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Chinese Philosophy Essay

1431 words - 6 pages

Three areas of philosophy emerged amidst the chaos and constant warring of the Zhou era. The three were called Confucianism, Daoism, and legalism. They were Chinese philosophies that were thought to be the best ways to rule and achieve order in the society. Confucianism believed that a ruler's job was to set a good example, and not order. Since people were thought of as naturally good, they would following the right path based on their own conscience. Legalism was a more harsh way of ruling, led by Hanfeizi. They thought people were evil, and needed strict laws and punishment to keep them in line. Daoism was very different from either of the other two. It was led by Laozi, who taught that the best kind of government was one who governed the least. They allowed things to simply take their natural course and work themselves out. Although both Daoism and legalism were working philosophies, Confucianism was the most effective in obtaining order.At the time of the three philosophies, Ancient China was in a state of complete chaos. The duration of anarchy was named The Warring States Period, a period in which small feuding kingdoms or fiefdoms struggled for supremacy. It took place in the Zhou dynasty from 403 bc. to 221bc. The period was dominated by seven or more small feuding Chinese kingdoms. It was the age of Confucian thinkers Mencius and Xunzi, and the time when many of the government institutions and cultural patterns that would characterize China for the next 2,000 years were established.Legalism achieved what all the other philosophies strove for, unification of China. The Qin Dynasty, operating under the Legalist philosophy, finally unified China in 221 BC. Legalism was a success. However, the Qin Dynasty dissolved only 14 years after it's founding. The Qin emperor was ruthless in his use of Legalism, punishing even small crimes with decapitation or the loss of a hand or foot. Han Feizi, legalisms founder, did not believe in gaining the respect of the people. He stated " Those who are ignorant about government insistently say: "Win the hearts of the people "" (Document H). To uphold his beliefs books and scholars which held beliefs against Legalism (such as Confucianism) were destroyed. The people were heavily taxed and forced into labor on major government projects. He successfully put the fear and respect of the law and government into the people, but it was too much. After his death, peasant rebellions caused the end of Legalism as the ruling philosophy of China. The harshness of the Legalist Qin would be remembered afterwards, and in response the following dynasty, the Han, distanced itself from Legalism and made Confucianism the official philosophy.Daoism adds spirituality to the otherwise melancholy world of Chinese philosophy. The quote "Look to simplicity; cleave the uncarved block; Diminish self and curb desires" (Document G) is a perfect example of the views held by Daoist followers. Its teachings appealed to those who wished to...

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