Connecting East and West through Modern Confucian Thought

Re-reading 20th Century Taiwanese Philosophy

  • Forkan Ali The University of Sydney, Australia
Keywords: Mou Zongsan, Modern Confucianism, New Confucianism, Immanuel Kant, Martin Heidegger, Herman Bavinck


This study is an attempt to establish that 20th century’s canonized Taiwanese philosopher Mou Zongsan (1909–1995) has contributed significantly to the innovative burgeoning of modern Confucianism (or New Confucianism) with the revision of Western philosophy. This is based on the hypothesis that if ideas travel through the past to the present, and vice versa, and if intellectual thinking never knows any national, cultural and social boundaries, then there is an obvious intersection and communication of philosophical thoughts of East and West. This article also contemplates the fact that Western philosophies are widely known as they are widely published, read and circulated. Conversely, due to the language barriers philosophy and philosophers from the East are less widely known. Therefore, this research critically introduces and connects the early 20th century Confucian philosopher Shili Xiong (1885–1968), his disciple the contemporary Taiwanese Confucian intellectual Mou Zongsan, along with the Western philosophers Immanuel Kant (1724–1804), Martin Heidegger (1889–1976), and Herman Bavinck (1854–1921), through ideas like moral autonomy, ethics, ontology, and imago Dei. In so doing, the article delineates the path to study 20th century Taiwanese philosophy, or broadly Chinese Confucian philosophy which makes a bridge between the East and the West through Modern Confucianism prevalently called New Confucianism.


Download data is not yet available.


Ali, Forkan. 2020. “The Origins of Contemporary Moral Education and Political Ideology in Confucian-Marxist Hồ Chí Minh’s Vietnam.” Asian Studies 8 (2): 115–34. doi: 10.4312/as.2020.8.2.115-134.

Bavinck, Herman. 1908. The Philosophy of Revelation: The Stone Lectures for 1908–1909. Princeton Theological Seminary. London: Longmans, Green.

–––. 2008. Essays on Religion, Science, and Society. Translated by Harry Boonstra, and Gerrit Sheeres. Ada, MI: Baker Books.

Bell, Daniel A. 2006. “China’s Leaders Rediscover Confucianism-Editorials & Commentary-International Herald Tribune.” The New York Times, September 14, 2006.

–––. 2016. The China Model: Political Meritocracy and the Limits of Democracy. New Jersey: Princeton University Press.

Billioud, Sebastien. 2006. “Mou Zongsan’s Problem with the Heideggerian Interpretation of Kant.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33 (2): 225–47. DOI:10.1111/j.1540-6253.2006.00350.x.

–––. 2011. Thinking through Confucian Modernity: A Study of Mou Zongsan’s Moral Metaphysics. Leiden: Brill.

Bresciani, Umberto. 2001. Reinventing Confucianism: The New Confucian Movement. Taipei: Taipei Ricci Inst. for Chinese Studies.

Brunner, Emil. 2014. The Christian Doctrine of Creation and Redemption. Dogmatics, vol. 2. Translated by Olive Wyon. Eugene, OR: Wipf and Stock Publishers.

Bunnin, Nicholas. 2008. “God’s Knowledge and Ours: Kant and Mou Zongsan on Intellectual Intuition.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 35 (4): 613–24.

Chan, Serina N. 2011. The Thought of Mou Zongsan. Leiden: Brill.

Chan, Wing-cheuk. 2006. “Mou Zongsan’s Transformation of Kant’s Philosophy.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33 (1): 125–39.

–––. 2012. “Mou Zongsan and Martin Heidegger.” National Central University Journal of Humanities 51: 1–23.

Chandler, Marthe. 2012. “Review of The Chinese Aesthetic Tradition.” Philosophy East and West 62 (1): 147–50. doi:10.1353/pew.2012.0008.

Cheng, Chung Ying, and Nicholas Bunnin, eds. 2002. Contemporary Chinese Philosophy. Malden: Blackwell Publisher.

Clower, Jason. 2014. Late Works of Mou Zongsan: Selected Essays on Chinese Philosophy. Leiden: Brill.

Dessein, Bart. 2014. “Faith and Politics: (New) Confucianism as Civil Religion.” Asian Studies 2 (1): 39–64.

–––. 2016. “On ‘Dark Learning’, Uncertain Times, and How Immanuel Kant Revived Confucianism.” Global Intellectual History 1 (3): 275–91. doi:10.1080/23801883.2017.1332871.

Fan, Maureen. 2006. “China’s Party Leadership Declares New Priority: ‘Harmonious Society’.” The Washington Post, October 12, 2006.

Fan, Ruiping. 2010. Reconstructionist Confucianism: Rethinking Morality after the West. Heidelberg, London, New York: Springer.

Fang, Keli. 1995. The Developing Course of the Neo-Confucianism, the Preface of The Schools of the Modern Neo-Confucianism. Beijing: Zhongguo Shehui Kexue Chubanshe.

Guo, Qiyong. 2007. “Mou Zongsan’s View of Interpreting Confucianism by ‘Moral Autonomy’.” Frontiers of Philosophy in China 2 (3): 345–62.

Heidegger, Martin. 1997. Kant and the Problem of Metaphysics. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

–––. 2000. Introduction to Metaphysics. Translated by Gregory Fried, and Richard Polt. New Haven: Yale University Press.

–––. 2010. Being and Time. Translated by Joan Stambaugh. New York: SUNY Press.

Jiadong, Zheng. 2005. “The Issue of the ‘Legitimacy’ of Chinese Philosophy.” Contemporary Chinese Thought 37 (1): 11–23.

Lee, Ming Huei. 2014. “Dangdai rujia ‘Ruxue kaichu munzhu lun 當代新儒家「儒學開出民主論」的理論意涵與現實意義 (The Theoretical Meaning and the Practical Significance of the Theory of the ‘Development of Democracy from Confucianism’.” Asian Studies 2 (1): 7–18.

Liangkang, Ni. 2002. “Mou Zongsan and Phenomenology.” Philosophical Research 10: 42–48+80.

Makeham, John. 2003. New Confucianism: A Critical Examination. New York: Palgrave.

–––. 2008. Lost Soul: “Confucianism” in Contemporary Chinese Academic Discourse. New York: Harvard University Asian Center.

–––. 2015. “Translator’s Introduction.” In New Treatise on the Uniqueness of Consciousness, translated and edited by John Makeham, XI–LXVIII. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Mou, Zongsan 牟宗三. 1970. Xinti yu Xingti 心体與性體 (The Substance of Mind and the Substance of Inborn Qualities). Taibei: Zhengzhong shuju.

–––. 1971. Zhide zhijue yu Zhongguo zhexue 智的直覺與中國哲學 (Intellectual Intuition and Chinese Philosophy). Taipei: Taiwan shangwu yinshu guan.

–––. 1975. Xianxiang Yu Wuzishen 現象與物自身 (Phenomena and Noumena). Taipei: Xueshen.

Ng, Yu-kwan. 2003. “Xiong Shili’s Metaphysical Theory about the Non-Separability of Substance and Function.” In New Confucianism: A Critical Examination, edited, by John Makeham, 219–51. New York: Palgrave Macmillan.

Perris, Arnold. 1983. “Music as Propaganda: Art at the Command of Doctrine in the People’s Republic of China.” Ethnomusicology 27 (1): 1–28.

Ricoeur, Paul, and George Gingras. 1961. “‘The Image of God’ and the Epic of Man.” CrossCurrents 11 (1): 37–50.

Rošker, Jana S. 2009. “Modern Confucian Synthesis of Qualitative and Quantitative Knowledge: Xiong Shili.” The Journal of Chinese Philosophy 36 (3): 376–90.

–––. 2016a. “Modern Confucianism and the Concept of ‘Asian Values’.” Asian Studies 4 (1): 153–64.

–––. 2016b. The Rebirth of the Moral Self. The Second Generation of Modern Confucians and their Modernization Discourses. Hong Kong: The Chinese University of Hong Kong.

–––. 2019. “Modernization of Confucian Ontology in Taiwan and Mainland China.” Asian Philosophy 29 (2): 160–76.

Schmidt, Stephan. 2011. “Mou Zongsan, Hegel, and Kant: The Quest for Confucian Modernity.” Philosophy East and West 61 (2): 260–302.

Sigurðsson, Geir. 2014. “Confucianism vs. Modernity: Expired, Incompatible or Remedial?” Asian Studies 2 (1): 21–38.

Tang, Junyi, Mou Zongsan, Xu Fuguan, and Zhang Junmai. 1958. “A Manifesto on Chinese Culture to the World.” Taipei: National Taiwan University Press.

Wing-Cheuk Chan, 2006. “Mou Zongsan’s Transformation of Kant’s Philosophy.” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 33 (1): 125–39.

Wu, Zhong. 2006. “China Yearns for Hu’s Harmonious Society.” Asia Times Online, October 11, 2006. Accessed October 9, 2019.

Xiong, Shili. 2015. New Treatise on the Uniqueness of Consciousness. Translated and edited by John Makeham. New Haven: Yale University Press.

Xu, Ximian. 2017. “The Dialogue between Herman Bavinck and Mou Zongsan on ‘Humaneness’ and Its Quality.” Journal of Reformed Theology 11 (3): 298–324.

Yan, Xuetong. 2018. “Chinese Values vs. Liberalism: What Ideology Will Shape the International Normative Order?” The Chinese Journal of International Politics 11 (1): 1–22.

Yu, Jiyuan. 2002. “Xiong Shili’s Metaphysics of Virtue.” In Contemporary Chinese Philosophy, edited by Chung Ying Cheng and Nicholas Bunnin, 127–47. Malden: Blackwell Publishing.

——. 2008. “The ‘Manifesto’ of New-Confucianism and the Revival of Virtue Ethics.” Frontiers of Philosophy in China 3 (3): 317–34.

How to Cite
AliF. (2020). Connecting East and West through Modern Confucian Thought. Asian Studies, 8(3), 63-87.