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In Search of the WayThought and Religion in Early—Modern Japan, 1582-1860$
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Richard Bowring

Print publication date: 2016

Print ISBN-13: 9780198795230

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: December 2016

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795230.001.0001

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The Way of the Former Kings

The Way of the Former Kings

Chapter:
(p.198) 13 The Way of the Former Kings
Source:
In Search of the Way
Author(s):

Richard Bowring

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198795230.003.0013

Song-Ming Neo-Confucianism was challenged from yet another angle by the scholar Ogyū Sorai, who agreed that men like Zhu Xi had imposed their own agenda via commentary; but he preferred to go further back than Itō Jinsai, to pre-Confucian texts in which he claimed to find what he called the Way of the Former Kings. This Way, which could bring peace and prosperity to the land, had, he claimed, been created by sage kings in ancient China. It was therefore not a product of Heaven but of Man. Sorai’s ideas were authoritarian and clashed with the egalitarian nature of Zhu Xi’s vision. Sorai’s student Dazai Shundai continued in the same vein to argue for strong government, and although such ideas never became ‘policy’ they gave expression to a conservative strain of thought that was to leave an uncomfortable legacy.

Keywords:   Ogyū Sorai, Dazai Shundai, Yamagata Daini, The Way of the Former Kings, authoritarianism, importance of ritual, pre-Confucian texts

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