The Renaissance of Confucianism During Late Tang DynastyThe renaissance of Confucianism was a direct reaction against the long prevailing of philosophical Daoism since the end of the Han Dynasty and the power of Buddhism during the time of North-South division and early Tang Dynasty. Tang scholars saw not only their own position as state advisors endangered, but they were afraid the influence of the foreign religion of Buddhism on Chinese government and the social traditions. Buddhism is a religion with a very complex metaphysical philosophy, an aspect that the old Confucianism totally ignores. The aim of Tang and Song time Confucian writers was to find a system that was able to explain the universe and the position and behaviour of man in a way that could cope with the sophisticated Buddhist philosophy.
The most important Tang scholars defending Confucianism against the influence of Daoism and Buddhism were Han Yu 韓愈 (768-824) and Li Ao 李翱 (772-841). Han Yu, a great essayist of his time, vehemently argued against Buddhism and proposed to go back to the roots of human ethics, studying and interpreting the Confucian Classics. His main concern about Buddhism was that the foreign religion was egalitarian and did not observe the proper relation between senior and junior persons, and thereby destroyed the social order. In his essay "Sourcing the Way" 原道 (Yuandao), he wrote that humanity (ren 仁) and righteousness (yi 義) are the source of an overall social way under Heaven, unlike the "Way" of Daoism and Buddhism where everybody is seeking his own salvation. Human nature, Han Yu wrote in his essay "Sourcing human nature" 原性 (Yuanxing), can be divided into three classes: good, bad, and middle. The middle nature can move to both sides, being formed by humanity, rites, trust, righteousness and knowledge. Human nature (xing 性) is being laid into a person during his/her birth, while the seven emotions (qing 情) are produced according to the environment. Han Yu was a great protagonist of the Old Literature Movement (guwen yundong 古文運動) whose representants wrote in the old simple and highly expressive style rather than in the complicated, rhymed and obscure style that has become popular during the time of North-South division.
Li Ao himself studied the Buddhist philosophy in order to be able to attack it. His most important writing is the book "Revival of the human nature" 復性書 (Fuxingshu), with the implicit meaning of "Revival (fusheng 復生) of Confucianism", as in Li Ao's eyes, the human nature (xing 性) is given us by birth (sheng 生). Every human nature is of equal quality, that means that everybody has the potential to become a saint like the mythical