Commoner and sagehood: Wang Ken and the T'ai-chou School in late Ming society.
AdvisorSchultz, William R.
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PublisherThe University of Arizona.
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AbstractThe intellectual world of the late Ming literati was without question one of great richness and complexity. The focus of the present study, however, is limited to an examination of Wang Ken, the man, his key philosophical beliefs, and his role in the founding of the T'ai-chou School of thought. In exploring the genesis of Wang Ken and his school of thought, certain aspects of the social milieu are examined in order to reach a better understanding of how the larger environment and this radical intellectual movement became intertwined. In other words, I have attempted to discern and define the interplay of the most important creative minds of the time, and particularly those of the elite class with this group. As a teacher and thinker Wang Ken exercised a considerable influence on his times, contributing in the process to the new permissiveness so characteristic of the latter half of the Ming dynasty. In this regard, the present study also represents an attempt to discover the basic patterns underlying Wang Ken's thought, as well as the T'ai-chou School's responsiveness to dramatic changes in society. In doing so, we perceive an implication of intellectual autonomy in the form of social and political protest against imperial autocracy. Also, the spread of his faith in an attainable and intelligible sagehood among the lower classes, gradually blurred the dividing line between elite and commoner. Finally, the assertions of Wang Ken and the T'ai-chou School indeed stimulated a new sense of self-awareness and self-worth. Nevertheless, it is because of its radical rejection of the established social, political, and intellectual order that the T'ai-chou School has been branded as heterodox. As a result, the frustration of its aspiration for a more genuine humanity was inevitable, as this intellectual movement fell victim to the forces of orthodoxy and conformity.
Degree ProgramOriental Studies