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On Ethics and HistoryEssays and Letters of Zhang Xuecheng$
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Philip J. Ivanhoe

Print publication date: 2009

Print ISBN-13: 9780804761284

Published to Stanford Scholarship Online: June 2013

DOI: 10.11126/stanford/9780804761284.001.0001

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A Treatise on Teachers1

A Treatise on Teachers1

(p.52) Essay 3 A Treatise on Teachers1
On Ethics and History
Stanford University Press

This chapter presents the English translation of an essay by Zhang, which is an explicit response to Han Yu's well-known essay with the same title. Against Han Yu, Zhang argues that the highest kinds of knowledge can only be acquired from certain very special kinds of teachers. Zhang develops this idea into an intriguing distinction between replaceable and irreplaceable teachers. One can learn facts and techniques from the former, but if one is interested in the sense, style, and significance of the dao, one must seek the latter: a teacher who personally embodies this knowledge. Moreover, irreplaceable teachers can communicate this more esoteric type of wisdom only through direct and intimate interactions with their students or disciples. Invoking the style as well as the language of Chan Buddhism, Zhang insists on a “mind-to-mind transmission” of the Confucian dao.

Keywords:   Zhang Xuecheng, essay, Han Yu, teachers, Confucian dao, Chan Buddhism

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