Yamazaki Ansai : biography
was a Japanese philosopher and scholar. He began his career as a Buddhist monk, but eventually came to follow the teachings of Neo-Confucian Zhu Xi. He combined Neo-Confucian ideas with Shinto to create Suika Shinto.
Born in Kyoto on January 24, 1619, Yamazaki Ansai was the son of a former rōnin-turned-doctor and the last of four children. In his youth, he was strongly influenced by both his mother and grandmother. While his mother "urged him to develop a noble heart worthy of a samurai's son,"Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Religious Dimensions of Confucianism: Cosmology and Cultivation. Philosophy East and West, Vol. 48, No. 1, The Religious Dimensions of Confucianism in Japan. (Jan., 1998), pp. 23. his grandmother supported him in his study of the Chinese language. In his preteens, he was sent by his father to serve as an acolyte at a Buddhist temple on Mount Hiei.Ooms, Herman. Tokugawa Ideology. Princeton, New Jersey: Princeton University Press, 1985, p.199. In his early teens, Ansai returned home, and after several years was finally permitted to enter the Myōshin-ji temple of the Rinzai Zen sect in Kyoto for further study. Due to his incredible scholarly aptitude, in his early twenties he was granted entrance to the Gyūkō-ji temple in Tosa. During his time at Tosa, he was strongly advised by his fellow monks to concentrate his studies on the teachings of Neo-Confucian scholars, thereby slowing beginning the process of Ansai's conversion to Neo-Confucianism and ultimate rejection of Buddhism. Ansai was particularly captivated by the writings of the Song dynasty scholar, Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi), which later became the basis of Ansai's moral philosophy/teachings. At twenty eight, he returned to Kyoto, and under the patronage of Nonaka Kenzan, was able to continue his Neo Confucian studies, as well as begin to publish his own materials. With the production of his first work Heresies Refuted (Heikii, 1647), an outright rejection of Buddhist faith, Ansai fully embraced "the One True Way" of Neo Confucianism.Ooms, p.200
Middle Years: Neo-Confucianism and Kimon
After his first publication, Ansai spent the remaining thirty-five years of his life writing, publishing, editing, annotating, and punctuating Confucian and Shinto texts (that accumulated to over two thousand pages).Ooms, p.201 The decade following Tosa (1647–1657), Ansai lived, studied, and taught in Kyoto. There, he edited and published a great number of texts (mostly commentaries on the works of Chu Hsi). Ansai also frequently went to Edo, to give lecturers on Neo-Confucianism in front of a large numbers of daimyos.Tsuji, Tatsuya. The Cambridge History of Modern Japan, Volume 4, Early Modern Japan. Trans. by Harold Bolitho. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1991, p.419 In 1655, he established a private school in Kyoto, began his first lecture cycle in the spring of the same year, and finished it at the end of 1656.
Ansai's group of Confucian disciples was collectively referred to as the Kimon school. His lecturers focused on Ansai's own, hand selected canon. His canon consisted mostly of the classic Confucian writings that Zhu Xi had emphasized: the Elementary Learning, the Reflections on Things at Hand, and the Four Books (the Great Learning, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Analects of Confucius, and the Mencius). However, he also included Cheng Yi's Commentary on the Book of Changes. In the 1660s and 1670s, Ansai (following the example of Zhu Xi) personally edited the six books that compromised his canon.Ooms, p.212
As a teacher, Ansai was described by his students as "extremely strict, sometimes scary, and short tempered." Generally speaking, Ansai had a reputation for being "single minded, doctorinate, and intolerant." Kaibara Ekken, a contemporary of Ansai's, had attended several of his lectures, and found Ansai to be: "severe, dogmatic, and more interested in strict moral discipline than in investigation of the principles for practical learning."Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism. State University of New York Press, 1989, p.36 Such prominent Neo-Confucian scholars as Kinoshita Jun'an, Asami Keisai, Miyake Shōsai, and Satō Naokata were included amongst Ansai's followers of the Kimon school.
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