Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
This thesis is an analysis of Li Ch'un-fu's ([characters removed]) chief extant work, the Ming-tao-chi shuo ([characters removed] Discussions of the "Collected Plaints on Tao") Two foci have arisen from this book. The first is the defence of Buddhism from Neo-Confucian criticisms. The second is a theory of harmonization of the Three Teachings. Li's involvement with the first earned him the more widely known reputation of being a defender of Buddhism while his contribution to harmonization has often been neglected. Our study has shown that Li's life-work had been harmonization and that the defence of Buddhism should be regarded as an intermediate step towards the identity of the Three Teachings.
The chief accusation of Neo-Confucianists is that Buddhism neglects involvement with worldly affairs, customs and human relationships. Li's reply is that from the point of view of Mahayana, one should not and could not make a distinction between religious practice and worldly affairs, between the Absolute and the phenomenal, between Nirvāna and samsāra. Hence, the Buddhist does not neglect worldly affairs. Then, Li turns around and say that this Buddhist truth is exactly what Confucianism and Taoism teach originally. In order to substantiate his claim, he draws parallels of the main philosophical and cultivational concepts from each tradition. The guiding principles of interpretation of these parallels have often been taken from Buddhism. Among these principles, the most important has been the identity of the Absolute Truth and the worldly truth. Thus, the Mahāyāna teaching of Truth provides the structure on which Li maps out Chinese concepts and from this mapping an identity of the Three Teachings comes into view. Compared to previous theories of harmonization, Li's is the most elaborate and provides a most outstanding example of how an harmonizer attempts to find an intellectual unity among the divergent traditions he has inherited.
Tsui, Bartholomew Pui-ming, "Li Ch 'un-fu and His Discussions of the "Collected Plaints on Tao"" (1982). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3896.