Jump to the main content block
Tsing Hua Journal of Chinese Studies
ISSN 0577-9170; DOI 10.6503/THJCS


The Construction and Development of the Yang-ming School

Vol. 29 No. 2   6/1999  


The Construction and Development of the Yang-ming School


Miaw-fen Lu









Key words

Wang Yang-ming, Yang-ming School, Ming Dynasty, academy


      Based on Wang Yang-ming’s philosophy, the Yang-ming School was successfully constructed during Wang Yang-ming’s lifetime. Although both challenges from the academic field and persecution from the government ensued immediately after the construction of the school, the Yang-ming School continued to develop into the most prominent intellectual school during the Ming. This article deals primarily with the historical development of the Yang-ming School and its relationship with contemporary political powers. The school’s history was divided into two major periods. First, from the construction of the school to the death of Wang Yang-ming, Wang’s remarkable political and military success (in the late 1510s) in the Chiang-hsi area was viewed as a crucial point in the construction of the Yang-ming School. During this period, the school focused on its charismatic leader, Wang Yang-ming, and had its roots deepened into the Chiang-hsi, Chieh-Chiang, and Nan-ching areas. Secondly, after Wang Yang-ming’s death in 1528, the spread of the Wang Yang-ming learning was maintained in the Chiang-Hui activities, associations of local gentry and students for pursuing the Wang Yang-ming learning. During this period, although Wang Yang-ming’s disciples possessed strong school consciousness and tried to promote their master’s ideas, the style and content of the Chiang-hui had no unified regulations, but leaned to meet their local member’s needs. This situation, therefore, led to diversity within the Yang-ming School and the formation of an intellectual movement with broad influences of the Wang Yang-ming learning, which dominated the late-Ming intellectual fields.

      As for the relationship between the Yang-ming School and the political powers, an ambivalent relationship having both submissive and critical spirits is emphasized in this article. Not only in the school’s attitude toward the civil service examination system and the Ch’eng-chu orthodoxy, but also in its strategies to convert political capital to cultural capital and use local political and social sources to construct the chiang-hui and academies, the important institutes of private educational activities, this ambivalent relationship between the Yang-ming School and the political powers is revealed. Although political power from the top had great influence in promoting or depressing the private educational activities, including the Wang Yang-ming learning, it definitely could not extinguish the autonomy and free spirit of private education activities. However, one cannot merely eulogize the autonomy of private educational activities either, since in actual practice, they possessed political ambitions and were usually involved in manipulating local political power.



Author: Miaw-fen Lu
Genre: Article
Click Num: