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Early Chinese Thought

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A very brief introduction to the ideas of the Hundred Flowers period in Chinese thought: the search for public order, and morality

A very brief introduction to the ideas of the Hundred Flowers period in Chinese thought: the search for public order, and morality


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  • 1. Early Chinese Thought
  • 2. Pre-Confucian Ideas• Mandate of Heaven• Ancestor Worship• geomancy – 5 elements: Water, Fire, Earth, Metal, Wood – Yin/Yang balances
  • 3. Confucius: Seeking Order• Five Relationships: – Ruler and subject – Father and son – Husband and wife – Older and Younger brother – Friends• "Rectification of Names"
  • 4. Confucius: Education• Historical Study – Five Books (Documents, Spring & Autumn Annals, Odes, Ritual, Changes)• Ritual
  • 5. Confucian Virtues (1)
  • 6. Confucian Virtues (2)
  • 7. Great Learning• The ancients who wished to exemplify illustrious virtue throughout the world would first set up good governments in their states.• Wishing to govern well their states, they would first regulate their families.• Wishing to regulate their families, they would first cultivate their persons.• Wishing to cultivate their persons, they would first rectify their minds ["hearts"].
  • 8. Great Learning• Wishing to rectify their minds, they would first seek sincerity in their thoughts.• Wishing for sincerity in their thoughts, they would first extend their knowledge.• The extension of knowledge lay in the investigation of things.• For only when things are investigated is knowledge extended;• only when knowledge is extended are throughts sincere;
  • 9. Great Learning• only when thoughts are sincere are minds rectified;• only when minds are rectified are our persons cultivated;• only when our persons are cultivated are our families regulated;• only when families are regulated are states well governed;• and only when states are well governed is there peace in the world.
  • 10. Mo-zi: Radical Egalitarian• Universal Love• Authority• Meritocracy• Frugality• Rejection of warfare/defense of small states
  • 11. Mencius & Xunzi: Dueling Metaphors• Mencius: "The goodness of human nature is like the downward course of water. There is no human being lacking in the tendency to do good, just a there is no water lacking in the tendency to flow downward."• Xunzi: "Wood as straight as a plumb line may be bent into a wheel that is round as if it were drawn with a compass, and even after the wood has dried, it will not straighten out again because this is the way it has been bent."
  • 12. Shang Yang, Li Si, and Han Feizi: Legalism• Lord Shang (4c bce), Qin minister: Pragmatism, anti-intellectualism; Authority, Technique, Law• Han Feizi (mid-3c bce), advisor to Qin Court: Two Handles, anti-traditionalist.• Li Si (late 3c bce), Qin Chief Counselor: Anti- philosopher, anti-traditional. Poisoned Han Feizi; executed as part of Qing succession struggle.
  • 13. Sources• "Great Learning" from deBary, Chan, Watson, Sources of Chinese Tradition, v. 1, p. 115.• Background Image/Confucian Virtues Screen from Portland Art Museum, Munjadoo Screen of Confucian Virtues, early 19c Korea. Picture by Jonathan Dresner – http://www.flickr.com/photos/jondresner/