The Journal of Wu Yubi: The Path to Sagehood. Translated, with introduction and commentary, by M. Theresa Kelleher. Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Co., 2013. Pp. xliv + 187. $40 (cloth); $13 (paper).
Those familiar with Ming Neo-Confucian thought will no doubt be aware that Huang Zongxi's [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1610-1695) Records of Ming Scholars (Ming ru xue [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII]) recognizes Wu Yubi [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1392-1469) as having been the first Ming scholar to seriously pursue the Way. For Huang, Ming learning could not have flourished without his contributions. Although Wu's thought was largely articulated within the parameters of the dominant and orthodox tradition of the Cheng [Yi]-Zhu [Xi] School of Principle (Cheng Zhu li xue uifcil#) inherited from the Song Dynasty, the great care he took to give it meaning and relevance to his interior life gave it a personal direction characteristic of the Ming School of the Mind commonly associated with Wang Yangming [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1472-1529) and his followers. Wu's life coincided with much of the first century of Ming rule and, although he chose to renounce pursuing degrees that would have qualified him for official service, his quiet life of farming, learning, and teaching in his hometown of Chongren, Jiangxi, managed to bring him a growing following of students. Some of these students, such as Hu Juren [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1434-1484) and Lou Liang [TEXT NOT REPRODUCIBLE IN ASCII] (1422-1491), would go on to become some of the most noted thinkers of fifteenth-century China. In fact, the famed Ming philosopher Wang Yangming at one time sought out instruction from Lou while passing through Jiangxi.
In some ways, the heyday of Ming Neo-Confucian studies in the English-language world belongs to the 1970s and the decades surrounding it, something that has not been lost on scholars working in East Asia, where writing in the area of intellectual history has been abundant since that time. Ming historians may also sense that work on the fifteenth century is far weaker than it is for any other Ming period. Long ago, in his article "The Ch'eng-Chu School of Early Ming" (Self and Society in Ming Thought, ed. Wm. Theodore de Bary, New York: Columbia Univ. Press, 1970), Wing-tsit Chan decried how early Ming philosophy was relegated to the margins by most scholarship, something that has hardly been rectified up to the present.