Neo-Confucianism emerged in reaction to a decline in Confucian moral values, which had been seen by some as having caused China’s defeat by Japan in the Sino-Japanese War of 1894–1895. Confucian scholars such as Feng Youlan were instrumental in reinterpreting Confucian thought for modern times. Neo-Confucianism may be understood as a combination of traditional Confucian ideas with Western concepts about science and religion, first introduced by Christian missionaries to China during the 16th century.
In the 19th century, Chinese reformers such as Kang Youwei and Liang Qichao revived Confucianism as a way to oppose the colonial rule. Today, many people in Taiwan and Hong Kong practice Neo-Confucianism as an ethical system that guides their daily lives.
Neo-Confucian scholars such as Zhu Xi (1130–1200) and Lu Xiangshan (1139–1192) developed metaphysical systems which attempted to integrate Buddhist concepts with Confucian thought. Neo-Confucians were increasingly critical of Buddhism; they argued that Buddhism had corrupted the original teachings of Confucius by emphasizing monastic asceticism at the expense of social order. The school was called Cheng-Zhu or Neo-Cheng after Zhu Xi, but is often referred to as Lixue or School of Principle because it placed great emphasis on metaphysical analysis rather than practical knowledge, which was valued by Mencius. They were not only concerned with matters such as metaphysics, ethics and political philosophy; they also discussed problems related to education, society and the economy.