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Zhan Ruoshui 湛若水 (1466–1560) is a prominent scholar-official and Confucian philosopher of Ming China. Like his contemporary Wang Yangming, he served in several official capacities during the reigns ofthree mid-Ming emperors, earned a reputation as an important Confucian teacher, gained a substantial following of students, and was critical to the onset of the jiangxue 講學 movement of the mid-Ming and the academy building associated with it. He also elaborated a sophisticated Confucian philosophy, leaving behind a corpus of work and a school of thought. In 1517, when he was fifty-one, Zhan Ruoshui left office and retired to Mount Xiqiao 西樵山 in Guangdong, where he constructed both a hermitage for his family and an academy for his students. He remained there for four years until he was recommended for reappointment to office in 1521. These years were critical not only for his having established his first academy and writing the regulations for operating it but also because he produced a substantial volume of philosophical writings that were foundational to his becoming recognized as a Confucian master and establishing his school of thought. This study provides an overview of the biographical and historical setting, Zhan’s pedagogy (xue 學), and his philosophy at a time when this lesser-known Ming Confucian passed through a crucial stage in the development of his Way (dao 道).
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