Appendix on Terminology

Language is both formed by and informs particular views of the world. Where those views are markedly different, as in the case of traditional East Asia and the western world, it is not surprising that concepts and the terms in which they are embodied pose difficulties for the translator. Just as western missionaries agonized over how to translate "God" into classical Chinese, translators of eastern thought cudgel their minds to discover adequate-or at least not misleading­renditions of basic Chinese terminology. The more fundamental the concept, it seems, the more resistant it is to translation. This appendix will discuss a few important philosophical terms that require special explanation if their English rendition is to be understood. Presented in alphabetical order (Korean pronounciation, Chinese in parenthesis) they are: (1) ch'e-yong (t'i-yung); (2) ki (ch'i); (3) kyŏng (ching); (4) li; (5) sim (hsin); (6) to (tao).


Ch'e and yong in common parlance mean "body" and "use," but in philosophical discourse they take on a technical meaning and are commonly translated as "substance" and "function," respec­tively. "Substance," however, should not be confused with the mean­ing the term commonly has in western philosophy. The correlated categories of substance and function are broadly and flexibly applied to analyze situations in which some sort of prior-posterior, fundamen-

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tal-derivative relationship is present. Feet and walking, or a tree and bearing fruit, are simple examples of substance-function relationships. Here one may easily see the connection between the prephilosophic meanings ("body," "use") and their adaptation as philosophical terms.

The more serious philosophical use of these categories, how­ever, has as its background the tendency to see that which is active, manifest, and phenomenal, as stemming from that which is nonactive, nonmanifest, and nonphenomenal: the Tao is the more ultimate, changeless, and shapeless reality underlying and manifested in the myriad changing forms and activities of the phenomenal world. One of the most important Neo-Confucian uses of the substance-function categories is the description of man's nature as substance and feelings as function. The nature is li, the inner pattern or disposition of our being, while the feelings are the manifestation of this inner disposition in activity. Humanity (jen), for example, is a component of human nature, and instances of love, affection, and compassion for others are its active manifestation: humanity is substance, love is function.


The basic classical meaning of kyŏng was "reverence." It could either apply to inner dispositions or describe external appear­ances, as in a "reverent demeanor," etc. As Neo-Confucians focused their attention in a new way on the cultivation of the inner life of the mind-and-heart, kyŏng was transformed into a technical term to designate the essential practice of this kind of cultivation. Thus, al­though it could be cultivated through attention to proper demeanor, posture, dress and the like, kyŏng in Neo-Confucian discourse essen­tially refers to a particular inner state of mind.

As a form of mental or spiritual discipline, the Neo-Confucian kyŏng might still be best understood as systemizing the inward elements involved in reverence. In the presence of an object of great reverence, one is serious and self-possessed, attentive at once to the object and to one's personal deportment. The Neo-Confucian kyŏng is essentially a self-possessed, recollected state of mind. It is the opposite of being

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ruled by desires, which give external objects mastery over one's person; hence it is serene self-possession. It is likewise the opposite of a dis­tracted and wandering frame of mind; hence it is manifested in a focused attention when there is an object to be attended to, and a quiet, unified mind when no such activity is called for. This latter condition is closely related to a Neo-Confucian meditative discipline called "quiet-sitting." Further, it is serious and composed; kyŏng is not opposed to laughter and lightheartedness when these are appropriate, but it is contrary to frivolity and heedlessness. Here we return to the original meaning of the term: the animating force of this rigorous mental discipline is a fundamentally reverent disposition that recog­nizes that everywhere and always we are involved in something ulti­mate. Big or small, heavy or light, every circumstance is finally a matter of li, "principle."

A number of translations have been suggested for this term. A.C. Graham uses "composure," which brings out the inner recol­lection and self-possession, but somewhat neglects the attentiveness to affairs that is an important aspect of kyŏng. "Attentiveness" and "concentration" reflects metal focus but not the inward self-possession. Wing-tsit Chan follws Bruce in prefering "seriousness," and through him "seriousness," or sometimes "reverential seriousness," have be­come fairly common translations. In common English usage, however, seriousness bespeaks mainly a kind of earnestness. While this is indeed fundamental to kyŏng, it does not necessarily reflect the kind of mental recollection and inward self-possession at the core of this discipline. There were many earnest and serious young Neo-Confucians who had great difficulty maintaining the focused and recollected state of mind signified by kyŏng.

My own preference as a translation for kyŏng is "mindfulness." The term clearly opposes mental dissipation, distraction, or heedless­ness. It has the connotations of caution and carefulness that figure prominently in Neo-Confucian discussions of kyŏng, and is a natural component of a reverent disposition. Although it is more commonly used with an object (one is mindful of something), it can also describe the poised and collected state of mind when there is no particular object present. The term is also etymologically consistent withthe

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Neo-Confucian description of kyŏng as the condition in which the mind is "full" with its own self-mastery.

In both denotation and connotation, then, "mindfulness" seems a good translation for kyŏng. A disadvantage is that "mindful­ness" is also used for certain forms of Buddhist meditation; kyŏng was not derived from Buddhist practices and no such implication is in­tended in adopting a similar translation. In my judgment the advan­tages of the term outweigh this disadvantage.


Kioriginally signified steam or vapor, and thence the various vapors or forces of the atmosphere responsible for the weather. Identified as well with the breath of living things, it came also to signify the principle of vitality itself, often associated with either breath or blood, and was extended to include likewise the force manifested in physical strength or strong emotions.

As philosophers came to think of the concrete universe as formed by some kind of process of condensation, ki became the term for the basic stuff of the universe, that out of which everything that exists is formed. In its most subtle or rarefied (yŏng, ling) condition it possesses "wondrous" or "spiritual" (sin, shen) modes of activity, while in its more coarse or turbid condition it has the form and the limitations of physical matter. Thuski encompasses what we would call "spirits," and beings such as man (and to a lesser degree animals and plants) that have "spiritual" capacities, as well as material beings. Although terms such as yŏng and sin often must be translated as "spirit" or "spiritual," no spirit/matter dichotomy of the western type is implied.

Ki, then, is the stuff out of which beings are formed; it accounts for differentiation and individuation. But the attributes of movement, force, or energy evident in its nonphilosophic usage likewise remain prominent: it is not only the concretizing, but also the energizing element of all beings. All forms of mental and physical activity relate to ki, the matter-energy of all things. The conventional translation followed in this book, "material force," is intended to reflect both the concretizing and energizing aspects of ki.

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Li is unquestionably the most important single term in Neo-Confucian discourse. Its original meaning had to do with order or putting things in order; thence it comes to signify the patterning or structure that underlines and brings about order. In its patterning or structuring aspect li is responsible for making things be as they are and act as they do; in this respect Neo-Confucians equate li with the inherent nature of each and every being. As the inner nature of each thing, or holistically of the entire universe, li is regarded as both formative and normative. These two functions are closely interrelated: that which is at the source of the formation and particular mode of activity of the various beings also stands over them as the norm of what is appropriate to their being and activity. Finally, as an extension of its formative and normative aspects, li can also be equated with the ultimate Truth, since the accurate apprehension of anything, from particular items and situations to the whole of existence, is a matter of apprehending li.

While li is the inherent nature and norm of particular beings, from another perspective it may be regarded as a single underlying pattern that embraces all beings as a harmonious whole and serves as the norm for their appropriate interaction. In this respect li is com­prehensive and unitary as well as particular and diverse, an idea Neo­-Confucians expressed in the formula: "Li is one, but manifested di­versely." A living human body offers a useful paradigm of this. It ultimately has a single principle or pattern of operation, but this is manifested in the diverse operations of the various parts of the body. In a close-up perspective the finger has one pattern of operation, the heart another: each has its own li. But a broader perspective transcends this particularity, for a finger and heart are misunderstood if they are seen as disconnected realities. Ultimately the finger presupposes the heart, the heart presupposes fingers: they are but diverse aspects of the single patterned unity of an organic whole. The universe itself is just such an organic whole, and ultimately there is just one li or pattern manifested diversely in the many beings that are its component parts.

With the term li as its unifying thread, Neo-Confucian dis­course flows effortlessly from metaphysical discussion to considerations

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of morality and questions of ascetical practice. A variety of translations ("pattern," "structure," "norm," "value," "truth," etc.) would serve to bring out the nuance of li appropriate to these different contexts, but such variety would also obscure the continuity that is at the heart of the system. If li is to be translated at all, the consistency of a single term is highly desirable.

The most widely used translation of li is "principle." No other term comes as close to combining the formative and normative aspects of li, for there are principles of structure and function as well as principles of moral conduct. The function ofli as a metaphysical component of existence and its unitary nature are aspects of li that would not be readily associated with "principle" but familiarity with Neo-Confucian thought can easily remedy that.

A more subtle and less easily remedied problem is the fact that li and principle belong to quite different epistemological traditions. In particular, li has nothing of the notion of abstract universality that is a strong connotation of principle; the universality of li is one of constancy and omnipresence, not abstraction. The Neo-Confucian emphasis on the investigation and comprehension of moral principle (li) was not, as the translation might suggest, a quest for universally valid propositions that could be prudently applied to particular cases; rather, it aimed at developing an educated and profound sensitivity to constant moral values as a basis for recognizing the appropriate course in the complex value configuration of each situation. The epistemology is intuitionist, more geared to the development of a sense of values than the elaboration of a coherent and consistent set of "principles."

Thus it is only with reservation that I have decided to follow the convention and translate li as "principle." Along with "principle," the untranslated li will also occur frequently as a reminder that the translation is not altogether adequate.


Sim designates the heart, but in the East Asian tradition the heart is the seat of thought as well as feeling. Thus the single term

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encompasses what is meant by the English "mind" as well as "heart." In a given context one or the other aspect may take precedence, but in general the Neo-Confucian approach is holistic, little attempt being made to strictly separate intellect and feeling. Study, or "the inves­tigation of principle," for example, certainly aims at developing ac­curate understanding, but real understanding is assumed to involve an appropriate affective response as well as an intellectual grasp of the matter.

The most adequate translation of sim, then, is "mind-and­heart." This, however, is rather cumbersome, and in many passages dealing with matters such as learning and mental self-possession I have simply translated it as "mind." This is alternated with "mind-and­heart," both as context may demand, and also to avoid having the text take on an overly intellectualistic cast.


"Tao" is one of the most fundamental and widely used terms in East Asian thought. Literally it means the "way" or "path." One travels a path to get somewhere; to be off the path, not in accord with the Tao, means one does not get where one should. Thus Tao can take on a normative aspect: not just a path, but "the right path" or course one should follow. From being the path traversed, Tao also came to signify the course of things, the "way" things happen, and that which governs the way they happen. The phenomena of nature are generally cyclic and repetitive: the four seasons revolve and living creatures continually repeat the same pattern of birth, growth, prop­agation, and death. Thus the Tao may be seen not just as the particular way things happen, but as a constant underlying pattern or structure guiding the ever-changing but ever-the-same transformations of the universe, on all its levels. There is only one Tao, a single pattern variously manifested in the interrelated constant phenomena of the natural world and the moral constituents of human nature.

"Tao" and li (principle) obviously have much in common, and in many contexts Neo-Confucians can use them interchangeably. It is less philosophic content than tendencies of linguistic usage that

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differentiates these terms. One may speak of the Tao of a ruler, the Tao of a wife, the Tao of filial piety, etc., but the distinctive strength of the term is its aptness to be used in a nonspecific, comprehensive sense: one speaks of "the Tao." Although li can also signify the single all-embracing and normative pattern, it is more apt to be used to discuss specific instances or aspects of that pattern.

The term "Tao" has become familiar to the western intellectual ` community, and since it carries metaphysical and moral connotations not necessarily associated with "way," its close English equivalent, I have left the term untranslated.