Li Mengyang (1473–1530) was a scholar-official and man of letters who initiated the literary archaist movement that sought to restore ancient styles of prose and poetry in sixteenth-century China. In this first book-length study of Li in English, Chang Woei Ong comprehensively examines his intellectual scheme and situates Li’s quest to redefine literati learning as a way to build a perfect social order in the context of intellectual transitions since the Song dynasty.
Ong examines Li’s emergence at the distinctive historical juncture of the mid-Ming dynasty, when differences in literati cultures and visions were articulated as a north-south divide (both real and perceived) among Chinese thinkers. Ong argues that this divide, and the ways in which Ming literati compartmentalized learning, is key to understanding Li’s thought and its legacy. Though a northerner, Li became a powerful voice in prose and poetry, in both a positive and negative sense, as he was championed or castigated by the southern literati communities. The southern literati’s indifference toward Li’s other intellectual endeavorsincluding cosmology, ethics, political philosophy, and historiographyfurthered his utter marginalization in those fields.
About the Author
Chang Woei Ong is Associate Professor of Chinese Studies at the National University of Singapore.
Table of Contents
Part I Historical and Intellectual Background
1 North and South: Li the Man and His World 27
2 Taking the Past as a Model in the Song-Ming Period 70
Part II Understanding the Cosmos
3 Patterns of the Cosmos 117
4 The Human World as Part of the Cosmos 135
Part III Learning for the State
5 Institutions for Learning 165
6 The Content of Learning 190
Part IV Expressing the Self
7 Prose 219
8 Poetry 244
Conclusion: Toward an Understanding of Li Mengyang's Legacy 271