Reconstructing the Confucian Dao

Zhu Xi's Appropriation of Zhou Dunyi

By Joseph A. Adler

Subjects: Asian Religion And Philosophy, Religion, Philosophy, Confucianism, Chinese Studies, Chinese Religion And Philosophy
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9781438451565, 341 pages, January 2015
Hardcover : 9781438451572, 341 pages, June 2014

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Table of contents

Part I
1. Zhu Xi, Zhou Dunyi, and the Confucian dao
2. Zhou Dunyi’s Role in the daotong
3. The Interpenetration of Activity and Stillness
4. Taiji as “Supreme Polarity”
Part II: Translations of Zhou Dunyi’s Major Works and Zhu Xi’s Commentaries, with Further Discussions by Zhu Xi and His Students
5. The Supreme Polarity Diagram (Taijitu 太極圖)
6. Discussion of the Supreme Polarity Diagram (Taijitu sho 太極圖說)
7. Penetrating the Scripture of Change (Tongshu 通書)
8. Zhu Xi’s Postfaces and Notes

Discusses how Zhou Dunyi's thought became a cornerstone of neo-Confucianism.


Zhu Xi, the twelfth-century architect of the neo-Confucian canon, declared Zhou Dunyi to be the first true sage since Mencius. This was controversial, as many of Zhu Xi's contemporaries were critical of Zhou Dunyi's Daoist leanings, and other figures had clearly been more significant to the Song dynasty Confucian resurgence. Why was Zhou Dunyi accorded such importance? Joseph A. Adler finds that the earlier thinker provided an underpinning for Zhu Xi's religious practice. Zhou Dunyi's theory of the interpenetration of activity and stillness allowed Zhu Xi to proclaim that his own theory of mental and spiritual cultivation mirrored the fundamental principle immanent in the natural world. This book revives Zhu Xi as a religious thinker, challenging longstanding characterizations of him. Readers will appreciate the inclusion of complete translations of Zhou Dunyi's major texts, Zhu Xi's published commentaries, and other primary source material.

Joseph A. Adler is Professor of Asian Studies and Religious Studies at Kenyon College. He is the author of Chinese Religious Traditions.


"This rich book is a fascinating and innovative contribution to Sinologists, to neo-Confucian researchers, to experts in Chinese philosophy in general, and to those who wish to understand the various senses of Chinese religion. " — Monumenta Serica

"…[a] fascinating and erudite book … Adler indeed combines an enthralling narrative with novel insights that redefine our understanding of the subject; a must-read for the student of Confucianism. " — Religious Studies Review

"Considering the original approach, the insights brought out, and the stimulating discussion it engages for the apprehension of religion in the field of Chinese studies, this very valuable contribution deserves to be read by a broader audience than Daoxue specialists. " — Journal of Chinese Religions

"…students of Song thought will greatly benefit from a volume that excels in both thorough analysis and careful translation and, in presenting key works of Zhou Dunyi, sheds a new light on Zhu Xi's 'reconstructing the Confucian dao. '" — Journal of Chinese Studies

"It is a very ponderable book. I recommend it to those who like to read and think. " — Ralph Peterson, San Francisco Book Review