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Toward a Gongfu Reconstruction of Confucianism—Responses to Comments by Huang Yong, Fan Ruiping, and Wang Qingjie

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Responding to comments of my recent book, Understanding the Analects of Confucius, by Huang Yong, Fan Ruiping, and Wang Qingjie, this paper looks to highlight one of its major features—that it is a contemporary continuation of the Chinese tradition of doing commentary both as a way of allowing classic texts to unfold their rich meanings in the context of different times, and as a way for the commentator to express his or her own views. It strives to explain how a gongfu reconstruction of Confucianism can explain the apparent inconsistency between advocating rule-like instructions next to its encouragement of the art of flexibility, and to reveal what is more fundamental about Confucianism—rather than a system of rigid moral rules, it is an art of life. This gongfu interpretation would lead to the view that Confucianism does not depend on metaphysical truths as its justification, although it does need to hold metaphysical views as a way of affirming its values, which are justified through the excellence of life to which they lead. While the gongfu approach more accurately reflects Confucius’ own philosophical orientation, and it is therefore used to determine technical details such as what interpretations to put into translation of a text and what interpretations to list in the annotations as alternatives, it is, in the author’s humble view, also a unique contribution that the Chinese tradition can offer to world philosophy.

Affiliations: 1: School of PhilosophyBeijing Normal University Beijing 100875China ; 2: Department of PhilosophyGrand Valley State University Allendale MI 49401USAE-mail:


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