The Terminator of Chinese Classical Philosophy
Chinese Name: 王夫之
English Name: Wang Fuzhi
Other Names: Wang Chuanshan 王船山
Born: October 7, 1619
Died: February 18, 1692
A simple materialist thinker 朴素唯物主义思想者
The Book of Shangshu Citation 《尚书引义》
The Record of Yongli 《永历实录》
The Spring and Autumn Annals 《春秋世论》
Brief Biography of Wang Fuzhi
Wang Fuzhi was a thinker at the end of the Ming Dynasty 明朝 and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty 清朝.
Wang Fuzhi (from October 7, 1619, to February 18, 1692), courtesy name Ernong 而农, art name Jiangzhai 姜斋, was known as “Mr. Chuanshan 船山先生” and was a native of Hengyang County 衡阳县 (now Hengyang City 衡阳市, Hunan Province 湖南省) in Huguang.
He, together with Gu Yanwu 顾炎武, Huang Zongxi 黄宗羲, and Tang Zhen 唐甄, was called “the four great enlightenment thinkers at the end of the Ming Dynasty and the beginning of the Qing Dynasty”. He was the son of the scholar Wang Chaopin 王朝聘.
In the fifth year of Chongzhen 崇祯 (1632), he was admitted as a scholar and organized “Xingshe” and “Kuang She”. In the 15th year of Chongzhen, the local examination was held. In the early years of Shunzhi 顺治, he joined Zhu Youlang 朱由榔, Emperor Yongli 永历帝, in the struggle against the Qing Dynasty. In March of the 17th year of Kangxi 康熙’s reign (1678), he refused to write a table of persuasion for Wu Sangui 吴三桂.
In the 31st year of Kangxi’s reign, he died of illness in the Xiangxi Thatched Cottage 湘西 and was buried in Gaojieli Daluo Mountain, Jinlan Township, Hengyang County. He has written such books as The Book of Changes 《周易外传》, The Book of Huang 《黄书》, The Book of Shangshu Citation 《尚书引义》, The Record of Yongli 《永历实录》, The Spring and Autumn Annals 《春秋世论》, Nightmare 《噩梦》, The Book of Reading Tongjian 《读通鉴论》, The Book of Songs 《宋论》, etc.
Personal Life and Major Contributions
His early life
In the second year of Tianqi 天启 (1622), Wang Fuzhi began to learn from his elder brother Wang Jiezhi 王介之.
In the fifth year of Tianqi 天启 (1625), he followed his elder brother Wang Jiezhi and completed the study of the Thirteenth Classics.
In the 11th year of Chongzhen 崇祯 (1638), he studied at Yuelu Academy 岳麓书院 in Changsha 长沙 and formed a “travel club” with his classmate and friend Kuang Pengsheng 邝鹏升.
In the 12th year of Chongzhen (1639), Wang Fuzhi and his elder brothers Wang Jiezhi went to the countryside for an examination. Only his elder brother, Wang Jiezhi, won the second-ranking. In Wuchang, Wang Fuzhi met Xiong Weigong 熊渭公, a Huanggang man 黄冈人, and Li Yuntian 李云田, a Hanyang man 汉阳人. In October, he formed a “Kuang Society 匡社” with his friends Guo Fengxu 郭凤跹, Guan Siqiu 管嗣裘, and Wen Zhiyong 文之勇.
Fight against the Qing army
In March of the second year of Shunzhi’s reign (1645), Wang Fuzhi got to know Duyinxi 堵胤锡, a general of the Anti-Qing Dynasty. In the autumn, he fled to Leiyang 耒阳, Xingning 兴宁, and Yongxing 永兴 with his father and brother to avoid the town generals’ plagiarism.
In August of the third year of Shunzhi’s reign (1646), Zhu Yujian 朱聿键 killed Qing soldiers in Tingzhou 汀州. Wang Fuzhi continued his poem of grief and anger with a hundred rhymes. Wang Fuzhi went to Tingyin 汀阴 alone to find Zhang Kuang 章旷. Zhang Kuang asked him to reconcile the conflict between He Tengjiao 何腾蛟 and Duyin Xi 堵胤锡, to work together with the peasant army to fight against the Qing Dynasty, and put forward his own suggestions for military logistics, which were not accepted by Zhang Kuang.
In the spring of the fourth year of Shunzhi’s reign (1647), Kong Youde 孔有德 led his army to conquer all parts of Hunan and Guangdong, and Wang Fuzhi went to Xiangxiang 湘乡. In April, Wang Fuzhi and his friend Xia Rubi 夏汝弼 defected to Emperor Yongli. They were trapped in Chejia Mountain 车架山 in the southwest of Xiangxiang Township.
In May, when the Qing army captured Hengzhou 衡州, Wang Fu’s family fled. His father Wang Chaopin 王朝聘, his uncle Wang Tingpin 王廷聘, his second brother Wang Senzhi 王参之 and his aunt died in the war. Wang Fuzhi’s father urged his children to fight to the end.
Wang Fuzhi’s philosophy can be summarized into seven points:
First of all, anti-asceticism advocates that we should not leave human desires and talk about heavenly principles. Secondly, we should equalize the world, and oppose autocracy and patriotic ideals. Third, Qi monism. Wang Fuzhi believes that Qi is the only entity, not “nothing outside the mind”. Fourth, the debate on mind and matter (knowing and doing) – opposing the transcendental theory of “being born knowing”. Fifthly, it reveals the dialectical nature of “name”, “diction” and “deduction”. Sixthly, the historical view of the unity of reason and potential. Seventh is the theory of human nature which is born day by day.