Chang Dai is well known for his literary and historical works in the late Ming Dynasty and early Ching Dynasty. But his famous work, the Encounter with Four Books, was not published until handwritten copies were finally circulated among the general public in 1985. Despite its similarities in formality with numerous other interpretations of Four Books in the late Ming Dynasty, Chang’s work still manages to show unique personal style and characteristics in thinking.
The ideas in Encounter with Four Books were widely adopted from ancient Chinese writings and Buddhist Taoist records. The viewpoints were greatly influenced by Confucian thinking in moral principles of human relationships, self-cultivation, and sage-statesmanship. This thesis will demonstrate respectively the tendencies toward Wang Yang-ming’s theory of mind in this book, the attitude toward Chu Tzu, and the meanings of wide adoption of ancient works. Furthermore, important concepts such as essence of human nature, promotion of Confucian sage-statesmanship, and the mixture of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism will also be explored. Encounter with Four Books by Chang Dai reveals the intellectual pursuit in the late Ming Dynasty of a perfect personality and an ideal way of running the country. Deep personal emotions to life and contemporary spirit that is exhibited in this book brings significant inspiration to present cultural and conceptual trends.