Wang Bi

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  • Born: 226
  • Died: 249
  • Chinese: (Wáng Bì)

Wang Bi was a prominent thinker of China's Six Dynasties Period, and one of the chief figures in the xuanxue (dark, or mysterious learning) school or movement.

Taking Confucian teachings as the core and drawing upon texts such as the I Ching and Tao Te Ching, Wang Bi expanded upon the Daoist concept of non-being (無, ). He suggested that there was an original nothingness, an original non-being (本無, běn wú), which was the true origin of all things, and a kind of pure true reality.

Wang Bi is also credited with the conception of the twin concepts of ti and yong, often translated as "substance" and "function," which he also described as the dichotomy between that which is latent, or potential, and that which is manifest, or realized.

His ideas were discussed, and in some cases challenged, by Guo Xiang (d. 312), a xuanxue thinker of the following generation.


  • Conrad Schirokauer, et al, A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations, Fourth Edition, Cengage Learning (2012), 83.