or Wang Yang-ming
born 1472, Yuyao, Zhejiang province, China
died 1529, Nanen, Jiangxi
Chinese scholar and official whose idealistic interpretation of Neo-Confucianism influenced philosophical thinking in East Asia for centuries.
The son of a high government official, he was both a secretary to the Ministry of War and a lecturer on Confucianism by 1505. The next year, he was banished to a post in remote Guizhou, where hardship and solitude led him to focus on philosophy. He concluded that investigation of the principles of things should occur within the mind rather than through actual objects and that knowledge and action are codependent. Named governor of southern Jiangxi in 1516, he suppressed several rebellions and implemented governmental, social, and educational reform. By the time he was appointed war minister (1521), his followers numbered in the hundreds. His philosophy spread across China for 150 years and greatly influenced Japanese thought during that time. From 1584 he was offered sacrifice in the Confucian temple under the title Wencheng ("Completion of Culture").