ZHOU (CHOU) DYNASTY (1100-221 B.C.)
The Zhou dynasty, which followed the Shang dynasty and lasted from 1027 B.C. to 221 B.C., governed over a larger area than the Shang, but feudal states under it had more authority over their own affairs. The Zhou hailed from what is now the Shaanxi Province. They came to power when Emperor Wen led a revolt against the Shang dynasty. His son Emperor Wu was the first official Zhou emperor. Zhou emperors were priest kings who regarded themselves as "Sons of Heaven" with a "Mandate from Heaven" to rule.
The last Shang ruler, a despot according to standard Chinese accounts, was overthrown by a chieftain of a frontier tribe called Zhou, which had settled in the Wei Valley in modern Shaanxi Province. The Zhou dynasty had its capital at Hao, near the city of Xi'an, or Chang'an, as it was known in its heyday in the imperial period. Sharing the language and culture of the Shang, the early Zhou rulers, through conquest and colonization, gradually sinicized, that is, extended Shang culture through much of China Proper north of the Chang Jiang (Yangtze River). The Zhou dynasty lasted longer than any other, from 1027 to 221 B.C. It was philosophers of this period who first enunciated the doctrine of the "mandate of heaven" (tianming), the notion that the ruler (the "son of heaven") governed by divine right but that his dethronement would prove that he had lost the mandate. The doctrine explained and justified the demise of the two earlier dynasties and at the same time supported the legitimacy of present and future rulers. [Source: The Library of Congress]
The Zhou period was by no means a unified period of history. The first three centuries of Zhou rule were relatively peaceful. Around 800 B.C. feudal states under the Zhou began fighting among themselves for prominence. Historians divide the Zhou period into the Western Zhou (1100-771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 B.C.) periods. During the Eastern Zhou period, Chinese culture spread eastward to the Yellow Sea and southward to the Yangtze. Large feudal states on the fringes of the empire fought among themselves for supremacy but recognized the pre-eminence of the Zhou emperor, the Son of Heaven, who performed a largely ceremonial role.
Beginning in the 7th century B.C., the authority of the emperors degenerated and hundred of warlords fought among themselves until seven major kingdoms prevailed. This led to the formulation of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty. The Spring and Autumn period (771-482 B.C.), the Warring States period (481-221 B.C.) and the Age of Philosophers (6th century to 3rd century B.C.) occured within the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
Websites and Resources
Good Websites and Sources: Age of Feudal States ourorient.com ; China Text Project dsturgeon.net ; Wikipedia ; Art of War Art of War Online eawc.evansville.edu ; China Vista chinavista.com ; Military Technology depts.washington.edu/chinaciv
Links in this Website: IMPERIAL CHINA factsanddetails.com ; CHINESE ART FROM THE GREAT DYNASTIES factsanddetails.com/china ; CHINESE DYNASTIES Factsanddetails.com/China ; COURT LIFE AND EMPERORS Factsanddetails.com/China ; MANDARINS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; EUNUCHS IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; SHANG DYNASTY (2200-1700 B.C.) AND XIA DYNASTY Factsanddetails.com/China ; ZHOU (CHOU) DYNASTY (1100-221 B.C.) Factsanddetails.com/China ; EMPEROR QIN AND THE QIN DYNASTY (221-206 B.C.) Factsanddetails.com/China ; HAN DYNASTY (206 B.C.-A.D. 220) Factsanddetails.com/China ; PREHISTORIC MAN IN CHINA Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINA'S EARLIEST CULTURES Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FIRSTS--GUNPOWDER, MACHINES, FOODS AND CHAIRS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CHINESE FIRSTS--PAPER, MONEY, ASTRONOMY, CLOCKS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CONFUCIANISM AND CONFUCIUS Factsanddetails.com/China ; CONFUCIAN BELIEFS Factsanddetails.com/China ; HISTORY OF CONFUCIANISM Factsanddetails.com/China ;
Good Websites and Sources on Early Chinese History: 1) Ancient China Life ancientchinalife.com ; 2) Ancient China for School Kids elibrary.sd71.bc.ca/subject_resources ; 3) Oriental Style ourorient.com ; 4) Chinese Text Project chinese.dsturgeon.net ; 5) Minnesota State University site mnsu.edu/emuseum/prehistory ; 6) ChinaVoc.com ChinaVoc.com ; 7) Early Medieval China Journal languages.ufl.edu/EMC ; 8) History of China history-of-china.com ; 9) U.S.C. Education usc.edu/libraries/archives Books: Cambridge History of Ancient China edited by Michael Loewe and Edward Shaughnessy (1999, Cambridge University Press); The Culture and Civilization of China, a massive, multi-volume series, (Yale University Press); Mysteries of Ancient China: New Discoveries from the Early Dynasties by Jessica Rawson (British Museum, 1996)
Good Chinese History Websites: 1) Chaos Group of University of Maryland chaos.umd.edu/history/toc ; 2) Brooklyn College site academic.brooklyn.cuny.edu ; 3) Wikipedia article on the History of China Wikipedia 4) China Knowledge chinaknowledge.de ; 5) China History Forum chinahistoryforum.com ; 6) Gutenberg.org e-book gutenberg.org/files ; 7 ) WWW VL: History China vlib.iue.it/history/asia
“The term feudal has often been applied to the Zhou period because the Zhou's early decentralized rule invites comparison with medieval rule in Europe. At most, however, the early Zhou system was proto-feudal, being a more sophisticated version of earlier tribal organization, in which effective control depended more on familial ties than on feudal legal bonds. Whatever feudal elements there may have been decreased as time went on. The Zhou amalgam of city-states became progressively centralized and established increasingly impersonal political and economic institutions. These developments, which probably occurred in the latter Zhou period, were manifested in greater central control over local governments and a more routinized agricultural taxation. [Source: The Library of Congress]
“In 771 B.C. the Zhou court was sacked, and its king was killed by invading barbarians who were allied with rebel lords. The capital was moved eastward to Luoyang in present-day Henan Province. Because of this shift, historians divide the Zhou era into Western Zhou (1027-771 B.C.) and Eastern Zhou (770-221 B.C.). With the royal line broken, the power of the Zhou court gradually diminished; the fragmentation of the kingdom accelerated. Eastern Zhou divides into two subperiods. The first, from 770 to 476 B.C., is called the Spring and Autumn Period, after a famous historical chronicle of the time; the second is known as the Warring States Period (475-221 B.C.). [Ibid]
Advances by the Zhou
Under the Zhou, China was changed dramatically by the intensification of agriculture, the development of a bureaucracy, the inventions of iron technology and the spread of urbanization and commerce. During the latter part of the Zhou reign—in the Spring and Autumn period (771-482 B.C.) and the Warring States period (481-221 B.C.)—China expanded demographically and developed systems of political and social philosophy.
The Zhou emperors were the first to evoke the Mandate from Heaven—the axiom that noble and wise leaders ruled in accordance with the wishes of heaven while corrupt leaders were replaced—to justify their power over their vassals, who in turn evoked the same mandate to justify their control over the landowners below them. The Mandate from Heaven was the glue that held China together during a period otherwise marked by a great deal of fighting between vassals.
The first sections of the Great Wall were built between 770 and 450 B.C. by small independent, often warring, kingdoms. It was first thought that the fortifications were built by small Chinese kingdoms to protect their irrigated lands along the Yangtze and Yellow rivers from steppe nomads to the north because the first walls were built roughly on a line originally thought to separate the fertile river valleys of the south from the steppe to the north. This was not always true, however. Sections of wall rose and fell with provincial states and were defined by a number of factors.
Peter Hessler wrote in National Geographic, After the Shang collapsed in 1045 B.C., divination using oracle bones was continued by the Zhou, a dynasty that ruled parts of northern China until the third century B.C. But the practice of human sacrifice gradually became less common, and royal tombs began to feature mingqi, or spirit objects, as substitutes for real goods. Ceramic figurines took the place of people. The terra-cotta soldiers commissioned by China's first emperor, Qin Shi Huang Di, who united the country under one dynasty in 221 B.C., are the most famous example. This army of an estimated 8,000 life-size statues was intended to serve the emperor in the hereafter. [Source: Peter Hessler, National Geographic, January 2010]
Like their predecessors the Shang, the Zhou practiced ancestor worship and divination. The most important deity in the Zhou era was T'ien, a god who was said to have held the entire world in his hand. Other prominent figures in heaven included deceased emperors, who were appeased with sacrifices so that they would bring nourishing rain and fertility, not lighting bolts, earthquakes and floods. Emperors participated in fertily rites to honor their ancestors in which they pretended they were plows while their empresses ritually spun silk from cocoons.
Priests held a very high position in the Zhou dynasty and their duties included making astronomical observations and determining auspicious dates for festivals and events on the Chinese lunar calendar.
Human sacrifices continued into the Zhou Dynasty. The tomb of Marquis Yi of Zeng in modern Suixian, Hubei Province contained a lacquered coffin for the marquis and the remains of 21 women, including eight women, perhaps consorts, in the marquis' burial chamber. The other 13 women may have been musicians.
Soldiers during the Zhou dynasty used crossbows, spears, arrows and pikes. For protection they wore padded leggings and boots, heavy sleeves, chest protectors and padding. Their main battlefield weapon was the chariot. One excavation turned up 33 bronze battle chariots with the bones of 72 horses.
Zhou generals considered surprise attacks to be cowardly. Messages were sent between the commanders of opposing armies to set up times and places to do battle, and battlefields were often plowed before the clash to make it easier for the chariots to maneuver. [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]
Zhou charioteers could be devious and cruel. During a battle between the rival Ch'u and Song states in 638 B.C., it was not uncommon for Zhou soldiers to assist a foe having trouble with his chariot and then slash him to bits. The son of a Song general once accused his enemy of being ungentlemanly for firing several arrows before he had a chance to shoot back. "The opponent gave him his chance and was shot dead." [Source: "History of Warfare" by John Keegan, Vintage Books]
In a typical Zhou victory celebration, generals and lords presented their captives to the Emperor and then sacrificed them in an ancestral temple. The generals and lords then amused the Emperor with stories from their campaign, and finally the Emperor made a sacrifice to the dead emperors that preceded him on the throne. During the feast on the following day, meat from the sacrifices was cooked and eaten and lots of wine was consumed. The feast ended with the lords proclaiming their fealty to the Emperor and chanting poems and performing mime dances in his honor. [Source: "World Religions" edited by Geoffrey Parrinder, Facts on File Publications, New York]
Iron tools entered China in the 7th century B.C. and agriculture grew more efficient as iron-casting techniques were improved. Higher crop yields freed people from the land and led to an increase in the number of and size of cities. The evolution of China from an agrarian society to an urban-mercantile one was accompanied by social change and political unrest.
China was composed of city-states, much like ancient Greece. Peasants owned their own land and exchanged military and civil service with nobles in return for protection. Around the 11th century B.C. society became divided into slaves and slave owners. In the seventh century B.C. merchants were powerful enough to negotiate contracts with lords and emperors instead of being manipulated by them.
Although primitive spade money (See Chinese First No. 2, Early History) was first circulated around 750 B.C. barter remained the primary means of exchange. In the seventh century B.C. coins were minted in China with the names of town printed on them.
During the Eastern Zhou Dynasty ancient shamanist practices were forged into a system of moral beliefs for daily life that later became Confucianism (See Confucianism, Religion). The Zhou also refined writing.
Excavations have revealed historical documents written on bamboo slips; bronze chimes, regarded as symbols of wealth; string-plucked instruments; three-foot-tall elevated drums; bronze cauldrons; and bronze lamps. One of the largest royal tombs in China was discovered in Henan Province in the early 2000s. Extending for 115 feet and belonging to a king of the Zheng State, it was built in the Spring and Autumn Period (Eastern Zhou Dynasty 770-475 B.C.). Archeologists found lavish jade and metal mortuary objects and elaborate horse-drawn carriages with the remains of horses in the tomb.
2,400-Year-Old Dog Soup Found in Xian
In a Warring States tomb in Shaanxi Province a team of researchers found a soup containing what they believe to be dog bones. One researcher sampled the what was said to be the world’ s oldest soup, which is cloudy and green due to the bronze vessel it was stored in for more than 2,000 years. [Source: Archaeology magazine, January/February 2012]
In December 2010 AFP reported: Chinese archaeologists announced they had discovered a 2,400-year-old pot of bone soup near Xian. The soup and bones were discovered in a small, sealed bronze vessel in a tomb being excavated to make way for the extension of the airport in Xian. The liquid and bones in the vessel had turned green due to the oxidation of the bronze. [Source: AFP, December 13, 2010]
"It's the first discovery of bone soup in Chinese archaeological history," the Global Times quoted Liu Daiyun of the Shaanxi Provincial Institute of Archaeology as saying. "The discovery will play an important role in studying the eating habits and culture of the Warring States Period (475-221 BC)." [Ibid]
Liu told the Times of London took the lid off the three-legged and was amazed to find it was half-full of liquid. “I was really shocked.” he said. “My guess is the liquid did not evaporate because of the lid and the because the tomb had been tightly sealed for more than 2,000 years.” Archaeologists also dug up another bronze pot that contained an odorless liquid believed to be wine in the tomb, which could belong to either a member of the land-owning class or a military officer, the report said
Arts During the Zhou Dynasty
zhou bronze Lengthy inscriptions found on some bronze vessels indicate the Zhou were not merely military-minded philistines as they have often been made out to be. Qu Yuan (340-277 B.C.), a poet from the Warring Staes Period, is regarded by some as the father of Chinese poetry. One of his most famous lines goes: “Long did I sigh to hold back tears, saddened I am by the grief of my people.” He is still admired today. (See, Festivals, Dragon Boat Racing). Under the Zhou, the funerary custom of killing living beings to accompany the dead was replaced with the practice of burying people with pottery or wooden burial figures.
During the Shang and Zhou dynasties jade objects were important objects in ceremonies and rituals. In the Western Zhou period (1100-700 B.C.) the type and number of circular jades used in ceremonies represented a person's social status. Circular jades from this period were often cut into symmetrical pieces to form sets of two or three.
Bronze elephant During the Zhou period jade pendants were very popular and the level of their craftsmanship was very high. Circular jades made during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period (722-221 B.C.) were smaller than those from the Shang and early Zhou periods. They contained carved images of curling chih dragons, grain seeds, and cloud patterns. During this period circular jades were commonly worn by people. Materials other than jade, such as agate and glass were used to make "jade" ornaments.
See Ritual Bronzes in the Shang Dynasty section
Music and Dance During the Zhou Dynasty
In 1977 an extraordinary 2,500-year-old tomb was found near the city of Suzou in Hubei Province. The four-chamber structure contained the remains of a marquis and the largest cache of ancient musical instruments ever found along with 21 sacrificed women (perhaps wives, concubines, or musicians), chariots, and weapons.
The musical instruments taken from the tomb include zithers, bamboo flutes, pan pipes, mouth-organs, traber flutes, bronze drums, stone chimes made with 35 stones. and a set of 64 cast-bronze bells in a lacquered wooden frame. The bells cover a range of five octaves, each with 12 semitones. The largest bell weighs 485 pounds. It is engraved with two elephants engaged in a greeting ritual. Such bells were used at temple fairs, burials and other ritualistic events.
Zhou era bells
Sheila Melvin wrote in the International Herald Tribune, "The chime-bells hang from a three-level frame made of lacquered wood and copper. The frame is supported by stunning bronze posts shaped like warriors with muscled arms, loose robes and daggers sheathed at their waists. The bells, frames and hooks have 3,755 inscriptions that provide hanging and assembly instructions and reveal an elaborate theory of music...So sacred were the chime-bells that their seams were sealed with human blood and their inaugural performance was a state ceremony of the most importance."
The Book of Songs recorded a dance festival in the Zhou dynasty. According to Chinese mythology the cultural hero Fu Xo gave humans the fish net and the Harpoon Dance; the god She Nong created agriculture and the Plough Dance; and the Yellow Emperor, the legendary ruler from the 26th century B.C., is honored with Dance of the Cloud Gate. Ancient texts also mention hunting dances and a Constellation Dance, which was performed to seek help from the gods for a good harvest.
Spring and Autumn (722 to 476 B.C.) and Warring States (476 to 221 B.C.) periods
The Spring and Autumn (722 to 476 B.C.) and Warring States (476 to 221 B.C.) periods though marked by disunity and civil strife, witnessed an unprecedented era of cultural prosperity--the "golden age" of China. The atmosphere of reform and new ideas was attributed to the struggle for survival among warring regional lords who competed in building strong and loyal armies and in increasing economic production to ensure a broader base for tax collection. To effect these economic, military, and cultural developments, the regional lords needed ever-increasing numbers of skilled, literate officials and teachers, the recruitment of whom was based on merit. Also during this time, commerce was stimulated through the introduction of coinage and technological improvements. Iron came into general use, making possible not only the forging of weapons of war but also the manufacture of farm implements. Public works on a grand scale--such as flood control, irrigation projects, and canal digging--were executed. Enormous walls were built around cities and along the broad stretches of the northern frontier. [Source: The Library of Congress]
The last stage of the Zhou Dynasty was called the Warring States Period. It was characterized by a state of near perpetual war between five warring states that vied for control of China. The war persisted for 500 years until the warring states collapsed and China was united under Emperor Qin in 221 B.C. The Warring States Period was marked by violence, political uncertainty, social upheaval, a lack of powerful central leaders and an intellectual rebellion among scribes and scholars that gave birth to a golden age of literature and poetry as well as philosophy.
Great works of art from the Warring States Period include bronze vessels with inlaid geometric silver decorations, snake-shaped bronze fittings, jade and gold wire jewelry and bows made with dragons with glass eyeballs.
Mao's earliest surviving essay, written when he was 19, praised the pragmatic but ruthless policies of Shang Yang, a 4th century B.C. administrator who established a set of laws designed "to punish the wicked and rebellious, in order to preserve the rights of the people." Mao concluded, "At the beginning of anything out of the ordinary, the mass of the people always dislike it." Yang's policy's paved the way for the brutal rule of Emperor Qin.
Historian Francis Fukuyama of Johns Hopkins wrote: “As a result of the 500 years of intensive warfare that occurred during the Spring and Autumn and Warring States period (the eastern Zhou dynasty, 711-211 B.C.), Chinese states formed and began to consolidate into a smaller number of larger polities. As a result of the desperate need to mobilize resources for war, they developed bureaucratic administrations that relied increasingly on impersonal administration rather than patrimonial recruitment that as typical of earlier periods of Chinese history.”
Sun Tzu and the Art of War
The Art of War is an influential book written by Sun Tzu, a famous Chinese general, 2,400 years ago, when pharaohs still ruled Egypt and the Greeks hadn’t yet achieved their Golden Age. Admired by Mao, Napoleon, Patton, Tony Soprano and many modern cooperate executives, it is a concise, 13-chapter, how-to guide on how to use military tactics to defeat one’s enemies. Admirers praise the book for its wisdom. Critics say its states the obvious. The book espoused ideas that for the most part had been around for a long time in a neat well-organized way.
Sun is a household name in China. In recent years The Art of War has achieved a place on bestseller lists and become so popular it has spawned is own cottage industry of seminars, self-help gurus, websites and supplementary guides. The book has become essential reading at business schools all over the world. In some bookstore you can find more than 100 titles tied to the Art of War. There was a Hollywood movie, loosely based on the book, about an evil Japanese businessmen, with Wesley Snipes.
Little is known about Sun Tzu, which literally means Master Sun. Tradition hold that he lived in the 6th or 5th century B.C., during the Spring and Autumn Period, and was born into an aristocratic military family. As a young man he became an adviser to the warlord of the state of Wu and helped him defeat his more powerful rivals from the state of Chu. The oldest known copy of The Art if War was written on bamboo strips sometime between 202 B.C. and A.D. 9.
Advice of Sun Tzu
Sun Tzu "The art of war," wrote Sun Tzu, "is of vital importance to the state...a matter of life and death, survival or doom...Supreme excellence consists of breaking the enemy's resistance without fighting." To reduce bloodshed and avoid risk, Sun emphasized avoiding battles unless victory was assured and proposed that shows of force could produce the same outcome as actually fighting. Sun said the ablest leaders knew how to win without fighting.
But if war wasn't avoidable Sun Tzu argued that total war was the only way to go. And in going about that he advocated careful planning and preparation, good organization, exploiting an enemy’s weaknesses, and carefully picking the battles.
Sun Tzu said “War is a deceitful game” and advised using spies, disinformation, surprise attacks and sowing confusion among the enemy ranks. He advised armies to act strong when they were strong and act strong when they were weak and to be flexible and adapt battle plans as conditions change.
There are sections in The Art of War on troop deployment, political support, and using terrain, weather and diversions. One of Sun's favorite tactics was the use of incendiary attacks against people and equipment. "Fire starts best when the weather is dry," was one of his tips. He also suggested crying wolf again and again, lulling the enemy into complacency, and then striking hard with all you got.
Often repeated proverbs from The Art of War include : 1) “Know your enemy and know yourself, and in a hundred battles you will never face defeat”; 2) “Speed is everything...A army should move as fast as a gale” and “act as suddenly as a thunderclap.”
Age of Philosophers
Confucius Confucianism and Taoism developed in a period of Chinese history from the sixth century to the third century B.C., described as "The Age of Philosophers," which in turn coincided with the Warring States Period.
During the Age of Philosophers, theories about life and god were debated openly at the "Hundred Schools," and vagrant scholars went from town to town, like traveling salesmen, looking for supporters, opening up academies and schools, and using philosophy as a means of furthering their political ambitions. Chinese emperors employed court philosophers who sometimes competed in public debates and philosophy contests, similar to ones conducted by the ancient Greeks.
Rival schools fought among themselves for dominance, with each claiming the authority of the ancients and each promising to restore order if his doctrines were followed. Among these schools were the Confucians and the Taoists as well as the Motzu, who argued that order could be restored by following the principalis of universal love, and the Legalists, who argued that order could be restored by following legals principals rather than moral ones.
Also Confucius, Confucianism and Taoism Under Religion
The uncertainty of this period created a longing for a mythical period of peace and prosperity when it was said that people in China followed rules set by the ancestors and achieved a state of harmony and social stability. The Age of Philosophers ended when the city-states collapsed and China was reunited under Emperor Qin Shihuangdi.
Hundred Schools of Thought
So many different philosophies developed during the late Spring and Autumn and early Warring States periods that the era is often known as that of the Hundred Schools of Thought. From the Hundred Schools of Thought came many of the great classical writings on which Chinese practices were to be based for the next two and onehalf millennia. Many of the thinkers were itinerant intellectuals who, besides teaching their disciples, were employed as advisers to one or another of the various state rulers on the methods of government, war, and diplomacy. [Source: The Library of Congress]
“The body of thought that had the most enduring effect on subsequent Chinese life was that of the School of Literati (ru), often called the Confucian school in the West. The written legacy of the School of Literati is embodied in the Confucian Classics, which were to become the basis for the order of traditional society. [Ibid]
“One strain of thought dating to the Warring States Period is the school of yin-yang and the five elements. The theories of this school attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature, the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the five elements (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In later periods these theories came to have importance both in philosophy and in popular belief. [Ibid]
Confucius and Mencius
Confucius (551-479 B.C.), also called Kong Zi, or Master Kong, looked to the early days of Zhou rule for an ideal social and political order. He believed that the only way such a system could be made to work properly was for each person to act according to prescribed relationships. "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject," he said, but he added that to rule properly a king must be virtuous. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values. His ideal was the junzi (ruler's son), which came to mean gentleman in the sense of a cultivated or superior man. [Source: The Library of Congress]
Mencius (372-289 B.C.), or Meng Zi, was a Confucian disciple who made major contributions to the humanism of Confucian thought. Mencius declared that man was by nature good. He expostulated the idea that a ruler could not govern without the people's tacit consent and that the penalty for unpopular, despotic rule was the loss of the "mandate of heaven." [Source: The Library of Congress]
“The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucian thought, was to provide traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework on which to order virtually every aspect of life. [Ibid]
“There were to be accretions to the corpus of Confucian thought, both immediately and over the millennia, and from within and outside the Confucian school. Interpretations made to suit or influence contemporary society made Confucianism dynamic while preserving a fundamental system of model behavior based on ancient texts. [Ibid]
Mo Zi, Xun Zi and the Legalists
Diametrically opposed to Mencius, for example, was the interpretation of Xun Zi (ca. 300-237 B.C.), another Confucian follower. Xun Zi preached that man is innately selfish and evil and that goodness is attainable only through education and conduct befitting one's status. He also argued that the best government is one based on authoritarian control, not ethical or moral persuasion. [Source: The Library of Congress]
Xun Zi's unsentimental and authoritarian inclinations were developed into the doctrine embodied in the School of Law (fa), or Legalism. The doctrine was formulated by Han Fei Zi (d. 233 B.C.) and Li Si (d. 208 B.C.), who maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish and therefore the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above and to enforce laws strictly. The Legalists exalted the state and sought its prosperity and martial prowess above the welfare of the common people. Legalism became the philosophic basis for the imperial form of government. When the most practical and useful aspects of Confucianism and Legalism were synthesized in the Han period (206 B.C.-A.D. 220), a system of governance came into existence that was to survive largely intact until the late nineteenth century. [Ibid]
“Still another school of thought was based on the doctrine of Mo Zi (470-391 B.C.?), or Mo Di. Mo Zi believed that "all men are equal before God" and that mankind should follow heaven by practicing universal love. Advocating that all action must be utilitarian, Mo Zi condemned the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music. He regarded warfare as wasteful and advocated pacificism. Mo Zi also believed that unity of thought and action were necessary to achieve social goals. He maintained that the people should obey their leaders and that the leaders should follow the will of heaven. Although Moism failed to establish itself as a major school of thought, its views are said to be "strongly echoed" in Legalist thought. In general, the teachings of Mo Zi left an indelible impression on the Chinese mind. [Source: The Library of Congress]
Taoism (or Daoism in pinyin), the second most important stream of Chinese thought, also developed during the Zhou period. Its formulation is attributed to the legendary sage Lao Zi (Old Master), said to predate Confucius, and Zhuang Zi (369-286 B.C.). The focus of Taoism is the individual in nature rather than the individual in society. It holds that the goal of life for each individual is to find one's own personal adjustment to the rhythm of the natural (and supernatural) world, to follow the Way (dao) of the universe. In many ways the opposite of rigid Confucian moralism, Taoism served many of its adherents as a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar on duty as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings but at leisure or in retirement might seek harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse. [Source: The Library of Congress]
Image Sources: 1) Military and art images, University of Washington. Sun Tzu image from wikipedia. Confucius Ohio State University.
Text Sources: New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, National Geographic, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, Lonely Planet Guides, Compton’s Encyclopedia and various books and other publications.
© 2008 Jeffrey Hays
Last updated August 2012