Changing political and intellectual landscapes during the mid-Ming: revival of private academies, emergence of jianghui, and the enshrinement case of 1584

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This thesis examines the relationship between political culture, Confucian intellectuals, and the rise of a new intellectual and cultural paradigm during the early to mid-Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). The

This thesis examines the relationship between political culture, Confucian intellectuals, and the rise of a new intellectual and cultural paradigm during the early to mid-Ming dynasty (1368 – 1644). The main goal of this thesis is to supplement current scholarship on Chen Xianzhang’s 陳獻章 (1428 – 1500) life as an intellectual of Cantonese origin and his political activities at both local and national levels. Furthermore, the thesis supplements current research on the Yangming School and the School’s contribution to the revitalization of private academies during the Ming with a study on the relationship between the three Confucian intellectuals enshrined in 1584 and the revival of private academies from the perspective of political history. In analyzing the relationship between these various aspects of the Ming political and intellectual landscapes, the thesis uses the 1584 Confucian Temple enshrinement, which involved Wang Yangming 王陽明 (1472 – 1529) and his two older contemporary Confucian intellectuals, Chen Xianzhang and Hu Juren 胡居仁 (1434 – 1484), as an entry point to explore the dynamics behind the political and cultural changes at the time. It aims to investigate the issue of cultural power versus imperial power, the central-versus-peripheral narrative in Ming politics, the evolution of how cultural power was asserted by members of the Confucian tradition, and the manifestation of such evolution in response to contemporary political discussions. The author begins with an analysis of the revival of private academies (shuyuan 書院) during the mid-Ming, and the influence of Chen Xianzhang and Hu Juren in this revival. He then dissects the relationship between the revival of private academies and the emergence of jianghui 講會 (discussion gatherings) in the following decades. Finally, the thesis discusses the struggle of mid-Ming intellectuals in gaining cultural legitimization for both private academies and jianghui activities by urging the imperial court to give due recognition through enshrining Wang, Chen, and Hu in the Confucian Temple, and the historical significance of this struggle to the development of the Confucian tradition in the Ming. The author ultimately argues that Chen Xianzhang, contrary to the common perception about him being a philosopher-poet who was indifferent to political discourses, was in fact a politically active intellectual; and that Chen’s contributions to the revival of private academies in Guangdong predated that of Wang Yangming in the Jiangnan region.