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Confucianism, Daoism & Legalism Essay

1223 words - 5 pages


Amidst the chaos of political instability and constant warring of the Zhou era, arose many intellectual thinkers that brought such profound impact in the field of politics, religion and philosophy. Even to the day, their influence can be espied in the many matters of China. Confucianism became the paramount school of thinking and later significant philosophies such as Daoism and Legalism gained immense recognition as well. Each party had their own proposals for creating an idealistic political society where the many problems they faced in their everyday lives could be eliminated. All three approaches were very distinct but at the same time, they contained certain similarities as well. In my reasoning, I find that Confucianism and Daoism could be paralleled in many ways to find several common grounds. On the other hand, Legalism goes on to take a more unique approach which was much different from the previous two.

     Kongzi (Confucius, a Latinized name) was born in 551 B.C.E., to a poor family of the lower nobility. Throughout his life, he relentlessly tried to gain an office with a prominent ruler of the time who was willing to adopt his various concepts. Unfortunately, Confucius died in 479 B.C.E., before such a change ever took place. However, he succeeded in winning over a handful of devote followers who continued his legacy and Confucianism later went on to become one of the most influential thought systems of Chinese history. Of his followers, Mencius and Xunzi became the most renown. Since Confucius did not succeed in completing a manual of his views, these followers had to derive their own interpretations of the system which now formulate, the Analects. The Analects portray an idealized gentleman, and his various duties in terms of the society, family and the rituals. Confucius explains about the way (Dao) which he believed, that if the people accepted its terms and were willing to abide, they would succeed in creating a utopian society.

     By the beginning of the common era, another philosophy emerges and gains wide acceptance among the commoners. Daoism, just like the predecessor and also as the name implies, puts emphasis on "the way," that a certain individual is to abide to. Even though the two systems had different concepts about the way, the common denominator of both schools was to achieve total harmony in the society. Confucianism focuses mainly on social order while Daoism puts its central focus on being one with the nature.

     "[I]f an individual can practice five things anywhere in the world, he is a man of humanity... reverence, generosity, truthfulness, diligence and kindness" (Ebrey 19B). Confucius' gentleman had to possess these fine qualities to achieve success. On the other side of the token, Daoism emphasized the need for similar entities. Laozi explains: "For minds, the depth is good. In social relations,...

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