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Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Comparison between the Sekimon Shingaku 石門心學and Yomeigaku 陽明學 in Japan

Vol. 40 No. 4   12/2010    


The Comparison between the Sekimon Shingaku 石門心學and Yomeigaku 陽明學 in Japan


Chang, Kun-chiang









Key words

Shingaku, Sekimon Shingaku, Yomei Shingaku, Ishita Baigan, national morality   


    This paper compares two philosophical schools in Japan: Sekimon Shingaku and Yomei Shingaku. Although both are commonly seen as schools focusing on Shingaku (mind studies), this article demonstrates that there are great differences in their core discourses. First, although both schools are based on Mencius’s philosophy and both accepted Shintoism, Sekimon Shingaku embraced Shintoism more. Meanwhile, neither school was mainstream among the philosophies of the Tokugawa Period, and they continued to be treated as heterodox even after 1790, when the government adopted a more tolerant policy toward the different schools. However, if one compares their core tenets, Sekimon Shingaku was actually closer to Zhu Xi’s mind studies and had not developed as much as Wang Yang Ming’s philosophy in the area of ontological discourse. Regarding the issue of the union of the three religions (Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism), Yang Ming scholars after Nakae Toju rejected Buddhism and Daoism, while Sekimon Shingaku scholars claimed that the three religions shared the same origin. With respect to the concept of hierarchy in Japanese society, Yang Ming scholars varied among themselves significantly. Some believed in egalitarianism, but others supported the hierarchical samurai system. Sekimon Shingaku scholars, on the other hand, emphasized that all classes in a four-class society would have to follow the same Dao (moral principle). Their egalitarianism was based on “vocational norms,” and they had no intention of abolishing the concept of hierarchy. The Yang Ming School was usually regarded as radical and was sometimes involved in political reforms, which attracted lower-class samurai. In that sense, the Yang Ming School was the opposite of Sekimon Shingaku, whose scholars dedicated themselves to educating commoners and promoting popular education in society as a whole. In conclusion, this paper suggests that the differences between these schools of mind studies became blurred after the promotion of “national morality” during the Meiji Restoration.



Author: Chang, Kun-chiang
Genre: Article
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