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Wang Yangming
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Wang Yangming (1472-1529), also known as Wang Shouren, of Han nationality, was born in Yuyao County, Shaoxing Prefecture (currently a county of Ningbo). Named Yun in his childhood, he styled himself as Boan, alias Yangming. He once built a room in a cave of Mount Kuaiji, which is now known as Yangming Cave. Wang Shouren addressed himself as Yangmingzi, and thus was called Mr. Yangming, or Mr. Wang Yangming by scholars. Wang Shouren is a well-known thinker, writer, philosopher, militarist in the Ming Dynasty, and is considered a master of Lu Wang Mind Studies. He was exceptionally versatile, not only expert in Confucianism, Buddhism and Daoism, but in the art of wars. He was conferred the title of A Sage of Confucianism and was enshrined at the 58th place in the east chamber of Confucian Temple. In the 12th year of Hongzhi Period (1499), Wang became a jinshi in the imperial examination. Since then, he successively assumed a number of official posts, such as magistrate and governor in Guizhou, Luling, Guangdong and Guangxi and other places. In his later years, his ranking ascended to Nanjing Minister of the Board of War and president of the Court of Censors. Owing to his success in pacifying Chenhao Turmoil (1519), he was given the title of Earl Xinjian, and posthumously conferred Xinjian vassal in Longqing years. After his death, he was styled as Wencheng. Therefore, later generations addressed him as the Revered Wang Wencheng.

Wang Shouren (master of Mind Studies) and Confucius (founder of Confucianism), Mencius (utmost master of Confucianism), Zhu Xi (or Chu Hsi) (founder of Neo-Confucianism) are known as Kong, Meng, Zhu and Wang. Their thoughts spread all over China and to Japan, Korea and Southeast Asia as well. With overwhelming success in his time, Wang was high in morality and productive in theoretical studies, with achievements dwarfing his counterparts in the Ming Dynasty. He had a great many followers and students, who formed into the Yaojiang School. His articles are vigorous and inspirational and his works are collected in the Complete Works of Wang Wencheng. He compared himself to Zhuge Liang and resolved to make a difference. He was not only good at academic learning, but also at horse riding, arrow shooting and military strategy and tactics.

In 1517, the 12th year of Zhengde Period, an uprising broke out in southern Jiangxi and mountainous areas in the border regions between Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong. The rebels organized themselves an army in an expanse of 500 kilometers. Not knowing what to do, local officials reported it to the emperor. The Ministry of War recommended Wang Shouren to assume the office of the governor to Jiangxi to suppress the turbulence. In the first lunar month of 1518, Wang beat the Chi Zhongrong’s (Chi Dabin) troops and appealed to the central government to have a Heping County (Peace County) set up and run schools. In the third lunar month, shortly after taking office in Jiangxi, he assembled military forces from the three provinces of Jiangxi, Fujian and Guangdong and successfully suppressed uprisings in places like Xinfeng. In the seventh lunar month, considering the huge war-inflicted damage, Wang pleaded to the emperor to grant amnesty to the rebels. The Ming government thus appointed him the head of the local government to prepare for it. In the tenth month, Wang destroyed military camps headed by Lan Tianfeng, Xie Zhishan from Chongyi County, Jiangxi which were his strongest enemies, and joined his forces at Zuoxi. Wang offered amnesty to the enemy troops. In the eleventh month, Wang sent envoys to demand surrender, and cracked down the Lan Tianfeng army. The two years of successful warring experience show that he was not only a thinker and a scholar, but also a practitioner, a result of his philosophy: the unification of knowledge with action. Wang’s most important military feat in his lifetime was pacifying Zhu Chenhao rebellion in Nanchang.

Wang Shouren advocated a clear-cut ‘rewards and punishments’ system to raise the efficacy of governance and preventing crimes with ethics and virtues. In law enforcement, he valued the principle of ‘balance between sentiments and law’ and opposed ‘ruthless killing’ and the practice of making no discrimination between the good and the wicked, upholding ‘rules’ and rigid management of law enforcers. He insisted on the prohibition of ‘killing beyond law’, believing that ‘malpractice of the superiors causing failures of law enforcement’. Wang Shouren was a great master of subjective idealism in the Song and the Ming Dynasties.

Wang Yangming’s philosophy is so admirable that Togo Heihachiro, a noted militarist in modern Japanese history, deliberately wore a seal reading ‘Worshiping Yangming Forever ’. Until today, Mito, a city in Japan, still kept Zhu Shunshui’s sculpture as it was he who introduced  to Japan Yangming studies in the late Ming Dynasty. In Meiji Restoration, Yangming Studies became the basis of traditional thoughts fighting against indiscriminate westernization. This partly explains the fact that some traditions in Japan are much better preserved than in China.

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