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1 Early Career

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Chapter Summary

If an account of Wang Yangming's political career were to begin with his first truly significant appointment, at least as measured by both the level of his responsibilities and what the documentary trail allows, then the starting point would be 1516. In his account of Wang's life, Deng Aimin usefully proposes that 1499 marks a turning point. That year, Wang Yangming obtained the highest examination degree, becoming a presented scholar and consequently receiving his first assignment from the Ming court. Most likely, Wang Yangming's practice of Cheng-Zhu Neo-Confucianism, as he understood it, failed to yield the kind of personally meaningful knowledge or liberating insight he was seeking, and sagehood therefore seemed out of reach. Tu Weiming explains that the context for Wang's proposing this doctrine was his dissatisfaction with the way students placed success in the examinations and therefore political success over moral self-transformation.

Keywords: Cheng-Zhu Neo-Confucianism; Deng Aimin; Ming court; Tu Weiming; Wang Yangming



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