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Chapter Summary

This introductory chapter provides an overview of the key themes discussed in the book. The eminent Ming dynasty (1368-1644) philosopher Wang Yangming 王陽明 (1472-1529) wrote a letter to a student early in 1518 just prior to sending troops into settlements located in northern Guangdong Province, that is, a brief and simple synopsis of some of the teachings Wang conveyed to his many followers throughout the course of his long teaching career. All of these notions of human nature, good and evil, theory and practice, and the oneness of all things not only represent important elements of Wang Yangming's much-studied philosophy, but also had important and serious implications for his less fully studied political career. Chen Lai explains how Wang's belief in the importance of "polishing and tempering oneself through active involvement in affairs" betrayed his will to enforce moral principles and norms that buttressed a conservative, autocratic feudal order.

Keywords: Chen Lai; eminent Ming dynasty; northern Guangdong Province; Wang Yangming



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