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“Neo-Confucianism” is the most common English term used to specify a philosophical and religious revival of Confucianism, beginning in China during the ninth century CE, as a means of restoring the tradition associated with Kongzi or Confucius and as a response to the various challenges of Daoism and Buddhism. The term “Neo-Confucian” was coined in 1903 by a Japanese scholar (preceded by an earlier French usage in the 1770s) in order to define the unique characteristics of this Confucian renaissance, which spread new trends in Confucian thought, ritual, social ethics, self-cultivation, education, critical scholarship, study of the natural world and political theory from China to Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Although the arrival of Western-inspired modernization marked the end of the Neo-Confucian epoch in East Asia, today’s so-called “New Confucianism” sees itself both as a continuation of Neo-Confucian culture and philosophy and also as a major new departure from the philosophies of the past.
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