Ruxue between Scholarship, Faith, and Self-Cultivation: Some Desultory Historical and Methodological Reflections

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    The first half of this paper is an historical reflection on the fact that over the past century in China, academic scholarship on ruxue has flourished and self-cultivation has all but disappeared. It recapitulates the consequences that academic institutionalization has had for ruxue; reviews some contemporary assessments of the consequences of the institutionalization, professionalization and systematization of ruxue; and notes concerns about the pressure that has been brought to distinguish between “the philosophical” and “the religious” as well as concerns about whether “religion” is an appropriate framework for discussing ruxue. This section of the paper concludes with a response to Kwong-loi Shun's recent critical observation that viewing Chinese thought from the perspective of Western philosophical conceptions does not do full justice to the insights into the ethical experiences of human beings that are conveyed through concepts distinctive of Chinese ethical traditions. The second half of the paper covers two broad sets of issues. First, I draw attention to the fact that the resurgence of academic and intellectual interest in ruxue in recent decades has brought with it a welter of terms to distinguish different conceptions of ruxue. As such, I argue, before attempting to answer such questions as “What is the relationship between the promotion of Confucianism as a national cultural faith and the study of Confucianism as an academic discipline?” and “Should academia take up the role of promoting Confucianism as a national cultural faith or even the role of ‘life mentor’?” , it should be recognised that there is limited consensus in contemporary Chinese academic discourse about how rujiao, ruxue, and the rujia tradition should be distinguished. The second issue concerns the dangers of having the political system of China becoming involved in promoting Confucianism as a national cultural faith. I draw on the lessons of Taiwan’s experience with the Chinese Cultural Renaissance Movement of the mid-1970s in which ruxue was conscripted by the Guomindang. I argue that the lessons learned there are just as relevant today in the case of Mainland China.
    Original languageEnglish
    Title of host publicationThe Journal of Chinese Philosophy and Culture: Confucianism: Scholarship, Faith and Self-Cultivation
    Editors Liu Ziaogan
    Place of PublicationChina
    PublisherLijiang Publishing House (漓江出版社)
    ISBN (Print)9787540757731
    Publication statusPublished - 2012


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