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Neo-Confucianism is a Chinese philosophy developed during the Tang Dynasty by Han Yu and Li Ao. Influenced heavily by traditional Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism sought to purge some of the more mystical and religious influences that Daoism and Buddhism had brought to Chinese society. Neo-Confucianism stresses the use of metaphysics for the development of secular, ethical philosophy.

During the Tang Dynasty (AD 618-907), Han Yu and Lo Ao began to write against Buddhism, but it was not until the Song Dynasty (AD 960-1279) that Zhou Dunyi grafted Daoist metaphysics onto a framework of Confucian ethics. It was Zhu Xi (1130-1200) who wrote some of the most important works of Neo-Confucianism, but he adopted the Buddhist belief in high moral standards. Wang Yangming (1472-1529) is considered to be the second most important Neo-Confucianist thinker after Zhu Xi.

In terms of its thought, Neo-Confucianism relies on social and ethical philosophy, with a prevailing belief that the universe could be understood through rational means. It has been divided into two major schools, the Cheng-Zhu school and the smaller Lu-Wang school. Cheng-Zhu thought maintains that human nature is good, but is not pure unless one actively seeks to purify it. Wang Yangming, founder of the Lu-Wang school, developed the notion that everyone knows the difference between good and evil at birth and this knowledge was intuitive.

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