|Keyword : Li Zhi, sanjiao heyi, dao, unity of the three teachings, syncretism, Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism
This article deals with Li Zhi’s attitude toward the teachings of three religious traditions: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism. Li was certainly a high profile figure in the Ming intellectual scene. Despite his profile, his contemporaries could not successfully recognize or categorize his ideas; he was sometimes regarded as a Buddhist monk but sometimes as a Confucian scholar-official, regardless of his claims. And he commented on such Daoist scriptures as the Laozi and the Zhuangzi. His ambiguous multiple identities, which put him into trouble, relates to the topic of sanjiao heyi (Unity of the three teachings, or Syncretism of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism). It is true that Li Zhi’s attitude toward the three teachings verged on sanjiao heyi. However, this paper argues that he should not be considered a conscious sanjiao heyi activist; rather, he should better be understood a “dao-ist fundamentalist,” due to his belief in one universal dao. In analyzing his various writings, this paper discusses that insofar as his primary concern was to realize the genuine dao, the important issue for him was not membership in a particular school or the sanjiao heyi movement but to practice dao properly. Li’s quest for dao was not out of scholastic interest but moral and practical concern.