History 1601E Lecture Notes - Hundred Schools Of Thought, Taoism, Tao Te Ching
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HISTORY 1601E September 28th, 2010
HISTORY – LECTURE 03
HUNDRED SCHOOLS OF THOUGHT - CONFUCIANISM
o Confucius died with only a small following
o Sayings compiled in the Analects. “The master said…”
o Number of Confucians grew in the century after Confucius’ death
o Major disciples were Mencius and Xunzi (100-150 years after his death)
o Went beyond Confucius in focusing on human nature. Used Confucius’ basic ideas but
addressed other issues as well.
o For him, human nature is naturally good but clouded by ignorance.
o Through education and self-cultivation to build virtue, knowledge, wisdom, and you’ll be good.
The “Mandate of Heaven”…
o Mencius believed that rulers acquired their position through Heaven’s Mandate. This is a mix of
a belief of Confucius, and from the Zhao dynasty.
o Ruler should be motivated to increase the welfare of the people and act benevolently
o If the ruler did not act this way, this was a sign that he had lost Heaven’s mandate and people
were justified to rise up against him. “Allowed to kill a king” – yes, if they’d lost heaven’s
mandate and had become evil rulers, tainted, they weren’t really kings anymore.
Impact of Mencius…
o Mencius’ interpretation of Confucianism was rather influential, but not dominant
o Only achieved dominance during the Song dynasty in the 11th Century CE, when his writings
were put on par with those of Confucius, as they were very impressed with his thoughts and
interpretations of Confucianism.
Xunzi (300-237 BCE)…
o More influential in his time than Mencius
o Believed human nature was basically evil, which is opposite of Mencius.
o Need education to control and rectify man’s emotions and natural desires.
o Education ultimately brings peace by bridling human nature and passions.
o While Mencius believed human nature was good and education made it shine, Xunzi believed
human nature was evil, but that education would rectify it. Solution is the same. Confucian
solutions, and so this is why they’re considered Confucian followers.
Impact of Xunzi…
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HISTORY 1601E September 28th, 2010
o Apart from education, Xunzi also advocated strict laws and punishments to enforce order. This is
what often sets him apart from Confucius, and which often sparks debate about him being a
Confucian follower or not. Basically he twisted Confucian law to fit the violent time period he
o He is far more influential and successful in his time than Mencius.
o Ideas on human nature and government were influential on the Legalists. Some of Xunzi’s
disciples later left Confucianism and became top contenders in Legalist culture.
The Rise of Confucianism…
o Confucianism became dominant during the Han dynasty in order to bring peace during the war.
o Conservatism and advocacy of an ordered, hierarchical society seen as ideal for enforcing social
o Emphasis on ethics and merit also appealing and acceptable to a large segment of society.
HUNDRED SCHOOLS OF THOUGH - THE DAOIST (TAOIST) TRADITION
Laozi (c 5th century BCE)…
o Uncertainty on dates or whether he even existed, very little historical record.
o Apparently from southern kingdom of Chu, at the limits of Chinese civilisation.
o Could have led Daoism to be influence by non-Chinese ideas emphasising the natural world and
the cosmos, which is essentially, the Void.
The Daodejing (Classic of the Way and Virtue)…
o Attributed to Laozi, but not even sure if he wrote it
o Terse and vague poetic style
o Importance of “wuwei” (non-action) – being so in tune with the universe that every action you
take without thinking is what the universe would do.
o Emphasis on the Dao (Tao), the universal force or Void from which all things occur. This explains
their need to be near nature, seeing the forces of the universe manifesting themselves so
clearly. Need to act in harmony with the Dao.
o Called for a small state with simple structure and simple minds of subjects. Hear a chicken from
one end of town to the other. If you can’t, that’s your boundary.
o Ruler’s responsibility is to be in harmony with natural flows of life and preserve harmony
through the state without outward effort.
Daoism and the Natural World…
o Daoism emphasised that human action had to reach the point that it was in natural harmony
with the cosmos.
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