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Chinese Philosophy

Chinese PhilosophyChinese Philosophy For thousands of years, Chinese people have been influenced by three great trends in human thinking: Buddhism, Taoism and Confucianism. In their pure forms of all these are more philosophies than they are religions, but they have all been inextricably entwined in the religious consciousness of the Chinese and the popular religion of China is a fusion of ancient superstition with the three philosophies. An outline refers to Classical Chinese philosophy during the period from before Confucius (ca 650 B.C.) to the early Qing dynasty; all schools of thought Chinese philosophy in history.

The classical period of Chinese philosophy extends from the earliest times, through Confucius, to the end of the Qin dynasty. It was that period of great originality and creativity in China. In China, so numerous were the philosophers and their schools during the period from the sixth to third centuries that the Chinese called them the "Hundred Schools." From the Han dynasty (206B.C.-A.D.4) to the Qing dynasty, historians of philosophy attempted to group these philosophers together into schools. Sima Tan (d. 110 B.C.) produced the first and most influential classification of the philosophers into six main groups.

1. The YinYang philosophers, who studied the nature of the cosmos and attempted to account for all its changes in terms of two fundamental principles, the Yin and the Yang. This philosophy was thought to have originated with scholars in the departments concerned with astronomy, calendrics, and meteorology. Chinese Philosophy

2. The Ru scholars, who derived inspiration from Confucius. These philosophers were concerned with education and ritual in the various offices concerned with teaching and instruction. By the time of Xun Kuang, the Ru philosophers were divided into several groups, one of them headed by Xun Kuang.

3. The Mohist philosophers, who emphasized frugality, utility, and economy in all things. They were exceptionally conservative in following traditional religious notions and were thought to have originated in offices concerned with temples and sacrifices.

4. The Logicians, who dealt with the relation of names to realities. They were thought to have emerged from officers concerned with ranks and positions in the court and with the ceremonies to which such rank and position entitled an officer.

5. The "Legalist" philosophers, who emphasized the importance of legislation over tradition and custom as embodied in ritual and social practice. Liu Xin thought they emerged from among officers concerned with the application of penal sanctions.

6. The school of the Dao or Way, which attempted to understand the ultimate principles of reality and to offer a fundamentally different concept of social organization. Liu Xin thought that the archivists who studied the success and failure of various activities gave rise to this school.

To these six schools, Liu Xin added two more of importance:

7. The Agronomists, who emphasized the importance of the basic occupations-farming and sericulture-and who offered a thorough critique of contemporary society in the 4th and 3rd centuries.

8. The theorists of diplomatic strategies, who gained great importance during Xun Kuang's lifetime with their development of rhetoric and formal debates known as persuasions.

Modern scholars tend to follow in general terms the division of the early philosophers into schools such as these, but often reject the account of their origins as being simply associated with different government offices. Scholars during the 1920's and 1930's demonstrated that there were important social differences between the schools. More recent scholarship indicates that ethnic and cultural as well as social differences were involved. See more about Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, Ch'in Schools, Managing Ideology in the Han, Metaphysics in the Jin, Logics and Reasoning in the Song.

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