Hinduism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Taoism

Early Chinese History
2852: Fu Hsi- inventor of writing, fishing, trapping.
2737: Shen Nung- inventor of agriculture, commerce
2697: Yellow Emperor
2357-2205: Sage Kings- Yao, Shun, Yu (founder of
first dynasty).
1818: Hsia dynasty
1766: Shang dynasty (King T’ang)
1300: Earliest archeological evidence
1115: Chou dynasty (Mandate of Heaven)
Chinese History
551-200: Golden age of 100 philosophers:
Confucius, Mo Tzu, Lao Tzu; Mencius, Chuang Tzu,
Hsun Tzu, Han Fei Tzu. (Confucianism, Taoism,
Moism, Legalism).
403-221: Warring states period
221: Ch’in Dynasty
214: Great Wall Completed
105: Paper invented.
65 CE Buddhist missionaries reach China.
Pre-Confucian Religion
Shang-Ti (Lord on
high). A divine ruler
who watches over
human society and
regulates the forces of
Lesser divinities of the
sun, moon, stars, wind,
rain, and particular
mountains and rivers.
These deities were
appeased through
sacrifice and their will
revealed through
divination techniques
(oracle bones, sticksI’Ching).
Sacrifice to ancestors
was vital to the welfare
of each family or clan.
From Shang-Ti to T’ien
T’ien (heaven) gradually comes to replace
Shang-Ti. T’ien is not a personal god, but an
impersonal source of moral order which
impartially guides human destiny. Reason
replaces divination as the means of
discovering moral principles.
Chou rulers appeal to the concept t’ien ming,
mandate of heaven to justify their overthrow
of the Shang dynasty.
The axial age enters
China through the sage
Kong Qiu (551-479
BCE). Born in a time of
social and political
crisis, Kong Qiu was an
avid student who
mastered the study of
His disciples called him
Konfuzi, “our master
Ethical Humanism
K’ung Fu-Tzu (551-479 BCE)
The Master said, At fifteen I set my heart upon
learning. At thirty, I planted my feet firm upon the
ground. At forty, I no longer suffered from
perplexities. At fifty, I knew what were the biddings
of heaven. At sixty, I heard them with a docile ear.
At seventy, I could follow the dictates of my own
heart; for what I desired no longer overstepped the
boundaries of right.” (Analects , II.4.)
The Character of Confucius
…I am a person who forgets
to eat when he is
enthusiastic about
something, forgets all his
worries in his enjoyment of
it, and is not aware that old
age is coming on. (VII.18)
Having only coarse food to
eat, plain water to drink, and
a bent arm for a pillow, one
can still find happiness
therein. Riches and honor
acquired by unrighteous
means are to me as drifting
clouds. (VII.15)
When walking in a party of
three, I always have teachers. I
can select the good qualities of
one for imitation, and the bad
ones of the other and correct
them in myself. (VII.21)
To love truth is better than only
to know it. To delight in it is
better than merely to love it.
When you know a thing, say
you know it, when you do not
know a thing, admit that you do
not know it. That is knowledge.
The Function of Education
To produce the chuntzu: “superior person,”
“profound person,”
“gentleman.” Literally,
“child of a ruler,” for
Confucius, it refers to a
morally good person:
Character, not social
status, determines
individual worth.
Fundamental virtue:
Jen- “humanity,”
My teaching contains
one thread that runs
through it all.... What
did he mean? Our
Master’s teaching is
simply this: loyalty and
reciprocity. (Analects,
Confucian Ethics
Is there any one word
that can serve as a
principle for the conduct
of life? Confucius said:
Perhaps the word
‘reciprocity’: Do not do
to others what you
would not want others
to do to you. (Analects,
A man of humanity,
wishing to establish his
own character, also
establishes the
character of others, and
wishing to be prominent
himself, also helps
others to be prominent.
To judge others by
what one knows of
oneself is the method of
achieving humanity.
Jen- Produced by self-cultivation,
requires li (originally, religious sacrifice,
then, ritual, ceremony, propriety)
traditional social rules and practices
that connect one with the past.
He who learns but does not think, is
lost. He who thinks but does not learn
is in great danger. (II.15)
[The Master] has broadened me with culture,
restrained me with ritual (IX.10).
The Master said, Courtesy not bounded by the
prescriptions of ritual becomes tiresome. Caution not
bounded by the prescriptions of ritual becomes
timidity, daring becomes turbulence, inflexibility
becomes harshness. (VIII.2)
Here, ritual serves to make the practice of virtue
more manageable by setting limits to what is ethically
Li is the Key to Jen
He who does not tread
in the tracks [of the
ancients] cannot expect
to find his way into the
inner-room (XI.19).
Li is what keeps one
treading in the ancient
He who can himself
submit to ritual is good.
Confucius does not describe himself as a prophet but
as a teacher/learner:
The Master said, I for my part am not one of those
who have innate knowledge. I am simply one who
loves the past and is diligent in investigating it.
There may well be those who can do without
knowledge; but I for my part am not one of them.
To hear much, pick out what is good and follow it, to
see much and take due note of it, is the lower of the
two kinds of knowledge. (VII.27.)
Confucius’ Religious Skepticism
The Master never talked
of prodigies, feats of
strength, disorders, or
spirits. (VII.20.)
Tzu-lu asked how one
should serve ghosts and
spirits. The Master
said, Till you have
learned to serve men,
how can you serve
Tzu-lu then ventured upon a
question about the dead.
The Master said, till you
know about the living, how
are you to know about the
dead? (XI.11.)
Our Master’s views
concerning culture and the
outward insignia of
goodness, we are permitted
to hear; but about Man’s
nature and the ways of
Heaven (Tao T’ien) he will
not tell us anything at all.
Confucius on Human Nature
The Master said, By nature near together, by
practice far apart. (XVII.2.)
Confucius said, Man is born with uprightness.
If one loses it he will be lucky if he escapes
with his life. (VI.17, Chan.)
[Or] Man’s very life is honesty, in that
without it he will be lucky indeed if he
escapes with his life. (VI.17, Waley.)
Confucius on Government: Rule by
Moral Example
If a ruler could for one
day submit himself to
ritual; everyone under
heaven would respond
to his goodness. For
goodness is something
that must have its
source in the ruler
himself; it cannot be
got from others (XII.1.)
The Master said, If the
ruler is upright, all will
go well even though he
does not give orders.
But if he himself is not
upright, even though he
gives orders, they will
not be obeyed.
Were a true gentleman
to settle among them
there would soon be no
Mo Tzu (470-391?BCE)
Espoused universal
love, condemned
ceremony, music,
elaborate funerals, and
belief in fate (ming).
Developed a utilitarian
ethical theory where the
goodness or badness of
an action was judged
by its consequences.
Mo Tzu (470-391?BCE)
What is the way of universal love and benefit? To
regard other people’s countries as ones own. Regard
other people’s families as ones own. Regard other
people’s person as ones own.
Because of a lack of universal love, all the
calamities, hatred, and animosity in the world arose.
Honor the worthy, employ the capable, report good
and evil deeds to superiors, avoid offensive warfare,
treat strangers and family alike.
Murderers who rob their victims are considered even more unrighteous.
Yet, when it comes to the more serious transgression of offensive warfare
against other states, people do not know enough to condemn such an
act. In fact, they praise it and call it righteous…
The Three Standards
Sought to create an
ideal society using the
three tests:
(1) Origin: Will of
Heaven, experiences of
sage kings. (2)
Validity: Inquire into
actual experience.
(3) Applicability: Put it
into law and see if it
brings benefits to the
state and the people.
To levy taxes on the people
in order to produce the
sounds of big bells,
resounding drums, harps,
and pipes does not help the
promotion of benefits and
the removal of harms in the
world. Therefore Mo Tzu
said: to engage in music is
wrong….To have men
engage in music is to waste
their time for ploughing and
Mencius (372-289 BCE)
Human nature is
essentially good. The
four primary virtues
arise from four natural
human feelings:
Right and wrong---Chih
Human Heartedness
All men have the mind
which cannot bear to
see the sufferings of
others.... When men
see a child about to fall
in a well, they all have a
feeling of distress.
I like life and I also like
righteousness (yi). If I
cannot have both of
them, I will give up
"Human-heartedness is
man's mind. Righteousness
is man's path. How sad that
he abandons that path and
does not rely on it; that he
loses that mind and does not
know to seek it. When a
man has lost a cock or a
dog, he knows to seek it, but
having lost his (proper)
mind, he does not know to
seek it. The Way of Learning
is nothing other than seeking
the lost mind"
Finding Jen Within
If you let people follow their feelings they will be able
to do good.... Humanity, righteousness, propriety,
and wisdom are not drilled into us from outside. We
originally have them with us.... Therefore it is said
seek and you will find it....(6A.6)
Man’s nature is naturally good just as water naturally
flows downward....Now you can strike water and
cause it to splash upward.... It is the forced
circumstance that makes it do so. Man can be made
to do evil, for his nature can be treated in the same
way. (6A.2)
Seeking the Lost Mind
The sage and I are
the same in kind....
Therefore moral
principles please our
minds as beef and
pork please our
mouths. (6A.7)
The end of learning is
to seek for the lost
mind. (6A.11)
The ten thousand things
are all there in me. And
there’s no joy greater
than looking within and
finding myself faithful to
them. Treat others as
you would be treated.
Devote yourself to that,
for there is no more
direct approach to
humanity. (XIII.4)
Advice to Rulers
A ruler who practices humanity with virtue is a true
king... When force is used to overcome people, they
do not submit willingly.... But when virtue is used to
overcome people, they are pleased in their hearts
and sincerely submit. (2A.3)
If you wait till they have lapsed into crime and then
mete out punishment, it is like placing traps for the
people….When an intelligent ruler regulates the
livelihood of people he makes sure that they will have
enough to serve their parents and to support their
wives and children. (IA.7)
Hsun-Tzu (298-238 BCE)
Human nature is essentially evil- ritual, teaching, and
training are required to harness natural passions.
Desire for gain------strife.
Envy and hate-------injury/cruelty.
Passions--------------Excesses, disorder.
To give reign to man’s original nature and to yield to emotions
will assuredly lead to strife and disorderliness, and he will revert
to a state of barbarism. Therefore, it is only under the influence
of teachers and laws and the guidance of the rules of decorum
that courtesy will be observed. From all this it is evident that
the nature of man is evil and that his goodness is acquired.
(Ch. 23).
To speculate about heaven is to miss the
true nature of things.
Hsun-Tzu’s Naturalism
The inferior man neglects
what is within his power and
seeks what comes from
When stars fall or the
sacred trees groan
people become afraid
and ask: What is the
significance of all this. I
would say, there is no
special significance.
This is just due to...the
mutation of yin and
yang. These are rare
phenomena. We may
marvel at them but we
should not fear them.
If people pray for rain
and it rains, how is
that? I would say
nothing in particular.
Just as when people do
not pray for rain it also
Tao- way, path, road: natural, eternal,
spontaneous, nameless, indescribable,
impersonal, and unkind.
Taoist virtues: quietism, pacifity, simplicity,
spontaneity, non-action (wu wei)
Philosophical Taoism
Founder- Lao Tzu “old
Master.” Tao Te ChingThe classic on the Way
and its Power. A
mystical book; intended
to bring the reader into
contact with the
transcendent Tao.
The Tao that can be told of
is not the eternal Tao; the
name that can be named is
not the eternal name. The
Nameless is the origin.
The highest good is like
water, Water benefits
all things generously
and without strife. (8)
It was when the great
Tao declined that there
appeared humanity and
righteousness. It was
when knowledge and
intelligence arose, that
there appeared much
hypocrisy. (18)
The Key is Simplicity
Banish sageliness, discard wisdom, and the people
will be benefited a hundredfold. Banish humanity,
discard righteousness, and the people will return to
filial piety and paternal affection.... Embrace
simplicity, reduce selfishness, have few desires. (19)
Like the wind blowing about, seemingly without
destination...I alone differ from others, and value
drawing sustenance from Mother (Tao). (20)
The sage embraces the One and becomes the model
of the world. He does not show himself; therefore he
is luminous. He does not boast of himself; therefore
he is given credit. It is precisely because he does not
compete that the world cannot compete with him.
Relativity of Perceived Opposites
With the nameless
uncarved wood there
shall be no desire.
Without desire there is
quietude. The world
shall be self ordered.
When all know beauty
as beauty, there is then
ugliness; when all know
the good as good, there
is then the not-good..
Therefore, being and
not-being give rise to
each other.
Wu-wei- non-purposive
action, action without
intention. The sage
manages affairs without
action, carries out
teaching without
Act by no-action, then
nothing is not in order.
The Tao of Chuang Tzu
Like other Taoist sages, Chuang Tzu was
dissatisfied with conventional Confucian
morality. You can’t “treat others as you wish
to be treated” until you know how you wish
to be treated. He sought to recover
spontaneity and depth in an intellectual
climate that had become rigid and
formalistic. He refused to take seriously the
aggression, ambition, and self-importance
required for social success.
Chuang Tzu (369?- 286?
Nature is in flux; a ceaseless transformation, a
universal process that binds all things into one.
Become a companion of nature, don’t interfere or
impose upon it.
Yu- free and purposeless journey, life without
attachments. No effort made at understanding
things rationally. A bird alights on a branch and
takes off, fish in the sea, swim mindlessly, leaving no
trace behind them.
Eliminate distinctions: Viewed from the standpoint of
Tao, a beam and a pillar are identical. So are
ugliness and beauty, greatness, wickedness,
perverseness, strangeness.
I dreamed I was a butterfly, or did the
butterfly dream he was me?
There is a limit to our
life, but there is no limit
to knowledge. To
pursue what is
unlimited with what is
limited is a perilous
thing. Shrink from
fame when you do
good...pursue always
the middle course.
All men know the
usefulness of the useful,
but no one knows the
usefulness of the
Glorify the ugly, the
twisted.... Do not be an
embodier of fame, a
storehouse of schemes,
an undertaker of
projects, a proprietor of
wisdom. Wander an
unmarked trail.