The Life-giving Force of “Ren” and Dai Zhen’s Conception of Desire



This article examines the vitalistic meaning of “ren” (仁) with its focus of discussion on the 18th century Confucian thinker Dai Zhen’s (戴震 1724–1777) reading of the concept. I argue that Dai Zhen, in both continuation with and departure from the Neo-Confucian thought on the vitalism of ren provides a unique interpretation of this key Confucian notion in terms of the creative creativity of shengsheng (生生) and thereby throws a fresh light on the age-old subject of human desire.