Wang Fuzhi (), 1619–1692)
courtesy name A courtesy name (), also known as a style name, is a name bestowed upon one at adulthood in addition to one's given name. This practice is a tradition in the Sinosphere, including China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The courtesy name would replac ...
Ernong (),
pseudonym A pseudonym () or alias () (originally: ψευδώνυμος in Greek) is a fictitious name that a person or group assumes for a particular purpose, which differs from their original or true name (orthonym). This also differs from a new name that ...
Chuanshan (), was a Chinese essayist, historian, and philosopher of the late Ming, early Qing dynasties.


Born to a scholarly family in Hengyang in
Hunan Hunan () is a landlocked province A province is almost always an administrative division within a country or state. The term derives from the ancient Roman '' provincia'', which was the major territorial and administrative unit of the Roma ...

province in 1619, Wang Fuzhi began his education in the
Chinese classic texts Chinese classic texts or canonical texts () or simply dianji (典籍) refers to the Chinese texts which originated before the imperial unification by the Qin dynasty in 221 BC, particularly the "Four Books and Five Classics" of the Neo-Confucianis ...
when very young. He passed his civil-service examination at the age of twenty-four, but his projected career was diverted by the invasion of China by the Manchus, the founders of the Qing (or Ch'ing) dynasty. Staying loyal to the Ming emperors, Wang first fought against the invaders, and then spent the rest of his life in hiding from them. His refuge was at the foot of the mountain Chuanshan, from which he gained his alternative name). He died in 1693, though it is not known for certain where or how.

Philosophical work

Wang Fuzhi is said to have written over a hundred books, but many of them have been lost. The rest of his works have been collected in the ''Chuanshan yishu quanji'' (). He also wrote a commentary on ''Zizhi Tongjian'', titled "Comments after reading the ''Tongjian''" (讀通鑒論, "Du Tongjian Lun"). Wang was a follower of Confucius, but he believed that the Neo-Confucianism, neo-Confucian philosophy which dominated China at the time had distorted Confucius's teachings. He wrote his own commentaries on the Confucian classics (including five on the ''Yijing'' or Book of Changes), and gradually developed his own philosophical system. He wrote on many topics, including metaphysics, epistemology, moral philosophy, poetry, and politics. Apart from Confucius, he was also influenced by the prominent early Song Dynasty neo-Confucians Zhang Zai and Zhu Xi.


Wang’s metaphysics is a version of materialism. He argued that only qi ( or ch'i; energy or material force) exists; li (, principle, form, or idea), which was the central concept in the orthodox neo-Confucian thought of Zhu Xi, for example, doesn't exist independently, being simply the principle of qi. In this his metaphysics represents a continuation and development of that of Zhang Zai, as expressed most clearly in his ''Commentary on Master Zhang's Correcting Ignorance'', and has also been highly regarded as 'proto-materialist' in the Marxist period in the PRC after 1949.


Wang's metaphysical ideas led him to a naturalist moral philosophy (precipitating a revival of interest in his teachings in modern China). In particular, he believed that human desires are not inherently evil, but in fact unavoidable and an essential part of our nature. Indeed, he believed that desires are potentially beneficial, the moral nature of human beings being grounded in our feelings for others, and that problems only arise through lack of moderation. Wang believed that human desires are the main evidence of our relationship with the material world as material beings, and that human nature develops out of our initial material nature together with the changes that we undergo as a result of our interactions with the world we live in.


Wang laid great stress on the need for both experience and reason: we must study the world using our senses, and reason carefully about it. Knowledge and action are intertwined, and acting is the ground of knowing. The gaining of knowledge is a slow and laborious process, there are no instances of sudden enlightenment.

Politics & history

Even more than his materialism, Wang’s views on politics and history brought him popularity in modern China. Government, he argued, should benefit the people, not those in power. History is a continuous cycle of renewal, involving the gradual progress of human society. There are periods of chaos and want as well as of stability and prosperity, depending on the degree of virtue of the emperor and of the people as a whole, but the underlying direction is upwards. It's the result of the natural laws that govern human beings and society. Wang believed that the power of the feudal landlords was evil, and should be weakened by higher taxation, which would also lead to an increase in numbers of land-owning peasants. Wang adopted a strong anti-Manchu stance in his writings and was remarkable for his systematic attempt to express his anti-Manchuism in a broad historical and philosophical context. He also insisted that the Chinese be distinguished from the non-Chinese, as both should stay in their own territories and respect the sovereignty of one another, in order to avoid the possibility of invasion or integration. Along with his Confucian thought, he also recognized a "need to operate the system", associated with Chinese Legalism.Jianfei Zhu 2004. p.44. Chinese Spatial Strategies: Imperial Beijing, 1420-1911. https://books.google.com/books?id=O4fntFtSxGgC&pg=PA44

See also

*Chinese philosophy *Confucianism *Anti-Qing sentiment


*Brian Carr & Indira Mahalingam [edd] ''Companion Encyclopedia of Asian Philosophy'' (1997: London, Routledge) *Peter J. King ''One Hundred Philosophers'' (2004: Hove, Apple Press) *Jacques Gernet "Philosophie et sagesse chez Wang Fuzhi (1619-1692)", in: Gernet ''L'intelligence de la Chine. Le social et le mental'' (1994: Paris, Gallimard) *Tang, Kailin
"Wang Fuzi"
''Encyclopedia of China'' (Philosophy Edition), 1st ed.

Further reading

* Black, Alison H. (1989). ''Man and Nature in the Philosophical Thought of Wang Fu-chih''. Seattle: University of Washington Press. * Chan, Wing-tsit (trans.), 1963, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

External links

Wang Fu-chih
— lecture notes by JeeLee Liu (SUNY Geneseo)

*[https://ctext.org/library.pl?if=gb&author=%E7%8E%8B%E5%A4%AB%E4%B9%8B Wang Fuzhi on ctext.org] {{DEFAULTSORT:Wang, Fuzhi 1619 births 1692 deaths 17th-century Chinese historians 17th-century philosophers Chinese Confucianists Historians from Hunan Ming dynasty scholars People from Hengyang Philosophers from Hunan Qing dynasty essayists Qing dynasty historians Qing dynasty philosophers