impartiality. 
Why is it, then, that ordinary men are all unable to carry 
it out, but are obliged to wait until they have learned it? 
If the equilibrium, complete tranquility, and perfect fair- 
ness already belong to the mind, they may be identified 
with intuitive knowledge of good. As I today investigate 
these things in my own mind, I find that my intuitive 
knowledge at no point lacks goodness, but my mind lacks 
the equilibrium, the stillness, and the fairness. Does this 
imply that the intuitive faculty exceeds the natural func- 
tioning of the mind?" (12) 

Wang Answers in the Negative 

Since nature at no point lacks excellence, the intuitive 
faculty at no point lacks goodness. The intuitive knowl- 
edge of good is the state of equilibrium in which there are 
no stirrings of feelings, and this is the original nature of 
perfect fairness and tranquility. It has been prepared 
and provided for in the ease of all men, but will under cir- 
cumstances be darkened and obscured by desire. For this 
reason it is necessary to learn how to dispel any darkening 
or obscuring that has taken place. However, the original 
nature of the intuitive faculty from the very beginning 
cannot have the least added or taken away. Intuitive 
knowledge at no point lacks goodness. That the equi- 
librium, the tranquility, and the perfect fairness cannot be 



238 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

complete, implies that the darkness and dullness have not 
been entirely cleared away, and that what the mind has 
preserved is not pure. The original nature of the mind is 
the original nature of the intuitive faculty, and the func- 
tioning of this nature is the functioning of the intuitive 
faculty. How can there be any functioning beyond that of 
nature ? 

Can there be Activity and Tranquility of the Mind at the 
Same Time? 

Your letter says: "The philosopher Chou said, 'Let 
tranquility and stillness be in control.' The philosopher 
Ch'eng said, 'Whether active or quiet, the mind should be 
fixed.' You say, 'The mind is ab initio fixed.' This im- 
plies that when the mind is at rest it is fixed ; but it is not 
to be identified with the saying, 'Do not see, nor hear, nor 
think, nor act,' but with the saying, 'It always knlows 
heaven-given principles, always cherishes them, and is al- 
ways controlled by them.' This always knowing, always 
cherishing, and always being controlled by principles 
clearly implies that there is activity and that this is being 
manifested. How can this be called tranquility, or be 
spoken of as the original nature of the mind? Does this 
tranquility and fixedness also penetrate into and link up 
with the activity and tranquility of the mind?" 

Principles are not subject to being affected or moved. 
He who always knows them, always cherishes them, and is 
always controlled by them, is said not to hear, see, think, 
or act. But this does not mean that he is dead and lifeless. 
If he sees, hears, thinks, and acts entirely in accordance 
with principles, but has had nothing with reference to 
which he sees, hears, thinks, or acts, there is activity pres- 
ent, but without excitement. In that state both the activity 
and the tranquility of the mind are fixed. Both are a 
source of its natural functioning. 

Your letter says: "Is the condition of the mind, in 



LETTERS 239 

which it has no stirrings of the feelings, present prior to 
the condition in which stirrings of feeling have manifested 
themselves, or is it present in the condition in which the 
stirrings have been manifested but are controlled? 18 (13) 
Is the mind subject to the categories of time and space ? Is 
it all one structure and substance? In speaking of the ac- 
tivity and the tranquility of the mind, are these in control 
both when one is occupied with affairs and when one is un- 
occupied ? Does it mean that they are in control when the 
mind is at rest as well as when it is excited and stirred, 
when it obeys heaven-given principles as well as when it 
follows desire? If it is tranquil when it is in accord with 
principles, and active when it follows desire, it is at variance 
with the saying, 'In the midst of activity there is tran- 
quility, and in the midst of tranquility there is activity. 
Though active in the highest degree, it is tranquil; though 
tranquil in the highest degree, it is active. ' If it is consid- 
ered as active when it is occupied and in a state of excite- 
ment, and as tranquil when it is unoccupied and at rest, it 
is then at variance with the saying, 'It is active and yet 
not stirred, tranquil and yet not at rest. ' If one says that 
the state in which there are no stirrings of feeling precedes 
the state in which there have been stirrings of feeling, then 
tranquility begets activity; and this implies that to entire 
sincerity there belong times of resting (ceasing), and that 
the doctrine of the sages vacillates. This, of course, will 
not do. If one says that the state of no stirrings is in the 
midst of the state of having had stirrings of feeling, then I 
do not know whether both of these states are pervaded 
with tranquility or not. Is the state in which there are no 
stirrings of feeling to be considered as tranquility, and the 
state in which there are stirrings of feeling as activity 
of the mind? Are both to be considered as active and 
tranquil? I am under obligation to you for instruction." 

** Yang-ming considered the condition when there are no stirrings 
of feelings the natural condition of the mind. 



240 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Intuitive Faculty is Not Subject to the Categories of 
Time and Space 

The equilibrium in which there is no stirring of feeling 
is the intuitive faculty. 19 It is not subject to the cate- 
gories of time and space, but is all one structure and sub- 
stance. One may say that activity and tranquility refer to 
the times when the mind is occupied and unoccupied; but 
when reference is made to the intuitive faculty, no distinc- 
tion is made between the mind 's being occupied or unoccu- 
pied. The states in which the mind is at rest or is excited 
may be said to represent activity and tranquility ; but when 
reference is made to the intuitive faculty, no distinction is 
made between the mind 's being at rest and its being active. 
When the original nature of the mind experiences activity 
and tranquility, it really makes no distinction between 
them. Principles are not subject to being affected or 
moved, for those conditions indicate the presence of desire. 
If the mind acts according to principles, though amidst ten 
thousand changes of pledging between host and guest, yet 
it has not been affected ; if it follows desire, though it ap- 
pears to be free from it. yet whenever it has thought there 
has been no tranquility. Why should there be any doubt 
that the mind may be tranquil while it is active, and active 
while it is tranquil? It may be said that the mind is thor- 
oughly moved (influenced) when it is occupied, yet its 
tranquility has not been decreased. One may really say 
that the mind is tranquil when it is at rest, yet its ac- 
tivity has not been decreased. Why should you doubt 
that the mind may be active and yet not excited, at rest 
and yet not tranquil? (14) It is a consecutive whole hav- 
ing no such attributes as the earlier and the later, the inner 
and the outer. 

It is not necessary to explain your question regarding 
the saying, 'To entire sincerity there belongs stillness.' 
That the state in which there is no stirring of passion 

is This faculty mediates intuitive knowledge of good. 



LETTERS 241 

should be included in the state in which there already 
has been stirring of passion, does not imply that in addi- 
tion to this latter state there has been another condition, in 
which there has been no stirring of passion. Again, that 
the state of having had stirrings of feelings is included in 
the state of having no stirrings of feelings, does not imply 
that, in addition to this latter state, there is a state in which 
there has already been a stirring of the feelings. If there 
has been no condition in which activity and tranquility 
were absent, it is not possible to distinguish between activ- 
ity and tranquility. 

Tranquility from the Standpoint of the Yin and the Yang 

Whoever reads the sayings of the ancients will get their 
meaning, if thought is used to meet the scope thereof. If 
the person adheres obstinately to the meaning of terms, 
then the sentence from the ode called "The Milky Way" — 

"Of the black-haired people of the remnant of Chou, 
There is not half a one left" — 20 
would imply that not one of the people of Chou was left. 
The saying of Chou, "Extreme tranquility is activity," if 
not carefully considered, is mistaken. This idea has been 
expressed from the point of view that when the Great 
Monad moves, it brings forth Yang; and when it is quiet, 
it brings forth Yin. The principle of the continual be- 
getting of the Great Monad is that its wonderful influences 
and activity do not cease and its substance does not change. 
The continual begetting of the Great Monad is the contin- 
ual begetting of Yin and Yang. Thus in the continual be- 
getting it shows that its wonderful influences and utility 
do not cease. This is called its activity — the begetting of 
the Yang. It does not mean that it was moved and there- 
after brought forth Yang. In the continual begetting it 
shows that its substance does not change. This is called 
its state of tranquility — the begetting of the Yin. It does 

zoMencius, Book V, Pt. I, Ch. 4, f 3. 



242 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

not mean that, having been tranquil, it thereafter brought 
forth Yin. If after being quiet it brings forth Yin, and 
after having been moved it brings forth Yang, then Yin 
and Yang, activity and tranquility, are separated and each 
represents a distinct thing. Yin and Yang are one vital 
force — the primordial aura. When this one vital force 
contracts and expands, it produces Yin and Yang respec- 
tively. Activity and tranquility are one principle. When 
this one principle is hidden and manifested, it results in 
activity and tranquility. Spring and summer may be con- 
sidered as representing Yang and activity, but this does not 
mean that Yin and tranquility are lacking. Autumn and 
winter represent Yin and tranquility (rest), but not in the 
sense that Yang and activity are not present. Insofar as 
spring and summer, autumn and winter are unceasing, 
they are called Yang and active. When reference is made 
to their continued respective identity, they are called Yin 
and are said to be at rest. This is true of them all from 
the time of the first revolution (successive change) of the 
world — the seasons, the month, and the day, up to the quar- 
ters of hours, seconds, and tenths of seconds. (15) He who 
knows need only think, to realize what is meant by saying 
that motion and rest have no origin, and Yin and Yang no 
beginning. This cannot be exhausted by speaking. If one 
adheres closely to terms and sentences, and compares and 
imitates, then the mind follows in its motion the lead of 
modes and forms instead of itself creating. 

Has the Intuitive Faculty a Vital Relation to the Feelings? 

Your letter says: "I continually test my own mind to 
find out the way in which I am affected by joy, anger, sor- 
row, and fear. Though I am exceedingly under their in- 
fluence, nevertheless when my intuitive faculty once realizes 
it, these passions are stopped and forthwith cease. They 
may be checked at the beginning, or controlled while they 
are in progress, or changed at the end. However, it is as 



LETTERS 243 

though the intuitive knowledge of good were present at the 
time when I am tranquil, at leisure, and unoccupied, and 
were in control then ; but had no real, vital relation to joy, 
anger, sorrow, and fear." 

If you know this, you know that the equilibrium in which 
there is no stirring of feelings is the original form of tran- 
quility. Moreover, you then have acquired the condition 
in which the feelings have been stirred, the harmony in 
which they act in their due degree, and the mystery of hav- 
ing them influenced and immediately perceived. However, 
there is still an error in your saying that it is as though the 
intuitive knowledge of good were present at the time when 
you are at leisure and unoccupied. Though the intuitive 
knowledge of good is not present in the state of joy, anger, 
sorrow, or fear, these are not outside the influence of the 
intuitive faculty. 

The Relation of Intuitive Knowledge of Good to Caution 
and Apprehensiveness 

Your letter says, "The Master (referring to Wang) yes- 
terday referred to the intuitive faculty as the thing that 
oversees the mind. I say that the intuitive knowledge of 
good is the original character of the mind, and that oversee- 
ing the mind is the task of the individual, consisting of be- 
ing cautious and apprehensive. The overseeing of the mind 
is identical with thought. Is it permissible to identify this 
being cautious and apprehensive with the intuitive knowl- 
edge of good ? ' ' 

It is permissible to identify the state of being cautious 
and apprehensive with intuitive knowledge of good. 

The Disorderly Mind is Conscious of Its Condition 

Your letter says: "The Teacher further says that the 
overseeing mind is not moved. Is this tranquility due to 
the fact that it acts in accord with nature? The disor- 
derly, unmannerly mind also oversees its condition. Is it 
because intuitive knowledge has been present within it 



244 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and elucidated the situation, and because what at the 
time is seen, heard, said, and done, does not exceed rule 
or pattern, that all this is considered as being in accord- 
ance with natural law? (16) Having discussed the dis- 
orderly, unmannerly mind, you say that it has regard for 
its condition, and that from the point of view of the over- 
seeing mind it is considered disorderly and unmannerly. 
What difference, then, is there between the disorderly mind 
and the mind at rest? Thus to connect the overseeing 
of the disorderly mind with the saying, ' To entire sincerity 
there belongs ceaselessness, ' is something I do not under- 
stand. May you again instruct me in my ignorance ! ' ' 

The mind which has regard for itself is not aroused, be- 
cause it has a natural, clear realization of its original 
nature, and therefore has had no stirring of the feelings. 
As soon as stirring and excitement are present, it is dis- 
orderly and unmannerly. The disorderly mind also has re- 
gard for itself, because the natural clear realization of the 
original nature has been present. Whether it is stirred up 
and excited or tranquil, it has regard for itself. Lacking 
the disorderly element, it lacks also regard for it. But this 
does not imply that disorder is to be construed as careful- 
ness, nor carefulness as disorder. The careful mind has 
regard for itself, and the disorderly mind is disorderly and 
unmannerly. It appears as though there were disorder and 
regard, but if both a disorderly and a circumspect mind 
were present, they would seem to be two different things. 
If they are two different things, then there must be periods 
of rest and cessation. If the mind cannot be disorderly 
without having regard for itself, there is but one; and if 
there is but one process, then it is unceasing. 

The Pure Heart Guards Against Passion and Subdues It 
When It Appears 

Your letter says: "In nourishing life, it is important to 
have a pure heart and few desires. A pure heart and few 
desires are the final accomplishment in becoming a sage. 



LETTERS 245 

However, if there are but few desires, the mind is naturally 
pure. By a pure mind is not meant that one oasts aside 
business and, living secluded, seeks tranquility. If the in- 
dividual desires to have his mind completely dominated by 
heaven-given principles, it cannot be encumbered with the 
least selfishness. If he desires to do this while he allows 
passion to come up, then, though he subdues it (passion), 
the root of the defect will be there continually, and he can- 
not prevent its cropping out in the west while it is being 
eradicated in the east. If he wishes to cut out, peel off, 
wash out, and dissipate all desires before they have sprout- 
ed, he has no point at which he can apply his strength, and 
will needlessly cause the mind to be unclear and unclean. 
Moreover, if he seeks for it in a vexatious, minute way, in 
order to banish it, the situation is similar to that in which 
one leads a dog into the guest hall and then drives it out 
again. This is even more unfeasible." 

To desire to have the mind completely dominated by 
heaven-given principles and to be entirely free from the 
selfishness of passion, is doing the task of the sage. (17) 
But this is not possible, unless one guards against passion 
before it has sprouted, and subdues it at the time when it 
appears. To guard against it before it has sprouted, and 
subdue it at the time when it appears is what is meant by 
the "being cautious and apprehensive" of the Doctrine of 
the Mean and the "extending of knowledge to the utmost 
through investigation of things" of the Great Learning. 
There is no task beyond this. What you say regarding its 
cropping out in the west while it is being eradicated in the 
east, and regarding one who leads a dog into the guest hall 
and then drives it out again, shows that you have private 
motives and that you seek your own advantage. You wel- 
come the perplexity of foregone conclusions and arbitrary 
pre-determinations, rather than the difficulty of controlling 
and cleaning out the passions. Now, as to what you have 
said regarding the necessity of purifying the mind and 



246 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

lessening the desires in order to nourish life, these two 
words, yang seng (§§££. meaning ''to nourish and fos- 
ter life"), imply that private motive and the seeking of 
your own advantage are the source of your foregone con- 
clusions and your arbitrary predeterminations. With this 
root of evil hidden in your mind, you should have the mis- 
fortune that when passion is eradicated in the east it crops 
out in the west, or that you drive the dog out after having 
brought it into the guest hall. 

The Buddhists Do Not Understand the Original Nature of 

the Mind 

Your letter says: "The position of the Buddhists, that 
the individual recognizes his original nature at the time 
when he reflects neither on good nor on evil, is at variance 
with our Confucian position, that one should investigate 
carefully all the things which one meets. We Confucian- 
ists devote ourselves to the task of extending knowledge to 
the utmost at the time when we think neither of good nor 
evil, and this has a real relation to the thinking of good. It 
is only at the time when one just awakens from sleep that 
one does not have any desire for good or evil, and the in- 
tuitive faculty is perfectly quiet and at ease (at rest). 
This is in accord with what Mencius says regarding the 
restorative influence of the night. But one is not long in 
that condition. Suddenly one realizes that solicitous 
thoughts have already arisen. I do not know whether he 
who has worked long at this task is continually in the con- 
dition of one who has just awakened from sleep and has 
desire neither for good nor for evil. The more I desire to 
seek tranquility, the less tranquil I am ; and the more I de- 
sire to keep selfish thoughts from sprouting, the more they 
sprout. How can I cause the earlier thoughts to be oblit- 
erated, the later thought not to crop out, and intuitive 
knowledge of good alone to be manifested? How can I 
take pleasure in creating things?" 



LETTERS 247 

The position of the Buddhists, that they recognize the 
original nature at the time when they think neither of good 
nor of evil, shows that they do not understand the original 
nature. They may conveniently be viewed in this way. (18) 
The original nature is what we Confucianists call the intu- 
itive faculty. Since you understand fully what the intuitive 
faculty is, I need not have spoken thus. To investigate 
whatever thing one happens upon is the task of extending 
knowledge to the utmost, and is identical with the constant 
realization of the Buddhists. It implies the constant cher- 
ishing of the original nature. The serially arranged tasks 
of both conceptions of nature are essentially alike, but the 
Buddhists have a mind which is dominated by private mo- 
tives and seeks the advantages of the individual. There- 
fore there is some difference. Their desire to think of 
neither good nor evil and to make the mind pure, tranquil, 
and at ease, implies that they have selfish motives and seek 
their own advantage. They have a mind which welcomes 
foregone conclusions and arbitrary pre-determinations, and 
for this reason they emphasize the time when they think of 
neither good nor evil. Application to the task of extend- 
ing knowledge to the utmost thus already has a real rela- 
tion to being distressed with thinking about the good. 

Since the Intuitive Faculty is by Nature Tranquil, It is Not 
Necessary to Seek Tranquility 

What Mencius says about the restorative influence of the 
night, also has reference to the individual who has lost his 
intuitive knowledge of good; for he (Mencius) exhibits the 
point at which the intuitive faculty has its origin that, fol- 
lowing this, it may be nourished and cultivated, and passion 
be expelled. Inasmuch as you understand the intuitive 
faculty and constantly devote yourself to extending knowl- 
edge, it should not be necessary for me to speak of the 
restorative influence of the night. However, after having 
taken the hare, you do not know how to keep it, but in- 



248 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

stead keep vigil over the stump, and in so doing again lose 
the hare. Your search for tranquility and your desire to 
keep disorderly thoughts from arising, show that private 
motives and desire for advantage are opening the way for 
foregone conclusions and arbitrary pre-determinations. 
Under such circumstances the more you think, the less tran- 
quil you will be. There is but one intuitive faculty, which 
by its own nature discriminates between good and evil. 
What good and evil are there to think about ? The intuitive 
faculty is by nature tranquil, but you have added the idea 
of seeking tranquility. The intuitive faculty naturally 
brings forth thoughts constantly, while you wish that it 
might not bring them forth. Not only is the task of 
extending knowledge as practiced by the Confucianists 
different from this, but the Buddhists themselves do not 
thus welcome foregone conclusions and arbitrary pre-de- 
terminations. Reflection regarding the intuitive faculty 
reveals the fact that its details are infinite. This implies 
that the earlier thoughts do not die. and that the later dis- 
orderly thoughts do not arise. You, however, desire that 
the earlier thoughts should die and that the later thoughts 
should not arise. This is what the Buddhists designate as 
destroying the germ (essence) of nature, and becoming 
lifeless and dead. (19) 

Lu's Questions Show that He Does Not Fully Understand 
the Intuitive Faculty 

Your letter says: "Is the saying of the Buddhists, con- 
stantly to bring one's thoughts to one's notice, to be iden- 
tified with the saying of Mencius, 'There must be (con- 
stant) practice (of righteousness),' and with your saying. 
'Extend the knowledge of good to the utmost'? 21 Is it to 
be considered as meaning constantly realizing, constantly 
remembering, constantly knowing, constantly cherishing 
the original nature of the mind? If T meet with affairs 

21 Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, 1 16. 



LETTERS 249 

and things while a thought is kept before me, there must be 
some proper method of response. But perhaps these ideas 
are not often brought to notice and are frequently dissi- 
pated. Thereby true effort is interrupted. That these 
ideas are dropped is largely due to the influence of selfish 
desire and ceremoniousness. When I suddenly come to a 
full realization of this state, I later observe that they have 
been dropped. At the time that I do not bring them to my 
notice I am usually not conscious of the confused, disor- 
derly condition of my mind. Since I desire to become 
daily purer and more intelligent, what method should I 
pursue in constantly keeping these thoughts before my no- 
tice? Would you consider the fact that they are con- 
stantly kept in view and not dropped as representing a 
task perfectly carried out? Or is it necessary, in the midst 
of cherishing and not dropping these, to add devotion to 
examining and controlling myself ? I fear that I shall not 
be able to cleanse my mind from selfish desire, even though 
I constantly keep the thoughts before my mind, if, while 
doing so, I fail to be cautious and apprehensive and to con- 
trol myself. If I am cautious and apprehensive and con- 
trol myself, this should be construed as being solicitous 
about good affairs and thus lacking thorough acquaintance 
in one respect with the original nature. How can I find a 
way through this ? ' ' 

This matter of being cautious and apprehensive and of 
controlling one 's self is just what is meant by bringing one 's 
thoughts to one's notice and not scattering them. It cer- 
tainly means that one is occupied with affairs. Are there 
two separate things to be discriminated in this? The first 
portion of what you have asked about in this section you 
have yourself clearly explained ; but with regard to the lat- 
ter part, you have confused yourself. You have branched 
off until you have no doubt as to your thorough acquaint- 
ance with one aspect of your nature. This, however, is the 
defect of allowing private desire and private advantage to 



250 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

open the way for foregone conclusions and arbitrary pre- 
determinations. If you will get rid of the root of this evil, 
you will get rid of the doubt. 

Your letter says: "He whose natural ability is excel- 
lent may understand the intuitive faculty completely, and 
his disposition for evil will then be totally transformed 
and changed. Why should he be said to understand com- 
pletely? In what way is his disposition for evil totally 
changed ? ' ' 

The Intuitive Faculty Clears Away All Feculence 

The intuitive faculty is by nature clear. He whose nat- 
ural ability is not excellent cannot easily understand be- 
cause of much feculence and heavy obscuration. He whose 
native disposition is excellent has originally little feculence 
and slight obscuration. (20) In case he devotes himself to 
extending knowledge to the utmost, his intuitive faculty will 
naturally clearly apprehend. As light snow cannot remain 
in hot water, so the little feculence that may be present 
cannot obscure the mind. This is not very difficult to un- 
derstand. That you, Yuan-ching, should have doubts re- 
garding this, I judge to be due to the fact that you do not 
fully comprehend, and perhaps desire to advance too rap- 
idly. On a previous occasion I have discussed the matter 
of understanding virtue with you, saying that if you under- 
stand you will be sincere. This is not in accordance with 
what later scholars have said — that knowledge of good is 
not profound. 

The Chief Characteristics of Nature 

In your letter you make the following inquiry: "Are 
quick apprehension, clear discernment, far-reaching intel- 
ligence, and all-embracing knowledge, really native ability? 
Are benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom 
really native disposition? Are pleasure, anger, sorrow, 
and joy really passions? Are selfish desires and ceremoni- 
ousness really to be identified or not ? In the instance of 



LETTERS 251 

the f ollowing and other talented men among the ancients — 
(Chang) Tzu-fang. (Tung) Chung-shu, (Huang) Shu-tu 
(Chu-ko) K'ung-ming, Wen Chung, Han (Ch'i), and Fang 
(Chung-yen) — whatever virtuous instruction they gave, 
all came from the intuitive faculty ; and yet they were not 
designated as having heard and perceived the truth. How 
can this be ? Supposing one says that they had exceptional- 
ly excellent native ability, would they not belong to those 
who are born with knowledge and carry it out in practice 
with natural ease, and thus do not need to learn by study 
after a painful feeling of their ignorance and by strenuous 
effort? According to my stupid idea, one may say that 
these scholars merely emphasized one aspect, but to say 
that none had heard would probably imply that later schol- 
ars had fallen into the excess of reverencing and empha- 
sizing the matters of recording, recitation, instruction, and 
comments. Am I correct in my judgment or not?" 

There is one nature, and that is all. Charity, righteous- 
ness, propriety, and wisdom are by nature characteristic 
of it; quick apprehension, clear discrimination, far-reach- 
ing intelligence, and all-embracing knowledge are native to 
it. Pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy are the passions (feel- 
ings) of this nature ; selfish desire and ceremoniousness are 
things that obscure it. The native ability may be either 
clear or turbid. The passions may be manifested unduly 
or insufficiently. Obscuration may be slight or profound. 
Selfish desire and ceremoniousness are one disease with two 
different types of pain, and should not be considered two 
different things. Chang (Tzu-fang), Huang (Shu-tu), 
Chu-ko (K'ung-ming), Han (Ch'i), and Fang (Chung- 
yen) were all men of excellent native ability who naturally 
acted in accordance with the mystery of the doctrine. 
Though one cannot assert positively that they were born 
with a knowledge of learning or that they perceived the 
truth, they naturally had their degree of learning and 
did not depart far from the truth. In case they heard the 



252 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

learning and thus knew the doctrine, they belong to the 
class of I (Ying), Fu (Yiieh), Chou (Kung), and Shao 
(Kung). 22 Of Wen Chung-tzu one also cannot say that 
he did not know learning. His books were written mostly 
by his own disciple, and contain many things that are not 
correct ; but his general trend of thought can be understood 
from them. (21) However, since we have long passed his 
time, we lack substantial evidence and cannot definitely 
decide just what he had attained. 

All Men Have Intuitive Knowledge of Good, but It May 
Be Obscured 

The intuitive knowledge of good is to be identified with 
the path of duty (truth), and this knowledge is in the 
minds of men. Not only the sages and virtuous men, but 
also ordinary men are thus gifted. If selfish desire of 
things has not arisen to obscure the mind, and it (the 
mind) manifests itself and acts in accordance with intui- 
tive knowledge, everything that transpires will be in ac- 
cordance with the path of duty. In the case of the com- 
mon people, the mind is often obscured by a desire for 
things, so that it cannot act in accordance with the dictates 
of the intuitive faculty. Since the native ability of the 
men mentioned above was pure and clear, and had not 
been much obscured by the desire for things, they nat- 
urally had real knowledge and did not depart from the 
truth, in so far as their intuitive faculty manifested itself 
and came to fruition. If the student learns only that 
which is in accord with the intuitive faculty, he is said to 
have learned through study, but he knows only that which 
is in accord with the intuitive faculty. If the men men- 
tioned above did not know how to devote themselves to the 
intuitive knowledge of good alone, but drifted beyond the 
bounds of the intuitive faculty into divergent views and 

22 Sages of the Shan and the Chou dynasties, who lived about 1154- 
1122 B.C. 



LETTERS 253 

were confused and befooled by shadows and echoes, they 
either departed from the doctrine, or at any rate were not 
completely in accordance with it. At the time that they 
had intuitive knowledge of good they were sages. Later 
scholars held that these philosophers all acted in accordance 
with their natural ability, and that they could not do other- 
wise than manifest and investigate the truth. This also 
should not be considered as putting it too strongly. How- 
ever, concerning those who they say manifested and investi- 
gated the truth, later scholars were inclined to be narrow in 
what they heard and saw. They were obscured by habitual 
practices, and in accordance with their determination re- 
sembled each other in the matter of confining themselves to 
shadows and forms. This is not what the sages mean by 
manifesting and investigating. Could they use their own 
ignorance in examining the intelligence of others ? The two 
characters, chi (£fl, meaning "knowledge") and hsing 
(^J, meaning "practice"), of "being born with knowledge 
and practicing them with ease, ' ' 23 are said with reference 
to using one 's faculties. If the original character of knowl- 
edge and practice has reference to intuitive knowledge and 
practice of good, then, though it be an individual who ac- 
quires the knowledge after painful feeling of ignorance 
and practices by strenuous effort. 24 he may still be said to 
have been born with knowledge and practice with ease. 
The two characters, chi and hsing, should be more carefully 
investigated. 

Did the Joy of Confucius Have Its Roots in the Seven 

Passions f 

Your letter says: "Formerly Chou Mou-sliu frequently 
ordered Po-shun to find the places where Chung-ni and 
Yen-tzu were pleased. 25 I venture to ask whether this 

*3 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, 1f 9. 
z* Ibid. 

2- r > Chou Mou-shu was the teacher of the philosopher Chen (Po- 
shun) ; Chung-ni is a name given to Confucius. 



254 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

pleasure is to be considered as the pleasure of the seven 
passions. 26 (22) If they are the same, then ordinary indi- 
viduals by giving rein to their desires can all have pleasure. 
Why should it take a sage or a virtuous man? If, in ad- 
dition to this, there is a genuine joy, then is that joy 
present when the sage and virtuous man meet with great 
sorrow, great anger, great terror, and great fear? More- 
over, since the mind of the superior man is continually 
cautious and apprehensive and is continually in sorrow, 
how does he get joy? I am nearly always depressed in 
spirit ; I have not yet acquired the experience of true joy. 
I wish I might experience it. ' ' 

Joy is an original characteristic of the mind. Though 
this joy is not to be identified with the pleasure of the 
seven passions, it is not a joy over and beyond the joy of 
the seven passions. Though sages and virtuous men may 
have another true joy, ordinary people have it in common 
with them, but are not conscious of it. They bring upon 
themselves a great deal of sorrow and affliction, and in- 
crease their confusion and their self-abandonment. Even 
in the midst of sorrow, affliction, confusion, and self-aban- 
donment, this joy is harbored in the heart. As soon as 
their thoughts have been cleared so that the person is sin- 
cere, this joy is at once apparent. In discussing this mat- 
ter with you, Yuan-ching, I have had no other idea. That 
you still have things to inquire about, is as though you 
were not able to get rid of the defect of seeking the don- 
key while riding it. 

Your letter says: "According to the Great Learning, 
the mind cannot be rectified if it is under the influence of 
fond regard, of passion, of sorrow and distress, of terror. 27 
The philosopher Ch'eng said: 'Since the sage's feelings 
are easy and rhythmical in all things, he has no passion.' 
As concerns him who has the passions, in 'The Instruc- 

2 « Joy, anger, sorrow, fear, love, hatred, desire. 
27 Great Learning, Ch. 7, If 1. 



LETTERS 255 

tions for Practical Life' (Ch'uan Hsi Lu) the figure of one 
stricken with malaria is used to explain this minutely and 
exactly. If the philosopher Ch'eng's saying is accurate, 
then the passion (feeling) of the sages is not begotten in 
the mind but has reference to things. How is this to be 
construed ? Moreover, when things influence the mind and 
the passion responds thereupon, right and wrong can be 
investigated. In case one says that the passions are 
present before the mind has been influenced by things, 
they have no real form ; and if one says they are not there, 
then the root of evil is present in their absence. How can 
I extend my knowledge to the utmost under such circum- 
stances? If study lacks the seven passions (feelings);, 
though the embarrassment be light, one has nevertheless 
left the class of scholars and entered that of the Budd- 
hists. What do you think of this?" (23) 

The Intuitive FacuDty Gives Accurate Information on 
Matters of Truth 

The sage's effort at extending his knowledge to the ut- 
most is characterized by entire sincerity and ceaselessness. 
His intuitive faculty is as bright as a clear mirror and is 
not dimmed in the least. Whether a handsome or an ugly 
woman comes, in accordance with the object presented the 
image will be manifested, but no taint is left on the clear 
mirror after she has gone. This signifies that the feelings 
are easy and rhythmical in all things, and that there is no 
passion. That the passions have no place of abode but are 
begotten in the mind, has been said by the Buddhists, and 
this should not be considered wrong. The clear mirror 
responds to the object. If handsome, the reflection is 
handsome; if ugly, it is ugly. That every reflection is 
true to the object shows that the feelings are begotten in 
the mind. That the handsome reflection of the handsome 
woman and the ugly reflection of the ugly woman pass 
away and do not remain shows that they have no abiding 



256 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

place. If you have clearly grasped the simile of the man 
stricken with malarial fever, you will be able to under- 
stand what you have asked in this section. In the case of 
the man who has malaria, the root of the disease is present 
though the fever has not appeared. Shall the patient neg- 
lect to take the medicine which has been prescribed? If 
he does not take the prescribed medicine until after the 
fever has appeared, it will be too late. No discrimination 
should be made between a time of leisure and one of af- 
fairs in the matter of extending knowledge. Why should 
one discuss whether or not the disease has appeared? In 
general, the things that you, Yiian-ching, are in doubt 
about, though there may be differences, all spring from the 
fact that your private purposes and your striving for per- 
sonal advantages arise from foregone conclusions and ar- 
bitrary predeterminations. When this has been eradicat- 
ed, what you are first and last in doubt about will melt as 
ice and disappear as a fog, and will not wait until you 
have made inquiry and discussed it. 

Comment — The condition in which one's own private 
motives and gain open the way for foregone conclusions 
and arbitrary predeterminations shows that there is anx- 
ious excessive thinking present in the matter of seeking 
virtue. Those below the very virtuous are of necessity like 
this. Yuan Hsien Avas suffering from this embarrass- 
ment when he asked Confucius the question: "When love 
of superiority, boasting, resentments, and covetousness are 
repressed, may this be deemed perfect virtue?" 28 Con- 
fucius answered him saying : " ( This may be regarded as 
the achievement of what is difficult.) But I do not know 
that it is to be deemed perfect virtue." 29 This implies that 
he instructed him to devote his energies to that which is 
difficult. Why point out that this is virtue? If the indi- 
vidual desires to get rid of this embarrassment, it will dis- 
ss Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 2, 1 1. 
29 Ibid., U 2. 



LETTERS 257 

appear, if, as in the case of Yen Tzu, he subdues himself 
and returns to propriety. 30 (24) 

Letter to Lu Yuan-ching 

Written in the eleventh year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Advises Lu to be More Careful and Systematic in 
His Study 

I have received your letter. I know that your disease is 
cured again, and am exceedingly glad. In your letter you 
make diligent inquiry about learning because you fear that 
you may lose it or allow it to crumble into ruins. This is 
sufficient to make me know that your determination to ad- 
vance in virtue and to cultivate it is not lax. Because of 
this I am also very much pleased. Toward whom except 
you shall I look to exhibit this doctrine in the future, so 
that later generations may arise and prosper because of it? 
I had already prepared a rough copy of the notes on the 
Great Learning and the Doctrine of the Mean; but since 
what I had produced was not perfectly good, I was not 
able to avoid the defect of devoting myself to external 
things and of desiring that it be done quickly. Thereupon 
I burned it. Recently, though I realize that I have some 
idea of advancing in virtue, I cannot venture to say that 
I have attained the highest excellence. To reach that goal 
I shall wait until some future time. 

Of my discussions with my disciples concerning the 
means of attaining the highest excellence, no record has 
been kept. The general purpose of it I surely have al- 
ready expressed on ordinary occasions for the sake of 
Ch'ing Po. Therefore you should the more investigate, 
for you ought to see it yourself. If you seek this too 
eagerly, you may not be able to avoid your former disease. 
The saying regarding extensive study I have formerly care- 
fully explained. How am I to interpret it, that you now 

so Ibid., Book XII, Ch. 1, If 1. 



258 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

seem to bring it forward again? This also would seem 
to show that your purpose is not firmly fixed and that 
you are embarrassed by ordinary habits. In case I truly 
have a mind that does not covet honor and gain, then, 
though I devote myself to the making of money, or the 
raising of rice, to military equipments, or to carrying wood 
and water, what is there that does not involve genuine 
learning, and what affair is there that does not imply 
heaven-given principles ? How much more is this true if I 
devote myself to the books of the sages and virtuous men, 
or to history, or to poetry, or to essay-writing, or to similar 
things! If I still cherish a mind that covets honor and 
gain, then, though I daily speak of virtue, benevolence, and 
righteousness, it is all a thing of merit and gain. How 
much more is this true in the case of the books of the philos- 
ophers, history, poetry, essay- writing, and similar things! 
All sorts of sayings regarding the necessity of expelling the 
desire for merit and gain are firmly embedded in old habits. 
Because in expending your efforts you do not appear to 
develop strength and power, I say to you: Rid yourself 
of your vulgar, plebeian ideas and return to your former 
purpose. If you think of the comparison of daily drink- 
ing, eating, and cultivating the person, and of the compari- 
son I made regarding the planting, cultivating, and water- 
ing of the tree, you will understand the saying, "Things 
have their root and branches; affairs have their end and 
their beginning. To know what is first and what is last 
will lead near to what is taught." '- il You speak as though 
you did not understand the real object of the end and the 
beginning, the root and the branches. This means that you 
do not follow the natural order of root and branches, the 
beginning and the end, and that you wash to use your pri- 
vate purpose in order to complete the task. 



31 Great Learning, Introduction, ^ 3. 



LETTERS 259 

Answer to a Letter from Shu Kuo-yung (25) 

Written in the second year of Emperor Chia Cliing 

Shu Makes Satisfactory Progress in Study and is Urged 
Not to Assist the Growth 

Your letter, which I have received, is sufficient to show 
that you have an earnest purpose in your study. The or- 
dinary student is distressed because he does not know the 
underlying principles of study, or if he knows these prin 
ciples he is distressed because he lacks real earnestness of 
purpose. Since you, Kuo-yung, know the underlying 
principles of learning and are also able to fix your purpose 
thus earnestly, who can hinder your advance? What few 
things there are in regard to which you are in doubt, all 
arise from the fact that you are not perfectly familiar with 
the task, and that you desire to hasten the growth. If you 
use your purpose to get rid of this desire to assist the 
growth, and daily advance in an orderly, methodical way. 
you ought to reach the goal. The things regarding which 
you formerly had doubt will be dissipated as the melting of 
ice. Why wait for my remarks? The pleasant or dis- 
agreeable taste of food should be recognized by him who 
eats, for another person cannot accurately inform him. 

The few things regarding which you are in doubt have 
of late been continually doubted by those of your compan- 
ions who have a common purpose with you. I have not yet 
told them, but today I speak for your sake. You say that 
an increase of self-poise and carefulness entails the em- 
barrassment of losing freedom, and that one is self-poised 
and careful because of the application of his purpose. You 
ask how anyone can be self-poised and careful without be- 
ing aware of it. How can these qualities come of them- 
selves, so that a person does not have any doubt regarding 
his actions? All of these involve what 1 call the defect of 
desiring to assist the growth. 



260 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

What the Self-poise and Carefulness of the Superior Man 

Signify 

What the superior man means by being self-poised and 
careful is not what is meant by being under the influence 
of terror, sorrow, and distress, but by being cautious with 
reference to that which is not seen, and apprehensive with 
reference to that which is not heard. 32 The saying of the 
superior man regarding freedom does not carry with it the 
connotation of the swaggering and dissipation implied in 
giving rein to the seven passions and in acting unscrupu- 
lously. It means that the mind is not embarrassed by desire 
and that the individual can find himself in no situation in 
which he is not himself. 33 The mind is by very nature the 
embodiment of heaven-given principles; and the clear, in- 
telligent realization of these principles is what is meant by 
intuitive knowledge. The cautiousness and apprehensive- 
ness of the superior man is probably due to his clear, in- 
telligent preception. If there is anything that obscures or 
tends toward dissipation, it degenerates into self-abandon- 
ment, moral deflection, depravity, and recklessness, so that 
the correctness of the original nature is lost. If the cau- 
tiousness and apprehensiveness of the superior man is 
never interrupted, heaven-given principles will be con- 
stantly cherished. (26) Moreover, in him who clearly and 
intelligently perceives and realizes heaven-given principles, 
the original nature is free from defect or obscuration. No 
selfish desire intervenes to annoy and give trouble. There is 
nothing present because of which the mind is either in 
dread, or in sorrow ami distress, or because of which it is 
under the influence of fond regard or of passion, or with 
reference to which it has foregone conclusions and arbitrary 
predeterminations, obstinacy and egoism, or because of 
which it is discontented or ashamed. But it (the original 
nature) is clear and bright. Filled and satiated, it mani- 

32 Great Learning, Ch. 7, If 1 ; Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 1, If 3. 
'•■?< Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 14, ^ 2. 



LETTERS 261 

fests itself in such a way that all the movements, of the 
countenance and of every turn of the body, are exactly ad- 
justed. They carry out the desires of the mind, but not to 
excess. This is what is meant by truly dropping one's dig- 
nity and being untrammelled and self-contained. 

Such a condition is begotten out of a constant cherish- 
ing of heaven-given principles, and the constant cherishing 
of heaven-given principles is begotten when cautiousness 
and apprehension are uninterrupted. Who would say that 
an increase of self-poise and carefulness involves the embar- 
rassment of losing one 's freedom ? Such an individual fails 
to know that freedom is original to the mind, and that self- 
poise and carefulness are manifestations of freedom. To 
distinguish them as two things, and thus divided to use the 
mind, causes mutual opposition. As soon as there is much 
opposition, one drifts into a. desire to assist the growth ma- 
terially. Thus, what you designate as self-poise and care- 
fulness is what the Great Learning means by terror, sorrow 
and distress, and not what the Doctrine of the Mean de- 
scribes as. being cautious and apprehensive. The philosopher 
Ch'eng always said that what people thought of as lacking 
purpose really could be said to connote the absence of a 
selfish mind and not the loss of mind. To be cautious re- 
garding that which one has not seen, and apprehensive re- 
garding that which one has not heard, shows that there must 
be purpose present. To be under the influence of dread, 
sorrow and distress implies that there must be selfish pur- 
pose present. The cautiousness and fearfulness of Yao and 
Shun, and the carefulness and respectfulness of Wen Wang 
signify self-poise and carefulness. They spontaneously arise 
out of the original nature of the mind, and are not mani- 
fested because of any special reason. Self-poise and careful- 
ness make no distinction between activity (excitement) and 
rest (tranquility). Self-poise is for the purpose of rectify- 
ing the mind, and righteousness for the purpose of correct- 
ing the conduct. When both self-poise and righteousness 



262 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

have been fixed, the heaven-appointed way will be open, and 
there will be no doubt concerning the individual's conduct. 
In all that you have written, the underlying idea is correct. 
You may use this to encourage yourself, but certainly not 
to reprove others. The superior man does not seek the 
confidence of others; for if he has confidence in himself, 
that is enough. He does not seek notoriety or popularity : 
if he knows himself, that is enough. Because I have not 
completed my father's grave and am exceedingly occupied 
with affairs, and your messenger waits for the reply, I 
have written in a careless, incoherent manner. (27) 

Comments — The character eking ( §J£, meaning "self- 
poised, respectful, reverent") signifies that the sages and 
virtuous men understand thoroughly from first to last. The 
caution and fear of Yao and Shun ; the reverence for his 
resting-places of Wen Wang; the learning without satiety 
and instructing others without being wearied, of Confucius ; 
the accumulation of righteous deeds, of Mencius ; all are 
connoted by this one character ching. 34 They naturally 
emerge out of the original nature of the mind and are not a 
forced growth. This is what is meant by self-poise and 
carefulness, by dropping one's dignity and being self-con- 
tained. It does not mean that one becomes self-contained 
by being cautious and apprehensive. The respectfulness 
and ease of the Master (Confucius) was of that type. 35 

Second Letter to Huang Mien-chih 

Written in the third year of Emperor Chia Ching 

After you left me, my wife became more ill, while I 
myself continued to be afflicted with a cough and with 
diarrhoea, I have not been free from them for a day. 
Moreover, I was so engrossed in business that I could not 
reply. Referring to the use of the original text of the 

34 Great Learning, Ch. 3, H 3 ; Analects, Book VII, Ch. 2 ; Mencius, 
Book II, Part I, Ch. 2, | 15. 

35 Vide Analects, Book VII, Ch. 37. 



LETTERS 263 

Great Learning, I have had no opportunity to express my- 
self in writing, and thereby I have done an injustice to 
your exceedingly diligent purpose. However, I will grad- 
ually exhibit this. The difficulty is that I have only the 
text itself in mind and am not always able to explain 
it adequately. Because of this I am troubled. I really 
have no time to answer the questions you ask. However, 
when I see the exceeding sincerity you display at the close 
of your letter, I can but speak. 

Huang Gives a Clear Statement of the Chief Characteristics 
of the Intuitive Faculty 

Your letter says : ' ' He who allows the instruction of the 
intuitive faculty to nourish the mind will realize that he is 
fully acquainted with activity and tranquility, with day 
and night, with the ancient past and the present, with life 
and death. There is nothing with which the intuitive facul- 
ty does not make one acquainted. It is not necessary to 
deliberate in the least, nor is it necessary to assist its de- 
velopment in any way, for it is very trustworthy and per- 
fectly clear. When it is stimulated it responds, and when 
it is influenced it perceives clearly. There is nothing that 
it does not make clear, nothing that it does not realize, 
nothing that it does not apprehend. All the sages have 
traversed this road, all the virtuous men have followed this 
track. There is nothing else that is like a spirit, for it is 
the spirit ; nothing else emulates Heaven, for it is Heaven ; 
nothing else is more in accordance with the Supreme Ruler, 
for it is the Supreme Ruler. (28) It is by nature in a state 
of equilibrium and always perfectly just; is always charac- 
terized by reciprocity and is never excited ; is always un- 
occupied and yet one never sees it at rest ; is truly the 
spiritual, intelligent substance of Heaven and earth, and the 
mysterious, wonderful manifestation of man. I consider 
that the intelligence of the sincere man of the Doctrine of 
the Mean is to be interpreted as the intelligence of the in- 



264 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tuitive faculty, and that the cautiousness and apprehensive- 
ness of the sincere man implies that the intuitive faculty is 
cautious and apprehensive. 36 They should be considered 
as belonging to the intuitive faculty as well as the feeling 
of commiseration (at seeing a child fall into a well) and 
the feeling of shame and dislike. 37 It is the intuitive facul- 
ty that experiences and knows caution, apprehension, com- 
miseration, shame, and dislike, and that is intelligent. ' ' 

In this section you have discussed the matter clearly and 
in detail. If you know this, you know that there is no 
further task before you than that of extending intuitive 
knowledge to the utmost. Knowing this, you understand 
the saying, "He sets them (his institutions as ruler) up 
before Heaven and earth and finds nothing in them con- 
trary to their mode of operation. He presents them before 
spiritual beings, and no doubts about them arise. He is 
prepared to wait for the rise of a sage a hundred years 
after, and he has no misgivings." 38 You will understand 
that this is not mere talk. Intelligence is the product of 
sincerity, and cautiousness and apprehensiveness are the 
products of the intuitive faculty. They do not connote two 
different things. Having become thoroughly acquainted 
with the fact that activity and tranquility, death and life, 
all connote this one thing, how can any other thing take the 
place of developing intelligence from sincerity, and effect- 
ing cautiousness and apprehension, and the feelings of 
commiseration, shame, and dislike? 

Are Joy and Delight Native to the Mind* 

Your letter says: "When the powers of the Yin and 
Yang move back and forth rhythmically and are spread har- 
moniously, they bring forth all things (the universe). The 
begetting and growing of things all emanate from this 

3« Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 21. 

3? Vide Meneius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 6, t 4. 

38 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 29, 1 4. 



LETTERS 265 

harmonious spreading of the vital force. Therefore, the 
principle of the development of the human being naturally 
spreads itself harmoniously, and there is nothing with ref- 
erence to which it does not manifest joy. When a man 
sees the hawk fly, the fish leap, the bird call, the animal 
play, the plants joyously reviving, he is joyous with them 
all. But because of ceremoniousness and desire for things, 
this harmonious spreading of the vital force is influenced, 
and having been interrupted is no longer joyous. In say- 
ing, 'Is it not pleasant to learn with a constant persever- 
ance and application ! ' Confucius laid the foundation of an 
uninterrupted task. 39 Pleasure is the first rising (sprout- 
ing) of joy. When friends come (to learn of me) learning 
is completed, and the joy of one's original nature has been 
reinstated. It is for this reason that he says, 'Does it not 
make me joyful to have friends come from a distant 
place 1 ' 40 Though others do not know me, I do not permit 
the least irritation to intercept the joy and delight of my 
nature. (29) The sage (Confucius) feared that the delight 
of the students might be interrupted, and therefore said 
this. There are the sayings: 'I do not murmur against 
Heaven; I do not grumble against men'; 'With coarse rice 
to eat, with water to drink, and my bended arm for a pil- 
low. I have still joy in the midst of these things'; and 'He 
did not allow his joy to be affected by it.' 41 Do not all 
these imply uninterrupted joy and delight?" 

Joy and delight are native to the mind. The mind of 
the man of the highest virtue considers heaven, earth, and 
all things as one ; and the rhythmical moving back and forth. 

39 Analects, Book I, Ch. 1, 1f 1. 

*o Ibid., H 2. 

4i Ibid., Book XIV, Ch. 37, 1f 2; Book VII, Ch. 15; Book 
VI, Ch. 9. The complete saying is: "Admirable indeed was 
the virtue of Hui! With a single bamboo dish of rice, a small gourd 
dish of drink, and living in his mean narrow lane, while others could 
not have endured the distress, he did not allow his joy to be affected 
by it. ' ' 



266 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and the harmonious spreading (of the Yin and Yang) con- 
tinue without interruption. 

Your letter says : ' ' The principle of the development of 
the human being naturally manifests itself harmoniously 
and engenders delight in all things. But because of cere- 
moniousness and desire for things, the harmonious spread- 
ing of the vital force is interfered with, and having been 
interrupted fails to bring joy." 

This is correct. He who studies with a constant per- 
severance seeks to reinstate the original nature of the mind. 
In delight, this is gradually restored. When friends come 
(to learn), the rhythmical moving back and forth and 
the regular harmonious spreading of nature are complete 
and uninterrupted — its original condition. From the be- 
ginning nothing has been added to it, and thus it follows 
that if no friends come and nobody knows me, nothing will 
have been subtracted. What your letter says regarding 
its being uninterrupted is correct. Even being a sage im- 
plies no more than uninterrupted sincerity with concomi- 
tant constant application. The important thing about con- 
stant application is watchfulness over one's self when 
alone. Such watchfulness over one's self when alone im- 
plies extending intuitive knowledge to the utmost, which 
is the real nature of delight. This, in general, is also cor- 
rect, but the individual should not be obstinate with refer- 
ence to anything. 

Does Love Include Perfect Virtue? 

Your letter says : "In general, I consider Han Ch 'ang-li 
correct when he said : 'Universal love is the perfect virtue.' 
I do not know why the scholars of the Sung Dynasty said 
that he was wrong, and considered love as related to pas- 
sion, and perfect virtue as related to nature. 42 How can 
love be considered as the highest virtue? My idea is that 
nature is to be identified with the condition in which the 



* 2 Referring to the teaching of the philosopher Chu. 



LETTERS 267 

seven passions have not been manifested, and the seven 
passions with the condition in which nature has manifested 
itself. Perfect virtue is love not manifested ; love is perfect 
virtue manifested. Why should not love be used for per- 
fect virtue? In saying love, perfect virtue is included. 
Mencius said : ' The feeling of commiseration is perfect 
virtue. ' 43 The philosopher Chou said : ' Love is perfect 
virtue. ' The words of Ch'ang-li are not very different from 
the ideas involved in Mencius and Chou. (30) One must 
not neglect him because he is a literatus. ' ' 

Wang Says that Love of Right is the Perfect Virtue 

The saying regarding universal love is originally not 
very different from the idea of Mencius and the philosopher 
Chou. Fan Ch'ih made inquiry regarding the perfect 
virtue, benevolence. The Master said: "It is to love all 
men. ' ' 44 Why should not the word ai ( ^ , meaning 
"love") be considered as having the same meaning as 
jen ( fH, meaning "perfect virtue" or "benevolence"). 
The former scholars in estimating the words of the an- 
cients often manifested prejudice against various kinds 
of persons. 45 This is one such instance. Moreover, the 
original nature of love may surely be said to be perfect 
virtue. But there is a love of the evil as well as of the 
right. If the original nature of love is that of love of 
right, love can be called the perfect virtue (benevolence). 
If one knows only universal love, but does not say whether 
it is love of good or evil, a mistake is involved. I have 
said that the character po (f$, meaning "universal, gen- 
eral") is not as exhaustive as the character kung (Q , mean- 
ing "just, equitable"). In general, the explanation of 
the meaning of a character is only approximate. The 
detailed, wonderful ideas conveyed are reached through 

43 Vide Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 6, ^ 5. 

" Analects, Book XII, Ch. 22, f 1. 

45 " Former scholars" refers particularly to the philosopher Chu. 



268 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

reflection. They cannot be explained by talking. Later 
scholars adhere obstinately to the style and emphasize the 
form and appearance. Seeking to find the meaning only 
from the characters themselves, their mind follows in its 
motion the lead of modes and forms. 

Huang Asks for Further Information Regarding Love 

Your letter says: "The Great Learning says: 'As 
when one loves what is beautiful and hMes whatever has a 
bad smell. ' 46 Referring to the hating, one can say that 
whenever an evil is perceived, one always despises it. Sure- 
ly this offers no difficulty. When we come to the matter 
of always loving what is beautiful, then the question arises 
as to whether we should love every beautiful thing that 
passes our eyes. The instruction of the Great Learning 
makes use of man's constant inclination to drift into the 
habit of loving and despising, in order to make clear the 
sincerity of the sages' love of the good and their hatred of 
evil. Perhaps it implies that sages aud virtuous men also 
love what is beautiful. Does it imply that when beauty 
passes their eyes, though they know its winsome, captivating 
nature, their thoughts are free from any obliquity, and 
the original nature of the mind is not in the least embar- 
rassed ? The Book of Poetry says that if a man says that 
a woman is as the cloud, he knows her beauty, but does not 
cherish that thought. To say that he does not cherish that 
thought implies that his thoughts are sincere and do not 
embarrass the original nature of his mind. Or it is as 
though one sees a chariot, a crown, gold, and precious 
stones, and knows what they are, yet has neither desire 
nor longing for them. (31) I do not know whether I 
understand this clearly or not." 



46 Great Learning. Ch. 6, *I 1. The complete quotation is: "What 
is meant by making the thoughts sincere is the allowing of no self- 
deception, as when we hate a bad smell and as when we love what is 
beautiful. ' ' 



LETTERS 269 

Wang Says that True Love Involves Sincerity 

In ordinary loving and hating there is perhaps at times 
lack of real genuineness. But loving what is beautiful and 
hating evil odors, are in every instance manifestations of 
the real mind. When one seeks rapid fulfilment of one's 
desires, there is not the least hypocrisy. The Great Learn- 
ing makes use of an easily comprehended illustration of 
genuine love and hate, in order to show what the sincerity 
of loving good and hating evil should be like. It is done 
merely for the sake of expressing the meaning of sincerity. 
If to the love of the beautiful you add a great many of 
your own ideas, you will not be able to avoid the defect of 
mistaking the fingers for the moon. Many former scholars 
were influenced aud their minds obscured by a single word 
or sentence, and reached the point where they gave wrong 
expositions of the holy classics. This is the same sort of 
defect and must be investigated. When you say that we 
always despise an evil odor and that this point surely offers 
no difficulty, you are subject to error. You should inves- 
tigate this more thoroughly. 

Did Confucius Carry on Reflection to Excess? 

Your letter says: "There are those that desire to cease 
all reflection because it is said that Pi Wen-ch'ing's exces- 
sive reflection did violence to his passion nature. Shall I 
also hold that Confucius carried on reflection to excess and 
did violence to his passion nature, when he says, 'I have 
been the whole day without eating, and the whole night 
without sleeping in order that I might think'? 47 As I 
apprehended it, reflection beyond one's intuitive knowledge 
of good is called reflection to excess. If one very thought- 
fully seeks for explanation within the realm of the intui- 
tive faculty — just as Confucius reflected all day and all 
night — he is not carrying on reflection to excess. If one 

47 Analects, Book XV, Ch. 30. 



270 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

does not exceed the bounds of the intuitive faculty, how 
can there be excess of reflection or anxiety?" 

To say that excessive reflection implies doing violence to 
one's passion nature is correct. But if, prompted thereby, 
one desires to cease reflection altogether, it is as though 
one put aside food because of a stoppage in the throat. 
You have laid hold completely of my idea when you write, 
"Reflection beyond one's intuitive knowledge of good is 
called reflecting to excess. If one very thoughtfully seeks 
for explanation within the realm of the intuitive faculty — 
just as Confucius reflected all day and all night — this is 
not carrying on reflection to excess. If one does not ex- 
ceed the bounds of the intuitive faculty, what is there to 
reflect upon or be anxious about?" (32) As regards the 
saying of Confucius : "I have been the whole day without 
eating, and the whole night without sleeping: occupied 
with thinking. It was of no use. The better plan is to 
learn, " it is not likely that the sage himself really did this. 
He said this to show the defect of merely thinking without 
learning. He did it to instruct others. If he only reflected 
and did not learn, why not say that he carried on reflection 
to excess? 

Comment — The man (Pi Wen-ch'ing) knew that his 
nature was being obscured by something — that he was 
striving for things and that his nature was changed there- 
by. When his learning had reached the point where he 
had extended his intuitive knowledge to the utmost, all his 
actions were in harmony with the path of duty. He then 
constantly practiced this doctrine, and friends came because 
of it. That he felt no discomposure when men did not 
know him, is due to this. Perfect virtue and love of na- 
ture, love of the good and hatred of evil, reflection and 
anxiety are all due to this. If one really knows how to 
attain to a condition in which intuitive knowledge is ex- 
tended to the utmost, all other things will be arranged in a 
satisfactorv manner. 



LETTERS 271 

Letter Answering Chou Tao-t'ung 
(First Letter) 

Written in the third year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Two of Chou Tao-t'ung's Students Deliver a Letter to Wang 
and Confer With Him 

Your two students, Wu and Tseng, have arrived and 
have spoken about your (Tao-t'ung's) earnest purpose in 
studying the doctrine. I am much comforted in thought. 
A man like you can be said to be sincerely faithful and to 
love learning. I regret that because of illness I have not 
been able to discuss matters in greater detail with the two 
students, but they also continue to purpose devoting them- 
selves to learning. "Whenever I see them, I at once realize 
that they have made progress. I cannot disregard the 
fact that they have come a great distance, and that they, 
too, perhaps remember their purpose in coming so far. As 
they were about to depart, they made use of your letter in 
informing me of your wishes, and asked me to write to you. 
But I am in such a mental confusion that I cannot 
express myself. Because of the inquiries you make in 
your letter, I will undertake to write a short reply. This 
is but a very rough sketch, which gives nothing in detail. 
Your two students will be able to give you details. 

Chou Asserts that Discussion is Essential to Progress in 

Learning 

Your letter says : " As I have daily applied myself only 
to fixing my determination, I have recently become more 
and more certain regarding your admonitions and instruc- 
tions. However, it is necessary that I discuss it with 
friends, for thus my purpose becomes firm, capacious, and 
active. In case from three to five days elapse without the 
opportunity of mutually discussing it with friends, my pur- 
pose becomes small and weak. (33) If I meet any affairs 
under such circumstances, I am apt to be in difficulty or 



272 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

even to forget my purpose entirely. However, if I meet 
with these on a day when there are no friends to discuss it 
with me, and I sit quiet and read or move about, knowing 
that when I look at anything or use my body I use this to 
cultivate my purpose (will), then I realize fully that my 
purpose has reached a condition of harmony. But it does 
not compare with the time in which I discuss learning as 
related to the actual purpose of making progress and of de- 
veloping. Since I have left my many friends and live 
isolated, what better method is there of accomplishing 
this?" 

Wang Advises Chou to Continue Fixing His Determination 
and to Adjust Himself to Circumstances 

This section is sufficient to verify what you get out of 
your daily work. This, in general, is the way to proceed. 
However, there should be no interruption. When you 
have reached a point where this attitude is perfect and 
habitual, your ideas will be different. Generally speaking, 
I may say that in application to learning, the necessary 
point of departure is fixing the determination. What you 
mention as the defect of being distressed and forgetting, is 
due to the fact that the purpose lacks genuineness and ear- 
nestness. He who loves the beautiful does not experience 
the embarrassment of being distressed and forgetting, for 
his love is genuine and earnest. If a person experiences 
pain or itching, he is able to realize that fact and scratch 
or rub the distressed member. Since one knows that one 
has pain or itching, one can but scratch and rub it. The 
Buddhists say, "For good works there is always a way of 
doing." This implies that the individual adjusts himself 
to circumstances. It is difficult for any other person to 
expend energy for you in this matter. There is but one 
way. 

Your letter says: "Shang Ts'ai often asked, 'Why is it 



LETTERS 273 

necessary to reflect or be anxious?" 4S I-ch'uan 49 answer- 
ed, 'This attitude is reasonable, but it is manifested too 
soon in the work of the student. ' There certainly are things 
that should not be forgotten, but it is also necessary to 
understand the proper way in which one may reflect and 
be anxious. It is correct that they should be viewed to- 
gether. If one does not know the exact method, one will 
realty have what is called the defect of assisting the growth. 
If one knows how to think and how to be anxious, but for- 
gets that there are things concerning which he may think 
and be anxious, he will probably reach the state in which 
he is free from thought and anxiety. It is necessary that 
one should not be precipitated into them nor be free from 
them. Is this correct 1 " (34) 

Thought and Deliberation are Permissible Only When They 
Deal with Heaven-given Principles 

What you say is approximately correct. But you have 
not fully analyzed and realized Shang Ts'ai's question and 
I-ch'uan 's answer. Shang Ts'ai's question and I-ch'uan 's 
answer are slightly at variance with the purpose of Con- 
fucius as exhibited in the Hsi Tz'u. 50 The Hsi Tz'u in 
speaking of the manner of thinking and deliberating asserts 
that heaven-given principles are the only things concerning 
which thought and deliberation (anxiety) are permissible, 
and that they are allowable under no other circumstances. 
It does not say that there is to be no thought and no 
anxiety, but that these have reference to heaven-given prin- 
ciples in various ways. There is one effect from many de- 
liberations. Does answering the question. How must the 
individual think and deliberate? by saying: There are dif- 
ferent ways; and, There are a hundred different things to 
deliberate about, imply that there is to be neither thought 

«s Referring to heaven-given principles. 
4*-» The philosopher Ch 'eng I-ch'uan. 
s° A section of the Book of Changes. 



274 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

nor deliberation? The mind is by nature the embodiment 
of heaven-given principles. It is this and no more. How 
can there be anything else to think about or to deliberate 
on ? Heaven-given principles are perfectly calm and quiet, 
and from the first, when set in operation, have a penetrating 
effect. The student in his efforts — though he thinks a 
thousand times and deliberates ten thousand times — need 
only revert to the original function of his mind. This 
means that he cannot use his personal ideas in this matter. 
Therefore Ming-tao 51 said, ' ' The learning of the superior 
man is perfectly fair and without favoritism. He responds 
to the affairs he meets in an appropriate way." The ap- 
plication of a selfish purpose in arranging one's thoughts 
implies using wisdom for selfish ends. How to think and 
deliberate, and with reference to what, is indeed a task. 
In the instance of the student it is forced. I-ch'uan, re- 
ferring to the result, said, "It comes too soon." A little 
later he said, "But one must apply one's self." Thus he 
himself knew that what he had said before was not exhaus- 
tive. Lien Hsi 's discussion on, ' ' Let tranquility be the con- 
trolling factor," also has this idea. Though what you say 
gives evidence that you have some knowledge of the facts, 
you are still unable to avoid making two things out of this 
one. 

Recognizing the Bearing and Manner of a Sage Follows 

from a Clear Apprehension of the Implications of 

the Intuitive Faculty 

Your letter says: "When a student once knows how to 
apply himself, he should know and recognize the air and 
bearing of the sage. When he recognizes the bearing of the 
sage and uses it as his ideal and pattern, he will then really 
carry out his task without being prone to make mistakes, 
and will do the work of a sage. I do not know whether this 
is correct or not." (35) 

5 1 The brother of Ch'eng I-ch'uan. 



LETTERS 275 

In the past it has been customary to say that one must 
first recognize the bearing and air of a sage, but this stand- 
point also is inadequate. The bearing of a sage naturally 
belongs to a sage. How can I know it, if I do not genu- 
inely and earnestly recognize it through investigation car- 
ried on in accordance with the intuitive faculty? This 
may be compared to using steelyards without any appro- 
priate marks to weigh with, or to using an unpolished 
mirror to reflect beauty. This is just what is meant by 
saying, "He uses the mind of an inferior man to estimate 
the mind of a superior man. ' ' How shall I know the bear- 
ing of the sage? My own intuitive faculty is originally 
like that of the sage. If I realize this clearly through the 
introspection of my own intuitive knowledge, then the bear- 
ing of the sage is not in the sage but within myself. The 
philosopher Ch'eng often said, "If one watches Emperor 
Yao in order to learn his way of acting, but lacks his 
quick apprehension, clear discernment, far-reaching intelli- 
gence, and all-embracing knowledge, how can one have 
every movement of the countenance and every turn of the 
body exactly as he had?" He also said, "If the mind 
clearly apprehends the path of duty, it then is able to dis- 
tinguish clearly between right and wrong." In addition 
to this I ask : In what way does one clearly apprehend the 
path of duty? From whence come quick apprehension, 
clear discernment, far-reaching intelligence, and all-em- 
bracing knowledge? 

The Individual Should Exhaust His Energy in Cultivating 
His Nature 

Your letter says : ' ' Referring to getting practice in vir- 
tue from the affairs of life, I do not ask whether one is or is 
not occupied with affairs during the day, it is only neces- 
sary to devote one's self completely to cultivating the source 
{i.e. nature). Whether one is stimulated by meeting some 
affair, or is influenced quite by himself, if his mind is pres- 



276 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ent, how can he be said to be unoccupied? But when the 
mind is occupied, once let it think and it will usually real- 
ize that the underlying principle of things is as described. 
Adjusting one's self as though there were no affairs, one 
should exhaust his mind in cultivating nature. How is it, 
however, that at times the person attains the good and at 
others does not? Moreover, if perchance affairs crowd in 
upon him, he should use some method in his responses. 
Whenever native ability and strength are insufficient, dis- 
tress always follows. Though he uses his greatest effort in 
supporting his mental and bodily energy, he realizes that 
they are weak. When he reaches this point he can but de- 
sire to retire and think. As this is extremely serious, he 
can but cultivate his nature. What do you hold of this?" 

What you have said about the method of procedure, you 
should, following your own native ability, actually carry 
out. It is unavoidable that there should be both an ex- 
pending and a gathering in. Whoever devotes himself to 
learning does so for just this one reason (i.e. to cultivate 
nature). (36) From youth to old age, from morning to 
evening, the individual, whether occupied or not, is engaged 
in this task only. This is what is meant by saying that one 
always is occupied. If you say, "Rather than allow 
things to come to a bad way, he will cultivate his original 
nature," you still consider them as two distinct things. 
There certainly is something which one must neither forget 
nor assist. When a person meets affairs or things, he 
should respond to them to the best ability of his intuitive 
faculty. This is implied in the saying. "When one cul- 
tivates to the utmost the principles of his nature and exer- 
cises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from 
the path." 52 The fact that the individual at times attains 
the good and at others fails to do so, until at last he is pre- 
cipitated into the misfortune of being distressed and of los- 
ing control of the regular order, is all an implication of 

52 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 13, T ". 



LETTERS 277 

getting or losing the slander or praise of others. It is due 
directly to failure in extending knowledge to the utmost. 
If one is really able to extend intuitive knowledge to the 
utmost, he will understand that what he ordinarily consid- 
ers virtue (good) is not virtue, and what is called evil is 
perhaps really connected with getting or losing the slander 
and praise of others, and that thus he injures his own in- 
tuitive faculty. 

The Investigation of Things is Included in Extending 
Knowledge to the Utmost 

Your letter says: "Concerning the extending of intu- 
itive knowledge to the utmost, I received the advantage of 
your instruction in the spring, and am thus thoroughly 
conversant with the method of applying myself. I also 
realize that application is easier than heretofore. But when 
I discuss this matter with those who are beginning to learn, 
I am under necessity of connecting it with the idea of in- 
vestigating things, in order that they may know the point 
of departure. Originally the extending of knowledge and 
the investigation of things are connected, but the beginner 
does not know how to begin his task. It is still necessary 
to explain the investigation of things to him, before he un- 
derstands what is meant by extending knowledge to the 
utmost. ' ' 

The investigation of things is implied in extending 
knowledge to the utmost. He who knows how to extend 
knowledge to the utmost also understands how to carry on 
the investigation of things. He who does not understand 
the investigation of things does not yet understand how to 
extend knowledge to the utmost. I have recently written a 
letter to a friend in which I have very carefully discussed 
this matter. I now send you a similar letter. Tf you read 
it carefully, you should be able to understand. 



278 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

It is More Important to Discover and Discuss One's Ourn 
Mistakes than Those of the Philosophers Chu and Lu 

Your letter says: "The discussions regarding the phil- 
osophers Chu and Lu have not ceased. Whenever I speak 
to my friends, I say that inasmuch as the true learning of 
the sages has not been understood for a long time, we 
should not needlessly expend our mental strength in 
wrangling about the right and wrong of the philosophers 
Chu and Lu. Following your ideal regarding the fixing of 
the determination, we should instruct others. If the in- 
dividual is really able to comprehend this idea and is de- 
termined to apprehend this learning, he has a fairly good 
understanding of the situation. (37) Though he does not 
discuss the philosophy of Chu and Lu, he is really in a 
position to appreciate the facts. I have often observed that 
some of my friends criticise your words, frequently becom- 
ing excited in doing so. That the transmitted sayings of 
the two former philosophers Chu and Lu are often crit- 
icised in a disorderly way by later generations shows that 
their work is not perfectly mature. Evidently they stir 
up the passions. In the case of the philosopher Ch'eng 
Ming-tao there is nothing of this sort present. See how he 
discusses the learning of Chieh Pu with Wu She-li, saying : 
1 If you make known to me the learning of Chieh Pu, though 
it brings no advantage to you it certainly will help me.' 
How congenial his bearing was! I have often seen you 
quote these words in letters to friends. I heartily wish all 
my friends acted thus. What do you think of this?" 

What you say in this section is exceedingly well said. I 
wish that you could go around and tell it to all who have 
this common purpose. Each one should discuss his own 
mistakes and not those of the philosophers Chu and Lu. 
To use words in criticising others is a shallow criticism, if 
one merely says what one has heard and is not able to verify 
the facts in person. He who spends his days in clamorous 
vociferations and devotes his person to criticism and slan- 



LETTERS 279 

dering, criticises deeply. If those who are now criticising 
me have done so rightfully, they have really refined me 
(ground, cut, and filed me). Thereby they urge me to re- 
form, and cause me to be diligent in fulfilling my duties, 
in cultivating my person, and in examining myself that I 
may make progress in virtue. Formerly people said. ' ' He 
who attacks my short-comings is my teacher. ' ' Why should 
a teacher be hated? 

Nature Includes the Feelings 

Your letter says : ' ' There are those who quote the phil- 
osopher Ch'eng's saying, 'When a man's passion nature is 
in a state of tranquility, it is not necessary to speak of that 
which follows in the text' (according to the Great Learn- 
ing). 53 To say that this tranquility is one's nature, already 
implies that it is not the nature of him who speaks. Why is 
it not necessary to speak of what follows ? Why is this not 
nature ? Hui-an said, ' It is not allowable to speak of what 
follows, because there is no nature to speak of. ' If it is not 
nature, it must be because it is mixed with feeling (pas- 
sion). (38) I am unable to understand the words of the 
two teachers. Whenever I reach this point in reading, I 
am always confused. Will you kindly explain it for me ? ' ' 

Life is what is understood by nature. The word life 
here forthwith implies feelings. If one says that these feel- 
ings are to be identified with nature, then these feelings 
forthwith are nature. When the philosopher sayb, "If 
man's passion nature is in a state of tranquility, it is not 
necessary to speak of what follows," he refers to the fact 
that the feelings are to be identified with nature. Thereby 
he has already deviated to one side, for feeling is not 
originally characteristic of nature. Meneius in speaking of 
nature as "good," does so in accordance with its original 
characteristics. However, the truth of nature's being good 

• r >3 Vide Great Learning, Introduction, f 2. This refers to the 
necessity of knowing rest before the object of pursuit is determined. 



280 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

must first be seen in the realm of the feelings. If there is 
no feeling, it cannot be seen. Commiseration, shame, dis- 
like, modesty, complaisance, approval and disapproval, are 
feelings. The philosopher Ch'eng says, "To speak of na- 
ture and not of feeling makes the discussion incomplete ; to 
discuss feeling and not nature makes the discussion un- 
clear." He said this because his students all knew or rec- 
ognized but one aspect, so that he could not speak other- 
wise. When one understands one 's nature clearly, the feel- 
ings are included in nature, and nature is included in the 
feelings. The two cannot be separated. 

Answer to Inquiries Made by a Friend 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

You make inquiry saying, "From the beginning, former 
scholars all thought that study, inquiry, reflection, and dis- 
crimination pertained to knowledge, while earnest practice 
referred to activity; and that these two (knowledge and 
practice) were two separate things. Now you say that 
knowledge and practice are one. I can but doubt." 

Wang Discusses the Unitary Character of Knowledge and 

Practice 

I have often spoken about this. By practice is meant 
that one really and earnestly does a definite thing. (39) 
If one devotes himself to study, inquiry, reflection, and dis- 
crimination, he practices these things. Study implies 
studying how to do a definite thing, and inquiry implies in- 
quiring how to do a definite thing. Reflection and discrim- 
ination imply reflecting and clearly discriminating how 
to do some definite thing. Thus practice also includes 
study, inquiry, reflection, and discrimination. Tf you 
say, "I first study, inquire, reflect, and discriminate, and 
thereafter practice." how can you genuinely study, inquire, 
reflect, and discriminate, so as to get knowledge? More- 
over, when you practice, how can you attain what is called 



LETTERS 281 

study, inquiry, reflection, and discrimination? Knowledge 
is to be defined as the condition in which one clearly rec- 
ognizes and minutely investigates methods of practice ; 
while practice is defined as the state in which knowledge is 
genuine and true. If one practices, but is unable to investi- 
gate minutely and realize clearly (what he is practicing), 
his practice is inaccurate and immature. "Learning with- 
out thought is labor lost. ' ' 54 For this reason knowledge 
must be mentioned. If one has knowledge but is unable 
genuinely and truly to practice (what he knows), he is dis- 
orderly and incoherent in his thoughts. ' ' Thought without 
learning is perilous. ' ' 54 For this reason practice must be 
mentioned. From the beginning they imply but one task. 
Whenever the ancients spoke of knowledge and practice, 
they referred to correcting or clarifying some one thing. 
They did not, as do present-day scholars, separate them into 
two distinct functions. Though in my assertion that knowl- 
edge and practice are one I follow the present-day emphasis 
upon correcting and clarifying defects, knowledge and prac- 
tice are as a matter of fact fundamentally of this sort. My 
friend, you need only appreciate this through introspection 
in your own person and mind, in order to be aware of it 
the next time. At present you estimate this merely from 
the assertions of others and from the meaning of the char- 
acters, and for that reason you are influenced to emphasize 
that which is inexact. The more you speak, the more con- 
fused you become. This is a defect in which you are un- 
able to appreciate the unity of knowledge and practice. 

Comparison Between the Teachings of Wang and Lu 
Hsiang-shan 

Your letter says: ''The discussions of learning as repre- 
sented by the philosophers Lu Hsiang-shan and Chu Hui-an 
are in many respects similar and in many respects dis- 
similar. You have frequently said that Hsiang-shan was 

5< Analects. Book II, Ch. 15. 



282 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

able to make straight and clear distinctions at the point 
where learning begins. As I view his discussions, I can say- 
that his learning is clearly expounded and accurate. In his 
exposition of the meaning of extending knowledge to the 
utmost and of investigating things, he does not differ from 
the philosopher Chu Hui-an. But his standpoint is differ-' 
ent from yours regarding the oneness of knowledge and 
practice." (40) 

Does the superior man, in his learning, emphasize points 
of likeness and difference? He seeks correctness. The 
points of similarity between my learning and that of 
Hsiang-shan are not superficial, and I do not hide what 
points of difference there are. My discussions are in some 
respects different from those of the philosopher Chu Hui- 
an, but not because I seek to differ from him. The points 
of likeness do no injury to the places where we are alike. 
In case the philosophers Po I and Liu Hsia-hui are in the 
same hall with Confucius and Mencius, what they all see 
will be partial in one aspect and perfect in another. Their 
judgment and criticisms also will not be alike in detail. 
However, they must in this do no injury to their status as 
sages and virtuous men. The scholars of later generations 
who discuss learning defend those who have the same 
opinions, but attack those who differ from them, because 
their minds are selfish and their convictions (feelings) un- 
substantial. They consider the occupation of the sage and 
virtuous man mere child's play. 

Your letter says further : "In your discussion of learn- 
ing you place special emphasis upon the fact that knowl- 
edge and practice are one. Since this is different from the 
saying of Hsiang-shan, I venture to ask in what respects 
the two points of view are similar." 

Knowledge and practice are originally two different 
words, but they refer to one and the same task. In this 
task it is necessary to emphasize these two aspects, for then 
only can it be explained perfectly and without any abuse. 



LETTERS 283 

If one clearly understands their source, one sees that they 
have the same point of departure. Thus, though they are 
discussed separately, ultimately they will make one com- 
plete whole. At first the individual perhaps does not fully 
comprehend; finally, however, it will be true as said, 
"Many deliberations will reach one result." In case the 
point of departure is not clearly apprehended and knowl- 
edge and practice are considered two different things, then, 
though they are said to be one, they will ultimately not be 
unified, for the individual will act as though they were still 
separate. Thus, from the beginning to the end it will be 
the more impossible to arrive at a result. 

You further say: "Your teaching regarding extending 
intuitive knowledge to the utmost is truly an instance of the 
saying, ' He is prepared to wait for the riff of a sage a hun- 
dred ages after, and has no misgivings. ' 55 Hsiang-shan is 
able to apprehend clearly the point of departure. (41) 
Why does he differ from you here ? ' ' 

The extending of knowledge to the utmost and the inves- 
tigation of things have from the beginning been thus 
handed down by scholars. Therefore it transpires that 
Hsiang-shan follows them in this (separates knowledge and 
practice), and comes upon no doubts. Moreover, in last 
analysis Hsiang-shan has not been discriminating in this 
connection. I cannot conceal this. 

At the point at which knowledge is truly genuine and 
sincere, it passes into and includes practice. The clear ap- 
prehension and minute investigation of practice includes 
knowledge. If, at the time of knowing, the mind is not 
genuine and sincere, knowledge cannot be characterized by 
clear apprehension and minute investigation. This does not 
imply that at the time of knowing one needs only clear 
comprehension and careful investigation, without needing 
sincerity and minuteness. If the mind does not clearly 
comprehend and fully grasp the truth when the individual 

65 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 29, J 3. 



284 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

practices (his knowledge), his actions cannot be sincere and 
genuine. Moreover, it does not mean that at the time when 
he practices he needs to be genuine and sincere, but need 
not clearly apprehend and grasp the truth. One should 
know that the mind is by nature like the transforming, 
nurturing power of heaven and earth, and like the great 
beginning thereof. 

Comments — The saying that knowledge and practice are 
one was not first pronounced by the Teacher. The Doc- 
trine of the Mean in quoting the saying of Confucius con- 
nects the proposition, "I know how it is that the path is 
not walked in," with, "The knowing (intelligent) go be- 
yond it and the stupid do not come up to it"; and the 
proposition, "I know how it is that the path of the mean 
is not understood, ' ' with the further proposition, ' ' The men 
of talent and virtue go beyond it. and the worthless do not 
come up to it."™ This is just the idea of the unity of 
knowledge and practice. Mencius says, "The path is as a 
great road. Is it hard to know? Man's defect is that he 
does not seek it. " 5T If he does not seek, how can he be said 
to know it? This implies that sages and virtuous men have 
long since passed through and understood, but no attention 
has been paid to this fact. 

Letter Answering Ou-Yang Ch'ung-i 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Intuitive Knowledge Does Not Have a Sensory Source; the 

Senses Represent the Functioning of the 

Intuitive Faculty 

Your letter says: "The intuitive knowledge of the vir- 
tuous nature does not come from seeing and hearing. (42) 
If one says, ' I hear much, select what is good and follow 
it; see much and keep it in memory,' r,H one seeks only the 

s« Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 4, H 1. 
M Mencius, Book VI, Pt. II, Ch. 2, f 7. 
ss Analects, Book VII, Ch. 27. 



LETTERS 285 

result of seeing and hearing, and thereby has fallen in with 
the second idea that intuitive knowledge comes from experi- 
ence. Though according to my view intuitive knowledge 
of the good does not come from experience, the knowledge 
of the student is nevertheless manifested as a result of ex- 
perience. To be impeded by that which is seen and heard 
is, of course, unfortunate. However, seeing and hearing 
are also functions of the intuitive faculty. Now, the state- 
ment that some have fallen into the second idea is perhaps 
addressed to those who consider seeing and hearing (ex- 
perience) as constituting learning. If the individual ex- 
tends his intuitive knowledge to the utmost and in addition 
seeks experience, this, too, would appear to imply a unifica- 
tion of knowledge and practice. Is this correct?" 

The intuitive knowledge of good does not come from see- 
ing and hearing, and on the other hand all hearing and 
seeing are functions of the intuitive faculty. For this rea- 
son, the intuitive faculty does not rest with merely seeing 
and hearing, nor does it separate itself from them. Con- 
fucius said, ' ' Have I knowledge ? I have not. ' ' 59 Apart 
from the intuitive faculty there is no knowledge. For this 
reason, extending intuitive knowledge to the utmost is the 
fundamental principle of learning, and the foremost idea 
of the instruction of the sages. To say that the individual 
seeks the result of seeing and hearing, implies that the fun- 
damental principle has been lost and that he has fallen into 
the second idea (that knowledge comes from experience) . 
Among those who are of like purpose with us, there are 
none who do not know that it is necessary to develop the 
intuitive faculty to the utmost, but there are some who are 
desultory and careless in their efforts. Verily they lack 
this one thing. 

In study it is necessary to pay particular attention to the 
correctness of the point of departure. In case the individ- 
ual is firmly determined regarding the point of departure 

so Vide Analocts, Book IX, Ch. 7. 



286 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and makes the developing of the intuitive faculty to the 
utmost his occupation, then, however much he may hear or 
see, all will be included in this task of extending intuitive 
knowledge to the utmost. Though in the experiences of the 
mutual intercourse of the day there be innumerable begin- 
nings, there is nothing which is not the result of the pro- 
gressive manifestation of the intuitive faculty. Eliminate 
the experiences of mutual intercourse, and thereby the de- 
velopment of the intuitive faculty is made impossible. For 
this reason the task is but one. If anyone says, "I develop 
my intuitive knowledge to the utmost and seek experience, ' ' 
he makes them two things. Though this is slightly dif- 
ferent from devoting one's self to seeking the result of 
experience, it fails to reach the point at which the purposes 
of discrimination and undividedness are unified. (You 
quote:) "Hearing much and selecting what is good and 
following it; seeing much and keeping it in memory." (43) 
Since it says selecting and also keeping it in memory, the 
intuitive faculty already has acted upon this, but in fixing 
his purpose the individual devotes himself to selecting and 
remembering what is good out of that which he has often 
seen and heard. In so doing he has missed the point of de- 
parture (lost the fundamental principle). You, Ch'ung-i, 
should understand these points clearly. Your inquiry truly 
serves to elucidate this and is of great advantage to your 
companions. However, the idea is not clear, and therefore 
may lead to small and great mistakes. You should care- 
fully investigate this. 

Thought Must Be Freed from Every Selfish Purpose 

Your letter says : ' ' You say that what the Hsi Tz 'u 60 says 
regarding the manner of thinking and deliberating implies 
that natural law (heaven-given principles) is the only thing 
concerning which thought and deliberation are permissible, 
and that there is nothing else regarding which thought and 

eo Vide footnote 50, p. 273. 



LETTERS 287 

deliberation are allowable. But this does not imply that 
there is to be no thought and deliberation. Since the mind 
in its original nature embodies heaven-given principles, 
what else is there to think and deliberate about? Though 
the student employs innumerable thoughts and delibera- 
tions, what is really necessary is that he revert to his na- 
ture. This means that he cannot use his personal ideas in 
arranging his thoughts. If he uses a selfish purpose in 
arranging his thoughts, he uses his wisdom for selfish ends. 
The defects of learning consist either in sinking into ab- 
straction, or in remaining secluded, or in making provision 
for profound meditation. In the sixth and seventh years 
of Cheng Te, I was in the former condition. Now I am 
taken with the latter. Deep thinking is a manifestation 
of the intuitive faculty. How can it be distinguished from 
the condition in which one prearranges his thinking by 
selfish purposes? Perhaps I am treating a thief as a son. 
I am in doubt about it and do not know. ' ' 

"Reflection is called far-reaching intelligence and this 
far-reaching intelligence is called sageness. " 61 "Reflection 
is a function of the mind. Through reflection it gets the 
right view of things. ' ' 02 Can reflection then be dispensed 
with? To sink one's self into abstraction and keep per- 
fectly motionless, and to prearrange one's thinking, truly 
imply using wisdom according to one's selfish purposes. 
These must be considered as dispensing with intuitive 
knowledge. The intuitive faculty is the point of clearness 
and consciousness which heaven-given principles attain. 
For this reason the intuitive knowledge of good is to be 
identified with natural law. Reflection is the manifestation 
and use of the intuitive faculty. If reflection has ref- 
erence to the action of the intuitive faculty, there are no 
thoughts except such as are in accordance with natural 
law. (44) The reflection of the intuitive faculty in action 

«i Shooking, Books of Shang, Book IV, «[ 6. 
«2 Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 15, U 2. 



288 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

is naturally clear and simple, for the intuitive faculty is by 
nature able to know. If selfish ideas prearrange reflection, 
it naturally is confused, laborious, and annoying; but the 
intuitive faculty is readily able to distinguish this. Con- 
cerning the discrimination between right and wrong, ob- 
liquity and genuineness, the intuitive faculty naturally is 
clear. Therefore "treating a thief as a son" implies that 
one does not clearly understand what is meant by extend- 
ing knowledge to the utmost, and that one is not aware that 
this must be recognized through introspection within the 
intuitive faculty itself. 

The Intuitive Faculty Does Not Need to he Strengthened 

Your letter says: "You teach that devotion to learning 
implies from first to last but a single task; whether one is 
occupied with affairs or not, there is but this single task. 
If one says that in the instance of very serious and pro- 
longed affairs the intuitive faculty must be additionally 
strengthened, two things are distinguished. The appre- 
hension that one's mental energy and strength are insuf- 
ficient to bring the affair to a successful termination is due 
to the intuitive faculty. In a serious and prolonged affair 
the cultivation (strengthening) thereof is just what is 
meant by extending knowledge. In what does this divide 
the task into two things? When changes come and some 
affair must be terminated, then, though my mental energy 
and strength are weak, if I arouse myself I am able to 
hold my own. By maintaining firmness of will it is used 
as the leader of the passion nature. Moreover, if words 
and action are not supported by the strength of the passion 
nature, one is exceedingly tired by the time the affair is 
ended. Is this not approximately what is meant by doing 
violence to the passion nature? Surely the intuitive fac- 
ulty knows how light, heavy, slow, or explosive this passion 
nature is. Nevertheless one may be embarrassed by the 
influence of affairs. How, then, can one care for one's men- 



LETTERS 289 

tal energy and strength? Or one's mental energy and 
strength may be tired out. How can one then have regard 
for the influence of affairs? How can this be satisfactorily 
adjusted?" 

The idea of additionally strengthening the intuitive fac- 
ulty in case of serious, prolonged affairs, or crises, it not 
without advantage, when told to those who are just begin- 
ning to learn. But if it implies doing two things, there is 
trouble inherent in it. Mencius said: "There must be 
constant practice of virtue." 03 This means that the learn- 
ing of the superior man consists from first to last in the 
accumulation of righteous deeds. Righteousness is the 
necessary ideal. When the mind attains what is proper 
and right, it is called righteous. He who is able to develop 
his intuitive knowledge to the utmost has a mind which at- 
tains what is fit and proper. Therefore ^he accumulation 
of righteousness implies extending intuitive knowledge to 
the utmost. (45) In the many changing circumstances of 
mutual intercourse, the superior man acts when it is fitting 
and proper. Whether it be ceasing from activity, living or 
dying, everything is done in accordance with the ideal. In 
deliberating upon and settling difficulties, he seeks self- 
enjoyment in developing his intuitive faculty. 

' ' The superior man does what is proper to the station in 
which he is." 64 His reflection does not go beyond his sta- 
tion. Whosoever schemes to get that which his strength is 
unable to attain, or forces his intuitive faculty with refer- 
ence to that which he is unable to know, cannot be consid- 
ered as having attained the condition in which he is extend- 
ing intuitive knowledge. Whosoever exercises his sinews 
and bones with toil, exposes his body to hunger, subjects 
himself to extreme poverty, acts until he has confused his 
own undertakings, stimulates his mind, and hardens his na- 
ture in order to supply his incompetencies, is extending his 

«s Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, If 16. 
64 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 14, f 1. 



290 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

intuitive knowledge. If one says that in serious, prolonged 
affairs the intuitive faculty must be strengthened, it implies 
that one first seeks merit and gain. If one goes minutely 
into the matter of succeeding or failing, of being sharp-wit- 
ted or obtuse, and moreover delights in taking and rejecting, 
he recognizes an almost terminated affair as one thing, and 
the strengthening of the intuitive faculty as another thing. 
This means that one has the idea that what is within the 
mind is correct and right, while that which is outside the 
mind is wrong. It also implies that one uses wisdom on 
one's private purposes and makes righteousness something 
external — a defect explained by the words, "What pro- 
duces dissatisfaction in the mind is not to be helped by 
passion effort." 65 Thus he does not extend his intuitive 
knowledge to the utmost in order to seek self-enjoyment. 
You say that when you hold your own by exerting yourself, 
you are very much tired out by the time the affair is ended. 
You further say that at times one is embarrassed by the in- 
fluence of affairs, or finds one 's mental energy and strength 
fatigued. This means that you have made two things of 
them and therefore have this experience. The task of 
learning, when there is devotion to the one thing (i.e. un- 
dividedness), is sincere; and when there is devotion to two 
things (i.e. dividedness), is false, for the purpose of ex- 
tending the intuitive faculty lacks sincerity. The Great 
Learning says, "What is meant by 'making the thoughts 
sincere,' is the allowing of no self-deception, as when one 
hates an evil odor and loves what is beautiful. This is 
called enjoying one's self." 66 Have you ever seen that he 
who hates an evil odor and loves what is beautiful need hold 
his own in this matter by exerting or arousing himself? 
Has there been anyone who at the end of such an experi- 
ence is exhausted or because of its influence is mentally and 

esMencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, 1 9. 
6« Great Learning, Ch. 6, f 1. 



LETTERS 291 

physically fatigued? Thus you can know that this has 
grown out of some defect. 

The Intuitive Faculty Has the Ability to Foresee Deception 

Your letter says : ' ' The source of the pretense of human 
passions manifests itself in a hundred ways. He who deals 
with them (the passions) is constantly deceived by them. 
As soon as he becomes aware of them, he begins to anticipate 
and think beforehand. (46) This anticipating of deception 
is itself deception, and thinking beforehand of not being be- 
lieved is itself lack of faith. He cannot know that he is 
going to be deceived by others. Is it to be considered clear 
apprehension of the intuitive faculty, not to anticipate de- 
ception and not to think beforehand of being disbelieved, 
and yet to realize it beforehand? Moreover, in the mere 
fraction of a minute, the intuitive faculty secretly realizes 
that those who act deceitfully are many." 

Neither to anticipate deception nor to think beforehand 
of not being believed, and yet to realize this clearly, was 
mentioned by Confucius, because the people of his time de- 
voted their minds to anticipating deceit and thinking be- 
forehand of not being believed, and thus precipitated them- 
selves into deceit and lack of faith in others. 87 Moreover, 
some neither anticipated deception nor thought beforehand 
of not being believed, but failed to understand the task of 
developing the intuitive faculty and were constantly de- 
ceived by others. He did not teach others to harbor this 
mind and desire to realize beforehand the deception and 
unbelief of others. To harbor this mind is the suspecting, 
disliking, wickedness and meanness of later generations. 
Moreover, when once this thought has taken possession, the 
individual is unable to walk in the path of Yao and Shun. 
He who neither anticipates nor thinks beforehand, but is 
deceived by others, still cannot be said not to do the good ; 
but this is not to be likened to extending his intuitive 

«7 Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 33. 



292 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

knowledge. Moreover, he who under such circumstances 
realizes beforehand is the more virtuous. Ch'ung-i, you 
say that he alone has a clear intuitive apprehension, and 
thus have divined the underlying purpose through your 
cleverness. I fear that you have not reached the limit 
(the bottom). 

Wang Discusses the Absolute Perfection of the Intmtive 

Faculty 

The intuitive faculty is in man's mind. It has per- 
vaded all generations of the immemorial past, filled heaven 
and earth, and was in no wise different from what it now 
is. It knows without any cogitation. Constantly and 
easily it knows dangerous paths. It is able to act with- 
out learning. Constantly and easily it knows what things 
tend to hinder its progress. It strives first for heaven- 
given principles and does not trespass them. How much 
more is this true in the instance of men. of spirits, and 
of gods ! Your saying that it secretly knows those who act 
in accordance with deceit, means that though the individual 
does not anticipate deceit he perhaps can not avoid deceiv- 
ing himself. Though he does not think beforehand that 
others will not believe him, he perhaps can not really have 
faith in himself. It implies that perhaps he constantly 
seeks to realize this beforehand, but may not be able him- 
self to know it. He who constantly seeks to have previous 
knowledge has already drifted into anticipating and think- 
ing beforehand sufficiently to obscure his intuitive faculty. 
This secret realization that humanity acts under false pre- 
tenses cannot be avoided. 

The superior man learns for his own sake. He has not 
thereby considered or been anxious that others may deceive 
him, but perseveres rather in not deceiving his own intu- 
itive faculty. (47) He has not been anxious that others 
may not believe him, but perseveres in believing in his own 
intuitive faculty. He has not sought a. previous realization 



LETTERS 293 

of the deceit and unbelief of others, but constantly devotes 
himself to realizing his own intuitive faculty. Not deceiv- 
ing himself, he keeps his intuitive faculty free from pre- 
tense and hypocrisy, and thereby is sincere. Being sincere, 
he is intelligent. Having faith in himself, his intuitive 
faculty is in doubt regarding no one and is therefore in- 
telligent. Being intelligent, it is sincere. Intelligence and 
sincerity develop pari passu, and for this reason the intuitive 
faculty constantly realizes and constantly reflects. Since it 
constantly realizes and constantly reflects truly, it is like a 
suspended bright mirror. Whenever a thing appears before 
it, it cannot conceal beauty or ugliness. How is this? Not 
deceiving but always sincere, it does not permit anything 
to deceive it. If it is deceived, it realizes it. Being itself 
faithful and sincere, it does not permit anything in which 
it does not believe; and in case it does not believe il, it is 
conscious thereof. This means that it easily knows the dan- 
gerous path and whatsoever hinders its progress. Tzu-ssu 
says, ' ' He who attains complete sincerity is like a spirit. ' ' 88 
Such individuals are able to foreknow. However, Tzu-ssu 's 
statement that he who is like a spirit is able to foreknow 
seems to express two meanings. In the first place, it ex- 
plains the results of the effort to make the thinking sincere ; 
in the second place, it seems to have reference to those who 
are not able to foreknow. If it is interpreted as referring 
to entire sincerity, then the wonderful use of entire sin- 
cerity carries with it the meaning of a spirit, and the in- 
dividual should not be described as being like a spirit. 
Being completely sincere, there are things which he does 
not know and others that he does know. It should not be 
said that he foreknows all things. 

Comment — In this letter the first section says that the 
intuitive faculty does not rest in and depend upon seeing 
and hearing, and further that it does not disregard seeing 

68 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 24. Tzu-ssu was the compiler of 
the Doctrine of the Mean. 



294 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and hearing. For this reason extensive study and profound 
inquiry are necessary. The second section says that the 
thoughts of the human mind may he right or wrong, ob- 
lique or true, and that for this reason it is necessary to em- 
ploy careful reflection and clear discrimination. The third 
section says that the learning of the superior man consists 
from first to last in the accumulation of righteousness and 
the earnest practice of this. The final section says that in- 
telligence and sincerity are attained by an appreciation of 
their meaning. (48) 

Reply to Letter from Ku Tung-ch'iao 

Written in the fourth year of Emperor Chia Ching 
Later Scholars Devote Themselves to External Things 

Your letter says: "Recent scholars have devoted them- 
selves to external things and have lost interest in the in- 
ternal (subjective). They study extensively and get few 
fundamental principles. For this reason you (the Teach- 
er) especially introduce the idea of making the will sin- 
cere. Thus to probe into fundamentals (to use the acu- 
puncture needle in the vitals) is truly a great kindness. ' ' 

My disciple, you thoroughly apprehend the defects of the 
present age. How shall they be removed? Moreover, my 
mind has been fully expressed by you in a sentence. Why 
should I elaborate it further? Making the purpose sincere 
is naturally the first principle which the sages teach others 
to use, but present-day students view it as being of sec- 
ondary importance. For this reason I simply select some 
of the more important things. This does not imply that I 
am especially able to introduce them. 

Ku Thinks that Wang is too Erudite in His Discussion of 

Learning 

Your letter says: "But perhaps you have discussed 
learning too profoundly and have executed the task too 
cleverly. Later scholars and students, exaggerating the 



LETTERS 295 

message (tidings), will not be able to avoid coming under 
the influence of the Buddhist doctrines of seeing one's na- 
ture by the light of one's intelligence and of fixing intelli- 
gence by sudden inspiration. It is not strange that those 
who hear your views are in doubt. ' ' 

Wang Insists that His Views Are Not Buddhistic 

My sayings regarding the investigation of things, the de- 
velopment of the intuitive faculty, the making sincere of 
the purpose, and the rectifying of the mind, refer to the 
student's use of his original nature in his various daily 
tasks in order to investigate and firmly maintain the truth. 
This implies a great deal of orderly advance and develop- 
ment. Surely it is just the opposite of the empty, mean- 
ingless, sudden enlightenment of the Buddhists. My hearers 
do not purpose being sages, nor have they ever investigated 
this matter minutely. That they should be in doubt is not 
enough to disturb me. A man of your high intelligence 
naturally should understand it in a moment. Why should 
you, too, say that I discuss learning too profoundly and 
execute my task too cleverly? 

Knowledge and Practice Should Advance Pari Passu 

Your letter says: "You give instruction that knowledge 
and practice advance pari passu, that no distinction should 
be made as to the precedence of the one or the other, and 
that this is what is meant in the Doctrine of the Mean by 
saying, 'The superior man honors his virtuous nature, and 
maintains constant inquiry and study. ' 69 It implies mu- 
tually cultivating and conjointly manifesting the internal 
and the external, the source and the result. We have here 
the doctrine of an all-pervading unity. But in the progress 
of the task there must be a distinction between that which 
is first and that which follows. If one knows what food is, 
one may eat ; if one knows what soup is, one may drink ; if 

69 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27, *[[ 6. 



296 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

one knows what clothes are, one may wear them; if one 
knows the road, one may traverse it. (49) There is no case 
in which one performs the act before one has a realization 
of the thing in question. This all happens in a moment. 
It does not mean that I wait until I know it today and act 
tomorrow. ' ' 

Since you have said that the cultivation and mutual 
manifestation of the internal (referring to knowledge) and 
the external (referring to practice), of the source and the 
result — once having been considered as a unity — are to 
be identified with the mutual advance of knowledge and 
practice, there should be no further doubt arising in your 
mind. You further say that in the progress of the task 
there must be a distinction between that which is first and 
that which follows. Is not this a case in which the spear 
and shield oppose each other (self-contradiction) ? Your 
sayings — that knowledge of food, for example, precedes 
eating it — are easily comprehended. But you, my disciple, 
are obscured in mind as a result of what you have recently 
heard, so that you do not examine yourself. The individual 
must first have a desire for food, and after that he knows 
what it means to eat. Having this desire for food, he im- 
mediately gets the purpose to acquire it ; and this is the be- 
ginning of the act. The good or evil taste of the food must 
first enter his mouth, and after that he knows it. Is there 
anyone who does not need to wait until he has experienced 
the taste, before he knows whether the food is good or bad ? 
One must first have the desire to traverse the road, and after 
that he may learn to know it. Having the desire to traverse 
it, he forthwith determines to do so; and this is the begin- 
ning of the act. He knows the dangers and advantages of 
the forks of the road after he himself has traversed them. 
Is there anyone who does not need to wait until he himself 
has traversed the forks in the road, before he knows their 
disadvantages and advantages? That one drinks after one 
knows the soud. and wears the clothes after one knows them, 



LETTERS 297 

all these usages cannot be doubted. As for your compar- 
isons, they mean that before one sees the thing, the act is 
already present. You say that this all occurs in an instant 
and does not mean that today's knowledge is followed by 
tomorrow's act. This also shows that your investigation 
has not reached fundamentals. However, in accordance 
with your discussion, knowledge and practice are united 
and advance together. That, of course, cannot be ques- 
tioned. 

Real Knowledge Includes Practice 

Your letter says : ' ' If one truly has knowledge, he prac- 
tices it; if he does not practice it, he cannot be said to 
know it. This is the most important instruction for the 
student in causing him to devote himself to practicing his 
learning. (50) If he says that genuine practice is to be 
identified with knowledge, he may merely seek to attain his 
original nature and thus lose the principle of things. There 
will thus be points at which he is confused and not intelli- 
gent. Or is this, also, a method by means of which the 
sages advance knowledge and practice together?" 

When knowledge is genuine and sincere, practice is in- 
cluded ; when practice is clear and minutely adjusted, 
knowledge is present. The two cannot be separated. Un- 
fortunately, later scholars have separated them and thereby 
have lost the original character of knowledge and practice. 
It is for this reason that I say that they are united and ad- 
vance together. Genuine knowledge is practice. Where 
practice is absent there is no real knowledge. This is in 
accordance with the illustrations your letter gives regarding 
knowing food and then eating, ete. You will observe that 
I have already discussed that in a general way. Though 
this was really said in order to remove a defect, knowledge 
and practice are by nature like this. It is not a ease of 
using one's own purpose to assist or repress. Merely to 
carry out this saying implies following the impulse of the 
moment ; merelv to seek the original nature of the mind and 



298 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

thus to lose sight of the principles of things is an instance 
of losing sight of the original nature of the mind. 

The Principles of Things Are Not External to the Mind 

The principles of things are not to be found external to 
the mind. To seek the principles of things outside the mind 
results in there being no principles of things. If I neglect 
the principles of things, but seek to attain the original na- 
ture of my mind, what things are there then in my mind ? 
The mind in its original character is nature (disposition), 
and nature is principles. Since the mind has the experience 
of being filial, there is a principle of filial piety. If the mind 
lacks filial piety, there is no principle of filial piety. Since 
the mind has the experience of being loyal to the prince, 
there is a principle of loyalty. Without a mind that is loyal 
to the prince there can be no principle of loyalty. Are these 
principles external to the mind ? Hui-an said : ' ' He who 
devotes himself to study should devote himself to a study of 
the mind and of principles." Though the mind in one 
aspect controls merely the body, it really exercises control 
over all the principles under the heavens. Though these 
principles are distributed in ten thousand affairs, they do 
not exceed the mind of any man. Because one (the phil- 
osopher Chu) separates them and another (Wang) unites 
them, it is inevitable that students should enter into the 
mistake of making them (mind and principles) separate 
things. The later scholar's misfortune of merely seeking to 
attain to the nature of his mind, while losing the principles 
of things, arises out of his ignorance that mind is the em- 
bodiment of principles. (51) He who seeks the principles 
of things outside the mind will inevitably become confused 
and unintelligent. The philosopher Kao spoke of the ex- 
ternal character of righteousness, and for that reason Men- 
cius said that he did not know what righteousness is. The 
mind is a unit. The feeling of commiseration of the entire 
mind is called benevolence (the highest virtue). If one 



LETTERS 299 

refers to the mind's getting what rightfully belongs to it, 
one speaks of righteousness. When one refers to its order, 
one speaks of principles. One should not seek either for 
the highest virtue or for righteousness outside the mind. 
Is the search for principles an exception to this? To seek 
for principles in external things implies separating knowl- 
edge and practice. The instruction of the sages, that knowl- 
edge and practice are united, implies seeking for principles 
within the mind. What doubt can you, my disciple, have 
regarding this? 

He Who is Able to Exhaust His Mental Constitution is Able 
to Exhaust His Nature 

Your letter says: "In your explanation of the original 
edition of the Great Learning, you say that the extension 
of intuitive knowledge to the utmost has really the same 
purport as the exhausting of the mental constitution as 
given by Mencius. The philosopher Chu also held thai ab- 
stract realization is a capacity of the mind. However, the 
exhausting of one's mental constitution follows from 
knowing one's nature, whereas the extension of knowledge 
to the utmost consists in the investigation of things." 

You say, "The exhausting of one's mental constitution 
follows from knowing one's nature, whereas the extension 
of knowledge consists in the investigation of things. ' ' This 
is correct. But as I investigate the source of your ideas, I 
find that you say this because you still do not fully under- 
stand the situation. The philosopher Chu considered that 
things had been investigated and knowledge completed, 
when one had exhausted his mental constitution, knew his 
nature, and knew Heaven. 70 He held that preserving one's 
mental constitution, nourishing one's nature, and serving 
Heaven, were to be identified with making the purpose sin- 
cere, rectifying the mind, and cultivating the person. 71 

70 Great Learning, Introduction, % 4 ; Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, 
Ch. 1, 1[ 1. 

" Vide Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 1, «l 2. 



300 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

He held that the saying, "Neither premature death nor 
long life causes a man any doublemindedness, but he waits 
while he cultivates his person," implied the most complete 
knowledge and the utmost virtue, and was applicable to the 
sages. 72 My own point of view is exactly the reverse of 
that of the philosopher Chu. Exhausting one's mental con- 
stitution, knowing one's nature, understanding Heaven, be- 
ing born with knowledge (of duties) and practicing them 
with a natural ease, refer to the sages; while preserving 
one's mental constitution, nourishing one's nature and serv- 
ing Heaven, knowing (duties) through study and practicing 
them with a desire for advantage, refer to the virtuous man. 
The sayings that "neither a premature death nor long life 
causes a man any doublemindedness," that knowledge of 
duties is acquired after a painful feeling of ignorance, and 
they are practiced by strenuous effort, refer to the learner 
(student). Is it correct to regard the exhausting of one's 
mental constitution in order to know one 's nature as knowl- 
edge, and to hold that preserving one 's mental constitution, 
nourishing one's nature and serving Heaven are to be iden- 
tified with practice? You, my disciple, upon first hearing 
this will certainly be alarmed. (52) However, there is 
nothing in it that really is to be doubted. I say this espe- 
cially to you. The mind in its original character is called 
nature (disposition) ; the source of nature is Heaven. He 
who is able to exhaust his mental constitution is able to ex- 
haust his nature. The Doctrine of the Mean says, "It is 
only he who is possessed of the most complete sincerity 
that can exist under Heaven, who can give full develop- 
ment to his nature." 73 It also says: "(He) knows the 
transforming and nurturing operations of Heaven and 
earth." 74 "That he presents himself before spiritual be- 
ings, without any doubts arising, shows that he knows 

72 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 1, H 3. 

73 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 22. 

74 Ibid., Ch. 32. 



LETTERS 301 

Heaven. ' ' 75 The sage alone is able to do these things, and 
it is for this reason that I say that he is born with knowl- 
edge (of duties) and practices them with natural ease. He 
who preserves his mental constitution is unable to exhaust 
it, and therefore he needs to add this effort of preserving 
his mental constitution. Having thus preserved his mind 
for sometime, he should not rest in this state. "When there 
are no circumstances in which he does not preserve his 
mental constitution, he is able to advance and to speak of 
exhausting it. 

Heaven's Decrees are Embodied in Mind and Nature 

Knowledge of Heaven is like the knowledge of the officials 
who know the chou and the hsien. 70 The Chih-chou has for 
his work the affairs of the chou, and the Chih-hsien the 
affairs of a hsien (district). This implies that they are 
united with Heaven. That serving Heaven is like a son's 
serving his parents, or a minister's serving his prii.ce, 
means that Heaven is considered as a second separate thing. 
Heaven's decrees for me are my mind and my nature. I 
preserve these and dare not lose them ; I nourish them and 
dare not injure them. As father and mother, it begets 
them perfect, and as son I return them. For this reason 
I say that it is the business of the virtuous man to learn 
(the duties) by study, and to practice them from a desire 
for advantage. 

Regarding the saying, "Neither a premature deaih nor 
long life causes any doublemindedness, " I wish to say that 
this is different from preserving one's mental constitution. 
Though he who devotes himself to preserving his mental 
constitution is not able to exhaust it, he surely is devoting 
himself completely to doing good. If at times he does not 
preserve (maintain) his mental constitution, all is well as 

76 Ibid., Ch. 29, K 4. 

76 The Chinese name of the mayor or magistrate is Chih-chou or 
Chih-hsien, meaning to know the chou or the hsien, which is a district. 



302 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

soon as he does. But if one says that neither a premature 
death nor long life causes doublemindedness, it seems as 
though the fact that they might cause doublemindedness 
implies that the portion of his mental constitution which 
does virtue is unable to be unified. If the individual is not 
able to maintain his mental constitution in every regard, 
how can he be said to exhaust it? Now you say that the 
individual is in a condition in which premature death and 
long life do not cause doublemindedness. The individual 
may say : "Death and life — be it premature death or long 
life — are determined by Heaven. I will devote myself to 
acting according to virtue and will cultivate my person, 
while I await the decree of Heaven. ' ' But this implies that 
he has not yet learned the decree of Heaven. (53) Though 
the idea of serving Heaven makes the individual a separate 
being from Heaven, he nevertheless knows where the decrees 
of Heaven are to be found. He merely is respectful and re- 
ceives the decree without a murmur. If you say that he is 
waiting (for Heaven's decree), then he does not really 
know in what the decrees of Heaven consist and therefore 
appears to be waiting. For this reason we say "deter- 
mine" (establish) the decrees of Heaven. The character li 
(3fc > meaning "to fix, to determine") is the same as the li 
of chuan li ( $1] j£, meaning "to found, to begin"). It is 
like establishing one's virtue, establishing truths, establish- 
ing one's merit, or one's reputation. Whenever one says 
"fix" (establish), it means that the thing was formerly not 
there but is now being established (fixed) . Confucius said : 
"Without recognizing the ordinances of Heaven, it is im- 
possible to be a superior man." Therefore I say that 
knowing them after a painful feeling of ignorance and 
practicing them by strenuous effort refers to the student. 77 

The Beginner Should Not Be Confused by Others 
To consider "exhausting one's mental powers in order to 



" Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, «[ 9. 



LETTERS 303 

know one's nature and Heaven" the same as "investigating 
things in order to extend intuitive knowledge," makes it 
impossible for the beginning student to avoid considering 
his mind as a separate thing. Moreover, it demands that he 
forthwith utilize the condition of a sage, and be born with 
knowledge of duties and practice them with natural ease. 
Confused, as one who seizes the wind and grasps the shad- 
ows, he will not know what to do. How can his mind fail 
to reach the condition described by the words, ' ' The whole 
Empire is kept running about upon the roads"? 78 Thus 
you can easily see the defect of present-day instruction re- 
garding the extension of knowledge and the investigation 
of things. Does your suggestion concerning devotion to 
the external and neglect of extensive internal study with 
accompanying meagre results, perhaps refer to my mistake ? 
Failure at this important point of learning will result in 
failure in all. This is where I risk the reproach and ridi- 
cule of the people. Forgetting that I have fallen into 
wrong-doing, I can but clamor. 

Wang Points Out One of Chu's Mistakes 

Your letter says : "I have heard you say to students that 
the investigation of the principles of all things with which 
we come into contact also means finding one 's amusement in 
things and thereby ruining one's aims. You take the philos- 
opher Chu's sayings, such as disliking disorder and con- 
trolling it, and preserving and nourishing the source, and 
exhibit them to students, explaining that they are principles 
of his old age. May not this also be wrong?" 

The saying of the philosopher Chu regarding investiga- 
tion of things is to be found in the expression, "We must 
investigate the principles of all things with which we come 
into contact." 79 (54) This means that in all affairs and 
things the individual should seek for fundamental princi- 

78 Mencius, Book III, Pt. I, Ch. 4, K 6. 

79 Great Learning, Ch. 5. These words are taken from the phil- 
osopher Chu's comments on the Great Learning. 



304 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

pies, and should use his mind in seeking these principles in 
affairs and things. Thereby mind and principles are separat- 
ed. This seeking for fundamental principles in things and 
affairs is exemplified in seeking the principle of filial piety 
in one's parents. If a man seeks the principle of filial 
piety in the parents, is it, then, really in his own mind or is 
it in the person of his parents? If it is in the person of 
the parents, is it true that after the parents are dead the 
mind in consequence lacks the principle of filial piety? If 
one sees a child fall into a well, there must be commisera- 
tion. Is this principle of commiseration present in the 
child or is it to be found in the intuitive faculty of the 
mind? Whether the individual is unable to follow the 
child and rescue it from the well, or seizes it with his hand 
and thus rescues it, this principle is involved. Is it. then, 
in the person of the child, or is it rather in the intuitive 
faculty of the mind ? What holds here is true with refer- 
ence to the principles of all affairs and all things. Thus 
you may know the mistake of severing mind and principles 
— a severing which is in accordance with the philosopher 
Kao's sayings that righteousness is external. This mistake 
Mencius fully exposed. You are familiar with the matter 
of devoting one's self to external things and thereby losing 
sight of the internal, as well as that of studying extensively 
but with meagre results. In what sense is this true? 
Would it seem improper to say that it implies finding 
amusement in things and thereby ruining one's aims? 
What I say about extending knowledge to the utmost 
through investigation of things means extending and de- 
veloping my intuitive knowledge of good to the utmost on 
all affairs and things. The intuitive faculty and its knowl- 
edge of good are heaven-given principles. If I extend and 
develop the heaven-given principles of my intuitive faculty 
on affairs and things, then all affairs and things partake of 
heaven-given principles. That extending the intuitive fac- 
ulty of the mind to the utmost is extending knowledge to 



LETTERS 305 

the utmost, and that the condition in which all things and 
affairs partake of these principles is to be identified with 
the investigation of things, means that mind and principles 
are one. And if this is true, then what I have formerly 
said, and what the philosopher Chu formerly discussed, will 
be understood without further discussion. (55) 

Your letter says: ''In its original nature the mind is 
clear with reference to all things, but the passion-nature re- 
strains it (changes it) and things obscure it, so that it in- 
evitably becomes one-sided. Without study, inquiry, de- 
liberation, and discrimination, one cannot understand the 
principles of things, nor can the influences of good and evil, 
and the discrimination between the true and the false be 
known of themselves. The evil inherent in following pas- 
sions and fancies cannot be fully expressed in words." 

Wang Again Discourses on Knowledge and Practice 

What you have said in this section appears to be true 
but is really not, I must refute this defect of supporting 
and following the traditional sayings. Inquiry, delibera- 
tion, discrimination, and practice are all to be considered 
as learning. Learning and practice always go together. 
For instance, if the individual says that he is learning 
filial piety, he will certainly bear the toil o f his parents, 
take care of them, and himself walk in the path of filial 
piety. After that he may speak of learning filial piety. Can 
he who merely says that he is learning filial piety, there- 
fore be said to be learning? He who learns archery must 
certainly take the bow and fit the arrow to the string, draw 
the bow and shoot. He who learns writing must certainly 
straighten the paper and take the pen, grasp the paper and 
dip the pen into the ink. In all learning of the Empire, 
there is nothing that can be called learning unless it is car- 
ried out in practice. Thus the beginning of learning is 
surely practice. The earnest one. being sincere and honest, 
has already practiced his learning. Making his practice 
sincere and earnest, he does not cease from his work. 



306 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Doubt Precedes Inquiry 

Since doubt must arise in connection with learning, in- 
quiry is necessarily present. Making inquiry, the individ- 
ual forthwith learns and practices. Since doubt arises 
there is deliberation. Deliberating, the individual learns 
and again practices. Being in doubt, he also begins to 
discriminate, and thus both learns and practices. When 
discrimination is clear, deliberation careful and sincere, 
inquiry discerning, learning competent and skillful, and 
application constant, practice is earnest. It does not mean 
that after study, inquiry, deliberation, and discrimination, 
one first is ready to practice. 

Mind and Principles Are One 

For this reason I hold and say that seeking to be able to 
do anything is learning ; seeking to dissipate any doubt con- 
nected therewith is inquiry; seeking to understand the un- 
derlying principles is deliberation; seeking to get at the 
essence is discrimination ; seeking to carry out its genuine- 
ness in action is practice. (56) Any discussion of the situ- 
ation that splits the task gives us these five stage. If the 
whole affair is united, it is one. This is the substance of 
my saying that mind and principles are one; it is the task 
of mutually developing knowledge and practice. This is 
the real point at which my sayings are different from those 
of later scholars. 

The Importance of Practice 

You have especially selected study, inquiry, deliberation, 
and discrimination as the method whereby the principles 
of all things are to be thoroughly investigated, but you fail 
to reach the point of earnest practice. This means that 
you consider study, inquiry, deliberation, and discrimina- 
tion as knowledge, but in this investigation of principles do 
not include practice. Is there a single instance in the Em- 
pire in which a person has learned without practice? Is 



LETTERS 307 

there an instance in which there has been an actual investi- 
gation of principles without practice? Ming-tao says: 
"It is only by investigating principles most thoroughly 
that one exhausts his nature in attaining the decrees of 
Heaven. ' ' 80 After virtue has reached its highest develop- 
ment, the individual may be said to be able to exhaust the 
principles of virtue in his investigation. After righteous- 
ness has reached its highest form, it may be said that he is 
able to exhaust in his investigation the principles of right- 
eousness. When he has acquired the greatest development 
of virtue, he has exhausted that part of his nature which 
refers to virtue. Of righteousness the same holds true. 
Is there such a thing as that the individual has 
reached the point where he is able to investigate ex- 
haustively the principles of things and yet does not practice 
them ? For this reason, if knowledge of principles without 
practice cannot be considered learning, knowledge without 
practice cannot be considered an exhaustive investigation 
of principles. If knowledge without practice cannot be 
considered exhaustive investigation, then you may know 
that in the unity and mutual development of knowledge 
and practice no distinction can be made. The principles 
of things and affairs are not to be found external to the 
mind. If anyone says that it is insufficient tr use the in- 
tuitive faculty in making an exhaustive investigation of 
the principles of things, and that it is necessary to seek 
externally in the Empire so as to supplement and strengthen 
this, he thereby splits mind and principles into two things. 
As for study, inquiry, deliberation, discrimination, and 
earnest practice, it is true that, though the individual in 
his stupidity and in his expenditure of effort uses a hundred 
efforts where another man succeeds by one, but never- 
theless advances until he exhausts his nature in knowing 
Heaven, he is in reality doing nothing more than develop 
the intuitive faculty of his mind. Can anything further 
so Vide footnote 18 on p. 130. 



308 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

be added to the intuitive faculty? If he says that he is 
trying to investigate exhaustively the principles of things, 
and yet does not know that he must seek within his own 
mind, the influence of good and evil and the discrimination 
of the true and the false set aside the intuitive faculty. 
How, then, will he advance in his introspection? (57) 

Passion Obscures the Mind 

When you, my disciple, say that the passion-nature re- 
strains the mind and things obscure it, you speak truly. If 
you wish to get rid of this obscuration and do not know how 
to use your strength to the utmost in this matter, but seek 
for relief in external things, your vision is not clear. In- 
stead of assisting with medicine and nursing your eyes in 
order to cure them, bewildered and undecided you seek for 
relief in external things. Can you really effect the cure 
in this way? The injury resulting from following one's 
passions and one's fancies, also is due to the inability dis- 
criminately to investigate heaven-given principles within 
the realm of the intuitive faculty. This error, both small 
and great, I can clearly discriminate. Do not say that I 
have been too harsh in my discussion. 

Wang is Charged with Being too Abstract 

Your letter says: "You instruct the individual to ex- 
tend his intuitive knowledge to the utmost in order to 
understand virtue, and warn him not to adhere to external 
things in making an exhaustive investigation of principles. 
This really causes the unenlightened scholar to live isolated 
and sit in abstraction. Can he who does not hear instruc- 
tion attain complete knowledge and illustrious virtue? 
Or perhaps it causes him to sit in a state of real- 
ization in which he partly understands his original na- 
ture. Even then he has fixed his wisdom on a mat- 
ter that is useless. Will he really be able to know past and 
present, to understand the changes of events, and to use 
the results for the Empire? He says that knowledge is the 



LETTERS 309 

substance of the idea, while things are the manifestation 
thereof, and that 'investigation of things' should read 
'rectify things' and thus is like the 'rectify' of 'rectifying 
what is wrong in the sovereign's mind.' Though this is 
excellently realized and specific, it does not follow in the 
wake of former points of view. Moreover, it is perhaps 
not harmoniously blended with the doctrine. ' ' 

My discussion of extending intuitive knowledge to the 
utmost, and of the investigation of things, truly is for the 
purpose of exhaustively investigating principles. I have not 
warned others not to carry on such investigation, causing 
them to live isolated in abstraction without any occupation. 
If you mean that the student is to investigate the principles 
of all things he comes into contact with, and be one, as you 
formerly said, who devotes himself to external things, then 
there are things that should be altered. If the unenlight- 
ened scholar really is able to investigate carefully the fund- 
amental principles of the mind as experiences come and go, 
and does this in order to develop the original intuitive fac- 
ulty, then, though dull he surely will become intelligent, and 
though weak he surely will become strong. He will be es- 
tablished in the great fundamental virtues of humanity 
and will practice the duties of universal obligation. 81 (58) 
He will unite the nine standard rules into an all-pervading 
unity without a loss of any one of them.* 82 Why still be 
solicitous that he will not attain to a genuine use of them ? 

si These duties are five : viz., the duties between sovereign and 
minister, between father and son, between husband and wife, between 
elder brother and younger, and those belonging to the intercourse 
of friends. (Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, H 8.) 

»2 The nine standard rules are ' ' the cultivation of their own char- 
acters; the honoring of men of virtue and talents; affection towards 
their relatives; respect towards the great ministers; kind and con- 
siderate treatment of the whole body of officers; dealing with the mass 
of the people as children ; encouraging the resort of all classes of 
artisans; indulgent treatment of men from a distance; and the kind- 
ly cherishing of the princes of the States." (Doctrine of the Mean, 
Ch. 20, K 12.) 



310 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Wang Objects to Mere Abstractness as Such 

The devotees of stupid abstraction and empty tranquility 
are unable to investigate the fundamental principles of the 
mind, as things and affairs are experienced. Thus what 
they attain is not the original intuitive knowledge of good. 
They lose or set aside their five human relationships. 
That they continually make use of vacuity and tranquility, 
shows that because they desire these, they cannot govern 
home, state, or Empire. Does anyone say that the learning 
of the sages, which inculcates thorough investigation of 
principles and the exhausting of one's mental constitution, 
also has this defect? The mind is lord of the person 
(body). Moreover, the abstract and pure intelligence and 
clear realization of the mind are the original intuitive 
knowledge of good. When this intuitive faculty with its 
abstract and pure intelligence and clear realization is in- 
fluenced and active, it is called purpose (idea). 

A Thing is to be Identified with the Functioning of the 

Purpose 

The intuitive faculty comes before the purpose, and with- 
out it there would be no purpose. Is not, thus, the intuitive 
faculty the body of the purpose? When purpose is man- 
ifested it is of necessity with reference to some thing, 
and that thing is an affair. When the purpose is used in 
study, then study must be considered a thing; and when 
the purpose is used in hearing litigation, then that is a 
thing. Wherever the purpose is applied, there some thing 
is present. If there is a particular purpose, there is a 
particular thing present corresponding to it; and without 
this particular purpose the particular thing is lacking. Is 
not, then, a thing identical with the functioning of pur- 
pose? 



LETTERS 311 

The Investigation of Things Elucidated 

The character ko ( $& , meaning "investigate, rectify") 
also contains the instruction of the character chih ( ?g, 
meaning "to attain, to go to"). For instance, the Book 
of History says, "Shun went to the temple of the accom- 
plished ancestor. ' ' 8S Then we have the saying, ' ' The 
prince of Miao came to make his submission. ' ' 84 These 
both convey the instruction of attaining (coming to). 
However, in going to the temple of the accomplished an- 
cestor he certainly was completely filial and reverent. If 
there was anything regarding which he was unenlightened, 
there was nothing the principles of which he did not reach. 
Not until then could he be said to have gone to the temple. 
In what the natives of Miao were obstinate, Shun diffused 
his accomplishments and virtue among them, and thus 
could reach them. Thus, it also has the meaning of recti- 
fying. The idea of attaining does not exhaust it. The 
idea of investigating the evil of the mind, and the idea of 
investigating the evil of the prince's mind, both imply 
rectifying that which is not true in order to revert to the 
right condition. They do not convey the instruction of 
merely reaching (locating). As for the instruction to in- 
vestigate things, which is contained in the saying of the 
Great Learning, how does anyone know that it does not con- 
tain the instruction of rectifying, instead of merely that of 
attaining? (59) If the idea of attaining were to be conveyed, 
it would be necessary to say ' ' investigate until you reach the 
principles of affairs and things," in order to make the say- 
ing explicit. This implies that the important thing in the 
task rests entirely in the investigating, and that the point of 
application is principles. If the idea of investigating at the 
beginning and the idea of principles at the end are taken 
away, and one says directly that the extension of knowledge 
to the utmost consists in reaching things, can this be clear? 

83 Shooking, Pt. II, Book I, H 14. 

84 Ibid., Books of Yii, Book II, 1 21. 



312 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

This matter of investigating principles to the utmost and of 
exhausting one's mental constitution, which is the complete 
finished instruction of the sage, is to be seen in the Hsi 
Tz'u. 85 If the investigation of things has really the same 
connotation as investigating principles to the utmost, why- 
did not the sage in a straightforward way say that the ex- 
tension of knowledge to the utmost consists in investiga- 
ting principles to the utmost? Did he at this point 
change and not finish his saying, in order to start the 
confusion and errors of later scholars? Though the 
investigation of things as given by the Great Learning 
has the same general purport as the investigation of prin- 
ciples to the utmost as given in the Hsi Tz'u, still there are 
some slight differences. Exhaustively examining princi- 
ples includes attending to and devoting one's self to the in- 
vestigation of things, the extension of knowledge, the mak- 
ing sincere of the purpose, and the rectifying of the mind. 
For this reason it is said that the investigation of principles 
to the utmost includes the investigation of things, the ex- 
tension of knowledge, the making sincere of the will, and 
the rectifying of the mind. If I say investigating things, 
I certainly equally mean that after extending knowledge, 
making the purpose sincere, and rectifying the mind, the 
task is first perfect and thorough. You, in a one-sided 
way, brought forward the investigation of things and forth- 
with said that it meant investigating principles to the 
utmost. This would convey the meaning that the inves- 
tigation of principles relates only to knowledge and that the 
investigation of things does not include practice. This not 
only fails to reach the purport of the investigation of 
things, but also loses the idea of investigating principles. 
The learning of later scholars distinguishes an earlier and a 
later in knowledge and practice. They are constantly get- 
ting farther away from the truth, and because of this the 
learning of the sage becomes more and more injurious to 
85 Vide footnote 50, p. 273. 



LETTERS 313 

the unenlightened. This error really has its source here. 
My disciple, you have not been able to avoid receiving and 
following these long-standing abuses. That you consider 
my point of view out of harmony with the doctrine is not 
your mistake. 

The Extension of Knowledge in Its Relation to Practical 
Affairs of Filial Piety 

Your letter says: "How can that which you call the 
task of extending knowledge to the utmost have reference 
to caring for the comfort of parents in winter and summer 
and respectfully nourishing them? This implies making 
the purpose sincere. Not to include the investigation of 
things, is perhaps also a mistake." (60) 

You speak thus because you estimate my view in accord- 
ance with your own ideas. This is not what I told you. 
If the situation is really as you say, can it be cleared up 
again? My view is that the purpose (will) must desire to 
make the parents comfortable in winter and summer; 
that it must desire respectfully to nourish them. What 
I mean by purpose does not necessarily mean a sincere 
purpose. It is necessaiy really to carry out in practice the 
desired purpose of making the parents comfortable in win- 
ter and summer, of nourishing them, of seeking self-enjoy- 
ment but without allowing self-deception, before the pur- 
pose can be called sincere. He who knows how to carry 
out in practice this caring for the comfort of the parents 
in winter and summer, and this respectful nourishing of 
the parents, may be said to know, but he cannot be said to 
have extended his knowledge to the utmost. He needs to 
extend to the utmost his knowledge of how the parents are 
to be made comfortable in winter and summer, and truly to 
carry this out in practice ; he needs to extend to the utmost 
his knowledge of the essentials of nourishing the parents, 
and to carry it out in practice, before he can be said to 
have extended his knowledge to the utmost. Caring for 



314 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the comfort of the parents in summer and winter and 
nourishing them are things; but this cannot be said to be 
a case of investigating things. He must minutely exhaust 
in knowledge and practice what his intuitive faculty knows 
about carrying out these things for his parents, before he 
can be said to have investigated this thing. "When the 
thing which is called providing for the comfort of the par- 
ents in winter and summer has been investigated, after that, 
first, will the intuitive faculty which knows this be devel- 
oped to the utmost. The same holds true with regard to 
nourishing parents. For this reason it is said that, when 
things have been investigated, knowledge will have been 
extended to the utmost. When the intuitive knowledge 
which knows how to care for the comfort of parents in win- 
ter and summer has been extended to the utmost, the pur- 
pose of thus providing for parents will be sincere. The 
same holds true with regard to nourishing parents. These 
are my sayings regarding making the purpose sincere, com- 
pleting knowledge, and investigating things. If you be- 
come familiar in thought with this point, you will no longer 
be in doubt. (61) 

Wang is Questioned About the Intuitive Faculty and Ex- 
plains Its Function Minutely 

Your letter says: "The main divisions of the doc- 
trine are readily understood. Common, simple men and 
women can understand what is meant by intuitive knowl- 
edge of good and native capacity of doing good. But con- 
cerning the details of the rites and of the change of circum- 
stances, where a small error involves a great one, it cer- 
tainly is necessary to wait until one has learned before he 
can know. Is there anyone who does not know what is 
meant by the filial piety involved in providing for 
the comforts of parents in winter and summer and in in- 
quiring regarding their health both morning and evening? 
But when one reaches the facts that Shun married without 



LETTERS 315 

informing his parents; that Wu put troops into the field 
before having buried his father ; that the philosopher Tseng 
nourished the will of his father, whereas Tseng Yuan nour- 
ished the mouth and body of his father (the philosopher 
Tseng) ; that the son endures a small stick but evades the 
large one; that he cuts flesh from his thigh to feed his ill 
parent; that he erects a straw hut beside the grave of his 
parent, or any similar thing, then it is necessary to seek 
earnestly for what is right and wrong in these things, and 
to do this in prosperity or adversity, in excess or neglect 
and short-coming, in order that one may carry out in prac- 
tice the fundamental principles of regulating affairs. 88 
After that the original nature of the mind will not be ob- 
scured, nor will it be lost when affairs arise. ' ' 

It is perfectly true that the main divisions of the doctrine 
are readily understood. Notice how later scholars neglect 
this fact, taking no advantage of it, but think that 
learning consists in seeking that which is difficult to un- 
derstand ! This is what is meant by saying, ' ' The path of 
duty lies in what is near, and men seek for it in what is 
remote. The work of duty lies in what is easy, and men 
seek for it in what is difficult. ' ' 8T Mencius says : ' ' The 
way of truth is like a great road. Is it difficult to know 
it ? The evil is only that men will not seek to do it. " 88 In 
the matter of intuitive knowledge of good and native abil- 
ity to execute the good, common simple men and women 
are like the sage. But the sage is able to extend his intui- 
tive knowledge to the utmost, while common folks are not 
able to do so. It is from this point on that they differ. 
It is not that the sage knows the rites and the changes of 
circumstances, but he does not consider merely these as 
learning. What he means by learning consists simply in 

se Vide Mencius, Book V, Pt. I, Ch. 2,f 1; Book IV, Pt. I, Ch. 
19, 1 3. 

87 Ibid., Book IV, Pt. I, Ch. 11. 

ss Ibid., Book VI, Pt. II, Ch. 2, If 7. 



316 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

developing his intuitive knowledge in order to investigate 
minutely the natural laws of the mind. In this he differs 
from the learning of later scholars. 

My disciple, you have no leisure for the development of 
your intuitive faculty, hut with unremitting effort you are 
solicitous in caring for that which is correct. This is the 
evil of considering that learning consists in seeking that 
which is difficult to understand. The intuitive faculty is 
to changing circumstances as compasses and squares are to 
squares and circles, and measures are to length and short- 
ness. The changes in circumstances relative to paragraphs 
and sections (of the doctrine) cannot be determined before- 
hand, just as the size of the square or circle and the length 
or shortness cannot be perfectly estimated. (62) But 
when the compasses and squares have been set there can be 
no deception regarding the size of the square and the circle. 
However, the squares and circles of the universe cannot all 
be used. When the rule and measure have been fixed, 
there can be no deception as to the length or shortness, but 
the lengths and shortnesses under heaven cannot be exhaust- 
ed. When the intuitive faculty has been completely de- 
veloped, there can be no deception regarding its applica- 
tion to changing details. However, the changing details 
under heaven cannot all be complied with. If both small 
and great errors cannot be investigated in the recondite, 
abstruse thoughts of the intuitive faculty, how shall its 
learning be applied ? Tf the individual does not use com- 
passes and squares, and yet desires to determine squares 
and circle ; if he does not use the measure, and yet desires to 
measure length, he in my estimation is unreasonable and 
perverse; he is daily laboring without completing his task. 

You say, "Who does not understand the filial piety in- 
volved in caring for the comfort of parents in winter and 
summer and in inquiring about their health both morning 
and evening?" And yet but few are able to extend their 
knowledge to the utmost at this point. If you mean that 



LETTERS 317 

the individual roughly knows the ceremonial usages of car- 
ing for the comfort of parents both in winter and summer, 
and of inquiring about their health both morning and even- 
ing, and say that he is thus able to complete his intuitive 
knowledge, then whosoever knows what is meant by saying 
that the prince ought to be benevolent is able to extend his 
knowledge of benevolence, and whosoever knows what is 
meant by saying that the minister ought to be loyal is able 
to extend his knowledge of loyalty. Thus considered, who 
in the entire Empire does not extend his intuitive knowl- 
edge? This will serve to make clear that the extending of 
knowledge depends upon practicing, and that without the 
act there clearly can be no extending of knowledge. In 
the matter of unity of knowledge and practice, is it neces- 
sary to add more comparisons? 

As for Shun's marrying without telling his parents, was 
there anyone previous to that time who served as an exam- 
ple of such a practice ? In what historical and mythologi- 
cal documents did he find a precedent? Of what individual 
did he make inquiry before he acted? Or did he rather 
make use of his intuitive knowledge to estimate what should 
be done, and there being no other way, act as he did ? As 
for Wu's putting troops into the field before burying his 
father, was there anyone previous to his time who had put 
troops into the field before burying his father? In what 
historical and mythological document did he find a prec- 
edent? Of what individual did he make inquiry before 
he acted? Or did he also utilize intuitive knowledge to 
estimate what was proper, and there being no other way, 
act as he did? (63) If Shun's mind was not sincere in the 
matter of having no posterity, and Wu's in the matter of 
saving the people, and the former married without telling 
his parents and the latter put an army into the field before 
burying his father, then their lack of filial piety and loyal- 
ty was great. Later scholars do not earnestly develop 
their intuitive faculty in order minutely to investigate right- 



318 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

eousness and principles in the experiences of the mind in- 
fluenced by mutual intercourse. On the contrary, they 
desire vainly to examine and discuss these out-of-the-ordin- 
ary questions, and think that when they have apprehended 
these, they are able to control the root of the matter. It is 
also far from correct to seek to preserve the root of the 
matter when affairs arise. The rest of the sections of your 
letter can be explained in a similar way. In this way the 
ancient philosophy of extending knowledge to the utmost 
can be understood. 

Does the Original Nature of the Mind Make Provision for 
All Phases of Life? 

Your letter says : "It would seem that the saying of the 
Great Learning regarding the investigation of things is 
probably in harmony with seeking the original character of 
the mind. But the following things from the Six Classics 
and Four Books should all be clearly sought within the 
limits of the books, to-wit : hear much and see much ; what 
former sages have said, should be carried out in practice; 
'I am one who is fond of antiquity, and earnest in seeking 
knowledge there'; 'extensive study of what is good and 
accurate inquiry about it'; 'he cherishes his old knowledge 
and is continually acquiring new ' ; ' in learning extensively 
and discussing minutely what is learned, the object of the 
superior man is that he may be able to go back and set 
forth in brief what is essential ' ; ' Shun loved to question 
others and to study their words. ' 89 Certainly confusion 

89 Analects, Eook II, Ch. 18, 1f 2. The complete quotation is: 
"Hear much and put aside the points of which you stand in doubt, 
while you speak cautiously at the same time of others — then you 
will afford few occasions for blame. See much and put aside the 
things which are perilous, while you are cautious at the same time in 
carrying the others into practice — then you will have few occasions 
for repentance. ' ' Confucian Analects, Book VII, Ch. 19, 1 1 ; Doc- 
trine of the Mean, Ch. 20, If 19; Ch. 27, 1f 6; Mencius, Book IV, 
Pt. II, Ch. 15; Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 6. 



LETTERS 319 

cannot be permitted in discussing the details of the rites 
and the order of the task." 

The idea involved in the investigation of things I have 
already thoroughly discussed. As for your doubt concern- 
ing the connection between this and devoting one's self to 
seeking the original nature of the mind, I judge that you 
will not need to wait until I have again explained it. Hear- 
ing much and seeing much was said by Confucius because 
Tzu-chang devoted himself to external things, loved super- 
ior position, and vainly considered learning to consist in 
hearing and seeing much. He was unable to seek within 
his own mind in order to put aside the things regarding 
which he stood in doubt and which seemed perilous. Thus, 
both in his words and in his deeds, he was unable to avoid 
being blamable and having occasions for repentance. 
Moreover, the meaning of seeing and hearing much amounts 
to a dependence upon devotion to external things, and to 
love of lofty position. For that reason Confucius said this to 
rescue him from the error of depending upon hearing and 
seeing much, and not for the reason that he wished him to 
consider this as learning. The Master has said : ' ' There 
may be those who act without knowing why. I do not do 
so. " 90 This has the same idea as the saying of Mencius, 
that all men have the mental capacity to distinguish be- 
tween right and wrong. 

Knowledge Does Not Depend upon Learning Much and Re- 
membering It 

These sayings really have reference to understanding 
the intuitive knowledge of one's virtuous nature, and 
not to hearing and seeing much. (64) If anyone should 
refer to "hearing much and selecting what is good and 
following it; seeing much and keeping it in memory," this 
would imply a mere seeking for the result of seeing and 
hearing. It carries with it the second idea, and therefore 

90 Analects, Book VII, Ch. 27. 



320 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the Master said that "this is the second style of knowl- 
edge." He thus considers the knowledge from seeing and 
hearing as the second type. What, then, is above 
this knowledge? Here you can have a peep at the 
place where the sage uses his effort in extending his 
knowledge. The Master said to Tzu-kung, "Ts'ze (sic), 
you think, I suppose, that I am one who learns many 
things and keeps them in memory? . . . No, I seek a 
unity all-pervading. " 91 If knowledge really depends upon 
learning much and remembering it, why did the Master 
mistakenly speak as he did? Was it in order to deceive 
Tzu-kung? If his seeking a unity all-pervading does not 
refer to extending his intuitive knowledge of good, to what 
does it refer ? The Book of Changes says : ' ' The superior 
man remembers former sayings and virtuous practices in 
order to cultivate his virtue. ' ' Which of these do not con- 
tribute to cultivating virtue, if the individual uses them 
for this purpose? This surely is a task which implies a 
unification of knowledge and practice. Confucius says, 
"I am fond of antiquity and earnestly seek (knowledge 
there)." 92 If he loved the learning of the ancients, he 
earnestly sought to know the principles of the mind. 

Mind is Principles 

Mind, I say, is just what is meant by principles. He 
who studies should study the mind and he who seeks should 
seek the mind. Mencius said: "The end of learning is 
nothing else but to seek for the lost mind. ' ' 93 This is not 
the same as when later generations consider fondness of 
antiquity to consist in extensively remembering and re- 
citing the phrases of the ancients. Moreover, with unremit- 
ting effort they seek for renown, gain, and advancement in 
that which is external. I have previously thoroughly dis- 

»i Op. cit, Book XV, Ch. 2, If 1 and 3. 

92/ftid., Book VII, Ch. 19. 

93 Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 11, If 4. 



LETTEES 321 

cussed the matter of extensive study and careful inquiry. 
As regards cherishing old knowledge and yet continually 
acquiring new knowledge, the philosopher Chu also held 
that the cherishing of the old referred to honoring one's 
virtuous nature. Is it possible to search for this virtuous 
nature outside the mind ? Only if this continual acquiring 
of new knowledge proceeds from the cherishing of the old, 
can one cherish the old and acquire the new. In this way 
you can also verify that knowledge and practice are not 
two things. 

As regards the saying of Mencius, "In learning exten- 
sively and discussing minutely what is learned, the object 
is to go back and set forth in brief what is essential, ' ' if, as 
he said, their value lies in opening the way to go back and 
set forth in brief what is essential, for what reason does he 
advocate them ? 94 Shun in loving to question others and to 
study their words used only the mean in governing his peo- 
ple, and extended his devotion to the essence of his mind in 
complete loyalty to the path. (65) A mind loyal to the path 
of duty is what is meant by the intuitive faculty. When 
has the learning of the superior man absented itself from 
the affairs of life and discarded discussions? However, he 
who devotes himself to the affairs of life and to discussions 
should know that the unification of knowledge and prac- 
tice involves developing the intuitive knowledge of his 
mind. He should not be like the World, which considers 
vain speaking and hearing as learning, and which, by sep- 
arating knowledge and practice, is able to discuss an order 
of first and last in this. 

Miscellaneous Questions 

Your letter says: "The following are indefinite (con- 
fused) and not accredited: The virtue and righteousness 
of Yang and Mo ; the good, careful people of the villages in 
their confusing of rightheartedness and truth ; the abdica- 

«*Ibid., Book IV, Pt. II, Ch. 15. 



322 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tion of Yao, Shun, and Tzu-chih; the rebellions of T'ang, 
Wu, and Ch'u Hsiang; the prince regency of Chou Kung, 
Wang Man, and Tsao Ts'ao. 95 What clue is there regard- 
ing these? What about the changes in circumstances (the 
details), both past and present, as well as the ceremonies, 
music, names, and things which have not been investigated 
to the point of knowing them? When the government de- 
sired to erect and establish a Brilliant Palace, or an Im- 
perial Pavilion of Examination, or make rules for the 
calendar, or build an altar to worship a sacred hill, how did 
it proceed ? For this reason the Confucian Analects speak 
of those who are born with possession of knowledge, re- 
ferring to righteousness and principles. Regarding cere- 
monies, music, names of persons and things, and the 
changes of past and present, it is necessary to wait until 
they have been learned before one can verify their validity 
in practice. This can be said to be definitely determined. ' ' 
What I have to say regarding Yang, Mo, the good, careful 
people of the villages, Yao, Shun, Tzu-chih, T'ang, Wu, 
Ch'u Hsiang, Chou Kung, Wang Man, and Tsao Ts'ao, can 
in general be arranged for explanation as I have formerly 
done in the discussion of Shun and Wu. Referring to your 
doubt concerning the changes of past and present, I have 
previously in the discussion of intuitive knowledge com- 
pared these with compasses, squares, and measures. You 
should in this matter, also, not need to wait until I repeat 
my explanation. 

Wang Discusses the Brilliant Palace 

Concerning the Brilliant Palace, the Pavilion for Exam- 
inations, and the rest, it. seems that I must speak. How- 
ever, the discussion will be very long. I merely follow 
your words and rectify them, for in this way your doubt 
will be dissipated. The rules and plans of the Brilliant 

95Mencius, Book III, Pt. II, Ch. 9, If 9; Book VII, Pt. II, Ch. 37, 



LETTERS 323 

Palace and of the Imperial Pavilion for Examinations are 
first met with in the Yueh Ling (Book of the Seasons) of 
Lii Shih, the commentary of the scholars of the Han dy- 
nasty. 96 In the Four Books and Six Classics they had not 
heen minutely discussed. Is the virtue of Lii Shih and of 
the scholars of the Han dynasty as worthy and good as that 
of the Three Dynasties? 97 (66) At the time of King 
Hsiian of Ch'i the Brilliant Palace had not yet been de- 
stroyed. At the time of the emperors Yu and Li the Bril- 
liant Palace of the Chou dynasty had not yet come to 
grief. 98 Yao and Shun lived in thatched houses with earth 
steps, and thus the rules and plans of the Brilliant Palace 
were not ready at that time. But this did no injury to 
their government of the people. The Brilliant Palace of 
Yu and Li surely dates back as far as the time of "Wen, Wu, 
Ch 'eng, and K 'ang. Why were they not able to save them- 
selves from rebellion and confusion? Was it due to the 
fact that Yao and Shun with a commiserating mind prac- 
ticed a commiserating government? Though their place of 
residence was a thatched house with a front step made of 
earth, it certainly was a Brilliant Palace. On the other 
hand, the application of the mind of Yu and Li to the ad- 
ministration of government eventuated in oppression and 
tyranny even though the ruler lived in the Brilliant Palace. 
The emperor Wu of the Han dynasty first began to discuss 
the Brilliant Palace. By the time of Empress Wu Hou 
of the T'ang dynasty it was completely finished. 99 What 
was the condition of the government, unquiet or peaceful ? 
The college of the emperor was called the Imperial Pa- 
vilion for Examinations and that of the feudal princes was 
called the College of the Feudal State. They were both 

as The Han dynasty ruled 206 B.C. to 220 A.D. 

97 Vide footnote 28, p. 69. 

98 The emperors, Yu and Li of the Chou dynasty, reigned at 878 
and 781 B.C. 

»» Empress Wu ruled 684 A. P. 



324 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

named from the topography of the place where they were 
situated. 

Ancient Rulers of China and Their Work 

During the Three Dynasties, learning was directed to- 
ward illustrating the five human relationships ; at that time 
they did not estimate it by its having proceeded out of the 
Imperial or the State colleges. Confucius said : * ' If a 
man be without the virtues proper to humanity, what has 
he to do with the rites of propriety or with music ? " 10 ° In 
the regulation of the rites of propriety and the playing of 
music it is necessary to have entered the state of equilib- 
rium and harmony. He whose words may serve as a law 
and whose person as a measure (ideal), may be spoken of 
in this way, especially with reference to the number of 
utensils used in sacrificing, the kind of music, and the su- 
pervision of the master of ceremony. It is for this reason 
that the philosopher Tseng said: "There are three prin- 
ciples of conduct which the man of high rank should 
consider especially important. . . As to such matters as 
attending to the sacrificing vessels, there are the proper 
officials for them." 101 Yao instructed Hsi and Ho that in 
reverent accord with the great luminous heaven they should 
calculate and delineate the movements of the sun, moon, 
and stars. 102 He considered it important to give the people 
the times {i.e. definitely to determine the seasons). Shun 
depended on the Hsiian-chi with gem-inlaid transverse at- 
tached. 103 He considered it important to use the seven 
regulators — sun, moon, and five planets. This means that 

100 Analects, Book III, Ch. 3. 
ioi Ibid., Book VIII, Ch. 4, 1 3. 

102 Shooking, Part I, Book of T 'ang, f 3. 

103 An astronomical instrument of some kind, said to have been 
used by this legendary emperor, probably with tube attached. It is 
thought to have been a kind of armillary sphere made to represent the 
revolutions of the heavens, the transverse being a tube of precious 
stone placed athwart the sphere for the purpose of celestial observa- 
tion. (Giles, op. cit., p. 491.) 



LETTERS 325 

he devoted himself with unremitting effort to having a mind 
which loved the people and to having a government which 
nourished the people. The regulating of the calendar and 
the understanding of the seasons really emerged out of this. 
The calculations of Hsi and Ho could not be carried out by 
Kao and Ch'i. King Yu and his minister Chi of the Hsia 
dynasty also could not have done so. ' ' The wisdom of Yao 
and Shun did not extend to everything. ' ' 10 * Thus Yao and 
Shun also could not do this (what Hsi and Ho had done). 
However, up to the present, generations have practiced 
the ideas of Hsi and Ho. (67) Even though a man with 
false knowledge and small wisdom, or an astrologer of mean 
ability is now able to foretell the weather without error, does 
this mean that the present-day man with his false knowl- 
edge and small wisdom is superior to those of the time of 
Yu, Chi, Yao, and Shun? 

Sychophantic Scholars Sought Flattery and Departed from 
the Good Tried Way 

In the matter of worshiping the sacred mountain, there 
has been even greater departure from the standard. This 
is due to the fact that later eloquent, artful men and syco- 
phantic scholars sought the flattery of others. They took 
the initiative in boasting and lavish expenditures, in order 
to agitate and unsettle the mind of the prince, thereby 
wasting the money provided for the expenses of the govern- 
ment. They were shameless men of talent who deceived 
Heaven and wronged the people. A superior man does not 
even mention them. It is for this reason that Ssu-ma 
Hsiang-ju is ridiculed by later generations in the Empire. 
That you, my disciple, consider this something that a stu- 
dent should study is perhaps due to the fact that you have 
not seriously thought about it. The sage is a sage just be- 
cause he is born with knowledge. 



io*MenciuB, Book VI, Pt. II, Ch. 46, % 1. 



326 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The Knowledge of the Sage 

Moreover, in explaining the Analects, you say that being 
born with knowledge includes both righteousness and nat- 
ural law, but that with regard to the constant changing of 
the rites of propriety, music, renowned men, and things, 
one must wait until one has learned before one can get at 
the truth connected therewith. These things certainly have 
a relation to carrying out the tasks of the sage. If the sage 
is not able to know these before he has learned them, then 
it cannot be said of him that he is born with knowledge (of 
them). To say that the sage is born with knowledge refers 
to righteousness and knowledge, but it does not refer to 
ceremonies, music, renowned names, and things, for these 
things have no vital relation to the task of the sage. If the 
saying that the sage is born with knowledge refers only to 
righteousness and natural law, and not to ceremonies, 
music, renowned names, and things, then, he who knows 
after study need only learn to know righteousness and nat- 
ural law; and he who knows after a painful feeling of 
ignorance also need know only righteousness and natural 
law. 

Present-day Students Are Mistaken 

At present students who are trying to learn to become 
sages are not able to learn to know that which the sage is 
able to know, and yet with unremitting energy they devote 
themselves to seeking that which the sage is unable to 
know, as though it were learning. Has the student not 
thereby lost the means by which he hopes to become a sage ? 
All that I have said corresponds to the points regarding 
which you are in doubt, and to a small extent explains 
them; (68) but it does not constitute an exhaustive dis- 
cussion, and without this there is no clear understanding 
in the Empire. The more there are who are learning in this 
way to become sages, the more difficult they are to manage. 
They enter the class of animals and barbarians, and yet 



LETTERS 327 

seem to think that they have the learning of the sage. 
Though my sayings may be temporarily understood, the 
situation will ultimately be like the ice which while melting 
in the west freezes in the east, or the fog which is dissi- 
pated in front but rises in clouds in the rear. Though I 
discuss vociferously until I am distressed unto death, I 
shall eventually not be able to save anything at all in the 
Empire. 

The Mind of the Sage Described 

The mind of the sage considers heaven, earth, and all 
things as one substance. He makes no distinctions between 
the people of the Empire. Whosoever has blood and life is 
his brother and child. There is no one whom he does not 
wish to see perfectly at peace, and whom he does not wish 
to nourish. This is in accordance with his idea that all 
things are one substance. The mind of everybody is at first 
not different from that of the sage. If there is any selfish- 
ness in it, which divides it through the obscuration of pas- 
sion and covetousness, then that which is great is consid- 
ered small and that which is clear and open as unintelligible 
and closed. "Whoever has this mind gets to the place where 
he views his father or son or elder and younger brothers as 
enemies. The sage, distressed because of this, uses the 
occasion to extend his virtuous attitude, which considers 
heaven, earth, and all things as one substance, by instruct- 
ing the people and causing them to subdue their selfishness, 
remove the obscuration, and revert to the original nature 
of their minds. 

The People and Officials of the State under Yao, Shun, and 
Yil Were Simple and Virtuous 

The main divisions of this instruction Yao, Shun, and Yii 
have mutually received and transmitted in the saying. ' ' The 
mind which cherishes the path of duty is small. Devote 
yourself to the best, be undivided, sincerely hold fast the 



328 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

due Mean." 105 The details of the task were given to Hsieh 
by Shun. 106 He said, "Between father and son there should 
be affection ; between sovereign and minister, righteousness ; 
between husband and wife, attention to their separate func- 
tions; between young and old, a proper order; between 
friends, fidelity. ' ' 10T At the time of Yao, Shun, and the 
Three Dynasties, only this was considered instruction by 
the teachers and by the students. All that time men did 
not differ in their opinions, nor homes in their practices. 
He who adjusted himself to this was called a sage ; he who 
was diligent in carrying it out was called virtuous; he who 
disregarded it was considered degenerate, even though it 
was the intelligent Tan Chu. 108 The man at the village well 
or in the rural district, the farmer, the artisan, the mer- 
chant, everybody had this learning (of the human relation- 
ships) and looked only to the perfecting of character as 
important. (69) How is this to be accounted for? They 
were not subject to the confusion inherent in much hearing 
and seeing, nor to the annoyance of remembering and re- 
citing, nor to the extravagance of speech and composition, 
nor to the striving and gaining of honor and advantage. 
The result was that they were filial toward their parents, 
respectful to their elders, and faithful toward their friends. 
They considered this as reverting to the original nature of 
the mind. This means that they certainly had these things 
by nature and did not need to acquire them from without. 
Thus, who was there that could not do them? 

The government schools were devoted to perfecting virtue. 
In accordance with differences of capacity the students were 
to complete their virtue — whether they excelled in the rites 
of propriety and music, in capacity for ruling, or in ability 

105 Shooking, Pt. II, Book II, If 15. 

k>8 Hsieh was one of the five celebrated ministers of Emperor 
Shun. 

107 Mencius, Book III, Pt. I, Ch. 4, If 8. 

108 The son of Emperor Yao, whom Yao did not make his suc- 
cessor because of his lack of virtue. 



LETTERS 329 

to carry on agriculture. And this was done in order the 
more to refine their ability in the school, that when their 
virtue came into evidence and they were given employment, 
it would cause them from first to last to remain in their 
calling without change. 

Those who employed others devoted themselves mutually 
to virtue alone, that they might give peace to the people of 
the Empire. Judging whether the individual's ability was 
suitable, they did not consider those of higher position and 
those of lower social standing as more or less worthy of con- 
sideration, nor labor and leisure as honorable or dishonora- 
ble. 

Those who were employed also knew only this one thing, 
mutually to devote themselves to virtue for the purpose of 
giving peace to the people of the Empire. If they were able 
to carry this out in practice, then, though they were contin- 
ually in the midst of increasing perplexities, they did not 
consider them laborious, and though they were placed in 
the midst of trifling, vulgar things, they did not consider 
them low and ignoble. At that time the people of the Em- 
pire, with clear, resplendent virtue, all viewed one another 
as relatives of one home. Those whose ability was lowly, 
engaged in agriculture, labor, or commerce. All were dili- 
gent in their various occupations for the purpose of nour- 
ishing one another. Moreover, they did not strive for ex- 
alted position and desire external things. 

As for the varying degrees of natural ability, there were 
Kao, K'uei, Chi, and Hsieh. When they took up official 
position they did their best. They represented the occupa- 
tions of a single home, attending to and managing the mat- 
ters of clothes and food, having dealings with those that 
have and those that lack, and providing the utensils of the 
home. They brought together their plans and united their 
efforts, in order that in accordance therewith they might 
devise means whereby above they might serve their parents 
and below they might support their wives and children. 



330 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

They were solicitous only lest perhaps in carrying this re- 
sponsibility some might be indolent or selfish. For this 
reason Chi was a diligent farmer and not ashamed that he 
did not understand official admonitions. He viewed the ex- 
cellent official admonitions of Hsieh as his own. K'uei was 
in charge of the music and was not ashamed because he did 
not understand the rites of propriety. (70) He considered 
I's clear understanding of ceremonies as though it were 
his own. The learning of their minds was pure and clear. 
They had the virtue of perfecting their original nature, 
and therefore their mental energy and their purpose were 
penetrating and unifying. They did not distinguish be- 
tween themselves and others, nor between things and them- 
selves. They can be compared with the body of a single 
person. Eyes, ears, hands, and feet all assist in the func- 
tions of the body. The eyes are not ashamed because they 
are not intelligent. If anything of importance occurs to the 
ears, they certainly attend to it. The feet are not ashamed 
because they cannot grasp things. If there is anything that 
the hands feel for, the feet certainly move forward. The 
original vital fluids pervade, and the blood vessels branch 
out and penetrate the entire body. It is self-evident that 
itches and pains, expiration and inspiration cause excite- 
ment and exhilaration, and the spirit responds. The learning 
of the sages is extremely simple; it is readily understood 
and easily followed. Their learning was easily acquired 
and their ability readily gained, because the main divisions 
of their learning consisted in reverting to the original na- 
ture of the mind. They did not discuss understanding and 
talent. 

Later Decay of State Was Due to Heterodoxy and Sham 

The decay of the Three Dynasties was due to the extinc- 
tion of rule by right, and increase of rule by might. After 
Confucius and Mencius had died, the learning of the sages 
became obscure and strange, and heterodox teachings un- 



LETTERS 331 

reasonable. The teachers did not consider the learning of 
the sages as instruction, nor did the students consider it as 
learning. The followers of those that ruled by might se- 
cretly appropriated things that seemed to be like those of 
the first king. Externally they made use of his doctrines, 
but it was done in order to assist their own selfish desires. 
There was no one in the Empire who did not respect and 
cherish this point of view. The doctrine of the sages was 
obstructed with a luxuriant growth of weeds. The people 
imitated one another and daily sought knowledge through 
which they might become wealthy and powerful — plans 
directed toward deception, and schemes for rebellion, things 
that impose upon heaven and injure mankind. Temporary 
success was utilized in the earnest pursuit of honor and 
gain. Of men such as Kuan, Shang, Su, Chang, and their 
class, there were an indefinite number. 

The Learning of the Sages Was Entirely Neglected 

After a long time of quarreling, plundering, sorrow, and 
affliction without ceasing, these men sank into the condition 
of animals and savages, and even their violent schemes 
could not all be carried out. All scholars were extremely 
distressed in their noblemindedness. They sought to find 
the sage emperor's laws and regulations, and arrange and 
renovate what was distressing them. Their purpose was to 
restore the path of the former kings. (71) As the learning 
of the sages was left in the distance, the transmitted pre- 
cepts of violent practices became more numerous, intense, 
and pervasive. Even those who had the knowledge of the 
virtuous man could not avoid being tainted by the practices 
then prevalent. That they explained and renovated their 
doctrines in order to spread enlightenment over the world, 
only extended the boundary of force. The gate and wall 
of the learning of the sage could not be seen. Under such 
circumstances expository learning prevailed and was trans- 
mitted for the sake of making reputation. Learning that 



332 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

consisted in remembering and reciting was considered ex- 
tensive; and formal learning was viewed as elegant. Men 
of this type confusedly and noisily came up in great num- 
bers and disputed among themselves in order to establish 
their point of view in the Empire. I do not know how 
many groups there were. They came from ten thousand 
by-paths and a thousand different ways, but I do not know 
what they attained. 

Wang Describes the Worldly Students 

The students of the world may be compared to a theatre 
where a hundred different acts are presented. The players 
cheer, jest, hop, and skip. They emulate one another in 
cleverness and ingenuity ; they laugh in the play and strive 
for the palm of beauty. On all sides the people emulate 
one another in striving to see. They look toward the front 
and gaze toward the rear, but cannot see it all. Their ears 
and their eyes are confused; their mental and physical 
energy is disturbed and confounded. Day and night they 
spend in amusement until they are steeped in it and rest in 
it, as though they were insane. They do not know what 
has become of their family property. Under the influence 
of the sayings of such scholars, princes and kings are con- 
fused and devote their lives to vain, useless literary style. 
They do not themselves know what they say. Some among 
them realize the empty distance between their doctrines 
and those of the sages, and their errors and perversity. 
They realize that they have branched off and have impeded 
the doctrine of the sages, and even rouse themselves to 
extraordinary effort, because they desire to see the truth 
and reality underlying all action. But the highest stand- 
point these views may in time reach, pertains merely to get- 
ting wealth, honor, or gain — the occupation of the five 
tyrants (of the sixth century B. C). The learning of 
the sages is left farther and farther in the distance and 
is more and more obscured, while practices are directed 



LETTERS 333 

toward acquiring honor and gain. The farther they go, the 
more they fall into error. Though some among them have 
been deceived by Buddhism and Taoism, yet even the say- 
ings of Buddha and Lao-tzu, in last analysis, are unable 
to overcome the mind that is devoted to honor and gain. 
Though they have weighed the opinions of the mass of 
scholars, the discussions of these also are unable to break 
into their point of view — that of devoting themselves to 
honor and gain. When we consider present conditions, we 
find that the poison of honor and gain has penetrated the 
innermost recesses of the mind, and the practice thereof has 
become second nature. 

For several thousand years people have mutually boasted 
of their knowledge ; they have crushed one another because 
of power, and wrangled with one another for gain. They 
have mutually sought for superiority in cleverness, and 
each has sought for reputation. (72) When they come into 
prominence and are appointed to official position, those 
who should be in control of the taxes also desire to serve 
as military officials, and those who are in charge of the 
laws, ceremonies, and music, also wish positions on the 
Board of Civil Office. He who holds the position of a 
prefect or a magistrate thinks of being the treasurer of a 
province or a provincial judge; he who is censor hopes to 
become a prime minister. As a matter of fact, he who is 
unable to carry out the particular task of his position can- 
not hold other official positions at the same time, and he 
who does not understand these sayings (of the sages) can- 
not expect the praise that attaches to them. Where memory 
and ability to recite are extensive, they tend to increase 
pride; and extensive knowledge tends toward doing evil. 
Much hearing and seeing tends toward disorderly behavior 
in discussion, and wealth in literary style tends to patch up 
and brighten one's hypocrisy. It was because of this that 
Kao, K'uei, Chi, and Hsieh were unable to unite two 
things in one office. But present-day young students who 



334 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

are just beginning to learn, all desire to understand their 
sayings and investigate their methods and mysteries. Under 
false pretenses, they have said that they wish to reform 
the affairs of the Empire, but this is not the real idea of 
their minds. They are looking for something to help their 
selfishness and fulfill their desires. 

Alas! because of these abuses, and because of this pur- 
pose and these devices of study, they naturally should hear 
the instruction of the sages. But they view it as an ex- 
crescence, a tumor, a handle-hole, and thus they consider 
their intuitive faculty as insufficient. They are certain to 
reach the point where they say that the learning of the 
sages is of no value. Alas! how can the scholars liv- 
ing on earth still seek the learning of the sages, or how 
can they still discuss it ? Who is there among the scholars 
of this generation who, desiring to devote himself to study, 
is not in toilsome labor and great difficulty, is not also big- 
oted, does not stick to literary style, and is not in 
great danger ? Alas, one can but feel sympathy for them ! It 
is fortunate that heaven-given principles are in the mind of 
man ; that in last analysis there is something which cannot 
be destroyed ; and that the clearness of the intuitive faculty 
is the same as in the most ancient times. Thus, when they 
hear my exhaustive discussion they must surely commis- 
erate their own condition and be in distress because of it. 
They must be sorry to a degree that is painful. They must 
rise up with renewed effort, as water flows into a river in 
spite of every hindrance. Only the superior scholar can 
promote this. To whom shall I look for it? (73) 

Comment — ■ This letter at first thoroughly investigates 
the unity of knowledge and practice, widely illustrating 
and extensively discussing it. Alongside, it makes his- 
torical allusions and gives various illustrations. It does 
no less than dispel the clouds so that the sun can be seen. 
The later discussion of pulling up the roots and stopping 
up the source makes clear the reason of the rise and fall of 



LETTERS 335 

ancient and present-day methods of learning. It truly 
exhibits the five vital things and the eight precious things 
which the eight genii carry in their hands, in order to dis- 
play its meaning. In studying this, unenlightened and 
simple-minded individuals suddenly come to a realization. 
This is an instance in which the mind of the Teacher, which 
considers all things as one, is not afraid to speak in detail 
in order to instruct later scholars. It should be examined 
in detail and not neglected. 



BOOK IV 



LETTERS WRITTEN BY WANG YANG MING 

(Continued) 

Letter Written to the Students at Ch'engchung 

Written in the fourth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Wang's Appreciation of the Friendship of His Students 

For two years I was in disgrace, and at that time had 
nobody with whom I could confer. When I returned I 
acquired you. How very fortunate this was! Then first 
did I rejoice, and when I was suddenly obliged to leave you 
I was very much discontented. Those who hinder true 
learning are many ; those who seek the path of duty are few. 
One man from the state of Ch'i, among a multitude from 
the state of Ts'u, is readily disturbed and overinfluenced. 1 
Excepting men of heroic virtue, few are firm and unchange- 
able. You, my friends, mutually refining and helping one 
another to be firm, should certainly strive that your learn- 
ing be made complete. 

He Advises His Students to Discard Renown and Glory and 
Use Genuine Effort on the Self 

Among scholars and officials there have recently been 
some who in a measure seek the path of duty, but they are 
slandered by the common people, because genuine virtue 
has not been completed in them and because they mutually 
advertise one another. Constantly cast down and unable 
to stand, they hinder the doctrine. You, my friends, 
should consider this as an admonition ; discarding renown 
and glory, you should in your innermost selves genuinely 
use effort. What I formerly said in the temple with refer- 

i Vide Mencius, Book III, Pt. II, Ch. 6, f 1. 



340 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

ence to sitting tranquilly, did not imply that I advise sitting 
like a priest and falling into abstraction. Because we are at 
ordinary times confused by affairs, we do not devote our- 
selves to the self. What I advocate is the use of quiet med- 
itation as an aid to the beginning student, in regaining the 
intuitive knowledge which he has lost. The philosopher 
Ch 'eng Ming-tao said : " At the time when a person learns, 
he should know where to apply his energies. Having 
learned he should know at what point he has acquired 
strength." If you, my friends, use your energies in this 
direction, you will make progress and later you will have 
points of strength. 

Learning must strike into the inner nature. "It is the 
way of the superior man to prefer the concealment of his 
virtue, while it daily becomes more illustrious. ' ' - Though 
of devotion to fame and gain, the former is clear and pure 
and the latter impure and degenerate, nevertheless in the 
desire for advantage they are alike. "The humble man 
reaps advantage." "Do not seek to be different from oth- 
ers, but seek to live in accord with the principles of Heav- 
en." (2) These sayings should be written on the wall 
where the eyes constantly rest upon them. Application to 
writing the Chujen's essay need not hinder anyone from 
acquiring the truth, but he may be fearful lest it deprive 
him of his higher purpose in life. You should systematic- 
ally carry out what we formerly agreed upon ; then the two 
will not interfere with one another. Knowledge and at- 
tainment, even though they refer to sprinkling and sweep- 
ing the ground and to answering and replying, are minute 
and mysterious. 

Comments — The true learning of the sages and virtuous 
men consists not in seeking to be different from others but 
in seeking to live in accordance with principles. Perhaps 
the philosophers Chu, Ch'eng, Chou, and Su did not clearly 
discriminate this. 



2 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 33, 11 1. 



LETTERS 341 

In general, he who seeks to be different from others has 
many of his ideas arising out of his desire to be like others. 
If persons are really unable to stand by themselves and 
seek that they be blameless, they become dependent upon 
the mutual publishing of one another. Establishing schools 
of their own, they boast that they differ from others of 
their time. They do not know that "the superior man 
stands erect in the middle, without inclining to either side," 
and that they ought not to be as they are. 3 This defect 
has been transmitted down to the present, until finally it 
has become habitual. In the case of learning and any 
merit accruing thereto, all is ruined when any part is 
ruined. Those who have the purpose to learn the truth 
should frequently repeat this. 

Reply to Wang Shih-t'ang 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Discusses the Nature of the Passio-ns, Showing that 
They are Functions of the Mind 

I have received the instruction contained in your letter. 
For a number of days I have been much afflicted with boils 
and therefore was unable to write. I lack the time to ask 
for more instruction. Your letter says that what we for- 
merly discussed is both mysterious and difficult, and that 
since great importance attaches to it, you feel that you 
must speak about it. I agree with you and for that reason 
cannot forthwith cease discussing it. Pleasure, anger, sor- 
row, and joy are feelings (passions). You have said that 
they cannot be considered as not having been manifested 
by the mind. The condition in which pleasure, anger, sor- 
row, and joy have not been stirred has reference to the 
character of the original nature. This saying comes from 
Tzu-ssu and was not first spoken by the philosopher 
Ch'eng. 4 Since you do not consider it correct, you should 

3 Ibid., Ch. 10, f 5. 

4 Vide footnote 68, p. 293. 



342 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

date it from the time of Tzu-ssu's Doctrine of the Mean. 
Pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy, together with delibera- 
tion and consciousness, are all manifestations of the mind. 
(3) Nature and feeling are included in mind. Nature 
is the structure, and the feelings are the functioning of the 
mind. The philosopher Ch'eng says that the mind is a 
unity. Its structure is perfectly tranquil, and in function- 
ing it responds immediately when it is stimulated. Since 
this saying cannot be improved, you should investigate this 
matter of the structure and the function. 

Structure and function have a common origin. If you 
know that the structure is for the sake of the function, you 
know that the function is for the sake of the structure. 
However, the structure is minute and difficult to under- 
stand, and its function is manifest and readily seen. What 
you have said is correct. Your saying that from morning 
till evening you do not have a moment in which there is 
tranquility and no stirring, shows that you refer to the 
functioning and not to the structure of the mind. 

The Student Should Try to Understand the Structure of 
the Mind by Means of Its Functioning 

When the superior man devotes himself to learning, he 
utilizes its functioning in studying the structure. When- 
ever the philosopher Ch'eng speaks of having deliberated, 
stirrings of the feelings are implied; and when he speaks 
of having become conscious, he refers to the mind's having 
been stimulated. He refers to seeking the state of equili- 
brium at the time when pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy 
are not being manifested, but does not mean to say that 
they are never manifested. The philosopher Chu also 
at first frequently had doubts regarding the matter of 
there not having been any stirrings of. passion. In his 
writings, his discussion of difficulties with (Chen) Nan-hsien 
includes some tens of letters back and forth, and then first 
did he fix his saying — to-wit, the present commentary of 



LETTERS 343 

the Doctrine of the Mean. He was not careless in this 
matter. Only in his exposition of being cautious and ap- 
prehensive, until it reaches the very heart of utmost tran- 
quility, and in his exposition of being watchful over one's 
self when alone, up to the highest point where one preserves 
this watchfulness in response to the stimulation of things, 
does he proceed too far in his differentiation. Since then, 
those who read his exposition separate them into two dif- 
ferent things, and are doubtful lest there are perhaps other 
times when there is tranquility and the restfulness of nour- 
ishing the intuitive faculty. They do not realize that in 
the continual cherishing of cautiousness and apprehension 
the task does not have a moment 's interruption, and that it 
does not necessarily follow that their cherishing takes its 
departure from not seeing and hearing. 

You, my brother, should apply further energy at the 
point where there is stirring. Do not allow any inter- 
ruption to occur. If there is harmony in the stirrings of 
the feelings, there is equilibrium in tranquility. You should 
yourself apprehend what is designated as the tranquil, un- 
moved structure. (4) If you estimate before you have 
reached the object, you cannot, in last analysis, avoid 
speaking to a pagoda about transmigration. Moreover, 
the philosopher Chu had the idea of realization though 
his sayings do not explicitly contain it, and thus this 
matter is not perfectly clear. You, my brother, since you 
doubt, must have some idea, but in your doubt you have 
gone to the excess of one who discards food because it 
happens to choke him. You need to investigate further. 
If the discussions of superior men differ from those of the 
ancients, you must not immediately come to a decision. 
You should rather, following the exposition, investigate 
the situation ; and if the expositions contain portions that 
are not perspicuous, you should later estimate and judge 
them. This shows that in clear discrimination and ex- 
planation there is an inherent ability to get at fundamental 



344 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

principles. How is it that a man of your learning, your 
exceptional intelligence, and your sagacity and integrity, 
is unable to comprehend this? Your mind, my brother, is 
not like that of the man who, deeming himself superior, 
stands apart from others; but you seek for the truth only. 
Therefore I venture to speak thus without concealing any- 
thing. If I have not exhausted the situation, do not hesi- 
tate to instruct me. Though no advantage comes from it to 
you, it certainly will be advantageous to me. 

Comment — The defect of customary learning consists in 
emphasizing function and forgetting structure. But, in 
casting aside function and seeking structure, there is the 
inevitable danger of reverting to the tranquility of the 
Buddhists, and of not getting a glimpse of the wonderful- 
ness of the common source of both structure and function. 
In separating motion from rest and the feelings from mind 
and nature, vagueness and obstructions arise, and there is 
lack of a definite plan. Only in understanding that the 
structure and function have a common source does the idea 
contained in tranquility and lack of stirring convey the 
subtle idea of being influenced and understanding. The 
time of being influenced and of understanding, is the con- 
dition of tranquility and lack of stirring. Feelings, mind, 
and nature are an all-pervading unity. 

Reply to Huang Tsung-hsien and Ying Yiian-chung 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

The Student Should Continue to Think about Perplexing 
Problems, for He May Receive Sudden Enlightenment 

Last night I fear I spoke too much; but in meeting you 
both I was unable to do otherwise. Because my attainment 
was not perfect (mature), some of the things I said were not 
clear. (5) However, they had reference to a portion of our 
real task. When you cannot think coherently do not imme- 
diately cease thinking, for there should be points at which 



LETTERS 345 

you suddenly understand. The mind of the sage naturally 
cannot allow the least obscuration, nor does it need to be 
polished and refined. The mind of the ordinary man is as a 
mirror which is exceedingly spotted and dirty, and which 
must be scraped and polished until its many spots have been 
completely removed. After that the least dust will at once 
be seen. The mirror need then only be brushed to be clear, 
and there is no need of expending any great energy. When 
the individual has reached that point, he recognizes and 
knows the real structure of the highest virtue. Though the 
many spots have not been cleared away, there are quite 
naturally some bright spots left, and if a little dust falls 
upon them, it may readily be seen and needs only be 
brushed off. But when the dust heaps on the portion that 
is darkened, it cannot be seen. Thus there is a difference 
between the matter of knowing the duties of the path and 
practicing them from a desire for advantage, and that of 
acquiring knowledge of them after a painful feeling of 
ignorance and practicing them by strenuous effort. I trust 
that you will not consider this as perplexing, and therefore 
be in doubt. 

The feelings and passions of men invariably favor ease 
and hate difficulty. In this, of course, selfishness and habits 
of the passion-nature intervene and obscure. After you 
have clearly distinguished this, you will see no difficulty in 
it. The ancients who reached the point where they took 
delight in this task, though they passed through many ex- 
treme difficulties, also realized this ; but you, having seen the 
idea involved, naturally are unable to explain the task. 
Now that you have perceived this part, there is the danger 
of your loving ease and hating difficulty, and of therefore 
drifting into Buddhism. Yesterday we discussed the dif- 
ference between Confucianism and Buddhism. What the 
philosopher Ch'eng Ming-tao designated as being reverent 
in order to rectify the mind, they (the Buddhists) have; 
but they lack the external acts of righteousness. In last 



346 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

analysis, it is approximately correct to say that they also 
lack the reverence that rectifies the mind. 

Comments — In all the world there is no real learning of 
the sage and virtuous men. There is only fear of difficulty 
and illicit desire for peace. This letter gives advice to up- 
root this evil. 

Letter to Huang Tsung-hsien 

Written in the eighth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Wang Commends Tsung-hsien for His Loyalty 

Your letter in which you mention the affair of Shun-pu 
has reached me. The way in which you wrote shows your 
earnestness to the fullest extent. From this I know that 
your loyalty to a friend is a love of the highest order. As 
the world decays and customs degenerate, even among 
friends who commonly love and respect one another exceed- 
ingly, there are many who change completely. (6) They 
maintain two types of speech (are insincere), because they 
emulate that which is customary and strive to keep up ex- 
ternal appearance. This is an exceedingly decadent and 
lamentable state. You, my brother, truly can be said to be 
earnest in your loyalty to right principles and to give full 
development to your maintenance of virtue. How fortunate 
this is ! 

Wang and Shun-pu are Estranged hut Wang Continues 
to he His Friend 

When I was at Nanchang, I lived very near Shun-pu, 
seeing him every month or two. "Whenever I had occasion 
to admonish him, I always did it with an attitude of esteem 
and sympathy. Though I never found the least fault with 
him, he may have been somewhat offended. My own frame 
of mind I am willing to divulge to all the spirits and gods. 
Later, he went north in another official capacity, and at that 
time I first realized his indifference. Soon thereafter he 
was exceedingly repentant. "For should it be," he held, 



LETTERS 347 

"that when we were thus together, I should be so indiffer- 
ent and sink into the worldly danger of finding fault with 
you and thereby becoming so very unconcerned?" There- 
upon all misunderstanding was cleared away (the ice was 
melted and the fog disappeared). 

Later, word from others frequently reached me. There 
were some who were zealous in their speech and grave on 
my behalf, but I continued to treat him as I had previously 
done. I truly did not give way one day and forget Shun- 
pu. I did this naturally because of my extreme esteem and 
warm affection. Within ten months another mutual friend 
came from Peking and transmitted fully what Shun-pu 
had said, but I privately feared that fickle, narrow-minded, 
untrustworthy men found delight in our estrangement, and 
mutually arousing and exciting us thereby increased it. I 
felt certain that these things did not all come from the 
mouth of Shun-pu. I do not simulate these words. In 
fact, our friendship was so deep that I would not doubt 
him. I have a genuine love for Shun-pu, which is not 
actuated by any deep-seated selfishness, so that if he treats 
me shabbily it should not be from selfish reasons. I have 
not been intimate with Shun-pu in selfish purposes, nor he 
cold toward me. Why should I allow my mind to find fault 
with our mutual relationship ? 

Formerly, when I saw that commonplace friends readily 
begot a feeling of mutual dislike and disagreement, it had 
this significance for me, that they were merely externally 
brought together and lacked natural bonds. The result was 
that I privately commiserated them. I said to myself that 
if we all should be suddenly separated so that we lived in 
the enemies' country and home, we would still not come to 
that. (7) It is entirely unforeseen that we have this pres- 
ent discussion, and this alone should cause us to reprove 
ourselves. Mencius said : " If a man love others and no 
responsive attachment is shown to him, let him turn inward 
and examine his own benevolence." He also said: "When 



348 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

we do not, by what we do, realize what we desire, we must 
turn inward, and examine ourselves in every point. ' ' 5 
Therefore, unless one has experienced this himself, he does 
not know the lasting interest that attaches to these words 
and the earnestness of this idea. 

In Study Emphasis Should Be Placed on Essentials 

Recently, in discussing learning with my friends I have 
spoken only of establishing one's sincerity. As in killing 
a man, it is necessary to place the knife to the throat, so in 
our devotion to study we should expend the energy of mind 
and marrow in penetrating into the essentials, for then it 
will be trustworthy and clear. Though selfish desire hap- 
pen to sprout, it is like dropping a little snow upon a large 
stove; for the great fundamental virtue of humanity has 
been established. If the individual devotes his attention 
to the topmost branch (instead of to the great root), in 
order to come to a decision, then that which is ordinarily 
designated as study, inquiry, reflection, and discrimination 
is just sufficient to increase his arrogance and his disposi- 
tion to evil. Believing himself to have become superior, 
intelligent, clear, and magnanimous, he does not realize that 
he has sunken into great calamity and dangerous jealousy 
and dislike. Truly he is to be pitied ! Judging from recent 
events, you are in a position the more to see that our former 
discussions were directed at the very heart of the matter. 
This is a genuine transmissal of the learning of the sage. 
How unfortunate that it has so long been buried and con- 
cealed ! In the past my view was confused, and even re- 
cently I have made no progress, except that at this point I 
am able to distinguish very clearly. I am really much 
elated and can not again doubt. However, I have been 
separated from you a long time and have nothing to report 
to you. 

Does Yuan-chung often discuss learning with you? Not 

sMencius, Book IV, Pt. I, Ch. 4,11 and 2. 



LETTERS 349 

long ago I received a letter from him and observed that his 
outlook is very different from what it formerly was — a 
fact very comforting to me. I have also sent a letter to 
him, but have not been able to enter into detail. I hope 
that when you see him you will allow him to peruse yours. 
My plan to return home has not been definitely settled, but 
after ten months I propose to mention it again to the em- 
peror. It is not possible to determine the day when I shall 
meet you, and in consequence I am very sad as I write this. 
Comments — The expression, ' ' In killing a man, it is 
necessary to place the knife at the throat," should bring 
the student to prompt self-realization. It may be compared 
to being suddenly frightened while sleeping and dreaming. 

Letter to Huang Tsung-hsien 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Chia Ching 
The Value of Friendship 

When one bears the responsibility of official position, his 
work is ten times as difficult as when he retires into the 
mountain forest. (8) Unless he gains a good friend who con- 
stantly admonishes and refines him, that upon which his 
determination is ordinarily fixed will be secretly removed 
and silently taken away, and it will inadvertently sink into 
deterioration and ruin. Not long ago I said to Ch'eng-fu 
that at Peking one meets few friends. You two should 
come to an understanding in advance, that whenever either 
sees the least striving of passion, he will forthwith remind 
the other of the saying regarding developing the intuitive 
faculty, and thus you will mutually rectify one another. 

Of What the Modern Scholar Is Not but Should Be 
Ashamed 

The man who resolutely ceases and remains silent when 
in his speech he is just about to reach rapid satisfaction ; 
who controls his ideas just when they are about to be dis- 
played in force; who is able to dissipate anger and licen- 



350 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tiousness when they are just about to overflow, is the most 
courageous man in all the world. However, when a man 
intimately comprehends the intuitive faculty, this task is 
not difficult. These several defects, which the intuitive 
faculty by nature lacks, are later present because it has 
been obscured and obstructed. As the coming forth of the 
sun makes the shadows (spirits) disappear, so is the intu- 
itive faculty, when it has once come to realization. The 
Doctrine of the Mean says: "To possess the feeling of 
shame is to be near to energy. ' ' 6 The feeling of shame here 
refers to shame as a result of inability to extend one's in- 
tuitive knowledge of good to the utmost. At present, men 
consider it something to be ashamed of, if they are un- 
able to use their words in forcing others to follow them, or 
if the force of their ideas is unable to crush others, or if 
their anger and passion are not able to attain what they 
purpose and desire. They do not know that these several 
defects are all the agents for obscuring and obstructing the 
intuitive faculty. This is exactly what the superior man 
should be extremely ashamed of. Today the situation is 
reversed, and men are ashamed because of inability to 
obscure and obstruct their intuitive faculty. Is it not ex- 
ceedingly to be deplored, that men are ashamed of that 
concerning which they should not be ashamed, and fail to be 
ashamed of that concerning which they should be ashamed ? 

Wang's Ambition for His Friends 

You, Sirs, are my everyday, intimate friends ; I esteem 
you highly, but am unable to help you. I am willing that 
each of you may be like a great minister of ancient times. 
Those who were called great ministers in ancient times 
were not noted because of deep wisdom and ability, but be- 
cause they were plain and sincere without pretending to 
additional abilities, and because they were men of a simple, 
upright mind and possessed of generosity. (9) Your 

e Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, | 10. 



LETTERS 351 

intelligence and ability naturally surpass that of the multi- 
tude. Insofar as you lack faith in yourselves you are un- 
able to develop to the utmost your own intuitive faculty, 
and consequently fail to attain plainness, sincerity, sim- 
plicity, and uprightness of mind. 

The present condition of the Empire is like that of a man 
stricken with a severe, chronic illness. Any hope that he 
who is at death's door may live, rests in you, Sirs. If you 
are unable to get rid of your own defects, how can you cure 
the defects of the Empire ? This is my sincere thought, and 
for that reason I am compelled to tell it completely and ex- 
haustively to you. Whenever you meet, I wish you would 
use this idea in rectifying one another. Only in subduing 
your own private and selfish motives, in considering heaven, 
earth, and all things as one structure, in helping to secure 
the repose and prosperity of the Empire, and in reestablish- 
ing the rule of the Three Dynasties, will you keep from dis- 
regarding and becoming unmindful of our virtuous, intel- 
ligent prince. Only then will you requite his kindness and 
have been born to some purpose in this great enterprise. 
Stricken with disease, I am lying in the mountain forest 
and can at best only alleviate the illness with medicines, 
in order to prolong my life. However, your going out to 
be officials and your returning, after having served, arouse 
my sympathy. Without realizing it, I have written thus in 
detail. I hope that you will make allowances for my feel- 
ings. 

Comment — Both learning and exhortations to officials 
are contained in this letter. 

Letter to Chu Yung-ming 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

The Matter of Getting a Degree Early in Life is Not the 
Essential Thing 

I have received your letter, and am delighted at the ad- 
vance you have recently made in your application to study. 



352 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

The superior man fears lest the profession of study be not 
regulated and cultivated, but he does not discuss the matter 
of getting the second and third degrees early or late in life. 
Moreover, I always hope for something truly greater than 
this for you, but I do not know whether you have your pur- 
pose fixed on study or not. When convenient let me know 
about this. 

I heard that the nephews of Chieh Yang all took the A. B. 
examinations last year. It is not that I do not take delight 
that they should have a determination so early in life, but 
I personally consider their selfish ambition wrong. (10) If, 
unfortunately, they should at once attain the object of their 
ambition, will not their lives be hindered and obstructed? 
The excellent abilities of a youth should be nourished and 
cultivated. If the doctrines of Heaven are not harmoniously 
brought together, they cannot be manifested. How much 
more is this true in the case of man ! A flower that has a 
superabundance of petals does not bear fruit, because its 
luxuriance is manifested to excess. If these nephews do not 
consider my admonition as distorted, they should make 
some progress. 

Your letter exhorts me to take up official position. I am 
not a single-minded, unsullied man ; but the reason why I 
should remain in obscurity is not because this is the time to 
remain obscure, but because my learning itself is not per- 
fect. Years and months do not wait. After several years 
my mental and physical energies will be more decrepit. 
Although I then desire to enter forcefully into learning, I 
shall not be able and must thus to the last leave it incom- 
plete. This is due to the fact that strength and dignity do 
not permit me to cease. But from my grandfather down 
none are pleased that I should enter official service. Can I 
today determine to do this and vainly deliver myself into 
so lamentable a condition? 

Comments — Of late, fathers and brothers in the instruc- 
tion of their sons and younger brothers are vexed, that the 



LETTERS 353 

child is not able to write essays and take the first examina- 
tions as soon as it is able to distinguish sentences. They 
think that the early acquiring of the degrees of Chiijen and 
Chinshih is excellent in the extreme. Everybody feels only 
a heart-longing for gain, honor, advantage, and official 
promotion. How can learning and real merit fail to be 
completely ruined? 

First Letter to Wang Shun-pu 

Written in the seventh year of Emperor Cheng Te 

The Superior Man Does What is Proper to the Station in 
Which He is 

After you had left a man came from Wuch'eng and said 
that, when you first reached home, your father was very 
much displeased, and that your plan to return had been 
met with still greater opposition. 7 When I first heard of it 
I was surprised and annoyed, but later I was glad. Then 
another man came from Nanking and said that you had al- 
ready taken up official position and that neither higher nor 
lower officials were cooperating with you. When first I 
heard of this I was startled, but later I was delighted. 
What alarmed me was ordinary selfish feeling; what made 
me glad you yourself should know. How could I but bear 
somewhat patiently with you, and stimulate your mind, and 
harden your nature, that you might enlarge your under- 
takings? For instance, when the gold is tried in the fur- 
nace, passes through the roaring blaze, and is handled with 
the nippers and hammers, that is the time when it suf- 
fers. (11) But others are glad that the gold is being more 
refined until perfect purity is obtained, and fear only lest 
the strength of the fire and the power of the hammer are 
insufficient. When it has been taken out of the furnace, the 
gold is also glad that the rough treatment and refining have 
been completed. Whenever I looked with disdain upon my 

7 Wuch 'eng is in the province of Shantung. 



354 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

companions, esteeming lightly the ways of the world, 
though I later condemned myself, I was only able to control 
myself and to perform my duties perfunctorily with regard 
to outward appearance. But when I had been in disgrace 
in Kweichow for three years and had suffered a hundred 
difficulties, then for the first time did I have wisdom and 
believe that the words of Mencius, ' ' We see how life springs 
from sorrow and calamity, and death from ease and pleas- 
ure, " are not deceptive. 8 I grasped the truth of the say- 
ing : ' ' The superior man does what is proper to the station 
in which he is; he does not desire to go beyond this. In a 
position of wealth and honor, he does what is proper to a 
position of wealth and honor. In a poor and low position 
he does what is proper to a poor and low position. In a 
position of sorrow and difficulty, he does what is proper to 
a position of sorrow and difficulty. The superior man can 
find himself in no situation in which he is not himself. ' ' 9 
The superior man of later times should also do what is 
proper to his station and learn not to desire to go beyond 
this. In wealth and honor he should learn to live in wealth 
and honor; and in poverty and lowliness, in sorrow and 
difficulty, he should learn to occupy these positions. Then, 
he, too. can find himself in no position in which he is not 
himself. I have previously said this for your benefit, and 
you heartly agreed. I do not know, however, how you 
have recently applied yourself. 

The Superior Man Manifests Strength of Character 

Of late, whenever I have discussed matters with the stu- 
dents, all except Huang Tsung-hsien and a few others have 
at every meeting praised your high intelligence. Now that 
you have again thus met with this temporary affliction, your 
progress can not be measured. You should earnestly forge 
ahead. Wang Ching-yen has recently become magistrate 

s Mencius, Book VI, Pt. II, Ch. 15, If 5. 
9 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 14, If 1 and 2. 



LETTERS 355 

at Taming. As he was about to leave, he requested further 
instruction. I spoke to him with reference to changing 
one 's mental and moral character — a thing which is ordi- 
narily not seen — saying that it implies that at the time of 
meeting injury, or passing through changing circumstances, 
or encountering injustice and disgrace, he who ordinarily 
becomes angry does not lose his temper, and he who ordi- 
narily is distressed, afraid, and at a loss what to do, is not 
distressed, afraid, or bewildered. This implies that where 
he is able to acquire strength, he is also able to use it. 
Though the affairs of earth change indefinitely, he will 
make appropriate response to them within the realms of 
pleasure, anger, sorrow, and joy. This is the important 
thing in learning, and serving in official capacity is in- 
cluded. (12) When Ching-yen heard this he understood it 
plainly. Recently I received a letter from Kan-ch'iian. 
He has chosen a place called Lake Hsiang near Hsiaoshan, 
some tens of li east of the Yang-ming Grotto. His library 
is nearly completed. • When I heard this I was greatly 
delighted. To be able to meet with friends and together 
to make progress on the path of duty, is there anything 
more pleasing ? Is what I have experienced of glory or dis- 
grace, of attainment or loss, worth mentioning? 

Comments — The superior man attains within himself. 
In consequence he should always adjust himself to circum- 
stances and not forget thoughts of distress, diligence, cau- 
tion, and encouragement. In a position of distress and 
opposition, he will not lose sight of the necessity of intro- 
spection and of maintaining his ordinary self-control. Thus, 
whether under ordinary circumstances or amidst change, 
he is always the same and is not influenced by circum- 
stances. If he considers himself remarkable and strange 
because of disappointment, poverty, and lowliness, he has 
fallen into the habit of esteeming the world lightly and of 
being proud and arrogant. 



356 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 
Second Letter to Wang Shun-pu 

Written in the eighth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
8 elf -Righteousness Hinders Progress in Learning 

The words in which you have couched your inquiry are 
very humble, but among them are some that really give the 
impression that you feel certain that you are correct. Gen- 
erally speaking, it is true that the individual who considers 
himself correct does not have the desire to receive further 
instruction. At first I did not desire to answer your letter, 
for I feared that it would fail to penetrate your mind. As 
I had made a beginning in a former letter, I held that next 
spring, when I cross the river, you would learn fully; but 
having thought the matter over, I realize that the coming 
together and separation of friends cannot be definitely de- 
termined. You consider yourself correct because you are 
still blinded. You do not realize your error, but claiming 
to be correct seek me. Can I cease instructing you? For 
this reason I have fully prepared these words for you. 

Shun-pu Makes Inquiry about Understanding the Good 
and Attaining Sincerity 

Your letter says: "Study is surely for the purpose of 
understanding the good and attaining sincerity, but I do 
not know what is meant by the good, nor whence it comes, 
and where it is to be found at this time. I do not know 
what is the means of understanding it, nor how to make a 
start. Nor do I know whether in it, and in attaining sin- 
cerity, there is a regular, systematic order. In what is 
sincerity to be attained? (13) These details are minute 
and complicated. I earnestly desire to ask you to explain 
them, and for that reason manifest my doubts in this way. 
I commit myself to you, that you may help me." 



LETTERS 357 

Wang Calls Shun-pu's Attention to the Necessity of Exer- 
cising Self-control 

I have read and re-read it and find that it is at this point 
that you have attained strength, and that it is also at this 
point that you are defective. You ordinarily simply know 
the saying about cherishing the mind, but have not really 
added self-control to this. For this reason you are not able 
to bring together activity and tranquility, and whenever 
you meet affairs you always fall into confusion. Now that 
you are able to push your inquiries to this point, you cer- 
tainly are gradually realizing that you formerly fell into 
vanity. Because of this, I say that you have attained 
strength at this point. However, you have, without know- 
ing it, acquired the error of branching off and going to 
external things. The mind is master of the body; nature 
(disposition) is completely included in mind; and virtue is 
originally to be found in nature. 

The Concept "Good" is Not Subject to the Category of 

Space 

In Mencius' saying, "Nature is good," the word good 
refers to my nature. 10 Since it has no form which can be 
pointed out, and no place at which it can be located, can it 
be considered a thing which has come from somewhere! 
For this reason I say that you are also mistaken at this 
point. You have not thoroughly inquired into the true 
learning of the Confucianists, but are still accustomed to 
the comments of later generations. You hold that every 
affair and every thing has its highest virtue, that it is neces- 
sary to seek this in affairs and things, and that having ac- 
complished this, you will understand the good. Therefore 
you ask where it originally comes from and where it now is. 
Perhaps you fear lest I may have fallen into vanity, and 

10 Fide Mencius, Book III, Pt. I, Ch. 1, 1f 2 ; Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 
2. The expression "my nature" seems to refer to the higher rational 
nature of man. 



358 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

therefore use this to make my obscuration manifest. It is 
not that I do not know how to be grateful to you for this 
purpose, but as a matter of fact I have not fallen into 
vanity. The principles of things, righteousness in adapting 
one's self to them, and good in nature, are thus differently 
designated because of the things to which they refer, but 
in reality they are all manifestations of the mind. Outside 
of and apart from the mind, there are neither things, af- 
fairs, principles, righteousness, nor goodness. When the 
mind is engaged with affairs and things, and is at the same 
time characterized by unmixed principles and devoid of 
falseness, we have the good (virtue). There is no definite 
place nor way of seeking it in things and affairs. That 
righteousness consists in adapting one 's self to things, means 
that the mind has attained what is proper in some particu- 
lar affair. Righteousness cannot be externally seized and 
taken. (14) Investigation refers to investigating the good 
and extending it to the utmost. 

The Good Should Not Be Sought for in Things and Affairs 

To insist that the highest good (excellence) is to be 
sought in affairs and things implies leaving it and separa- 
ting it into two things. The saying of the philosopher 
Ch'eng I-ch'uan, "If you are clear with reference to that, 
you know this, ' ' appears to speak of it as two things. That 
and this are not to be distinguished in nature, nor in prin- 
ciples and excellence. 

Attaining Sincerity Means Understanding the Good 

You say, "I do not know what is the means of under- 
standing the good, nor how to make a start. Nor do I 
know whether in understanding the good and in attaining 
sincerity there is a regular systematic order. To what does 
attaining sincerity refer?" You think that understanding 
the good has a definite way of procedure all its own, and 
that attaining sincerity in person also has its own method. 



LETTERS 359 

According to my idea, the process of understanding the 
good is the same as that of attaining sincerity in person. 
Sincerity means being free from error and guile. To at- 
tain sincerity in person means striving to be free from 
error and guile. The task of attaining sincerity means 
understanding the good. Therefore, he who studies exten- 
sively studies this; he who makes careful inquiry, does so 
with reference to this; he who reflects carefully, reflects 
carefully regarding this ; he who clearly discriminates, does 
so with reference to this; and he who earnestly practices, 
practices this. These all, therefore, imply using one's energy 
in understanding the good and attaining sincerity. For this 
reason "there is a way to the attainment of sincerity in 
one's self." 11 To understand virtue is the way to attain 
sincerity in one's self. "If a man does not understand 
what is good he will not attain sincerity in himself. ' ' There 
is no other way of attaining sincerity than that of under- 
standing the good. When one sets out to attain sincerity in 
the person, the person is not sincere, and for that reason we 
have the saying, "understand the good." When goodness 
is thoroughly understood, the person is sincere. If one says 
that there is the task of understanding virtue and the fur- 
ther task of attaining sincerity in the person, a division is 
made between the two. Thus it is difficult to avoid mistakes, 
both small and great. In this letter I would tell you still 
more, but paper and pen do not suffice for me to enter into 
the minutia?. Should this be inadequate, it will do no harm 
for us to write to and fro. 

Comments — That understanding the good is truly at- 
taining sincerity in one's self is what the Great Learning 
means by saying that when the purpose is sincere knowl- 
edge is complete. 12 Sincerity and goodness arc not two 
different things. As man's nature is originally good, and 
goodness is the principle of genuineness and freedom from 

11 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 20, % 17. 

12 Vide Great Learning, Introduction, *j 5. 



360 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

error and guile, it is said to be sincere. When man eon- 
fuses it with error and deception, goodness is obscured and 
sincerity lost. How can sincerity of person be attained 
apart from understanding the good? (15) 

First Letter to Hsi-yiian 

Written in the seventh year of Emperor Cheng Te 

In a Decadent Age the Sage May Meet Problems in an In- 
direct Way 

Having encountered such conditions your plan to return 
home is good, but you are rather precipitate. 13 If you will 
leave two or three months later under the guise of illness, 
every trace will be destroyed. Since you will not have 
aroused the indignation of others, you will also not have 
lost your uprightness. When a sage or virtuous man is 
placed in a decadent age, his treatment of men and his re- 
sponse to things is at times indirect, but his method of 
procedure has never been other than correct. To make 
one's self superior, while one causes others to be small and 
inferior, is not the manifestation of the mind of the benevo- 
lent man who is true to the principles of his nature, prac- 
tices reciprocity, and has a sympathetic mind. You will 
surely consider my saying too inclusive, but the principles 
of the path are of this sort. I myself am receiving a liberal 
salary and bear the responsibility of position. That I 
should desire to throw this off and secretly leave is certainly 
difficult. In your position there is ample opportunity to 
advance or recede. Now that you have become thus in- 
volved, you will appreciate that the occasion when the 
ancients hung up the official cap and loosed the string of 
the seal was also not easily met. 14 

Comment — The benevolent and superior man surely re- 
sponds in this way. 



is Returning home here signifies leaving official position. 

i* To hang up the official cap is to retire from official position. 



LETTERS 361 

Second Letter to Hsi-yiian 

Written in the seventh year of Emperor Cheng Te 
The Practice of Virtue is a Personal Obligation 

Having received a letter from Ling of Soochow, I knew 
that you were there. At that time Shou-chung was at 
Shanyin. 15 Kecently Chang Shan-yin came from Shanyin 
and I know that you have returned to that place. More- 
over, Shou-chung has gone to Chinghua. Formerly you 
lived at home and Shou-chung was a guest at Ch'i. This 
is now re-occurring. Does the fact that you two friends 
are constantly separated perhaps contain elements of fate? 
To practice the highest virtue depends upon the individual 
himself and cannot be committed or transferred to some one 
else. Again, friends truly cannot afford to go without the 
advantage of mutual watchfulness and refinement for a 
single day. (16) In addition, the groups of Tzu-yung and 
Ming-te are separated from one another some tens of li and 
cannot see one another morning and evening. 16 Are you 
not perhaps also sighing because you are alone and cannot 
be with friends? Your former discussion of Pan Kuei is 
perfectly correct. Scholars who live in the mountain for- 
ests devoid of all desire to enter into life's opportunities 
are rare. They differ greatly from those who run about 
in confusion wherever honor and gain can be attained. The 
characters of men are not uniform. Sages and virtuous 
men perfect others according to the ability which these pos- 
sess. Regarding the methods of teaching Confucianism, 
men have different opinions. It was not until recent times 
that scholars began to discuss the matter of uniformity. 
However, few of them perfected their virtue and enlarged 
their capacities. Why was this ? You should reflect about 
this, and determine how the situation is. 

Comments — Later scholars really discuss superficially 

is Shou-chung was Wang Yang-ming's brother. 
i« Cf. Biography, footnote 11, p. 1_. 



362 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

when they speak of uniformity in the instruction of others. 
The farther they proceed, the farther away they get ; to the 
last they do not arrive at reality. Sages and virtuous men 
speak of uniformity only \?ith reference to the source, and 
thus perfect others in accordance with the ability which 
these possess. All can enter the path of duty. This is in 
accordance with the saying that all reach the same place 
(the path) by different roads. The methods of later schol- 
ars appear to be uniform, but in reality are not ; while the 
methods of the sages seem to differ but are really uniform. 
The difference between the learning of the sages and that 
of the present day is subtle. 

Letter in Reply to an Inquiry Regarding Immortals 
(Genii) 

"Written in the third year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Wang Discusses Immortality 

You ask whether there are immortals or not, and also 
inquire for further information. Thrice you have written 
and I have not replied, not because I did not wish to an- 
swer, but because I had nothing to say. Yesterday your 
younger brother arrived and hoped surely to get an answer. 
"When I was eight years old, I loved to hear about this. 
Now I am more than thirty years old, my teeth are grad- 
ually loosening in their sockets, a few of my hair have 
become white, my eyes are becoming dimmed, and my ears 
are dull. Also. I frequently am stricken to my couch with 
disease for a month, and my ability to take medicine rap- 
idly increases. Such is the outcome. But my intimate 
friends erroneously say that I am able to understand im- 
mortality, and you, having erroneously heard this, use it to 
make inquiries of me. There is no way out for me : I must 
reply. (17) Under the circumstances, I discuss it in an 
incoherent manner. 



LETTERS 363 

Immortality is Not an Accomplishment of Man's Effort 

In ancient times there were some most excellent men, 
who, characterized by pure genuine virtue, made the per- 
fect path a fact. They harmoniously blended the Yin and 
the Yang and adjusted themselves to the four seasons ; they 
left the world and its customs; they stored up and per- 
fected their mental and physical energies; they wandered 
about everywhere and experienced things beyond the realm 
of ordinary experience. Referring to Kuang Ch'eng-tzu, 
who did not lose his vigor though he reached an age of one 
thousand five hundred years, and Li Po-yang, who lived 
through the Shang and Chou Dynasties and, going west, 
went through the Hanku pass in Honan, it is a fact that 
these things have actually transpired. 17 If true, and I 
should say that they are not, you would fear that I was 
deceiving you. But in their expiration and inspiration 
(breathing), in their activity and their rest, they considered 
the doctrine of immortality as fundamental. That their 
mental energies and their lives were preserved perfectly for 
a long period was a natural endowment from the time be- 
fore they breathed. Immortality is perhaps an accomplish- 
ment of Heaven and not the result of any strenuous effort 
on man's part. 

The Taoists Employ Secret Devices 

Later generations say that Taoists pick up their houses 
and go up to heaven, that they transform things and have 
the ability magically to present and take things ; but these 
delusive, eccentric, marvelous things are but secret devices 
and deceitful ingenuity. They are what Yin Wen-tzu calls 
magic, and the Buddhists designate as heterodoxy. If I 
say that these things actually occur, you will also fear that 
I am deceiving you. Whether there are or are not such 

it Li Po-yang — or, as he is better known, Lao-tzu — the founder 
of Taoism, is said to have written the Tao-Teh-King there and never 
to have returned. 



364 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

immortals, words cannot tell. After long reflection it will 
be understood. If you will cultivate it profoundly, you 
will attain it. If you have not reached this point, and I 
forcibly reveal it to you, you will not attain it, though you 
believe. 

The Immortality of the Confuaianists 

We scholars also have the doctrine of immortality. The 
philosopher Yen died at the age of thirty-two, but up to 
the present he has not perished. Are you able to believe 
this? The later group which imitated Shang Yang-tzu 
and others, consisted of exceptionally skillful, cunning 
Taoist priests who did not act in accordance with the doc- 
trine. The followers of Ta Mo and Hui Neng nearly 
reached immortality, though this is not an easy matter to 
discuss. If you wish to hear about immortality, you must 
live in the mountain forest for thirty years. When you 
have perfected ears and eyes and unified mind and purpose, 
when your mind is clear, clean, and free from all vice, you 
will be in a position to speak about this. At present you 
are still far from the path of immortality. I have spoken 
incoherently. Do not be offended. 

Comments — It is not possible to discuss the doctrine of 
immortality with anyone whose worldly mind is not clean. 
He must go into seclusion for thirty years. The Teacher 
has pointed out these things in detail. The great path is 
not far distant. The shore is just back of the man of 
strength and courage. For this reason, Confucius spoke to 
Yen Yuan about subduing himself in a single day; for 
after having done so for a single day, he would have sub- 
dued himself. Why use thirty years? (18) These words of 
the Teacher constitute an admonition for those who have 
sunken deeply into a desire for advantage and official 
salary. 



LETTERS 365 

Letter to Huang Ch'eng-fu 

Written in the eighth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

A Man's Determination is an Index of His Character and 
His Actions 

I have recently discussed the fixing of the determination, 
to the point where it becomes annoying. But in writing to 
you, my intimate friend, I cannot put it aside. When the 
determination is fixed upon truth and virtue, no literary 
degree is sufficient to embarrass the mind ; when it is fixed 
upon acquiring literary degrees, wealth and honor are in- 
sufficient to perplex the mind. But at the present time 
truth and virtue are identified with literary degrees, and 
literary degrees are identified with wealth and honor. The 
man of the highest virtue confines himself to what is right 
and proper, and does not plan for his own advantage ; he 
exhibits the truth of the doctrine, and does not devise 
schemes for acquiring fame and merit. He who has a mind 
devoted to plotting and scheming, acts for the sake of fame 
and gain, though he confines himself to What is right and in 
addition exemplifies the truth of the doctrine. We now live 
separated and Yiieh-jen is also about to depart for a distant 
place ; but when we meet we should, while mutually urging 
one another to reform, manifest a determination fixed upon 
virtue. Thus perhaps it will not be relaxed. Your feet, 
Ch'eng-fu, should traverse a thousand li in a day, for the 
burden is heavy and the distance great. To whom shall I 
look, if not to you ? The words spoken at the time of part- 
ing, while we are gloomy, cannot be forgotten, but are pro- 
foundly cherished. 

Comments — ■ I hold that wealth and honor are not the 
things that embarrass men, but that men allow themselves 
to be embarrassed by them. If the determination is fixed 
upon truth and virtue, wealth and rank afford an oppor- 
tunity for practicing virtue and becoming established in it. 
From most ancient times on. it has not been heard that 



366 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

virtue was granted to Ch'ao and Yu and disputed in the 
instance of I and Lu. Even though a person is willing to 
be poverty-stricken all his life, if the determination is not 
fixed on truth and virtue, he is but a miserable creature. 
The student should earnestly devote himself to distinguish- 
ing the nature of his purpose. 

Letter Addressed to Li Tao-fu 

Written in the tenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Praises Li Tao-fu Because of His Loyalty to True 

Learning 

A long time has passed since the learning of the sages 
was discussed. I consider that my own point of view ex- 
hibits this learning exceedingly well, but those that hear 
me constantly slander me as being heterodox. You alone 
have full confidence in me. (19) You do not entertain 
any doubt, and this is a source of joy and comfort to me. 
How like hearing a footstep in a deserted valley ! After 
our separation I heard scholars and officials speak of this. 
And when Ts'ii Yiieh-jen returned from Kiangsi, I heard 
more fully of your courage and fearlessness in executing 
virtue, and of the firmness with which you grasp it. It is 
enough to cause one to leap nimbly for joy. "The scholar 
must have breadth of mind and vigorous endurance. His 
burden is heavy and his course is long. ' ' 18 Two or three 
men of your breadth of mind and vigorous endurance 
would be sufficient to serve as an example and guide for all 
men. Though they be many in number, what do those 
amount to who trust to following others and being humbled 
before them ? How very fortunate ! How very fortunate ! 
Not long ago I heard that when you reached your position 
as prefect, you desired to use this learning immediately as 
instruction. To the mind of the man of the highest virtue 
this is natural. I rejoice because of you, and on the other 
hand I am also distressed. 



is Analects, Book VIII, Ch. 7, H 1. 



LETTERS 367 

Wang Compares His Generation to a Man in the Midst of 
Great Sea Waves 

Learning is interrupted and the truth is forgotten. The 
overwhelmed, sunken condition of the manners and cus- 
toms of our times may be compared to a man in the midst 
of great sea waves. He must first be assisted to the shore 
before clothes and food can be given to him. If clothes 
and food are thrown to him while he is struggling with the 
waves, they will merely add weight and increase his danger. 
He will not consider this as treating him according to 
virtue, but as a token of your disliking him or having a 
grudge against him. Whosoever lives in this generation 
must influence and lead others according to the opportuni- 
ties presented. Utilizing some definite affair he may exhibit 
the necessity for reform. Magnanimously and pleasantly, 
he may gradually but thoroughly influence others. When 
they have been influenced, he may unfold the true learning. 
In this way strength will be readily applied and returns 
will be large. If this plan is not pursued, he will not only 
be unable to overcome the difficulties, but will complicate 
the responsibilities of the superior man's love for others. 
I do not know what your idea is. I have sent in a second 
memorial regarding my illness, but have not yet received a 
reply. If things turn out as I wish, we may some day con- 
verse together when the ship passes Chiaho. 

Comments — If the superior man in instructing the 
people is hasty and impatient in his desire to see the work 
accomplished, we have an instance of embarrassment from 
a desire for speed. This must be criticised. (20) 

Letter to His Younger Brothers 19 

Written in the thirteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Not Absence of Transgression but Reform is Essential to 
Character and Sageness 
I have frequently received letters from you. and ail mani- 
19 The term "younger brother" is here used in a general sense. 



368 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

fest reform, awakening, and enthusiasm. These things 
are a source of infinite joy and comfort to me ; but I do not 
know whether they are really the result of a sincere mind, 
or are simply replies for the time being. The clearness of 
the original mind is as that of the sun in the daytime. 
There is no one who has made mistakes or transgressed 
that does not know it, but the unfortunate thing is that he 
is not able to reform. Once determine to reform, and forth- 
with the original nature of the mind is reinstated. 

Who among men is without transgressions? Reform is 
the dignified, honorable thing. Chu Po-yii, a man of 
staunch virtue, said that he wished to make his faults few 
but was not able to do so. 20 Ch'eng T'ang and Confucius, 
two great sages, alone said that he who is not sparing in 
his reform is able to get along without any great trans- 
gressions. Everybody says, "How can anybody but Yao 
and Shun be without transgression ? ' ' This is also handed 
down through long familiarity and is not adequate for use 
in understanding the mind of Yao and Shun. If such a 
mind as that of Yao and Shun considers itself as having no 
transgression, it thereby loses its sageness. At the time 
that they (Yao and Shun) exchanged advices Yao said, 
' ' The mind of man is restless and prone to err ; its affinity 
for the right way is small. Be discriminating, be undi- 
vided, that you may sincerely hold fast the Mean. " " l As 
they themselves held that the mind of man is restless, their 
mind is like that of men generally. This unsteadiness and 
restlessness implies transgression. Only because they were 
fearful and cautious, and continually added discrimination 
and undividedness, were they able to hold fast the mean 
and avoid transgression. 

The sages and virtuous men of the past continually real- 
ized their own transgressions and corrected them. Because 
of this they were able to avoid transgression, and not be- 

20 Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 26, H 2. 
2i Shooking, Books of Yii, Pt. 2, If 15. 



LETTEES 369 

cause their mind was really different from that of others. 
He who is cautious with reference to that which he does not 
see, and apprehensive with reference to that which he does 
not hear, constantly sees the results of his transgressions. 

The Effect of Habit upon Action and Character 

Recently I have really apprehended that this learning 
has application to daily life, but I am chronically affected 
by the blemishes of habit. Though I subdue myself, I still 
lack the requisite energy. For this reason I earnestly tell 
you this in advance, lest you also be profoundly influenced 
by evil habit and thereafter find it difficult to subdue and 
control yourselves. In youth the physical and mental en- 
ergy has been sufficiently aroused and exerted, and the 
perplexities and embarrassment of the body and home life 
have not borne down on the mind. Therefore, it is very 
easy to use one's strength at that time. This continues 
until one gradually grows up and the perplexities and em- 
barrassments of the world daily increase, and physical and 
mental energies gradually decrease. However, if the indi- 
vidual is able to keep his determination unremittingly upon 
learning, he still has the wherewithal to act. (21) When 
he reaches forty or fifty, his condition is as that of the set- 
ting sun, which, gradually becoming smaller, finally disap- 
pears and cannot be recalled. It was for this reason that 
Confucius said, "If he reach the age of forty or fifty and 
has not made himself heard of, then indeed he will not be 
worth being regarded with respect," and on another oc- 
casion said, "When he is old, and the animal powers are 
decayed, he guards against covetousness. ' ' 22 Recently I 
have comprehended this defect, and therefore earnestly tell 
you in advance. You should at the appropriate time use 
your energies, lest after the time has passed you repent in 
vain. 

Comments — The individual who realizes his own trans- 



22 Analects, Book IX, Ch. 22, U 1; Book XVI, Ch. 7. 



370 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

gressions must really be able to control himself, for then he 
begins to become conscious of them. Of those who super- 
ficially and vainly discuss nature and fate, and proclaim 
sacrificial things and principles, there is not one but con- 
siders himself correct. Therefore Confucius said, "I have 
not seen one who could perceive his faults, and inwardly 
accuse himself. ' ' 23 Such a one is hard to find. As an ex- 
planation of genuine application to subduing and controll- 
ing one's self, nothing surpasses this letter. 

Answer to an Official Named Lo Cheng-an 

Written in the fifteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

I beg respectfully to make the following statement : Yes- 
terday I received your letter regarding the Great Learning, 
but as I was hurried because of dispatching the ship, I was 
not able to respond. This morning, as the ship proceeds, I 
have a little leisure and so have taken your letter and re- 
read it. Fearing that after I reach Kanchou affairs will 
again be endless, I have prepared a sketch, which you will 
please read. 

Wang Expresses Delight in Having the Opportunity, to 
Discuss True Learning 

Your letter says: "To see the truth is surely difficult; 
fully to appreciate it is still more difficult. Truly it is not 
easy to apprehend, but the learning thereof cannot but be 
discussed. I fear that I cannot rest merely in what I see 
and thereupon consider myself as having realized the ut- 
most. ' ' 

This is well expressed. How is it that I should hear 
this? How can I venture to consider myself as having real- 
ized the utmost and as resting therein ? I really think that I 
should improve this time, when the Empire is in possession 
of the truth, plainly to discuss it. For a number of years 
those who have heard my discussion of the truth have ridi- 

zs Op. cit., Book V, Ch. 26. 



LETTERS 371 

culed it, or taunted and slandered it, or put it aside as in- 
adequate to test and discuss. Under such circumstances, 
who would be willing to instruct me ? If anyone had been 
willing to instruct me, would he not again and again have 
proclaimed it to me sympathetically, only fearing lest he be 
unable to rescue the truth? (22) However, among those 
who hold me in high esteem, there surely is none that does 
so as profoundly as you. How grateful I should be ! 

The Doctrine of the Sages Can Be Apprehended Only After 
It Has Been Investigated 

The matters of leaving virtue without proper cultivation, 
and of not thoroughly discussing what is learned, occasioned 
solicitude in the mind of Confucius, but the students of the 
present generation consider themselves as understanding 
learning, as soon as they are able to give some instruction 
regarding the commentaries. 24 They do not again manifest 
what is called a striving for the exposition of learning. 
How pitiable ! This doctrine of the sages must first be in- 
vestigated and after that it will be apprehended : it is not a 
case of first apprehending and after that adding investiga- 
tion. The truth must first be learned and after that it will 
be understood : it is not a case of investigating learning 
externally, and then having an understanding of the truth 
of the sage. There are two types among those who investi- 
gate learning. Some use personality and mind; others 
merely mouth and ears. The latter, thinking to fathom it, 
seek only shadow and echo, while those who use their person 
and mind act with understanding, and do so habitually in 
investigation. They really have possession of themselves at 
every point. He who knows this understands the learning 
of the Confucianists. 



24 Vide ibid., Book VII, Ch. 3. 



372 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Wang Justifies His Use of the Old Edition of the Great 

Learning 

Your letter says that the Great Learning which I use is 
a revival of the old (original) copy; that in matters of 
learning which others are trying to acquire, I hold that 
learning must be sought within, while according to the ex- 
positions of the investigation of things given by the philoso- 
phers Ch 'eng and Chu, it is not possible to avoid seeking it 
in external things. It is not because I am voluntarily 
venturesome that I reject the division into chapters and 
undertake the excision of the commentaries which he has 
added. Is learning subject to the category of space ? The 
original Great Learning is the old edition which Confucian- 
ists have transmitted. The philosopher Chu feared that 
parts had been lost and that errors had crept in, and thus 
corrected it and added to it. According to my view, the old 
edition had not been lost even in part, nor had errors crept 
in. He who would thoroughly comprehend it, must follow 
the old edition. My mistake lies in believing Confucius too 
much. It is not without reason that I reject the philoso- 
pher Chu 's division into chapters and undertake an excision 
of his commentaries. It is good that learning is acquired in 
the mind. If it is sought in the mind and there is some- 
thing wrong, though the words are those of Confucius, the 
mind will not accept it as correct. How much more is this 
true in the instance of anyone who is not equal to Con- 
fucius ! If the learning is sought in the mind and the thing 
is right, then, though it be in the words of an ordinary man, 
the mind will not venture to consider it wrong. How much 
more is this true, if the words are those of Confucius ! 

Moreover, the old edition of the Great Learning has been 
transmitted for a number of thousands of years. Those 
who study its literary composition in this day and genera- 
tion already understand it thoroughly. (23) The task 
involved in understanding it is simple and easily com- 
prehensible. In accordance with what evidence does Chu 



LETTERS 373 

undertake to determine that this section belongs in the place 
of that section and that in the place of this ? How does he 
determine that this is incomplete and that incorrect? On 
what authority does he correct it and add to it? Is it not 
unavoidable that I should transgress heavily against Chu 
and at the same time lightly against Confucius? 

Introspective Investigation is More Important than External 

Investigation of Things, for Nature, as Svch, is Not 

Subject to the Category of Space 

Your letter says : "If it really is necessary in the inter- 
est of learning not to trust to external investigation but to 
depend upon careful internal investigation, why are 
rectifying the mind and making the purpose sincere not 
exhaustive ? Why is it necessary, when entering the door, 
laboriously to use the investigation of things ? ' ' 

Certainly ! Certainly ! If you speak of underlying princi- 
ples, then the matter of cultivating the person is also suffi- 
cient. Why speak in addition of rectifying the mind ? To rec- 
tify the mind is also adequate. Why speak in addition of 
making the purpose sincere ? To make the purpose sincere 
also is sufficient. Why speak in addition of extending knowl- 
edge to the utmost and of investigating things? It is only 
for the sake of details and profundity ; the underlying prin- 
ciple is one and the same. For this reason I consider this 
as the learning which implies discrimination and undi- 
videdness. Eeally you cannot but deliberate upon this. 
Principles are not subject to the category of space ; nature 
has no internal and external; and therefore learning also 
has no within and without. Explaining, practicing, inves- 
tigating, and discussing do not imply the denial of the in- 
ternal; introspection and internal investigation are not 
relegated to the external. To say that in the interest of 
learning it is necessary to rely on the external investigation, 
implies that one's nature has external aspects, and that 
righteousness, too, is external. Such an exposition shows 



374 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

small wisdom. To say that introspection and internal in- 
vestigation imply seeking learning internally, implies that 
the individual considers his nature as having an internal. 
This is selfishness. All of this indicates a lack of knowl- 
edge of the fact that nature is devoid of internal an/d 
external. 

Therefore, I say that the essence of learning enters the 
soul in order that it may be fully developed in practice, and 
that well utilized, it gives tranquility to the person in the 
esteem and practice of virtue. These are virtues belonging 
to nature, and constitute a method of uniting the external 
and the internal. Thus one may understand what is meant 
by the ' ' investigation of things, ' ' which constitutes the real 
starting-point of understanding the Great Learning and 
runs through the whole process from beginning to end. 
From this point on, until the individual must learn to be- 
come a sage, there is but this one way. Ii is not only pres- 
ent at the beginning. The rectifying of the mind, the 
making sincere of the thoughts, the developing of knowl- 
edge to the utmost, and the investigating of things, all im- 
ply cultivating the person. (24) 

He who engages in the investigation of things can there 
see where he must apply his strength. He who investigates 
things carries on this investigation with reference to the 
things of his mind, purpose, and knowledge; he who recti- 
fies his mind rectifies the mind manifested in his things ; he 
who makes his purpose sincere does so with reference to the 
purpose of his things; and he who develops his knowledge 
to the utmost does so with reference to the knowledge of 
his things. Are there, then, such distinctions as internal 
and external, as this and that? The underlying principle 
is one only. Referring to the accumulating of the prin- 
ciples in the individual, it is called nature ; referring to the 
controlling factor in this accumulating of principles, it is 
called mind ; referring to the manifested activity of the 
controlling power, it is called purpose ; referring to the in- 



LETTERS 375 

telligence and clear realization of the manifested activity, 
it is called knowledge; referring to the stimulation and 
response to this knowledge, it is called things. Thus, as 
pertaining to things, it is called investigation ; as pertaining 
to knowledge, one speaks of developing it to the utmost; as 
pertaining to purpose, of making it sincere; as pertaining 
to mind, of rectifying. He who rectifies, does so with ref- 
erence to this ; he who is engaged in making it sincere, does 
so with reference to this; and in the highest development 
and investigation he does the same. They include all that 
is involved in thoroughly investigating principles for the 
sake of completely developing one's nature. Under heaven 
there are no principles or things to be found outside of or 
apart from nature. 

Learning is not revealed, for the reason that worldly 
scholars understand principles to be external and do not 
understand the saying regarding external righteousness. 25 
Mencius has therefore already criticised this. But the in- 
dividual thus unconsciously reaches a condition where he 
falls into incidental deeds of righteousness. Is not this a 
condition in which he appears to be right, and yet has diffi- 
culty in understanding? You surely must examine this. 
In whatever respect you have begun to doubt regarding the 
investigation of things, you will say that it defends the in- 
ternal and denies the external, that it pertains to intro- 
spection and internal investigation and sets aside explana- 
tion, practice, search, and discussion ; you will say that it 
consists in having the purpose fixed upon the limits of 
underlying principles and the original source, but neglects 
the minutiae of the branches and versus ; you will say that 
it sinks the individual into the error of a lifeless contem- 
plation, but does not completely exhaust the changes in the 
principles of things and the affairs of men. In investiga- 
tion such as this, has not the individual sinned against the 
philosopher Chu as well as against the sages? (25) Any- 

25 Vide Mencius, Book II, Pt. I. Oh. 2, H 15. 



376 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

one who embraces this heterodoxy which deceives the peo- 
ple, transgresses the doctrine, and confuses the truth, should 
eradicate it. How much more should this be true of a man 
of your integrity! Whoever partly understands the com- 
mentaries of the classics and hears the connected discourses 
of former wise men, knows that such investigation is in- 
correct. How much more is this true of a man of your 
intelligence ! 

Moreover, what I mean by investigation of things is all 
included in the nine sections of the philosopher Chu. But 
in carrying these out there is an indispensable element: in 
the practical application we are not alike. Truly this is 
what is called a very small difference, but out of it there 
arises a tremendous mistake. I cannot but criticise it. 

The Mistakes of the Philaophers Yang and Mo 

Mencius showed that the philosophers Yang and Mo 
reached a state where they did not recognize father or 
prince. The two philosophers were virtuous men of their 
times. Inasmuch as they were contemporary with Mencius, 
they surely would be considered virtuous. Mo's principle of 
loving all equally is a case of excess in the practice of be- 
nevolence; and Yang's principle, "Each one for himself," 
is a case of excess in the practice of righteousness. Do not 
these sayings destroy principles and confuse long-estab- 
lished usage ? Are they not sufficient to deceive the Empire ? 
Moreover, with reference to their defects Mencius fully com- 
pares them with beasts and barbarians. This is what is 
called the destruction of later generations of the Empire 
by means of learning. 

Does not the defect of present-day learning mean that 
benevolence and righteousness are learned to excess, or that, 
on the other hand, there is an excess of learning which 
lacks benevolence and righteousness? I do not know what 
it would accomplish in case a great inundation or ferocious 
animals threatened. Mencius said: "Am I fond of dis- 



LETTERS 377 

puting ? I am compelled to do it. ' ' 26 The doctrines of Mo 
and Yang pervaded the Empire; and those who, in Men- 
cius' time, honored and believed Yang and Mo should be 
compared with those who now reverence the sayings of the 
philosopher Chu. And Mencius alone protested in their 
midst. Alas, how pitiable! Han said that the injurious 
effects of Buddhism and Taoism surpass those of Yang and 
Mo. The virtue of Han Yii was not equal to that of Men- 
cius. Mencius was not able to rescue his age before it had 
been injured, but Han Yii desired to restore his age after 
it had been injured. He did not estimate his own strength, 
and in consequence found his own person in danger with- 
out the opportunity of rescuing himself from death. (26) 
Alas! if I fail to estimate my strength, I also will ex- 
perience danger in person and be unable to save myself 
from death. In the midst of merriment, I alone weep and 
lament. If the entire world contentedly hastened after 
these erroneous doctrines, I alone with aching head and 
knit brow would be distressed thereby. If this is not due 
to the fact that I am insane and have lost my mind, it must 
be due to a genuinely great grief hidden away in my mind. 
If the most virtuous man in the Empire can not thoroughly 
investigate this, who can? 

The Philosopher Chu's Discussions of Later Life Agree in 
All Essentials with Wang's Standpoint 

I maintain my contention regarding the philosopher 
Chu's Discussions of Later Life, because I can not do other- 
wise. As to which of these was announced earlier or later 
in his life, I really have not carried on an investigation. 
Though not everything contained therein comes from his 
later years, surely most of it does. The underlying idea 
consists in considering an understanding of time learning 
as important, and in adjusting and harmonizing the tor- 
tuous sayings. Ordinarily, I have considered the sayings 

26 Mencius, Book III, Pt. II, Ch. 9, If 1. See also f 9. 



378 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

of the philosopher Chu as clarifying and exhibiting the 
obscure and mysterious. If I transgress the truth and seek 
in external things with him for a single day, my mind is 
unable to endure it. Thus I cannot change in this. 
Those who know me say that my mind is solicitous, and 
those who do not know me ask what I am really seeking. 
That I cannot bear to strive against Chu, is due to the 
original nature of my mind ; that I cannot but strive against 
him, is due to the fact that in behalf of truth I surely must 
do it, for if I am not frank truth will not be manifested. 
Can I venture to deceive my own mind with reference to 
that in which you insist that I am different from the phil- 
osopher Chu ? This truth and this learning are for every- 
body in the Empire. They are not the property of the 
philosopher Chu only, nor even of Confucius only. They 
are open to all under heaven, and should be openly and 
generally discussed. Therefore, when what is said is cor- 
rect, it is of advantage to me, though it differs from my 
point of view; and when what is said is wrong, it injures 
me, though it be in accordance with my own views. What 
is of advantage to the self, the self rejoices in ; and what 
injures the personality, the self will despise and reject. 

The Philosopher Chu Would Be Glad to Correct His Faults 

Thus, though what I say today differs from Chu's point 
of view, he surely would rejoice in it, "The faults of the 
superior man are like the eclipses of the sun and moon. 
When he changes them, all men look up to him. ' ' 27 But 
' ' the mean man is sure to gloss his faults. ' ' 28 Though I 
am not equal to the superior man, I cannot venture to treat 
Chu as a mean man would. (27) 

Lo Cheng-an Fails to Understand Wang Fully 
That you instruct me back and forth with several hun- 



27 Analects, Book XIX, Ch. 21. 

28 Ibid., Book XIX, Ch. 8. 



LETTERS 379 

dred propositions, is due to the fact that you do not com- 
prehend my dicta regarding the investigation of things. If 
my dicta are once understood, these several hundred 
propositions need not first be refuted until they present no 
hindrance. Therefore I do not venture to enter into a de- 
tailed discussion, lest I annoy you with a multitude of 
trifles. However, unless my dicta are elucidated face to 
face, the writing of letters cannot suffice. Insofar as you 
have instructed and informed me, I can say that you have 
been in earnest, even to details. Can there be anyone else 
who holds me in such high esteem as you do ? Though I am 
very simpleminded, can I fail to appreciate the things for 
which I am profoundly thankful to you and respect you? 
But I cannot disregard the sincerity of my own mind. 
Meanwhile I hear and receive what you say, because I can- 
not disregard your high esteem for me. I wish to requite 
it. When the autumn is past and winter comes, we will 
seek to meet in conference, that we may finish the discus- 
sion of the things regarding which you make inquiry. I 
sincerely hope that this may transpire. 

Comments — This letter discusses the philosopher Chu. 
That in evidence he mentions the philosophers Yang and 
Mo, as well as Buddhism and Taoism, makes it inevitable 
that his words should be over-zealous. The philosopher 
Chu naturally has points in his discussion where he is 
strong, and surely should not be forced to be just like 
others. The dispositions of men are not uniform. Even in 
the disciples of Confucius — Yen, Tseng, Yu, Hsia, Jan, 
and Min — the points of strength varied with the men, but 
the direction of their progress was correct. One must 
remember that the Teacher earnestly discussed this, not 
stopping with these arguments, not because he accused Chu 
of shortcomings, but because later scholars dote on the com- 
mentaries and make a pretext of considering Chu a cri- 
terion. Therefore the Teacher used the decisions of Chu's 
later life as a standard for understanding his real attitude, 



380 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

and as making good the defects of his learning. No doubt 
the philosopher Chu would thus become installed in the 
side gallery of the Confucian temple. Scholars should not 
forget this. 

Letter Written to Yang Shih-ming 

Written in the sixteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Asks to be Excused for Not Undertaking to Write an 
Inscription for a Tombstone 

Your messenger has come, and I know that your elder 
brother was buried last winter and that the grass is grow- 
ing on the grave. As I did not have the opportunity to 
weep, I am exceedingly grieved. Referring to the inscrip- 
tion which you request me to make for the tombstone, I am 
not well and am, in addition, very much occupied, and 
would suggest that you select one of your most intimate 
friends for this purpose, for then it can be properly done. 
(28) 

The Intuitive Faculty as a Guide in Learning 

With reference to the individual 's daily effort at examin- 
ing and investigating learning, your letter says that each 
one should follow his own intuitive faculty, clear away all 
hindrances, and extend his original nature in order that he 
may exhaust it. Moreover, he should not allow his deter- 
mination to be moved and follow customary procedure 
merely in order to follow the fashion of the times. You 
have expressed this very well. If really carried out, 
it is an instance of extending knowledge to the utmost 
through the investigation of things, of understanding vir- 
tue, and of making the person sincere. If actually carried 
into practice, what can prevent virtue from being daily 
renewed and those that occupy themselves in studying this 
learning from increasing the stock of knowledge? 



LETTERS 381 

The True Methods of Confucianism, Involve the Extension 
of Knowledge to the Utmost 

What you say about daily arranging and examining 
learning without being able to do so completely, implies 
that the task of extending knowledge to the utmost is in- 
terrupted. The highest virtue also depends upon being 
familiar with it. You also say that for this reason it is 
necessary to examine critically the meaning of the words 
of former scholars in order to detect similarities and dif- 
ferences; and that, if thereby the task is shown to lack 
unity, doubt and embarrassment are continually begotten. 
Why should this be? The "extension of knowledge to the 
utmost, ' ' which I discuss, conveys the true methods of Con- 
fucianism. If you see this truly and correctly, you are in 
the condition which the Doctrine of the Mean describes in 
the words : ' ' The doctrines of th~ superior man are rooted 
in his own person, and sufficient attestation of them is given 
by the masses of the people. He sets them up before heaven 
and earth, and finds nothing in them in which he trans- 
gresses. He presents himself with them before spiritual 
beings, and no doubt about them arises. He examines them 
by comparison with those of the three Kings, and finds 
them without mistakes. He is prepared to wait for the rise 
of a sage a hundred ages after, and has no misgivings. ' ' 29 
Only he who understands this, understands the truths of the 
sages ; only he who attains this in his own person, is in pos- 
session of virtue. Learning that is different from this is 
heterodox, and sayings that depart from this are heretical. 
Practices that confuse and becloud this are dismal and ob- 
scure. Though a thousand demons and ten thousand mon- 
sters confuse and blind and delude, it is only necessary to 
run against them in order to dispel them, and to meet them 
in order to dissipate them. When the sun comes out, 
spirits, demons, and sprites of mountains and streams have 
no way of hiding themselves. Why, then, have any further 

2» Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 29, U 3. 



382 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

doubts or embarrassment ? What differences or agreements 
are adequate to cause confusion? This is what I mean by- 
saying that this learning is established in space (is per- 
fectly free) and that it nowhere needs supports. None of 
life's affairs are allowed to vitiate it. In every particular 
the individual should have confidence in its original form, 
and not permit anything to be added or subtracted. If he 
places his own arrangements and ideas into it, its unity is 
destroyed. 

The fact that you say there are at times passages that are 
not perspicuous, shows your ability to perceive these and 
understand them in part. This is sufficient cause for re- 
joicing. But you must of necessity apply yourself earn- 
estly, for then your efforts will be of use. (29) If you 
merely talk, you will not be able to avoid judging and esti- 
mating according to appearances. Thereupon you will be- 
long to the class of those who merely use their bodily vigor. 
Though this is somewhat different from the malady which 
those have, who in this age investigate things, it is never- 
theless the same defect. The scholar does not cast aside 
constant study of and practice in the writing of odes and 
essays. This is in accordance with Confucius' saying that 
"the virtuous man will be sure to speak." 30 If he adds his 
own purposes, schemes, and plans, he is certain to act from 
a mind that strives to excel. Former generations of schol- 
ars are said to have had desires. That their doctrines 
are of this kind is due to the fact that they did not over- 
come their habits. Since you understand what is meant 
by completing knowledge, such a condition should be obvi- 
ated by a simple personal examination. It will not do to 
hide it. 

Comments — Judging and estimating according to ap- 
pearances is a general defect among students. Earnestly 
and sincerely to apply one's self is of first importance. 



so Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 5. 



LETTERS 383 

Reply to Fang Shu-hsien 

Written in the fourteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Earnestness in the Development of Self is of the First Im- 
portance 

I have recently received your letter, as well as your letter 
to and reply from Kan-ch'uan. Immediately upon having 
read them, I was delighted, as is a man suffering from ex- 
cessive heat, when a cool wind strikes him. How superior 
and penetrating your apprehension is! Truly it is like 
traveling a thousand li in a day. That the original edition 
of the Great Learning should thus return to popularity is a 
task of no small dimensions. I rejoice exceedingly in this. 
In his discussion of Hsiang-shan, Kan-ch'uan mentions 
what Mencius says about losing the benevolent mind; but 
he considers it inadequate, and says that sages arise in all 
quarters, that mind and principles are alike, and that every- 
thing in the universe comes within the scope of the individ- 
ual's duty. 31 What he says has emphasized the important 
points. But I hold in esteem the intimacy and earnestness 
of Hsi Ch'iao, for if a man's view emphasizes the great 
essentials, his efforts must be intimate and earnest. Unless 
one really is intimate and earnest in the performance of 
one's task, the view, which is said to attain to essentials, is 
empty and vain. Ever since Mencius said that nature is 
good, ordinary scholars have been able to talk back and 
forth, but their learning, after all, branches off into ex- 
ternal striving without their being conscious thereof. (30) 
This is due to a lack of earnestness in the performance of 
the task. Thus I take delight in what Hsi Ch 'iao says about 
truly applying one 's self with extreme earnestness, for this 
is surely a remedy for present-day defects. The learning of 
the ancients teaches real earnestness in the development of 
self, and not vain devotion to exposition and discussion. 

By sending letters back and forth, one is after all not able 

31 Vide Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 11. 



384 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

to discuss matters as exhaustively as face to face. More- 
over, letters are apt to cause the individual to sink his feel- 
ings into what is written, to overemphasize mere formal- 
ities, and to cultivate a mind which strives to excel. In 
writing the letter he seeks to have his exposition free from 
defects, and thus does not realize the many defects of his 
mind. This is a common mistake of this age. Even the 
virtuous and wise do not avoid it. You should carefully 
look into this. As Yang Shih-te is leaving, I reply without 
special effort. 

Comments — The Doctrine of the Mean discusses the 
path of the sage up to the point where he nourishes all 
things and rises to the height of heaven, including three 
hundred rules of ceremony and three thousand rules of de- 
meanor. 82 This may be said to be great and inclusive. But 
it is necessary to start from constant inquiry and study, and 
use the honoring of one's virtuous nature, before the doc- 
trine can be made a fact. How very familiar and intimate 
this is ! If not, you may also consider it as great and funda- 
mental; but this means that you have acquired only the 
outer shell, while the truth is lost. How can one then say 
that the truth is a real fact? The Teacher's additional 
word about earnestness and intimacy is the great learning 
according to which the superior man renovates his virtue 
and makes the doctrine a fact. 

Reply to Fang Shu-hsien 

Written in the sixteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Truth is a Unified System or Whole 

I have received your letter regarding the Great Learning. 
From the first I knew that you were applying yourself to 
the profound and thorough study of this. The path of duty 
(truth) is one only. Referring to its great root and source, 
the Six Classics and Four Books give expression to it and 

32 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27. 



LETTERS 385 

are in full harmony with it. The relation is not merely that 
of the Great Plan to the Great Learning. 33 This thought 
I have frequently expressed to my friends. The point of 
similarity between grass and trees is in their growth, but 
you also wish to carry this similarity to the quantity and 
quality of flowers and fruit, and to the height of the 
branches. I fear that the operations of nature are not like 
the carving and engraving of man. My brother, you re- 
joice within yourself, because you consider that you alone 
have perceived it and have been the first one to apprehend 
it; and what is more, you resolutely try to maintain this 
attitude. (31) Though I hold your confidence and esteem, 
one exposition is inadequate to introduce you fully to my 
point of view. I hope that you, my brother, using your 
own point of view, will really investigate your own person. 
You surely will have doubts; but even if you should have 
none, you will gain some advantage. Should you also lack 
this, you surely will have private opinions. After that my 
sayings will penetrate your mind. 

For several hundred years true learning has not been 
understood. Fortunately, certain ones who have a common 
purpose with me — such as Kan-ch ? uan and you — desire 
to carry on an exhaustive investigation and really have a 
clue. But if you, too, are suddenly over-influenced by the 
literal meaning of the characters, to whom shall I turn? 
In his discussion of learning, the superior man surely fol- 
lows the lead of the truth only, and considers harmony and 
agreement noble and dignified. Concerning the actual be- 
ginning of the task of comprehending the Great Learning, 
there are instances in which discussion cannot be obviated, 
but in this a very small mistake may eventuate in a very 
great error. Kan-ch 'iian's explanation of extending knowl- 
edge to the utmost through the investigation of things, is 
slightly different from mine, but does no injury to the gen- 
eral fundamental agreement that exists between us. Your 

33 The Great Plan is a book in the Canon of History. 



386 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

sayings appear to be different from his. "We are so far from 
one another that I fear my exposition in this letter will be 
inadequate to convey my idea. For this reason my straight- 
forward words will offend you, for I have not again yielded 
to you. That I recently wrote to him about this, should not 
be considered an offense on my part. 

Comments — This being influenced by the literal mean- 
ing of the characters is a defect that lies in carrying on the 
investigation in the realm of words instead of in the mind 
itself. This comparing and contrasting, however accurate, 
is in last analysis like scratching through the clothes and 
not really getting at the pain and itching. For such a de- 
fect no medicine can be prescribed. Therefore the Teacher 
ordered Fang Shu-hsien to investigate and examine this 
matter in order to dispel the doubts of his own mind. 

Reply to Lun Yen-shih 

Written in the sixteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Wang Praises Yen-shih as Being an Earnest Student 

Last year when your boat passed Kanchou, you were not 
self-sufficient and self-satisfied. Though you were in a 
higher official position, you humbled yourself and made 
earnest inquiry concerning the truth. Truly this is what 
in ancient times was called being of an active nature, and 
yet fond of learning ! 34 After I had left you I was con- 
tinually occupied with affairs, and thus did not get time to 
write you a letter of inquiry, though I thought of you most 
earnestly. Recently your brother passed by the capital, 
and I again received a letter from you. How can any per- 
son whose learning is shallow and superficial reach the 
point which you have reached — the point where the deter- 
mination is energetically fixed upon the truth, the direction 
of advance correct, and diligence and attentiveness on the 
increase? (32) I am in fear and trembling. 

3< Analects, Book V, Ch. 14, If 1. 



LETTERS 387 

The Learning of the Superior Man Makes no Distinction 

Between the Activity and the Tranquility of the Mind, 

for the One Involves the Other 

Your letter says that your study lacks the foundation of 
tranquility, that under the stimulation of things you are 
easily influenced, and that you often repent because of 
things done. These three things show the more clearly 
that you have recently given genuine application to the 
task. I lack the ability to impart the desired information. 
How can I venture to answer the question of a virtuous 
man? In general, these three things are a disease with a 
common reason for their existence. Since in your devotion 
to study you seek in addition a foundation of tranquility, 
you naturally are afraid that under the stimulation of 
things you are easily influenced. Since under the stimula- 
tion of things you fear that they may easily influence you, 
you have many occasions for repentance because of what 
you have done. The mind is by nature characterized nei- 
ther by activity nor by tranquility. Tranquility has ref- 
erence to its original structure, and activity to its function- 
ing. For this reason the learning of the superior man 
makes no distinction between activity and tranquility. He 
is constantly aware of the tranquility, and thus, as it is 
always present, it constantly responds. He constantly fixes 
and controls the functioning, and thus lacks real excitement". 
Therefore he is always quiet. Constantly responding and 
constantly quiet, he will have both activity and tranquility 
present. 

This is what is meant by saying that the individual is ac- 
cumulating righteousness. Since he accumulates righteous- 
ness, he is free from any repentance. Both activity and 
tranquility include having the mind fixed. The mind is one 
and undivided. Since its structure is by nature tranquil, 
he who seeks to restore the root of tranquility thereby dis- 
turbs the original nature. Since activity is mind function- 
ing, he who is fearful lest it be active, sets aside its func- 



388 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tioning. The very seeking for tranquility implies activity, 
while an aversion to activity does not mean tranquility. 
The mind is active when in a state of tranquility, as well as 
when engaged in some activity. This movement back and 
forth is endless. As a result we say that obedience to prin- 
ciples is tranquility, and assent to desire is activity. This 
assent to desire does not refer only to the allurements of 
things heard, or of colors seen, or even of possessions and 
wealth, but to whatever personal, private things the mind 
harbors. Therefore, where there is obedience to principles, 
tranquility is present, even amidst the changing vicissitudes 
of life. Chou Lien-hsi's idea that where tranquility is in 
control there is no desire, implies that the accumulating of 
righteousness prevails. Wherever there is compliance with 
desire activity is present, even though the mind is dignified 
and the individual sits in abstraction. The philosopher 
Kao's teaching regarding forced restraint, nourishing the 
passion nature, and assisting the growth, implies that right- 
eousness is external. 35 Though in my application to this 
problem I realize my insufficiency, I now offer you what I 
apprehend to be true. At a time convenient to you let me 
know what you think about it. (33) 

Comments — The equilibrium in which there are no stir- 
rings of feelings, and the harmony resulting after they 
have been stirred, refer to the principles of nature and the 
decrees of Heaven. Activity and tranquility are like a circle 
in that they have no beginning. The learning of the su- 
perior man makes no distinction between activity and tran- 
quility. Therefore he is able to exhaust his nature and 
carry out the decrees of Heaven. This is a point of view 
according to which structure and its function are one 

35 "Let us not be like the man of Sung. There was a man of 
Sung, who was grieved that his growing corn was not longer, and so 
he pulled it up. Having done this, he returned home, looking very 
stupid, and said to his people, ' I am tired today. I have been help- 
ing the corn to grow long. ' His son ran to look at it, and found 
the corn all withered. ' ' — Menoius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, If 16. 



LETTERS 389 

source. It combines the internal sage with the external 
king. To put aside activity and seek the root of tranquil- 
ity results in landing nowhere. 

The learning of the superior man must distinguish clearly 
between principles and desire. It is not necessary that it 
distinguish to excess between activity and tranquility. The 
learning of the philosopher Yen exhausts the matter of sub- 
duing the self, and the learning of the philosopher Tseng 
exhausts the examining of the person. When the private 
desires of the mind are all cleansed, then, though there are 
an indefinite number of responses to stimulation, these will 
all be in harmony with heaven-given principles. This im- 
plies resting in the highest excellence and consists in having 
one 's determination fixed and the mind tranquil. Why, then, 
seek for additional tranquility 1 If the individual does not 
inquire whether or not his own selfishness has been com- 
pletely cleansed, he will not acquire tranquility, though he 
speak of tranquility and activity all day long. 

Answer to Ts'ii Ch'eng-chih 

(First Letter) 

Written in the first year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Wang's Comments on Yil-an and Ch'eng-chih's Discussion 
of Lu Hsiang-shan and Chu Hui-an 

I have received your letter in which you make inquiry 
regarding points of similarity and difference between the 
philosophers Lu and Chu. The art of study has not been 
understood for a long period. This really is a thing which 
we should now explain and discuss clearly. From a careful 
reading of your letter I see that if Yu-an is mistaken in his 
dependence upon Hsiang-shan, you in your dependence 
upon Hui-an also fail to attain the truth. The scholars of 
the Empire have long since determined that Chu is correct 
and Lu mistaken, and thus it is difficult to bring about a 
change. Though he overcome your arguments, can Yti-an 



390 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

on his part carry out in practice what he says? For this 
reason I hold that you should both not insist on excelling. 
If you devote yourself to showing that Hsiang-shan is 
wrong and Hui-an correct, and do this to the point of ex- 
hausting the very sources, you are able in the smallest 
things to see whether or not the details are correct. If an 
official of ability sits in judgment in a law-suit, he must 
clearly distinguish in what respect the particular affair is 
perverse ; and in the interpretation of what is said or writ- 
ten, he must also point out what things are not satisfactory 
and on a secure basis. (34) He does this that the real 
condition of the culprit may be made manifest, and that he 
who receives redress may likewise be unable to shirk his 
responsibility. In so doing, he has exhausted the equitable 
principles of that affair. Forthwith his mind is at ease, and 
he is able to wait a hundred generations for a sage. The 
discussion between you men appears to be actuated by a de- 
sire and striving to excel, and this shows that the passion 
nature is stirred. If there is a stirring of the passion na- 
ture, then you are far (a thousand li) from the truth which 
you are discussing. What sort of a discussion of right and 
wrong can there be under such circumstances? Whenever 
there is a discussion regarding the attainments of the 
ancients, the individual is not allowed to use his own estima- 
tion in summarily judging them. 

Yii-an's discussion of Hsiang-shan is to the effect that in 
so far as Hsiang-shan considers the honoring of one's vir- 
tuous nature of first importance, he is unable to keep from 
falling into the abstraction of the Buddhists. However 
that may be, what he maintains is correct and real, so that 
he does not lose the place of disciple of the sage (Con- 
fucius). In exclusively maintaining a constant inquiry 
and study, Hui-an has departed from the path and does not 
revive the learning of the Confucianists, which inculcates 
making one's purpose sincere and rectifying one's mind. 

Your discussion of Hui-an is to the effect, that, though he 



LETTERS 391 

considers the maintaining of constant inquiry and study of 
first importance, he is unable to avoid being lost in cus- 
tomary learning. However that may be, still, following 
the prescribed order of study, he gradually advances and in 
last analysis does not transgress the teaching of the Great 
Learning. If Hsiang-shan is exclusive in his devotion to 
man 's virtuous nature, he sinks into abstract contemplation 
and does not revive the teaching of the Great Learning, 
which inculcates investigation of things for the sake of ex- 
tending knowledge to the utmost. But since he speaks of 
honoring man 's virtuous nature, he can not be said to have 
fallen into the emptiness of the Buddhist learning. If he 
had fallen into this, he could not speak of honoring man's 
virtuous nature. Since he spoke of maintaining constant 
inquiry and study, he cannot be said to have lost himself in 
the digression of worldly learning. Had he lost himself in 
this, he could not have spoken of maintaining constant in- 
quiry and study. The explanations of the two philosophers 
are so near alike that not even a hair can be placed between 
them. 

But both of your discussions cannot fail to include your 
private estimates. Formerly Tzu-ssu in his discussion of 
learning left not less than a thousand and several hundred 
sentences; but he included the honoring of one's virtuous 
nature, and the maintaining of constant inquiry and study 
in one sentence. 36 According to the explanations which 
you both advance, the one considers the honoring of the 
virtuous nature as of first importance, and the other the 
maintaining of constant inquiry and study, and thereby you 
make them into two different things. (35) Surely you can- 
not avoid being partial. Moreover, neither the correctness 
of Lu nor that of Chu has as yet been determined. How 
can each of you take one as correct and fundamental, and 
forthwith consider the other one mistaken ? For this reason, 
I wish that you would both be just and magnanimous, and 

36 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27, If 6. 



392 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

not strive to .excel. Striving to excel while in the discus- 
sion of learning, is not what is meant by honoring one's 
virtuous nature or by maintaining constant inquiry and 
study. As I see it, not only do you wrong Hsiang-shan, 
while Yu-an Wrongs Hui-an, both of you missing the real 
mistakes, but insofar as you consider Hui-an correct and 
Yu-an considers Hsiang-shan correct, you have not reached 
the facts of the case. When later I have time, I will discuss 
it clearly with you. Meanwhile, devote yourself to nourish- 
ing your mind and quieting your dispute. 

Comments — The common defect of scholars is to estimate 
in accordance with their own ideas the correctness of what 
they hear and make inquiry about. This discussion of the 
Teacher frankly penetrates to the bottom of this. 

Reply to Ts'ii Ch'eng-chih 

(Second Letter) 

Written in the first year of Emperor Chia Ching 

A Second Letter Regarding the Standpoints of the Philoso- 
phers Lu and Chu 

Yesterday as I sent my reply, a guest from a distant 
place was here, and as we had much to confer about, I did 
not have time to go into detail. Meanwhile I wish that you 
would both desist in your wrangling about this matter 
which has not been settled, and that each would in intro- 
spection carefully examine what he considers correct. If 
in what each believes to be correct there is not the least 
particle of disappointment and dissatisfaction, then you are 
in a position to approach the mistakes of others. Your let- 
ter says that my sayings are indefinite and vague, but that 
when the purpose of the sentences is completely unravelled 
they surreptitiously support Yu-an. When I read this, I 
involuntarily laughed. Would I have anticipated that you, 
my brother, would speak thus? I have always thought that 
when a superior man discussed any matter he should first 



LETTERS 393 

discard any selfish ideas; for when self is stirred, the mind 
falls into meanness and depravity. Though what is said 
under such circumstances is completely in accordance with 
principles, the essential thing has been lost. I have fre- 
quently said this among my friends, but you yourself are 
now falling into that mistake. Can anyone afford not to 
examine himself carefully as to whether he is unconsciously 
beginning to fall into meanness and depravity? Should 
you not do this again and again? (36) What you said yes- 
terday gave no indication of this. May not your own words 
show your mistake ? Though you do not have that purpose, 
what you say is not completely in accordance with right, 
and therefore you cannot be free from error. Dare I say 
that what I have said is completely in accord with prin- 
ciples ? Kindly suggest that in which each of you considers 
himself right so that we may get at the facts. 

Yii-an considers Hsiang-shan correct and says that he 
(Hsiang-shan) considers the honoring of one's virtuous na- 
ture as of first importance. In examining the contents of 
his works, he frequently instructs his disciples that in study- 
ing they should exhaustively investigate principles. He 
himself says that it is necessary to pay attention to style 
and characters. That in which he was very different from 
others was that he really desired to investigate and verify 
these things in his own person. For the sake of admonish- 
ing others, he talked about and used the following : In re- 
tirement be sedately grave; in the management of business 
be reverently attentive ; in intercourse with others be 
strictly sincere ; subdue yourself and return to propriety ; 
all things are already complete in us; there is no greater 
delight than to be conscious of sincerity on self-examina- 
tion ; the great end of learning is nothing else but to seek 
for the lost mind ; let a man first stand in the supremacy of 
the nobler part of his constitution and the inferior part will 
not be able to take it (the mind) from him. 3 '' Can the 

37 Vide Analects, Book XIII, Ch. 19; Book XII, Ch. 1, K 1; -Men 



394 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

words of Confucius and Mencius be considered empty and 
meaningless? Only the sayings about its being easy and 
simple and about being conscious of an awakening (real- 
ization) are most doubted at the present time. However, 
the saying that it is easy and simple is taken from Hsi 
Tz'u. 38 Even if the saying about being conscious of an 
awakening (realization) is similar to the saying of the 
Buddhists, it is nevertheless true that this similarity does 
not mitigate the fact that the points of difference between 
the Buddhists and the Confucianists are just in the details 
and minutiae. Why should anyone conceal this similarity 
and not venture to speak of it ? Why should he seize upon 
their differences and hesitate to investigate them? That 
Yu-an considers Hsiang-shan correct surely does not ex- 
haust his correctness. 

You consider Hui-an correct and say that he emphasizes 
as important the maintaining of constant study and inquiry. 
Yet Hui-an 's words are: "Cultivate reverence and carry 
on an exhaustive investigation of principles"; "Unless the 
individual cherishes his mind he cannot be said to be ex- 
tending his knowledge to the utmost. ' ' 39 He also said : 
"The mind of the superior man constantly cherishes rev- 
erence. Though he is able neither to see nor hear the par- 
ticular thing he yet dare not disregard it. Thus he cherishes 
the very source of heaven-given principles and does not 
allow them to depart from him for a moment." 40 (37) 
Though this is not all perfectly clear, in what way does he 
fail to consider the honoring of one's virtuous nature as 
important ? Or in what way does he depart from the truth ? 
Ordinarily he is concerned with making comments. Whether 

cius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 4, 1f 1 and 2; Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 11, 1 4; 
Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 15, If 2. 

38 Vide footnote 50, p. 273. 

39 The philosopher Chu 's comments on the Doctrine of the Mean, 
Ch. 27,. If 6. 

40 Ibid., Ch. 1, U 2. 



LETTERS 395 

it be the writings of Han, the Ch'u Tz'u, or the Ying Fu, 
he explained and investigated them all with his commen- 
taries. 41 But those that discuss them forthwith suspect that 
they are mere playthings. Fearing lest students would ac- 
quire learning without following definite steps, or fall into 
the error of initiating false activity, Hui-an caused them 
first to devote themselves to the investigation of things for 
the purpose of extending knowledge to the utmost, as in- 
cluding an understanding of all things, and then to apply 
themselves to making their purpose sincere and rectifying 
their minds, that they might avoid mistakes. 

Wang Thinks that the Desire to Excel is the Basis of the 

Discussions Between Yii-an and Ch'eng-chih, and that 

for This Reason no Real Advantage Accrues to Them 

Ordinary students are anxious about one thing, and 
thereby lose sight of ten thousand. The more they seek it 
the further they lose it, so that they are in life-long distress. 
Embarrassed to the end by the difficulties, they ultimately 
fail to make an entrance. In accordance therewith people 
judge that this is a defect of later scholars. Did Hui-an 
arrive at this in his own actions? You consider Hui-an 
correct, but fail to exhaust that in which he is right. Since 
that which you both consider correct is not all correct, is it, 
then, true that that which you fear to be incorrect is neces- 
sarily all incorrect? Engrossed by your discussions back 
and forth, you cannot examine yourselves. For this reason 
I fear that perhaps the discussion emanates from a desire 
to excel. When this desire for victory appears, the real 
root of learning has been lost. Why then discuss learning? 
I wish that you would carry on an introspective examina- 
tion of yourselves. Why should it be said that my sayings 
are indefinite and vague, and that I surreptitiously take 
sides with Yii-an? The discussion of the superior man is 

4i The Ch 'u Tz 'u is the record of the state of Ch 'u ; Ying Fu is 
a Taoist sutra. 



396 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

directed toward appreciating the thing discussed in the 
mind. What the mass considers correct, he does not ven- 
ture to consider right, if in seeking it in his own mind he is 
not able to verify it. "What the mass considers wrong, he 
does not venture to consider wrong, if in seeking it in his 
own mind he is able to verify it. 

What is the mind ? It is what I have received of natural 
law. It does not distinguish between heaven and men, or 
between past and present. If I exhaust my mind in seek- 
ing the truth, though I may not hit the mark, I will not fail 
far. What is learning ? It is seeking to exhaust the possi- 
bilities of the mind. (38) For this reason it implies hon- 
oring one's virtuous nature and maintaining constant study 
and inquiry. He who honors, honors this; he who main- 
tains, maintains this. Can he be considered as devoting 
himself to study who, unable to acquire it in his own mind, 
merely considers what others say as learning? 

Hsiang-shan is Just as Much a Disciple of the Sage as 
Hui-an 

As for Hui-an and Hsiang-shan, I hold that though they 
appear to have points of difference in their learning, both 
are disciples of the sage. The people of the Empire at pres- 
ent learn and practice the learning of the philosopher Chu 
from youth. Since it has penetrated deep into the minds 
of the people, it is not permissible to discuss it and dispute 
regarding it. People reject Hsiang-shan owing to the fact 
that he engaged in a discussion with Hui-an. It is per- 
missible that they should make the difference between them 
like unto that between Yu and Tzu. 42 But may it not be 
too extreme when they liken them to an inferior agate and 
a beautiful gem, and thus discard the learning of Hsiang- 
shan ? Hui-an discriminates between and modifies the say- 
ings of a large number of scholars in order to make clear 

«Yu (Tzu-lu) and Tzn (Tzu-kung) were two disciples of Con- 
fucius. 



LETTERS 397 

and plain the purport of the Six Classics, the Analects, and 
Mencius. That he encourages the mind of the later scholars, 
truly cannot be criticised. Hsiang-shan explains the dif- 
ference between righteousness and gain; he establishes the 
great root of learning, and seeks for the lost mind, in order 
to show later scholars how earnestly and genuinely to apply 
themselves to and for themselves. 

Wang Declares that He Has Received Benefit from Hsiang- 
shan and Hui-an 

How can anyone accuse and malign his achievements? 
However, the worldly scholars are unanimous in their ac- 
cusations and do not investigate what is really true. They 
sum up their views by holding that his learning coincides 
with that of Buddhism, and thus actually wrong him. 
Therefore I have desired to brave the ridicule of the Em- 
pire, that I may exhibit and proclaim the sayings of Hsiang- 
shan. Though I thereby offend others, there is no anger on 
my part. From Hui-an, also, I have received unlimited ben- 
efit. Can I, then, desire to seize the lance (fly to arms) and 
enter his house? I hold that Hui-an 's learning has been 
manifested in the Empire like unto the sun and stars, but 
that Hsiang-shan has been subject to slander and calumny 
without the least foundation of truth. For four hundred 
years no one has taken his part. Should Hui-an get knowl- 
edge of this, he would not be able to enjoy himself in peace 
for a single day in the annex of the Confucian temple. 
This, my utmost feeling on the subject, I surely must dis- 
close to you. How can I recklessly use two kinds of ex- 
position in order surreptitiously to help Yii-an? (39) I 
dislike the incompleteness of what he says. 

Hsiang-shan and Hw-an Have Both Made Mistakes 

The art of study is the art of learning from sages and 
virtuous men of the present and the past, and is common to 
everyone in the Empire. It is not a thing that belongs to us 



398 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

three men privately. This universal art of learning should 
be expounded to everybody. Is it then only for Yii-an? 
You also mention the explanation of the "Absolute." You 
hold that Hsiang-shan is not able to understand clearly the 
meaning of words and literature, and that Yii-an only with 
forced explanation believes it himself. "Where," you say, 
"is there anything to cultivate?" Your saying that the 
idea conveyed by Hsiang-shan does not go into details, does 
no injury to the fact that he has not gone into detail. Your 
saying that what he cultivates is not exhaustive, does no 
harm to that which he has not reached in his discussion. 
When the learning has not reached that of the sage, how can 
it fail to make the mistake of exceeding or not realizing 
what is correct? If those engaged in the discussion wish 
to consider themselves correct and set out to generalize, I 
fear that Hui-an 's ridicule of Hsiang-shan 's learning as 
belonging to the Buddhists can but eventuate in unfairness. 
That the one did not manifest discernment concerning the 
meaning of the literary style and the other influenced others 
to be unfair, shows that both manifested inadequacy in the 
task of cultivation. 

Later Scholars Should Appreciate What Hsiang-shan and 
Hui-an Have Accomplished 

Confucius was a great sage, and yet he said, "If some 
years were added to my life, I would give fifty to the study 
of Yi and then I might come to be without great faults. ' ' 43 
When Chung Hui praised Ch'eng T'ang he also merely said, 
' ' He was not slow to change his errors. ' ' 4 * What harm can 
it do to the fact that the two teachers are virtuous men, if 
what they cherish and cultivate falls short of being perfect ? 
These things truly are accounted for in the bearing and 
environment of Hui-an and Hsiang-shan. That they did 

43 Analects, Book VII, Ch. 16. "Yi" refers to the Book of 
Changes. 

« The Shooking, The Books of Shang, Book II, U 5. 



LETTERS 399 

not reach the clear perception and understanding of the 
truth, which Yen had, is manifest. We should look up with 
respect to that in which they cannot be equaled, and pri- 
vately appreciate that which they did not acquire, so that it 
may serve as a model to be realized in our task of culti- 
vating and disciplining ourselves. We should not add our 
private motives to it and unite in adding to, or subtracting 
from it. "The faults of the superior man are like the 
eclipses of the sun and moon. He has his faults and all 
men see them ; he changes again and all men look up to 
him. " 45 " The mean man is sure to gloss his faults. ' ' 40 

The scholars of this age consider Hui-an a great scholar 
and philosopher, and hold that no faults should be ascribed 
to him. They spare no effort in concealing and adorning 
his defects, and in enhancing his strong points. They 
wrongfully accuse Hsiang-shan of advocating Buddhist 
doctrines, and do this in order that they may exhibit their 
sayings. (40) They hold that they are thereby helping 
Hui-an, and thus more and more mutually influence one 
another by saying that they support true and real discus- 
sion. They do not know that Hui-an has the fault of a 
superior man, while they themselves, on the other hand, use 
the views of a mean man and gloss it over. They do not 
know that, when Hui-an was told of his faults, he rejoiced. 
Yet you do not only vainly follow him, but engage in apolo- 
gizing discussions in his behalf. Hui-an 's purpose was that 
later generations might aim at the learning of sages, vir- 
tuous men, and superior men; but present-day scholars 
serve him as they would the person of a mean man. How 
much they thereby wrong Hsiang-shan, and how coldly they 
treat Hui-an ! 

My discussion of today has regret not only for Hsiang- 
shan, but for Hui-an also. Since you, my brother, know 
my every-day attitude toward Hui-an. though you have 

43 Analects, Book XIX, Ch. 21. 
<« Ibid., Book XIX, Ch. 8. 



400 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

waged such a discussion, you will also believe that this is my 
purpose. You should cast aside worldly customary wisdom, 
and with empty, receptive mind acquire sincerity. Do not 
seek to make them alike, but investigate that in which they 
are different. Do not hold that lack of faults is character- 
istic of the elevated station of sages and virtuous men, but 
consider the correcting of error as typical of their learning. 
Do not consider their failure to attain completely, as a thing 
to be concealed, but hold that the constant harboring of the 
attitude of not being complete and entire is typical of the 
mind of sages and virtuous men. Then your discussions 
with Yii-an will not need to wait for an explanation, but 
will be self-evident. Mencius said : ' ' Superior men strive 
to be perfectly virtuous. Why should they be alike in 
everything?" 47 I trust that you will with discrimination 
select and rectify that which you two have discussed. 

Comments — The philosophers Chu and Lu are both dis- 
ciples of the sage (Confucius) and have their points of 
difference. It is not necessary to go to great effort to con- 
ceal this. This fact merely determines the limits of their 
learning. Not only is it true in this case, but the same 
method can be used in discussing the ancient past. 

Hsiang-shan completed his own learning, as did also Hui- 
an. They did not actually borrow from one another. When 
the superior man devotes himself to study, he introspects 
and views his own nature and in contemplation distin- 
guishes between his own right and wrong. Having deter- 
mined his own right and wrong, the right and wrong of 
Chu and Lu is naturally clear. If he does not proceed in 
this way, and succeeds in explaining the situation perfectly, 
what relation has it to his own nature? (41) What is de- 
scribed as depending upon Buddhist methods is. in last 
analysis, a result of not viewing one's nature. Thus in the 
Teacher's records there is no discussion of the correctness 
and mistakes of Chu and Lu, as the student well knows. 

*7 Mencius, Book VI, Pt. II, Ch. 6, If 2. 



LETTERS 401 

Eeply to Ts'ii Ch'eng-chih 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Commends Ch'eng-chih for Genuinje Devotion to 
Learning and Warns Him to Beware of Selfishness 

Ju Hua and I met as guests and I heard in detail of your 
every-day life, but I have never had occasion to meet you. 
Vainly I increase my grief because of this. Of the scholars 
from my native village is there another who, like you, with 
earnest perseverance loves to devote himself to study ? Can 
one find another who rejoices when he hears of his own 
faults and who "faithfully admonishes his friends and 
skillfully leads them on ' ' ? 48 Unless you think of it and 
tell me when I have faults or help me in my task of learn- 
ing, who is there that thinks about it? My friend Ch'eng- 
chih. how fortunate it is that you esteem yourself thus pro- 
foundly. From the point at which the individual puts aside 
the object he loves, perfect virtue (benevolence) has long 
been difficult to complete. Formerly when you were inde- 
fatigable in your effort to establish yourself in your native 
village, everybody ridiculed you as stupid, but you did not 
alter your course in the least. Though at the time I partly 
realized the necessity of esteeming and reverencing you, 
and did not follow the crowd in their ridicule, I did not 
realize how difficult it is to get a man such as you are. Is it 
not greatly to be regretted that, now that I know the diffi- 
culty of finding one like you, I do not find the opportunity 
both morning and evening of meeting you? 

The matter of cultivating the self and of governing others 
is by nature the result of a single method. Though 
official business increase and become annoying, it is all 
within the precincts of study and inquiry. I believe that 
you are under all circumstances acquiring learning, but 
how shall I hear your most excellent discussions, that they 
may relieve my near-sight? Thus your love for me cannot 

*» Vide Analects, Book XII, Ch. 23. 



402 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

be of any assistance to me. Recently as I have thought 
about the advance you have made in learning, I have par- 
tially realized the extreme care you have manifested. 

The saying of former scholars that determination should 
be earnestly directed toward the truth, surely implies 
making the purpose sincere. However, if one strives for 
this too insistently, it eventuates in selfishness. This, too, 
must be examined. In the occupations of the day what is 
there that is not the progressive manifestation of natural 
law? If in this the mind is constantly cherished and not 
lost, righteousness and principles will naturally be familiar 
material. Mencius' saying, "Let not the mind forget its 
work, but let there be no assisting the growth," is a pro- 
foundly constructed saying, the advantages of which he 
had himself gained. 49 (42) How can study and inquiry be 
slow and lax in their advance? But the danger is that in 
adding one's own ideas to control and encourage this ad- 
vance, contrary to expectation, one is not able to be at rest, 
even when one attains it. Surely your learning is not of 
this type, but I seem to see a recent tendency that way. 
Thus I dare not venture to speak otherwise than exhaust- 
ively. I also am aware that ordinarily you are glad to 
hear of your faults and that you seek instruction in accord- 
ance with the right. 

Reply to Lu Nei-chung 

Written in the fourth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Wang Writes of the Advantages of High Ideals and a Broad 

Outlook 

Your recent letter has stimulated me very much. I am 
aware of a feeling of gratitude ; but acute dyspepsia inter- 
fered so that I had no inclination to reply. However, I 
would like to consult with you about the things which you 
say concerning study. I cannot bring upon myself the re- 

49 Mencius, Book II, Part I, Ch. 2, H 16. 



LETTERS 403 

proach of neglecting your purpose, and therefore write this. 
The philosopher Ch'eng said, "What the individual per- 
ceives and hopes for should be far away and of large 
proportion. ' ' But in carrying out this idea one must meas- 
ure his strength and proceed gradually. If the purpose is 
far-reaching but the heart distressed; if the strength is 
limited and the burden heavy, there is danger that the affair 
will end in a catastrophe. Having determined surely to 
carry into practice the determination of becoming a sage, 
the scholar need only comply with the points which his in- 
tuitive faculty clearly realizes and sincerely extend them to 
the utmost. He will then daily acquire something new in 
the regular order. From the beginning there will be very 
much doubling together and piling up. 

If there is outside slandering or praise about one's being 
right or wrong, it is well to use this for the purpose of warn- 
ing and refining one 's self. However, the individual should 
not allow this to stir his mind, for otherwise he will drift 
into a condition in which his mind is distressed, and he un- 
wittingly becomes daily more unsuccessful and unskillful. 
You, Nei-chung, are firm and resolute in purpose and thus 
naturally are a man who takes upon himself the responsi- 
bility of sustaining the truth. But in these matters you 
will need to consult with Ch'ien-chih in a forbearing way 
and should thus get additional understanding. The road 
before one's eyes should be clear and open, for then it will 
permit one to go back and forth. If it is too narrow and 
confined, there is danger that one will find no place to 
advance. 

Confucius Participated in the Activities of the Common 

People 

The conduct of the sage is at the beginning not very 
different from the disposition and feeling of the ordinary 
man. When the men of Lu had a shooting match. Con- 
fucius also took part. "When the villagers were going 



404 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

through their ceremonies to drive away pestilential influ- 
ences, he put on his court robes and stood on the eastern 
steps. ' ' 50 Even in the case of the people of Huhsiang, with 
whom it was difficult for him to converse, he allowed a lad 
of that place to enter for an interview with him. 51 (43) At 
that time some people doubted the wisdom of this procedure 
and questioned it. "The Master having visited Nan Tsze 
(sic), Tsze-lu (sic) was displeased." Having reached this 
point, in what way did the Master discuss right and wrong 
with Tzu-lu? The best he could do was to take an oath. 
Why? Had he desired to expound the correctness of his 
conduct, how much passion-strength it would have taken. 
Had he followed the idea of Tzu-lu and acknowledged it as 
a mistake, Tzu-lu would never have understood his real 
motive. In last analysis, this learning will never be clear. 
This kind of mental distress Yen-tzu alone was able to 
understand. It was for this reason that the Master said, 
"In what I say there is nothing in which he does not take 
delight." 52 Truly this is the great point of departure. 

Wang Advises Nei-chung to be Lowly and in a Receptive 
Frame of Mind 

I venture to suggest that you should be similar to this, 
and wish that you would make your mind lowly and recep- 
tive, enlarge your capacity, and put aside the distinction be- 
tween self and others, as well as foregone conclusions and 
arbitrary predeterminations. Thus you naturally will have 
profound apprehension at the great point of departure. 
You ought to sigh, saying, "Though I wish to follow it, I 
find no way to do it." 53 In general, this strange, extra- 
ordinary, antithetical method of acting in which later 
scholars rejoice, who hope for superiority and covet great- 

50 Vide Analects, Book X, Ch. 10, If 2. 

si Ibid., Book VII, Ch. 28. 

52 Ibid., Book XI, Ch. 3. 

ss Ibid., Book IX, Ch. 10, % 3. 



LETTERS 405 

ness, is not considered excellent and honorable by sages and 
virtuous men. For this reason, if one lives in obscurity and 
acts strangely, later generations mention him with honor; 
and if he lives in accord with the course of the mean, he will 
surely pass into obscurity and be unknown. If after learn- 
ing has perished and truth has suffered injury someone 
arises to discuss learning, it is as the sound of a 
footstep in an empty valley. If such footsteps resemble 
that of a man, all is well. If the situation is as you say, 
then among those who discuss learning there would be only 
two or three like you, but that would be sufficient. How- 
ever, men like you cannot continually come and discuss 
learning, and thus the grass is ten feet high in front of the 
hall of precepts. You have the disposition to make advance 
in the truth, but have partly lost it in narrow conceptions. 
I dare not conceal my aversion to glossing over wrong and 
to self-righteousness, and therefore have talked excessively. 
You should apprehend this idea. Do not merely seek with- 
in the words and sentences themselves. 

Comments — When the view is too narrow, it is not ad- 
justable to things, and implies a mere seeking to excel. 
Thus there arises a fondness for mutual glorification in 
order to exalt one's self. As a result one views one's self 
as alone correct and others as wrong, and perfect fairness 
and selflessness are far off. (44) This letter contains ideas 
similar to those in the letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih. 

Answer to Kan-ch'iian 

Written in the fourteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang and Kan-ch'iian Have a Common Purpose but Do 
Not Agree in Every Detail 

Ten days ago when the messenger from Yangshihte 
reached me, I received your letter and also your reply to 
Tzu-hsin. I am now thoroughly acquainted with the 
progress you have made in your learning, as well as the 



406 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

point you have reached in the task. In general, from this 
time the learning of our groups is becoming unified. This 
is fortunate for me, as well as for later scholars. Your 
most earnest instruction is a reproof to me that for a long 
time I have not requested further instruction. This shows 
that you hold me in high esteem, and it also manifests my 
shortcoming. If our purposes correspond and the prin- 
ciples on which we act are alike, and if we know how to 
apply ourselves to these, the outcome will be the same, 
though there be a hundred things to be solicitous about and 
many different methods of approach. If this is not the 
policy, though every word gives evidence and every sen- 
tence seeks for the truth, there will at first be slight, but at 
the end great (a thousand li) differences. How may I 
venture to hope for such profound advance in learning and 
such prolonged cultivation of the self as you have carried 
out ? If by well-directed attention and straightforward ad- 
vance we, by striving, get this purpose, there will be points 
of unity without previous arrangement and of agreement 
without aiming for them. At times it is not possible to ob- 
viate small differences, but as you do not regard me lightly, 
I also do not with unremitting effort try to influence you. 
Having a common purpose we are like two men who both 
go to the capital. Whether the road which is traversed be 
circuitous or direct, we know that at a future day we shall 
arrive at the same place. Formerly when you and I were 
together in a ship at Lungchiang, I frequently promoted 
the use of the old edition of the Great Learning. My ex- 
position of the investigation of things you did not consider 
correct at that time, and I, thereupon, put it aside and did 
not again force a discussion, for I realized that it would not 
be long before you would spontaneously be liberated at 
this point. Now I have really obtained what I hoped for, 
and I rejoice beyond expression. The spring in K'unlun 
at times flows silently underground, but it nevertheless 



LETTERS 407 

finally reaches the sea. 54 I am an unceremonious, rustic 
man. Though I have obtained the princely gem, others do 
not believe it, thinking that it certainly is an imitation. 
Now that the gem has reached the home of one who is pre- 
pared, it will of course be shown to the Empire and I shall 
avoid the transgression of neglecting and forgetting it. (45) 
However, this comparison has an ambiguous meaning; for 
priceless gems are acquired by seeking in external things, 
while the thing to which I refer is something that I myself 
have and do not need to acquire as something external. 
But I may suddenly and unexpectedly neglect or forget it. 
Or in case I have not neglected or forgotten it, it may be 
unexpectedly or suddenly screened from sight. 

Though I am not yet fifty, I am decrepit and diseased 
as a man of sixty or seventy, and daily contemplate return- 
ing to the Yang-ming Grotto. I believe it is true that "if 
a man in the morning hear the right way, he may die in the 
evening without regret." 55 Thrice I have sent in a me- 
morial about my return, but without receiving the consent 
of the emperor. I desire to lay aside my official duties 
and depart on a long journey, following the example of 
the great masters, but I fear that the result would be start- 
ling and thus must deliberately wait until I have a favor- 
able reply. Winter will be past and spring begun before 
my wish is complied with. Affairs are in confusion as in 
a great rain storm and the sudden falling of leaves. How 
can they be adjusted? 

Comments — Of Kan-ch'iian it can be said that he and 
the Teacher held to the same truths and were united in 
their determination. But it was impossible for them not 
to have differences in their viewpoints. From this it is 
manifest that in application to true learning the only thing 

54 A famous mountain in Tibet said by the Chinese to be the 
source of the rivers and the sea. 
58 Analects, Book IV, Ch. 8. 



408 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

sought is agreement of purpose. At the point of entering 
there may be many changing circumstances, and it is not 
necessary insistently to hold to one road. Why enter into 
a profound explanation of the points of likeness and dif- 
ference between the Teacher and the philosophers Chu and 
Lu? 

Letter to Hsi Yuan-shan 

Written in the sixteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Praises Hsi Yuan-shan for Having Assumed the 

Burden of True Learning and Expresses a 

Desire to Meet Him 

I have received your letter and the Ming Yuan Lu. 56 
Having read it, I could realize what strength you have ac- 
quired in your study since leaving me. You have most 
thoroughly assumed the burden of sustaining the true 
learning. It would seem as though the people all consid- 
er what you say incorrect, but you pay no attention to it. 
You are not like those who, blindly agreeing with one an- 
other, reiterate the same things and imitate the grief and 
joys of others. I am exceedingly glad for this. 

There are some things Which I really should discuss with 
you personally, but I regret that there has been no occasion 
for my meeting you. I have recently heard that you have 
been advanced to the position of Nei-tai," and thus know 
that you must pass by Ch'ienshan. It is convenient for 
me to return home to see my parents at this time. Thus 
we can stop our boats somewhere along the road that for a 
night we may converse together. The man whom I sent 
to await you at Fenshu did not get an answer for me. I 
waited five days for you at Hsinch'eng and left disappoint- 
ed. (46) How unfortunate it is that Heaven did not 
ordain a meeting! 

56 A book, probably revised by Hsi Yuan-shan. 

57 The Nei-tai was an official of high rank. 



LETTERS 409 

Sincerity of Person Holds the First Place in True Learning 

In general, the reason why this learning is not clear is 
because we have not been able to make ourselves sincere by 
what we heard and expounded. It may be compared to 
merely speaking about drinking and eating. How can 
such men really experience the pleasure of drinking and 
eating to satiety ? It is only a few years since I first fully 
comprehended this learning and actually reached the state 
of one who is prepared to wait for the rise of a sage a hun- 
dred ages hence and has no misgivings. Among my friends 
there also have gradually arisen three who really be- 
lieve it. and do not retract. Those that half believe and 
half doubt, and whose views are not fixed, have for the 
most part the serious defect which arises out of holding to 
old interpretations. Moreover, they are concerned about 
acquiring and losing, criticism or praise, and are unable 
to devote their minds and fix their entire determination on 
hearing the true learning. What is more, this also is due 
to the fact that we have not been together for so long a 
time, or, having met, we forthwith are separated. Thus 
I have had no opportunity to give a detailed exposition. 

The learning of Lu Hsiang-shan is simple, definite, and 
discriminating. After Mencius, he is the first man. Though 
his exposition of study, inquiry, reflection, discrimination, 
extending knowledge to the utmost, and the investigation 
of things does not escape the embarrassment of conforming 
to tradition, other philosophers have not attained his 
clear understanding of fundamentals. Usually one is able 
to have profound confidence in his learning. This also 
should be investigated. It may be compared to seeking 
the finest gold. This must be purified until it has reached 
an adequate color. Not the least dross should be allowed 
to remain, for after this has been removed it is perfect and 
changeless. In manifesting or destroying learning, the 
bone of contention is insignificant. 



410 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

I have recently heard that Yimg-hsi has gone to the cap- 
ital. Since our friendship has long been very profound, I 
wish that you would admonish him to engage in study and 
inquiry, if he has not left home. There is no other learn- 
ing than that of cherishing the mind and cultivating one's 
nature. When you meet him, I trust that you will use this 
to influence him. 

Comments — The path of study and inquiry consists in 
making the entire person sincere. The farther this task 
proceeds the finer it becomes. If a superficial learning 
which trusts alone to speech and hearing is the ideal, one 
gets farther from the truth the more it is discussed. The 
one expression, "make the person sincere," contains the 
epitome of study and inquiry. 

First Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

The Discussions of Learning Center About the Intuitive 

Faculty 

We have recently surely had much sorrow in our home. 
(47) In my work I have used great effort, and as a result 
view the intuitive faculty as more personal and important 
than I formerly did. It really is the great root from which 
grow all human actions, and the universal path which all 
should follow. Put it aside, and there is no learning to 
discuss. The exposition to seek and appreciate the heaven- 
given principles everywhere, has been in the main correct; 
but if it is necessary to advance in the investigation from 
the very foundation, it is not possible to avoid the mistake 
of chasing the wind and grasping shadows. If the indi- 
vidual forcibly turns within, he has thereby been separated 
somewhat from the task implied in developing the intuitive 
faculty, as outlined by the sages. If one loses sight of this 
in the least, it involves a tremendous error. Whenever any 
of common purpose with me come here, I need only suggest 



LETTERS 411 

this idea and all are forthwith alert. However, it is not 
easy to get one who in reality clearly understands it. 

Vario lis Reasons Cited Why Men Do Not Cherish Higher 

Learning 

Among those that lack a fixed determination some have 
been driven into habits of emphasizing honor, gain, and 
literary style; some realize what they ought to seek in 
accordance with nature, but are fettered and restrained by 
a learning that appears to be right, while it is really wrong, 
and thus they never become autonomous. Since men lack 
the true determination of becoming sages, they cannot avoid 
cherishing the desire for small advantages and quick results. 
It is quite enough for me to have this type of learning pass 
by my eyes in a perfunctory manner. Even a hero with a 
heavy burden and a distant road to travel will rest quietly 
in the midst of his task, if his purpose is the least irreso- 
lute. Since you have in your learning reached the root of 
the matter, I have of late thought that you have had long 
experience and thus should be exceptionally discriminating 
and clear in your task. We have had no opportunity to 
discuss matters at the same table, and mutually to improve 
one another with our attainments. 

The building of the ancestral hall of the Fans certainly is 
also a real benefit to the manners and instruction of the peo- 
ple. I myself have no special ability in writing large char- 
acters, and, what is more, I have not written for a long time. 
Concerning the tablet which you need for the ancestral hall, 
you ought to take a large brush pen and write it yourself, 
for then it will be well executed. I am sending your mes- 
senger back, as the year is about to come to an end, but am 
leaving unsaid some of the things I would like to mention. 

Comments — The desire of gaining small advantages and 
of having things done quickly is due to an over-anxiety for 
having things completed. It also is a result of the fact that 
at the time one fixes his determination, he estimates the im- 



412 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

portance of his ability too lightly. (48) If a man knows 
that the learning of the sages and virtuous men is by na- 
ture one with all things and far-reaching as heaven and 
earth, he, of course, will be free from such a defect. He 
who fixes his determination should first determine within 
himself what he is able to do. 

Second Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

Wang Discusses Propriety 

I have received your letter regarding important prin- 
ciples of customary propriety. In general, it can be said 
that if one follows the domestic propriety of Han Wen- 
kung and simplifies it, he is not far from human nature 
and feelings. 58 This is very well said. If you, Ch'ien- 
chih, did not have your purpose fixed on transforming the 
people and perfecting the manners and customs, you would 
not be willing to apply yourself to this with unremitting 
effort. Learned ancient scholars were not able in their day 
to give an exhaustive exposition of the existence of ancient 
propriety, while the ordinaiy people, considering it trouble- 
some and difficult, put it aside entirely and did not carry 
it out. When officials of the present day desire to instruct 
and exhort the people in propriety, it is not difficult to in- 
struct them in detail and with the idea of perfection, but it 
is desirable that the instruction should be simple, readily 
understood, and easily carried out in practice by the people. 

The Arrangement of the Ancestral Tablets Was Determined 

by Former Kings in Harmony with the Feelings 

of Men 

As for the arrangement of the ancestral tablets of great- 
great-grandfather, great-grandfather, grandfather, and 
father, as well as matters concerning sacrifice to ancestors, 
I myself formerly wanted to change these things so that 
they would be more in conformity with customary pro- 

58 Han Wen-kung was a scholar of the T'ang dynasty. 



LETTERS 413 

cedure. Now I plan to carry them out in agreement and 
harmony with the nature and feelings of mankind. The 
nature and feelings of men both past and present are the 
same. Former kings determined the rules of propriety and 
divided them into sections according to the feelings and 
passions of men. This implies that they are a universal 
pattern for all times. If, perchance, my own mind is not 
in harmony with the principles of propriety and custom, 
it is either because there has been some error in transmis- 
sion, or else because this is justified by the difference be- 
tween the manners and customs of past and present. 
Though former kings did not mention this, the idea is in- 
cluded. The Three Kings did not repeat and imitate these 
rules completely. If the people merely adhered to the 
past and carried out the rules ignorantly, when they did not 
harmonize with their mind, they would not be exercising 
propriety, but would act without exactitude and practice 
without investigation. Later generations do not discuss 
that learning which considers the mind as the point of de- 
parture. The people have lost their own nature. How 
difficult it is to discuss propriety with them ! However, 
if the intuitive knowledge of good is in the mind of man, 
the ancient past seems but as a day. If a man ren- 
ders obedience to his intuitive faculty in order to develop 
it to the utmost, he is in harmony with the saying, 
' ' Though one makes sandals without having previous knowl- 
edge of the foot, I know he will not make them as big as 
baskets." 59 (49) "The emperor alone orders ceremonies 
and fixes measures. ' ' 60 That I do this, does not mean that 
I try to order and fix ceremonies. I merely, because in 
these later days propriety has been set aside completely, 
point this out in order to introduce and advance it. I 
make special effort to use simple language, because I want 
it to be easily understood and followed. 

ssMencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 7, 1 4. 
«° Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 28, H 2. 



414 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

In addition to the ceremonies of capping the youth, mar- 
riage, burial, and sacrifice, agreement with the regulations 
of the Hsiang also has a helpful influence upon the cus- 
toms of the people. 61 Concerning the rules of propriety in 
archery, it seems as though another book should be made 
to instruct the learner, but not for the sake of seeking to 
give instruction in customs. If I were to include the cus- 
toms in this book, I fear some of the people would not 
appreciate archery as something to be constantly practiced 
or as of any importance whatsoever. Moreover, I fear 
that, thinking the exposition difficult to understand, they 
would cast it aside, together with the donning of the cap. 
marriage, burial, and sacrifice — things easily understood. 
Is it not perhaps the same underlying idea which comes 
out in the fact that the rules of domestic propriety of the 
scholar (Han) did not include archery? How fortunate it 
would be if you would plan further about this! My own 
idea with reference to the arrangement of the ancestral 
tablets in the ancestral hall, as well as with reference to 
sacrifice, I have some time ago discussed in detail with Ts'ii 
Yueh-jen, and he has made record of the main points. I 
will ask him to make another copy for your inspection that 
it may be ready for you to select from. 

The Domestic Propriety of Han Wen-kung and of Wang's 

Time 

Some one has made inquiry regarding the rules of do- 
mestic propriety of Han Wen-kung, thinking that the 
ancestral tablets of his great-great-grandfather, great- 
grandfather, grandfather, and father, which at first faced 
the west, were later placed so that they faced the east, be- 
cause his mind was ill at ease. 

To this I, Yang-ming. replied, "The ancient temples all 

6i The Hsiang is a part of a city or community associated under 
an eldership. 



LETTERS 415 

faced toward the south and the ancestral tablets all faced 
the east. At the time of general sacrifice the row of tablets 
on the right was moved to the north window and the row on 
the left was moved to the south window. All, like the tablet 
of the 'T'ai-tsu' (first ancestor), faced the east. Therefore 
after facing west they later faced east. Now the system in 
the ancestral hall has changed from what it formerly was, 
and there is no common facing of the tablets toward the east 
as in the case of that of the first ancestor. Thus arose the 
reference to their facing toward the west. Truly there was 
reason for not being completely at rest." 

He (anonymous) said: "How should this be arranged 
in this generation?" 

I replied: "Propriety is adjustable to circumstances. 
In the instance of death or birth, the tablet of the 
great-great-grandfather should face south and the tab- 
lets of the great-grandfather, grandfather, and fath- 
er should face east and west according to rank, and 
should be given a little lower position. Moreover, they 
should not be placed exactly opposite. Thus it would seem 
as though the mind could be at rest. I have seen the sacri- 
fice at the Chengs at P'uchiang. The four generations of 
male and female ancestors all had a different position. The 
great-great-grandfather's and the great-great-grandmother's 
tablets faced the south; the tablets of the great-grand- 
father, the grandfather, and the father all faced west, while 
those of the corresponding women faced the east, each ac- 
cording to the order of the generation. Moreover, there 
was a slight descent in their position (referring to rank). 
(50) Thus the distinction between men and women, and 
the differences in rank, have received what is due them. 
In my own home we carry this out, but I fear that the halls 
of some of the people are small and narrow, and that some 
of the required utensils and other things have not been 
prepared. Thus it could not be universally practiced." 



416 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Perplexing Problems in Propriety 

He (anonymous) made further inquiry saying, "In the 
case of one who has no descendants, the sacrificing devolves 
upon his nephews. Surely he can be given a lower rank in 
the ancestral hall. What shall then be done about his an- 
cestors ? ' ' 

To this I (Yang-ming) replied: "In the ancient 
past a great officer had three temples, but he did not sacri- 
fice to his great-great-grandparent. A fine scholar had two 
temples, but he did not sacrifice to his great-grandfather. 
Now it has come to pass that the people sacrifice both to the 
great-great-grandparents and to the great-grandparents, 
and this is doubtless a result of following sympathy to the 
extreme. If, when classified according to ancient regula- 
tions, this is artful, how much more is this true in the in- 
stance of one who has no progeny. In ancient times, if a 
great official had no son, descendants were fixed for him. 
Thus there were very few who did not have descendants. 
In later generations the feelings and emotions were remiss. 
Then the poverty-stricken began to be set aside and neglect- 
ed and were left without heirs. Those who in ancient 
times were spoken of as being left without descendants all 
belonged to the class of those 'who died before puberty.' 

Concerning the method, five classes of children were the 
objects of sacrifice in the rank of king. These were his 
own son, his grandson, his great-grandson, and so on down 
to the fifth generation. In the rank of the second order 
(marquis), three generations were the objects of sacrifice; 
in that of a great officer, two generations. In the case of 
an eminent scholar up to that of the mass of the people, 
sacrifice stopped at the son. Thus there is no sacrifice 
to later descendants on his behalf, but his grandsons may 
do so. Since the people make sacrifices to four generations, 
and as a result of this idea sacrifice may be offered, it may 
pertain to younger brothers and sons. 

Some time ago a literary family in Hunan had a great- 



LETTERS 417 

granduncle (elder brother of the great-grandfather) and a 
granduncle (younger cousin of the grandfather), both of 
whom were virtuous but without descendants. Some wished 
to fix descendants for them, but this could not be done with- 
in the family group of the same name because they did not 
wish sacrifice to be offered to them. When they thought 
of the virtue of their two relatives, they could not acquiesce, 
and asked another man about it. This man said, 'No sac- 
rifice has been offered to them for twenty or thirty years, 
and yet you insist on fixing a line of descendants for them. 
This cannot be carried out. Were they great officials, you 
could, utilizing the idea of following the family, offer a 
special sacrifice at the spring and autumn festivals.' Who- 
soever of the family group is without descendants, in ac- 
cordance with the degree of consanguinity, may according 
to the position on the right or the left (referring to the 
tablet) be the object of sacrifice. (51) 

Comments — If propriety consists in introspectively seek- 
ing that which gives rest to the mind, it is possible to 
get at the source of renovating the people and perfecting 
the manners and customs, and there is then very little to 
dispute about, as far as points of correctness and incorrect- 
ness are concerned. If the individual does not understand 
the learning of the mind, but talks excessively about the 
feelings, he provides a byway to those who fear nothing. 
This really is not easy to discuss. 

Third Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

The Work Done in Tsou Ch'ien-chih's College Pleases Wang 

Your letter has come to hand. It is sufficient to comfort 
my disquietude because of your absence, and instructs me 
regarding the commentary on the Analects of Confucius. 
It is executed in so clear and definite a style, and is so very 
keen, that it is quite adequate to clear up points which the 
philosopher Chu did not reach. When the students hear 
it, some should make progress like plants after a rain. The 



418 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

mind of the people of later generations is reprobate. Mis- 
ery and confusion succeed one another in quick succession ; 
and this is all because they do not understand the learning 
which gathers about the mind. It is only necessary to point 
this out clearly, to arrange the point of departure of this 
learning, and to cause the individual clearly to apprehend 
that it is the very source of his own life and fate. It is not 
necessary to seek it in external things. For instance, it is 
natural that the tree which has roots should have a luxuri- 
ant growth and wide-spreading branches. It is not neces- 
sary specially to discuss the fact that it is the source of 
pleasure, delight, and lack of discomposure. 62 The essays 
written in your college are well organized, dignified, dis- 
criminating, and exact. They are splendid, covering many 
different topics, and all incorporate directly what is really 
apprehended by the mind. "When once the emptiness and 
superficiality of the habits of recent scholars have been dis- 
posed of, one does not write in vain. 

The Meaning of the Intuitive Knowledge of Good is Both 
Simple mid Profound 

Of late I have come to realize that though the meaning 
of the intuitive knowledge of good is daily more profound, 
it is withal more simple. Both morning and evening I dis- 
cuss and practice it with my friends, but am nevertheless 
unable to explain what it really means. Since everyone by 
nature has the intuitive faculty, it is merely necessary to 
mention it, and even the most simpleminded and the most 
depraved will realize what it is. But in the matter of de- 
termining its meaning in the fullest sense, even the sage, 
with his extended knowledge, is certain to be disappointed. 
For this reason I say that the intuitive faculty cannot be 
fully exhausted though it be investigated to the point of 
violence. The scholars of this age still have doubts and 
perplexities about this. To say that one is not able to ex- 

62 Vide Analects, Book I, Ch. 1. 



LETTERS 419 

haust the truth completely, implies that he has not really 
perceived the true learning. Recently a high official from 
my neighborhood, ridiculing someone's exposition of learn- 
ing, said, "If the intuitive faculty is taken out of his dis- 
cussion, what can he talk about?" That man answered 
him, saying, "Take away the intuitive faculty and what is 
there to talk about?" (52) I do not know how your pres- 
ent view of the intuitive faculty compares with your former 
view, and I lack the opportunity personally to make inquiry 
in order to satiate my desire. When Cheng-chih goes, he 
ought to be able to give you a general idea of my desire, 
but without going into detail. 

Wang Exposes the Error of Later Generations 

The great error of later generations lies entirely in the 
fact that they deceive one another with empty literary pro- 
ductions, and do not know anything about sincerity of mind 
and genuineness of purpose. As these errors have been 
progressively promulgated, they have crystallized into cus- 
tom. Even men of a loyal, faithful disposition have been 
inadvertently deceived, and have sunk into this condition 
without being conscious of it. For this reason the son is 
no longer filial and the minister no longer loyal. The evil 
of the error brought forth misery and suffering, and pro- 
duced confusion and disorder among the people to an in- 
calculable degree. If relief is to come, return to sincerity 
and genuineness is the appropriate remedy. Thus our task 
consists in forcing them into the right way. Advance can 
only begin when the excess of characters has been reduced. 
However, in hoping to force them into the right way and 
in reducing the number of excessive characters, one cannot 
proceed carelessly or superficially. It is necessary clearly 
to expound the learning which emphasizes extending intu- 
itive knowledge to the utmost. When I discuss this with 
those who have a common purpose, I do not know what you 
think of it. After having discussed learning (with your 
students), I hope you may often touch upon this. 



420 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Comments — The people as a whole have not clearly ap- 
prehended whether learning is for themselves or for others. 
They all seek display and increased advantage. In last 
analysis, they themselves and others are thereby injured. 
Return to genuineness and sincerity is the great learning 
which will save the times. 

Fifth Letter to Tsou Ch'ien-chih 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Wang Explains What the Classics Mean, When They Speak 
of Being Cautious and Apprehensive 

At the time when the two students Chang and Ch'en 
came, I happened to be returning to Yiiyao to sacrifice to 
my ancestors. Thus I did not see them. I have seriously 
slighted your profound feeling for me. To investigate and 
become acquainted with the principles of Heaven in all 
matters, in following the lead of circumstances, is what is 
implied by being cautious and apprehensive. If you hold 
that this is still separate from that (does not include it), 
you hold to what the multitude says, when it considers 
that everything has a definite, fixed principle, and seeks 
it in external things. If you understand what is meant 
by developing the intuitive faculty, that method of ex- 
position does no harm. But if you do not, it would seem 
that you cannot avoid being subject to the danger of having 
a slight error become a very great one. (53) According to 
your letter, you hold that he who has a feeling of appre- 
hension about doing a certain thing, thoroughly under- 
stands its defects. 

Further Comments on the Errors of His Generation with 

Special Reference to the Ambition to Gain 

Preeminence 

Kan-ch 'iian 's record of the Tsun Ching College, which 
you sent, is very good. The general idea therein conveyed 
is similar to the record which I wrote of my own Chi Shan 



LETTERS 421 

College, and which I sent some time ago to Kan-ch'iian. I 
thought I had thereby given a comprehensive exposition of 
our type of learning. Kan-ch'iian says that wisdom and 
realization are not of necessity to be sought externally in 
the classics, nor can one apprehend them by any such 
thing as simply invoking them. Thus it would seem that 
he is over-anxious to arrive at a dictum and has not taken 
time carefully to investigate my idea. That the art of 
learning is not clearly understood by later generations is 
not due to the fact that their wisdom and understanding 
are inferior to those of the ancients; it emanates largely 
from a disposition to excel others and the inability to lay 
hold of the good and be mutually humble. Knowing well 
that what the ancients say is correct, they devote them- 
selves to devising a different exposition in order to excel. 
This means that the more they expound, the more pro- 
foundly they confuse others. That the art of learning is 
not clearly understood results in later scholars' not know- 
ing what to follow. Vain indulgence in excessive talking 
is an error that arises out of our mutually striving to excel. 
The exposition of the intuitive faculty has definitely set 
forth the very essence of learning. The matter of every- 
one's getting rid of this desire to excel rests in all clearly 
understanding this learning. If in accordance with his 
capacity each one is by this method skilfully led on, he 
should naturally arrive somewhere. If he merely wishes 
to establish his own standpoint, he externally makes use of 
his name as the defender of the doctrine, while internally 
he seeks to excel, and pays no attention to the fact that 
thereby true learning is more and more neglected, and the 
mind of others more and more confused. Defending those 
whose ideas are similar to his own, he attacks those whose 
ideas differ from his. They conceal their shortcomings 
and wrangle about their advantages. All this they do in 
order to carry out their private selfish schemes. The benev- 
olent person cannot suffer this patiently. Kan-ch'iian 's 



422 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

purpose surely does not emanate from any such motives, 
but because of the influence of affairs I have abruptly 
touched upon this topic. Most of those who are now dis- 
cussing learning have this defect. Perhaps I myself have 
not been able to avoid it, but I must of necessity energet- 
ically control and subdue myself. What do you hold of 
this? (54) 

Comments — The mind which strives to excel is exceed- 
ingly difficult to subdue (get rid of), and the injury 
which it inflicts is very great. For this reason Yuan 
Hsien held that benevolence consists in keeping from doing 
four things, and that the foremost requirement is controlling 
one's self. 63 If the student is able to get rid of the attitude 
of mind which strives to excel, he has reached a state of 
perfect fairness and openmindedness. Then he has neither 
foregone conclusions nor arbitrary predeterminations, nor 
is he obstinate or egotistic. If he desires to excel, he will 
consider himself correct and others wrong, he will wrangle 
and dispute and, in fact, will be equal to anything. The 
virtuous men of the ' ' Tang Hu ' ' 64 have mostly fallen into 
this grief. The bearing this has upon the art of study 
and upon the mind is not small. How careful we should 
be at this point ! 

Letter to Chi Ming-te 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

A Letter Discussing the Importance of a Constant Purpose 
and Its Relation to Sageness 

Your comforting letter from the distance has arrived. 
Because you thought that my cough had not quieted, your 
anxiety was extreme. I am exceedingly grateful for your 

°3 Yuan Hsien was a disciple of Confucius. See Confucian An- 
alects, Book XIV, Ch. 2. 

e* The ' ' Tang Hu ' ' was a party of patriotic scholars of the Ming 
dynasty, organized for the object of discussing and criticising cur- 
rent politics. It was severely dealt with by the government. (Liu 
Ching-pan). 



LETTERS 423 

sympathy. It is true that in the southwest one should not 
eat too much ginger. I have been eating it temporarily as 
an astringent medicine. Recently a friend had me change 
from that to Pei-mu 65 pills. Though this had very good 
results, it is not equal to the hygienic method you give in 
your letter — a method which will serve as a means of ex- 
tirpating the root of the disease. The idea is of fundamen- 
tal importance, for it applies not only to curing disease, 
but to study itself. 

Your instruction with reference to establishing the pur- 
pose more firmly, implies that sageness may be attained 
through study. You say that by testing your efforts on 
affairs among your friends, dislike for study is less than it 
used to be. I am exceedingly glad of this. You also say 
that the learning of the sage must necessarily be brought 
about by gradual accumulation. This idea also is correct 
and exact. Your use of the sayings of Yao, Shun, Wen 
Wang, Confucius, and Lao-tzu, sufficiently explains the 
idea of the chapter which treats of fixing the determina- 
tion, to show me that you have been energetic of late in 
your advance in cultivating the mind. That, in the midst 
of the disturbing influences of your magistracy, you are able 
to be thus discriminating in your thoughts and energetic 
in your investigation, is a thing which our group of friends 
has not attained. It is justifiable, if you yourself use this 
idea to arouse and stimulate your mental energies and to 
level your purpose and determination. (55) 

But if you should desire according to the evidence to 
distinguish each verse, considering that to be the regular 
method of ascent into the path of the sage, and if you sys- 
tematically arrange the old sayings of the sages and 
include them in your letter, that in this way you may reach 
the heart of this matter, your case may be compared with 
that of Yao when he tried Kun because he could not help 
having doubts ; or of Tzu-hsia when he sought to bring out 

65 A species of the Fritillaria Thunbergii. 



424 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the meaning of Confucius, because his ear was not a recep- 
tive organ for the entrance of truth. 68 The perplexity and 
embarrassment of comparison, calculation, induction, and 
obstruction of thought are still present. The use of this 
method of discussion shows that the sage is such through 
study. Though it clears up the situation somewhat, the 
stages of advance are very difficult. Thus viewed, one real- 
izes the height and profundity of the sage, but does not 
realize that being a sage can be learned by all. It does not 
compare with the last verse, which means that the highest 
stage has actually been attained. 67 

The matter of not transgressing the right, also is merely 
the result of this constant purpose. The matter of not 
transgressing may be attained through study. Is the 
sage radically different from other men ? You further say, 
"Virtue (excellence) is the fundamental character of the 
sage, which selfishness alone injures." Man originally had 
no selfishness. When it is expelled, excellence becomes 
characteristic, and sageness is complete. Sageness has no 
excess and lacks nothing. This shows that it is possible to 
learn to become a sage. But unless the individual has the 
determination to become a sage, he Will not be able to attain 
that state. To discuss it in this way naturally makes it 
simple and warm with intimacy. The use of this method 
in instructing future scholars will be enough to stir them. 
If the former exposition is used, it is not possible to avoid 
making the meek and timid afraid and confused so that 
they fear to try, while the clever man of high aspirations, 
who devotes his energies to external things, will surely be 
defeated in his attempt. 



66 Kun was the father of King Yii. See also Analects, Book 
III, Ch. 8. 

67 Analects, Book II, Ch. 4, If 6. 



LETTERS 425 

The Constant Purpose is Greatly Helped by Intuitive 
Knowledge of Good 

The transmitted instructions and admonitions of sages 
and virtuous men are not completely given in the books, 
and what is given does not exhaust their meaning. When- 
ever one reads the classics, the point of emphasis is in ex- 
tending intuitive knowledge to the utmost. Holding to 
this gives advantage in study. Thus, in whatsoever inverted 
and transposed order the many allusions from the classics 
may appear, all are for the use of the individual. If one 
submerges himself in fixed comparisons, one is fettered 
thereby. Though the individual may attain special excel- 
lence and the advantage of instant illumination, precon- 
ceived ideas and arbitrary predeterminations continue and 
are hidden away within, which in turn serve to obscure the 
intuitive faculty, though the individual is himself not aware 
of it. (56) The saying, "Excellence is the fundamental 
character of the sage," surely conveys the idea of esteeming 
virtue (excellence) ; and the intuitive knowledge should 
thus be designated as the intuitive knowledge of good, for 
in this way others will more readily apprehend the mean- 
ing. I have recently said that the mind's intuitive knowl- 
edge of good is what is implied by sageness. 

The Importance of Exhausting All the Powers of the Mind 

Your letter also says that the individual who devotes 
himself to educating himself should seek to exhaust heaven 
(nature). 68 Your idea shows that you desire to unite 
heaven and men into one all-pervading unity, yet are 
not able to avoid separating them into two distinct things. 
Man is the mind of heaven and earth ; mind is the lord and 
master of heaven, earth, and all things; mind is heaven. 
In saying "mind," you have thereby suggested heaven, 
earth, and all things, and have done it in an intimate, 



68 This is what is meant by illustrating illustrious virtue. 



426 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

simple way. Thus you might better have said that, when a 
man devotes himself to educating himself, he must seek to 
exhaust his mind. Your reply about knowledge and prac- 
tice is, as to fundamentals, really clear, and your method 
of exposition is so quiet and harmonious that it is enlight- 
ening. Your letter displays penetrating intelligence, but 
there are some defects, which you have described as a 
continuing and concealing of foregone conclusions and ar- 
bitrary predeterminations. Since these have now been dis- 
played you should in time naturally come to a complete 
understanding. 

In carrying out the sayings of didactic learning, it is 
best to explain any word which is hard to understand by 
means of a similar, easily comprehended word. But 
if the idea conveyed by learning (self -culture) is at the 
start readily understood, it is not necessary to give instruc- 
tion in its interpretation. Thus, either the method of carry- 
ing out in practice what has been learned, or that of learn- 
ing to give instruction in carrying out learning may be 
used. It is not necessary to be obstinate with reference to 
either. However, the meaning conveyed by carrying out 
(imitating) instruction is not as perfect as that of learning, 
(self-culture). When the individual acts in accordance 
with his nature, nature means the nath of duty. When he 
learns to regulate the path, the path becomes instruction. 
To say that the regulating of the path is instruction, is per- 
missible ; to say that the regulating of the path is learning, 
is also permissible. When the path is viewed as show- 
ing that there must be nothing secret, it is instruction ; 
when viewed as a task that includes the cultivation of 
self, practice of duty, and complete conformity to prin- 
ciples, it implies learning (self-cultivation). Instruction 
and self-culture are both included in the path of duty. This 
is not a thing that man (generic sense) can do. If one 
knows this, what instruction in interpretation is there to be 



LETTERS 427 

added? Because of disease I cannot write, but will later 
make a record of the essentials of this learning. (57) 

Comments — The expression: "In devoting one's self to 
learning one should seek to exhaust the mind," has hit 
upon the great fundamental fact. Having firmly grasped 
this fundamental fact, one forthwith in his daily experience 
of seeing and hearing perceives the progressive movement 
of heaven-given principles in whatever one meets. No mat- 
ter how it is expounded, thus it is. For instance, in cross- 
ing great waves it is only necessary to grasp the helm 
firmly, for then the ship will be steady whether on the crest 
or in the hollow of the waves. If the individual considers 
comparisons of verses and sentences as displaying the high- 
est type of effort, he will to the end imitate and strive for 
things. 

Reply to Nieh Wen-wei 

(First Letter) 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Wang Feels that Nieh Wen-wei Estimates Him too High- 
ly, but is Inspired by His Attitude 

In the midst of summer you have, without getting any 
advantage, suffered the inconvenience and distress of com- 
ing a circuitous route in order to see me. How can I re- 
quite such friendship? I would very much have liked to 
entertain you ten days, that I might use earnest effort on 
my own ideas, for the sake of the advantage of having 
them critically examined; but at that time I was engaged 
in public and private affairs so that I was unable to do so. 
After you left, I was discontented and uneasy, as though 
I had lost something. Unexpectedly I received your letter 
and was comforted. In it you have lauded me too much, 
showing that you purpose to encourage and support ray 
point of view, but your admonitions are true and exact. 
Your thought and desire are to place me within the group 



428 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

of sages and virtuous men. That you charge me to honor 
and follow one thing is done with the most sincere and 
earnest affection. If this were not profound friendship and 
earnest affection, how could it have reached this point? I 
am conscious of a feeling of gratefulness on the one hand, 
and on the other I am conscience-stricken, for I fear that I 
am not worthy of this. And yet, how can I venture to do 
otherwise than urge myself on? Can I merely give place 
to a feeling of gratitude and complaisance expressed in 
words ? 

Your letter says that the philosophers Tzu-ssu, Mencius, 
Chou, and Ch'eng had no idea that they would mutually 
encounter one another a thousand years later. It further 
says that complete acceptance of their philosophies by the 
entire world is not equal to a real confidence in them on 
the part of a single man. Surely the learning of these men 
is to be found where their truths are expounded. That all 
the world should believe in them is not too much, nor is it 
too little if a single man believes in them. This is the mind 
of the superior man, that he is not solicitous when viewed as 
incorrect. Can it be that the superficial and trifling know 
enough to reach this? That I cannot remain silent within 
myself is not because I am concerned with having others 
believe or disbelieve me. Man is the mind of heaven and 
earth. Heaven, earth, and all things are one structure 
with me. (58) Who does not have compassion with the 
distress and sorrow of the people as though they were his 
own? 

The Socializing Effect of the Development of the Intuitive 

Faculty 

Man does not know that his bodily disease and pain 
make it impossible for him to distinguish between right 
and wrong. The mind that distinguishes between right and 
wrong knows without anxious thought and reflection, and 
acts without having learned. This is what is meant by the 



LETTERS 429 

intuitive faculty. It is present in the mind of man without 
distinction between sage and simple-minded, for all men 
both past and present have it. If the superior men of 
this world devote themselves to developing their intuitive 
knowledge of good, they will be able to be equitable in judg- 
ing right and wrong, and will have common likes and dis- 
likes; they will view others as themselves and the state as 
their home ; they will consider themselves as one structure 
with heaven, earth, and all things. Then it will be impos- 
sible to see the Empire governed unwisely. Thus men of 
the past were able not only to view virtue as though it had 
come from themselves, but to consider the evil they saw as 
though they had entered it. They viewed the calamities of 
the people as their own. Moreover, if they failed with ref- 
erence to a single individual, they viewed it as though they 
themselves had pushed him into the ditch. But the reason 
for this was not that they sought to have the people of the 
Empire believe in them, but rather to develop their intu- 
itive faculty to the utmost and to seek self-enjoyment. 

Of the sageness of Yao, Shun, and the Three Kings, it is 
said that when they spoke all the people believed in them, 
because they spoke in accordance with developing the in- 
tuitive faculty. 69 Further, it is said that when they acted 
all the people were pleased with them, because they acted 
in accordance with the developing of their intuitive faculty. 
Therefore their people were prosperous and happy; they 
might be killed without murmuring; they might be bene- 
fited without thinking of their merit. Their benefits (Yao, 
Shun, and the Three Kings',) reached to the barbarous 
tribes of the south and the north, and whosoever had blood 
and breath honored and loved them ; for the intuitive facul- 
ty is common to all men. How simple and easy was the 
method whereby the sages governed the Empire ! 

In later generations the learning based upon the intuitive 
faculty was obscured. The people of the Empire used their 

69 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 31, ^ 3. 



430 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

own selfish wisdom in order to crush one another; for, 
while everybody had a mind, prejudiced, petty, depraved, 
and vulgar views and crafty, hypocritical, obscure, 
wicked practices beyond description prevailed. Externally 
they made use of benevolence and righteousness, while in- 
ternally they sought self and selfish advantage. They used 
deceitful phrases in order to flatter the vulgar, and simu- 
lated in order to seek praise and popularity. They covered 
the virtue of others and utilized it to their own advantage. 
They blazoned other people's selfishness and offered it as 
their own frankness. They were irritable because they 
strove to excel one another, but said that they complied with 
and strove for righteousness; they used violent, dangerous 
methods for the sake of testing one another, but said that 
they despised evil; (59) they were envious of the virtue 
and capacity of others, but considered themselves equi- 
table in judging right and wrong; they gave rein to 
their passions and followed their desires, but considered 
themselves as having the same likes and dislikes. They in- 
sulted and oppressed one another. Since they have not 
been able to get rid of the purpose of excelling and defeat- 
ing the near and dear ones, and have mutually been sep- 
arated by a bamboo fence, how much less will they be able 
to view the multitude of people and things in the great 
Empire as a unity with themselves ! Thus it is not strange 
that, in this confusion, the mutual striving for calamity and 
disorder has become endless. 

Wang Makes a Personal Confession Concerning the Influ- 
ence of the Intuitive Knowledge of Good Upon 
His Own Conduct 

I myself relied sincerely upon the influences of heaven, 
when suddenly I realized that the intuitive knowledge of 
good must be used, that thereby the Empire might be con- 
trolled. Whenever I think of the fallen, miserable condi- 
tion of the people, I am distressed and sore at heart. For- 



LETTERS 431 

getting my own depravity I think of using my own person 
in serving them, even though I do not know its strength. 
When the people of the Empire see that I am about to act, 
they ridicule and slander me, considering me insane and 
out of my mind. Why should I care for this ? Have I who 
feel sore and distressed in person time to consider the ridi- 
cule of others? Surely when a man sees his parent, son, or 
brother fall into a deep hole, he will cry out, crawl on his 
hands and knees, bare his feet, walk about wildly, drag 
himself down to the bank, and save the lost one. A scholar 
near by seeing it will, on the contrary, bow and smile and 
think that the other man has cast aside his politeness, and 
that he cries out and stumbles about thus because he is in- 
sane and out of his mind. The man who bows and smiles 
near the man in the pit and does not realize that he should 
rescue him, must be a traveler who lacks the feelings of 
genuine blood-relationship. Thus it has been said that he 
who lacks the feeling of commiseration is not a man. 70 Who- 
soever loves his parent, son, or brothers, must surely be 
sore at heart and distressed. He cannot help running 
about wildly and exhausting himself, nor do otherwise than 
crawl on his hands and knees, and rescue the one in sore dis- 
tress. He does not regard the danger of falling into 
the pit. How much less will he pay attention to any- 
one's ridicule that he is insane and has lost his mind! 
How much less will he ask whether others believe in 
him or not ! (60) Alas ! It is not impossible that the people 
of the present generation should say that I am insane and 
have lost my mind. The mind of the people of the Empire 
is my own mind. If the people of the Empire seem to be 
insane, how can I be anything but insane? If they seem 
to have lost their minds, how can I be otherwise than dis- 
tressed? 



-o Vide MencuiH, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 6, f 4. 



432 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Confucius Was Misunderstood in His Day 

At the time of Confucius some judged him to be syco- 
phantic, others thought him artful. Some slandered him as 
not being virtuous and accused him of not observing the 
principles of propriety, insulting him as Ch'iu from the 
eastern home. Some were envious of him and threatened 
him ; others hated him and desired to kill him. The gate- 
keeper (of Shih-man) and the man carrying the straw 
basket in Wei were virtuous scholars of that day, yet the 
one said, "It is he (Confucius) — is it not? — who knows 
the impracticable nature of the times and yet will be doing 
in them?" and the other said, "How contemptible is the 
one-ideaed obstinacy those sounds display! When one 
is taken no notice of, he has simply at once to give over 
his wish for public employment. ' ' 71 Though Tzu-lu be- 
longed to those who had ascended to the hall, he questioned 
what he saw and did not like to go with Confucius where 
he wished to go. 72 Moreover, he considered him as having 
perverted ideas. Of those who did not believe in the Mas- 
ter in his own time were there only one or two out of ten ? 
However, the Master was so much pressed with affairs that 
he acted as if he Were seeking a lost son on the road, and 

7i ' ' Tsze-lu happening to pass the night in Shih-man, the gate-keeper 
said to him, 'Whom do you come from?' Tsze-lu said, 'From Mr. 
K 'ung. ' ' It is he, — is it not I ' — said the other, ' who knows the 
impracticable nature of the times, and yet will be doing in them. ' 

"The Master was playing, one day, on a musical stone in Wei, 
when a man, carrying a straw basket, passed the door of the house 
where Confucius was, and said, 'His heart is full who so beats the 
musical stone.' 

"A little while after, he added, 'How contemptible is the one- 
ideaed obstinacy those sounds display! When one is taken no notice 
of, he has simply at once to give over his wish for public employ- 
ment. "Deep water must be crossed with the clothes on; shallow 
water may be crossed with the clothes held up. " ' ' ' — Analects, Book 
XIV, Ch. 41 and Ch. 42, If 1 and 2. 

72 "Ascended to the hall" refers to the substantial progress he 
had made in his learning. 



LETTERS 433 

did not warm his sleeping-mat. How could he merely 
strive for popularity and for a following of those who be- 
lieved in him? This would seem to show that his benevo- 
lence — a benevolence which he had in common with heaven, 
earth, and all things — was sore distressed and provoked 
to the extreme, so that though he might wish to be indif- 
ferent he could not give complete consent to such indiffer- 
ence. For this reason he said, ''If I do not associate with 
these people, with whom shall I associate ? " 73 This wishing 
to maintain personal purity and thereby allowing the great 
human relationships to come to confusion is truly not diffi- 
cult. If this does not mean sincerity in the matter of the 
unity of heaven, earth, and all things, who can understand 
the mind of the Master? Had he concealed himself from 
the world, he would have been free from grief. Finding 
joy in a contemplation of heaven and knowing its man- 
dates, he surely would have found himself in no situation 
in which he would not have been himself, and he would 
have pursued his path without coming into conflict with 
them. 74 

Wang Expresses a Desire for Help in the Great Task Which 
He Has Undertaken 

How can I in my depravity venture to appropriate the 
doctrines of Confucius as my own ? On the other hand, I 
do feel sore distressed, and for this reason I look in four 
directions full of fear, seeking someone who will assist me 
and discuss the removal of this defect. (61) If I really 
find a brave, resolute scholar who has a common purpose 
with me and who will support and assist me, we will to- 
gether illustrate and explain the learning which makes the 
intuitive knowledge of good its basis in the Empire, so that 
everybody may understand how to develop the intuitive 
faculty to the utmost, in order that, pacifying and culti- 

" Analects, Book XVIII, Ch. 6, f 4. 

t* Refers probably to the mandates of Heaven. 



434 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

vating one another, they may put aside the obscuration of 
selfish advantage. After they have washed away slander, 
envy, desire to excel, and resentment, and have brought 
about a universal brotherhood, my insanity will surely 
be put off and cured, and I will have completely obvia- 
ted the calamity of losing my mind. Should I not then 
be happy! Now that I really seek a brave, resolute schol- 
ar who has a common purpose with me, to whom shall 
I turn, if not to you? Such ability and purpose as you 
have are really enough to rescue the sunken world. Since 
we know that this is all present within ourselves and that 
we do not need to seek without, carrying this out wherever 
we go, even as a river which has broken its bank flows into 
the sea, who can resist us? You say that if a single man 
should believe in my learning it would not be too few. To 
whom can I depute it? 

Hui-chi is commonly spoken of as a place with moun- 
tains, running water, great forests, and long valleys, 
which are found wherever one wishes to go. Whether 
in winter or in summer, whether cloudy or clear, the cli- 
mate is always congenial. There one can dwell in peace 
and plenty, and dust and noise do not annoy. Friends 
assemble there from the four quarters, and the ideas 
of the truth are daily renewed. How tranquil and pleas- 
ant this is ! Where in heaven or on earth can such joy be 
reproduced? Confucius said, "I do not murmur e gainst 
Heaven. I do not grumble against men. My studies lie 
low and my penetration rises high." 75 If I and two or 
three others of like purposes are about to carry out this say- 
ing, why should we turn to external desires? But I can- 
not remain heartless and indifferent to the distress of my 
skin (that is, the distress of the people). I have therefore 
again and again told you this. 

I am afflicted with a cough and am under the noxious in- 
fluence of the summer air, and am thus very remiss in let- 

75 Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 37, ^ 2. 



LETTERS 435 

ter-writing. Your esteemed servant has come a great dis- 
tance, and I have detained him a day. When I took up the 
pen to write, I could not help writing too much, because of 
our profound friendship. Though I have thus arranged 
the foregoing facts, I have not done full justice to the occa- 
sion. 

Comments — The sage considers everything under heaven 
as his body. He views the dumbness, deafness or blindness 
of others as defects of his own body. For this reason it is 
said that Yao and Shun were distressed. (62) Were it not 
for the great benevolence of Yao and Shun, it would 
not have been possible for them to have been thus dis- 
tressed. Their great benevolence was at the root of their 
distress. That Confucius wandered about from place to 
place and Mencius took delight in arguing, was due to the 
fact that they viewed the defects of the Empire as their 
own defects. They were not able to sit quiet a single day, 
and could not get along a single day without speaking. 
There really was something present that would not allow 
them to rest. The Teacher (Wang Yang-ming) lived in a 
dumb, deaf, blind world, devoid of benevolence as a man 
who talks and ridicules beside the pit into which someone 
has fallen. He was willing to submit to the ridicule of be- 
ing insane, that he might exhibit the ideas with reference 
to which he could not rest. Really this implies having the 
mind of a sage. 

This letter shows that the Teacher himself directly as- 
sumed responsibility for this doctrine. 

Third Letter to Nieh Wen-wei 

Written in the seventh year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Familiarity With the Task of the Development of the Intu- 
itive Faculty Clears Up the Details of Learning 

Having received your letter, I know of the very rapid 
advance you have recently made. This is a source of re- 
joicing and comfort beyond expression. I have critically 



436 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

examined the letter a number of times. That there are a 
number of places that are not perfectly clear is due to the 
fact that you are not completely familiar with the task of 
developing the intuitive faculty to the utmost. When you 
have fully mastered it, this lack of clearness will vanish of 
itself. It may be compared to driving a wagon. At times, 
though one is on the great highway, the carriage is not level 
and goes diagonally back and forth across the road, because 
the disposition of the horse is not well regulated and the bit 
and bridle not well adjusted. However, since the cart is 
on the great highway, one must not mistakenly enter 
an adjoining footpath or a winding, roundabout road. 
Even of those who have a common purpose with me I have 
not seen many who have reached this stage. Yet even for 
the few I am gladly comforted, for this is the good fortune 
of the truth I proclaim. 

Though in Very Poor Health, Wang Dares Not Resign Of- 
ficial Position 

My body has long been subject to a cough and is in con- 
stant dread of heat. Since I have recently come to a very 
warm climate, these have suddenly appeared again in a 
violent form. The emperor knows me well, having given 
me great responsibility. I dare not venture to resign at 
this time, for military affairs are confused. In all this I 
carry on my daily affairs, though I am not well. Now, 
however, matters have fortunately quieted down and I have 
prepared a memorial in which I ask permission to return 
and treat my disease. If I can go home and receive the 
benefits of the clear cool climatic conditions there, perhaps 
I may recover. After your messenger returned, I wrote 
resting on my pillow, but I did not do full justice to my 
regard for you. (63) In addition I send a letter to Wei- 
chun, which you will please deliver to him. 



LETTERS 437 

A Perplexing Problem in Wang's Standpoint 

With reference to the questions you ask in your letter, I 
have hastily answered a few things. During recent years 
those who have come into the mountains have frequently 
said that the matters of the mind's not forgetting and of 
its not assisting the growth of nature are exceedingly hard 
to carry out. In making inquiry about it they said, "As 
soon as one places his purpose, he assists the growth; and 
as soon as he does not place his purpose, he forgets. There- 
fore it is an exceedingly difficult task." In reply I asked, 
' ' To what do the forgetting and assisting have reference ? ' ' 
They were quiet and had no answer, but began to make in- 
quiry. Then I gave them my exposition of it. I did not 
say that the sayings : ' ' Let not the mind forget ; let there be 
no assisting the growth of nature; there must be constant 
practice," imply a continual accumulation of righteous 
deeds. 76 If the individual devotes himself to constant prac- 
tice, he will have forgotten, if at any time there is an in- 
terruption in this practice. Thus, it is forthwith necessary 
not to forget. If the individual devotes himself to constant 
practice (of righteousness), he is assisting the growth, if at 
any time he desires rapid development and seeks results. 
Thus, it is forthwith necessary not to assist. The entire task 
centers about the necessity of constant practice. The use 
of "not forgetting" and of "not assisting" is that of ad- 
vancing the individual and of bringing him to a state of 
realization. If the task is not interrupted at all, it is not 
necessary to speak of not forgetting. If there is no desire 
for rapid advance, if there is no seeking for results, it is 
superfluous to speak of not assisting the growth. How 
clear and simple, how lofty and easy this task is ! 

The Importance of Practicing Righteousness 

Today, however, men do not apply themselves to the 
constant practice of righteousness, but vainly emphasize 
76 Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, H 16. 



438 PHILOSOPHY OP WANG YANG-MING 

the matter of not forgetting and not assisting the growth. 
This truly may be compared to heating the skillet without 
having put water and rice into it, and then adding firewood 
and starting the fire. I do not know what, in last analysis, 
one can boil under such circumstances. I fear that if the 
fire is started before things have been arranged, the skillet 
will first be cracked. Those who expend their efforts on 
the matters of not forgetting and not assisting are subject 
to this sort of a defect. Continually to carry out the mat- 
ters of not forgetting and not assisting the growth, and to 
urge on and waste one's energies on this, leaves one entire- 
ly without a real point of departure. (64) In last analysis 
the task will eventuate merely in one's falling into ab- 
straction and quietness, and in learning to become a simple- 
ton or an idiot. As soon as such a one meets the affairs 
of life, he is hindered and perplexed and is not able to 
adjust and control himself. This causes those scholars, who 
purpose to apply themselves, to be in distress, to be bound, 
and to waste their lives. All this takes its origin from 
wrong methods of learning. How pitiful it is! 

In All This the Development of the Intuitive Faculty 
Gomes First 

Constant necessity of practice implies accumulating right- 
eous deeds, and the accumulation of righteousness implies 
developing the intuitive knowledge of good to the utmost. 
If one gives an exposition of the accumulation of righteous 
deeds, one does not at once get a view of the fundamental 
fact. But if the exposition starts with the developing of 
the intuitive faculty, one is in a position really to apply 
one's self correctly. Thus it comes that I expound only the 
matter of developing the intuitive faculty to the utmost. 
Whatever affair comes up one should, in accordance there- 
with and following it, develop the intuitive knowledge of 
good. This is what is meant by investigating things. 
Really and earnestly to extend the intuitive knowledge of 



LETTERS 439 

good to the utmost implies making the purpose sincere. 
Really and earnestly to extend the intuitive faculty and to 
be without foregone conclusions, arbitrary predetermina- 
tions, obstinacy, and egoism implies rectifying the mind. 
Genuinely to develop the intuitive faculty insures freedom 
from the defect of forgetting. Moreover, he who is com- 
pletely free from foregone conclusions, arbitrary predeter- 
minations, obstinacy, and egoism is also free from the defect 
of assisting the growth. Thus, if one speaks of investigating 
things, extending knowledge, making the purpose sincere, 
and rectifying the mind, he need not in addition speak of 
forgetting and assisting. 

Mencius Criticises the Philosopher Kao in His Exposition of 
Forgetting and Not Assisting the Growth 

Mencius' exposition of forgetting and assisting represents 
a prescription for the defects of the philosopher Kao. Kao 's 
forced control of his mind was the disease of assisting. For 
this reason Mencius spoke only of the injury emanating 
from assisting the growth. Kao's assisting the growth was 
due to the fact that he considered righteousness external 
and did not comprehend that he should accumulate right- 
eous deeds in and through his own mind. To apply one's 
self to the necessity of constant practice is of this sort. If 
one constantly accumulates righteousness in his own mind, 
the intuitive faculty will be clear and bright, and, of course, 
right and wrong cannot then be hidden away. How, then, 
can there be the obscuration described in the words, "What 
is not attained in words is not to be sought for in the mind ; 
what produces dissatisfaction in the mind is not to be 
helped by passion effort"? 77 Mencius' exposition of ac- 
cumulating righteousness and cultivating the passion nature 
is surely of great value to later scholars. Since it is a 
prescription for a defect, and for the most is explanatory, 
its value is not equal to the investigation of things, the 

77 Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, f 9. 



440 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

making sincere of the purpose, and the rectifying of the 
mind, as quoted by the Great Learning. The latter is more 
discriminating, undivided, and simple. For discerning 
heaven and earth, past and present, it never has had and 
never will have any defects. 

The Sages of Different Generations Agree Approximately 
in Their Discussions of Learning 

For the most part, sages and virtuous men discussed 
learning in accordance with the affairs of the times. (65) 
Though there were differences of exposition according to 
the men, they were in harmony regarding the essentials of 
the task. This was because, in heaven and on earth, there 
is but this one nature, this one principle, this one intuitive 
faculty, this one task. Therefore, whenever the task is ex- 
pounded in accordance with the discussion of the ancients, 
one most surely should not mix up this one important 
thing with others, or connect it with others. Then there 
will quite naturally be no places that are not harmoniously 
blended and really clear. If the discussion is mixed up 
with other things, one's own task will not be clearly under- 
stood. 

It is said that the accumulating of righteous deeds must 
be connected up with the development of the intuitive facul- 
ty in order that the situation may be perfect. This implies 
that the accumulating of righteous deeds is not yet clearly 
comprehended and, not being understood, it naturally re- 
sults in the embarrassment of the intuitive faculty. To 
say that the development of the intuitive faculty must be 
connected with not forgetting and not assisting the growth 
in order to be clear, shows that the matter of developing 
the intuitive faculty is not yet fully comprehended. That 
extending the intuitive knowledge of good is not thorough- 
ly understood under such circumstances is quite sufficient 
to entail the embarrassment referred to in not forgetting 
and not assisting the growth. All this is due to an explana- 



LETTERS 441 

tion of deductions from the meaning of the characters, for 
the purpose of understanding and gaining assurance. But 
as the individual has not appreciated this through his own 
personal efforts, he gets farther from the facts the more 
minutely he discusses them. 

Wang Corrects a Misapprehension on the Part of Nieh Wen- 

wci Regarding the Intuitive Faculty, Giving a 

Detailed Statement of Its Functioning 

Your discussion is perfectly free from doubt as far as 
the great root and the universal path are concerned, but 
you mix up the developing of the intuitive faculty, the in- 
vestigation of principles, as well as sayings regarding not 
forgetting and not assisting, or you connect them with 
other things. You will naturally understand when you 
have become thoroughly familiar with the task, that this is 
what I described as going criss-cross on the great highway. 
From your saying that the development of the intuitive 
faculty is to be sought in serving one 's parents and respect- 
ing one 's elder brother — which actions serve as something 
that may be grasped — I realize that this section exhibits 
clearly your genuine and earnest efforts. But, though I 
consider this no disadvantage to you, and though you may 
gather strength from it, the use of this as a definite way of 
instructing others must eventuate in distributing disease 
for the sake of the medicine. I am under obligation to ex- 
plain to you. (66) 

The intuitive faculty is the embodiment of natural law. 
It is quite naturally the point of clear realization. The 
place of manifestation is to be found in true sincerity 
and commiseration. This is its original character. Thus, 
the development of the sincerity and sympathetic feeling 
of the intuitive faculty when applied to serving one's par- 
ents is filial piety ; when applied to respecting and obeying 
the elder brother, denotes acting as a young brother 
should ; and when applied to serving the prince, is loyalty. 



442 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

There is only one intuitive faculty and only one true sin- 
cerity and feeling of sympathetic relation. If the intuitive 
faculty which is used by the younger brother in obeying 
his elder brother, does not include the development of 
his sincerity and sympathy, the intuitive faculty which is 
used by the son in serving his parents, does not include the 
development of his sincerity and sympathy. Likewise, if 
the intuitive knowledge of good which is used in serving 
one's prince, does not include sincerity and sympathetic 
feeling, the intuitive knowledge of good which is used in 
obeying the elder brother, also does not include this sin- 
cerity and sympathetic feeling. 

Thus it follows that the development of the intuitive 
faculty which has reference to serving one's prince implies 
the development of the intuitive faculty which manifests it- 
self in obeying one's elder brother, and the development of 
the intuitive faculty involved in obeying one 's elder brother 
implies its development in relation to serving one's parents. 
This does not mean that if the intuitive faculty of serving 
one 's prince cannot be developed to the utmost, one must de- 
velop the intuitive faculty of serving one's parents. To 
proceed in this way again implies departing from the origi- 
nal source and seeking in matters of secondary importance. 
There is but one intuitive faculty. Compliance with its 
progressive manifestations is at the time perfectly com- 
plete. It cannot be given out or acquired, nor can it be 
borrowed or loaned. However, in its progressive mani- 
festations there are degrees of emphasis and negligence, 
but it will not permit of having the least bit added or sub- 
tracted. It is the natural state of equilibrium. Though 
there are degrees of emphasis and negligence, not the least 
bit may be added or subtracted, for it is a unity. Thus, 
though it is one only, the degrees of emphasis and negli- 
gence also cannot be added to or subtracted from. If it 
reaches the point where it can be increased or decreased, 
if it is necessary to increase its capacity by external ac- 



LETTERS . 443 

quisition, it is not the original true sincerity and native 
sympathy of the intuitive faculty. 

The wonderful and mysterious functioning of the intu- 
itive faculty takes no hard and fast form, and is unlimited. 
If one speaks of its greatness, nothing in the world can em- 
brace it; if one discusses its minuteness, nothing in the 
world is able to analyze it. 78 Mencius' saying that the 
truths proclaimed by Yao and Shun are all included in 
filial piety and fraternal submission, is in accordance with 
the saying that if one follows the dictates of the intuitive 
faculty one's efforts become genuinely earnest and gener- 
ous. 79 (67) It is not necessary to enlighten anyone with 
reference to the points where nature has been obscured and 
is not clear. That which regulates man in serving his 
prince, selecting his friends, loving the people, and regard- 
ing things highly ; that which regulates him whether acting 
or resting, whether speaking or quiet, is just the develop- 
ment of the intuitive faculty, which bears in mind filial and 
fraternal relations, and which is truly sincere and sympa- 
thetic. Under such circumstances, nothing arises that is 
not in harmony with the path of duty. Though affairs 
under heaven are continually changing and developing, un- 
til it is impossible to investigate them completely, it is only 
necessary in responding to them to develop the intuitive 
faculty of serving one's parents and of manifesting fra- 
ternal submission which is both sincere and sympathetic 
in thought. Thus there will be neither deficiency nor loss. 

The Intuitive Faculty is All-comprehensive 

This is equal to saying that there is but this one 
intuitive faculty. Apart from the intuitive faculty of 
serving one's parents and obeying one's elder brother, 
there is no other intuitive faculty which can be developed 
to the utmost. Thus it is said that the truths proclaimed 

78 Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 12, If 2. 

to Vide Mencius, Book VI, Pt. II, Ch. 2, H 4. ' 



444 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

by Yao and Shun are all included in filial piety and fra- 
ternal submission. This, therefore, I consider the learning 
that emphasizes the importance of being discriminating and 
undivided. If it is published and extended, within the four 
seas it will be obeyed and heeded. If bestowed upon and 
diffused among later generations, there will be none who 
hear it in the morning, who would not die in the evening 
without regret. 80 You say that you desire to seek the learn- 
ing of the intuitive faculty in the practice of filial piety 
and fraternal submission. If you yourself are able to get 
advantage for your task in this way of putting it, there is 
nothing to prevent you. If you say that you develop the 
sincerity and sympathetic feeling of the intuitive faculty 
for the sake of carrying out to completion this filial piety 
and fraternal submission, that, too, is allowable. 

The philosopher Ch 'eng Ming-tao said : ' ' The practice of 
benevolence takes its departure from filial piety and fra- 
ternal submission. Filial piety and fraternal submission 
are included in benevolence. To say that they imply prac- 
ticing the root of benevolence is permissible, but to say that 
they are the root of benevolence is not permissible. ' ' This 
is correct and similar to the sayings of a prognosticator. 

Prec&n-ceived Ideas Interfere with True Knowledge 

Your statement that sincerity, in whatever way it is ap- 
plied, is a function of the intuitive faculty, is very excellent. 
I have already mentioned whatever places of intermixture 
there are in your expositions. Wei-chiin's exposition also 
is correct. In what you have said, a little should be appro- 
priated from Wei-chun, and then your exposition would be 
exhaustive; and in what Wei-chun has said, a little should 
be appropriated from yours, and then it would be clear. 
Otherwise, it will not be possible for either of you to be 
complete and independent. Shun closely examined the 
words of others and questioned the grass and reed cutters 

so Vide Analects, Book IV, Ch. 8. 



LETTERS 445 

(the people). 81 (68) He did this not because it was neces- 
sary for him thus closely to examine the words of others or 
to question the people : it was simply the result of the nat- 
ural progressive manifestation of the intuitive faculty. 
When the light is clear, complete, and bright (referring to 
the intuitive faculty), nothing hinders or obstructs it. This 
is great understanding (knowledge). As soon as the in- 
dividual holds fast to preconceived ideas and foregone con- 
clusions, knowledge becomes small. In the discussion of 
learning, distinctions naturally are made regarding that 
which should be put aside and that which should be appro- 
priated. But in really applying one's self in accordance 
with the mind, one must proceed in this manner, for then 
only is one able to carry out the three paragraphs of the 
chapter called "Ching Hsin." 82 

Wang Discusses Other Details of the True Learning 

The exposition I have previously given of being born with 
knowledge, knowing by study, and acquiring knowledge 
after a painful feeling of ignorance is exceedingly clear and 
cannot be doubted. After saying, "He who has exhausted 
his mental constitution knows his nature, and knowing his 
nature, he knows Heaven," it is not necessary to speak of 
preserving one's mental constitution and nourishing one's 
nature in order to serve Heaven, nor is it necessary to say 
that neither a premature death nor long life can cause any 
doublemindedness, for one waits in the cultivation of one's 

si Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 6. 

82 Mencius said, ' ' He who has exhausted all his mental constitution 
knows his nature. Knowing his nature, he knows Heaven. 

"To preserve one's mental constitution, and nourish one's nature, 
is the way to serve Heaven. 

"When neither a premature death nor long life causes a man any 
double-mindedness, but he waits in the cultivation of his personal 
character for whatever issues; — this is the way in which he estab- 
lishes his Heaven-ordained being. ' ' — Menciua, Book VII, Part I, 
Ch. 1. 



446 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

personal character. Nourishing nature, preserving one's 
mental constitution, and waiting in the cultivation of the 
person are already included in these. Though he who pre- 
serves his mental constitution and nourishes his nature in 
order to serve Heaven has not attained to the place where he 
exhausts his mental constitution and knows Heaven, he has 
nevertheless sought to attain it. It is not necessary to say 
that for such an individual neither premature death nor 
long life causes any doublemindedness, because he waits 
in the cultivation of his personal character; for this, 
too, is included. 

This may be compared to walking. He who ex- 
hausts his mental constitution and knows Heaven may 
be compared to a mature, strong man who is able 
to hurry about back and forth for great distances. He 
who preserves his mental constitution and serves Heaven is 
as a child which is taught to practice walking in the vesti- 
bule. He who knows no doublemindedness because of pre- 
mature death or long life, but waits in the cultivation of his 
person, is like an infant supporting himself against the wall 
and gradually learning to stand and to take a step. Since 
the individual is already able to hurry back and forth great 
distances, it is not necessary to have him learn to march in 
the vestibule, for, of course, he is able to do that. If he is 
able to walk in the vestibule, it is not necessary to have 
him support himself against the wall and learn to stand up 
and take a step, for, of course, he can do that. However, 
learning to stand up and take a step is the beginning of 
learning to walk in the vestibule, and learning to walk 
in the vestibule is the beginning of learning to hurry- 
back and forth great distances. (69) Thus they surely 
are not separate, distinct things ; but the difficulty and sim- 
plicity of the task are mutually very different. 



LETTERS 447 

The Unity of Mind, Nature, and Heaven 

Mind, nature, and heaven are one all-pervading unity. 
Thus, when it comes to knowing them completely, it all 
amounts to the same thing. But with regard to these three, 
the actions of men and their strength have degrees, and the 
regular order should not be overstepped. A careful perusal 
of your discussion seems to show that you fear that ex- 
hausting the mental constitution in order to know Heaven 
sets aside the cherishing of the mental constitution and the 
cultivation of the person, and becomes the defect of exhaust- 
ing one's mental constitution in order to know Heaven. This 
implies that you deplore the fact that the work done by the 
sage (Mencius) should have interruption, but are not con- 
scious of deploring the fact that your own efforts are not 
genuine and earnest. In our efforts we should devote our- 
selves exclusively to developing the will. To expend our 
efforts on the matters of not allowing premature death or 
long life to cause any doublemindedness and of waiting in 
the cultivation of the person, implies that we are at the 
beginning of exhausting the mental constitution and know- 
ing Heaven, just as learning to stand and take a step is the 
beginning of learning to travel great distances. If I am 
solicitous now that I cannot rise and take a step, should I 
forthwith worry that I cannot travel great distances? How 
much less should I be solicitous, lest he who is able to travel 
a thousand li should forget how to rise and take a step ! 

Your penetration by nature surpasses that of others, but 
your discussion of this shows that you are not able to get 
rid of former habits of interpreting the meaning of literary 
compositions. Thus, in analyzing and comparing these three 
sections so as to make them thoroughly your own, you, on 
the one hand, naturally add the implications of your own 
ideas, and, on the other, are not perfectly undivided in your 
efforts. Of late those who merely carry out the matter of 
not forgetting and of not assisting have this defect in their 



448 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

views. This is a matter that is exceedingly wasteful of time. 
No one can afford not to rid himself of it. 

The sixth verse of the twenty-seventh chapter of the 
Doctrine of the Mean says : ' ' Therefore, the superior man 
honors his virtuous nature, and maintains constant inquiry 
and study, seeking to carry it out to its breadth and great- 
ness, so as to omit none of the more exquisite and minute 
points which it embraces, and to raise it to its greatest 
height and brilliancy, so as to pursue the course of the 
Mean. He cherishes his old knowledge, and is continually 
new. He exerts an honest, generous earnestness, in the 
esteem and practice of all propriety." This, you assert, 
should be rendered as one and the same thing, and should 
be even less a matter of doubt. This shows that you have 
applied yourself correctly, for only then could you speak 
as you have. Originally this is not a narrow, esoteric truth, 
which is difficult to comprehend. If individuals should per- 
chance disagree concerning it, a little obscuration (dust) is 
still concealed within the intuitive faculty. (70) If this 
is removed, it will be perfectly clear. 

After I had finished my letter my bed was moved under 
the eaves of the house, and as I was not occupied with 
special affairs I answered it again. Inasmuch as in your 
learning you have grasped the most important things, these 
doubts should after some time gradually be dispelled. It 
would not have been necessary for me to analyze the situ- 
ation thus minutely, but your regard for me is profound, so 
that you have sent a man a thousand li to me and have 
made most careful inquiry. Moreover, since you have 
humbled yourself completely, I can but speak. However, I 
have spoken too frankly and with too many implications. 
Do not count this as a violation of decorum. It would be 
very good, if Wei-ehiin could get a copy of this letter for 
his perusal. 

Comments — "When the task of learning has reached a 
resting place, one, of course, cannot stop. How, then, can it 



LETTERS 449 

be forgotten ? It is necessary to think, but it is not neces- 
sary to assist the growth. It may be compared to a man 
who has a definite resting place or home. Thereby he has a 
permanent place. Though he wishes to forget he cannot, 
for he has already settled himself permanently and peace- 
fully. Though he should desire to assist himself, what ad- 
vantage would it be ? The Teacher in his instruction made 
application of strength at filial piety and fraternal sub- 
mission. How true and genuine this is ! If the individual 
acts thus daily, how can there be either an assisting or a 
forgetting of the wonderful, mysteiious, irrepressive char- 
acter of growing? Thus you can clearly see the real point 
of application in investigating things for the purpose of ex- 
tending knowledge to the utmost. 

Reply to Ch'u Ch'ai-hsii 

(Second Letter) 
Written in the seventh year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Evaluates Manhood More Highly than the Outward 
Demeanor and Bearing of a Master 

Yesterday I sent you a hastily written, sketchy letter. 
My purpose was to seek the truth, and thus I was not aware 
of detail and confusion. I have received your long letter 
in reply. You have respected me too much, and have there- 
by increased my shame. Your letter reproves me as not 
maintaining the path of a master (sage), and as not devot- 
ing myself to sincerity and truth. However, who am I that 
I should maintain the bearing of a sage? What you 
say in a former letter about there being differences of 
rank, also means that I am of superior learning and that 
others, too, have a desire to find the truth. (71) If the age 
of the individual is about the same, and if he lacks the pur- 
pose of seeking the truth, he should, as customary, be treat- 
ed as a guest. How can a distinction of rank be made under 
such circumstances? This would be acting like a madcap. 



450 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Moreover, if one should not consider what one's purpose is 
in coming, is there, then, such a principle as that one should 
with resisting mien maintain the bearing of a master ? The 
state of master (teacher) cannot be obtained by occupying 
it personally. If the visitor seeks me, I should respond with 
the truth. Who in this generation has the appellation of 
master (teacher) ? Those who practice some art or handi- 
craft have teachers; those who practice writing Chujen 
compositions and strive for fame and gain have teachers. 
They believe that handicraft is a means of getting clothes 
and food, and that writing the master's thesis will bring 
them fame and gain, and enable them to attain a high de- 
gree of nobility. Unless one realizes that making one 's na- 
ture sincere is of more importance than clothing and food, 
and official rank and title, who is willing to seek a teacher ? 
If the handicraft is not practiced, the individual merely 
lacks clothes, and if the writing of the Chujen 's composi- 
tions is not practiced he merely loses titles of nobility ; but 
if that which is essential to nature is obscured or trans- 
gressed, he cannot be a man. Is it not greatly to be lamented 
that men clearly perceive the former, but fail to distinguish 
the latter? 

Concrete Example of True Men Cited 

When I was formerly with Yang Yin-chih and Liu Ching- 
su in the T'aihsiieh, Yin-chih at every examination was 
ahead of Ching-su. 83 But Yin-chih felt that he had not at- 
tained the ability of Ching-su in penetrating, connected 
composition. One day he paid Ching-su the respect of a 
pupil. I always honored and respected him, believing that 
a man like Yin-chih truly could be considered an excellent 
and superior scholar. If he were to change this attitude 
into one of seeking the truth, what could he not attain of 
virtue and sageness! However, he was able to devote him- 
self to the former, but not to the latter. When the disease 

83 The T 'aihsiieh ia a place approximating a school. 



LETTERS 451 

of the philosopher Tseng was very severe, he changed his 
mat. When Tzu-lu faced death, he adjusted the tassels on 
his hat, Heng Ch'ii removed the tiger skin from his seat 
and had his followers listen to the instruction of the two 
Ch'engs. Only men of great courage and unselfishness can 
act in that Way. 

Suggestions Regarding the Etiquette of Entertaining In- 
quirers of Different Ages 

At this time the waves roll and the winds are high (the 
people are much disturbed), so that the condition is very 
little different from that of being severely ill or facing 
death. However, there are also men who consider their 
point of view correct and are not willing to seek the truth. 
(72) In the present generation no one but an heroic, inde- 
pendent scholar, who realizes that the essentials of his na- 
ture must be developed and who firmly shoulders the truths 
of virtuous men and sages, would of himself seek a teacher 
(master) . You also suspect that it is not universally neces- 
sary, if their age is greatly different, to treat those as guests 
who enter the path of duty later, though their natural in- 
telligence and their inclination are inadequate to receive 
instruction. My former letter amounts to saying that I 
speak of those who have a purpose to learn the truth re- 
garding something allied. This means that they may or 
may not be treated as guests. If the age of the inquirer is 
far different from mine, then the relative position (rank) 
holds. It is not necessary to wait for this to be said. Con- 
fucius caused a youth of the village of Ch'ueh to carry 
messages between him and his visitors and said about him, 
"I observe that he is fond of occupying the seat of a full- 
grown man, that he walks shoulder to sho alder with his 
elders, that he is not seeking to make progress but wishes 
quickly to become a man." 84 Though this contains instruc- 
tion, it has reference to those who are inferior in learning. 

8* Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 47, % 1 and 2. 



452 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

In the case of an inquirer of carefully perfected virtue and 
the highest intelligence, his great difference in age makes 
him my master though he is horn twenty or more years 
after me. If he is slightly inferior to that, he is my friend. 
Can one discuss them in accordance with their relative age ? 

Your man hurries away so that I have slighted this letter. 
Will you not critically analyze what I have written and send 
me a reply ? 

Comments — Having read the instructions of the teacher 
from Ch'ang-li 85 and this letter from the Teacher, I realize 
that of the three relations the present age has lost one. 
However, it is not necessary to seek that from other men 
only. The Master said : ' ' Let every man consider virtue 
as "what devolves on himself. He may not yield the per- 
formance of it even to his teacher. ' ' ** Mencius said : 
"When w r e get by our seeking and lose by our neglecting, 
the things sought are those which are in ourselves ' ' 8T If a 
person is himself able to attain to the position of teacher, 
everything that is good in all the sages is in the mind. If 
he insists on setting himself aside and seeking others, it 
shows that he belongs to the mass of people who wait for 
King Wen and then have a rousing impulse. 88 

Letter Written to the Two Brothers, Wen- j en Pang-ying 
and Wen- j en Pang-cheng 

Written in the thirteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

A Scholar May Work for a Literary Degree and at the Same 
Time Make Progress in True Learning 

You are both clever men who take delight in learning. 
That my two brothers should thus cultivate and refine them- 

85 The teacher from Ch 'ang-li was Han Wen-kung. The three 
relations are Dobility, age, and virtue. See Mencius, Book II, Pt. II, 
Ch. 2, H 6. 

se Analects, Book XV, Ch. 35. 

87 Mencius, Book VII, Pt. I, Ch. 3, | 1. 

»»Ibid., Ch. 10. 



LETTERS 453 

selves both morning and evening, is a source of great pleas- 
ure to me. When I received your letter, I fully realized 
the sincerity and earnestness of your progress, and was the 
more comforted. Since your home is poverty-stricken and 
your parents are old, what else can you do but seek emolu- 
ment and official position? If you seek emolument and 
official position without devoting yourselves to getting the 
degree of Chiijen, you will not be able to carry out your 
duties as men, and will find fault with fate to no avail. 
There is no such principle as that. But if you can firmly 
fix your determination, in every condition exhaust the truth, 
and be influenced in thought neither by getting nor by fail- 
ing to receive the degree, then, though you are obliged to 
practice for the degree, it will be no real hindrance to the 
learning of the sage or virtuous man. If at the start you 
lack the desire and purpose to become sages or virtuous 
men, you will only complete the defect of devoting your- 
selves to external things and of loving exalted position, even 
though you do not strive for the degree of Chiijen and 
daily converse about the virtue of the path. 

In harmony with this the people of the past said that one 
should neither be perplexed nor hindered by work, but 
should fear lest one's determination be taken away. This 
speaking of having the determination taken away ( dis- 
pelled )implies that there was a will there to be taken away. 
If the individual has not had a will that can be taken, he 
should meditate profoundly, investigate, and plan for it at 
once. Whenever I think of your excellent ability, I esti- 
mate it highly. Excellent ability is not easy to get, but it 
is easily destroyed. The highest truth is difficult to learn, 
but easily forgotten. Years of prosperity (referring espe- 
cially to youth) are seldom met with, but pas-, easily. Hab- 
its and customs are hard to change, but readily take a down- 
ward course. Continue to apply yourselves. 

Comments — The matter of losing the determination does 
not pertain only to striving for the degree of Chiijen. Even 



454 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

when the individual has fixed his determination on learn- 
ing, there are both small and great errors in the things of 
which he is particularly fond. The disturbing, distracting 
influence of these is extremely subtle. Therefore one should 
desire to fix the determination upon becoming a sage or 
virtuous man. It surely takes a man of great knowledge 
and of great courage to accomplish that. 

Reply to Nan Yiiaji-shan 

Written in the fifth year of Emperor Chia Cbing 
Wang Tenders Words of High Praise to Nan Yuam^shan 

Since you left me, three months have passed very quickly, 
and in that period I have often thought of you. I have 
privately deplored the fact that you were absent with my 
followers, and speculated what point you had reached in 
your journey. By this time, you should long have reached 
home. Doubtless your mother is well, and there is no sick- 
ness in your home. The climate of Weinan should not be 
different from that of Ch'aisang. Moreover, the advance 
you have made in your understanding and point of view 
surpasses that of Yuan-liang. (74) Not long ago I received 
the letter which you sent while enroute. Reading it af- 
fected me as though I saw your very face. You are very 
diligent and earnest; you find joy only in learning the 
truth; you occupy yourself in earnest inquiry and study. 
Perhaps in last analysis you are solicitous about not being 
able to become a sage. Earnestly and energetically you 
wrote a very long letter, but there is not a single character 
in it that makes reference to your acquirements, your losses, 
your glory, or disgrace. If this is not actually the deter- 
mination of a man who, having heard the truth in the morn- 
ing, is prepared to die in the evening, it is at any rate not 
an easy realm to enter. My former distress has been re- 
moved, and I am exceedingly comforted. My students have 
passed your letter on from hand to hand and have read it ; 



LETTERS 455 

they have transmitted it by word of mouth and say it over. 
All look up to you with a sigh, profoundly respecting you, 
and many have been stimulated to great activity. 

Among arrogant and completely dissolute scholars some 
renounce wealth and honor, esteem pain lightly, cast aside 
official position and emolument, and paying no attention at 
all to them go far away ; but they follow expositions that de- 
light in external truths, in deceit and heterodoxy, and give 
themselves over to the pleasures and joys of drinking wine 
and making poetry, of making pleasure-trips to the moun- 
tains, and of displaying their ability; or they are enthusi- 
astic over some of their ideas, or influenced by their desires 
and anxieties, or implicated in their own indulgences, or 
emphasize some specific things for the sake of excelling. 
They are able to put those things aside, but choose these. 
"When they become wearied, when their purpose is unbal- 
anced and their mind careworn, when their feelings and 
passions are moved by circumstances, then sorrow, distress, 
and remorse follow in the wake. Since you are actually 
able to renounce wealth and honor, esteem pain lightly, and 
cast aside official position and emolument, and be com- 
pletely happy, will you not be able to control yourself under 
any circumstances? 

The Intrinsic Value of the Intuitive Faculty 

The scholar who keeps to the path of duty really has the 
clear apprehension and realization which come from the 
intuitive faculty, and is completely in harmony with him- 
self and perfectly intelligent. Magnanimous and spacious, 
he is one with heaven and earth. What thing is not in- 
cluded in the great vastness of heaven and earth, which, 
nevertheless, not a single thing can cover or obscure ? Now, 
the intuitive faculty is by nature characterized by quick 
apprehension, clear discernment, far-reaching intelligence, 
and all-embracing knowledge. It is magnanimous, gen- 
erous, benign, and mild ; it is impulsive, energetic, firm, and 



456 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

enduring ; it is self-adjusted, grave, correct, and true to the 
mean; it is accomplished, distinctive, concentrative, and 
searching. All-embracing it is and vast; deep and active 
as a fountain, sending forth its virtues in due season.* 9 
The intuitive faculty does not naturally long for wealth 
and honor, nor is it solicitous because of poverty and humble 
position. In its natural condition it is not delighted be- 
cause of attainment, nor distressed because of loss, nor are 
certain things chosen because of fondness for them and 
others put aside because they are disliked. Thus the ears 
could not be used to listen to anything were it not for the 
intuitive faculty. How could it be apprehended? (75) 
The eyes could not be used to look at anything were it not 
for the intuitive faculty. How could it be clearly dis- 
cerned? The mind could not be used in deliberating on 
and realizing anything were it not for the intuitive faculty. 
How could there be any far-reaching intelligence and all- 
embracing knowledge? Moreover, how could there be any 
magnanimity, generosity, benignity, and mildness if there 
were no intuitive faculty ? How could there be impulsive- 
ness, energy, firmness, and endurance? How could there 
be self-control, gravity, maintenance of the mean, cor- 
rectness, accomplishment, distinction, concentration, and 
investigation? How could one say of any individual, "All- 
embracing is he and vast, deep and active as a fountain, 
sending forth his virtues in their due season"? 

The Intuitive Faculty Must Be Kept Vnobscured 

Thus, whatever belongs to the class of desiring wealth 
and honor, of being solicitous because of poverty or humble 
position, of taking delight because of attainment or being 
distressed because of loss, of choosing certain things because 
of fondness for them, of casting others aside because of dis- 
like, is sufficient to obscure the natural condition of the 
intuitive faculty in which it is clear in discernment, far- 

89 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 31, If 1 and 2. 



LETTERS 457 

reaching in intelligence, and all-embracing in knowledge. 
It is sufficient to obstruct my proper functioning as a deep, 
active fountain which sends forth in due season. It is as 
though the vision of a clear eye were intercepted by dust 
and sand ; as though an apprehending ear were stopped with 
a wedge of wood. This disease is grievous and stubborn. 
That it is about to be extirpated is sufficient cause for re- 
joicing. How can it be endured a moment? Thus, every 
scholar who maintains the path (truth) has washed out the 
dust from his eyes and pulled out the plugs from his ears, 
in these matters which we have mentioned. He considers 
his happening upon wealth, honor, poverty, humble posi- 
tion, attainment, loss, love, and aversion, as the passing 
back and forth of the whirlwind and the floating clouds, 
which undergo continual changes while the nature of heaven 
and earth remains constantly great and unlimited. 

Yuan-shan, your achievements approximate this, do 
they not? Does this imply that as with one who tarries 
with things in order to excel, who casts aside that and 
chooses this, who is highly excited in purpose and passion- 
nature, this too can be forcibly made out of the tone of the 
voice or a smiling manner? You should esteem yourself. 
From ancient times there have been many heroes from 
Kuanchung. 90 Many scholars from every quarter, I ob- 
serve, have loyalty, faithfulness, sincerity, self-forget- 
fulness of disposition, and commanding talent and strength, 
but not in so marked a degree as do those from Kuanchung. 
However, from the time of Chang Heng-eh'ii this learning 
has not been discussed. Perhaps in this respect it has not 
been different from the districts surrounding it. That the 
scholars of Kuanchung will henceforth flourish and prosper 
in advancing literary ability as far as it pertains to the vir- 
tues of the path, and will change from a high-toned, spir- 
ited learning to that of the sage and virtuous man. will 
certainly take a start from you, Yuan-shan, and your 
so Another name for the province of Shensi. 



458 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

brother. (76) Does your return at this time mean that 
Heaven has no purpose? Because of sickness I have not 
written Yuan-chen a separate letter. Mind, virtue, and 
learning are the same. Therefore I speak thus to you. I 
am unable to give any other exposition to make this clear. 
Comments — The learning of the superior man consists 
merely in self-realization. If he pays no attention to a 
single thing and yet lacks nothing, he is like heaven and the 
great sea. If one tarries with things, the delight of acquir- 
ing, the distress of loss, the choice of that which one loves, 
the rejection of that which one dislikes, and the multitude 
and confusion of affairs, will preempt one's mind. Arro- 
gance and conceit will never suffice for learning the truth. 
This is the distinction that should be made between internal 
and external learning. 

Reply to Wei Shih-shuo 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

The Learning of the Intuitive Faculty is Placed into Rela- 
tionship with the Purpose 

Shih-i has reached me and I have heard the details of 
your renewed devotion to the task of study. I have also 
received your letter. Your earnestness of purpose has been 
a source of endless rejoicing and comfort to me. You say 
that to recognize action according to one's wishes and feel- 
ings as the intuitive faculty, amounts to making purpose 
synonymous with it, and does not conform with the original 
intuitive faculty. You further say that he who says that 
he acts according to the intuitive faculty has already inves- 
tigated and discovered this defect. The purpose should be 
clearly distinguished from the intuitive faculty. Whenever 
one deliberates in response to things, it is called purpose. 
Thus purpose has aspects of right and wrong. The knowl- 
edge of the right and wrong of the purpose is the intuitive 
knowledge of good. He who acts in accordance with the 
intuitive faculty does nothing except what is right. 



LETTERS 459 

The matters concerning which you are in doubt — name- 
ly, adhering to superficialities, being under the influence 
of affairs, and similar difficulties — all imply that the in- 
dividual is not able sincerely, earnestly, and undividedly to 
develop his intuitive faculty to the utmost. If he is able 
to do that, these will be absent. The inability to obtain a 
starting-point whenever one wishes to act, and negligence 
and carelessness are caused by not being sincere and undi- 
vided in extending knowledge to the utmost, and show that 
the intuitive faculty is not clearly understood. (77) If it 
is clearly understood, there will be nothing in external good 
appearance and the influence of affairs, that will not be rec- 
ognized as the wonderful function of the intuitive faculty, 
and apart from these there will be no function of the intu- 
itive faculty. If the individual has become infatuated with 
external good appearance and influenced by the effect of 
things, he has already manifested private purpose and has 
not returned to the real root of intuitive knowledge. 
Though those of common purpose with us in this task all 
know that the intuitive knowledge of good is everywhere 
present, yet, when they enter upon mutual social relation- 
ships, they make these and the principles of human relation- 
ships and things differ from the intuitive faculty. Truly 
you must investigate and examine this. 

Comments — Good appearance and the influence of things 
are most thoroughly understood by those who entertain 
friends and devote themselves to business. However, if 
one's mental and physical energies are all used in bringing 
these to pass, one is greatly restrained and embarrassed. 
If one does these things with a true mind and genuine pur- 
pose, one does not experience any restraint or embarrass- 
ment from them. This gives a realization of the learning 
which emphasizes making the purpose sincere and develop- 
ing the intuitive faculty to the utmost. 



460 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 
Letter to Ma Tzu-hsin 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

The Learning of the Intuitive Faculty is the Only True and 
Orthodox Learning 

I have repeatedly received letters from you. These have 
really assuaged all my thirst. On close examination of 
your recent letter, I observe that the writing and style are 
better than formerly. It is right that the roots should be 
plenteous in number and the branches and leaves luxuriant. 
However, when the flowers of a plant have a great many 
petals, they do not bear fruit. "Where there are many 
flowers, there is little fruit. Has your determination not re- 
cently been somewhat suffocated? You should carefully 
inquire into this. 

Some time ago I thoroughly discussed the matter of in- 
tuitive knowledge of good with you. I am unable to decide 
whether or not you are able to increase your understanding 
of it. The philosopher Ch 'eng Ming-tao said : ' ' Though I 
have received some portions of my learning, of heaven- 
given principles I have gained knowledge through self-in- 
vestigation. ' ' The intuitive knowledge of good is recognized 
through investigation of the principles of Heaven. This 
means that it refers to the self and is not made by an ex- 
position of worldly ideas. (78) 

Among those of common purpose with me there are none 
who do not know how to expound the intuitive faculty, but 
I have not seen any who are really able to recognize and 
understand it by investigation of their own persons. For 
this reason they have not been able to avoid doubts. Spme 
say that the intuitive knowledge of good is inadequate to 
exhaust all the principles under heaven, and that it is nec- 
essary to take advantage of thorough investigation to supply 
the lack. Others hold that a mere development of the in- 
tuitive faculty cannot be in conformity with the principles 
of Heaven. They say one must employ the intuitive faculty 



LETTERS 461 

as a method for seeking the principles of Heaven. After 
one can follow it, it will be without defects. Unless the 
individual really adds this recognition and understanding 
by investigation on his own person, and is really able to 
understand the intuitive faculty, it is impossible to distin- 
guish whether his words merely appear correct, or in reality 
are wrong. 

Many virtuous men have come from Fukien. In addition 
to Kuo-ying and Chih-tao there are several others who en- 
gage in mutual culture and refinement. Intuitive knowledge 
is the only real knowledge, and the extending of this knowl- 
edge is the only culture. Knowledge sought elsewhere than 
in the intuitive faculty is false. All learning apart from 
developing the intuitive faculty to the utmost is heterodox. 
For a thousand years the truth har passed into obscurity 
and the learning which emphasizes the intuitive knowledge 
of good has been regarded as a tumor. My friends, per- 
haps, investigate this, as the sound of a footstep in an empty 
valley. Though I earnestly think of you, I have no oppor- 
tunity to meet you. I am utterly unable to exhaust this 
affection in writing this letter. 

Letter Written to Mao Ku-an 91 

Written in the sixth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

A Letter to a Higher Official, Expounding Wang's Stand- 
point 

I have received your esteemed letter, and am the recipient 
of your favor in not forgetting me. That you thus humbly 
make inquiry of one who is your inferior, is the more suf- 
ficient to make me look up to and respect your progress in 
self-culture. You are exceedingly industrious. My joy is 
beyond words, but I lack opportunity to meet you face to 
face. That I may carefully state my humble opinion, for 
the purpose of seeking correction, is what I keenly desire 
and most earnestly seek. 

si An official of higher rank. 



462 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Whenever I speak of extending the intuitive knowledge 
of good to the utmost, or of developing the intuitive faculty, 
the idea conveyed is not very different from that which is 
spoken of as thorough comprehension and appreciation of 
heaven-given principles. But there is a slight difference in 
the directness and definiteness. (79) Compared with the 
cultivation of trees and plants, the developing of the intui- 
tive faculty is like cultivating the growth of the roots and 
advancing the growth of the branches and leaves. Earn- 
estly seeking to comprehend and appreciate heaven-given 
principles, is like promoting a luxuriant growth of branches 
and leaves and later paying attention to the roots. How- 
ever, the cultivation of the growth of the roots surely and 
naturally provides for the growth of the branches and 
leaves. If one desires to promote the luxuriant growth of 
branches and leaves, how can the roots be neglected? Is 
there any growth apart from them that can promote lux- 
uriance of branches and leaves? Your natural talent for 
loyalty, faithfulness, and approximation to the truth sur- 
passes ours. 

Not long ago I heard Hu Cheng-jen say that in your daily 
efforts you are always earnest and thorough, and unlike 
those of the world who esteem fame and distinction and 
thus vainly branch off into things external to themselves. 
If you thus constantly apply yourself, you naturally should 
gradually, methodically reach your goal. Different roads 
lead to the same destination. Why change and follow an- 
other road or engage in an easier occupation in order to 
seek learning? You should the more make steady progress 
by taking advantage of the points where you daily have 
strength in the task. It may be compared to a traveler on 
his way to the capital. At first in out-of-the-way districts 
and secluded regions he must of necessity travel in by-paths 
and circuitous roads, but if his purpose is not weakened he 
will surely reach the great highway. I am continually 
coughing and cannot write much. I am also sending some 



LETTERS 463 

lectures. The letter at the end which discusses learning 
clearly exhibits my point of view. When you have time, 
write to me again. 

Comments — These instructions regarding root, branches, 
and leaves suffice to dispel any doubt regarding the agree- 
ment and disagreement of Wang 's teaching with the ancient 
learning. 

Instructions for His Disciples at Lungch'ang 

Written in the third year of Emperor Cheng Te 

You, my disciples, have followed me to this place in great 
numbers. I fear I am unable to assist you, but will use 
four different topics to instruct and regulate you, that per- 
haps I may respond to your idea. I first mention the 
matter of fixing the determination; then that of studying 
diligently. (80) The third point is that of reforming (cor- 
recting) errors, and the fourth is that of inciting to good by 
reproofs. Carefully listen to these and do not doubt. 

1. On Fixing the Determination 

The Determination Must Be Fixed 

If the determination is not fixed, nothing under heaven 
can be completed. Though there are a hundred different 
professions, there is not a single one but depends upon the 
determination. The students of the present generation are 
wasteful and indolent. They trifle with the years and cease 
from applying themselves for definite periods of time. That 
nothing reaches completion is all an outcome of the fact 
that the determination has not been fixed. Thus, if the de- 
termination is fixed upon being a sage, one becomes a sage ; 
if it is fixed upon being a virtuous man, on rt becomes vir- 
tuous. He whose determination is not fixed, is like a ship 
without a rudder, or a horse without a bit. Where will the 
drifting of the former, and the confused, unrestrained pace 
of the latter end ? It has been said : "If, when a man acts 
according to virtue, his parents are angry with him, his 



464 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

brother abhors him, his relatives and the village clan under- 
value him, it is proper not to be virtuous. But if his par- 
ents love him, his brothers are pleased with him, and his 
kindred and village clan respect him and have faith in him 
because of his virtue, why should he not be virtuous and 
why not be a superior man ? If, when he does evil, his par- 
ents love him, his brother is pleased with him, and his rela- 
tives and the village clan respect him and have faith in him, 
it is quite right that he should do evil. On the other hand, if 
his parents are angry with him, his brother abhors him, and 
his relatives and clan undervalue and despise him when he 
does evil, why should he do evil and be a mean man ? " If 
you, my students, think of this, you will understand what is 
meant by fixing the determination. 

2. On Diligent Study 

Wang Makes a Statement Regarding the Intrinsic Value of 

Study 

Having fixed your purpose upon being superior men, you 
should devote yourselves to study. "Whosoever lacks dili- 
gence in his study, surely lacks a firm purpose. My follow- 
ers, do not consider wisdom and aroused exertion as superior 
attainments, but rather look upon diligence, humility, and 
self-control as virtues of the highest order. (81) My stu- 
dents, carefully examine the members of our group and see 
whether there is anyone who does not exceedingly despise 
him who, while empty, affects to be full; while not hav- 
ing, affects having; who hides his own inability and is 
jealous of the virtue of others; who is self-conceited and 
self-righteous ; who with specious talk deceives others — de- 
spise him even if his native ability is of the highest order. 
Is there anyone who does not consider him low and worth- 
less? If he undertakes to deceive others, would others be 
actually deceived by him, and not privately laugh at him? 
Is there anyone among us who does not commend and de- 
sire to imitate the one who is humble, thoughtful, self-con- 



LETTERS 465 

trolled, and unassuming ; who has a firm purpose and virile 
action ; who is diligent in study and tekes delight in making 
inquiry; who commends the virtue of others and blames 
himself for mistakes; who imitates the strong character- 
istics of others and realizes his own short-comings; who is 
loyal, faithful, joyous, and pleased; whose external mani- 
festations correspond to his internal condition — esteem 
him thus even though he be a man of dull understanding? 
If he really could not distinguish himself and did not seek 
to be above others, would others thereupon consider him as 
without ability? Is there one among us who would not 
respect him? If you, my students, observe this, you will 
understand what is meant by devoting one's self to study. 

3. On Reforming One's Errors 

The Power to Reform is the Sign of a Strong Character 

Errors are unavoidable even in the case of men of great 
virtue, but this does no serious injury to their being men 
of great virtue, for they are able to reform them. Thus, the 
matter of having no errors should not be held in high 
esteem, but rather the fact that errors can be reformed. 
Do you, my students, make it a common practice to reflect 
whether you have shortcomings in humblemindedness, loy- 
alty, and faithfulness ; whether you have been neglectful in 
filial piety and in your intercourse with friends; whether 
you are sunken in deceitful, remiss practices? My stu- 
dents, I trust that you do not run the risk of reaching this 
state. If, unfortunately, there should be some who do, it is 
because they have ignorantly and unintentionally tres- 
passed, and because they ordinarily lack the discourse and 
practice, the planning and instruction of teacher and 
friend. If you will carefully examine yourselves through 
introspection, you will probably find that some of you are 
not far from this condition. Surely you cannot but most 
earnestly reform. However, you should not be dissatisfied 
with yourselves because of this, thus becoming discouraged 



466 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

in the matter of reforming your errors and becoming vir- 
tuous. If in accordance with your defeated condition you 
reform and practice virtue, you will suddenly be able to 
liberate yourselves, and to cleanse old infections thorough- 
ly. (82) Though a man was formerly a robber and high- 
wayman, this does not now hinder him from being a su- 
perior man. If anyone should say, "I was formerly like 
this, and though I reform and practice virtue nobody will 
have faith in me," he would not be saved from his former 
errors, but would cherish shame, hesitate to stop his evil 
actions, and voluntarily remain in the depraved, abomi- 
nable condition to the end. I, too, lose hope for such people. 

4. On Inciting to Good by Means op Reproof 
The Use and the Misiuse of Reproof 

To urge to virtuous action by reproof is characteristic 
of true friendship. However, it must be told in a loyal, 
devoted, virtuous way. The individual who administers 
reproof should approach the other man with all his loyalty 
and love. In a genial, obliging way he should influence 
him to hear and follow, thereby drawing him out to reform. 
If he is influenced without being angered, it may be con- 
sidered well executed. If one begins with a violent state- 
ment of his transgression and wickedness and distressingly 
deprecates his action and blames him exceedingly, so that 
he cannot bear it, he will manifest shamefacedness and 
strong hatred. Though he may desire to come down and 
follow your instruction, the actual condition will not per- 
mit him to do so. This is influencing him to act wickedly. 
Thus, whosoever reveals the shortcomings of others or at- 
tempts to exhibit the hidden selfishness of others, in order 
to trade in his own frankness and uprightness, cannot be 
spoken of as inciting others to virtuous action through 
reproof. 

Although I cannot use this method in dealing with others, 
whosoever uses it toward me in reproving my mistakes 



LETTERS 467 

is my teacher. How can I fail to receive it gladly and 
gratefully ? I have reached no pronciency in the truth ; 
my learning is crude, and I am too much mistaken for you, 
my students, to follow me to this point. When I think of 
this during the night, I realize that I cannot avoid evil, 
and how much less can I hope to avoid transgression ! It 
is said that in following a teacher one should neither offend 
him nor screen his wrongs. But thereupon to say that the 
student should not reprove the teacher is wrong. Accord- 
ing to the proper way of reproving a teacher or master, 
frankness should not reach the point where it offends, nor 
congeniality that of screening the faults. In case I, as 
teacher, am right, by this means I may come to know it; 
and in case I am wrong, I may expel it. For teaching and 
learning grow proportionately. You, my students, should 
begin with me in your attempt to incite to good through 
reproof. (83) 

Comments — The above may serve not only as rules and 
regulations for beginners. To fix one's determination and 
never to change it, not to tire in the love for learning, not 
to be sparing in reform, to delight in virtue as though one 
could not be satiated — all these are constant characteris- 
tics of the work and efforts of the sage. These facts should 
be written down and placed to the right and to the left. 

Advice and Instruction to Yang Mao of T'aiho 92 

Wang Confers with Yang Mao, a Deaf Man, by Means of 
Writing, Instructing Him, in the Truth 

' ' You are unable to speak or discuss either what is right 
or what is wrong. You cannot hear what is right or what 
is wrong. Is your mind still able to distinguish right from 
wrong ? ' ' 

Mao replied : "I know right and wrong." 

"In that case, though your mouth is inferior to that of 

02 This deaf and dumb man, seeking entrance by the back door, 
visited Wang Yang-ming. They conferred by means of writing. 



468 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

other men, and your ears are inferior to those of others, 
your mind is like other men 's minds. ' ' 

Mao replied in the affirmative by nodding his head and 
thanking with his hands. 

"In man, the mind alone is important. If it cherishes 
the principles of heaven, it is the mind of sages and virtu- 
ous men. In that case, though the mouth cannot speak and 
the ears cannot hear, it is only sageness and virtue that 
cannot speak or hear. If, on the other hand, the mind can- 
not cherish the principles of Heaven, it is the mind of birds 
and animals. Though the individual should have the power 
of speech and audition, he would be merely a speaking, 
hearing bird or animal. ' ' 

Mao struck his breast and pointed toward heaven. 

' ' Toward your parents you should exhaust the filial piety 
of your mind ; toward your elder brother its respectfulness ; 
toward your village clan, your neighbors, your kindred and 
relatives, its complaisance, harmony, respectfulness, and 
docility. When you see others disrespectful, you should not 
become angry. When you see others prosperous, you should 
not covet their wealth and advantages. Within yourself 
you should practice what is right and not what is wrong. 
It is really not necessary that you should hear it, when oth- 
ers say that you are right, nor do you need to hear it, when 
they speak of your mistakes. ' ' 

Mao nodded with his head and bowed in thanks. 

' ' Since you are unable to speak, discuss, or hear right or 
wrong, you are saved the necessity of making distinctions 
between a great deal of idle, useless right and wrong. The 
discussion of right and wrong begets truth and error, and 
brings forth trouble and vexation. By hearing good and 
evil one increases one's truth and error as well as one's 
troubles. Since you are unable to speak or hear, you are 
spared a great deal of useless good and evil, as well as much 
trouble and vexation. (84) You are much more cheerful, 
happy, and self-possessed than others." 



LETTERS 469 

Mao struck his breast, pointed toward heaven, and re- 
placed his feet on the ground. 

"My instruction to you today is that it is only necessary 
to act in accordance with your mind and not necessary to 
speak ; that it is only necessary to listen with your mind and 
not necessary to hear. ' ' 

Mao prostrated himself, saluted, and departed. 

Comments — When a thought has been revealed to a 
deaf and dumb man, he is influenced to a realization of the 
situation. In opposition to this, a wise, intelligent and 
clever man, who constantly urges on and practices exten- 
sively, is eventually dazzled and confused. The truth can- 
not really be sought with speech. Moreover, whosoever 
speaks and hears should on reading this be profoundly 
influenced. 

An Exposition on Fixing the Determination Given to His 
Younger Brother 

Written in the tenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

My brother Shou-wen came to me to study, and I in- 
structed him that he should fix his determination. For 
this reason he asked me to give my exposition in regular 
order so that he might constantly use it and examine it. 
He also asked me to make my sentences easily understood 
and intimate, for thus they could be readily comprehended. 
For this reason I have written the following for him : 

The Importance of Fixing the Determination 

In learning (self cultivation) the fixing of the determi- 
nation is the very first thing. If the determination is not 
fixed, the cultivation of the roots will be neglected, while 
vainly banking up the soil and watering. Such labor will 
end in nothing. That some are dilatory and careless, fol- 
lowing custom in practicing evil and finally sinking into 
depravity, is owing to the fact that the determination is 
not fixed. Therefore the philosopher Ch 'eng said : ' ' Those 



470 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

who are determined to become sages may study together." 
If a person really has the purpose of becoming a sage, 
he surely will say and think within himself : ' ' What is the 
distinguishing mark of a sage, if it is not that his mind is 
characterized by the pure principles of Heaven and by the 
lack of selfish desire? If a sage is a sage because his mind 
is one of unmixed heaven-given principles and free from 
selfish desire, then my desire to become a sage must be a 
longing that my own mind be characterized by the pure 
principles of Heaven and be free from desire and passion. ' ' 
He who wishes his mind to be of that type surely will expel 
desire and cherish the principles of Heaven. (85) If he 
devotes himself to this, he must of necessity seek the method 
whereby it can be accomplished. If he seeks this method, 
he surely will substantiate and establish all that the sages 
have said and investigate the lessons of antiquity. Then 
study and inquiry will be explained, as it were, by neces- 
sity. 

In correcting all that was perceived before his time by 
sages and virtuous men, it is true that since he looks upon 
some particular individual as a prophet and accepts him 
as his teacher, he should devote his mind to attaining a 
thorough understanding of his purpose, and should listen 
to those who have intuitively perceived these things before 
his time. If what they say does not coincide with his view, 
he must not cast them aside, but rather meditate upon 
their words. If he cannot deliberate upon them, he should 
discriminatingly criticise them. He should earnestly seek 
for a complete explanation and not immediately begin to 
doubt. Therefore the Canon of Rites says : "If the 
teacher is austere and dignified, the truth of the path will 
be respected and honored ; and when the truth of the path 
is respected and honored, the people will show self-respect 
and due regard to all position." If culture is not char- 
acterized by honor, nobility, earnestness and faithfulness, 
it is of necessity accompanied by carelessness and indiffer- 



LETTERS 471 

ence. If the teacher speaks and the pupil merely hears 
the truth but does not use investigation and discrimination, 
it is as though he had not heard. If he hears but does not 
ponder it carefully and seriously, it is as though he had 
not thought at all. Thus, though the pupil claims him as 
his teacher, he does not use him as a teacher. 

The Moral Purpose of the Instructions of Antiquity 

In critically studying the instructions of antiquity, we 
find that all that have been transmitted are methods of in- 
structing men to expel passion and desire and cherish the 
principles of Heaven. This is true of the Five Classics and 
the Four Books. If I earnestly seek to expel my selfish- 
ness and cherish the principles of Heaven, but do not get 
the methods of doing so, I am in the very act of seeking as 
I open the book, like a hungry man in the presence of food 

— seeking only to satisfy appetite; or like an ill man in 
the presence of medicine — seeking only to be healed ; or 
like one in darkness in the presence of a lamp — seeking 
only for light ; or like a lame man in the presence of a staff 

— seeking only to walk. Under such circumstances have 
there been any who merely remembered, repeated, and dis- 
cussed, in order to help the defect of mouth and ears? 

Confucius Had His Determination Fixed at the Age of 

Thirty 

As regards the difficulty of fixing the determination, the 
sage Confucius said: "At fifteen I had my mind bent on 
learning. At thirty I stood firm." 93 This means that his 
determination M'as fixed. That he reached the point where 
lie did not transgress the right also shows that his deter- 
mination did not transgress it. Can thv determination 
then be viewed lightly? "The will is the teacher of the 
passion nature"; it is the life of man, the root of the tree, 
the source of the water. 84 (86) If the source is not deep, 

»s Vide Analects, Book IT, Cli. 4. 

»* Vide Mencius, Book II, Ft. I, Ch. 2, H 9. 



472 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the flow of the water will cease ; if the roots are not culti- 
vated, the tree will dry; if the life is not kept up, the in- 
dividual will die; if the determination is not fixed, the 
passion nature will be confused and disordered. 

The Superior Man Keeps His Determination Fixed 

The culture of the superior man always includes keeping 
the determination fixed. Fixing his eyes and regarding it, 
he sees no other things ; inclining his ears and listening to it, 
he hears nothing else. It may be compared to a cat hunt- 
ing a mouse, or a chicken hatching eggs. All the mental 
energy and thought are concentrated on this, and there is 
no consciousness of self and the object. Then the deter- 
mination is constantly fixed. When the mental energy is 
bright and clear, righteousness and the principles of Heaven 
will be evident, and the instant selfishness appears, one will 
be conscious thereof. Of course, selfishness cannot be al- 
lowed to remain. If a little of it sprouts, the individual 
should reprove himself because his determination is not 
fixed, and forthwith the selfishness will recede. In case the 
least ceremoniousness shows itself, he need only charge him- 
self that his determination is not fixed, and the ceremonious- 
ness will forthwith disappear. If he becomes idle and 
self-indulgent, he should reprimand his purpose; or if his 
mind begets carelessness and heedlessness, or envy, or re- 
sentment, or covetousness, or pride, or parsimoniousness, he 
should incite his purpose, and these will disappear. Then 
there will not be a moment when his determination will not 
be fixed and urge him on to act, and there will not be a 
single thing that will not be an occasion for fixing the de- 
termination and urging it on. 

Desire is the Chief Enemy of the Fixed Determination 

Therefore, the task of inciting the determination consists 
in expelling desire. It may be compared to the flames of a 
fire that singes the hair, or to the sun which, when it ap- 
pears, drives out spirits and goblins. From ancient times 



LETTERS 473 

sages and virtuous men have established instruction in ac- 
cordance with the times. Though they appear different, 
the purposes involved may not be so very different. The 
Canon of History says, "Be discriminating; be undivided." 
The Canon of Changes says, "Reverence and respectfulness 
should be used to direct and strengthen the inner man, or 
righteousness should be employed as an external method." 
Confucius spoke of investigating things, extending knowl- 
edge to the utmost, making the purpose sincere, rectifying 
the mind, studying extensively and keeping one's self under 
the restraint of propriety. 95 The philosopher Tseng spoke of 
loyalty and reciprocity. 96 Tzu-ssu spoke of honoring one's 
virtuous nature and maintaining constant inquiry and 
study. 97 Mencius spoke of accumulating deeds of right- 
eousness, of nourishing the passion nature, and of seeking 
the lost mind. 98 Although according to the opinions of 
various men they cannot be made to agree, yet when one 
seeks out the fundamental ideas they harmonize as though 
they had been matched. (87) How is this? The truth in- 
volved is one and the same. Since the truth involved is the 
same, the mind is also one and the same; since the mind 
is one and the same, the learning involved is also one and 
the same. What in last analysis is not alike, is all deflected 
exposition. 

Later Scholars Do Not Have Their Determination Fixed 

The great error of later generations consists emphatically 
in lack of purpose. Thus, in giving you an exposition of 
the determination, every word and every sentence im- 
plies fixing the determination. The life-long task of in- 
quiry and study means simply fixing the determination. 
If you use this exposition in unifying the injunction to be 

»5 Vide Analects, Book VI, Ch. 25. 
9« Ibid., Book IV, Ch. 15. 
97 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27, If 6. 

ss Vide Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 11, If 3; Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 
2, 1 15. 



474 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

discriminating and undivided, every Word and every sen- 
tence implies discrimination and undividedness ; if you 
use it in matching reverence and righteousness, every letter 
and every sentence implies reverence and righteousness. 
Investigation of things, development of knowledge, exten- 
sive study, keeping one's self under the restraint of pro- 
priety, loyalty, reciprocity, and similar sayings, are all 
harmoniously blended with this idea of fixing the deter- 
mination. But this must be really appreciated, before you 
will believe that my words are not absurd. 

Comments — Is not this a sharp, keen exposition for use 
in interpreting the fourth chapter of the second book of 
the Analects ? " Has not the Teacher in this clear and gen- 
uine exposition manifested real creative truth? 

Monograph on the Fan of a Superior Official 

Written in the fourth year of Emperor Ohia Ching 
Pride and Arrogance Are Two Great Vices 

The great disease of the present time is, for the most part, 
pride and arrogance. Evil and misery of many kinds 
take their departure from these. Pride and arrogance im- 
ply self-exaltation, self-righteousness, and unwillingness to 
yield to those of humbler circumstances. For this reason 
a proud, arrogant son cannot be filial; a proud, arrogant 
younger brother cannot be respectful; a proud, arrogant 
minister cannot be loyal. Hsiang lacked virtue, and Tan 
Chu was degenerate, simply because of their pride. 100 Thus 
they ended their lives. When a man is extremely wicked 

99 < < The Master said, ' At fifteen, I had my mind bent on learning. 

" r At thirty, I stood firm. 

" 'At forty, I had no doubts. 

" 'At fifty, I knew the decrees of Heaven. 

" 'At sixty, my ear was an obedient organ for the reception of 
truth. 

" 'At seventy, I could follow what my heart desired, without 
transgressing what was right ! ' ' ' — Analects, Book II, Ch. 4. 

ioo Vide Mencius, Book V, Pt. 1, Ch. 2. 



LETTERS 475 

and criminal, there is no way of escape. In devoting our- 
selves to self-cultivation and study, we should first extract 
this root of disease, and then we can make progress. 

Humility is the Remedy for Pride 

Pride should be superseded by humility, for the opposite 
of pride is humility. Humility is the appropriate rem- 
edy. Not only should the external bearing be lowly and 
humble, but the mind itself should be reverent, respectful, 
and obliging. Such individuals continually see their own 
faults and are able to empty themselves and receive in- 
struction from others. (88) Therefore the humble, respect- 
ful son is able to be filial; the yielding, retiring younger 
brother to be respectful ; and the unassuming, reverent 
minister to be loyal. The sagely qualities of Yao and Shun 
imply humility and respectfulness to the utmost. There- 
fore they were sincerely courageous and capable of all com- 
plaisance. In striving to follow them and in reverencing 
them, we should avoid the rudeness and negligence of Po 
and Lu. 

Comment — Everybody ought to make a copy of this 
and keep it near him, and consider that it describes the 
task of controlling one's self. 

Instruction Written in the Chung- T'ien Ko in Order to 
Encourage All His Students 

Written in the fourth year of Emperor Chia Ching 

Wang Urges His Disciples to Meet at the Chung T'ien Ko 
at Regular Intervals and Discuss Genuine Learning 

Things which easily come forth and grow will, after a 
day in the hot sun and ten days' exposure to cold, be un- 
able to live. 101 I am favored with your esteem. When- 
ever I come back home, you all congregate at this place for 
the sake of making inquiry regarding study. This is an 
excellent idea. But I am not able to stay ten days, and 

101 Vide Mencius, Book VI, Pt. 1, Ch. 9, % 2. 



476 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

even if I could, I would be able to meet you only three or 
four times. When I have departed, I immediately realize 
that I have left the group and live apart. Years pass be- 
fore we meet again. Is not this like ten days' exposure 
to the cold? If one seeks for the luxuriant development 
of buds and sprouts, and the spreading of the branches, it 
cannot be gained in that way. Therefore I earnestly hope 
that you, Sirs, will not consider my going or remaining as 
an occasion for congregating and separating. At intervals 
of five, six, eight, or nine days, you should cast aside your 
work and meet at this place, even though the ordinary 
routine of duties interferes. At that time you should de- 
vote yourselves mutually to encouraging and refining one 
another, so that your exposition of truth, virtue, benevo- 
lence, and righteousness may become daily more esteemed 
and intimate. Thereby the advantages and glory of the 
world will daily be more discarded. This is the benefit 
which will result from seeing one another. "Mechanics 
have their shops to dwell in, in order to accomplish their 
works." 102 

Whenever you meet you should come in a receptive at- 
titude and with a yielding purpose, mutually esteeming 
and respecting one another. Friends should consider mu- 
tual complaisance and lowliness as of advantage. If, per- 
chance, you are discussing without agreeing, you should 
patiently practice self-cultivation. In influencing one an- 
other you should utilize sincerity, and should not permit 
the stirring of the passion nature to influence you to strive 
to excel. (89) Nor should you increase your pride and 
give way to wrong action. You should devote yourselves 
to completing and perfecting the thing in hand, while medi- 
tating and maintaining trust and sincerity without saying 
so. If any one among you lauds his own virtues and ad- 
vantages, and attacks the shortcomings of others, if he is 
base and treacherous, if he is proud and arrogant in order 

102 Analects, Book XIV, Ch. 7. 



LETTERS 477 

to gain a reputation and considers the bringing to light of 
another's misdoings as frankness, if he depends upon a 
mind that seeks to excel and acts from envy and jealousy, 
if he has the purpose to ruin and destroy the group, then, 
though he constantly discusses and practices at this place, 
it is of no advantage. Think about this, Sirs! 

Parting Instructions Given to Kuo Shan-fu upon His Re- 
turn Home 

Given in the tenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
Wang Compares Study with Husbandry 

From the time you came from Huang to study, a year 
has passed, and now you wish to return, saying, "I have 
learned the Teacher's exposition of fixing the determination 
and also have an understanding of the method of procedure. 
Today as I am about to depart I venture to ask for instruc- 
tion which will urge me on early and late." 

The superior man devotes himself to study as the hus- 
bandman does to the field. After he has selected good seeds, 
plowed deeply, cleared the ground of grass and weeds, rid 
the field of grubs and tares, watered it continually, worked 
early and thought about it at night, and heavenlike is so- 
licitous for his seeds, he has reason to hope for the harvest 
in the autumn. The will is the seed. Study, inquiry, delib- 
eration, discrimination, and earnest practice are the plow- 
ing, hoeing, and watering that shall bring the harvest. A 
determination which lacks uprightness may be likened unto 
tares. If the will is upright but the task is not carried on 
successively, it may be described in the words of Mencius, 
"If the grains are not ripe, they are not equal to the 
tares." 103 

I have seen you seek good seed, but as though you feared 
it were tares. I have seen you diligently plow and hoe, but 
as though you felt that the grain were not equal to the 

103 Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 19. 



478 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

tares. The husbandman plants the seed in the spring and 
reaps the harvest in the autumn according to the seasons. 
From being bent on learning to having fixed the determin- 
ation is the time from spring to summer ; from having fixed 
the determination to having no doubts is passing from 
summer to autumn. Is it not also greatly to be feared 
that, though the time has passed, no effort has been made to 
plant? If it is true that others succeed by one effort, he 
who studies, when the time for studying is past, needs to 
use a hundred efforts. Otherwise, he has no reason to ex- 
pect anything. Is it not greatly to be deplored, if he works 
and rests spasmodically? Those who follow me are very 
many. (90) Though I give them much instruction and 
guidance, none of this in any way violates the instruction 
given regarding the fixing of the determination. In my 
practices I cannot in last analysis set this aside, and give 
any other type of exposition. You may without any hesi- 
tation use this as a method of procedure. 

Comments — If the individual has fixed his determina- 
tion firmly, he will not waste his time. If his efforts lack 
continuity, it is because the determination is not fixed. 
The master's (Confucius') saying, "Is it not pleasant to 
learn with a constant perseverance ? ' ' implies nothing ukhv 
than that the determination is well established. 104 Noth- 
ing shows and explains this better than these instructions. 

Preface to a Collection of Essays of the Tzu Yang Col- 
lege 105 

Given in the tenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Hsiung Shih-fang Repaired the White Deer Grotto College 
and Invited Wang to Speak on That Occasion 

Hsiung Shih-fang, a prefect of Hui, having made known 
his rule within the borders of his district, has greatly re- 
newed and repaired the Tzu Yang College in order to make 

104 Analects, Book I, Ch. 1, H 1. 

i° 5 A once famous college at the White Deer Grotto near Kiukiang. 



LETTERS 479 

the learning of the philosopher Chu illustrious ; and he has 
called together the students from the seven schools and in- 
structed them. With this in view, two instructors named 
Ch'eng and Tseng gathered together the material having 
reference to the prosperity and adversity of the College 
into a collection of essays and clothed it in the form of the 
customs and regulations of the White Deer, in order to ex- 
hibit the government and instruction there. They have 
invited me to speak, in order to make my views known. 
The customs and regulations of the White Deer exhaust the 
methods of study and self -culture. Marquis Hsiung's pur- 
pose is energetic in admonition and instruction. The rea- 
son of the prosperity and decay of the college is completely 
given in Mr. Ch'eng's essay. Why, then, should I give an 
exposition in this connection? 

The Study of the Mind is Most Profound and Inclusive 

However, I have heard it said that virtue has its source, 
and study its essentials. If one does not start from the 
source but proceeds superficially, the exposition, if high 
and exalted, is empty, and if lowly and unassuming, de- 
viates from the truth. In the end such individuals drift 
about, lose the real purpose of virtue and truth, and are 
wearied without attaining anything. For this reason the 
superior man in his self-culture and study seeks only to 
get appreciation and control of his mind. From arranging 
heaven and earth to nourishing all things, everything takes 
its departure from the mind. The saying of Mencius, ' ' The 
great end of learning is nothing else but to seek for the lost 
mind," embraces it. 106 Therefore he who studies exten- 
sively, studies this; he who makes accurate inquiry, makes 
inquiry about this; he who reflects carefully, reflects con- 
cerning this; he who clearly discriminates, does so with 
reference to this; he who practices earnestly, practices this. 
(91) Apart from and outside the mind there are no affaire 

loe Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 11, If 4. 



480 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

nor principles. Thus it follows that there is no learning 
apart from the mind. With reference to my father and 
my son, I exhaust the benevolence of my mind ; with refer- 
ence to my prince and my minister, I exhaust the right- 
eousness of my mind. I speak in accordance with the loy- 
alty and sincerity of my mind, and act in accordance with 
its earnestness and reverence. I restrain the wrath of my 
mind and obstruct its desires. I promote the excellences 
of the mind, and correct and reform its mistakes and trans- 
gressions. Whatever I do, I always seek to be lowly and 
modest. Compared with planting and cultivating, the root 
is the mind; learning and self-culture are the mulching, 
banking, watering, cultivating, and weeding. The roots 
are all-important. 

The Importance of the Philosopher Chu's Instructions for 
the White Deer 

The philosopher Chu's regulations for the White Deer 
have the following importance: First, they serve as the 
chief elements of the five instructions; second, they serve 
as methods of study ; and third, they serve as principles of 
conduct. 107 That everyone should be informed and cir- 
cumspect in action, approximates the ordinary purpose of 
the philosopher Chu. Is it not perhaps an instance of 
suddenly understanding with a far-reaching penetration 
the wonders of the saying, ' ' Carry on discriminating exam- 
ination as matters come, and act with determination"? 
The students of the present, having lost these things, have 
continually deviated from the truth and gone into trifling, 
petty things. Hypocritical and emphasizing external things 
unduly, they drift into practices that are superficial and 
directed toward fame and gain. Is the instruction of the 
philosopher Chu the cause of this? Because of your invi- 

107 The five principal elements in the instruction of the philosopher 
Chu were reverence, magnanimity, sincerity, ingeniousness, and benev- 
olence. 



LETTERS 481 

tation, I begin especially with the source in order to en- 
courage you. Thus you have approximately the funda- 
mental principle of exercise, of cherishing the mind, of dis- 
cussion, and of practice, while I have exhibited the idea 
which the philosopher Chu has not exhausted. 

Comments — Hui-an (the philosopher Chu) said: "I 
am not one who knows external things, but does not know 
what is within. Can anyone who devotes himself to get- 
ting and maintaining his mind, fail to understand and ap- 
preciate learning?" The rules and regulations which he 
established and used as the established order of study, show 
that he feared that others might devote themselves to the 
worthless and empty. The preface written by the Teacher 
shows that he feared men might practice the rules and reg- 
ulations, but forget their source and obscure the purpose of 
the philosopher Chu. Therefore he says that he exhibits 
the idea which the philosopher Chu has not exhausted. This 
was a profound purpose. 

Preface to the Writings of Lu Hsiang-shan 

The Philosopher Lu Holds an Honored Place Historically 
in the Exposition of True Learning 

The learning and culture of the sages is the learning and 
culture of the mind. (92) When Yao, Shun, and Yii mu- 
tually gave and received the throne, this saying was trans- 
mitted by them : ' ' The mind of man is restless and un- 
steady; its affinity for the path of duty is small. Be dis- 
criminating, be undivided, that you may sincerely hold fast 
the mean." 108 This is the source of the learning and cul- 
ture of the mind. The equilibrium is the mind's affinity 
for the path of duty. 109 When the mind, ; n its affinity for 
the path of duty, is discriminating and undivided, we have 
benevolence, the highest virtue. This is called the equili- 
brium. The learning of Confucius and Mencius empha- 

108 The Shooking: The Books of Yii, Book II, 1 15. 

109 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 1, U 4. 



482 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

sizes only the seeking of benevolence, and thus we have the 
transmitted instruction about being discriminating and un- 
divided. However, the defect of that time surely was that 
some sought learning in external things (instead of within 
the mind). Therefore, when Tzu-kung began to suspect 
that Confucius was one who learned many things and kept 
them in memory, and that a man who extensively confers 
benefits on the people and assists them all is benevolent, 
the Master spoke to him of seeking an all-pervading unity 
and of being able to judge others by what is nigh in our- 
selves. 110 Thereby he caused him to seek within his own 
mind. Even at the time of the philosopher Mencius, Mo 
spoke of the benevolence that made him willing to rub his 
whole body smooth from his head to his heels. Moreover, 
the followers of the philosopher Kao also gave expositions 
regarding the internal character of benevolence, and the 
external character of righteousness, which greatly injured 
the learning which emphasizes the mind. Mencius criti- 
cised the idea that righteousness is external. In discussing 
benevolence he said that it has reference to man's mind. 111 
"The great end of learning is nothing else but to seek for 
the lost mind. " 112 "Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, 
and knowledge are not infused into us from without. We 
are certainly furnished with them, and do not need to 
deliberate about them," he said. 113 

When the public regard for the general welfare ceased, 
methods of violent control began to be practiced. Those 
who devoted themselves to fame and gain feigned the ap- 
pearance of acting according to the principles of Heaven, 
so that they might assist their selfish desires and deceive 
others. They said that the principles of Heaven certainly 
were of that sort, and did not realize that he who does not 

no Vide Analects, Book VI, Ch. 28, If 1 ; Book XV, Ch. 2, J 1, 2, 
and 3. 

in Vide Mencius, Book VI, Pt. I, Ch. 4, If 1. 
ii2 Ibid., Ch. 11, If 4. 
us Ibid., Ch. 6, If 7. 



LETTERS 483 

have a mind devoted to principles cannot have the princi- 
ples of Heaven. From that time mind and principles were 
separated into two distinct things, and the learning which 
emphasizes discrimination and undividedness was lost. The 
mistake of the scholars consists in seeking to understand the 
so-called principles of things externally in the dust and 
refuse of criminal law, in finished things, and calculations 
of various sorts. They do not realize that the mind itself is 
the embodiment of the principles of things, and that from 
the first it is not necessary to borrow these from external 
things. The emptiness of Buddhism and Taoism is shown 
in the fact that they cast aside the regular principles of the 
five human relationships, as well as those of affairs and 
things, in order to seek an understanding of what they 
designate as "ray mind." They do not realize that the 
principles of things are just what is meant by "my mind," 
and that it is not necessary to depart from them. In the 
Sung dynasty the two philosophers Chou and Ch'eng again 
found the fundamental idea of Confucius and Yen. At 
that time the expositions of the wu-chi (universal mind 
or spirit), and of the t'ai-chi (the ultimate immaterial 
principles) as the principles of benevolence, righteousness 
and integrity had been produced. Moreover, they gave 
expositions regarding tranquility, saying, "If the mind is 
fixed when it is active, it is fixed when it is at rest. (93) 
There is no discussion pertaining to internal and external, 
nor to the meeting and receiving of affairs." The purpose 
implied was not greatly different from that implied in being 
discriminating and undivided. 

But His Standpoint is Not Generally Appreciated 

After that came Lu Hsiang-shan. Though the unmixed, 
perspicuous, harmonious, kindly character of his writings 
is not equal to that of those two philosophers, their sim- 
plicity and definiteness really agree with the transmitted 
sayings of Mencius. If, at times, there are differences in 



484 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

the development of the discussions, these are due to differ- 
ences in their bearing and point of view. However, in 
that they wish those who study them surely to seek the 
mind, they are in harmony. Therefore I have judged the 
learning and culture of Lu to be equivalent to that of 
Mencius, while those who criticise him consider him to 
have points of similarity and difference with Hui An, and 
thereupon slander him as a Buddhist priest. The exposi- 
tions of the Buddhists set aside the five human relation- 
ships and completely neglect the principles of things: the 
Buddhists cannot devote themselves to political affairs. If 
the learning of Lu really is of that type, he was a Buddhist 
priest ; but the expositions of Buddhism and of Lu have all 
been preserved. If the student will peruse them, he should 
detect their truth and error, their agreements and disagree- 
ments, without waiting for others to distinguish them. But 
all flock harmoniously about one leader, they plagiarize and 
hit upon the same performances. They are like a dwarf 
viewing a stage, who does not know what is the real occa- 
sion for the laughing and weeping. Is not this an instance 
of unduly honoring the ear and neglecting the eyes? Is it 
not the error described in the saying, ' ' What is not attained 
in words is not to be sought for in the mind?" 114 This 
talk about the truth and error, the dissimilarity and the 
agreement, always takes its departure from the individual's 
desire to excel and put his old habits at ease, and from con- 
sidering his own point of view correct. Therefore the in- 
jury emanating from the desire to excel, and from old prac- 
tices, cannot be avoided even by virtuous men. 

The prefect Li Mao-yuan is about to cut the blocks for 
Hsiang-shan's essays and asked me to write a preface. 
What shall I venture to say? On reading the Teacher's 
(Hsiang-shan's) essays, it is clear that he was fully de- 
voted to seeking the mind, and that he did not utilize the 
old practice and place his own point of view in the fore- 

114 Mencius, Book II, Pt. I, Ch. 2, H 9. 



LETTERS 485 

most rank. In experiencing it himself, he was able to dis- 
tinguish between chaff and good, clean rice. 

Comments — The distinction between the mind given 
over to passion and the mind which seeks the path, is the 
origin of all learning that emphasizes the path of duty. 
Since the learning and culture of Hsiang-shan are de- 
voted to finding this in the mind, he can be said to have 
reached an appreciation of the great root and source of 
learning. (94) Can it be that Hui-an did not know this? 
What reason is there for saying that these are Buddhist 
doctrines? It is perhaps really due to the fact that later 
scholars do not understand that part of his exposition which 
is easily realized, but seek to comprehend the points where 
it is indistinct and unintelligible. This is what the Teacher 
describes by saying, "A minute error at the start event- 
uates in a great mistake. ' ' This attitude must be criticised. 
The criticism which Hui-an makes regarding Hsiang-shan 
resembles that which the Teacher makes regarding Hui-an. 
The truths of the three teachers mutually complete one an- 
other. It is not necessary to make inquiry about points 
of likeness and difference. 

Preface to Li Chi Tsuan Yen 

Benevolence, Righteousness and Intelligence Are Essentials 
of Propriety 

Ceremonies and propriety are fundamental principles 
of life ; the fundamental principles of life are nature ; na- 
ture is fate (order of Heaven). "The ordinances of Heaven, 
how profound they are and unceasing!" 115 Insofar as 
they refer to man, they are called nature ; insofar as they 
take the form of clear rules, they are called rites; insofar 
as they are pure, unadulterated virtue, they are called 
benevolence ; insofar as they are definite, clear-cut laws, 
they are called righteousness; insofar as they are clear and 
conscious, they are called intelligence; insofar as they are 

us Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 26, If 10. 



486 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

blended in nature, the principles involved are the same. 
Thus, benevolenee is the fundamental structure of rites and 
propriety; righteousness is an essential of propriety; in- 
telligence is the clear perception of propriety. 

Propriety Should Serve to Adjust the Great Relations and 
Virtues of Humanity 

Of the three hundred canonical rules of ceremony and 
the three thousand Chu Li (additional rules of demeanor), 
there is not a single one that does not have benevolence 
(virtue) and nature at its base. Since the arrangements 
and distinctions of Heaven are thus, what a remarkable 
mind the sage has! As there is nothing in the rules of 
propriety that is not in accordance with the ordinances 
of Heaven, "subduing one's self and returning to pro- 
priety is perfect virtue." 116 The exhaustive investiga- 
tion of principles means exhausting nature in order to 
attain the decrees of Heaven. The exhausting of nature im- 
plies that activity, demeanor, and mutual intercourse are 
in accordance with propriety. I am in doubt about the 
expositions of propriety given by later generations, for 
they wrangle confusedly about details and are influenced 
and regulated by the insignificant things of criminal law. 
The livelong years they toil hard. Their defect is that 
they apply their mental energy to the dregs of repeating 
history. They forget to adjust the great invariable rela- 
tions of mankind, and to establish the great fundamental 
virtues of humanity. 117 " 'It is in accordance with the 
rules of propriety, ' they say ; ' It is in accordance with the 
rules of propriety,' they say. Are gems and silks all that 
is meant by propriety ?" 118 (95) 

Moreover, " if a man lack the virtues proper to humanity, 
what has he to do with the rites of propriety ? ' ' 119 When 

"6 Analects, Book XII, Ch. 1, U 1. 

ii7 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 32, f 1. 

us Analects, Book XVII, Ch. 11. 

"9 Ibid., Book III, Ch. 3. 



LETTERS 487 

the followers of the philosophers Lao and Chuang left 
propriety in order to discuss nature, when they said that 
rites and propriety implied the decline of the virtue of the 
path and the loss of virtue and righteousness, they had 
already lost appreciation of the situation and fallen into a 
vast emptiness and a void waste. In his expositions the 
worldly scholar neglects nature in order to attain pro- 
ficiency in the rites of propriety, and forthwith declares 
that these pertain to nothing further than utensils, rules, 
measures, and numbers, thereby resolving to follow the lead 
of circumstances (imitate shadows) and believing that pro- 
priety is exhausted in this. Therefore, since all the rules 
of propriety of former kings were obscured by the smoke, 
scattered as ashes, and at last burned to ashes in the entire 
Empire, this cannot all be blamed to the burning of the 
Ch'in dynasty. 180 

Propriety is to Rites and Ceremonies What Compass and 
Square are to Circles and Squares 

Assuming not to estimate the situation myself, I fre- 
quently desire to take what is recorded in the Canon of 
Rites, that I may exhibit the great invariable relations of 
mankind and the fundamental virtues of humanity, but 
discard the rules and regulations, and show that things, 
truth, source, and end may amount to the same thing. But 
I fear that I am unable to assume the responsibility of that 
virtue, for at times there are things which I am unable 
to attain. I have said the following with reference to this 
matter: "Propriety is to rites and ceremonies as compass 
and square are to squares and circles. Except for squares 
and circles there would be no use for compass and square ; 
except for rites and ceremonies there *"ould be no pro- 
priety. Although squares and circles are the products of 
compass and square, one should not think that the squares 
and circles are the compass and square. If compass and 

i2oShih Huang- ti of the Ch'in dynasty burned the books. 



488 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

square are used to make squares and circles, they can be 
used indefinitely. If they are not used to make squares 
and circles, but the squares and circles are used as com- 
pass and square, then an end has been put to the use of 
compass and square. This is because the compass and 
square are not limited in use to definite squares and cir- 
cles, while the latter are the result of the definite compass 
and square. ' ' This is the important thing in learning pro- 
priety. Men of abundant virtue in action, demeanor, and 
mutual intercourse, avail themselves of this. 

The Rites of Propriety Have Been Carefully Studied and 
Expounded 

Chu Chung-hui of the Sung Dynasty deplored the vague, 
confused condition of the Li-Ching (Canonical Rites of 
Propriety) and desired to examine, correct, and revise it, 
so that the I-Li would be the canon, and the Canon of 
Rites, the record of traditions and precepts; but he was in 
the end not able to carry this out. 121 Later when Wu Yu- 
ch'ing worked at the Tsuan-Yen, he did not discriminate 
further in that which Chu said, but in the matter of pre- 
cedence and importance he exhibited and explained much. 
The point of view held by these two philosophers took its 
origin from scholars of the Han dynasty, as far as it per- 
tains to the demarcation of rules from the source which 
says: (96) View this (the Li Chi Tsuan Yen) till you un- 
derstand it thoroughly, that you may carry out the origi- 
nal canon of propriety. 122 Thus I still deplore the fact that 
I was born at so late a time that I was not able to hear 
them. However, insofar as later sages have done anything 
in this connection, it is not necessary for me to speak ; and 
insofar as they have done nothing, the situation is as the 
Tsuan-Yen depicts it. 123 Can there be a decrease in the 

121 The I-Li is a portion of the Book of Eites devoted to the more 
general principles of propriety. 

122 Canon of Changes. 

123 That is, he may write a preface. 



LETTERS 489 

number of those who continue the calling of devoting them- 
selves to the study of propriety? 

My wife's relative, Hu Ju-teng — the prefect of Ning- 
kuo — a loyal, sincere man who is fond of the rules of pro- 
priety, in order to exhibit these and bestow them on the 
people, had the blocks for the Tsuan-Yen cut, that it could 
be distributed, and asked me to write a preface. I accept, 
and adopt Ju-teng 's presentation of the truth and carry it 
forward to its source. For this reason I preface it in this 
way. 

The Rules of Propriety Are True to Nature 

Comments — The Doctrine of the Mean extols the great- 
ness of the path of the sage, and uses the rules of ceremony 
and of demeanor in doing so. 124 When the Master (Con- 
fucius) spoke to Yen Yuan about virtue, he used the ex- 
pression, "return to propriety," in his exposition. 123 Pro- 
priety is the natural expression of disposition, manifested 
as the rules of all conduct. There is nothing that it does 
not penetrate and include. It should be used daily by all, 
whether active or at rest. Emulation and debate should 
not lack the least in this. If benevolence lacks in this, it 
is not perfect benevolence; if righteousness lacks in this, 
it is not perfect righteousness; if knowledge lacks in this, 
it is not perfect knowledge. Propriety penetrates and 
strengthens the four virtues. 126 This is in harmony with 
the saying in the Canon of Changes: "View this till 
you understand it thoroughly in order that you may carry 
out the Canon of Propriety." Through the thorough in- 
vestigation of principles, and the exhausting of one's na 
ture, in order to attain to the ordinances of Heaven, it is 
possible to get at the very root of propri"ty. 



124 Vide Doctrine of the Mean, Ch. 27, Tf 3. 

126 Analects, Book XII, Ch. 1, If 1. 

126 Benevolence, righteousness, knowledge, and propriety. 



490 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

Instruction to Cheng Te-fu on the Occasion of His Return 

Home 

Given in the tenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

The Record of a Conversation Between Wang Yang-nving 
and Cheng Te-fu 

Cheng Te-fu from Hsian was about to study with Yang- 
ming when he heard scholars and officials criticise his learn- 
ing and culture as Buddhistic. Then he gave up the plan. 
Thus it came that with Chou I-shan from Chiangshan he 
merely followed the disciples of Yang-ming and critically 
examined what they said. Finding that the teaching was 
not Buddhistic, he followed the Teacher and himself heard 
his exposition. (97) After nineteen days he was perfect- 
ly clear that the learning was not like that of the Bud- 
dhists. Then he began to offer the respect of student to 
master. He made inquiry of the Teacher, saying, ''What 
difference exists between Confucianism and Buddhism?" 

The Teacher said: "You should not seek for points of 
difference and agreement in Confucianism and Buddhism. 
You should seek for, and learn the truth." 

Te-fu said: "What distinction is there between truth 
and error, between right and wrong?" 

The Teacher said : ' ' You should not seek for truth and 
error, right and wrong, in expositions and discussions. Seek 
to know and attain an understanding of the situation in 
your mind. If the mind acquiesces, it is true. ' ' 

Te-fu said: "How can the mind determine what is 
right and wrong?" 

The Teacher said: "He who lacks the capacity of dis- 
tinguishing between right and wrong is not a man. In 
tasting sweetness and bitterness, the mouth of any other 
individual is quite as well able to make distinctions as I 
Ya's; in judging beauty and ugliness other men's eyes are 
able to make distinctions quite as well as Li Lou 's ; and in 
making distinctions between right and wrong, anyone's 



LETTERS 491 

mind is like that of the sages. 127 If in matters of interest 
the relation of the mind to the path of duty is not com- 
parable to the sincerity and earnestness of the mouth to 
flavor, and of the eyes to beauty and ugliness, selfishness 
will later obscure it. You should establish its sincerity, 
and that is all. You should be solicitous lest, in its rela- 
tion to the path of duty, the mind be not equal in sincerity 
and earnestness to the mouth in testing flavors, or the eyes 
in testing color. Why should you fear lest it should not 
be able to distinguish between sweet and bitter, beauty and 
ugliness ? ' ' 

Te-fu said : "In that case would it not be true that what 
is recorded in the Five Classics and promulgated ,'n the 
Four Books is all of no use?" 

The Teacher said: "Who says that these things are of 
no use? They are the depository of sweetness, bitterness, 
beauty, and ugliness. If the individual seeks without sin- 
cerity for what they record, nothing but discussions about 
flavor and color will follow. Who is able to get at the real 
facts about the bitterness, sweetness, beauty, or ugliness 
under such circumstances?" 

Inasmuch as Te-fu said he wished to return home and 
asked for a copy of this conversation I forthwith made it. 

Comments — That one should learn what is agreeable to 
and in accord with the mind, it here pointed out and ear- 
nestly urged. 

Preface to "Instructions Fixed by the Philosopher Chu 
in Later Life ' ' 

Written in the thirteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 

Wang Gives a Statement of His Experience as a Student in 

Early Life and of the Way in Which He Arrived 

at His Later Views 

The doctrines promulgated and transmitted by Con- 



12*1 Ya was the famous cook of Duke Huan (B.C. 684-642). 
Vide Mencius, Book VI, Pt. 1, Ch. 7, H 5. 



492 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

fucius had lost their influence from the time of Mencius. 
(98) More than fifteen hundred years after Confucius, 
Chou Lien-hsi and Ch'eng Ming-tao first again sought for 
what had been transmitted. Thereafter scholars daily dis- 
criminated and distinguished these (doctrines) more care- 
fully and minutely, but at the same time departed so far 
from them that they were again lost and obscured. I have 
often earnestly attempted to get at the reason. In gen- 
eral, this is due to the fact that they were reduced to a 
state of confusion by the great amount of exposition of 
worldly scholars. Early in life I (Shou-jen) devoted 
my energies to getting the degree of Chiijen, and sank my 
purpose into the practice of writing essays. Having gained 
some knowledge of what is meant by devoting one's self to 
true learning, I deplored the confusion and lassitude of the 
expositions of the mass of scholars, as well as their vague- 
ness — a vagueness which made it impossible to understand 
them. For this reason I sought relief in Taoism and Bud- 
dhism. I readily understood these and thought that the 
learning of the sages amounted to the same thing. How- 
ever, when I tried to adjust them to the instruction of Con- 
fucius, and employed them in daily use, they were constant- 
ly deficient. Trusting them and disregarding them, de- 
parting from them and returning to them, I both believed 
and mistrusted them. 

Later, as a degraded official I lived in distress among the 
barbarians. Having been stimulated in mind and hard- 
ened in nature, I suddenly realized that this should be 
carefully investigated and sought out. A year later I sub- 
stantiated the fact that the sayings of the Six Classics and 
the four philosophers are as copiously sufficient as a stream 
bursting its banks and flowing into the sea. After that I 
lauded the path of the sages as a plain, level, great high- 
way, and deplored the fact that worldly scholars had er- 
roneously opened a narrow road, trodden on thorns, and 
fallen into a pit. Having examined their expositions, I 



LETTERS 493 

found that they emanated from a lower level than those of 
the two religions. Is it not proper that the highly intelli- 
gent scholar should despise their expositions and prefer to 
follow those of the two religions? Should this be consid- 
ered the fault of the two religions? Occasionally when I 
use this in speaking to those of common purpose, some cau- 
tious and fearful ones criticise me as wrong, as establishing 
heterodoxy and as being fond of strange things. Never- 
theless, whenever I earnestly introspect and profoundly 
keep my self-possession, while seeking exhaustively my own 
defects and blemishes, I the more discriminatingly, clearly 
and truly apprehend that this cannot be doubted. 

In Later Life the Philosopher Chu Realized the Mistakes of 

His Earlier Expositions and Accepted a View 

in Harmony with Wang's 

However, insofar as this contradicted the exposition which 
the philosopher Chu has given, I was constantly distressed 
in mind. Privately I doubted, saying, ' ' Can it be that a man 
of such virtue as the philosopher Chu did not examine into 
this?" When I was official at Liutu (Nanchang in Kiang- 
si), I again took up the works of the philosopher Chu and 
thoroughly investigated them. Thereupon I knew that in 
later life he fully realized the errors of his old expositions. 
Repenting to the utmost, he reached the point where he con- 
sidered himself as having committed the crime of mislead- 
ing others through his own delusion and deception, and 
deplored the fact that he could not atone. The transmitted 
commentaries, and the places where he speaks of some one 
making inquiry, are all expositions which were fixed by him 
in middle age. (99) He blamed himself insofar as he held 
that the original copies were mistaken, and planned to cor- 
rect his mistakes, but without attaining thereto. As far 
as his sayings are concerned, his followers have made use 
of a desire to maintain his superiority in order to annex 
their own point of view. As compared with the ordinary 



494 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

expositions of the philosopher Chu, their mistakes are great. 
However, the worldly students who are confined to seeing 
and hearing do no more than orderly and leisurely discuss 
and practice these (his earlier expositions). They prob- 
ably never have heard of the expositions which the philoso- 
pher Chu gave after he had come to a state of realization. 
Why then blame them for not having confidence in what I 
say? Is it not true that thereby the mind of the philoso- 
pher Chu is not made known to later generations? 

Since I congratulate myself that my exposition does not 
depart from that of the philosopher Chu, and since I re- 
joice that he attained the same position I hold, I also de- 
plore the fact that the ordinary scholars vainly hold to the 
expositions he gave in middle life, and do not, in addition, 
realize the necessity of seeking those later expositions which 
he made after he had come to a state of realization. Vio- 
lently discussing and clamoring, they confuse true learn- 
ing. They do not realize that they have entered the 
realm of heterodoxy. I have hastily selected, recorded, and 
brought this together, that I may privately exhibit it to 
those who have a common purpose, so that they may per- 
haps have no doubt with reference to what I say and that 
the revelation of this learning and culture may be expected. 

Preface to the Ancient Edition of the Great Learning 

Written in the thirteenth year of Emperor Cheng Te 
A Resume of the Principles of the Great Learning 

The essential principle in the Great Learning is that of 
making the purpose sincere. The task of making the pur- 
pose sincere consists in investigating things. When the 
task of making the purpose sincere has reached its highest 
development, it gives what is designated as resting in the 
highest excellence. The rule which applies to resting in 
the highest excellence is that of extending knowledge to the 
utmost. By rectifying the mind, its original nature is re- 



LETTERS 495 

instated; by cultivating the person, its function can be 
manifested. Referring to the self, this means manifesting 
virtue ; referring to others, it implies loving the people ; re- 
ferring to the things included in heaven and earth, this is 
all-complete. For this reason, the highest excellence is 
really the original and fundamental nature of the mind. 
When once there has been the stirring of the passions, it is 
no longer in a state of excellence. But the knowledge of 
this fundamental nature of the mind is at no time absent. 
Purpose is the activity of the mind ; things are the af- 
fairs of the mind. If one is developing the knowledge of 
the mind considered in its fundamental nature, then, what- 
ever activity there is, is excellent. (100) However, if it is 
not his own affairs that are investigated, it is not possible 
for the individual to develop his knowledge. For this rea- 
son the development of the intuitive faculty is the root of 
making the purpose sincere, while the investigation of 
things is the result of developing the intuitive faculty. 

When things have been investigated, knowledge is com- 
pleted, the purpose sincere, and the original nature of the 
mind reinstated. This is what is called resting in the 
highest excellence. The sage fears lest others seek it in ex- 
ternal things, and thus reiterates what he says. If the old 
text is divided up, the purpose of the sage is lost. Thus 
failure to devote one's self to making one's purpose sincere, 
while one merely investigates things, is spoken of as depart- 
ing from the path ; failure to practice the investigation 
of things, while one merely makes the purpose sincere, is 
abstraction ; failure to begin with the developing of the 
intuitive faculty, while one merely investigates things and 
makes the purpose sincere, is absurd and false. Such de- 
parture, abstraction, and absurdity are very different from 
the highest excellence. When brought into relation with 
the text of the Great Learning, they are checked ; but when 
they are strengthened and patched up by the commentary, 
the departure from the text is increased. I am afraid that 



496 PHILOSOPHY OF WANG YANG-MING 

in learning this the students daily depart farther from the 
highest excellence. If the division into chapters is dis- 
carded, and the students, reinstating the old text, rely upon 
this with its lines and verses in pointing out its meaning, 
they come very near to seeing the mind of the sage again. 
Moreover, he who seeks learning has the fundamental prin- 
ciples in the Great Learning. In extending knowledge, it 
is necessary to cherish the mind. Then the realization of 
what is meant by extending knowledge to the utmost is 
complete. 

Comments — According to the idea of this preface, the 
point of departure of the Great Learning consists in the in- 
vestigation of things. In carrying on the investigation of 
things, can study, inquiry, reflection, discrimination, and 
earnest practice be discarded, while the individual vainly 
engages in abstruse expositions devoted to sudden awaken- 
ings and discernments? Scholars do not apprehend the 
underlying idea, but vainly see that it is somewhat different 
from the philosopher Chu's saying, that one must investi- 
gate the principles of all things with which one comes into 
contact. Thereupon they say that the Teacher's exposition, 
regarding the development of the intuitive faculty, obliter- 
ates and destroys the investigation of things. Is that a 
proper way of estimating this? 

The Differences in Opinion of Wang and Chu Regarding 
the Texts of the Great Learning Are Not Important 

Since the time that texts and commentaries met with the 
fire of Ch'in Shih Huang, there are few complete editions. 
Can it be otherwise than that there are a few mistakes in 
the ancient transmitted text of the Great Learning? The 
philosopher Chu adopted the views of the philosopher 
Ch'eng in his commentary. Is his exposition of necessity 
in complete accord with the ancient text ? The philosophers 
Chu and Wang are at variance at this point. However, 
when things have been investigated, knowledge is com- 



LETTERS 497 

pleted and the purpose sincere. (101) The rules of the text 
are naturally clear. The investigation of things is the real 
point of departure for him who is entering the path of 
duty. Therefore when things have been investigated, 
knowledge is completed. The Teacher cannot really be 
different from the philosopher Chu, for Chu cannot be 
different from the sacred text. Even if their point of 
view and their exposition differs somewhat, they are alike 
when they reach the matter of making the purpose sincere ; 
and regarding the truths of the Great Learning they 
are also at one. Students should understand that they 
(Chu and Wang) are at one regarding the path of duty. 
They should not emphasize the differences of exposition. 
In the commentary to the ancient text, it is allowable to put 
aside all that with reference to which one is in doubt. 



INDEX 



INDEX 



Abstraction, 310 

Action, 155 

Activity, 147 ff., 240 ff., 357, 387 
ff. 

Adult human being an all-per- 
vading unity, 204 ff. 

Adults, learning for, 205 ff. 

Advanced learning, nature of, 
76 ff. 

Affairs, 59, 152 ff. 

Ancestral tablets, 412 ff. 

Ancient music had a vital rela- 
tion to public morals, 191 

Anhui, 22 

Anking. See Nganking 

Annals of Spring and Autumn, 
64 ff., 66 

Apprehensiveness implies thought, 
128 ff. 

Arbitrary pre-determinations, 245 
ff., 256 

Archer, 170 ff. 

Arrogance, 474 

Asceticism, 168 

Auspicious Cloud Loft. See Shu- 
yiinlou 

Benevolence : 

the original virtue of the mind, 

106 
principle of continuous growth, 

107 
righteousness and, 91 
Book of Changes, 41, 63 ff., 90, 
163 ff., 179 ff., 212, 217, 273, 
320, 473 



Book of History, 64, 67, 128, 176 

ff., 214, 311, 473 
Book of Poetry, 64, 71, 164, 176 

ff., 268 
Book of Bites, 64, 470 
Brilliant Palace, 322 ff. 
Buddhism, 32, 36, 115, 133 ff., 

202, 207, 345, 377 ff., 483 ff., 

490 
Buddhist priest, 10 ff., 12, 16, 

36, 158 ff. 
Buddhist temple, 12 
Buddhists, 69, 89 ff., 108, 116, 

159, 167 ff., 183, 240 ff., 363, 

390 ff., 394 

Canon op Changes. See Book 

of Changes 
Canon of History. See Book of 

History 
Canon of Poetry. See Book of 

Poetry 
Canon of Bites. See Book of 

Bites 
Chan Kan-ch'iian, 11, 14, 143, 

146, 385, 405 ff., 420 ff. 
Character : 

reform essential to, 367 ff. 

of the sage, 155 
Characteristics of the intuitive 

faculty, 263 ff. 
Che, 86 ff., 121 
Chekiang, 22, 35, 39 
Chen and Wei, 71 
Chen Chiu-ch'uan, 143 ff. 
Ch'en Hao, 20 ff., 27, 29, 40 



502 



INDEX 



Cheng Chao-shuo, 52 

Ch'eng Hua, 4 ff. 

Ch'eng I-ch'uan, 100, 148, 232, 

273 ff., 358, 451 
Ch'eng Ming-tao, 6, 10, 36, 130, 
197, 274, 278 ff., 307, 340, 345, 
444, 451, 460, 492 
Chi, 97, 329 ff. 
Chieh (Emperor), 76 
Ch'ien Te-chou, 34 
Ch'ien Te-hung, 31, 34, 36, 195 
Ch'in Shih Huang. See Shih 

Huang 
Chinkiang, 5, 22 
Chinshan, 5 

Chinshih, 3, 5, 8, 15, 200 
Chiuhuashan, 9, 25 
Chou (Emperor), 76 
Chou Chi, 38 

Chou Kung, 63 ff., 228, 322 ff. 
Chou Lien-hsi, 388, 492 
Chuang-tzu, 215 
Chu Hui-an: 

compared with Lu Hsiang-shan, 

278, 281 ff., 389 ff., 392 ff. 
depended upon divination, 163 
ff. 
Discussions of Later Life, 377 
ff., 491 ff. 
Instructions for the White Deer 

College, 480 ff. 
interpretation of ' ' investiga- 
tion of things," 56 ff., 139, 
144, 177 ff., 217, 303 ff., 372 
ff., 496 
student should not criticise, 110 

ff. 
teachings of, 34, 170, 180, 209 

ff., 298 ff., 342 ff., 377 
Wang and, 15, L'01 ff., 232 ff., 
377 ff., 494, 496 ff. 
Ch'uan Hsi Lu. See Instructions 
for Practical Life 



Chu j en, 7 

Chung-ni, 67, 158, 253. See also 

Confucius 
Classics : 

and commentaries, 223 ff. 

Five, 13, 491 

quotations from, 425 

revision of, 63 ff., 68 ff., 114 

sages comment on, 66 ff. 

Six, 63 ff., 164, 318, 384 ff. 

viewed as history, 69 ff. 
College : 

of the Feudal State, 323 ff. 

Kueiyang, 14 

Tsun Ching, 420 

Tzu Yang, 478 ff. 

White Deer Grotto, 478 ff. 

Yang-ming, 35 
Commentators, 62, 74 
Conduct, 135 ff. 
Confucian scholar, 32, 158 ff. 
Confucian temple, 37, 44 
Confucianism, 36, 345, 381 ff., 490 
Confucianists, 90, 228, 246 ff., 371 
Confucius, 269, 273 

after the death of, 330 ff. 

compared with Yao, Shun, et 
at., Ill ff., 120 ff. 

corrected mutual relationships, 
86 ff. 

disciples of, 124 ff., 194 ff., 
379, 390, 396, 404, 432, 451 

doctrines of, 133 ff., 481 ff. 

excelled, 171 

,i*ave instructions, to Yen-tzu, 
137 ff. 

had his determination fixed, 471 

influence on Wang, 41 

joy of, 253, 265 

misunderstood in his day, 432 
ff. 

participated in activities of 
common people, 403 ff. 



INDEX 



503 



revised the Six Classics, 63 ff., 

65, 114 
sacrifice to, 44 

sayings of, 180, 291 ff., 320, 
324, 364, 368 ff., 451 
Constitution, mental, 299 ff. 
Contemplation of Taoists and 
Buddhists, 167 ff. 

Death and life, 134 ff. 
Death of parents, 88 
Desire, 472 
Determination : 

directed toward truth, 402 

fixing the, 73, 80 ff., 92, 148, 
187, 272, 365 ff., 463 ff., 469 
ff. 
Development : 

of the child, 80 

of the intuitive faculty, 105, 
284 ff., 428 ff., 438 ff. 

of nature, 162 

of the original nature of the 
mind, 96 ff. 

rapid, 437 ff. 

of self, 383 
Diligent study, 464 ff. 
Disciples : 

of Confucius, 124 ff. 

Wang's ideal for, 197 
Discriminating and undivided, 77 

ff. 
Discrimination, 104 
Discussion essential to progress 

in learning, 271 ff. 
Discussions of Later Life, 377 ff. 
Disinterestedness, 194 
Divination, 163 ff. 
Doctrine, 94, 95, 133 ff. 
Doctrine of the Mean, 85, 140, 

157 ff., 179, 216 ff., 224, 226, 

245, 263 ff., 300 ff., 342, 350 
Domestic propriety, 414 ff. 



Doubt precedes inquiry, 306 
Duty, Path of. See Truth 

Earth, 183 ff. 

Education, meaning of, 122 

Energy, 236 

Enlightenment, 13, 193 

Equilibrium, 88, 97, 100 ff., 134, 
240 

Errors : 

of later generations, 419, 473 
of later scholars, 231 ff., 349 ff. 
reforming, 465 ff. 
of Wang's generation, 420 ff. 

Essence, 236 

Etiquette of entertaining inquir- 
ers, 451 ff. 

Evil: 

explanation of, 82 
good and, 156 ff., 195 ff. 
nature devoid of, 106 
nature of, 114 ff. 
thoughts, 160 

Example of true men, 450 ff. 

Excellence, 52, 56, 206 ff., 208 ff., 
211, 224 ff., 425 

Exhausting one's mental consti- 
tution and nature, 299 ff. 

Extension of knowledge, 277, 313 
ff. 

External, 149, 169, 216, 296, 373 

Faithfulness, 194 

Fame, devotion to. 119 

Fear of spirits and the spirit of 

fear, 85 
Feelings, 105, 236, 239 ff., 242 

ff., 254 ff., 279 ff., 341 ff., 345 
Feudal State, College of, 323 ff. 
Filial piety : 

extension of knowledge with 
reference to, 313 ff. 

investigated in the mind, 51 ff. 



504 



INDEX 



Five Classics. See Classics 
Fixing the determination, 73, 80 

ff., 92, 148, 272, 365 ff., 463 ff., 

469 ff. 
Flowers not external to the mind, 

169 
Force, vital, 235 ff. 
Foregone conclusions, 79, 245 ff., 

256 
Fortune-telling, 164 
Four Books, 318, 384 ff., 491. 

See also Classics 
Freedom, 261 
Friends : 

commonplace, 347 

intercourse with, 74 

should mutually esteem one an- 
other, 476 ff. 
Friendship, 349 
Fu Hsi, 63, 198 
Fukien, 20 
Function of the intuitive faculty, 

314 ff., 441 ff. 

Germinating principle, 236 

Gods, 183 ff. 

Good: 

and evil, 156 ff., 195 ff. 
highest, 106, 115 
intuitive knowledge of, 150 ff., 
153, 161 ff., 166 ff., 199 ff., 
233, 234 ff., 237 ff., 252 ff., 
284 ff., 418 ff., 425 
nature of, 114 ff. 
thoughts, 160 

Goodness, 357 ff. 

Government, 69, 137 ff. 

Great Learning, 15, 37, 47 ff., 54, 
85, 130, 139 ff., 144, 187 ff., 
204 ff., 210 ff., 223 ff., 226, 
245, 254, 268 ff., 299, 311 ff., 
318, 372 ff., 385, 391, 494 ff. 



Great Learning and Doctrine of 

the Mean compared, 85, 140 
Great Monad, 241 ff. 
Great root, 101, 118 
Growth in virtue, 125 

Habit, effect of, 369 

Han T'ui-chih, 62 

Han Wen-kung, 412, 414 ff., 452 

Han Yii, 377 

Hangchow, 43 

Hanlin, 4 

Heart, pure, 244 ff. 

Heaven : 

decrees of, 136 ff., 301 ff. 

earth, spirits, gods, and man 
are a unity with, 183 ff. 

mind of man is, 154 

serving, 58 

source of nature, 58, 300 

unity of mind, nature, and, 447 
Heaven-given principles, 82, 84, 

101, 112 ff., 127, 177, 180 ff., 

235, 238 ff. 
Heterodoxy, 330 ff., 363 
Higher learning, 411 ff. 
Highest excellence, 52, 56, 206 ff., 

208 ff., 211, 224 ff., 425 
Highest good, 106, 115 
Highest type of knowledge, 151 

ff. 
Highest virtues, 50 
Hsi Tz'u, 273, 286 ff., 312, 394 
Hsiang, 163, 173 ff., 183, 474 
Hsiang-shan. See Lu Hsiang- 

slian 
Hsieh K'an, 20 
Hsiuts'ai, 8, 10 
Hsiian-chi, 324 
Hsiin, 130 

Huang Ch'eng-fu, 365 ff. 
Huang I-fang, 176 



INDEX 



505 



Huang Tsung-hsien, 14, 354 
Hui-an. See Chu Hui-an 
Humility, 198 ff., 475 
Hunan, 36 
Hung Chih, 6 ff. 
Hungtu. See Nanchang 
Hupeh, 22, 36 

Ichbn, 22 

Ideas, preconceived, 444 ff. 
Illustrious virtue, 105 ff., 206 ff. 
Immortality : 

of the Confucianists, 364 

discussion of, 362 ff. 

physical, 228 

Taoist, 228 
Imperial Pavilion of Examina- 
tion, 322 ff. 
Innate : 

knowledge, 60 

principles of conduct, 135 ff. 

virtues, 50 
Inquirers, 451 ff. 
Inquiry : 

doubt precedes, 306 

and study, 181 ff. 
Instructions for Practical Life, 

35, 47 ff., 254 ff. 
Instructions of antiquity, moral 

purpose of, 471 
Intelligence, 184 ff. 
Internal, 149, 296, 373 ff. 
Introspection, 163, 373 ff. 
Intuitive faculty : 

all-comprehensive, 443 ff. 

characteristics of, 247 ff., 263 
ff., 284 ff. 

development of, 105, 284 ff., 
428 ff., 438 ff. 

devotion to, 186 ff. 

doe3 not need strengthening, 
288 ff. 

does not sleep, 166 ff. 



foresees deception, 291 ff. 
function of, 314 ff., 441 ff. 
guide in learning, 380 
heaven-given principles, 304 ff. 
importance of, 410 ff. 
influence, 310 
intrinsic value of, 455 ff. 
investigation by means of, 34 
knowledge of good and evil due 

to, 195, 214 
must be kept unobscured, 456 

ff. 
not subject to time and space, 

240 
one structure and substance, 

240 
original nature, 247 
orthodox learning, 460 ff. 
perfect, 292 ff. 
and purpose, 458 ff. 
records the truth, 255 ff. 
relation to feelings, 242 ff. 
socializing effect of, 428 ff. 
Intuitive knowledge: 
of a boy, 178 ff. 
characteristic of all men, 153 

ff., 252 ff. 
compared to the sun, 171 ff. 
extending, 189 ff., 277, 313 ff. 
of good, 150 ff., 161 ff., 166 
ff., 195 ff., 199 ff., 233 ff., 237 
ff., 252 ff., 284 ff., 304 ff., 418 

ff., 425 ff. 
obscured, 252 ff. 
plants have, 168 ff. 
Investigation, introspective, 373 

ff. 
Investigation of things, 105, 138 
ff., 146 ff., 149, 177 ff., 211, 
215 ff., 223, 225 ff., 277, 304 
ff., 311 ff., 373 ff., 406 
I Ying, 111 ff., 170 (footnote 
27), 171 



506 



INDEX 



Joy, 253 ff., 264 ff. 

Kanchou, 16 ff., 20, 26, 27, 38 

ff., 370 
K 'ao T 'ing, 7, 8 
Kao-tzu, 99, 103, 161, 298, 388, 

439, 482 
Kiangsi, 16, 18, 21 ff., 25 ff., 36, 

233, 366 
King Wen. See Wen Wang 
Kiukiang, 25 ff. 
Knowledge : 

does not depend upon learning 
much and remembering it, 
319 ff. 
extension of, 150 ff., 211, 277, 
313 ff. 

of good and evil, 195 
highest type of, 151 ff. 
innate, 60 

intuitive, 150 ff., 153 ff., 161 
ff., 166 ff., 171 ff., 178 ff., 
189 ff., 199 ff., 233 ff., 237 
ff., 252 ff., 284 ff., 304 ff., 
418 ff., 425 ff. 
plants have intuitive, 168 ff. 
and practice, 53 ff., 155, 179 
ff., 253, 280 ff., 295 ff., 305 
ff. 
progress in, 80 ff. 
of the sage, 326 ff. 
true, 444 ff. 
Ku Sou, 172 ff. 
K'uai Wai, 86 ff. 
Kuang Ch'eng-tzu, 363 
K'uei, 97, 329 ff. 
Kueiyang College, 14 
Kwangsi, 21, 36, 41 
Kwangtung, 21, 36, 41 
Kweichow, 13, 354 

Lao Lai-tzu. See Lao-tzu 
Lao-tzu, 28, 215, 228, 333, 363 



Learning : 

for adults, 205 ff. 

advanced, 76 ff. 

discussion essential to progress, 
271 ff. 

higher, 411 ff. 

increased by earnest applica- 
tion to the affairs of life, 
152 ff. 

intuitive faculty guide in, 380 
ff. 

lower, 76 ff. 

must strike into the inner na- 
ture, 340 

orthodox, 460 ff. 

and practice, 305 ff. 

of the sage, 423 ff. 

self righteousness hinders, 356 

of the superior man, 387 ff. 

true, 103, 409, 445 ff., 452 ff. 

why and what of, 109 

See also Great Learning 
Li Chi Tsuan Yen, 485 ff. 
Li Po-yang. See Lao-tzu 
Life: 

affairs of, 152 ff. 

death and, 134 ff. 

nature, 279 ff. 

problems of, 82 ff. 

vicissitudes of, 82 ff. 
Literary degree, relation to true 

learning, 452 ff. 
Liu Tsing, 11 ff. 
Long-shan, 4 
Lord, 118 

Love of right, 267 ff. 
"Loving the people" compared 

with "renovating the people," 

48 ff., 207 ff. 
Loyalty, 194 
Lu Hsiang-shan, 1.1, 29, 278, 281 

ff., 389 ff., .".92 ff., 409, 481 ff. 
Lii Lii Hsin Shu, 93 



INDEX 



507 



Lungch'ang, 11 ff., 199 

Man, superior, 260 ff., 289 ff., 

292 ff., 320, 340, 352 ff., 365 

ff., 387 ff., 448, 472 
Man's nature all-inclusive, 154, 

183 ff. 
Mastering one's mind, 73 
Men, true, 450 ff. 
Mencius, 36, 41, 90 ff., 103, 130, 

161, 192, 212, 216, 233, 246 ff., 

279, 289 ff., 298 ff., 315, 320, 

330, 347 ff., 354, 376 ff., 383, 

402, 409, 435, 439, 473, 479, 

481 ff. 
Mental activity always present, 

147 ff. 
Mental constitution, 299 ff. 
Methods of Confucianism, 381 ff. 
Methods of government, 137 ff. 
Mind, 260 ff. 

contemplation of Taoists and 
Buddhists obscures, 167 ff. 

disorderly, 243 ff. 

embodiment of natural law, 50 
ff. 

everything takes its departure 
from, 479 ff. 

exhausting one 's, 58, 425 

filial piety to be investigated 
in, 50 ff., 126 ff. 

flowers not external to, 169 

good and evil in, 116, 156 ff. 

heaven-given principles, 180 ff., 
260, 306, 320 ff. 

Heaven 's decrees embodied in, 
301 ff. 

highest excellence, 208 ff. 

importance of, 467 ff. 

.joyous, 172, 264 ff. 

manifested, 132 

mastering one's, 73 

mirror, 93 ff. 



nature, 81 ff., 211 ff., 298 ff. 

nature of, 88 ff., 195 ff. 

no internal and external, 148 ff. 

obscured, 189 

original nature of, 96 ff., 147 
ff., 154, 165, 237 ff., 240 ff., 
318 ff., 387 ff. 

passions have their origin with- 
in, 171 ff. 

principles of, 309 

principles of things not exter- 
nal to, 298 ff. 

rectifying, 127 ff. 

relation to body, 145 ff. 

reverent, 126 ff. 

of the sage, 327, 345, 470 

selfish, 62 

things, principles, righteousness 
not external to, 358 

tranquility of, 78 ff., 121 ff., 
238 ff. 

truth, 96 

a unity, 61 ff. 

unity of nature, heaven, and, 
447 

and the universe, 50, 169 

unperturbed, 103 ff. 

upright, 62 
Modern scholars, 349 ff. 
Moral principles, 95, 108 
Mo-tzu, 106, 321 ff., 376 ff., 

482 
Mu, 97 
Music: 

ancient, 19 

of secondary importance, 93 

of Ya, 71 
Mutual relationships, 86 ff., 108, 

159 ff. 

Nan Ta-chi, 35 

Nanchang, 6, L'l ff'., .">6, .'!9. 144, 
19:?, 493 



508 



INDEX 



Nanking, 12, 15, 20, 22, 24 ff., 

27, 29 
Natural law, 73, 87 ff., 89 ff., 91 

ff., 97, 115 ff., 122 ff., 132, 150, 

155 ff., 157, 179 ff., 287. See 

also heaven-given principles 

and moral principles 
Nature : 

accordance with, 426 ff. 

chief characteristics of, 250 ff. 

connotation of, 83 

development of, 162, 276 

embodiment of natural law, 91 

exhausting, 299 ff. 

has no fixed form, 191 ff. 

Heaven the source of, 58 

Heaven's decrees embodied in, 
301 ff. 

highest good, 106 

included in mind, 342 

includes feelings, 279 ff. 

man's, 154, 183 

mind is, 81 ff., 211 ff., 298 ff. 

no principles or things apart 
from, 375 

passion, 99 

unity of mind, heaven, and, 

447 

virtuous, 181 ff. 
Nganking, 25 
Nirvana, S9, 168 

Op.thodox learning, 460 ff. 
Over-preciseness a moral defect, 
159 

Pailutung, 29, 36. See also 

White Deer Grotto 
Parents, death of, 88 
Passion. 82 ff., 104, 113, 122 ff., 

1.30 ff., 244 ff., 253 ff., 308 
Passion nature. 99 



Passions, 341 

Path of duty, 135 ff., 164 ff. See 

also truth 
Peking, 5, 8, 20, 22, 27, 29, 227 
P'en Ch'ien, 228 
Perfect virtue, 266 ff. 
Philosopher Kao. See Kao-tzu 
Philosopher Tseng. See Tseng- 

tzu 
Philosophic standpoint of Wang 

Yang-ming, 202 ff. 
Physical immortality of the Tao- 

ists, 228 
Plants have intuitive knowledge, 

168 ff. 
Po I, 111 ff., 170 (footnote 27), 

171 
Poyang Lake, 21, 23 
Practice and knowledge, 53 ff., 

155, 179 ff., 253, 280 ff., 295 

ff., 305 ff. 
Practicing righteousness, 437 ff. 
Preconceived ideas, 444 ff. 
Predeterminations, 79 
Preservation of virtue, 165 ff. 
Pride a great disease, 185, 474 ff. 
Prince Ning, 25, 30. See also 

Ch'en Hao 
Principles : 

of conduct, 135 ff. 

germinating, 236 

heaven-given, 82, 84, 101, 112 
ff., 127, 177, 180 ff., 235, 238 
ff. 

investigation of, 89 ff., 126 ff., 
304 ff. 

of the mind, 59, 309 

minutiae of, 182 ff. 

moral, 95, 108 

one with mind, 306, 320 ff., 
358 

of propriety, 412 ff. 



INDEX 



509 



propriety in its relation to, 60 
ff. 

of righteousness, 75 ff., 123 

of things, 7, 298 ff. 
Problems : 

of life, 82 ff. 

of propriety, 416 ff. 
Process, result more important 

than, 188 ff. 
Progress, 116 
Propriety : 

domestic, 414 ff. 

mind in accord with, 132 ff. 

perplexing problems of, 416 ff. 

principles of, 412 ff. 

relation to principles, 60 ff. 

rules of, 486 ff. 
Pure heart, 244 ff. 
Purpose, 103, 139 ff., 212 ff., 223 

ff., 235, 310, 422 ff., 458 ff., 

471 

Quarrel, 199 

Recapitulation, Wang's idea of, 

197 ff. 
Reflection, 287 ff. 
Reform essential to character and 

sageness, 367 ff. 
Reforming errors, 465 ff. 
Relationships, mutual, 86 ff., 108, 

159 ff. 
Renovating the people, 48 ff. 
Repentance a remedy for disease, 

120 
Reproof, use and misuse, 466 ff. 
Resting in the highest excellence, 

206 ff., 208 ff., 211 
Result more important than the 

process, 188 ff. 
Reverence : 

cherish, 130 

righteousness and, 90 



Right, love of, 267 ff. 
Righteousness : 

importance of practicing, 437 
ff. 

not external to the v mind, 358 

practicing, 437 ff. 

principles of, 75 ff., 123 

reverence and, 90 

self-, 140, 356 
Root, great, 101, 118 

Sage : 

bearing and manner of, 274 

ff. 
comments on the Six Classics, 

66 ff. 
compared to Heaven, 99 
compared to the finest gold, 111 

ff., 120 ff. 
compared with Taoists and 

Buddhists, 167 
doctrine of, 371 
guards his intuitive knowledge, 

153, 255, 266 
how to become, 157, 244 ff. 
joy of, 253 ff., 264 ff. 
knowledge of, 326 
learning of, 423 ff. 
methods of, 360 
mind of, 74, 111 ff., 327, 345, 

470 
necessary qualities of character, 

155 
omnipotence of, 155 ff. 
omniscience of, 155 ff. 
realized their own transgres- 
sions, 368 ff. 
of unified ability, 170 
Wang and Ch 'ien despaired of 

becoming, 178 
words of, 189 
Sageness, reform essential to, 367 
ff. 



510 



INDEX 



Scholars : 

errors of later, 231 ff., 349 ff. 

superficial, 104 

wrote to show their own skill, 
74 
Self-: 

control, 84, 131 ff., 357 

development, 383 

investigation, 82 

poise of the superior man, 260 
ff. 

preservation, 165 

realization, 193 

righteousness, 140, 356 
Selfishness, 93 ff., 98, 101, 245, 

424 
Senses represent functioning of 

intuitive faculty, 284 ff. 
Shame, 350 
Shang-ti, 83 
Shih Huang, 65, 493 
Shooking. See Book of History 
Shou-jen. See Wang Shou-jen 
Shuching. See Book of History 
Shun, 28, 111 ff., 115, 120 ff., 

158, 163, 172 ff., 191, 194, 214, 

228, 311, 314, 322 ff., 327 ff., 

368, 429, 435, 444 ff., 481 
Shun-pu. See Wang Shun-pu. 
Shuyiinlou, 4, 29 
Sincerity, 59, 84, 127 ff., 139 ff., 

223 ff., 235, 255, 263 ff., 269, 

358 ff., 409 
Six Classics. See Classics 
Socializing effect of the intuitive 

faculty, 428 ff. 
Songs of Chen and Wei, 71 
Soochow, 36 
Sorrow, a test of true learning, 

87 ff. 
Space, 240 
Spirit, 236 
Stirrings of the feelings, 239 



Students : 

a great defect of, 119 ff. 

present-day, 326 ff. 

of the world, 332 ff. 
Study : 

compared to husbandry, 477 ff. 

diligent, 464 ff. 

includes introspection, 163 

inquiry and, 181 ff. 

intrinsic value of, 464 ff. 

intuitive knowledge and, 153 

meaning of, 83 ff. 

should be definite, 117 ff. 

should penetrate into essentials, 
348 
Superficial scholars, 104 
Superior man, 260 ff., 289 ff., 292 

ff., 320, 340, 352 ff., 365 ff., 

387 ff., 448, 472 
Supreme Ruler, 263 

T'ai Shan, 176 

Tan Chu, 185, 328, 474 

T'ang, 111, 228 

Taoism, 32, 133, 202, 207, 377, 

483 
Taoist priest, 6, 9, 12, 25 
Taoists, 69, 89 ff., 116, 167, 228, 

363 ff. 
Teacher. See Wang Yang-uiiiig 
Thing: 

defined, 310 

devotion to one, 127 

of ' ' investigating things, ' ' 59 
Things, 116, 216, 225 ff., 298 ff., 

358 ff. 

investigation of, 105, 138 ff., 

146 ff., 149, 177 ff., 211, 215 

ff., 223, 225 ff., 277, 304 ff., 

311 ff., 373 ff., 406 

Thinking indicative of selfishness, 

98 
Thought, 155, 160, 182 ff. 



INDEX 



511 



Three Dynasties, 69, 194, 198, 

323 ff., 328, 351 
Time, 88, 240 
Tranquility: 76, 78 ff., 115, 121, 

147 ff., 234, 238 ff., 240 ff., 247 

ff., 310, 357, 387 ff. 
True: 

knowledge, 444 ff. 

learning, 103, 409, 445 ff., 452 
ff. 

methods of Confucianism, 381 
ff. 
Truth : 

application to, 87 ff. 

determination directed toward, 
402 

devotion to, 119, 365 ff. 

Heaven, 96 

inexhaustible, 95 ff., 189 

intuitive faculty records, 255 
ff. 

unified whole, 384 ff. 

See also path of duty 
Ts'ai P'eng-t'ou, 9 
Tseng Tien, 79 ff. 
Tseng-tzu, 56, 123 ff., 195, 315, 

324, 451, 473 
Tso Chuan, 65 ff. 
Tsou Shou-i, 36 
Ts'ii Ai, 12, 15, 20, 47 (footnote 

1), 48, 113, 204 (footnote 1), 

366 
Ts'ii Yueh-jen. See Ts'ii Ai 
Tsun Ching College, 420 
Tzu-hsia, 56, 122 
Tzu-kung, 124, 396 
Tzu-lu, 396, 404, 432, 451 
Tzu-ssu, 36, 85, 135 ff., 293, 341 

ff., 473 
Tzu Yang College, 478 ff. 

USDIVIDEDNESS, 77 ff., 104 

Unified system of truth, 384 ff. 



Unitary character of knowledge 
and practice, 53 ff., 179 ff., 280 
ff. 

Unity, all-pervading, 204 ff., 447 

Universal path, 101, 118 

Unperturbed mind, 103 ff. 

Value of study, 464 ff. 
Vicissitudes of life, 82 ff. 
Virtue : 

cherishing good thoughts is, 92 

determination fixed on, 365 ff. 

growth in, 110, 125 

illustrious, 105 ff., 206 ff. 

innate, 50 

nourishing of, 227 

perfect, 266 ff. 

preservation of, 165 ff. 
Virtuous nature, 181 ff. 
Vital force, 235 ff. 

Wang Ching- yen, 354 ff. 
Wang Ch'iung, 18, 21 ff. 
Wang Shou-jen, 4, 22, 35, 40 ff. 

See also Wang Yang-ming 
Wang Shun-pu, 346 ff., 353 ff., 

356 ff. 
Wang Yang-ming: 

ambition for his friends, 350 ff. 
ancestry and birth, 3 ff. 
buried at Hungch 'i, 43 
charged with heterodoxy, 31, 

230 ff. 
compared with Chu Hui-an, 201 

ff., 494 ff. 
confers with Yang Mao, a deaf 

man, 467 ff. 
death and burial, 38 ff. 
early efforts as scholar, 6 ff., 

492 
early life, 4 ff. 

enlightenment, 13, 193. 199 ff., 
492 



512 



INDEX 



Wang Yang-ming (continued) : 

exiled to Lungch'ang, 11 ff., 
492 

fourfold merit of, 40 ff. 

gives advice to a prefect, 32 ff. 

Governor, 24 ff. 

his disciples, 233 

Huang Kuan sends memorial in 
defense of, 39 ff. 

idea of recapitulation, 197 ff. 

ideal for his disciples, 197 

illness, 38, 407, 422 ff., 434 ff., 

436, 448 

influences a Buddhist priest, 10 
ff. 

investigates immortality, 9 ff., 

492 

judges litigation between fath- 
er and son, 172 ff. 

learning of, 41 ff. 

made Earl of Hsinchien, 29 

made Provincial Commander- 
in-chief, 18 

marriage, 6 

Military Governor of Kiangsi, 
16 

persecuted by Chang Chung 
and Hsu T'ai, 25 

personality of, 47, 175 ff. 

philosophic standpoint, 202 ff. 

posthumous honors of, 43 

President of the Board of War, 
29 

receives the degrees of Chujen, 
Chinshih, and Hanlin, 7 ff., 
492 

remains taken to Yuehch'eng, 
39 

restored to honor and receives 
official promotion, 14 



subdues Prince Ch'en Hao, 20 
ff. 

use of the Great Learning, 47, 
204 ff. 

Viceroy and teacher, 36 ff. 

views are not Buddhistic, 295 

See also Wang Shou-jen, Wen- 
ch 'eng 
Wei Liang-cheng, 34 
Wei Liang-ch'i, 34 
Wen-ch'eng, 201, 203. See also 

Wang Yang-ming 
Wen Chung-tzu, 62, 65, 92 
Wen Wang, 63 ff., 103, 111, 452 
White Deer Grotto College, 478 

ff. 
Will, 99, 160 ff. 
Wu Chen P'ien, 228 
Wu Wang, 111, 191, 228, 315, 317 
Wuhu, 25 

Ya, Music of, 71 

Yang, 107, 236, 241 ff., 264 ff., 

363 
Yang Mao, 467 ff. 
Yangchow, 22 
Yang-ming College, 35 
Yang-ming Grotto, 4, 10, 355, 407 
Yang-tzu, 321 ff., 376 ff. 
Yao, 111 ff., 115, 120 ff., 173, 

194, 214, 228, 322 ff., 327 ff., 

368, 429, 481 
Yen-tzu, 102 ff., 124 ff., 137 ff., 

144, 189, 197, 253, 364, 404 
Yin, 107, 236, 241 ff., 264 ff., 363 
' ' Your good, careful people, ' ' 

193 ff., 321 ff. 
Yii, 111, 228, 325, 327, 481 
Yuehch 'eng, 4, 29, 36, 39 
Yiiyao, 3, 15 ff., 29. 35, 420 



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