Yamazaki Ansai : biography

January 24, 1619 - September 16, 1682

Neo-Confucian Teachings

Influence of Zhu Xi

Ansai's teachings were seen to be part of a larger Neo-Confucian trend of the early Tokugawa period, referred to by Abe Yoshino as the rigaku (school of principle). Compared to the kigaku (school of material force), rigaku's primary focus was on moral cultivation and spirituality. Its followers considered ri (Chinese li: reason, rational principle, or law) to be a transcendent principle.Tucker, Mary Evelyn. Moral and Spiritual Cultivation in Japanese Neo-Confucianism, pp.69-69 Although Ansai was part of this larger movement, in no way did he see himself as an "innovator" of Neo-Confucianism. Rather, he saw himself as a "servant of Truth," a "transmitter of the Way," and believed nothing of what he taught to be novel, since everything about the Way had already been said by the Confucian Sages. In particular, Ansai believed he was a "faithful transmitter" of the writings of both Zhu Xi, and the Korean Neo-Confucian Yi T'oegye (1507–1570), with special emphasis on Zhu's teachings.Kassel, Marleen. Tokugawa Confucian Education. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1996, p.68 Because of this, most of Ansai's Neo Confucian writings tended to be publications of Zhu Xi's works, with his own commentaries.

Although some of Ansai's teachings varied slightly from Zhu Hsi's, the foundation of Ansai's thought was deeply grounded in Zhu's most fundamental premises. The foremost of these was Zhu Xi's cosmological belief that the principles of reason and morality (li), were the same as mankind's original nature (i.e. that the principles that guide and move the universe, are exactly same as those that inform man's ethical behavior).Ooms, p.203 Therefore, by pursuing li, an individual was simultaneously "developing the potential of one's inner nature to guide on in behaving correctly." If an individual could endure it, he would be able to bring his own natural inclinations into perfect harmony with principles of universal morality. Zhu Xi saw this fulfillment of potential as the ideal state of human existence, and only possible to achieve if one were to obey one's allotted moral duty, given their relative position in society. Depending on their social role, the duties of the individual differed, as did the principles upon which they were grounded. However, Zhu Xi did not view this as problematic, since each of these principles was merely a different manifestation of the same general principle of morality, found in every human being. Hsi believed that fulfilling one's proper social role was a means of understanding the universal principle of human morality (li). He referred to such a process as the "plumbing of principle". To perfect one's natural, innate potential was at the same time to realize one's self as an autonomous being.Tsuji, pp.416-419


Like Zhu Xi, Ansai firmly believed that an individual's moral duties reflected his specific social position (meibun). However, instead of focusing on the "plumbing of principle" (which he believed the average person was incapable of achieving) Ansai believed in order to properly achieve meibun, what was primary was an attitude of reverence (kei or tsutsushimi): steadiness of the mind and guarded behavior. Since Zhu considered reverence to be the necessary precondition for the "plumbing of principle", Ansai believed that reverence was the essential element of Zhu's moral thought.Tsuji, p.419 To this end, he placed great emphasis on a particular passage of Zhu Xi's: "Reverence within, righteousness without." Reverence was the means by which one achieved the desired end of self-cultivation, necessary to fulfill the moral duties prescribed to an individual by their rigid, social obligations.Kassel, Marleen, p.69 Realizing one's social obligations and maintaining an orderly, hierarchical society were the highest duties that an individual and mankind (respectively) had to fulfill. This notion stems from Ansai's morality, cosmology, and the interconnect between the two (all based in Zhu Xi's thought).

Living octopus

Living octopus

In countries which are located near sea coasts, sea food is an important part of national cuisine