wèi jǐ zhī xué 为己之学
Learning for Self-improvement
The term refers to learning for the purpose of self-cultivation. Confucian scholars view learning as a means of improving our moral life. By studying the classics and rules of etiquette, and by learning from the sages, we may constantly improve our morality in order to develop an ideal character. Therefore, learning is a process for self-cultivation and is practiced for our own good. The pursuit of learning is not to make a show of our knowledge or virtuous conduct in return for benefit.
Confucius said: “People in ancient times learned to cultivate their own moral character. People today learn to impress others.” (The Analects)
Generally speaking, learning for self-improvement has nothing to do with others. Everything the sages said, in the final analysis, was meant to help people restore their original inherent nature. (Classified Conversations of Master Zhu Xi)