Imagining Boundaries

Changing Confucian Doctrines, Texts, and Hermeneutics

Edited by Kai-wing Chow, On-cho Ng, and John B. Henderson

Subjects: Religion
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791441985, 269 pages, May 1999
Hardcover : 9780791441978, 269 pages, June 1999

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Table of contents

1. Introduction: Fluidity of the Confucian Canon and Discursive Strategies
On-Cho Ng and Kai-Wing Chow

2. A Problematic Model: The Han "Orthodox Synthesis," Then and Now
Michael Nylan

3. The Formulation of Early Medieval Confucian Metaphysics: Huang K'an's (488–545) Accommodation of Neo-Taoism and Buddhism
Yuet Keung Lo

4. Military Governance versus Civil Governance: A Comparison of the Old History and the New History of the Five Dynasties
Tze-Ki Hon

5. Strategies in Neo-Confucian Heresiography
John B. Henderson

6. "Goodness Unbound": Wang Yang-ming and the Redrawing of the Boundary of Confucianism
Kandice Hauf

7. Between Canonicity and Heterodoxy: Hermeneutical Moments of the Great Learning (Ta-hsueh)
Kai-Wing Chow

8. Negotiating the Boundary between Hermeneutics and Philosophy in Early Ch'ing Ch'eng-Chu Confucianism: Li Kuang-ti's (1642–1718) Study of the Doctrine of the Mean (Chung-yung) and Great Learning (Ta-hsueh)
On-Cho Ng

9. Treading the Weedy Path: T'ang Chen (1630–1704) and the World of the Confucian Middlebrow
Hsiung Ping-Chen

10. Discovering Monotheistic Metaphysics: The Exegetical Reflections of James Legge (1815–1897) and Lo Chung-fan (d. circa 1850)
Lauren Pfister



Explores the shifting terrain of Confucianism in Chinese history.


Imagining Boundaries explores the mapping of the intellectual tradition of Confucianism in Chinese history. The authors show that the Confucian tradition is not a neatly packaged organic whole in which the constitutive parts fall naturally into place, but rather that it displays the ruptures of all cultural constructions. Accordingly, Confucianism has been configured and reconfigured in time in response to changing intellectual and historical circumstances.

This anthology addresses the constant negotiation of the boundaries of Confucianism within itself and in relation to other intellectual traditions, the fluidity of the Confucian canon, the dialogical relations between text and discourse in establishing boundaries for the Confucian tradition, and the textual and discursive strategies employed in the imagining of boundaries, which expanded or restricted the intellectual space of Confucianism.

Rejecting an interpretation of Confucianism as a homogenous master-narrative and worldview, the book uses the variegated histories of Confucianism to interrogate the tradition itself, unpacking and highlighting its complexity and diversity.

"Imagining Boundaries is an excellent anthology. The time is long overdue to read Confucian texts as historical artifacts, yet still appreciate the philosophical complexity of them. " — Matthew Levey, Birmingham-Southern College

"This work is more than sound…it is on the leading edge of the best work being done in the field. " — John Berthrong, author of All Under Heaven: Transforming Paradigms in Confucian-Christian Dialogues

[Contributors include Kai-wing Chow; Kandice Hauf; John B. Henderson; Tze-ki Hon; Hsiung Ping-chen; Yuet Keung Lo; On-cho Ng; Michael Nylan; and Lauren Pfister]

Kai-wing Chow is Associate Professor of History and East Asian Languages and Cultures at the University of Illinois, Champaign-Urbana and is the author of The Rise of Ritualism in Late Imperial China: Ethics, Classics, and Lineage Discourse. On-cho Ng is Associate Professor of History at Pennsylvania State University. John B. Henderson is Professor of History and Religious Studies at Louisiana State University. He is the author of several books, including, most recently, The Construction of Orthodoxy and Heresy: Neo-Confucian, Islamic, Jewish and Early Christian Patterns, also published by SUNY Press.