First Test Sample Questions: Classical Confucianism and Daoism
Please be reminded: These questions are only suggestive. They follow the order of
my lectures structured by (1) historical development; (2) textual interpretation; (3)
conceptual analysis.All questions come from my lectures and the introduction of
each chapter in the Source Book.
There will be 7 small questions(about historical facts and meaning/definition of
concepts) to choose from 8, and one big question(essay question) to choose from
1 lecture Introduction
1. What is the meaning (for you?) to study Chinese Philosophy today?
2. What does the term “philosophy” in Western tradition mean? Traditionally, what
were the Chinese terms more or less equivalent to the term “philosophy”? When the
Jesuits introduced Western philosophy to China in the late 16 Century, what terms they
used to translate “philosophy”? By whom was the term translated into “tetsugaku” 哲學
in Japanese? Who first used it in Chinese as “zhexue” 哲學?
3. What are the special characteristics of Chinese philosophy in comparison with
4. What textual sources early Chinese philosophers (like Confucius and Laozi) had
when they emerged in Chinese intellectual history? Write down three names of those
Ind Classical Confucianism
1.What can we still learn from Confucius’s thought today? What is, according to you,
out-of-date in Confucius’thought?
2. When did Confucius live? What was the title of the book attributed to him? Who
started to call his school rujia(Ru School)?
3. According to Wing-tsit Chan, in what sense did Confucius has determined humanism
as the outstanding characteristic of Chinese Philosophy.(SB p.15)
4. According to Wing-tsit Chan, what are the five basic concepts of humanistic
philosophy of Confucius?(SB p.15)
5. What does xiao (filial piety) mean? Why should there be filial piety? Explain the
“internal reason” Confucius gave for filial piety.
6. Explain Confucian external(social) function of filial piety and respect for elders.
7. Explain the three meanings of li(ritual) in ancient China.
8. Philosophically speaking, what is the main contribution of Confucius to li? How did
he lay the transcendental foundation of li?
9. Explain the meaning of ren(humanity, humaneness), and that of yi(righteousness).
10. Explain the relationship between ren, yi, li.
11. Explain the two meanings of “virtue” according to Confucius, and enumerate some
most important virtues in his virtue ethics.
12. What was Confucius’view of politics? Or, what does he mean governance by li and
governance by virtue?
13. Explain the meaning of Confucius’politics of rectification of names.
14. What is a negative golden rule? What is a positive golden rule? Explain them in
term of ‘reciprocity.” 2
15. Is Confucianism capable of extending itself from reciprocity to universalizability?
What is the most important concepts that represent Confucian energy for this altruistic
1. Who belong to Si-Meng School? When did Zi Si and Mencius live? What works
(please specify their titles) were attributed to Zi Si, and, to Mencius?
2. Explain the meaning of the text “Dao starts from feeling,” in particular, the concept
3. Explain the distinctions between “virtuous action” and “mere action,” “excellence”
and “virtue,” “human way” and “Heavenly way” in the Wuxing(FiveActions).
4. Explain the meaning of the propositions in the Zhongyong(Doctrine of the Mean) that
“What Heaven imparts to human beings is called human nature. To follow our nature is
called the Way. Cultivating the Way is called Education.”
5. Explain the meaning of the concepts: “centrality” (zhong) and “sincerity”(cheng).
6. Explain the philosophical meaning of the following text and its relevance for today:
“Only those who are perfectly sincere can fully unfold their nature. If they could unfold
their nature, they can fully unfold the nature of people. If they could unfold the nature
of other people, they can the fully develop the nature of things. If they can the fully
develop the nature of things, they can then assist in the transformation and nourishing
process of heaven and earth.”
7. What are Mencius’ “four beginnings (sprouts)”? What do they mean? Also explain
his theory of human nature.
8. Explain Mencius’ concept of xin (mind/heart/feeling) and its relation with human
nature and Heav