New Text Confucianism (simplified Chinese: ; traditional Chinese: ) is a school of thought in Confucianism that was based on Confucian classics recompiled in the early Han dynasty by Confucians who survived the burning of books and burying of scholars during the Qin dynasty. The survivors wrote the classics in the contemporary characters of their time, and these texts were later dubbed as "New Text". New Text school attained prominence in the Western Han dynasty and became the official interpretation for Confucianism, which was adopted as the official ideology by Emperor Wu of Han. Represented by Confucians such as Dong Zhongshu, this school advocated a holistic interpretation of Confucian classics and viewed Confucius as a charismatic, visionary prophet, a sage who deserved the Mandate of Heaven but did not attain kingship due to circumstances. The school competed with Old Text Confucianism in the later Han dynasty and its dominance waned as the latter became the new orthodoxy. The school fell into obscurity during the chaotic period after the fall of the Han dynasty and remained so until late Ming dynasty in the 17th century.

The school was reinvigorated by a group of scholars who were dissatisfied with the popular Neo-Confucianism at the time in the late Ming dynasty. The movement gained momentum in eighteenth century with the rise of the Changzhou School of Thought. It became a major intellectual trend in Chinese philology and political ideology. As formulated by B. Elman, it was intended to offer a solution to the crisis of confidence between the Chinese state and its gentry constituency in the transition from the Qianlong era to the Jiaqing era in the Qing dynasty.[1]

Ideological features (Qing dynasty)

By far the most important feature of the New Text Confucianism as political movement was advocating reform (Zhuang Cunyu, Liu Fenglu), drawing from the Gongyang legalist-style ideology of "weighing the circumstances". The reforms were seen necessary since the Heshen-related crisis of power. According to Wei Yuan 魏源 (1794-1857),

"The ancients had what pertained to the ancients. To force the ancients upon the moderns is to misrepresent the moderns. To use the moderns as the standard for the ancients is to misrepresent the ancients. If one misrepresents the present, then there can be no way to order [the contemporary world]... If one read the [medical] works of the Yellow Emperor and Shennong, and used them to kill people, one would be labelled a mediocre doctor. If one read the works of the Duke of Zhou and Confucius and used them to harm the empire, would one not be labelled a mediocre Confucian? Not only would such [incompetence] bring no benefit to any particular age, but in addition it would cause people no longer to believe in the Way of the sages."[2]

Scholarly genealogies

See also



  1. ^ Elman, 114.
  2. ^ Elman, 272.