The Hundred Schools of Thought
The Hundred Schools of Thought (simplified Chinese: 诸子百家; traditional Chinese: 諸子百家; literally "all philosophers hundred schools") were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC, an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion inChina.
Even though this period - known in its earlier part as the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period (春秋戰國時代/春秋战国时代) - in its latter part was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, it is also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (百家爭鳴/百家争鸣; bǎijiā zhēngmíng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred schools contend"). The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in East Asian countries. The intellectual society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods ofgovernment, war, and diplomacy. This period ended with the rise of the Qin Dynasty and the subsequent purge of dissent.
Confucianism and its derivatives
Confucianism (儒家; Rújiā; Ju-chia; "School of scholars") is the body of thought that arguably had the most enduring effects on Chinese life. Its written legacy lies in the Confucian Classics, which later became the foundation of traditional society. Confucius (551–479 BC), or Kongzi "Master Kong", looked back to the early days of the Zhou dynasty for an ideal socio-political order. He believed that the only effective system of government necessitated prescribed relationships for each individual: "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject". Furthermore, he contended that a king must be virtuous in order to rule properly. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values; thus his ideal human was the junzi, which is translated as "gentleman" or "superior person".
Mencius (371–289 BC), or Mengzi, formulated his teachings directly in response to Confucius.
The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucianist thought, was to provide traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework by which to order virtually every aspect of life.
There were many accretions to the body of Confucian thought, both immediately and over the millennia, from within and without the Confucian school. Interpretations adapted to contemporary society allowed for flexibility within Confucianism, while the fundamental system of modeled behavior from ancient texts formed its philosophical core.
Diametrically opposed to Mencius, in regards to human nature (性), was the interpretation of Xunzi (c. 300–237 BC), another Confucian follower. Xunzi preached that man is not innately good; he asserted that goodness is attainable only through training one's desires and conduct.
Main article: Legalism (Chinese philosophy)
The School of Law or Legalism (法家; Fǎjiā; Fa-chia; "School of law") doctrine was formulated by Han Feizi (d. 233 BC) and Li Si (d. 208 BC), who maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above, and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity and martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.
Legalism greatly influenced the philosophical basis for the imperial form of government. During the Han Dynasty, the most practical elements of Confucianism and Legalism were taken to form a sort of synthesis, marking the creation of a new form of government that would remain largely intact until the late 19th century.
Main article: Taoism
Philosophical Taoism or Daoism (道家; Dàojiā; Tao-chia; "School of the Way") developed into the second most significant stream of Chinese thought. Its formulation is often attributed to the legendary sage Laozi ("Old Master"), who is said to predate Confucius, and Zhuangzi (369–286 BC). The focus of Taoism is on the individual within the natural realm rather than the individual within society; accordingly, the goal of life for each individual is seeking to adjust oneself and adapting to the rhythm of the natural (and the supernatural) world, to follow the Way (tao) of the universe, and to live in harmony. In many ways the opposite of rigid Confucian morality, Taoism was for many of its adherents a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar serving as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings, but at leisure or in retirement might seek harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse.
Main article: Mohism
Mohism or Moism (墨家; Mòjiā; Mo-chia; "School of Mo") was developed by followers of Mozi (also referred to as Mo Di; 470–c.391 BC). Though the school did not survive through the Qin Dynasty, Mohism was seen as a major rival of Confucianism in the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Its philosophy rested on the idea of universal love: Mozi believed that "everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of collective love. His epistemology can be regarded as primitive materialist empiricism; he believed that human cognition ought to be based on one's perceptions – one's sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing – instead of imagination or internal logic, elements founded on the human capacity for abstraction.
Mozi advocated frugality, condemning the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music, which he denounced as extravagant. He regarded offensive warfare as wasteful and advocated pacifism or at the most, defensive fortification. The achievement of social goals, according to Mozi, necessitated the unity of thought and action. His political philosophy bears a resemblance to divine-rule monarchy: the population ought always to obey its leaders, as its leaders ought always to follow the will of heaven. Mohism might be argued to have elements of meritocracy: Mozi contended that rulers should appoint officials by virtue of their ability instead of their family connections. Although popular faith in Mohism had declined by the end of the Qin Dynasty, its views are said to be strongly echoed in Legalist thought.
School of Yin-yang
Main article: School of Yin Yang
The School of Naturalists or Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements; Zou Yan is considered the founder of this school. His theory attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature: the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the Five Elements or Five Phases (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In its early days, this theory was most strongly associated with the states ofYan and Qi. In later periods, these epistemological theories came to hold significance in both philosophy and popular belief. This school was absorbed into Taoism's alchemic and magical dimensions as well as into the Chinese medical framework. The earliest surviving recordings of this are in the Ma Wang Dui texts and Huang Di Nei Jing.
Main article: School of Names
The School of Names or Logicians (名家; Míngjiā; Ming-chia; "School of names") grew out of Mohism, with a philosophy that focused on definition and logic. It is said to have parallels with that of the Ancient Greek sophists or dialecticians. The most notable Logician was Gongsun Longzi.
The Taishigong Zixu (太史公自序) of Shiji (史記/史记) lists the above six major philosophies within the Hundred Schools of Thought. The Yiwenzhi (藝文志/艺文志) of Hanshu (漢書/汉书) adds four more into the Ten Schools (十家; Shijia).
The School of Agrarianism (農家/农家; Nongjia) encouraged farming and agriculture and taught farming and cultivation techniques, as they believed that agricultural development was the way to have enough food for the country. It advocated peasant utopian communalism. For example, Mencius once criticized its chief proponent Xu Xing (許行) for advocating that rulers should work in the fields with their subjects. One of Xu's students is quoted as having criticized the duke of Teng in a conversation with Mencius by saying: ‘A worthy ruler feeds himself by ploughing side by side with the people, and rules while cooking his own meals. Now Teng on the contrary possesses granaries and treasuries, so the ruler is supporting himself by oppressing the people’.
The School of Diplomacy or School of Vertical and Horizontal [Alliances] (縱橫家/纵横家; Zonghengjia) specialized in diplomatic politics; Zhang Yi and Su Qin were representative thinkers. This school focused on practical matters instead of any moral principle, so it stressed political and diplomatic tactics, and debate and lobbying skill. Scholars from this school were good orators, debaters and tacticians.
The Miscellaneous School (雜家/杂家; Zajia) integrated teachings from different schools; for instance, Lü Buwei found scholars from different schools to write a book called Lüshi Chunqiu (呂氏春秋) cooperatively. This school tried to integrate the merits of various schools and avoid their perceived flaws.
The School of "Minor-talks" (小說家/小说家; Xiaoshuojia) was not a unique school of thought. Indeed, all the thoughts which were discussed by and originated from non-famous people on the street were included in this school. At that time, there were some government officials responsible for collecting ideas from non-famous people on the street and report to their senior. These thoughts formed the origin of this school. This also explains its Chinese name, which literally means "school of minor-talks".
Another group is the School of the Military (兵家; Bingjia) that studied warfare and strategy; Sunzi and Sun Bin were influential leaders. However, this school was not one of the "Ten Schools" defined by Hanshu.