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Classical Age of Philosophy in Chou Period

It is the age of outstanding intellectual achievement.It is said that 100 schools of philosophy existed with disciples gaining their knowledge from their teachers like Mencius learning from Confucius,which later developed into various schools due to different intepretations & additions.


Eastern Chou:a period of political division & anarchy,with 7 Warring states of Chin,Chi,Chu,Yen,Han,Wei & Ch'ao.The philosophers formulated ideas on how to solve this period of instability,how to stop the war & how to change the governments for the better.Political divisions of China enabled learned men to visit the various states to gain new knowledge & experience as they travelled about.The growing complexities of government required services of educated men & thinkers who tried to offer their philosophies.The chaos of constant wars between the states led men to grabble with the fundamental problems & meaning/purpose of life & society,hence the beginnings of philosophy.

Philosophical Writings:

Confucianism:Founded by Confucius

1.Learning from the past:the present anarchy could be corrected if men could return to the political & social order created by the founders of the Chou dynasty,Wen-wang & Wu-wang & find solutions.

2.Concept of government is an ethical issue:all individuals filled assigned roles in society --role of ruler:to rule with benevolence & be paternalistic

3..Relationships:5 basic ones,between ruler & subject,husband & wife,father & son,brotherly kinship & friendship.Family is the basic unit of society

4.Role of education:proper education to produce a gentleman even if he/his father is from a humble background.Education should be open to all men so that it can help them to climb up the social ladder.

5.Character training: the gentleman (chun-tzu) is a cultivated man,irregardless of background.He should possess inner virtues like:

--jen (love or human-heartedness)
--chih(uprightness or inner integrity)
--i (righteousness)
--chung (loyalty)
--shu (altruism)
--wen (polish) li (understanding of proper decorum & ettiquette)

--> The East Asian pattern of compromise & importance of ritual & ettiquette and calculating inner attitudes through the practice of external forms is hence established.

6..Role of spirits:recognised the existence of the spirits & heavens and the need for ancestor worship,led a strong agnostic strain in Confucian tradition.

Confucius himself failed to reform the states because his ideals were unacceptable to the rulers.Yet he influenced China as Confucianism came to dominate Chinese life even till now.

Main Confucianist works: 'Analects' & 'Mencius'.

--BUT Confucianism is often wrongly intepreted by future scholars,hence the breakdown of the traditional society is inevitable during the 20th century where modern literature is born


Taoism:Founded by Lao-tzu

1..Retreat & withdrawal: a contrast to Confucianism:It is a philosophy of, protest against ritualism & authority.One should relate to nature rather than society unlike Confucianism.Emphasis on natural harmony rather than social harmony--man to turn away from the struggles for power,status & wealth

2.The independence of the individual :main concern is to fit into the great pattern of nature & not man-made society through the Tao or The Way.The man who can become one with the Tao achieves tranquility in the midst of strife

3.Doing nothing: the key to merging with the Tao is to do what comes naturally,not complete inaction. 'Do nothin & nothing will not be done' = everything will be spontaneously achieved when the universe is left to itself to proceed smoothly according to its harmonies.Man's efforts to change destroys the peace & creates chaos

4..The sage knows no experience & therefore experiences no failures: to refuse all honours & responsibilities & keep to oneself by staying passive

5..Primitivity: knowledge corrupts by leading to devious minds that want honours & wealth,hence the need to accomplish everything by doing nothing

Later Taoism came to stress on other aspects to make oneself nearer to nature such as the use of magic,the search of immortality & the worship of gods.The search for longevity contributed to the quest for elixirs to prolong life & led to the development of Chinese science

--> Heavy Confucian morality was not conducive to aesthetic expression.The individual freedom of Taoism & its mystical union with nature encourages this.Chinese artists & poets,however closely identified with Confucian tradition have usually been Taoists at heart,being romantics.
-->The whole of society or an individual can be both Confucian & Taoist at the same time because of a healthier psychological balance of these 2 forces than could have been achieved on only 1.The active ruler of the morning is Confucianist but he turns the Taoist dreamy poet or nature lover of the night.This dualism in philosophy & in philisophy had persisted until the modern day thus it is difficult to really differentiate the 2 clearly now

Main Taoist works:'Lao-tzu','Chuang-tzu','Lieh-tzu' & 'Tao De Jing'

The picture above is the symbol of Taoism,the animated black-white circle is the Tao itself,consisting of 'yin' (feminine force/earth) & 'yang' (masculine force/sky) & Taoism seeks to balance these 2 inert forces found in all men



1.The nature of man is basically evil:the violence of the times proved this to be true

2.A need for strong governments & harsh laws:severe punishments to deal with the corrupt nature of man by warning him to create a state of good government & prosperity in a supreme state not based on benevolence

Main Legalist works: 'Hsun-tzu' & 'Han Fei-tzu'



1.There is a need to practise universal love & is a solution to create peace

Main Mohist work: 'Mo-tzu' by the founder Mo-tzu himself

Chin Dynasty

This is a short dynasty of tyranny & hardship although it inaugurated the first era of unity & expansionism of empire..It lasted only for 15 short years from 221 BC - 206 BC thus its literary achievements are limited.
The first emperor of China is Chin Shih-Huang Ti,the first ruler of Chin .He is the first emperor because he is the first monarch to proclaim himself a 'huang-ti' or emperor since previous rulers are known as 'wang' or kings.The dynasty is based on Legalism & he ruled with a rod of iron.Despite his success at unifying China & he is credited with unifying the Chinese language & writing,he remains hated by Confucianists & people throughout history.His 2 succesors were weaklings dominated by powerful courtiers.Finally the Chin dynasty ended when a Chu warrior Hsiang Yu known affectionately till now as the Western Conqueror, overthrew him.Unfortunately he was betrayed by his friend,Liu Pang who usurped the throne to found the Han dynasty.

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