Confucian Orthodoxy, or the orthodox Dao of Confucian saints, is the symbol of the spirit and values of Confucianism. In Tang Dynasty, Han Yu proposed the proto-Confucian Orthodoxy which claimed that the Dao which had been passed from generation to generation since Yao-Sun was discontinued after Mencius. In Southern Song Dynasty, Zhu Xi systematized and genealogized this Orthodoxy in Assembled Commentaries of the Four Books, proposing Neo-Confucian Orthodoxy which Zhou Dunyi and Cheng Yi recovered after its discontinuity one thousand years earlier. This version of Orthodoxy, based on the idealist philosophy of the Confucian school, had the exclusiveness which repelled the heresies of Buddhism and Daoism as well as continuity in constant discontinuity. It had a clear genealogical note of continuity, leaving people the impression of ″single inheritance.″ However, Wang Yangming proposed a new version of Orthodoxy from the Xinxue (School of Mind) perspective in his ″A Farewell to Zhan Ganquan,″ claiming that ″the Sacred Learning ended with the death of Yan Hui.″ This version broke down the genealogical framework of the Lixue (Study of Rites) version and the prototypical one, which according to Wang Ji was a major controversial claim in the thousand-year history of Confucianism. The core of the issue lies in how this claim could be reconciled with another claim — ″The Consistence Doctrine was passed down from Zeng Zi to Mencius, and then Zhou Dunyi and Cheng Yi resumed it two thousand years later.″ The latter claim is a well-known classic exposition of the Confucian Orthodoxy of Lixue School and is in irreconcilable conflict with the former. If the Sacred Learning had ended with the death of Yan Hui, then how could Confucian Orthodoxy be passed down from Zeng Zi to Mencius? From his Xinxue perspective, Wang Yangming maintained that Yan Hui was able to see the completeness of Sacred Learning. Furthermore, he concluded that the two ″knows″ in the lines ″when he （Yan Hui） does anything wrong, then he knows it|and when he knows it, he will not do it again″ (in Commentaries on Yi Jing) undoubtedly refer to the intuitive knowledge of conscience. Thus he argued that Yan Hui could ″learn the doctrine of intuitive knowledge of conscience all by himself″ and should be considered as representing the ″orthodoxy of Sacred Learning.″ However, Wang Yangming did not raise the status of Yan Hui to belittle Mencius|rather, by doing so he intended to distinguish his Xinxue of intuitive knowledge of conscience from Cheng-Zhu’s Lixue and to trace it back to the Confucius-Yan Hui orthodoxy. Wang Yangming’s disciple Wang Ji further elaborated on Xinxue Orthodoxy with reference to the innate learning of Xinxue. By reinterpreting Yan Hui, he concluded that learning should be modeled after Yan Hui. Wang Ji further claimed that Wang Yangming’ was the lifeline that connected Yao-Shun and Confucius-Yan Hui, which ended the huge controversy over the claim that ″Sacred Learning ended with the death of Yan Hui.″ In short, the Xinxue Orthodoxy that Wang Yangming and Wang Ji reconstructed was characterized by openness, practicality and independence. That is to say, the Orthodoxy should above all be based on the ″notion of heart and body,″ which was universal, so the Orthodoxy was not limited by time or space and had the continuity of being passed on endlessly. But this continuity was not an individualized secret tradition, but was open to all people. This spirit of Confucian tradition was a product of history and culture, but it also existed in the process of human life, hence its practicality. Since Confucian Orthodoxy was by no means controlled solely by the authorities on Confucian classics or Political Orthodox, it was independent from the realm of knowledge and politics.
吴震. 心学道统论——以“颜子没而圣学亡”为中心[J]. 浙江大学学报(人文社会科学版), 2017, 3(3): 58-.
Wu Zhen. On Xinxue Orthodoxy: Focusing on the Argument ″Sacred Learning Ended with the Death of Yan Hui″. JOURNAL OF ZHEJIANG UNIVERSITY, 2017, 3(3): 58-.