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Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

By Yang Jun and Wang Jinhui ( China Daily)

Updated: 2016-10-27

City aims to protect Wang Yangming's legacy, Yang Jun and Wang Jinhui report in Guiyang.

A small and dark cave in Guiyang's Xiuwen county, Guizhou province, was once the living place and site of enlightenment for Wang Yangming, a renowned educator and philosopher during the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644), after being banished from the imperial court.

Today, Wang's idea of "the unity of heart and behavior, and conformity to intuitive conscience", has become the spirit of the city.

Chen Gang, Party secretary of Guiyang, said developing culture is key to the future of Guiyang.

"Culture has become the most competitive power, a vital public demand and the strongest engine for cities," he said.

"In the future, Guiyang will boost cultural innovation, making the most of the advantages of traditional and external resources."

Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

Covering an area of about 8,000 square kilometers, Guiyang features chains of undulating hills, a mild climate, a diverse culture and a big data industry, with a population of about 4.7 million and a history of more than 400 years.

The local government put forward a resolution in 2014 that the Confucius Academy of Guiyang, Yangming Cave and Yangming's Ancestral Temple were to be the three pillars of Guiyang's city spirit, namely "the unity of heart and behavior, striving for priority".

Xiuwen county has now launched a project named Promoting Yangming Culture, which will construct the Yangming Culture Park, hold the International Yangming Cultural Festival and publicize Wang's philosophical thinking among citizens.

Jiang Zhilun, Party chief of Xiuwen, said the promotion of Yangming's culture aims to make citizens more proud of their hometown.

"Wang's philosophy is a key part of traditional Chinese culture. We hope to promote this culture not only for the county or the city, but for the country, for an even broader context," he said. The government will hold the fifth International Yangming Cultural Festival on Oct 29 and 30 with a series of activities such as a worship ceremony for Wang, a forum about Wang's thoughts and a recital of Wang's poetry and essays.

Jiang added that Yangming culture is helping to improve city facilities and boost the local economy.

One example is Dinghao Fruit Co Ltd, a kiwi fruit company in Xiuwen, which applies Wang's ideas to its ecological production.

"I only finished primary school. I couldn't explain Yangming culture in my words. What I know is that I should sell healthy fruit to my customers, which is to say, I should follow my conscience," Huang Lin, founder of the company said.

In Huang's farmland, thousands of kiwi trellises line up, wriggling from the bottom to the top of the mountains, among which sticky yellow cards and lamps are hung on the branches of trees. According to Huang, they were used to catch insects, since any use of pesticide or herbicide is forbidden.

Zhang Yuanjun, 41, a resident in Xiuwen, said Wang's philosophy means to keep one's behavior in accordance with his thoughts. "For example, if I set a goal this year, I should take action to achieve it."

Wider influence

Besides Guizhou, Wang's philosophy has also influenced other provinces in China, including Zhejiang and Jiangxi.

"To be a good man who obeys his conscience is the core of Wang's family traits," said Chu Huancan, president of Yaojiang Cultural Research Association.

Chu said a branch of Wang's family lived in Lijiata village, 40 km from the urban area of Yuyao city, Zhejiang province.

He said that on the first day of Spring Festival, villagers would pay a tribute in the ancestral hall.

Wang Qingfu, 71, the 26th generation of Wang, said no one got of track in his family.

"We won't let down an ancestor as saintly as Wang Yangming," he said.

Another city of Zhejiang province, Shaoxing, also records Wang's story.

In his 50s, Wang spent six years in Shaoxing, promoting his philosophical theory.

"These days, Shaoxing spares no effort to protect and promote Yangming culture based on the historical relics of Wang in this place," said He Junjie, deputy director of the publicity department of Shaoxing.

Huangpu Jinshi, president of White Deer Grotto Academy in Jiujiang in Jiangxi province, said Wang's student Cai Xiyuan was the first manager of the academy.

Statues of scholars Confucius and Zhu Xi dot the academy, but there are none of Wang.

"In the future, there will be a position reserved for Wang," Huangpu said. Wang's philosophy also has a positive impact in Asia, Europe and the US.

"The 21st century is an era of Wang Yangming," said Tu Weiming, a Chinese-American scholar in Confucius Studies.

Nan Mingzhen, deputy head of the Yangming Society in South Korea, said that Wang's theory offers precious cultural resources for boosting the material civilization.

The idea of "the unity of heart and behavior, and conformity to intuitive conscience" could help to build a more reliable society in the future, he said.

Chen Meiling contributed to this story.

Contact the writers at yangjun@chinadaily.com.cn and wangjinhui@chinadaily.com.cn

 Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

Local residents enjoy a day at the Yangming Cultural Park in Xiuwen county, Guizhou province.

 Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

Yangming Cave is one of the vital historical sites from Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) in Guizhou province.

 Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

Yangming cultural walls with Wang Yangming's literary works are a common-seen in Xiuwen.

Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

Students at the Xiuwen No 1 Middle and High School in Guiyang, Guizhou province, read Wang Yangming's classical work Customs Road in a Chinese class. Photos Provided To China Daily

 Neo-Confucianism history a cultural boon

Kiwi fruits, from Dinghao Fruit Co Ltd in Xiuwen county, Guizhou province, are popular with consumers for its organic production.

(China Daily 10/27/2016 page24)

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