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Chinese philosophy's hybrid identity

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posted on 2021-06-03, 00:31 authored by John MakehamJohn Makeham
© 2018 selection and editorial matter, Ming Dong Gu; individual chapters, the contributors.

The first part of this chapter describes a key conceptual structure that I argue is common to the writings of the twelfth-century Neo-Confucian philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200) and to a sixth-century Sinitic Buddhist text, the Awakening of Mahayana Faith. I propose that this shared conceptual structure bears the hallmarks of a common descent lineage. I further propose that the shared conceptual structure is a homology. Unlike analogous structures, which are functionally similar but share no common ancestral character, homologous structures are modified descendants of a common ancestor. The second part of this paper seeks to identify their common ancestor. In the Awakening of Faith, the genetic signature of this ancestor featured centrally in the development of Sinitic Buddhist philosophy over the course of the Tang and Northern Song periods and subsequently became reinscribed by Zhu Xi to become a defining feature of his metaphysics. I argue that this ancestor can be traced to developments in Southern Chinese Buddhist circles during the latter half of the fifth century. This ancestor is very much a hybrid, a unique product of the fecund engagement with Buddhist constructs derived from both the Indian and Chinese traditions.


Publication Date


Book Title

Why Traditional Chinese Philosophy Still Matters: The Relevance of Ancient Wisdom for the Global Age





Place of publication



Routledge Studies in Asian Religion and Philosophy




20p. (p. 147-166)



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