One Country, One Hundred Schools of Thought: A Quest to Understand China’s Educational System Chinese Philosophies
Overview “A youth, when at home, should be filial, and abroad, respectful to others. He should be earnest and truthful.”—The Analects • During the latter portion of the Chou (Zhou) Dynasty, a number of significant philosophers emerged. • This period, often considered the classical age of China, is known as the period of “a hundred schools of thought.” • Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Mo-ti, and Chuang-tzu all lived during this period (Chou, 2009) • These important figures all responded to the disorder of the times with new and creative ideas (Chou, 2009). • The four most popular Chinese belief systems (Confucianism, Taoism, Buddhism, and Legalism) all share the common goal of morally educating their followers.
Confucius“I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.” (Confucius) • Born around 551 B.C. during the Warring States Period (Foy, 2010). • Teachings became far more popular and influential after his death than in his own lifetime (Foy, 2010). • Placed emphasis on the treatment of others as a means of finding harmony in life (Foy, 2010). Filial Piety, Moral righteousness, and social hierarchy. • Confucius argued that all human beings were capable of perfecting themselves and becoming educated. • Two of his followers, Mencius and Hsun Tzu, had conflicting opinions on Confucius’ ideas about human nature (Introduction to Confucian Thought, 2009) • Mencius=human nature is inherently good, although man must work to maintain this good nature (Introduction to Confucian Thought, 2009). • Hsun Tzu=humans are evil by nature, but are capable of becoming good through hard work and dedication (Introduction to Confucian Thought, 2009). • A modern connection to ancient teachings-a must read LA Times column.
Confucianism:Family Ties • The family is seen as the main social unit. • Familial relationships were held above all others and represented three of the Five Constant Relationships, which show a relation between all people. • Sovereign to Subject • Husband to Wife • Father to Son • Older Brother to Younger Brother • Friend to Friend • Filial Piety is the cornerstone of Confucianism, which is the loyalty of a child to his/her parents. A child’s most important duty was to honor their ancestors, family, and especially their father. • Parallel between familial relationships and government. Ruler is seen as “Son of Heaven” and “Father of the People” (Introduction to Confucian Thought, 2009). • Civil Service was created under the Confucian Han Dynasty. Provided all people with education and training necessary to pass civil service exams and hold government offices. • Governmental power was not reserved for nobility, rather all citizens were given the chance to receive an education and sit for civil service exams. • Confucianism encouraged rulers to set a moral example for the people.
Lao Tzu(Old Master)“A journey of 1,000 miles begins with a single step.”-Lao Tzu • Date of birth is unknown. • Loosely referred to as the founder of Taoism, however, little fact is actually known about him. • Some legends offer that Confucius actually sought the advice of the “Old Master” or “Old Man,” however, there is no confirmation of this. • Is said to have written a short book, which is often referred to as Laozi(Chan, 2007, p. 2). • Taught that there are principles in nature, and human beings are modeled after heaven and earth, which are governed by the same basic principles as human beings (Chan, 2007, p. 23)
Taoism • A major principle is the idea of non-action, which is not the act of doing nothing, but rather, the act of doing nothing that could be considered unnatural. • Basic beliefs conflict with the teachings of Confucianism, Taoists reject the principles of hierarchy, power, and control. • The un-carved block, in its simplicity and natural state, has served as a popular symbol for Taoists. This image reflects the Taoist emphasis on spontaneity and simplicity (Introduction to Daoism, 2009). • Winnie the Pooh is considered, by some, a Taoist. There is even a popular book titled, The Tao of Pooh, which explains the connection between the lovable children’s character and the ancient philosophy of Taoism. • “Tao” is the first force in the Universe, and is considered the life force, which flows through everything (Robinson, 1995)
Founders of Legalism“Humaneness may make one shed tears and be reluctant to apply penalties, but law makes it clear that such penalties must be applied.” • Shang Yang: One of Han Fei’s teachers, considered one of the earliest Legalists (Selections from Han Feizi, 2009). • Han Fei (Han Feizi): was once a student of the Confucian scholar, Xunzi, however, he abandoned Confucianism for the more stringent principles of Legalism. Famous for creating a synthesis of Taoism and Legalism in his book Han Feizi. • Li Si: also a former student of Xunzi, and served as Prime Minister under Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi. Used Legalism to help the Qin Emperor unify China (Memorial on Annexation, 2009) Li Si
Legalism • Legalists borrowed certain ideas from Taoists, many founders also had ties to the Confucian philosophy. • Despite close ties with other philosophies, the basic principles of Legalism generally conflict with the other philosophies of Ancient China. • Legalists sought to organize society on a rational basis, in order to strengthen the empire agriculturally and militarily. • Law was viewed as an alternative to morality. • In 213 B.C., upon the advice of scholar Li Si, Legalist Emperor Qin Shi Huangdi ordered the burning of all books that were not related to medicine, agriculture, divination, or forestry. • All historical records, with the exception of the Qin Dynasty’s records, were burned as well. • Scholars were ordered to hand over their books, and anyone who used historical information to criticize the present would be executed along with their family (Beck, 2004).
Buddhism ←Statue of Buddha on Silk Road • Although Buddhism was founded in India, it was brought to China during the Han Dynasty and only became popular after collapse of the dynasty caused a weakening of Confucian ideals. • The Chinese people found Buddhism comforting during the tumultuous times they were experiencing. • Buddhism was very influential along the Silk Road, with monuments and temples constructed throughout the ancient trade routes. • Some legends state the Lao Tzu left China and traveled to India, where he became the Buddha. There is, however, no actual proof of this. • Despite its roots in India, China has taken Buddhism and adapted it to fit Chinese culture. Source: Introduction to Buddhism, 2007 Silk Road Buddha Coin ←Statue of Buddha on Silk Road
Buddhism: Basic Principles • Four Noble Truths: • To live is to suffer. • Desire is the cause of all suffering. • There is a way to end desire and suffering. • The Eightfold Path Leads to the end of suffering. • Eightfold Path • Dharma: The teachings of Buddha. • Karma: The sum of one’s actions, which one cannot escape; such actions ultimately shape what/ who we become. • Nirvana: Total freedom from suffering. Some Buddhists view Nirvana as a heaven-like state, others view it as enlightenment, and others still, as non-attachment to the cycle of birth, death, and rebirth. • Education: Like Confucianism, Buddhism focuses on the moral education of the individual. • The goal of Buddhist education is to attain wisdom (Kung, n.d., p.4). • Based on filial piety (like Confucian education) (Kung, n.d., p.5). • There were two education ministries in China, following the arrival of Buddhism. One for traditional Confucian education, and the other for the rapidly-spreading Buddhist education (Kung, n.d., p.6)
References Chan, A. (2007). Laozi. Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/laozi/ Chou. (2009). Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th Edition, 1. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from Academic Search Premier database. Foy, G. (2010). Chinese belief systems: From past to present and present to past. Asia Society. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://asiasociety.org/countries-history/religions-philosophies/chinese-belief-systems Introduction to Buddhism. (2007). Spice Digest. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://iis-db.stanford.edu/docs/116/Buddhism.pdf Introduction to Confucian thought. (2009). Asia for Educators. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/china_1000bce_confucius_intro.htm Introduction to Daoism. (2009). Asia for Educators. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/special/china_1000bce_daoism.htm Kung, C. (n.d.). Buddhism as an education. Buddha Dharma Education Association, Inc.Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://www.buddhanet.net/pdf_file/buddeduc.pdf Memorial on annexation of feudal states and memorial on the burning of books. (2009). Asia for Educators. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/lisi_legalist_memorials.pdf Ni, C. (2007). She makes Confucius cool again. LA Times. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://articles.latimes.com/2007/may/07/world/fg-confucius7 Robinson, B.A. (1995). Taoism. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://www.religioustolerance.org/taoism2.htm Selections from Han Feizi, chapter 49: The five vermin. (2009). Asia for Educators. Retrieved July 31, 2010, from http://afe.easia.columbia.edu/ps/cup/hanfei_five_vermin.pdf