China Centrum Tübingen (CCT)

Neo-Confucianism and Love: Elaborations on the Notion of Ai 愛in Premodern China (10th-13th centuries)

Love (ai) was essential to the elaboration of Confucian thought in Antiquity as Confucius (551-479 BCE) explained the core notion of sense of humanity (ren) in terms of love for human beings (ai ren). Contributing to the moral and political goals of ancient Confucianism, this notion was nevertheless not regarded in light of other feelings. Then, during Song dynasty’s (960-1279) regrowth of Confucianism, love was not only perceived as a manifestation of the sense of humanity but also looked at through a constellation of notions depicting emotions or feelings. Moreover, since Neo-Confucianism is usually viewed as a school of thought influenced by Buddhist ideas, how did the major representatives who shaped the revival of traditional Chinese philosophy reinterpret the notion of love in a period on the brink of modernity? The analysis of love’s moral implications, symbolic uses and political functions in the work of the founding figure of Neo-Confucianism, Zhou Dunyi’s (1017-1073), will lead us to study its broader echoes in later Song scholars’ thoughts as well as to examine its potential contribution(s) to the modelling of Zhu Xi’s (1130-1200) architectural Confucian orthodoxy (daotong). Then, by putting these Premodern interpretations in perspective with 20th century Confucians’ evaluations of Song Neo-Confucianism’s metaphysical and moral concerns we will provide some elements for opening a comparative philosophy discussion.

Dr. Maud M’Bondjo studied Sinology and Philosophy in Paris, Shanghai and Leuven. She holds a Ph. D. from the French National Institute for Oriental Languages and Civilisations (INALCO). She has taught at INALCO, Université Paris Diderot and Sciences Po. She has been a Visiting Fellow at the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities (IKGF-FAU Erlangen-Nürnberg) and a Post-doctoral Fellow at the Ecole France d’Extrême-Orient (EFEO). She’s currently an Associate researcher at the Research Centre for East Asian Civilisations (CRCAO) in Paris. Her work focuses on Chinese philosophy in premodern (10th-13th centuries) and contemporary periods.