佛教人物=Buddhist; 佛教與老莊=佛教與道教=Buddhism and Taoism ; 佛學研究=佛教學=Buddhist Studies=Buddhology
Neo-Confucianism, the state sponsored orthodoxy of China's later empires, is now recognized as an important key to understanding China. This study looks at the roots of Neo-Confucianism in an age when Buddhism and Taoism had eclipsed the Confucian tradition in importance. Li Ao (c. 772-836 A.D.), though generally acknowledged as a forerunner of Neo-Confucianism, is still regarded as deeply influenced by Buddhism. The historical reasons for the creation of this image of Li Ao are examined, prior to a close investigation of the actual circumstances which shaped his Fu-hsing shu, 'Book of Returning to One's True Nature,' the essay which had the deepest influence on the development of early Neo-Confucianism. Although common assumptions about Buddhist influence on Li Ao are questioned, the true importance of the essay emerges in the typically Chinese patterns of thought which it exhibits and which gave it an impact transcending the immediate circumstances that prompted its writing. Li Ao is an important contribution for academics and students interested in East Asian history and thought and religious studies, especially Buddhist studies.