The study of the political forces that shaped the Ming dynasty cannot exist apart from the philosophies which guided the literati of the time. While Neo-Confucianism as an ideology began during the Song dynasty, it did not gain traction until the very end of the Southern Song, and even then it was not until the Yuan that it was adopted as the state’s ideology. That the governing philosophy of the Yuan, whose political legacy the Ming were dedicated to stamping out, should not only persist through the Ming, but that the Hongwu Emperor would adopt such a philosophy as the governing ideology of his new dynasty serves as one of the motivating puzzles behind this analysis. Another task lies with breaking down the false monolith of “Neo-Confucianism” while de-mystifying the thought of philosophers in the tradition. While Neo-Confucianism is often used in the West as a catch-all term for the traditionalist ideologies which persisted in China from the Ming to the fall of the Qing in 1644, this reductive analysis ultimately results in glossing over the potential these ideas hold for our politics.


Ng, Margaret

Second Advisor

Schiltz, Elizabeth


History; Philosophy


Chinese Studies | History of Philosophy


Neo-Confucianism, Cheng-Zhu, Wang Yangming, Hongwu

Publication Date


Degree Granted

Bachelor of Arts

Document Type

Senior Independent Study Thesis



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