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To rebuild the empire: Lu Chih (754-805) and his response to the mid-Tang predicament Chiu-Drake, Josephine

Abstract

This study examines Lu Chih's efforts to rebuild the Tang empire toward the end of the eighth century, revises the previous views of Lu Chih as either a pure pragmatist or a conservative moralist, and establishes the significance of his political endeavors in the context of the mid-Tang Confucian revival movement. After a thorough exploration of Lu's life and his family background, this work shows that two complementary principles underlay Lu Chih's approach to government: the principle of righteousness (1) and the principle of expediency (Ch'iian). Lu's application of these principles, especially his interpretation of ch'ilan, is demonstrated by reference to his memorials to emperor Te-tsung and by his political practice. My analysis of Lu's application of these principles leads me to conclude that Lu's approach to government, both moralistic and pragmatic, may be characterized as a Confucian pragmatist approach. Relying upon this approach during the earlier stage of his official life as a Han-lin scholar, Lu Chih is seen to have been instrumental in the restoration of dynastic stability. Lu Chih continued to employ his Confucian pragmatist approach in formulating a number of policies during his tenure as Chief Minister. His earlier advice to the throne as Han-lin scholar is consistently reflected in these policies designed to realize his vision of an ideal Confucian benevolent government. Although all of his proposed policies were intended to meet current needs, their ultimate goal is shown to be the improvement of the public well-being. Lu's commitment to the public good was such that he consciously risked his political life for the sake of his Confucian political convictions. A comparative analysis of Lu Chih's political and social concerns and those of the leading figures of the mid-T'ang Confucian revival reveals many close affinities, and thus establishes Lu Chih's genuine place among them. While he failed to break new conceptual ground for the Confucian revival, his political life alone is seen as a behavior paradigm of the ideal Confucian minister for the mid-Tang Confucian revivalists, and this is precisely Lu's unique contribution to that most significant mid-T'ang movement.

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