Wang Yangming: Idealist Philosopher of Sixteenth-Century China
Wang Yangming (王阳明, 1472–1529) was a Ming Chinese idealist Neo-Confucian philosopher, official, educationist, calligraphist and general. After Zhu Xi, he is commonly regarded as the most important Neo-Confucian thinker, with interpretations of Confucianism that denied the rationalist dualism of the orthodox philosophy of Zhu Xi. He was known as Yangming Xiansheng or Yangming Zi (both mean "Brilliant Master Yangming") in literary circles.
Born Wang Shouren in Yuyao, Zhejiang Province, his courtesy name was Bo'an. His father was an earl and a minister of civil personnel. He earned the "recommended person" degree in 1492 and the "presented scholar" degree in 1499. He served as an executive assistant in various government departments until being banished for offending a eunuch in 1506. However, his professional career was later ensured when he became the Governor of Jiangxi.
Wang became a successful general and was known for the strict discipline he imposed on his troops, repressing several rebellions. In 1519 AD, while being governor of Jiangxi province, he repressed the uprising of Prince Zhu Chen-hao, and made one of the earliest references in using the fo-lang-ji in battle, a breech loading culverin cannon imported from the newly-arrived Portuguese venturers to China. While governor of Jiangxi he also built schools, rehabilitated the rebels, and reconstructed what was lost by the enemy during the revolt. Though he was made an earl, he was ostracized for opposing Zhu Xi.
Thirty-eight years after his death, he was given the titles Marquis and Completion of Culture. In 1584 he was offered sacrifice in the Confucian Temple, the highest honour for a scholar.
Wang Yangming is regarded one of the four greatest masters of Confucianism in history along with Confucius, Mencius and Zhu Xi (孔孟朱王). He found Yaojiang School or Yangming School of Mind (阳明心学), which became one of the dominant confucianism schools in the mid, late Ming period and Qing period China. During late Ming period, Wang Yangming's thought was derived a lot in China and became a kind of popular learning.
The Japanese Admiral of the Russo-Japanese War, Togo Heihachiro, was influenced by Wang, and made a stamp which read, "One's whole life followed the example of Yangming". In Japan, many scholars and politicians (this group of people is named in Japanese as: 阳明学者) came from Wang Yangming's school in history, including Kumazawa Banzan, Saigo Takamori, Takasugi Shinsaku and Toju Nakae. In Taiwan, Chiang Kai-shek named a national attraction Yangmingshan(Yangming Mountain), after Wang. And a road in Nanchang is also named Yangming Road after Wang.