Friday, September 21, 2018

THE PHILOSOPHICAL FOUNDATIONS OF CHINA


INTELLECTUAL LIFE

  • prior to imperial unification there was a formative period of Chinese intellectual tradition
  • there was competition between a number of thinkers
  • they tried to find an answer or remedy to the socio-political turmoil
  • they wanted to lay down an ideological foundation for a unified empire.

  • the crisis of the Zhou world led to an unprecedented upsurge of intellectual activity
  • this was the age of the “Hundred Schools of Thought
  • this was marked by a period of freedom of thought
  • it was not suppressed by political or religious orthodoxies.

  • thinkers competed for the patronage of the rulers
  • they went  from court to court in search of employment
  • their remedies consisted of the following options:
  • a) harsh authoritarianism
  • b) anarchist individualism
  • c) support of laissez-faire economy of state monopolies
  • d) blatant militarism
  • e) radical pacifism.

  • Chinese thought was dominated by political & practical concerns
  • it was no interested in speculative philosophy or ontological questions
  • doctrines had to be convincing but practical
  • unanimously they advocated “all under Heaven” as the only solution
  • no one ever suggested independence of his natal state
  • the monarchical system was the only acceptable form of political organization
  • no alternative was ever proposed
  • individuality should reflect one’s abilities, not pedigree.

RELIGIOUS BACKGROUND:

  • Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are the three main influential religions of China
  • there is a background out of which these ideas emerged, especially Daoism.



  • early beliefs in China consisted of a mixture of several elements
  • some of these, such as the belief in spirits can be traced back more than 3000 years.
  • the following elements provide a basis for later developments in Chinese religion
  • this is especially true of Daoism


Spirits:
  • early Chinese beliefs seem to have been polytheistic and animistic
  • spirits were believed to be active within elements of nature
  • these would be water, fire, wind, clouds, trees etc
  • good spirits brought health, wealth, long life, and fertility
  • bad spirits caused accidents and diseases.
  • disturbances from nature, such as earthquakes and droughts were punishment from spirit
  • this was due to human failings but harmony could be restored through rituals and sacrifice.


Tian:
  • during the Shang dynasty the omnipotent power was believed to rule the world 
  • this power was called Shang Di (Shang Ti) 
  • it was thought of as a personal god and capable of being contacted by diviner
  • it is possible that Shang Ti was the memory of an ancestor
  • veneration of him was part of the ancient practice of honouring ancestors.

  • during the Zhou dynasty (c.1122-256 B.C.E.) a new political regime ignored the Shang belief
  • they began explaining it in terms of a different conception,
  • Tian (Ti’en)was envisioned as an impersonal divine force that controls events on earth
  • it was also viewed as a moral principle that determines right and wrong.


Veneration of Ancestors:
  • the same reverence that was shown to the spirits was also naturally felt for ancestors.
  • ancestors at death became spirits and needed to be placate
  • this was to ensure their positive influence on living family members.


Seeing Patterns in Nature:
  • China’s has long and mighty rivers, high mountain chains, distinct seasons
  • it also has frequent floods, draughts, and earthquakes
  • these events influenced the Chinese view of the natural world.

  • to survive they had to learn to work with its nature
  • they understood its underlying patterns 
  • some of these patterns were easy to discern
  • this would be the seasons, the paths of the sun, the moon and the cycle of birth and death.
  • others were more subtle, like the motion of the waves, the ripple of mountain ranges


Yang and Yin:


  • about 1000 B.C.E. the Chinese thought that the universe expressed itself
  • this was the opposite but complimentary principles of 
  • light and dark, 
  • night and day, 
  • hot and cold, 
  • sky and earth, 
  • male and female, 
  • sound and silence 
  • the list of the polarity was endless

  • the names for these complementary principles are yang and yin.
  • we can think of yin/yang as pulsating energies, like a heartbeat breathing in and out.


Divination:
  • divination (method employed for knowing the future) was an integral part of Chinese tradition.
  • the oldest technique was the oracle bones method.
  • later an elaborate practice was developed that involves the Yi Jing (I Ching) 
  • this was the Book of Changes.




  • his is an ancient book that interprets life through an analysis of hexagrams
  • a hexagram is a figure of six horizontal lines
  • there are two kinds; broken (yin) and unbroken lines (yang)
  • a hexagram is made up of two trigrams
  • it is `constructed' by tossing yarrow sticks (the traditional method) or coins
  • you write down the results, beginning with the bottom line.
  • thus 64 hexagrams are possible
  • they are thought to represent patterns that can develop in one's life


  • the Yi Jing gives an interpretation of each of these hexagrams
  • with the Yi Jing, one can interpret a hexagram as an aid in making decisions about the future.

DAOISM:

  • Daoism incorporated many of the elements from traditional Chinese beliefs (folk religion),
  • thus Daoism is like a basket filled with a variety of items: 
  • a) observations about nature
  • b) philosophical insights
  • c) guidelines for living
  • e) exercises for health
  • f) rituals of protection
  • g) practices for attaining longevity and inner purity.

  • Daoism, today, includes ideas and practices both from the early philosophical phase
  • this also includes aspects from the later development of Daoism as a religion. 

  • it is common to differentiate between 
  • a) the philosophical Taoism that we find in the Tao-te-Ching of about 300 B.C.E
  • b) the later ritualized Taoism that arose after 100 C.E.
  • scholars, today, think that philosophical Taoism may have emerged from ritualistic origins
  • this was the shamanistic tradition)
  • later ritualistic Daoism is seen as an expression of the philosophical insights of Daoism
  • this would be in the form of ritualism and ceremonies.

  • early Daoism was influenced by shamanism
  • it created literature that was philosophical in orientation.
  • later it organized and emerged as a religion.

Laozi (Lao-Tzu): 

  • Daoism as a body of teachings is often traced to a legendary figure name Laozi,
  • in the traditional story, Laozi's birth (c.600 B.C.E.) resulted from a virginal conception.
  • according to the legend the child was born old - hence, the name "old child."



  • Laozi later became a state archivist or librarian, in the royal city of Luoyang for many years.
  • tiring of his job, he left his post and carried by an ox, travelled to the far West of China


  • at the Western border, Laozi was recognized as an esteemed scholar 
  • he was not allowed from crossing to the West until he had written down his teachings
  • the result was the Daodejing (Tao-te-Ching) , a short work of about 5,000 characters.


  • after he was finished with the book he was allowed to go through the pass of the mountain
  • he was never seen again.


Daodejing: 

  • the Daodejing is the great classic of Daoism, 
  • it is accepted by most Daoists as a central scripture
  • it is deemed as one of the world's greatest books.

  • Its title is  "the classical book about the Way and it Power" 
  • it is sometimes referred to as the Laozi, after its legendary author
  • it has had a tremendous impact on Chinese culture.



  • the 81 short chapters are probably a compilation of the work of many people
  • it is likely not the work of one person
  • the text is sometimes repetitious 
  • it has no clear order
  • it exhibits an intentional lack of clarity
  • its form is more poetry than prose.


  • what was the original purpose of the text? 
  • there are several theories:
  • a) it was meant to be a handbook for rulers, thus its purpose was generally political. 
  • b) it is primarily a book of religious value, leading its adherents to spiritual insights
  • c) it is seen as a practical guide for living in harmony with the universe and nature
  • it is all these things taken together
  • several passages can have several meanings at the same time.


  • throughout the text there are references to the tao
  • the book speaks of its nature and operation.
  • it describes the manner in which people will live if they are in harmony with the dao.
  • it also offers suggestions for experiencing the dao
  • it also provides imagery to help describe these things. 

  • so, what is the tao?

  • the first chapter begins by stating that "the tao that can be told is not the eternal tao."
  • In other words, there is no way that it can be described or expressed using words
  • yet the book goes on to tell us that the dao is nameless
  • it is not any individual thing that has a name -such as a window or door, a person or a bird. 
  • the Tao cannot be named because it has no form 
  • but the dao can be experienced and followed by every individual thing that has a name
  • the Daodejing says that the dao is 
  • a) the origin of everything
  • b) that all things are `manifestations' of the dao.

  • the dao is the origin of things, it is not the same as the Judeo-Christian-Islamic notion of God
  • this is because it does not have a personality
  • it neither care about humans, nor dislikes them - in fact we can't speak of it this way
  • it only produces humans and the rest of nature 
  • because the dao can make nature move the way it does, it can be called the Way, 
  • or, the rhythm of nature - other terms: the watercourse way (Watts); the `flow' or a process.

  • to experience the tao, we must leave behind our desire for individuality and things
  • the dao is a concept that runs counter to everyday concerns
  • the Daoist way of being or seeing the world is so odd or strange
  • to some people it may seem like trying to see in the dark.

  • the Daodejing presents powerful images wherein the tao seems most active and visible
  • some common images are water, woman, child, valley, darkness.

Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu)

  • Daoism was enriched by the work of Zhuangzi, who was active around 300 B.C.E.
  • what we know comes from the writings he left behind.

  • his personality seems playful, independent, and in love with the fantastic
  • the book of his writings called the Zhuangzi is composed of seven `inner chapters’
  • these are thought to be by the author himself
  • but for the twenty six `outer chapters' the authorship is less certain.

  • the Zhuangzi, unlike the poetry of the Daodejing contains many whimsical stories
  • it continues the themes of early Daoist thought
  • these are:
  • a) the need for harmony with nature
  • b) the movement of the Dao in all that happens 
  • c) the pleasure we can gain from simplicity.

  • it underscores the inevitability of change and the relativity of all human judgements
  • it also adds to Daoism an appreciation for humour.

  • the most famous of all the stories tells of Zhuangzi's dream of being a butterfly
  • in his dream he was flying around and enjoying life, but he did not know who he was - he was not sure if he was Zhuangzi.
  • when he woke up he was struck by a question.
  • am I Zhuangzi dreaming that I am a butterfly or am I a butterfly dreaming that I'm Zhuangzi? 
  • the boundary between reality and the imaginary is not really as clear as we might think
  • that was the idea being implied



  • the Zhuangzi rejects all barriers
  • a) that between the ordinary and the fantastic
  • b) between the normal and the paranormal.



THE BASIC CONCEPTS OF PHILOSOPHICAL DAOISM


  • the main teachings of the Daodejing and the Zhuangzi can be summarized as follows:


Dao:
  • this is the mysterious reality makes nature what it is and to act the way it does
  • Dao is primarily the way that nature expresses itself - the natural way.


Wu wei: 
  • the ideal of effortlessness - to have commandments would go against the nature of Daoism.
  • it does offer recommendations on how to live but they do not come from as divine voice
  • it comes from nature herself, the model of balance and harmony. 
  • Wu wei - refers to "no action,  no strain, no effort
  • it implies the avoidance of doing things against the grain
  • or avoiding doing things that are not natural, nor spontaneous
  • when we look at nature we notice that much of what it does is effortless, it is natural
  • nature works to accomplish what is necessary and nothing more.


Simplicity: 
  • Daoism encourages people to 
  • a) eliminate whatever is unnecessary and artificial
  • b) to appreciate the simple and the ordinary
  • in this sense, Daoism distrusts education 
  • this is because of the inherent complexity and artificiality of education


Gentleness: 
  • because the Taoists pursue the gentle way, they hate weapons and war. 
  • the wise person loves peace and restraint and avoids all unnecessary violence.


Relativity: 
  • people see things from a limited point of view that is based on their own concerns
  • they tend to see things in terms of their divisions: I-you, good-bad, valuable-worthless  etc 
  • Daoists think it is necessary to attain a vision of things that sees beyond these opposites.



CONFUCIANISM: 


THE TAO IN CONFUCIANISM:

  • Daoism tries to bring human beings into union with the Tao
  • we do this through imitating certain qualities in nature - i
  • a) its harmony, l
  • b) its lack of strain
  • c) its flowing mystery.
  • these ideals and beliefs also influenced Confucius.

  • there is a difference between Taoist and Confucian notions of the Tao
  • for Confucians the Dao of primary interest is the Tao between the human world
  • this is manifested in `right' relationships and in a harmonious society
  • it was social harmony.

  • in Daoism, everything is a part of the rhythm of nature - the Dao
  • in Confucianism, birds and clouds and trees are what they should be
  • but human beings do not automatically become or remain what they should be.

  • the sweet innocent and spontaneous child can quickly turn into the selfish child
  • the Confucian would say that training in virtue is necessary
  • this is to enable the Dao to manifest itself clearly in the human being.
  • the Doctrine of the Mean, an important Confucian text recommends several types of training
  • it includes  training in the cultivation of personal equilibrium and harmony.
  • Daoists avoid such training,
  • they feel that formal education has the potential for distorting one’s original state of being
  • or pure state
  • Confucians, hold the view  that the best training does not contaminate character
  • in fact by cultivating virtues, it gives it definition and clarity.

THE LIFE OF CONFUCIUS:

  • Confucius was born in 551 B.C.E. 
  • this was when when China was not a single empire but a group of small kingdoms.
  • his name was Kong Qiu (K'ung Ch’iu).
  • he later became known as Kong Fuzi (K'ung Fu-Tzu) meaning `Master Kong’
  • he became known in the West by the Latin version of his name
  • this was created and spread by European Catholic missionaries.

  • tradition tells that Confucius was from a once-noble family
  • they had fled at the time of political danger to the state of Lu (south of present-day Beijing).
  • his father died when he was a child,
  • his mother raised him as an educated gentleman
  • he enjoyed chariot riding, archery, and playing the lute
  • in his teens, he became seriously interested in pursuing scholarship.


  • he is said to have held a minor government post as tax collector
  • this was probably to support his mother and his studies.
  • his mother died when he was in his late teens and he entered into a state of mourning.
  • when the period of mourning was over, he began his public life teaching.




  • Confucius always wanted to play an influential part in government
  • it is possible that, for a time, (about 500-496 B.C.E.) he became a government minister. 
  • Confucius married and is believed to have had a son and daughter
  • he wandered for about 15 years outside of his home state but eventually returned to Lu
  • this was to take a somewhat ceremonial post as senior advisor
  • he died about 479 B.C.E.\

CONFUCIAN VIRTUES:

  • when Confucius was born it was a time of social turmoil 
  • this was because of the disintegration of the feudal system
  • Confucius saw families suffering from the social disorder
  • he concluded that society would function properly only if virtues were taught and lived.

  • the ideals of Confucius were two: 
  • 1) he wanted to produce `excellent' individuals who could be social leaders; 
  • 2) he wanted to create a harmonious society.

  • he believed that these ideals were complementary: 
  • excellent individuals would keep society harmonious
  • a harmonious society would nurture excellent individuals.

  • he believed that each human being is capable of being good, refined and even great.
  • he was convinced that a human being cannot achieve these qualities in isolation
  • for him, a human being becomes a full person only through the contributions of others
  • this included fulfilling one's obligations to them
  • these other people are parents, teachers, aunts and uncles, grandparents, ancestor
  • they may even be government officials.

  • Confucius also believed that more than social interaction (which animals have) is needed.
  • what that `more' is makes ordinary human beings into excellent human beings
  • these are  `superior persons’.
  • what constitutes that `more’?
  • what are the sources of human excellent?


  • excellence comes from the cultivation of an individual's virtues and intellect.
  • thus education is essential.
  • for Confucius education meant more than knowledge
  • it also involved the development of skills in 
  • a) poetry,
  • b) music, 
  • c) artistic appreciation,
  • d) manners,
  • e) religious rituals. 

  • Confucius valued education because it transmitted the lessons of the past into the present
  • Confucius was convinced that the past provides the models for the present.
  • Confucius believed that social harmony is established when people play their roles properly. 
  • the sense of responsibility was codified in five great relationships.

THE FIVE RELATIONSHIPS:

  • in Confucianism, relationships are just as real as any visible objects
  • human beings are not individuals but interwoven threads of relationships with many people.
  • for Confucianists human beings are their relationships.

  • but not all relationships are equal
  • the level of a relationship may be determined by personal factors
  • these are friends, or family connections, or 
  • these could be formal social factors, such as age or socioeconomic status
  • Confucius recognizes this inequality
  • therefore lists relationships according to a hierarchy, beginning with the most important.


Father-Son: 
  • family is the foundation of society
  • the relationship between father and son at its core.
  • this relationship represents all parent-child relationship
  • the father must be responsible for the education and moral formation of the son
  • and the son must be respectful and obedient and must care for his father in old age. 
  • the relationship of obligation is mutual and does not end until the death of the father. 
  • the parent-child relationship is fundamental
  • it can function as the model for similar relationships 
  • these would be that between an employee and an employer.


Elder Brother-Younger Brother:
  • lots of European languages do not distinguish between an elder and a younger brother.
  • but the Asian languages have different words for the two kinds of brothers
  • in their culture the distinction is important
  • an elder brother must assume responsibility for raising the younger siblings
  • the younger siblings must be compliant
  • when a father dies too early, the responsibility of raising the children shifts to the elder son..


Husband-Wife: 
  • each person in this relationship is responsible for the other's care.
  • in Confucian thought, the relationship is hierarchical
  • the husband is the authoritative protector 
  • the wife is the protected homemaker and mother.


Friend-Friend:
  • the relationship between friends, entails serious obligations
  • a friendship made in youth is expected to last a lifetime
  • sometimes this is listed as a relationship between an elder person and a younger person
  • in friendship there is often a certain hierarch
  • the friends may differ in rank, health, or wealth, or knowledge
  • one has the responsibility to assist the other friend who is in need depending on status


Ruler-Subject: 
  • sometimes this relationship is listed first but more often it appears last
  • this reflects the Confucian perspective on the role of a ruler
  • the ruler must act like the father, assuming responsibility and care for the subjects 
  • for the ruler the subjects are like his children
  • the father-son relationship is primary in that it is a model for most other relationships.
  • for Confucians the social order begins in a harmonious home and then extends outward -

  • the Five Relationships signify that each person must live up to
  • a)  his or her social role
  • b) social status. 
  • this has been called the rectification of names - 
  • one only needs to consult one's social role and title to know one's duty.



THE CONFUCIAN VALUES:

  • the virtues most prized by Confucianism are social virtues.
  • individual uniqueness is expected to be muted, subtle, and considerate of others.

Ren (jen).
  • the Confucian character fore ren illustrates the meaning by blending two simple pictograph
  • this is  `person' and `two' - the meaning is that we think of the other. T
  • the term is translated as 
  • sympathy, 
  • empathy, 
  • benevolence, 
  • humaneness, 
  • kindness, 
  • consideration, 
  • thoughtfulness
  • human-heartedness.


Li: 
  • this word is often translated as `propriety' 
  • this means doing what is appropriate or doing what is appropriate for the situation.
  • originally li referred to carrying out rites correctly
  • more generally it means using the proper words and actions for social life
  • for each situation, there are 
  • a) proper words to say, 
  • b) proper ways to dress
  • c) correct things to do. I
  • in the Analects, Confucius says, "To subdue one's self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue." (12,1,1) 
  • it comes down to having and practising good manners - it is putting ren into practice.


Shu: 
  • the usual translation of this term is `reciprocity’
  • it means answering the following question: How will my action affect the other person?
  • it is another version of the Golden Rule: “
  • Do onto others as you would have them do onto you". 
  • the Confucian version is stated in negative terms: 
  • "Do not do onto others what you would not wish done to yourself"


Xiao (hsiao): 
  • this is usually translated as `filial piety' (devotion of a son or daughter to a parent). 
  • it means the devotion that all members have to their entire family.
  • it encompasses several notions: r
  • a) remembrance of ancestors, 
  • b) respect for parents and elders, 
  • c) care for children in the family.


Wen: 
  • the term means `culture' and includes all the arts that are associated with civilization.
  • Confucianists have a special love for poetry and literature
  • they also have a fondness for calligraphy, painting, and music.
  • the educated person must have a knowledge of these arts & have an amateur skill in them.

  • Confucianism stresses other virtues as well 
  • these are:
  • a) loyalty, 
  • b) consensus, 
  • c) hard work, 
  • d) thrift
  • e) emotional control.


CONFUCIAN LITERATURE:

  • Confucius considered himself a transmitter of wisdom
  • what is considered the literature of Confucianism actually preceded him
  • it was subsequently edited and added by Confucian scholars.
  • it is not always possible to separate with certainty the teachings of 
  • a) Confucius, 
  • b) his predecessors
  • c) his followers.

  • Confucian literature is divided into the Five Classics and the Four Books.
  • this includes 
  • a) pre-Confucian works of poetry, history, and divination, 
  • b) the sayings of Confucius and his disciples,
  • c) the sayings of Mencius
  • the canon of Confucian literature has varied 
  • it became settled during the Song dynasty (960-1279).

  • Confucian literature was the `core curriculum' for almost 600 years in China
  • this was from 1313 until 1912.
  • China was the 1st country in the world to have regular examinations to enter the civil service
  • these were based on the Confucian books and their commentaries.
  • any male could take the examinations 
  • success in them guaranteed a post with the government.
  • generally in families that could afford it selected at least one boy in the family 
  • he was to receive a Confucian education and to prepare for the  examinations.
  • in aristocratic y families, all boys were given a Confucian education.

  • the sayings of Confucius and Mencius came to pervade Chinese culture
  • the Confucian canon also influenced neighbouring cultures of Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.


The Five Classics:


The Book of History (Shu Jing, Shu Ching): 

  • this is an anthology of historical material
  • it is about kings from earliest times to until the early Zhou period (c. 1122-256 B.C.E.)


The Book of Poetry (Shi Jing, Shi Ching)

  • this is a collection of 300 poems of the Zhou period, with some moral intent.


The Book of Changes (Yi Jing, Yi Ching) 

  • this speaks of the patters of the universe
  • it is used to understand future events and to work with them properly.
  • thus it a book of divination; it replaced the use of oracle bones


The Book of Rites (Li Ji, Li Chi):

  • this lists ancient ceremonies and their meaning.
  • another book, the Book of Music is said to have once been a part of the classics
  • it no longer exists separately. 
  • part of it probably survives in the Book of Rites.


The Spring and Autumn Annals (Chun Qiu, Ch'un Ch'u): 

  • this comprises historical records of the state of Lu, where Confucius lived.



The Four Books:


The Analects (Lun Yu): 

  • these are the sayings of Confucius and his conversations with followers.
  • tradition holds that his followers collected his sayings and wrote them down
  • this work may be better attributed to his disciples than his followers.


The Great Learning (Da Xue, Ta Hsieh): 

  • this is a short discussion of the characters and influence of the noble man. 
  • this was the first book to be memorized and studied by Chinese students.
  • the book stresses that one must begin with self-cultivation and personal virtue
  • this is if one wishes to produce order in the family and state.


The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhong Yong, Chung Yung): 

  • this is a work that speaks in praise of the `mean' or equilibrium. 
  • this balance unites the individual with the balance of the universe.


The Mencius (Mengzi, Meng Tzu): 

  • this is a long collection of the teachings of Mencius, 
  • he was a Confucian who lived several centuries after Confucius.



Zhuangzi, Mozi, Confucius, & Legalism


Chuang-tzu or Zhuangzi (399-295) 

  • his mystical philosophy is really about Nature.

  • for him, nature is not only spontaneity but it is in a constant state of flux
  • it is non-stopping transformation.

  • this is a universal process that binds all things into one, equalizing all things.

  • the goal of Zhuangzi is spiritual liberation and peace 
  • this is done 
  • a) by nourishing one’s nature 
  • b) adapting it to the universal process of transformation.

  • he abandons selfishness of all descriptions, whether it is fame, wealth, or subjectivity.
  • here is a description of him from the Zhuangzi:

  • “Alone he associates with Heaven and Earth and spirit, without abandoning or despising things of the world. He does not quarrel over right and wrong nor does he mingle with conventional society … Above, he roams with the Creator, and below he makes friends with those who transcend life and death and beginning and end. In regard to the essential, he is broad and comprehensive, profound and unrestrained. In regard to the fundamental, he may be said to have harmonized all things and penetrated the highest level. However, ij his response to change and his understanding of things, his principle is inexhaustible, traceless, dark, and obscure, and unfathomable.” 


Zhuangzi & Laozi

  • it is conventional to speak of Laozi and Zhuangzi together as in Lao-Zhuang
  • the practise of it did not begin until the 5th century.

  • Zhuangzi advanced beyond Laozi:

  • Laozi emphasizes the difference between polarities
  • he also advocates the tender values or the yin
  • Zhuangzi unifies them all

  • the Dao in Laozi is still worldly
  • in Zhuangzi it becomes transcendental.


  • Laozi aims at reform
  • Zhuangzi prefers to “travel beyond the mundane world.”

  • the concept of te is more developed in Zhuangzi

  • in Zhuangzi there is 
  • a) a greater stress on following one’s nature
  • b) a greater stress on nourishing it
  • c) greater strength in adapting it to the environment.

  • there is more emphasis on the individual.

  • in Zhuangzi differences between Confucianism and Daoists become much sharper:

Zhuangzi & Confucius

  • the Confucianists teach 
  • a) full development of one’s nature, 
  • b) fulfilling one’s destiny
  • c) participation in the creative work of Nature

  • Zhuangzi, however, believes in nourishing nature, returning to nature and enjoying nature.

  • Confucianists want people transformed through education 
  • Zhuangzi leaves transformation to things themselves. 

  • these differences make Zhuangzi more Daosistic
  • Zhuangzi certainly carried Daoism to new heights or made it more popular.

  • there were criticism against Chuangzi 


Criticism against Zhuangzi

  • Hsin Tzu (fl.298-238 BC) said that he was “prejudiced in favour of Nature and does not know man.” 
  • Chu Hsi (1130-1200) the leading neo-Confucianist complained that Laozi still wanted to do something, but Chuangzi did not want to do anything. He said that he knew what to do but just did not want to do it.”

  • this does not mean that he was not influential. In fact, he was.
  • his impact on Buddhism has been tremendous
  • this is especially true in the development of the Chan School (Zen).

  • Zhuanzi has been a source of inspiration in Chinese landscape painting and poetry.
  • his philosophy helped to transform ancient and medieval Confucianism into neo-Confucianism.



Characteristics of Zhuangzi’s Thought:

  • his thoughts contain the following elements:
  • a) his revolt against traditionalism and conventional standards
  • b) his poetic mysticism
  • c) his subtle individualism, 
  • d) his insight into human nature, 
  • e) his deep interest in how to live and how to respond to all things,

Mohism

  • up to the beginning of the Han the greatest schools were Confucianism and Mohism.
  • they were the dominant intellectual movements from the 5th to at least the 3rd century BC.
  • they vigorously attacked each other.

  • they were bitter enemies because their doctrines were diametrically opposed to each other.


Confucianism & Mohism

  • while Confucius took the Western Zhou as his model, Mozi looked to the Xia instead.

  • the whole Confucian ethical system is based on the concept of humanity (jen/ren
  • Mozi (479-438 BC) based his on the concept of righteousness (i).

  • they are both human values
  • Confucius kept humanity essentially a human value
  • Mozi traced righteousness to the will of Heaven.
  • to the Confucianists Heaven does not directly exert its will
  • it eaves a moral law to operate by itself.

  • for  Mozi, the will of Heaven determines all.



  • Mozi strongly condemned
  • a)  ceremonies
  • b) music, 
  • c) elaborate funerals
  • the belief in fate (ming, destiny)

  • these were  all promoted by Confucius and his followers.

  • for Confucius a, moral life is desirable for its own sake
  • for Mozi it is desirable because of the benefits it brings.


Mozi’s Universal Love

  • the biggest divergence between the two is on the issue of human relations.

  • what distinguishes the Moist movement is the doctrine of universal love.
  • other people’s parents, families, and countries are to be treated like one’s own. 

  • this is completely incompatible with the basic Confucian doctrine of love with distinctions
  • while love should embrace all, it must start with love for one’s parents
  • therefore, one has a special obligation of filial piety to parents. 
  • there is a gradation or degrees in human relations.

  • Confucianists and Mohists represented two different groups of people.

  • Confucian followers came from all classes of society
  • Confucianism is basically egalitarian
  • they represented and aimed at producing an elite.

  • we are not sure who the Mohists were.

  • the followers of Mozi may have been ascetics and had “elders” 
  • they may have been prisoners or slaves.
  • they may have represented the working class.

  • we know very little about Mozi himself.
  • his private name was Ti and he was a native of either Sung or Lu, Confucius’ native state.
  • he was once the chief officer of Sung.-
  • some say he was once a follower of Confucius but turned to be an opponent.
  • he had about 300 followers.

  • his dates are uncertain
  • he probably was born before Confucius died and he died before Mencius was born.

  • the movement was short-lived – most of its teaching disappeared soon after the 3rd century. 
  • it was only a temporary challenge to other schools. 


Legalism:

  • the Legalist school was the most radical of all ancient Chinese schools.

  • it rejected the moral standards of the Confucianists and the religious sanctions of the Moists
  • it did this in favour of power.

  • it accepted no authority except that of the ruler and looked for no precedent.

  • its aim or goal was the political control of the state and the population
  • this was a control that was to be achieved through intensive set of laws
  • these laws were backed by generous rewards and severe punishments.

  • aggression was used and regimentation would be used without hesitation
  • this was as long as they contributed to the power of the ruler.

  • Legalism is incompatible with other schools, especially Confucianism, which it bitterly attacked.

Confucianism & Legalism

  • the Confucianists were dedicated to 
  • a) the cultivation of virtue, 
  • b) the development of individual personality,
  • c) the government for the people, 
  • d) social harmony,
  • e) the use of moral principles, moral examples, and moral persuasion.

  • the Legalists were primarily interested in 
  • a) the accumulation of power, 
  • b) the subjugation of the individual to the state,
  • c) uniformity of thought, and the use of force.

Legalism & Politics

  • they were instrumental in setting up the dictatorship of Qin (221-206 BC) 
  • they were also instrumental in unifying China in 221 BC
  • they instituted the tightest regimentation of life and thought in Chinese history.

  • the brutality and violence of the Qin brought its early downfall in 206 BC
  • the Chinese, fearful of the ruthlessness of the Legalists, have ever since rejected them.



  • there has been no Legalist school in China in the last two thousand years
  • neither has there been any Legalist scholar of prominence.

  • in the late18th century when the Four Libraries was compiled
  • of the 3,457 works that were included, only 8 were Legalist. 

  • the totalitarian goal and authoritarian methods have been periodically revived.
  • there has been no continuous Legalist tradition comparable to Confucianists or Daoists.

Legalist Philosophy

  •  Legalist philosophy was not entirely negative
  •  it has some positive aspects
  •  it was the only ancient school that was consistently and vigorously anti-ancient.

  • it worshipped no sage-emperors like Yao and Shun of the Confucianists
  • nor worshipped the Great Yu of the Moists. 
  • it looked to the present rather than to the past
  • it looked to changing circumstances rather than any prescribed condition.

  • the Legalists disagreed with the Confucianists 
  • a) in their view of human nature
  • b) in their method of ruling society
  • c) n their reading of history.




  • they refuse to interpret history as a degeneration from a hypothetical Golden Age of the past.
  • they were saying that these new days required new methods
  • they refused to look at the past as providing a model for their present situation.

  • they demanded actual accomplishments and concrete results
  • they were objective and realistic
  • they advocated the novel idea that law 
  • a) must be written
  • b) must be uniform
  • c) must be publicly proclaimed to the people.

  • they shared the Confucian concepts that ranks and duties must be clearly differentiated
  • they insisted that laws must be applicable to all.

  • they unwittingly promoted the doctrine of equality 
  • close or distant relationships are overlooked and high or low stations are ignored.

  • the term Legalist School (Fa-chia) did not appear until 90 BC 
  • but the Legalist movement had been going on for some 500 years.

  • the first prominent Legalist was Kuan Chung (d. 645 BC), the prime minister of Ch’i,

  • Shang Yang, or Lord Shang (d. 338 BC)was the first exponent of this Legalist school
  • the theory of Legalism was worked out by Han Fei Zi (d. 223 BC).


Thursday, September 20, 2018

The Zhou Period


The Western Zhou Period: The Later Bronze Age (c 1046 - 771 BCE)


The Conquest of the Shang

  • to the west of the Shang lived the Zhou people
  • they were less civilized and more war-like than the Shang people
  • it took advantage of the weakening of the Shang
  • the Shang got weak because of its fights with nomads of the north
  • it also got weak from fights with rebellious tribes to the east
  • the Zhou eventually conquered the weakened Shang.



  • the Zhou continued various practices of the Shang 
  • the 200 or so agrarian-based city-state continued to be the basic unit of society
  • they assimilated the Shang culture.

  • the Zhou held their capital in the west (the double city of Feng & Hao in the Wei River valley) 
  • but set up a second one at Chengzhou, near Luoyang
  • they established other settlements governed by family members and aristocratic families.
  • kinship ties made it possible to integrate the newly conquered area into a coherent whole.


  • some innovations of their part were:
  • a) to abandon large-scale human sacrifices
  • b) put an end to using oracle bones for divination
  • c) ushered in the concept of the Mandate of Heaven to legitimize their rulership.


  • the Zhou dynasty is traditionally dated from 1122 to 256 BC
  • his immense and long period is divided into two periods:
  • the Western Zhou, from 1122 to 771 BC.
  • the Eastern Zhou
  • further divided into 
  • the Spring and Autumn period from 771 to 481 BCE
  • the Warring States period, from 403-221 BCE.

  • the Zhou had emerged as a powerful state to the west of the main centre of Shang activities.

  • there is no linguistic theory to suggest that they originated from far
  • a plausible theory suggests that they originated in the Fen valley in Shanxi
  • later they migrated to the Wei valley in Shaanxi, to the west of Xi’an 

  • it was there that the Zhou people came to adapt many aspects of the Shang
  • this helped them to acquire administrative techniques
  • this made easy their eventual seizure of power.
  • in its origins, the small Zhou tribe interacted with two groups:
  • a) nomads on the north
  • b) the proto-Tibetans Qiang people of the west.



  •  they learned to tolerate and work with peoples of different cultures
  • in the Wei valley, they became strong enough to conquer the Shang in warfare  
  • this was in about 1040 BC.

  • their was the first example of a right of a dynasty to rule being based on an ethical justification.

  • the fall of the Shang was because of the shortcomings of the Shang ruler
  • this was according to the Book of Documents

  • the mandate from heaven was taken from the Shang ruler  and given to the Zhou rulers.
  • of these, King Wen was a paragon of virtue
  • his son, King Wu, who overthrew the Shang after a great battle, was an outstanding warrior.

  • the Zhou headed a coalition of eight nations against the Shang.

  •  two years after the conquest King Wu died in 1043 BC
  • he was succeeded by his son – this was different from the past
  • this was because under the Shang the succession had passed to surviving brothers
  • now it established that the heir should come from the succeeding generation - the son
  • this was a new important principle, observed by later Chinese dynasties,

  • the young heir King Cheng - was served by his older brother as regent; 
  • but two other brothers teamed up with the nominal Shang leader to challenge Duke of Zhou,
  • they probably suspected him of wanting to usurp the throne.

  • the Zhou armies had to march eastward again for a “second conquest” 
  • it took two years to finalize the conquest
  • a series of administrative measures took place as well as religious developments
  • these measures matured Zhou rule.

  • to prevent another rebellion the Shang elite were re-located eastward (to a state called Song)
  • some resettled elsewhere
  • also a Zhou settlement was established in the heartland of the Shang.

  • in this way they consolidated control of eastern territories
  • they were able to establish a secondary capital at Chengzhou, near Luoyang; 
  • also new settlements were place strategically in the east 
  • they were ruled by members of the Zhou royal family or close allies 
  • this was to create a security network
  • it was also to integrate the newly conquered into a coherent whole.

  •  the “second conquest” marked a series of innovations:

  • they established the double capitals of Feng and Hao in the valley 
  • b) they abandoned the Shang custom of large-scale human sacrifice
  • c) they stopped using oracle bones for divination
  • d) they established the notion of “heaven’s decree” as the cornerstone of their ideology



Territorial Expansion & Dual Political Structure

  • the expansion of the Zhou’s central power involved a degree of acculturation
  • this was of those who submitted 
  • it involved the spread of the Chinese writing system
  • this included the rituals and the administration that it served.

  • the mainstream culture was that of the Central Plain
  • this was the core region of the Shang-Zhou predominance.


  • in the peripheral regions there were many whose names were not Chinese
  • but were recorded in transliteration.
  • these included the semi-nomads of the north, northeast, and northwest
  • it also included the tribal peoples of South China.

  • intermarriage, acculturation, and the start of bureaucratic government was important
  • it created the successor states that followed the Shang-Zhou dominance
  • these states inherited various cultural mixes and emerged as distinct political entities
  • this tool [place during the Warring States period, which began in 403 BC.


  • by the beginning of the Chinese people had already achieved something unique
  • this was cultural homogeneity and an isolated community
  • they had created a society dominated by state power
  • all other activities,would make their contributions as subordinate parts of the whole
  • the state was the central power in Chinese from the beginning.
  • these activities can be designated aa:
  • agricultural
  • technological
  • commercial
  • military
  • literary
  • religious
  • artistic



  • the Zhou’s power expanded by defeating the nomads on the northwest 
  • they led campaigns southward into three areas:
  • the Han River area
  • the Yangzi River area
  • the southeast area  along the Huai River
  • in these areas they required considerable administrative modifications.

  • they adopted a system of dual government
  • direct rule in the west by the royal family and decentralized control of the east.
  • Chengzhou & the Wei River basin supported the Zhou ruler economically and militarily.


Feudalism & Kinship

  • Zhou rule was established by setting up a “feudal” network.

  • the Chinese system was one of kinship and the contractual element was not specified 
  • t was a system in which the ruler personally gave limited sovereignty over parts of his territory
  • this was given to vassals.



  • the rulers delegated power to local leaders outside the royal domain 
  • thus it was a decentralized system 
  • it benefitted the locals economically and militarily but it was potentially threatening
  • this was because regional armies might end up supporting anti-Zhou rebellion
  • they could also end up supporting or local secession.

  • they continued to use kinship as a main element of political organization
  • the lands were the absolute possessions of the king
  • but he allocated fields to those he deemed worthy servants
  • he was also able to confiscate and reallocated lands if he wished
  • this required an increase of administrative officials.

  • some settlements turned into the nuclei of autonomous polities
  • they had separate administrative and military systems.

  • the Zhou ruler developed a number of ways to control regional lords
  • periodically they had to travel to the capital to receive commands
  • sometimes bring annual tributes
  • sometimes provide military support.
  • regional lords were either descendants of the former ruler or had marriage connections
  • so, they were subordinate to the kings in kinship terms.



The Son of Heaven

  • the Zhou created a new basis of legitimacy by espousing the theory of heaven’s mandate.

  • their ability to maintain their authority was - not just through economic power & the military 
  • it was also through ethical rule (the mandate from Heaven)

  • the Shang had venerated and sought the guidance of their own ancestors
  • the Zhou got their sanction to rule came from a broader, impersonal deity, Heaven (Tian),
  • this mandate may be conferred upon any family that was morally worthy of the responsibility.

  • this asserted the ruler’s accountability to a supreme moral force
  • to the Zhou it was this moral force that guides the human community.



  • the rulers were the intermediary between the divine and the mundane world 
  • they presented themselves as the representative of the supreme deity.

  • the Chinese theory of Heaven’s mandate set up a moral criteria for holding power.
  • the ruler did limit interactions with the supreme deity only to monarchs
  • in this way they were viewed as sons of Heaven.

  • exclusive access to Heaven imposed a heavy responsibility upon the ruler 
  • so it was necessary for the ruler to 
  • a) behave morally and prudently
  • b) care for the people’s needs.


The Collapse of the Western Zhou


Administrative Crisis:

  • the decline of the Western Zhou was the result of a series of failures 
  • these failures were with their model of governing
  • it became increasingly more and more difficult  to control regional politics.

  •  there were attempts to intervene in a number of crises 
  • this caused increased tensions between the ruler and their nominal underlings
  • this sometimes brought about military clashes
  • it diminished the prestige of the ruling house. 

  • the crises were caused by the increase of power in the hands of hereditary lineages 
  • aristocratic families grew a lot and land resources under the king’s jurisdiction decreased
  • the king was increasingly unable to reward officials 
  • the economic resources that supported the king’s will on the subjects decreased;
  • this reversing this led to rebellion and widespread resentment - the result was that King LI was overthrown in 840 BCE; he later died in exile. The next 14 years saw the royal court governed by a noble. Hence the period was marked by a “crisis of authority.”


Military Crisis:

  • in 977 BCE the southern expedition of King Zhao against the state of Chu ended in a defeat
  •  the armies were destroyed and he drowned in the Han River.

  • later the Zhou were defeated in the Huai River basin by the local Yi tribesmen
  • the Yi tribesmen threatened the secondary capital of Chengzhou. 

  • later they were defeated by a rebellion led by border protectorates
  • this finalized the loss of control of the southern periphery of the Zhou.

  • the most serious threat came from the Xianyun in the northwest 
  • they were tribesmen who practiced a mix of agricultural and pastoral economy
  • they had initially been submissive to the Zhou.

  • they were a chariot-fighting tribesmen in areas close to the Zhou capitals 
  • they created tension along the borders; they depleted the Zhou military of their resources.


Court Politics: Factionalism & Usurpation

  • King You (r. 781 - 771 BCE) & his consort Baosi are generally blamed for Zhou’s collapse
  • also a combination of events are to blame for the collapse of the Zhou
  • a) succession struggles
  • b) partisan conflicts
  • c) bad relations with regional lords 

  • it was a coalition that overran the capital
  • the coalition was made up of
  • a) disgruntled officials
  • b) neighbouring lords
  • c) alien Quanrong tribesmen 

  • they overran the capital
  • they killed the king,
  • they replaced him with a new king, Peng
  • they relocated the court to the east
  • this had enormous consequences
  • it was no longer able to provide economic & military resources
  • it survived only on a symbolic legitimacy.

  • the rulers could no longer control regional lords 
  • the result was fragmentation and growth of regional independence.


The Iron Age: The Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BCE)

  • the Eastern Zhou Dynasty (770-221 BCE) is divided into two phases: 
  • a) the Spring and Autumn period (770-475 BCE)
  • b) the Warring States period ((475-221 BCE).

  • in 771 BCE the heir to the throne had to escape to the second capital near Luoyang
  • this was when barbarians were attacking the Wei valley twin capitals
  • what can be said is that
  • a) their old authority would never return
  • b) its military was weak 
  • c) alliances were with neighbours were not sustainable

  • the result was a disintegration of the realm into competing political units 
  • these political monopolized by aristocratic families. 

  • the aristocrats of the Spring & Autumn period maintained a high level of 
  • a) social cohesiveness 
  • b) cultural uniformity.

  • their adherence to Zhou ritualism gave them an identity in the sense that 
  • 1) they shared a common textual culture
  • 2) spoke an intelligible language (different from the colloquial language of commoners) 
  • 3) performed common ceremonies.

  • there was a collapse of alliances & there was annexation of neighbours,
  • the result was that the borders expanded & interstate stability disappeared. 

  • the Warring States period differed from the previous period
  • a bureaucracy emerged that intervened in the lives of commoners 
  • it affected them in terms of in terms of 
  • a) taxes, 
  • b) military and labour conscriptions,
  • c) civilian projects. 
  • the new elite (shih) emerged at the same time as the decline of the hereditary aristocracy. 
  • this was a period of intellectual ascendancy
  • competing thinkers attempted to seek remedies for the socio-political turmoil that had arisen
  • this laid the foundation (Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism) for a unified empire yet to come.

  • the Warring States period was a time of rapid urbanization
  • the walled cities were no longer isolated by plains, marshes, and forests
  • the rise of the iron tools cleared the land and increased agricultural productivity
  • irrigation and drainage canals grew in importance.

  • another important change was the rise in commercial activity
  • military roads were now used by merchants for inter-state trade
  • copper coins was added to bolts of silk and precious metals as media of exchange.

  • a change that brought about the demise of the city-state was the rise of a new kind of army
  • this was that  the war chariots of the old aristocracy (limited to flat terrain) was replaced
  • they were replaced by cavalry forces armed with a crossbow 
  • the majority of the fighting was performed by conscripted foot soldiers
  • armies grew in size.




  • lords of territories began to act like kings
  • hereditary aristocrats were supplanted by the new elite
  • the new elite were well versed in the art of statecraft.
  • the scholar-bureaucrat consisted of nobles, warriors, landlords, merchants and commoners. 
  • this was  a literate bureaucracy.


The Spring and Autumn Period:

  • the years 771-481 BC are known as the Spring and Autumn period
  • this comes from the annals which describe the events of those years in the small state of Lu.

  •  the main political event of the time was the rise of states,
  • these states professed only symbolic allegiance to the Zhou kings
  • in the end the 
  • Zhou kings only ruled a small area near Luoyang.

  • around 170 states are recorded to have existed in those years
  • 50 of which were significant in size and importance.

  • during this period the Zhou became an area of non-stop conflicts
  • these conflicts were between regional powers and within them as well
  • warfare and successive disputes reduced the number of states to seven.

  • this period saw frequent wars between states and with the surrounding people.
  • throughout the entire period, only 38 years were peaceful ones.

  • the wars reflected the rapid political, social, and economic changes.

  • at the beginning of the Spring and Autumn period the political elite was made up of
  • a) the king
  • b) the feudal lords,
  • c) their hereditary ministers, 

  • each of these groups  had a clearly defined role in ritual performance
  • they also had an obligation to defend the honour of the lineage.

  • under the pressure of wars, this elite began to become fragmented 
  • a) state government became more centralized
  • b) administrative units were established 
  • c) junior members of the aristocracy were appointed to supervise them.
  • d) a class of men known as shih, or scholar-gentlemen began to emerge in the 7th century
  • e) by the fifth century BC, the shih had eclipsed the former elite in government. 

  • there were also major technological and economic changes that were taking place
  • the use of bronze had become more widespread and 
  • bronze agricultural tools were in common use in the lower Yangzi valley. 

  • by the middle of the period, cast iron and steel were being produced
  • but iron was not used for making weapons, implements, and vessels until the Warring period.

  • up until then Chinese agriculturalists had probably practised a form of communal agriculture
  • this form of agriculture later became known as the “well-field” system.

  • in this system plots of land were arranged or divided into nine holdings
  • eight of the holdings  were farmed by individual families
  • the ninth was farmed communally and the produce was delivered to the lord.

  •  communal agriculture began to decline during the Spring and Autumn period
  • this was because of the spread of the iron plough, which increased productivity.

  • in 594 BC the state of Lu instituted a system of land taxation
  • this required peasants to pay taxes rather than to provide labour service. 

  • individual ownership and a free market in land began to appear at this time.
  • along with this change there was growth in commerce. 
  • there was the appearance of coinage
  • in the Shang cowrie shells had been used in transactions
  • in the Shang cloth was also used as a medium of exchange  

  •  by the late Spring and Autumn period metallic currencies had been introduced
  •  these early coins being in the form of spades or knives. 


The Art of War:

  • between the Western Zhou & Spring and Autumn periods, armies were led by aristocrats 
  • they fought using chariots drawn by horses
  • this form of fighting by the nobility gave war a sense of respect
  • there was a sort of diplomacy attached to warfare 
  • battles were pre-arranged and gamesmanship relations became part of the fabric of war.


  •  by the time of the Warring States period, the armies had undergone profound changes
  •  infantry, at first and later, the cavalry replaced the limited form of chariot fighters
  •  large mass conscript armies (of peasants) made their appearances.
  •  the noble and courteous virtues of warfare were now replaced by brutal violence.


  • the Warring States period was also a time of technological changes
  • one was the invention of the crossbow




  • its production (by artisans in state sponsored workshops) was supervised by the state 
  • this was combined with the appearance of iron swords, armour, and helmets
  • these clever strategies were employed to make armies more effective


  • during the 4th century BCE the ""Art of War" made its appearance
  • it is a masterpiece of military thought


  • it is attributed to Sunzi, a semi-legendary general
  • he saw war not as a battle but a competition between competing ideologies 
  • he saw the war being grounded on administration and economics
  • war had to be fought for political victories, not military victories 
  • the grasp of war became visionary.



The Warring States Period: 

  • by the Spring and Autumn period (722-481BC) there were about 170 states 
  • these were aristocratic family-states, each centred in its own walled capital
  • they engaged in diplomatic-military free-for-all, some absorbing others
  • by the era of the Warring States (403-221 BC) only seven major states remained
  • most of them were on the populous North China plain. 



  • what were visible were two components of the eventual Chinese imperial government
  • a) military rulers 
  • b) scholar-teachers.


Ritualization

  • both were concerned with the performance of ritual and ceremonies 
  • these were to keep human society in proper accord with the cosmic order

  • the ruler’s authority in each state was based on ritually directed violence 
  • this took the form of sacrifices, warfare, and hunting. 
  • hunting was seen as practice for war against other men
  • the two major state services were sacrifice and warfare.
  • both involved the ritual taking of life, thus it defined the realm of political power.

  • during the Shang and Zhou period, veneration of the ancestors through sacrifice
  • both animals and human were sacrificed 
  • this had made use of the highest achievements of art – the bronze ritual vessels 
  • it also maintained the ruler’s legitimacy by his liturgical activities.

  • hunting provided sacrificial animals and warfare sacrificial prisoners.

  • warfare itself was a religious service
  • it was filled with rituals of divination, prayers, and oaths preceding combat
  • they ended in the presentation of formal reports, booty, and prisoners at the ancestral altar.

  • participation in these activities defined one’s membership in the ruling class 
  • one shared a common ancestry.
  • its hallmark was the privilege of eating meat.

  • although there were wars in each of these periods the character of war changed
  • war changed from being an aristocratic monopoly to an activity which involved
  • a) authoritarian leadership, 
  • b) standing armies,
  • c) peasants performing military services.

  • in this period military specialists appeared 
  • the most famous was Sunzi, the supposed author of the Art of War


  • at this time new weapons were adopted
  • this was the crossbow and the improved iron sword.
  • the armour was also developed.


  • from the middle of the 6th century, armies composed of infantry began to appear
  • the number of combatants rose sharply.
  • there are records of armies of 600,000 men.


  • the economic/ social changes started in the Spring & Autumn period were now accelerating.
  • in agriculture, iron tools became more available,
  • fertilizer began being applied
  • irrigation was being used – all became more common.

  • walled towns increased, 
  • development of trade was accompanied by the spread in the use of money.

  •  communal land-ownership disappeared and the 
  •  a private landlord class emerged
  •                                                                                                             
  •  along with the military the Warring States also fostered an age of philosophers 
  •  they who looked for theoretical bases for those same things. 



  •   during this time there was a strong desire for peace and order
  •   many idealized a golden age of earlier times 
  •   this was when according to legends, all of China lived peacefully under one ruler.
  •   violence inspired the late Zhou philosophers to get back to the golden age.


Changes among the Elite: the rise of the shih

  • most important change was the decline of the hereditary aristocracy
  • during the Spring & Autumn the noble lineages based their power on two things
  • a) the system of hereditary office holding
  • b) hereditary allotments
  • in the wake of the Warring states period both systems were abolished
  • administrators were selected from a broad pool of educated elite
  • they received payments in terms of grain & precious metals
  • they no longer received payments in terms of territorial allotments
  • by depriving the nobility of a major source of power, it led to a decline
  • they also merged into new elites

  • the new elites were designated as shih
  • originally they had been the lowest in the aristocratic stratum
  • they made living as administrative and military retainers of the high ranking nobles
  • this expertise made them indispensable for rulers of the Warring states.
  • but they lacked independent resources
  • in this way they had to seek employment from patronage of powerful potentates
  • thus, they identified with the interest of those regional rulers
  • social mobility had excessive high rates during this period.

  • the end product of this was:
  • a) the demise of the hereditary aristocracy
  • b) the entrance of the members of the lower strata in officialdom
  • ]these two elements disrupted the cultural unity of the Zhou
  • the newcomers contributed to the increase of homogeneity

  • the newcomers contributed to the increase of heterogeneity 
  • this took place as the unity of the elite culture was dissolving

  • cultural diversity was more explicit in the peripheral states of Qin & Chu
  • they became more estranged from the core Zhou states
  • the shih brought about cultural ties throughout the Zhou world
  • this was because of 
  • a) the fluidity of employment patterns
  • b) their shifts from one state to another
  • they promulgated the notion of “all under Heaven”
  • they did not commit to any individual state
  • no ideology came out of this diversification that could threaten future unification.

Saturday, September 15, 2018

The Three Ancient Dynasties


The Xia Dynasty:


Traditional Legends of the Sage-Rulers


  • according to Chinese myths human beings had their origin in parasites 
  • these were on the body of the Creator
  • after his death a succession of sage rulers introduced inventions institutions

  •  the first sage was Fuxi – he domesticated animals and instituted marriage.

  •  the next sage ruler was Shennong – he introduced agriculture, medicine, and trade.

  • next sage-ruler - Huangdi, the Yellow Emperor (invented writing, ceramics, & the calendar).

  • centuries later came the next ruler, Emperor Yao 
  • he introduced flood controls
  • he decided that his son was unworthy to be his successor
  • instead he chose a humble sage called Shun.

  • the reigns of Yao and Shun are considered to be the Golden Age of Chinese history.
  • these acts of abdication are examples of a tradition of selflessness
  • it questioned whether hereditary rule is desirable

  • Shun awarded the succession to his faithful minister Yu
  • it is at this point that China’s prehistory begins to merge with history.

  • Yu, whose reign began in 2205 BCE allegedly founded the Xia dynasty
  • his rule marks the end of the period of righteous abdication
  • the principle of dynastic rule now falls under moral justification


China's Ancient Dynasties:


  • the traditional history of China includes the three ancient dynasties: 
  • a) the Xia (2205-1766 BCE),
  • b) the Shang (1766-1050 BCE) 
  • c) the Zhou (1050-256)


  • technically history begins with recorded history; 
  •  pre-history is the period for which there are no written records.

  • up until the 1920s scholars believed that the first two (Xia & Shang) were legendary.
  • with the discovery of the Shang the outlook has changed 
  • perhaps the Xia actually did exist as a legitimate dynasty
  • it is purely conjecture at this point.


  • excavations of Anyang uncovered the ruins of a city
  • it was surrounded by a wall that had been a capital of the Shang
  • other cities have since been excavated 

  • the discovery of the "oracle bones" have led to further speculation 
  • this is about the origins of the Chinese language and the emergence of religion
  • it has also given scholars a good understanding of the Shang Dynasty.



The Archaeological Records of the Xia Dynasty: 


  • the Xia dynasty may have existed between approximately 2200 and 1750 BC
  • this is along the Yellow River near Luoyang and 
  • to the North of this area, in the Fen River valley.

  • the pottery discoveries suggest that the Xia culture derived from Longshan.

  • the most important site identified with the Xia is Erlitou 
  • in Henan palace-like buildings and tombs have been uncovered 
  • here the earliest bronze vessels have been found. 



  • this excavation of 1922 suggests that Erlitou may have been a capital of the Xia dynasty.
  • the Erlitou culture was widespread in the region of northwest Henan.
  • it was a direct successor to the Longshan Black Pottery culture 



The Shang Dynasty: 


  • between 3500 & 2000 BCE farming communities got closer to each other
  • they developed features characteristic of civilization
  • special craftsmen produced pottery drinking cups, jars and bowls
  • some were on stems or three legs.
  • these were used for religious ceremonies 
  • jade was of great importance & was widely distributed
  • often the rulers were buried with them.


  • soon competition led to warfare
  • it also led to the building of large defensive walls made of stamped earth.
  • around 1800 BCE most of northern China was united under the Shang dynasty.



The State Capitals: Archaeological Findings


  • the second of the ancient dynasties was the Shang (1766-1122 BCE.)

  • it was once believed that the three ancient dynasties were successive
  • but the Shang dynasty was already a strong entity before it overthrew the Xia.
  • the three dynasties overlapped both in time and in territory.

  • the Shang state had a series of capitals 
  • Zhengzhou and Anyang were the most important ones

  • Zhengzhou was the capital in the early or middle period of the dynasty
  • Anyang was occupied around 1300-1050 BCE.

  • at Zhengzhou, a city wall of about 4 miles long enclosed a large settlement
  • the wall and the buildings inside the wall use the “stamped earth” technique.

  • discoveries indicate that Shang society was highly organized and socially stratified
  • it confirms a similar impression made from the findings at Anyang

  • outside Anyang, at Xiaotun they discovered a ceremonial and administrative centre .

  • at Xibeigang, two miles north of Xiaotun, 11 large cruciform graves have been found 
  • they may belong to the 11 Shang monarchs, recorded as having reigned at Anyang.

  • in 1928 archaeologists began the scientific excavations at Anyang.
  • after 1950, the earlier Shang capital at Zhengzhou was uncovered.

  • in these Shang capital cities were royal palaces and upper-class residence
  • they were of the post-and-beam construction on stamped-earth platforms,
  • they were  built in the basic architectural styles of Beijing’s Forbidden City.

  • Anyang had the stamped-earth foundations, as hard as cement
  • of 53 buildings, many were of stone-pillar bases

  • subterranean pit houses nearby were used as storage
  • the aristocracy had the services of artisans
  • artisans  were specialists in the art of bronze metallurgy, pottery, and crafts. 



The Shang State:


  • the Shang rulers performed an important ritual role
  • they were also involved with administering the state
  • they were served by officials who had specialized functions.

  • the rulers were supported by aristocratic clans (families)
  • they had kinship or marriage connections.
  • aristocratic society practised military skills and fought using horse chariots.

  • the king had the right to demand services from the clan leaders
  • these included labour services and military duties.

  • Shang rulers & aristocratic supporters waged aggressive campaigns against their neighbours. - in this way, they were able to obtain prisoners and loot. 

  • the Shang rulers established new towns and the opening of new lands for farming. 
  • they extended their authority along the Yellow River to the Wei valley and to the north.



  • the Shang also established relations with a state called Shu
  • this may refer to a culture that had developed independently in Sichuan. 

  • the economic basis of the Shang was agriculture,
  • they cultivated millet - it was their most important crop

  • the area of the North China Plain was warmer and more moist than today
  • the area was well forested.



The Oracle Bones:


  • much of the information on Shang society comes from their inscriptions 
  • they were made on the shoulder blades of oxen (scapulimancy) 
  • they were less common on the shells of tortoises (plastromancy)
  • here was a time when they were referred to as “dragon bones” 
  • they were grounded up for medicinal uses.

  • in 1899 it was noted that Chinese pharmacists were selling these 
  • they were called  “dragon bones” and were inscribed in archaic characters.
  • by the late 1920’s private buyers had traced these “oracle bones” to a site near Anyang


  • in 1928 archaeologists began scientific excavations of the last Shang capital at Anyang
  • this continued until Japan attacked China in 1937
  • after 1950 an earlier Shang capital was found near the present day Zhengzhou.

  • these Shang capital cities contain royal palaces
  • they had upper-class residences of post-and-beam construction on stamped-earth platforms,

  • at Anyang, they found the foundations of 53 buildings with subterranean pit houses
  • they were probably uses as storage houses and service quarters.

  • the aristocracy seemed to have made used of artisans
  • they were specialists in the development of bronze metallurgy, pottery, and other crafts
  • the bronzes were never surpassed in craftsmanship

  • the Shang king was served by diviners (shamans ?) who handled the writing system 
  • they took the auspices by scapulimancy
  • by putting a fire to the bones, cracks were created
  • these were interpreted as the advice of the ancestors
  • then, they would inscribe the advice on the bones

  • much of the information we have on the Shang society comes from these inscriptions. -
  • over 150,000 fragments of Shang “oracle bones” have been identified
  • these have provided a major source of evidence about the Shang state.

  • the discovery of these oracle bones bones was at the turn of the 20th century 
  • these inscriptions are records of divination, performed by the kings of the Shang Dynasty.


  • heating the bones with fire would produce cracks on the bones which were "read" by diviners
  • this practice had its origins during the Neolithic period
  • during the Shang period only flat bones (from tortoises and cattle)were used. 

  • the shape of the cracks were given interpretations -
  • they indicated a deity's reply to a question posed - 
  • the king made the final prognostication
  • the inscriptions (originating around 1250 BCE) was a record of the process

  • a large majority of the 48,000 currently published inscriptions deal with sacrificial rites
  • the oracle bones offer a variety of topics
  • they offer scholars and historians knowledge of Shang society and culture
  • questions were addressed to deities, nature gods,and ancestral gods 
  • it was to seek answers to the following topics:
  • a) weather conditions, 
  • b) astronomic phenomena, 
  • c) military campaigns, 
  • d) political alliances, 
  • e) the ruler's illnesses, 
  • f) the consort's childbirth, 
  • g) the establishment of new settlements 
  • h) the prospects of hunting.


  • the practice of divination of this sort was abandoned by the Zhou kings
  • this probably indicated the confidence of making decisions without the help of deities.

  • many of the inscriptions relate to future events
  • they have been translated as questions addressed to an oracle
  • recently it has been argued that the inscriptions are not questions
  • they are statements or predictions
  • the divination process formed part of the sacrificial rite.

  • once the bones were inscribed, a heated bronze tool was applied
  • the cracks that appeared were interpreted as a response to the question or prediction.

  • some of these inscriptions related to the actions of the king and his allies
  • this gave scholars information about the organization of the Shang state.


  • the inscriptions use a vocabulary of more than 3,000 different graphs and 
  • this includes a dating system based on a 10-day week and a 60-day cycle.

  • the bones reveal to us several things:
  • a) that the Shang aristocracy lived a superior life,
  • b) they fought using horse chariots, 
  • c) they hunted for sport
  • d) they performed rites and ceremonies, 
  • e) they were served by scribes and artisans
  • f) they were supported by the agriculture of the surrounding village peasants
  • these peasants  lived in these subterranean dwelling pits
  • Shang society was highly stratified.



here some examples of inscriptions: 

The Power of Di:

a) “Will Di perhaps send down drought upon us?”

b) “Will Di, bring disaster to our harvest? Will Di not bring disaster to our harvest? The king prognosticated, saying, “Di shall not bring disaster”

These inscriptions illustrate that no subject concerned the king more than the success of the crops, rightly so, since Shang society was agricultural.

Other examples that illustrate the power of Di:

c) “Will Di perhaps bring an end to this city?”

d) “If the king establishes a walled town, will Di show approval?”

e) “Shall we sacrifice two dogs to Di’s envoy Wind?”


Natural Deities:

f) “Shall we make a burnt offering to Cloud Di?”

g) “If we, perhaps, perform a fire sacrifice to Snow, will there be a great rain?”

h) “Shall we pray for harvest to the Yellow River?”

i)“Is it the Yellow River that is harming the king?”


Ancestral Spirits:

j) “Is the High Ancestor Shang-jia who is preventing the rain?”

k) “Should we protect the king’s eyes against Grandmother Ji”

l) “Is it Father Yi who is hurting the king’s tooth?”


Military Affairs, Hunting, Agriculture, & the King’s Ritual Leadership:

m) The king made cracks and divined: We shall hunt at Ji; coming and going there shall be no disaster. The king prognosticated, saying, “It is extremely auspicious.” Acting on this we captured 41 foxes and 8 hornless deer.”

n) “The king shall go and lead the multitudes in planning grain at Qiong.”

Examples are from Robert Eno, “Deities and Ancestors in Early Oracle Inscriptions” in Donald S. Lopez, ed. Religions of China in Practice, (Princeton: NJ, Princeton University Press, 1996), pp. 41-51

The Shang Bronzes:


  • the Neolithic period saw a rise in the production of art in general
  • this offers us a glimpse into the spiritual world of the pre-historic-population
  • the findings that are most prized and highly regarded are the bronze vessels and implements
  • many were made for ceremonial purposes.
  • knowledge of metallurgy was a gradual process in China 

  • it was the king who controlled the production and use of bronze
  • the extraction of metal ore and the manufacture of bronze objects were a major industry,
  • it was an industry that employed a large amount of skilled craftsmen.

  • a great level of sophistication was reached which produced complex bronze vessels
  • this was centred at the Erlitou site
  • large quantities of them was not achieved until about 1500 BCE.


  • metal production was a late-comer to China
  • other civilizations had already established their metallurgical industries
  • these were in Egypt, Mesopotamia, and the Indus valley 
  • but in China the scale of production exceeded those of other civilization.

  • the technology required sophisticated specialization
  • these were mining, casting into ingots, transportation, and casting into vessels
  • this could only be achieved by a state-run industry under the auspices of the Shang court.
  • both Anyang and Zhengzhou were production sites during the early period.

  • bronze was used at various times for weapons, armour, and chariot fitting
  • it was also used for ceremonial rituals.

  • the earliest bronze vessels have been found at Elliott
  • important finds of bronze vessels were made at Zhengzhou and Anyang
  • these were the two Shang capitals.

  • these vessels had a ritual function - for sacrificial meats heating wine

  • many of these vessels are decorated with stylized surface decorations
  • he most famous motif is the taotie - a monster mask intended to avert evil.


  • jade was also used for ritual purposes, as it had been at the Longshan culture.

  • two jade forms were common: 
  • a pierced disk known as bi
  • a tube of square cross section known as cong.

  • Shang kings were buried in large pit
  • it would require the labour of hundreds of men to excavate.

  • their corpses were placed in wooded coffins & were surrounded by grave goods
  • on the ramps, leading to the bottom of the pit lay human bodies and horses
  • these human victims,( prisoners of war) had sometimes been beheaded.


Fu Hao:


  • Fu Hao, the consort of a Shang King,Wuding (r. 1324-1266 BCE), died in 1250 BCE, 
  • her tomb was discovered intact in 1976


  • it contained about 200 bronze vessels, some in the shape of animals

  • also 1600 objects were buried with her 


  • this included jade , pottery, bronzes, cowrie shells, ivory beakers etc … 


  • also 6 dogs and 16 men, women, and children were buried with her.

  • the bronzes in her tomb are larger than those found in the graves of aristocrats
  • this suggested that Shang society was stratified. 
  • like many of the king’s wives (most wives were relegated to just domestic duties), 
  • she played an important role in government 
  • she was an army general and led many campaigns.



Shang Religion:


  • the oracle bones, bronze vessels, and burial practices gives us insight into the Shang religion.

  • the Shang people worshipped many deities
  • most of them were royal ancestors
  • some were nature spirits
  • others were probably derived from popular myths or local cults.

  • it had been an assumption that the Shang religion had a single supreme deity 
  • he is referred to as Di, part ancestral figure and part a natural force
  • he presided at the apex of the Shang pantheon.

  • recent studies has rejected the idea of Di as a high god
  • it seems in the Shang religion Di was the term used to refer collectively to “the gods” 
  • or he was some impartial deity with the exclusive right to give out orders to other powers
  • it was only under the Zhou that the idea of a supreme god emerges.

  • from the tombs it is clear that the Shang believed in an afterlife
  • divination may have been addressed to departed ancestors.



The Bureaucratization of Religion


  • the Shang people regulated their relations to deities according to a set of rules
  • five standard rites were performed in a sequence for each of the major ancestors
  • communicating with them was not random
  • it was scheduled and regulated according to their 10 day week.

  • as seen with the oracle bones divination was highly regulated
  • it had specific set questions, 
  • it had careful recordings of questions and answers
  • it was carefully preserved 
  • the regularization became more pronounced as the dynasty continued along
  • this tendency became ever more regulated with the next dynasty


The Fall of the Shang


  • the details surrounding the collapse of the Shang are somewhat obscured
  • very little is known about the ruler prior to the last Shang ruler - Zhouxin
  • he is generally presented as the ultimate monster leader.

  • the Shang state seemed have decreased in size
  • the names of many former allies and dependencies appear often in the early descriptions\
  • but they  disappear in the inscriptions of the last 50 years of Shang rule
  • this goes from from 600 names to 7
  • the hunting records suggest they now hunted only near the capital.

  • most of the textual sources demonize the last ruler 
  • Zhouxin was viewed as an arrogant and negligent ruler, inventing cruel forms of torture etc …

  • his explains the eventual dissent of the Shang allies
  • also King Wen of Zhou organized a coalition
  • he expanded eastward & approached the Shang territory
  • Wen died but soon his son, King Wu, led the assault on the Shang
  • Zhouxin was defeated, committed suicide.

  • the Shang dynasty remains a turning point in the history of China
  • many of the characteristics of Chinese civilization can be traced to the Shang
  • the most notable is writing; 
  • others are
  • a) ancestor worship, 
  • b) bronze casting,
  • c) calendar keeping



  • the Shang marks the start of the synthesis of social, political, and religious power systems
  • they remained a central feature of Chinese civilization
  • later these features were to undergo modifications.


Recapitulation: 


  • in this development the Xia and the Shang begin to take a tangible form
  • this is what they tell us about China’s origins

  • 1
  • there seems to have been a smooth transition from the innumerable Neolithic villages of the Longshan culture to the Bronze Age capital cities of the three Dynasties, of which can be viewed as successive stages of a single cultural development.

  • by looking at the tools and weapons, the pots and vessels, the domestication of crops and animals, the architectural layout of settlement and burials, and the evident practices of religion and government, we begin to see a high degree of cultural homogeneity and continuity.

  • one dynasty succeeded another through warfare
  • there is no evidence of any invasion from an “outside” culture.

  • the Xia, Shang, and Zhou seem to have co-existed
  • they were centred in three different areas.
  • the Shang and then the Zhou became the dominant centre of ancient North China.
  • these ancient capitals testify to the power of kingship 
  • this was based on sedentary, land-locked agriculture
  • it was not based on mobile waterborne trade with other areas.



The Beginnings of a Central Authority:


  • the deposits of the Yangshao and Longshan types of pottery are found in different areas
  • this would be in half a dozen or more areas on the North Plain
  • this includes along the Yellow River and Lower Yangzi
  • this shows the differences of local cultures

  • contacts among these Neolithic farming villages grew
  • this produced a broader government from a central capital.

  • family lineages, derived from large tribal clans, set up their separated wall towns
  • the oracle bones do name about a thousand towns.
  • lineages established relations by marriage headed by a patriarch.

  • the making of bronze coincided with the rise of the first central government 
  • this was during the Xia and Shang dynasties over a broad area
  • only a strong authority could ensure the mining of ore.

  • the making ritual vessels of bronze had several implications:

  • a royal authority was concerned with rituals as an aspect of power
  • it was able to assign manpower to the onerous task of mining ore and refining metals.

  • in the Xia and Shang the ruling family made use of elaborate and dramatic rituals 
  • this was to confirm their power to rule
  • they would communicate with the spirits of the ancestors to secure their help and guidance.

  • the shaman would be aided by his power animal
  • it was considered to have a totemic relation to the ancestor.

  • these were represented on the Shang bronze vessels by animal designs
  • a good example is the symmetrical and bilateral animal masks (taotie).

  • by practising a religious cult of the ancestors, local rulers made legitimate their authority
  • some became lords over groups of towns
  • one group would merge with another until a single ruling dynasty could emerge in an area