The orthodox tradition (tao-t’ung). Chu Hsi, the principal formulator of this concept, was much influenced by Ch’eng I’s view of the Confucian tradition. Usually thought of as “the transmission of the Way,” tao-t’ung almost literally has the sense of “the linking or stitching together of the Way,” that is, actively putting it together rather just passively receiving it and handing it on. In fact, Chu Hsi emphasized the discontinuities in the tradition almost more than the continuities, and underscored the contributions of inspired individuals who rediscovered or “clarified” the Way in new forms.
The Way itself is understood by Chen under the three aspects cited by Hu Yuan (993-1059) in the early Sung: as substance (t’i) it is immutable and imperishable; as function (yung) it is adapted to and applied in different circumstances; as literary expression (wen) or as “transmission” (ch’uan) it is passed on to successive generations, often in fragmentary and obscure form, sometimes brilliantly illuminated, as it was in the Sung when new masters had their own unique insights (tzu-te), thus contributing to the advancement and amplification of the Way. Hence tradition in the form of tao-t’ung represents immutable truth but also dynamic growth.
Tratto da Wm. Theodore de Bary, Neo-Confucian Orthodoxy and the Learning of the Mind-and-Hearth, Columbia University Press, 1981