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New Confucianism

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 New Confucianism is a new movement of Confucianism that began in the twentieth century. It is deeply influenced by, but not identical with, the Neo-Confucianism of the and dynasties.

The term itself was first used as early as 1963 . However, it did not come into common use until the late 1970s. There is considerable debate over what exactly "New Confucianism" is, and who counts as a "New Confucian." New Confucianism is often associated with the essay, "A Manifesto on Chinese Culture to the World," which was published in 1958 by Tang Junyi, Mou Zongsan, Xu Fuguan and Zhang Junmai. This work is often referred to as the "New Confucian Manifesto," although that phrase never occurs in it. The Manifesto presents a vision of Chinese culture as having a fundamental unity throughout history, of which Confucianism is the highest expression. The particular interpretation of Confucianism given by the Manifesto is deeply influenced by Neo-Confucianism, and in particular the version of Neo-Confucianism most associated with and Wang Yangming .

In addition, the Manifesto argues that while China must learn from the West modern science and democracy, the West must learn from China "a more all-encompassing wisdom." Consequently, we might say that a "New Confucian" is anyone who believes that Confucianism can and should accommodate modern science and democracy, argues that Confucianism has a distinctive contribution to make to Western thought, and interprets Confucianism along the general lines of Neo-Confucianism.

On this characterization, leading contemporary New Confucians would include Liu Shuxian of Academia Sinica in Taiwan, Tu Wei-ming of Harvard, Robert Neville and John Berthrong of Boston University, and Chen Lai of the University of Beijing.

Many philosophers would agree with the New Confucians that Confucianism is a living and valuable contemporary philosophical position, but would dissent from reading Confucianism in terms of the thought of Neo-Confucians such as Wang Yangming. It would be an overly loose use of the term to describe such philosophers as "New Confucians."

Northern School

'Northern School' denotes a school of . This nomenclature was perpetuated in western scholarship which for the most part has been largely through the lens of southern Chan. The term "East Mountain Teaching" is more culturally and historically appropriate. East Mountain gets its name from the East Mountain Temple on 'Shuangfeng' of Huangmei. The East Mountain Temple was on the easternmost peak of the two. "Northern School" is considered pejorative, implying the aphorism: "suddenness of the South, gradualness of the North" . This characterization of East Mountain Teaching is unfounded in light of documented evidence found amongst manuscripts recovered from the Mogao Caves near Dunhuang. , et. al commenting on this aphorism state:

    Contrary to first impressions, the formula has little to do with geography. Like the general designations of Mahāyāna and Hīnayāna , the formula carries with it a value judgement. According to the mainstream of later Zen, not only is sudden enlightenment incomparably superior to gradual experience but it represents true Zen - indeed, it is the very touchstone of authentic Zen.

Kuiken in discussing a Dunhuang document of the Tang monk and meditator, 'Jingjue' states:

    The aristocratic Tang monk and meditation teacher Jingjue wrote a collection of vitae of ten senior meditation teachers, all obviously outside the established meditation tradition of Mt Tiantai. Jingjue's surname was Wei ; he was a brother-in-law of emperor Zhongzong. Prior to 705 Shenxiu 神秀 ... was his tutor. After 708, Jingjue studied with the Pure Land teacher Xuanze 玄賾 . Jingjue's memorial stele: Inscription for the stupa of Master Jingjue, the late Bhadanta of the National Monastery of Da'an 大唐大安國寺故大德靜覺師塔銘, was written by Wang Wei 王維 . Jingjue's Record introduces Hongren of Huangmei 黃梅宏忍

    as the main teacher in the sixth generation of the 'southern' or 'East Mountain' meditation tradition. Shenxiu is mentioned as Hongren's authorized successor. In Shenxiu's shadow, Jingjue mentions 'old An' 老安 as a 'seasoned' meditation teacher and some minor 'local disciples' of Hongren. Unlike Jingjue suggests, Shenxiu and Dao'an were connected with Yuquan 玉泉 Abbey in Jingzhou 荊州 , a meditation center related to the school at Mt Tiantai.

Dumoulin to redress the wronging of Fa-ju states:

    The consciousness of a unique line of transmission of Bodhidharma Zen, which is not yet demonstrable in the Bodhidharma treatise, grew during the seventh century and must have taken shape on the East Mountain prior to the death of the Fourth Patriarch Tao-hsin

    . The earliest indication appears in the epitaph for Fa-ju , one of the outstanding disciples of the Fifth Patriarch Hung-jen . The author of the epitaph is not known, but the list comprises six names: after Bodhidharma and Hui-k'o follow Seng-ts'an, Tao-hsin, Hung-jen, and Fa-ju. The Ch'uan fa-pao chi takes this list over and adds as a seventh name that of Shen-hsiu . In an epitaph for Shen-hsiu, his name is made to take the place of Fa-ju's. The Leng-ch'ieh shih-tzu chi omits Fa-ju and ends after Shen-hsiu with the name of his disciple P'u-chi . These indications from the Northern school argue for the succession of the Third Patriarch Seng-ts'an , which has been thrown into doubt because of lacunae in the historical work of Tao-hsuan. Still, the matter cannot be settled with certainty.


The East Mountain Teachings were founded by Fa-ju whose principal teachers were Hui-ming and Daman Hongren. Because of Fa-ju the 'Shaolin Monastery' , constructed in 496CE, yet again became prominent. Fa-ju had only a brief stay at Shaolin Temple, but during his stay the cloister became the epicentre of the flourishing Chan movement. An epitaph commemorating the success of Fa-ju's pioneering endeavours is located on Mount Sung.

, et. al hold that: "Fa-ju and his colleagues mark the beginning of the activity of Bodhidharma Zen masters in North China." Unfortunately, Fa-ju did not have a good publicist and he was not included within the list of Cha'an Patriarchs.


, et. al hold that: "No doubt the most important personage within the Northern school is Shen-hsiu, a man of high education and widespread notoriety."


Pao-t'ang Wu-chu or 'Bao-tang Wu-zhu' , head and founder of Pao-t'ang Monastery at Chengdu, Szechwan located in south west China was a member of the East Mountain Teachings as was Reverend Kim .

Further reading

  • Kuiken, Kees . The Other Neng 2: Part Two Sources and Resources. Source:


Neo-Confucianism / is a form of Confucianism that was primarily developed during the Song Dynasty, but which can be traced back to Han Yu and in the Tang Dynasty. It formed the basis of Confucian orthodoxy in the Qing Dynasty of China. It was a philosophy that attempted to merge certain basic elements of Confucian, Daoist, and Buddhist thought. Most important of the early Neo-Confucianists was the Chinese thinker Zhu Xi .


Confucians of the Song Dynasty studied the classical works of their faith, but were also familiar with Buddhist and Taoist teachings. Buddhist thought offered to them many things that they considered worthy of admiration, including ideas such as the nature of the soul and the relation of the individual to the cosmos, ideas not yet fully explored by Confucianism. Song Confucians drew greatly from Buddhist thought as well as their own traditions, thus giving rise to the English-language name of "Neo-Confucianism".
One of the most important exponents of Neo-Confucianism was Zhu Xi .

He was a rather prolific writer, maintaining and defending his Confucian beliefs of social harmony and proper personal conduct. One of his most remembered was the book Family Rituals, where he provided detailed advice on how to conduct weddings, funerals, family ceremonies, and the veneration of ancestors. Buddhist thought soon attracted him, and he began to argue in Confucian style for the Buddhist observance of high moral standards. He also believed that it was important to practical affairs that one should engage in both academic and philosophical pursuits, although his writings are concentrated more on issues of theoretical significance. It is reputed that he wrote many essays attempting to explain how his ideas were not Buddhist or Taoist, and included some heated denunciations of Buddhism and Taoism.

There were many competing views within the Neo-Confucian community, but overall, a system emerged that resembled both Buddhist and Taoist thought of the time and some of the ideas expressed in the Book of Changes as well as other yin yang theories associated with the Taiji symbol . A well known Neo-Confucian motif is of Confucius, , and Lao Tzu all drinking out of the same vinegar jar, paintings associated with the slogan "The three teachings are one!"

While Neo-Confucianism incorporated Buddhist and Taoist ideas, many Neo-Confucianists strongly oppose Buddhism and Taoism. Indeed, they rejected the Buddhist and Taoist religions. One of Han Yu's most famous essays decries the worship of Buddhist relics. Nonetheless, Neo-Confucian writings adapted Buddhist thoughts and beliefs to the Confucian interest. In China Neo-Confucianism was an officially-recognized creed from its development during the Song dynasty until the early twentieth century, and lands in the sphere of Song China were all deeply influenced by Neo-Confucianism for more than half a millennium.

World view

Zhu Xi's formulation of the Neo-Confucian world view is as follows. He believed that the Tao of Tian is expressed in principle or ' , but that it is sheathed in matter or qi . In this, his system is based on Buddhist systems of the time that divided things into principle , and shi . In the Neo-Confucian formulation, li in itself is pure and perfect, but with the addition of qi, base emotions and conflicts arise. Human nature is originally good, the Neo-Confucians argued , but not pure unless action is taken to purify it. The imperative is then to purify one's li. However, in contrast to Buddhists and Taoists, neo-Confucians did not believe in an external world unconnected with the world of matter. In addition, Neo-Confucians in general rejected the idea of reincarnation and the associated idea of karma.

Different Neo-Confucians had differing ideas for how to do so. Zhu Xi believed in gewu , the Investigation of Things, essentially an academic form of observational science, based on the idea that li lies within the world. Wang Yangming , probably the second most influential Neo-Confucian, came to another conclusion: namely, that if li is in all things, and li is in one's heart, there is no better place to seek than within oneself. His preferred method of doing so was jingzuo , a practice that strongly resembles zazen or meditation. Wang Yangming developed the idea of innate knowing, arguing that every person knows from birth the difference between and evil.

Such knowledge is intuitive and not . These revolutionizing ideas of Wang Yangming would later inspire prominent Japanese thinkers like Motoori Norinaga, who argued that because of the Shinto deities, Japanese people alone had the intuitive ability to distinguish good and evil without complex rationalization. Wang Yangming's school of thought also provided, in part, an ideological basis for some samurai who sought to pursue action based on intuition rather than scholasticism. As such, it also provided an intellectual foundation for the radical political actions of low ranking samurai in the decades prior to the Meiji Ishin , in which the Tokugawa authority was overthrown.

The importance of li in Neo-Confucianism gave the movement its Chinese name, literally "The study of Li."

Bureaucratic examinations

Neo-Confucianism became the interpretation of Confucianism whose mastery was necessary to pass the by the , and continued in this way through the Qing dynasty until the end of the Imperial examination system in 1905. However, many scholars such as Benjamin Elman have questioned the degree to which their role as the orthodox interpretation in reflects the degree to which both the bureaucrats and Chinese gentry actually believed those interpretations, and point out that there were very active schools such as Han learning which offered competing interpretations of Confucianism.

The competing school of Confucianism was called the Evidential School or Han Learning and argued that Neo-Confucianism had caused the teachings of Confucianism to be hopelessly contaminated with Buddhist thinking. This school also criticized Neo-Confucianism for being detached from reality with empty philosophical speculation that was unconnected with reality.

Confucian canon

The Confucian canon as it exists today was essentially compiled by Zhu Xi. Zhu codified the canon of Four Books which in the subsequent Ming and Qing Dynasties were made the core of the official curriculum for the civil service examinations.

Prominent neo-Confucian scholars





Neigong, also spelled nei kung, neigung, or nae gong, is any of a set of and meditation disciplines associated with Daoism and especially the Chinese martial arts. Neigong practice is normally associated with the so called "soft style", "internal" or nèijiā 內家 Chinese martial arts, as opposed to the category known as waigong 外功 or "external skill" which is historically associated with shaolinquan or the so called "hard style", "external" or 外家 Chinese martial arts. Both have many different schools, disciplines and practices and historically there has been mutual influence between the two and distinguishing precisely between them differs from school to school.

There is both martial and non-martial neigong. Well known examples of martial neigong are the various breathing and focus trainings taught in some traditional Taijiquan, Baguazhang and Xingyiquan schools. An example of non-martial neigong is the discipline known as Daoyin.

Neigong and the internal martial arts

The martial art school of neigong emphasises training the coordination of the individual's body with the breath, known has the harmonisation of the inner and outer, 內外合一, creating a basis for a particular school's method of utilising power and technique.

Neigong exercises that are part of the neijia tradition involve cultivating physical stillness and or conscious movement, designed to produce relaxation or releasing of muscular tension combined with special breathing techniques known as the "tortoise" or "reverse" breathing methods to name but a few. The fundamental purpose of this process is to develop a high level of coordination, concentration and technical skill that is known in the martial arts world as 內勁. The ultimate purpose of this practice is for the individual to become at one with heaven or the Dao 天人合一. As Zhuangzi stated, "Heaven, earth and I are born of one, and I am at one with all that exists 天地與我並生, 萬物與我唯一".

Neigong and meditation

This type of practice is said to require concentration and internal reflection which results in a heightened self-awareness that increases over time with continued practice. Neigong practitioners report awareness of the mechanics of their blood circulation, peristalsis, muscular movement, skeletal alignment, balance, etc.

What is said to be occurring as the result of continual practice is a type of internal alchemy, that is a refinement and transmutation of the "Three Treasures" or San Bao 三寳, in Chinese. The Three Treasures are known as , Qi and and can be loosely translated as Essence, Vitality and Spirit.

According to Daoist doctrine the Three Treasures can be described as three types of energy available to humans. The Dao De Jing purported to be written by Lao zi states in chapter 42 that "The Dao gives birth to the One, the One gives birth to the Two and the Two gives birth to the Three and lastly the Three gives birth to the 10,000 Things ; which is all that exists in heaven and on earth.


The term "nèijiā" usually refers to Wudangquan or the internal styles of Chinese martial arts, which Sun Lutang identified in the 1920s as T'ai Chi Ch'uan, Xíngyìquán and Bāguàzhǎng. This classifies most other martial arts as "wàijiā" . Some other Chinese arts, such as Liuhebafa, Bak Mei Pai, Bok Foo Pai and (Yiquan are frequently classified as internal or having internal qualities . These secondary neijia may be related to, or derived from, the primary arts.

Taoist martial arts

Shaolin is a family of Chinese martial arts that are linked with Buddhism and a particular mountain monastery that are categorized as wàijiā martial arts. The family of martial arts that are linked with Taoism are linked with the Taoist monastery on Wudang mountain and categorized as nèijiā martial arts. However, there is very little evidence that any of these internal styles actually originated in the Wudang area. There are additional ways of parsing the distinctions and defining the criteria that separate these two families of arts. All of these categories have some level of ambiguity and even the line between Buddhist and Taoist practices is not always a clear way to distinguish wàijiā and nèijiā martial arts.

Criteria for distinguishing the neijia arts

Sun Lutang identified the following as the criteria that distinguish an internal martial art:

  1. An emphasis on the use of the mind to coordinate the leverage of the relaxed body as opposed to the use of brute strength.
  2. The internal development, circulation, and expression of .
  3. The application of Taoist dǎoyǐn, qìgōng, and principles of external movement.

fuses principles from all three arts he named as neijia. Some Chinese martial arts other than the ones Sun named also teach what are termed internal practices, despite being generally classified as external . Some non-Chinese martial arts also claim to be internal. e.g. Aikido, I Liq Chuan, Ip Sun, and Kito Ryu jujutsu. Many [[|martialartists]], especially outside of China, disregard the distinction entirely. Some neijia schools refer to their arts as "" martial arts.

Earlier classifications

The term "nèijiā" and the distinction between internal and external martial arts first appears in Huang Zongxi's 1669 Epitaph for Wang Zhengnan.
Stanley Henning proposes that the Epitaph's identification of the internal martial arts with the Taoism indigenous to China and of the external martial arts with the foreign Buddhism of —and the Manchu Qing Dynasty to which Huang Zongxi was opposed—was an act of political defiance rather than one of technical classification.

In 1676 Huang Zongxi's son, Huang Baijia, who learned martial arts from Wang Zhengnan, compiled the earliest extant manual of internal martial arts, the Nèijiā quánfǎ.

Characteristics of neijia training

Internal styles focus on awareness of the spirit, mind, chi and the use of relaxed leverage rather than unrefined muscular tension. Pushing hands is a training method commonly used in neijia arts to develop sensitivity and softness.

In recent years, many of "New Age"-oriented schools have appeared, which traditionalists criticize for emphasizing philosophy and speculation at the expense of hard work. For this reason, and because in most internal schools beginning students are expected to work on very basic principles for an extended period of time, many people believe internal styles lack "external" physical training. In the older schools, this is usually not the case. Much time may be spent on basic physical training, such as stance training , stretching and strengthening of muscles, as well as on empty hand and weapon forms which can be quite demanding. Also, many internal styles have basic two-person training, such as pushing hands and duet forms.

Some forms in internal styles are performed slowly, although some include sudden outbursts of explosive movements , such as those the is famous for teaching earlier than some other styles . The reason for the generally slow pace is to improve coordination and balance by increasing the work load, and to require the student to pay minute attention to their whole body and its weight as they perform a technique. At an advanced level, and in actual fighting, internal styles are performed quickly, but the goal is to learn to involve the entire body in every motion, to stay relaxed, with deep, controlled breathing, and to coordinate the motions of the body and the breathing accurately according to the dictates of the forms while maintaining perfect balance.

Differences between internal and external arts

The reason for the label "internal," according to most schools, is that there is a focus on the internal aspects earlier in the training, once these internal relationships are apprehended they are then applied to the external applications of the styles in question.

External style are characterized by fast and explosive movements and a focus on physical strength and agility. External styles include both the traditional styles focusing on application and fighting, as well as the modern styles adapted for competition and exercise. Examples of external styles are Shaolinquan, with its direct explosive attacks and many forms that have spectacular aerial techniques. External styles begin with a training focus on muscular power, speed and application, and generally integrate their qigong aspects in advanced training, after their desired "hard" physical level has been reached.

Some say that there is no differentiation between the so-called internal and external systems of the Chinese martial arts, while other well known teachers have expressed differing opinions. For example, the Taijiquan teacher Wu Jianquan:

    Those who practice Shaolinquan leap about with strength and force; people not proficient at this kind of training soon lose their breath and are exhausted. Taijiquan is unlike this. Strive for quiescence of body, mind and intention.

Current practice of neijia arts

Today, only a few traditional schools teaching internal styles train martially. Most schools teach forms that are practised for health benefits only, as this is in higher demand. To condition oneself well enough to become adept at the internal style martial arts is a long-term proposition; many simply lose interest after a few years and never continue the practice. Many people who have not fully learned the martial aspects of their style teach publicly anyway, leading to a further diminution of the martial applications taught in many schools. Some instructors supplement what they are teaching with elements from other martial arts and their training becomes further diluted.

Many health-oriented schools and teachers believe that the martial practices of neijia are no longer necessary in the modern world, as well as claiming that students may not need to practice martially to derive a benefit from the training. Traditionalists feel that a school not teaching martial aspects somewhere in their syllabus cannot be said to be actually teaching the art itself, that they have accredited themselves prematurely. Traditional teachers also believe that understanding the core theoretical principles of neijia and the ability to apply them are a necessary gateway to health benefits.

Neijia in fiction

Internal styles have been associated in legend and in much popular fiction with the Taoist monasteries of Wudangshan in central China.

Neijia are a common theme in Chinese Wuxia novels and films, and are usually represented as originating in Wudang or similar mythologies. Often, genuine internal practices are highly exaggerated to the point of making them seem miraculous, as in Crouching Tiger Hidden Dragon or Tai Chi Master. Internal concepts have also been a source of comedy, such as in the films Shaolin Soccer and Kung Fu Hustle.


Neidan , a method of internal alchemy. Part of the Chinese alchemical meditative tradition that is said to have been separated into internal and external at some point during the Tang dynasty.

The neidan tradition of internal alchemy was practiced by working with the energies that were already present in the human body, as opposed to using natural substances, medicines or elixirs, from outside of the body. The Shangqing tradition of Daoism played an important role in the emergence of neidan alchemy, after using Wiedan mainly as a meditative practise, and therefore turning it from an external to an internal art.

Closely related to Daoism, it is believed that the goal of neidan was to merge the two energies of yin and yang, and return to the primordial unity of the Dao.


Mozi , was a philosopher who lived in China during the Hundred Schools of Thought period . He founded the school of Mohism and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism. During the Warring States Period, Mohism was actively developed and practiced in many states, but fell out of favour when the Qin Dynasty came to power. During that period many Mohist classics were ruined when Qin Shihuang carried out the burning of books and burying of scholars. The importance of Mohism further declined when Confucianism became the dominant school of thought during the Han Dynasty, disappearing by the middle of the Western Han Dynasty.


Most historians believe that Mozi was a member of the lower artisan class who managed to climb his way to an official post. Mozi was a native of the , although for a time he served as a minister in the . Like Confucius, Mozi was known to have maintained a school for those who desired to become officials serving in the different ruling courts of the Warring States.

Mozi was a master engineer and craftsman, designing everything from mechanical birds to wheeled, mobile "cloud ladders" used to besiege city walls . Though he did not hold a high official position, Mozi was sought out by various rulers as an expert on fortification, and managed to attract a large following during his lifetime which rivaled that of Confucius. His followers – mostly technicians and craftspeople – were organized in a disciplined order that studied both Mozi's philosophical and technical writings.

His pacifism led Mozi to travel from one crisis zone to another through the ravaged landscape of the Warring States, trying to dissuade rulers from their plans of conquest. According to the chapter "Gongshu" in Mozi, he once walked for ten days to the state of Chu in order to forestall an attack on the state of Song. At the Chu court, Mozi engaged in simulated war games with Gongshu Ban, the chief military strategist of Chu, and overturned each one of his stratagems. When Gongshu Ban threatened him with death, Mozi informed the king that his disciples had already trained the soldiers of Song on his fortification methods, so it would be useless to kill him. The Chu king was forced to call off the war. On the way back, however, the soldiers of Song, not recognizing him, would not allow Mozi to enter their city, and he had to spend a night freezing in the rain.

Though Mozi's school faded into obscurity after the Warring States period, he was studied again two millennia after his death: Both the revolutionaries of 1911 and the saw in him a surprisingly modern thinker who was stifled early in Chinese history.


In contrast to those of Confucius, Mozi's moral teachings emphasized self-reflection and authenticity rather than obedience to ritual. He observed that we often learn about the world through adversity . By reflecting on one's own successes and failures, one attains true self-knowledge rather than mere conformity with ritual. Mozi exhorted the gentleman to lead a life of asceticism and self-restraint, renouncing both material and spiritual extravagance.

Like Confucius, Mozi idealized the Xia Dynasty and the ancients of Chinese mythology, but he criticized the Confucian belief that modern life should be patterned on the ways of the ancients. After all, he pointed out, what we think of as "ancient" was actually innovative in its time, and thus should not be used to hinder present-day innovation . Though Mozi did not believe that history necessarily progresses, as did Han Fei Zi, he shared the latter's critique of . Mozi believed that people were capable of changing their circumstances and directing their own lives. They could do this by applying their senses to observing the world, judging objects and events by their causes, their function, and their historical basis. This was the "three-prong method" Mozi recommended for testing the truth or falsehood of statements. His students later expanded on this to form the .

Mozi tended to evaluate actions based on whether they provide benefit to the people, which he measured in terms of an enlarged population , a prosperous economy, and social order. Similar to the Western , Mozi thought that actions should be measured by the way they contribute to the "greatest good of the greatest number." With this criterion Mozi denounced things as diverse as offensive warfare, expensive funerals, and even and which he saw as serving no useful purpose. Mozi did not reject to music in principle--"It's not that I don't like the sound of the drum" --but because of the heavy tax burden such activities placed on commoners and also due to the fact that officials tended to indulge in them at the expense of their duties.

Mozi tried to replace what he considered to be the long-entrenched Chinese over-attachment to family and structures with the concept of 兼愛jian ai which can be translated as "impartial caring" or "universal love". In this, he argued directly against Confucians who had argued that it was natural and correct for people to care about different people in different degrees. Mozi, by contrast, argued people in principle should care for all people equally, a notion that philosophers in other schools found absurd, as they interpreted this notion as implying no special amount of care or duty towards one's parents and family. Overlooked by those critics, however, is a passage in the chapter on "Self-Cultivation" which states "When people near-by are not befriended, there is no use endeavoring to attract those at a distance." This point is also precisely articulated by a Mohist in a debate with Mencius where the Mohist argues in relation to carrying out universal love, that "We begin with what is near." Also, in the first chapter of the writings of Mozi on universal love, Mozi argues that the best way of being filial to one’s parents is to be filial to the parents of others. The foundational principle is that benevolence, as well as malevolence, is requited, and that one

will be treated by others as one treats others. Mozi quotes a popular passage from the to bring home this point: "When one throws to me a peach, I return to him a plum."
One’s parents will be treated by others as one treats the parents of others. In pursuing this line of argument, Mozi was directly appealing to the idea of in social relations. Also of note is that Mozi differentiated between "intention" and "actuality" thereby placing a central importance on the will to love even though in practice it may very well be impossible to bring benefit to everyone.

In addition, Mozi argued that benevolence comes to human beings “as naturally as fire turns upward or water turns downward”, provided that persons in position of authority illustrate benevolence in their own lives. Furthermore, Mozi’s basic argument concerning universal love asserts that universal love is supremely practical, this argument directed against those who objected that love could not be put into practice.

Mozi also held a belief in the power of ghosts and spirits, although he is often thought to have only worshipped them pragmatically. In fact, in his discussion on ghosts and spirits, he remarks that even if they did not exist, communal gatherings for the sake of making sacrificial offering would play a role in strengthing social bonds. Furthermore, for the will of heaven was that people should love one another, and that mutual love by all would bring benefit to all. Therefore, it was in everyone's interest that they love others "as they love themselves." Heaven should be respected because failing to do so would subject one to punishment. For Mozi, heaven was not the amoral, mystical Nature of the Taoists. Rather, it was a benevolent, moral force that rewarded the good and punished the evil, similar to the Christian/Islamic idea of God. Thus he writes that "Bo-ai is the way of heaven", since "heaven nourishes and sustains all life without regard to status". Mozi's ideal of government, which advocated a meritocracy based on talent rather than background, also followed his idea of heaven.

Works and Influence

The Mozi is the name of the philosophical text compiled by Mohists from Mozi's thought. Because Mohism disappeared as a living tradition from China, its texts were not well maintained, and many chapters are missing or in a corrupted state. For example, of the three chapters "Against Confucianism", only one remains.

Mohism was suppressed under the and died out completely under the , who made Confucianism the official doctrine. However, many of its ideas were dissolved into the mainstream of Chinese thought and re-examined in modern times. Sun Yat-Sen used "bo-ai" as one of the foundations for his idea of Chinese democracy. More recently, Chinese scholars under Communism have tried to rehabilitate Mozi as a "philosopher of the people", highlighting his rational-empirical approach to the world as well as his "proletarian" background.

From a modern point of view, Mozi's philosophy was at once more advanced and less so than that of Confucius. His concept of "jian-ai" embraced a broader idea of human community than the Confucians, but he is less tolerant than Confucius in his condemnation of all that is not directly "useful", neglecting the humanizing functions of art and music. Zhuangzi, who criticized both the Confucians and the Mohists, had this in mind in his parables on the "uselessness of the useful". Of course, this insistence on usefulness comes from a time when war and famine were widespread and could well have made all cultural activities look frivolous.

Mohism and Science

According to Joseph Needham, Mozi contains the following sentence: 'The cessation of motion is due to the opposing force ... If there is no opposing force ... the motion will never stop. This is as true as that an ox is not a horse.' which, he claims, is a precursor to . Mozi also contains speculations in optics and mechanics that are similarly strikingly original, although their ideas were not taken up by later Chinese philosophers. The Mohist tradition is also highly unusual in Chinese thought in that it devoted time to developing principles of logic, similar to those of Aristotle. For example, it describes the difference between necessary condition and sufficient condition .

Further reading

  • Yi-pao Mei , Motse, the Neglected Rival of Confucius , is a general study of the man and his age, his works, and his teachings, with an extensive bibliography.

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Mohism or Moism was a Chinese philosophy developed by the followers of Mozi . It evolved at about the same time as Confucianism, Taoism and and was one of the four main during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period . During that time, Mohism was seen as a major rival to Confucianism. The Qin dynasty which united China in 221 BC, adopted as the official government philosophy, and . In the modern era, Mohism has all but disappeared as a school of philosophy, although some Asian secret societies consider themselves to be the modern followers of Mohist thought.

Important beliefs

Mohism rested on the concept of "impartial care" or "universal love" . Mozi believed that "everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of impartial and collective love. His epistemology can be regarded as a form of empiricism; he believed that our cognition ought to be based on our perceptions – our sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing – instead of imagination or internal logic, elements founded on our capacity for abstraction. Mozi's philosophy was described in the book ', compiled by his students from his lecture notes.


Mozi is best known for his insistence that all people are equally deserving of receiving material benefit and being protected from physical harm. In Mohism, morality is defined not by tradition, but rather by a constant moral guide that parallels utilitarianism. Tradition is inconsistent, and human beings need an extra-traditional guide to identify which traditions are acceptable. The moral guide must then promote and encourage social behaviors that maximize general utility.


Mohism promotes a philosophy of impartial care - equal care for all individuals.

  1. Assessing them basing on history
  2. Assessing them basing on the experiences of common, average people
  3. Assessing their usefulness by applying them in law or politics

Much like Euclid's first and third definitions and Plato's 'beginning of a line', the Mo Jing stated that "a point may stand at the end or at its beginning like a head-presentation in childbirth. there is nothing similar to it." Similar to the atomists of Democritus, the Mo Jing stated that a point is the smallest unit, and cannot be cut in half, since 'nothing' cannot be halved. along with principles of space and bounded space. It also described the fact that planes without the quality of thickness cannot be piled up since they cannot mutually touch. The book provided definitions for circumference, diameter, and radius, along with the definition of volume.

Further reading

Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven is a traditional concept concerning the legitimacy of rulers. Heaven would bless the authority of a just ruler, but would be displeased with a despotic ruler and would withdraw its mandate. The Mandate of Heaven would then transfer to those who would rule best.

The Mandate of Heaven had no time limitations, but instead depended on the just performance of the ruler. The Mandate does not require that a legitimate emperor be of noble birth, and in fact, dynasties were often founded by people of modest birth . The concept of the Mandate of Heaven was first used to support the rule of the of the Zhou Dynasty and later the Emperors of China. "Mandate of Heaven" was also the first era name of the Qing Dynasty.


The concept is first found in the written records of the words of the Duke of Zhou, younger brother of King Wu of Zhou and regent for King Wu's infant son King Cheng of Zhou. He is considered by many to have been the originator of the idea. The notion of the Mandate of Heaven was later invoked by Mencius, a very influential Chinese philosopher sage, considered as the second greatest philosopher sage next to Confucius.

The Mandate of Heaven was first used by the Zhou Dynasty to justify their overthrow of the Shang Dynasty and would be used by many succeeding dynasties to come. The Duke of Zhou explained to the people of Shang, that if their king had not misused his power, his Mandate would not have been taken away. Eventually, as Chinese political ideas developed further, the Mandate was linked to the notion of the dynastic cycle. Severe floods or famines were considered evidence of divine repeal of the Mandate of Heaven.

The Shang had legitimized their rule by family connections to divine power. The Shang believed that their founders were deities, and their descendants went to join them in Heaven. As shown by the divination texts preserved on oracle bones from the later Shang, Heaven was thought to be very active and interfered in mysterious ways with earthly rule. The Mandate of Heaven changed the right to rule from divine legitimization to one based on just rule.

Although the Mandate had no time limitation, it held rulers to a clear standard. Over the passage of time, there would inevitably arise a ruler that would cause Heaven to withdraw its Mandate. As the Mandate of Heaven emphasized the performance of the ruler, the social background of the ruler became less important. Historical documents found in ancient China stated that a legitimate ruler could come from any spectrum of the society. The Zhou said that the Xia Dynasty had existed long before the Shang, and that they too were overthrown by the Mandate. This would have given the Zhou the same right to overthrow the Shang. However, there is no concrete evidence for the existence of the Xia, and it is believed by many that the concept of the Mandate of Heaven was created by the Zhou.

Transition between the Shang and the Zhou

The Shang Dynasty had its prosperous times filled with many outstanding accomplishments. Notably, the dynasty lasted for a considerable amount of years in which 31 Kings ruled over an extended period of 17 generations. During this period, the dynasty was able to enjoy a period of peace and tranquility in which jobs were commonly available for citizens. The government was able to control most of its internal affairs due to the firm support provided by the people. Among many of its accomplishments, they were noted primarily for of wealth on wine, women, and tyranny. This abuse of the other social classes consequently led to an upheaval in the dynasty. The corruption in this dynasty mandated the need for a new ruler. This inevitably gave rise to the Zhou Dynasty. Led by Zhou Wu, as the will of heaven, they believed that the Shang were morally implacable because of their degenerated moral standards, therefore, entitling them to overthrow the Shang Dynasty because it was a mandate given by Heaven.

After the Zhou gained control of the dynasty, they instituted mostly their own officials. However, in order to appease some of the citizens, they allowed some of the Shang beneficiaries to continue governing the small Kingdoms in which they had been governing but in compliance with the Zhou rules and regulations. As the empire continued to expand, much intermarriage became eminent. This was done because the rulers believed that it was a method of forming strong allies that enabled them to absorb more countries into the dynasty. In case of a war, the Zhou Dynasty boasted an excellent military and technology mostly because of influence from annexed countries. They also excelled in shipbuilding, which made them excellent mariners because of their discovery of navigating their ships to a precise destination by using the stars as their guide. Intellectually, the Zhou excelled in fields of literature and philosophy. Many governmental positions were dictated around the intellectual ability of a candidate. Many of the literature from the Zhou period included the Book of Changes, , Book Etiquettes, Book of Song, Book of Odes, and the Book of Rites. Most of these literatures observed the progress and political movement of the dynasty. In philosophical terms, Confucius and his followers played an important role in shaping the mentality of the government.

These critical thinkers served as a foundation for the government. Their works primarily stressed the importance of the ruling class, respect and their relationship with the lower class. Due to the growing size of the dynasty, it became apparent that a centralized government would lead to a lot of confusion and corruption because the government would not be able to exert its influence or compromise the needs of everyone. To address this political barrier, the dynasty formed a decentralized government in which the empire was broken down into sections. Within these districts were administrators who were appointed by the government, in return, they had to maintain their allegiance to the main internal government. In effect, the Zhou dynasty became a collection of districts. Consequently this marked the fall of the dynasty as it became difficult for the central government to exert influence on all other regions of the empire.

Finally, after the Zhou dynasty became less powerful, it was then wiped out by the Qin because they believed that the Zhou became unfit in ruling. This transition emphasizes the customary trend of Mandate of Heaven which provided leeway for the rise of new power. The Qin initially attempted to capitalize on the mistakes/errors made by the Zhou, by either eliminating the source of error or reforming it. During this reformation, administrative changes were made and a system of legalism was developed which stated that the law is supreme over every individual, including the rulers. Although significant progress was made during the Qin Dynasty, however, the persecution of scholars and ordinary citizens led to an unstable state.

After the death of Emperor Qin Shihuangdi of the Qin dynasty, a widespread revolt by prisoners, peasants, and unhappy soldiers inevitably led to the fall of the Qin Dynasty due to its tyrannical practices. The establishment of the Han Dynasty marked a great period in China’s history. This period was marked by significant changes in the political structure of China. During the Han dynasty, significant changes were made in which the government introduced entrance examinations known as civil service examinations for governmental positions. Additionally, the Han dynasty prospered economically through the Silk Road and other trading means. Throughout the reign of the Han Dynasty, the wealthy elites and the peasants benefited from the wise decisions made by the brilliant minds of the dynasty.

The Five Dynasties Period

During the Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms Period, there was no dominant Chinese dynasty that ruled all of China. This created a problem for the Song Dynasty that followed, as they wanted to legitimize their rule by claiming that the Mandate of Heaven had passed on them. The scholar-official Xue Juzheng compiled the Five Dynasties History during the 960s and 970s, after the Song Dynasty had taken northern China from the last of the , the Later Zhou Dynasty. A major purpose was to establish justification for the transference of the Mandate of Heaven through these five dynasties, and thus to the Song Dynasty. He argued that these dynasties met certain vital criteria to be considered as having attained the Mandate of Heaven despite never having ruled all of China. One is that they all ruled the traditional Chinese heartland. They also held considerably more territory than any of the other Chinese states that had existed conterminously in the south.

However, there were certain other areas where these dynasties all clearly fell short. The brutal behavior of and the Later Liang Dynasty was a source of considerable embarrassment, and thus there was pressure to exclude them from the Mandate. The following three dynasties, the , , and were all non-Han Chinese dynasties, all having been ruled by the non-Chinese Shatuo Turks. There is also the concern that though each of them was the most powerful Chinese kingdom of its respective era, none of them ever really had the ability to unify the entire Chinese realm as there were several powerful states to the south. However, it was the conclusion of Xue Juzheng that the Mandate had indeed passed through each of the Five Dynasties, and thus onto the Song Dynasty when it conquered the last of those dynasties.

Divine right in other countries

The Mandate of Heaven is similar to the European notion of the Divine Right of Kings. Both sought to legitimize rule from divine approval. However, Divine Right of Kings granted unconditional legitimacy, whereas the Mandate of Heaven was conditional on just behavior of the ruler. Revolution is never legitimate under the Divine Right of Kings, but the philosophy of the Mandate of Heaven approved of the overthrow of unjust rulers. Chinese historians interpreted a successful revolt as evidence that the Mandate of Heaven had passed. In China, the right of rebellion against an unjust ruler has been a part of political philosophy ever since the Zhou dynasty, and a successful rebellion was understood as evidence of divine approval.

In the East Asian countries that drew much of their political philosophy from ancient China, the concept of a divine political legitimacy that is conditional and could be withdrawn was ideologically problematic. In Japan this problem was obviated because the Imperial House of Japan claimed to be descended in an unbroken line from the Japanese , Amaterasu. Nevertheless, while maintaining his role as a divine descendant and high priest of state, the Japanese emperor became politically marginalized in the Nara and Heian periods by powerful regents of the Fujiwara clan who seized executive control of state. Even though the Japanese imperial line itself remained unbroken after the eighth century, actual political authority passed through successive dynasties of regents and shoguns which cycled in a manner similar to that of Chinese dynasties. Even after the Meiji restoration in 1868, when the emperor was placed back in the center of the political bureaucracy, the throne itself had very little power vis-à-vis the Meiji oligarchy. Actual political power has passed through at least four systems since the Meiji restoration: the Taisho democracy, the , the Occupation of Japan, and . The emperor today is a political figurehead and not a ruling sovereign. It could be said the imperial line of Japan survived for so long precisely because it did not have control over the state, and that the turmoil of succession was projected onto a series of proxy rulers.

Logic in China

In the history of logic, logic in China plays a particularly interesting role due to its length and relative isolation from the strong current of development of the study of logic in Europe and the Islamic world, though it may have some influence from Indian logic due to the spread of Buddhism.

Confucian legalism

During the imperial era of China, the two philosophies of Confucianism and created an extremely advanced and efficient form of government. A result of Confucian and Legalist principles was the creation of the bureaucracy in government, a standardized and methodical system of management.


Legalism is the totalitarian pragmatic political philosophy of Han Fei, with maxims like "when the epoch changed, the ways changed" as its essential principle, than a jurisprudence. In this context, "legalism" here can bear the meaning of "political philosophy that upholds the rule of law", and is thus distinguished from the word's Western sense. Legalism takes an extreme cynical approach to governance; only allowing , opposed to , thinking.

Mohist logic

In China, a contemporary of Confucius, Mozi, "Master Mo", is credited with founding the Mohist school,
whose canons dealt with issues relating to valid inference and the conditions of correct conclusions.

The Mohist school of Chinese philosophy contained an approach to logic and argumentation that stresses over deductive reasoning, and is based on the three fa, or methods of drawing distinctions between kinds of things.

One of the schools that grew out of Mohism, the Logicians, are credited by some scholars for their early investigation of formal logic.

Daoist skepticism

The repression of the study of logic

Unfortunately, due to the harsh rule of in the subsequent Qin Dynasty, this line of investigation disappeared in China until the introduction of Indian philosophy and Indian logic by .

Philosophers from other early schools

  • Mozi , utilitarian and founder of the school.
  • Hui Shi, relativistic who influenced Zhuangzi.
  • Gongsun Long, who was known for his paradoxes.
  • Han Feizi, synthesizer of theories.



Modern philosophers

Posted by wriacipi at 7:39 AM No comments:
The Liezi is a Daoist text attributed to Lie Yukou, a circa 5th century BCE Hundred Schools of Thought philosopher, but Chinese and Western scholars believe it was compiled around the 4th century CE.

Textual history

The first two references to the Liezi book are from the Former Han Dynasty. The editor notes he eliminated repetitions in Liezi and rearranged it into eight chapters . The Book of Han bibliography section says it has eight chapters and concludes that since the Zhuangzi quotes Liezi, he must have lived before Zhuangzi. There is a three-century historical gap until the next evidence of the Liezi: the commentary by Zhang Zhan 張湛 . Zhang's preface claims his Liezi copy was transmitted down from his grandfather. All received Liezi texts derive from Zhang's version, which is divided into eight chapters .

During the reign of Emperor Xuanzong of Tang, the Liezi was designated a Daoist classic, completing the trilogy with the more famous Daodejing and Zhuangzi, and it was honorifically entitled the Chongxu zhenjing . This "Simplicity and Vacuity" is Wing-tsit Chan's translation; chongxu usually means "soar aloft, rise high; carefree, unburdened with ambition". During the reign of Emperor Zhenzong of Song, the Liezi was further honored as the Chongxu zhide zhenjing .


The eight Liezi chapters are shown below .

Chapter Pinyin Translation
1 天瑞 Tian Rui Heaven's Gifts
2 黃帝 Huang Di The Yellow Emperor
3 周穆王 Zhou Mu Wang King Mu of Zhou
4 仲尼 Zhong Ni Confucius
5 湯問 Tang Wen The Questions of Tang
6 力命 Li Ming Endeavor and Destiny
7 楊朱 Yang Zhu Yang Zhu
8 說符 Shuo Fu Explaining Conjunctions

Most Liezi chapters are named after famous figures in Chinese mythology and history. Either sage rulers like the Yellow Emperor , , and King Mu of Zhou ; or philosophers like Confucius and Yang Zhu .

The Liezi is generally considered to be the most practical of the major Daoist works, compared to the philosophical writings of Laozi and the poetic narrative of Zhuangzi. Although the Liezi has not been extensively published in the West, some passages are well known. For example, Gengsangzi gives this description of Daoist pure experience:

    My body is in accord with my mind, my mind with my energies, my energies with my spirit, my spirit with Nothing. Whenever the minutest existing thing or the faintest sound affects me, whether it is far away beyond the eight borderlands, or close at hand between my eyebrows and eyelashes, I am bound to know it. However, I do not know whether I perceived it with the seven holes in my head and my four limbs, or knew it through my heart and belly and internal organs. It is simply self-knowledge.

Compare the Zhuangzi saying, "The Perfect Man uses his mind like a mirror — going after nothing, welcoming nothing, responding but not storing. Therefore he can win out over things and not hurt himself."


Liezi scholars have long recognized that it shares many passages with other pre-Han texts like the Zhuangzi, Daodejing, and Lüshi Chunqiu. Barrett says opinion is "divided as to whether it is an ancient work with later interpolations or a forgery confected from ancient sources." On the one hand, the Liezi could contain a core of circa 400 BCE authentic writings of Lie Yukou; on the other hand, it could be a circa 400 CE compilation forged by Zhang Zhan.

The Liezi is most similar with the Zhuangzi. They share many characters and stories; Graham lists sixteen complete episodes plus sections from others. The Zhuangzi also mentions Liezi in four chapters and Lie Yukou in three. For example, this famous passage:

    could ride the wind and go soaring around with cool and breezy skill, but after fifteen days he came back to earth. As far as the search for good fortune went, he didn't fret and worry. He escaped the trouble of walking, but he still had to depend on something to get around. If he had only mounted on the truth of Heaven and Earth, ridden the changes of the six breaths, and thus wandered through the boundless, then what would he have had to depend on? Therefore I say, the Perfect Man has no self; the Holy Man has no merit; the Sage has no fame.

The final two chapters have heterogeneous contents that differ from the Daoism elsewhere in the book. Chapter 7 records the Hedonist philosophy of "Yang Zhu" , infamous for the criticism of Mencius that he, "believed in 'every man for himself.' If he could have helped the whole world by plucking out a single hair, he would not have done it." Zhang Zhan speculates that this chapter, focusing on indulgence in physical and temporary pleasures, was from Lie Yuko's earlier years as a hedonist, before he became a Daoist. The well-known scholar of Chinese philosophy, Wing-Tsit Chan calls the "Yang Zhu" chapter "negative Daoism" in contrast with the Daoism of Laozi, Zhuangzi, and Huainanzi that were "all positive in that each represents something new." Chapter 8, "Explaining Conjunctions," is primarily taken from other early sources, not only Daoist but Confucian and Mohist texts, two philosophies that opposed the philosophical Daoism this book expounds.

Angus C. Graham, Professor Emeritus of the School of Oriental and African Studies, illuminated the textual provenance. After translating Liezi , which Barrett calls undoubtedly "the best translation into a Western language to date", Graham linguistically analyzed internal evidence and textual parallels. He discovered many cases where the Liezi is clearly secondary to other texts, but none where it is the primary source for a passage. The Preface to the revised Liezi translation explains his significant change in attitude.

    Although in 1960 most scholars in China already recognized the late date of ', most Westerners were still disinclined to question its antiquity. My own textual studies, not yet completed when this translation first appeared, supported the Chinese dating, which by now prevails also in the West. … One result of the textual investigation came as a surprise to me. The present book describes the hedonist 'Yang ' chapter as 'so unlike the rest of that it must be from another hand … The thought is certainly very different, and it does show the signs of editing and interpolation by the Taoist author … But although close scrutiny generally reveals marked differences in style between the body of the book and passages borrowed from earlier sources, I could find none to distinguish the hedonist chapter from the rest.

Owing to occasional Liezi textual misunderstandings in Zhang Zhan's commentary, Graham concludes that the "guiding hand" probably belonged to Zhang's father or grandfather, which would mean circa 300 CE.

Suggestions of Buddhist influences in Liezi chapters 3 and 6 are potentially corroborating evidence for a late date of composition; see Buddhism in China. "King Mu of Zhou" discusses sense perceptions as illusions; "Endeavor and Destiny" takes a fatalistic view of destiny, which goes against the traditional Daoist concept of .


There are fewer English translations of the Liezi than other Daoist texts. The first were partial versions; Lionel Giles translated chapters 1-6 and 8, while Anton Forke covered chapter 7 . As mentioned above, A.C. Graham wrote a definitive scholarly translation. The most recent Liezi rendition is by Eva Wong .
Posted by wriacipi at 7:39 AM No comments:
Li Tang (hall of worship)
Xu - The emblem of ]]

The Li Tang is a place to perform religious rituals and to learn the teachings of Confucius. Basically the function of Wen Miao and Li Tang are the same; the only difference perhaps is the architecture.

Boen Bio

Boen Tjhiang Soe , which then become Boen Bio , was built in 1883 and is located at Jalan Kapasan No. 131 Surabaya. The Colonial Dutch called it "Gredja Boen Bio" or "Geredja Khonghoetjoe" or Confucius Church. At the present time it is a place of worship for Confucians in Surabaya, which being cultivated by MAKIN – , the Council of Confucianism of Indonesia in Surabaya.

Li Tang

Besides Boen Bio, Confucians in Indonesia established throughout Indonesia what they called Li Tang - Halls of Worship.

For detailed information regarding Wen Miao, please see Temple of Confucius)

List of Li Tang throughout Indonesia

Dr Thomas Kang had an impressive experience when he made a pilgrimage to Confucian Churches in Indonesia.

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Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
In , Legalism was one of the four main philosophic schools during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period . This period was an era of great cultural and intellectual ferment in China, and gave rise to the important Hundred Schools of Thought. In China under the political leadership of Li Si, his form of Legalism became a ideology in China, Li Si's Legalism one of the earliest known totalitarian ideologies.

Legalism was a pragmatic political philosophy that does not address higher questions like the nature and purpose of life. It has s like "when the epoch changed, legalism is the act of following all laws", and its essential principle is one of jurisprudence. "Legalism" here has the meaning of "political philosophy that upholds the rule of law", and is thus distinguished from the Western meaning of the word. The school's most famous proponent and contributor Han Fei believed that a ruler should govern his subjects by the following trinity:

  1. Fa : The law code must be clearly written and made public. All people under the ruler were equal before the law. Laws should reward those who obey them and punish accordingly those who dare to break them. Thus it is guaranteed that actions taken are systematically predictable. In addition, the system of law ran the state, not the ruler. If the law is successfully enforced, even a weak ruler will be strong.
  2. Shu : Special tactics and "secrets" are to be employed by the ruler to make sure others don't take over control of the state. Especially important is that no one can fathom the ruler's motivations, and thus no one can know which behaviour might help them getting ahead; except for following the or laws.
  3. Shi : It is the position of the ruler, not the ruler himself or herself, that holds the power. Therefore, analysis of the trends, the context, and the facts are essential for a real ruler.


Legalism was first created by Shang Yang as a realist reform oriented philosophy to turn the state of from a backward state to a powerful state. Qin would eventually conquer the other six states and create China. Shang Yang's law theories advocate the belief that all people are fundamentally equal and that stringent laws and harsh punishments are required to keep them in order. Shang Yang became prime minister of the Qin under the rule of Duke Xiao of Qin and gradually began transforming the state into a vigorously regulated machine, the sole purpose of which was the elimination of all rivals. Shang Yang swept away the aristocracy and implemented a meritocracy – only those who achieved could reach high places and birth privilege was reserved exclusively for the ruler of the state. Previously the army had been controlled by nobles and constituted of feudal . Now generals could come from any part of society, provided they had sufficient skill. In addition, troops were highly trained and disciplined. From then on, Qin was taking its shape to become the most powerful state in China before it eventually brought all of the six other states together under the First Emperor .

Role of the ruler

Primarily members of the ruling class, the Legalists emphasized that the head of state was endowed with the "mystery of authority” , and as such his decisions must always command the respect and obedience of the people. The emperor’s very figure brought legitimacy. In emphasizing the power of rulership, Legalists such as Shen Dao and Shen Buhai sought to devalue the importance of the charismatic ruler. Skillful rulers hid their true intentions and feigned nonchalance. To ensure that all of his words were revered, the wise ruler kept a low profile. Thus, theoretically, by cloaking both his desires and his will, the Emperors checked sycophancy and forced his subject to heed his dictates. While Shang Yang would allow rulers to listen to musical instruments rather than focus on foreign policy, Han Fei demanded more of the wise ruler. A good leader, by Han Fei's standards, must not only accept the advice of loyal ministers when shown to be in error, but must also extend courtesy to those beneath him or her and not be too avaricious. The adept ruler also understood the importance of strictness over benevolence. Although the ruler was expected to be paternalistic, the Legalists emphasized that being too kind would spoil the populace and threaten the state's internal order. Interestingly, according to 's Grand Historian Sima Qian , while the First Emperor hid himself from the rest of the world and thus maintained a low profile, he did not necessarily follow all of the Legalists’ advice on the role of the ruler.

Role of ministers in Legalist thought

To aid the ruler and help prevent misgovernance, Shen Buhai – a minister from the state of for fifteen years – formalized the concept of shu , or the bureaucratic model of administration that served to advance the ideal Legalist ruler’s program. To the Legalists, the intelligent minister was the ruler's most important aide. Whereas the minister’s duty was to understand specific affairs, the ruler was responsible for correctly judging ministers’ performances. Stressing that ministers and other officials too often sought favours from foreign powers by abusing their positions, Han Fei urged rulers to control these individuals by the two handles of punishment and favour. Officials were required, through fear, to ensure that ministers' accomplishments were neither greater than nor inferior to the assigned undertaking. According to the eminent sinologist Robin Yates, newly discovered Qin Dynasty legal codes show that officials were required to correctly calculate the exact amount of labor expected of all artisans; if the artisan was ordered to perform either too much work or too little work, the official would be held accountable. Thus, in Legalist theory, ministers and other officials were prevented from performing some other official's duties and were punished if they attempted to blind the ruler with words or failed to warn the ruler of danger. One consequence of this situation was that the ministers could always be held accountable for royal misadventures while the ruler’s name was never to be tarnished. By emphasizing performance, however, over sophistry, the Legalists hoped to eliminate bureaucratic corruption and intrigues amongst the officialdom through fear.

Purpose of law

The laws supported by the Legalists were meant to support the state, the king, and his military. They were also reform-oriented and innovative. In theory, the Legalists believed that if the punishments were heavy and the law equally applied, neither the powerful nor the weak would be able to escape state control. The Legalists especially emphasized pragmatism over precedence and custom as the basis of law. Guided by Legalist thought, the First Qin Emperor, Qin Shi Huang , would weaken the power of the feudal lords , divide the unified empire into thirty-six administrative provinces, and standardize the writing system. Reflecting Legalist passion for order and structure, Qin soldiers were only mobilized when both halves of tiger-shaped tallies were brought together. Likewise, all documents in the empire had to have recorded the year they were written, the scribe who copied them, and up to the exact hour of delivery. Accepting Shang Yang’s earlier emphasis on the standardization of weights and measures, the Qin Shi Huang would also accept Shang Yang’s philosophy that no individual in the state should be above the law and that families should be divided into smaller households. While there is reason to doubt Sima Qian’s claim that Qin Shi Huang did in fact divide households into groups of ten, certainly the other examples of standardization and administrative organization undertaken by the First Emperor reflect the importance of Legalist thought in Qin law. Based on promoting the interests of the state Qin, the law served as a vehicle to both control the populace and eliminate dissent.

Legalism and individual autonomy

The Legalist philosophers emphasized the primacy of the state over individual autonomy. The lone individual had no legitimate civil rights and any personal freedom had to strengthen the ruler. Han Fei , in particular, would be very caustic towards the concept of individual rights. Fundamentally, the Legalists viewed the plebeian and their actions as evil and foolish.

However, Legalism allowed the common people to gain in rank if they performed well. For example, soldiers would gain in rank according to the number of heads the soldiers collected. A soldier may even gain noble rank. In contrast, some other states allowed only the well-connected to gain higher ranks. An example of this would be Lü Buwei, who originally a merchant, was able to become Chancellor of China, an occurrence that would never happen in the other six states. However, it should be noted that he played a major role in King Zhuangxiang of Qin's rise to power.

According to Shang Yang's The Book of Lord Shang, the people themselves wanted a ruler to generate order. Social cohesion in the Legalist state mandated that the populace never escape punishment. The Qin dynasty used the people, for example, to maintain vigilant mutual surveillance over one another under threat of death.

This intrastate realpolitik would end up devouring the Legalist philosophers themselves. Shang Yang, in advocating the state’s right to punish even the heir-apparent’s tutor, would run afoul of the future King Huiwen of Qin . Whereas at one point, he had the power to exile his opponents to border regions of the state, he died when torn into pieces by chariots. Similarly, Han Fei would end up being poisoned by his envious former classmate Li Si, who in turn would be killed by the violent Second Qin Emperor he had helped to enthrone.

Power politics between the philosophies

Most Chinese philosophers and political thinkers have had very negative views toward Legalism blaming it for what today would be considered a totalitarian society. Many Chinese scholars believe that it was a reaction against legalism that gave Chinese Imperial politics its personalistic and moralistic flavor rather than emphasis on the rule of law.

However, this view of the Qin may be biased, as most of the Chinese historical records were written by Confucian scholars, who were persecuted under the Qin.


In later dynasties, Legalism was discredited and ceased to be an independent school of thought. However, both ancient and modern Confucian observers of Chinese politics have argued that some Legalist ideas have merged with mainstream Confucianism and still play a major role in government. The philosophy of imperial China has been described as a Confucian exterior covering a core of Legalism . In other words, Confucian values are used to sugarcoat the harsh Legalist ideas that underly the Imperial system. During the and Tang dynasty, ideas were also part of the external face of the imperial system.

There was a brief revival of Legalism during the Sui dynasty's efforts to reunify China. After the Sui dynasty was replaced by the Tang dynasty, the Tang government still used the government structure left behind by the Sui dynasty, albeit with much reduced punishments.

More recently, Mao Zedong, who had some knowledge of ancient Chinese philosophy, compared himself with Qin Shi Huang and publicly approved of some Legalist methods. One such method approved in the 1980s under Deng Xiaoping administration is the reward and punishment, which has increased the size of the Beijing government in the process. However, since the 1990s the related concept of the rule of law has gained currency.

Related figures

The Confucian thinker Xun Zi is sometimes considered as being influenced by or having nourished Legalist ideas, mostly because two of his disciples were strict Legalists.

Related philosophies

Contrasting philosophies

King Wen sequence
The I Ching , or “Yì Jīng” ; also called “Classic of Changes” or “Book of Changes” is one of the oldest of the Chinese classic texts. The book is a symbol system used to identify order in chance events. The text describes an ancient system of cosmology and philosophy that is intrinsic to ancient Chinese cultural beliefs. The cosmology centres on the ideas of the dynamic balance of opposites, the evolution of events as a process, and acceptance of the inevitability of change . In cultures and modern East Asia, the I Ching is sometimes regarded as a system of divination. The classic consists of a series of symbols, rules for manipulating these symbols, poems, and commentary.

Implications of the title

  • 易 , while as a verb it implies “to change“ or 'to exchange/substitute one thing for another'.
  • here means “classic ”, derived from its original meaning of “regularity” or “persistency”, implying that the text describes the which will not change throughout the flow of time. This same character was later appropriated to translate the Sanskrit word 'sūtra' into Chinese in reference to Buddhist scripture. In this sense the two concepts, in as much as they mean 'treatise,' 'great teaching,' or 'canonical scripture,' are equivalent.

The I Ching is a "reflection of the universe in miniature." The word "I" has three meanings: ease and simplicity, change and transformation, and invariability. Thus the three principles underlying the I Ching are the following:

  1. Simplicity - the root of the substance. The fundamental law underlying everything in the universe is utterly plain and simple, no matter how abstruse or complex some things may appear to be.
  2. Variability - the use of the substance. Everything in the universe is continually changing. By comprehending this one may realize the importance of flexibility in life and may thus cultivate the proper attitude for dealing with a multiplicity of diverse situations.
  3. Persistency - the essence of the substance. While everything in the universe seems to be changing, among the changing tides there is a persistent principle, a central rule, which does not vary with space and time.

— 易一名而含三義:易簡一也;變易二也;不易三也。 commented on by Zheng Xuan in his writings Critique of I Ching and Commentary on I Ching of Eastern Han Dynasty.


Traditional view

Traditionally it was believed that the principles of the I Ching originated with the mythical Fu Xi . In this respect he is seen as an early culture hero, one of the earliest legendary rulers of China , reputed to have had the 8 revealed to him supernaturally. By the time of the legendary 2194 BCE–2149 BCE, the trigrams had supposedly been developed into 64 hexagrams , which were recorded in the scripture Lian Shan . Lian Shan, meaning “continuous mountains” in Chinese, begins with the hexagram , which depicts a mountain mounting on another and is believed to be the origin of the scripture's name.

After the traditionally recorded Xia Dynasty was overthrown by the Shang Dynasty, the hexagrams are said to have been re-deduced to form Gui Cang , and the hexagram became the first hexagram. Gui Cang may be literally translated into “return and be contained”, which refers to earth as the first hexagram itself indicates. At the time of Shang's last king, Zhou Wang, King Wen of Zhou is said to have deduced the hexagram and discovered that the hexagrams beginning with revealed the rise of . He then gave each hexagram a description regarding its own nature, thus Gua Ci .

When King Wu of Zhou, son of King Wen, toppled the Shang Dynasty, his brother Zhou Gong Dan is said to have created Yao Ci to clarify the significance of each horizontal line in each hexagram. It was not until then that the whole context of I Ching was understood. Its philosophy heavily influenced the literature and government administration of the Zhou Dynasty .

Later, during the time of Spring and Autumn , Confucius is traditionally said to have written the Shi Yi , a group of commentaries on the I Ching. By the time of Han Wu Di of the Western Han Dynasty , Shi Yi was often called Yi Zhuan , and together with the I Ching they composed Zhou Yi . All later texts about Zhou Yi were explanations only, due to the classic's deep meaning.

Modernist view

In the past 50 years a “Modernist” history of the I Ching has been emerging, based on context criticism and research into Shang and Zhou dynasty oracle bones, as well as Zhou bronze inscriptions and other sources . These reconstructions are dealt with in a growing number of books, such as ', by S. J. Marshall, and Richard Rutt's Zhouyi: The Book of Changes, .

Scholarly works dealing with the new view of the Book of Changes include doctoral dissertations by Richard Kunst and Edward Shaughnessy and a 2008 study by Richard J. Smith. These and other scholars have been helped immensely by the discovery, in the 1970s, by Chinese archaeologists, of intact Han dynasty era tombs in Mawangdui near Changsha, Hunan province. One of the tombs contained more or less of the I Ching, the Dao De Jing and other works, which are mostly similar yet in some ways diverge significantly from the “received”, or traditional, texts preserved historically.

The tomb texts include additional commentaries on the I Ching, previously unknown, and apparently attributed to Confucius. All of the Mawangdui texts are many centuries older than the earliest known attestations of the texts in question. When talking about the evolution of the Book of Changes, therefore, the Modernists contend that it is important to distinguish between the traditional history assigned to texts such as the I Ching , assignations in commentaries which have themselves been canonized over the centuries along with their subjects, and the more recent scholarly history aided by modern linguistic textual criticism and archaeology.

Many hold that these perspectives are not necessarily mutually exclusive, but, for instance, many Modernist scholars doubt the actual existence of Fuxi, or think Confucius had nothing to do with the Book of Changes, and contend that the hexagrams came before the trigrams. Modern scholarship comparing poetic usage and formulaic phrasing in this book with that in ancient bronze inscriptions has shown that the text cannot be attributed to King Wen or Zhou Gong, and that it likely was not compiled until the late Western Zhou, perhaps ca. the late 9th century BCE.

Rather than being the work of one or several legendary or historical figures, the core divinatory text is now thought to be an accretion of Western Zhou divinatory concepts. As for the Shi Yi commentaries traditionally attributed to Confucius, scholars from the time of the 11th century A.D. scholar Ouyang Xiu onward have doubted this, based on textual analysis, and modern scholars date most of them to the late Warring States period , with some sections perhaps being as late as the Western Han period .


The text of the I Ching is a set of predictions represented by a set of 64 abstract line arrangements called ' . Each hexagram is a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines , where each line is either , or . With six such lines stacked from bottom to top there are 26 or 64 possible combinations, and thus 64 hexagrams represented.

The hexagram diagram is conceptually subdivided into two three-line arrangements called trigrams . There are 23, hence 8, possible trigrams. The traditional view was that the hexagrams were a later development and resulted from combining the two trigrams. However, in the earliest relevant archaeological evidence, groups of numerical symbols on many Western Zhou bronzes and a very few Shang oracle bones, such groups already usually appear in sets of six. A few have been found in sets of three numbers, but these are somewhat later. Note also that these numerical sets greatly predate the groups of broken and unbroken lines, leading modern scholars to doubt the mythical early attributions of the hexagram system.

Each hexagram represents a description of a state or process. When a hexagram is cast using one of the traditional processes of , each of the yin or yang lines will be indicated as either moving , or fixed . Moving lines will change to their opposites, that is “young” lines of the other type -- old yang becoming young yin, and old yin becoming young yang.

The oldest method for casting the hexagrams, using yarrow stalks, is a biased random number generator, so the possible answers are not equiprobable. While the probability of getting either yin or yang is equal, the probability of getting old yang is three times greater than old yin.

The yarrow stalk method was gradually replaced during the Han Dynasty by the three coins method. Using this method the imbalance in generating old yin and old yang was eliminated. There is no theoretical basis for indicating what should be the optimal probability basis of the old lines versus the young lines. Of course, the whole idea behind this system of divination is that the oracle will select the appropriate answer, regardless of the probabilities.

There have been several arrangements of the trigrams and hexagrams over the ages. The is a circular arrangement of the trigrams, traditionally printed on a mirror, or disk. According to legend, Fu Hsi found the bā gùa on the scales of a tortoise's back. They function rather like a magic square, with the four axes summing to the same value .

The King Wen sequence is the traditional sequence of the hexagrams used in most contemporary editions of the I Ching. The King Wen sequence has been shown to contain within it a demonstration of advanced mathematical knowledge.


The solid line represents yang, the creative principle. The open line represents yin, the receptive principle. These principles are also represented in a common circular symbol , known as taijitu , but more commonly known in the west as the yin-yang diagram, expressing the idea of complementarity of changes: when Yang is at top, Yin is increasing, and the reverse.

In the following lists, the trigrams and hexagrams are represented using a common textual convention, horizontally from left-to-right, using '|' for yang and '?' for yin, rather than the traditional bottom-to-top. In a more modern usage, the numbers 0 and 1 can also be used to represent yin and yang, being read left-to-right.

There are eight possible trigrams :

The first three lines of the hexagram, called the lower trigram, are seen as the inner aspect of the change that is occurring. The upper trigram , is the outer aspect. The change described is thus the dynamic of the inner aspect relating to the outer situation. Thus, hexagram 04 ?|???| Enveloping, is composed of the inner trigram Gorge, relating to the outer trigram Bound.

Hexagram Lookup Table

The hexagrams

The text of the I Ching describes each of the 64 hexagrams, and later scholars added commentaries and analyses of each one; these have been subsumed into the text comprising the I Ching.

Each hexagram's common translation is accompanied by the corresponding R. Wilhelm translation, which is the source for the Unicode names.

The hexagrams, though, are mere mnemonics for the philosophical concepts embodied in each one. The philosophy centres around the ideas of balance through opposites and acceptance of change.


In Unicode, monograms cover code points U+268A to U+268B, digrams cover code points U+268C to U+268F, trigrams cover code points U+2630 to U+2637, hexagram symbols cover code points U+4DC0 to U+4DFF .

Tai Xuan Jing digrams cover code points U+1D301 to U+1D305, tetragrams cover code points U+1D306 to U+1D356. The monograms cover code points U+1D300 , U+268A , U+268B .


The hexagrams are built from gradations of binary expressions based on yin and yang. They consist of: old yang, old yin, young yang or young yin Yin and yang, while common expressions associated with many schools of classical Chinese culture, are especially associated with the Taoists.

Another view holds that the I Ching is primarily a ethical or philosophical document. This view is based upon the following:

  • The Wings or Appendices are attributed to Confucius.
  • The study of the I Ching was required as part of the Civil Service Exams in the period that these exams only studied Confucianist texts.
  • It is one of the Five Confucian Classics.
  • It does not appear in any surviving editions of the Daozang.
  • The major commentaries were written by Confucianists, or Neo-Confucianists.
  • Taoist scripture avoids, even mocks, all attempts at categorizing the world's myriad phenomena and forming a static philosophy.
  • Taoists venerate the non-useful. The I Ching could be used for good or evil purposes.

Both views may be seen to show that the I Ching was at the heart of Chinese thought, serving as a common ground for the Confucian and Taoist schools. Partly forgotten due to the rise of Chinese Buddhism during the Tang dynasty, the I Ching returned to the attention of scholars during the Song dynasty. This was concomitant with the reassessment of Confucianism by Confucians in the light of Taoist and Buddhist metaphysics, and is known in the West as Neo-Confucianism. The book, unquestionably an ancient Chinese scripture, helped Song Confucian thinkers to synthesize Buddhist and Taoist cosmologies with Confucian and Mencian ethics. The end product was a new cosmogony that could be linked to the so-called “lost Tao” of Confucius and Mencius.

Binary sequence

In his article Explication de l'Arithmétique Binaire Gottfried Leibniz writes that he has found in the hexagrams a base for claiming the universality of the binary numeral system. He takes the layout of the combinatorial exercise found in the hexagrams to represent binary sequences, so that ?????? would correspond to the binary sequence 000000 and ?????| would be 000001, and so forth.

The binary arrangement of hexagrams is associated with the famous Chinese scholar and philosopher Shao Yung in the 11th century. He displayed it in two different formats, a circle, and a rectangular block. Thus, he clearly understood the sequence represented a logical progression of values. However, while it is true that these sequences do represent the values 0 through 63 in a binary display, there is no evidence that Shao understood that the numbers could be used in computations such as addition or subtraction.

It should be noted that Shao Yung had been attributed with the original Segregation Table of the symbols of the book of changes Fu-Hsi Liu-shih-ssu Kua Tzhu Hsu from Chu Hsi's Chou I Pen I Thu Shou .

The Symbolic and Numerical Language

The oracular interpretation of the symbolic language based on trigram symbols formed from yang and yin components is well known. However, the inherent numerical language of line change and non-change is relatively unknown.

When the translated text reads "Nine in the beginning means...." this is the equivalent of saying: "When the positive line in the first place is represented by the number 9, it has the following meaning.....". If, on the other hand, the line is represented by the number 7, it is disregarded in interpreting the oracle. The same principle holds for lines represented by the numbers 6 and 8 respectively.

Thus, line transformation or non-transformation can be represented numerically, as follows:

A POSITIVE transforming into a NEGATIVE = 9

A POSITIVE transforming into a POSITIVE = 7

A NEGATIVE transforming into a POSITIVE = 6

A NEGATIVE transforming into a NEGATIVE = 8

This changes the ancient symbolic linear language of the I Ching into a simple numerical language that enables the practitioner to create sixteen numerical codes, which consist of three numbers, from each circular arrangement of eight trigrams.

John C. Compton suggests that these numerical codes represent specific codons of the Genetic Code.


The I Ching has long been used as an oracle and many different ways coexist to “cast” a reading, i.e., a hexagram, with its dynamic relationship to others. In China the I Ching had two distinct functions. The first was as a compendium and classic of ancient cosmic principles. The second function was that of divination text. As a divination text the world of the I Ching was that of the marketplace fortune teller and roadside oracle. These individuals served the illiterate peasantry. The educated Confucian elite in China were of an entirely different disposition. The future results of our actions were a function of our personal virtues. The Confucian literati actually had little use for the I Ching as a work of divination. In the collected works of the countless educated literati of ancient China there are actually few references to the I Ching as a divination text. Any eyewitness account of traditional Chinese society, such as S. Wells Williams The Middle Kingdom, and many others, can clarify this very basic distinction. Williams tells us of the I Ching, "The hundred of fortune- tellers seen in the streets of Chinese towns, whose answers to their perplexed customers are more or less founded on these cabala, indicate their influence among the illiterate; while among scholars, who have long since conceded all divination to be vain..."


The Flag of South Korea contains the Taijitu symbol, or tàijítú, , representing the origin of all things in the universe. The taegeuk is surrounded by four of the eight trigrams, starting from top left and going clockwise: Heaven, Water, Earth, Fire.

The flag of the Empire of Vietnam used the Li trigram and was known as c? qu? Ly because the trigram represents South. Its successor the connected the middle lines, turning it into the Qián trigram. .

Influence on Western culture

The I Ching has influenced countless Chinese philosophers, artists and even businesspeople throughout history. In more recent times, several Western artists and thinkers have used it in fields as diverse as psychoanalysis, music, film, drama, dance, eschatology, and fiction writing.


Early Chinese civilization, as with western civilization, accepted various pre-scientific explanations of natural events, and the I Ching has been cited as an example of this. As a manual of divination it interpreted natural events through readings based on symbols expressed in the trigrams and hexagrams. Thus any observation in nature could be interpreted as to its significance and cause. This might be compared to the practice of basing decisions on the state of animals' livers. While usually sympathetic to the claims of Chinese culture and science, Joseph Needham, in his second volume of Science and Civilization in China stated: "Yet really they would have been wiser to tie a millstone about the neck of the I Ching and cast it into the sea."

Abraham states that Confucius' ten commentaries, called the Ten Wings, transformed the I Ching from a divination text into a "philosophical masterpiece." It was this form of the I Ching that inspired the Taoists, Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu. It has influenced Confucians and other philosophers and scientists ever since. However, Helmut Wilhelm in his Change/Eight Lectures on the I Ching, cautions, "It can no longer be said with certainty whether any of the material-and if any, how much-comes from Confucius' own hand" .


  • Huang, A. 1998. The Complete I Ching: the Definitive Translation From the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. Rochester, N.Y: Inner Traditions.
  • Hua-Ching Ni. 1999. I Ching: The Book of Changes and the Unchanging Truth. . Los Angeles: Seven Star Communications.
  • Karcher, Stephen, 2002. I Ching: The Classic Chinese Oracle of Change: The First Complete Translation with Concordance. London: Vega Books. ISBN 1-84333-003-2. The publisher can be found at This version manages to pull together a wide variety of sources and interpretations into a coherent, intelligible whole which is generally easier to understand than the Wilhelm/Baynes edition. Especially interesting are its multiple translations of the Chinese words used and the concordance at the end.
  • Legge, J. 1964. I Ching: Book of Changes. With introduction and study guide by Ch'u Chai and Winberg Chai. New York: Citadel Press.

  • I Ching, The Classic of Changes, The first English translation of the newly discovered second-century B.C. Mawangdui texts by Edward L. Shaughnessy, Ballantine, 1996. ISBN 0-345-36243-8.