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Mou Zongsan
Full name Mou Zongsan
Born 12 June 1909(1909-06-12)
Died 12 April 1995 (aged 85)

Mou Zongsan (Chinese: 牟宗三pinyin: Móu ZōngsānWade-Giles: Mou Tsungsan, 1909–1995) was a Chinese New Confucian philosopher. He was born in Shandong province and in 1909 graduated from Peking University. In 1949 he moved to Taiwan and later to Hong Kong, and he remained outside of Mainland China for the rest of his life. His thought was heavily influenced by Immanuel Kant, whose three Critiques he translated into Chinese, and above all by Tiantai Buddhist philosophy.

Over the last 40 years of his life, Mou wrote histories of "Neo-Daoist," Confucian, and Buddhist philosophy (totaling six volumes) a group of constructive philosophic treatises, culminating in his 1985 work, On the Summum Bonum (Chinese: 圓善論pinyin: yuanshan lun), in which he attempts to rectify the problems in Kant's system through a Confucian-based philosophy reworked with a set of concepts appropriated from Tiantai Buddhism.

In the People's Republic of China, Mou is especially famous for his cultural traditionalism and his defense of democracy as a traditional Chinese value.



Mou's complete works contains more than 30 volumes written over about 60 years. In religious studies and philosophy programs, attention is paid mostly to his production in his last 30 years. These can be divided into histories of Chinese philosophy and philosophic treatises.

Histories of Philosophy

Physical Nature and Speculative Reason 才性與玄理 (1963). Mou's main treatise on "Neo-Daoism" or xuanxue 玄學. Analysis of intellectual developments of the Wei-Jin dynasties (220-420 AD), said to set the agenda for much of later Chinese philosophy and anticipate the developments in Buddhist philosophy later understood by Mou as pattern underlying the main line of Song-Ming Confucianism.

Substance of Mind and Substance of Human Nature 心體與性體 (1968-1969). Probably the most studied of Mou's books, and by far the most famous in the West. Three volume history of Confucianism (often called "Neo-Confucianism" by westerners) in the Song (960-1279) and Ming (1368-1644) dynasties. Challenges usual two-part division of Neo-Confucian thought into a "school of principle" (lixue 理學), the "Cheng-Zhu" school represented by the Cheng brothers and Zhu Xi, and a "school of mind" (xinxue 心學) or "Lu-Wang" school represented by Lu Xiangshan and Wang Yangming. Mou identifies a third lineage, whose main figures are Hu Hong (Hu Wufeng) and Liu Zongzhou (Liu Jishan), which best conveys the basic message of the classical sage Mencius. Mou's later book "From Lu Xiangshan to Liu Jishan" (從陸象山到劉蕺山) (1979) is treated as the fourth volume of this book.

Buddha-Nature and Prajna 佛性與般若 (1977). Mou's main examination of Buddhist philosophy. Two volumes. Upends usual Chinese recognition of Huayan as most well-developed form of Buddhism and puts the Tiantai school in first place. Mou credits Tiantai with having the best concepts for understanding the authoritative Hong-Liu line of Confucianism.

Philosophic Treatises

Intellectual Intuition and Chinese Philosophy 智的直覺與中國哲學 (1971). Mou applies Kantian idea of 'intellectual intuition' to Chinese philosophy, which he believes affirms idea that human beings can have such awareness. Expresses strong interest in the utility of Buddhist philosophy for Confucian purposes. This book is often thought of as an early version of Phenomenon and Thing-in-Itself.

Phenomenon and Thing-in-Itself 現象與物自身 (1975). Develops Mou's famous doctrine of "two-level ontology," patterned off of Kantian and Buddhist metaphysics.

Treatise on Summum Bonum (圓善論) (1985). Mou's last major work. Mou did not intend it as his final book, but scholars generally treat it as the definitive summary of his thinking. Attempts to use Tiantai ontological concepts as inspiration to find Confucian solution to Kant's problem of the highest good or summum bonum. Includes chapter with Mou's commentary on the Mencius and more complete evaluation of the place of Daoist and Buddhist philosophy for the modern Confucian.


Born into the family of an innkeeper in Qixia, Shandong. Went to Peking University for college prep (1927) and undergraduate courses (1929). During that time became follower of Xiong Shili, author of the New Consciousness-Only treatise and soon to be the most eminent philosopher in China until supplanted by Mou himself. After graduating in 1933, Mou moved around the country working as a secondary school teacher. In 1949 followed the Nationalist government to Taiwan. In 1960 moved to Hong Kong and eventually took up a post at New Asia College in Hong Kong (now part of the Chinese University of Hong Kong). During the last two decades of his life Mou was something of an intellectual celebrity. He lectured frequently on Confucian, Buddhist, Daoist, and Kantian philosophy at Hong Kong University, National Taiwan Normal University, and National Taiwan University. He died in Taipei in 1995, leaving dozens of disciples in top academic jobs in Taiwan and Hong Kong.


  • Cai Renhou 蔡仁厚
  • Dai Lianzhang 戴璉璋
  • Wang Bangxiong 王邦雄
  • Zeng Zhaoxu 曾昭旭
  • Lu Xuekun 盧雪崑
  • You Huizhen 尤惠貞
  • Chen Guimiao 陳癸淼
  • Wei Zhengtong 韋政通
  • He Shujing 何淑靜
  • Zhu Jianmin 朱建民
  • Fan Liangguang 范良光
  • Wang Caigui 王財貴
  • Li Ruiquan 李瑞全
  • Zhou Yangshan 周楊山
  • Yang Zuhan 楊祖漢
  • Yan Guoming 顏國明
  • Lin Yuehui 林月惠
  • Li Minghui 李明輝
  • Zhuang Yaolang 莊耀郎
  • Liu Jinxian 劉錦賢
  • Xie Daning 謝大寧
  • Lin Anwu 林安梧
  • Fan Kewei 樊克偉
  • Tu Weiming 杜維明
  • Wu Rujun (Ng Yu-kwan) 吳汝鈞
  • Chen Rongzhuo (Wing-cheuk Chan) 陳榮灼


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