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Second Edition

Edited by

Philip J. Ivanhoe City University of Hong Kong


Bryan W. Van Norden Vassar College

Hackett Publishing Company, Inc. Indianapolis/Cambridge


Copyright © 2001

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Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data Readings in classical Chinese philosophy/edited by Philip J. Ivanhoe and Bryan

W. Van Norden.—2nd ed. p. cm. Includes bibliographical references. ISBN 0-87220-781-1 (cloth)—ISBN 0-87220-780-3 (pbk.) 1. Philosophy, Chinese—To 221 B.C. I. Ivanhoe, P. J. II. Van Norden, Bryan W.

(Bryan William) B126.R43 2005 181’.11—dc22 2005050463

ISBN-13: 978-0-87220-781-3 (cloth) ISBN-13: 978-0-87220-780-6 (pbk.) epub ISBN: 978-1-60384-520-5



Preface Comparative Romanization Table Map of China during the Spring and Autumn Period Introduction Selective Bibliography

CHAPTER ONE Kongzi (Confucius) “The Analects” Introduction and Translation by Edward Gilman Slingerland

CHAPTER TWO Mozi Introduction and Translation by Philip J. Ivanhoe

CHAPTER THREE Mengzi (Mencius) Introduction and Translation by Bryan W. Van Norden

CHAPTER FOUR Laozi (“The Daodejing”) Introduction and Translation by Philip J. Ivanhoe

CHAPTER FIVE Zhuangzi Introduction and Translation by Paul Kjellberg

CHAPTER SIX Xunzi Introduction and Translation by Eric L. Hutton

CHAPTER SEVEN Han Feizi Introduction and Translation by Joel Sahleen

SUPPLEMENTAL TEXTS Gongsun Longzi “On the White Horse”


Introduction and Translation by Bryan W. Van Norden Yangism “Robber Zhi” Introduction and Translation by Paul Kjellberg

APPENDICES Important Figures Important Periods Important Texts Important Terms



This newly revised edition of Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy introduces the seven most familiar, widely read, and important thinkers of the “classical period” (roughly the sixth to the end of the third century B.C.E.) of Chinese philosophy, as well as two critically important but often neglected philosophers of this period: Gongsun Longzi and Yang Zhu. Each of the seven chapters and two Supplemental Text sections of the volume begins with a brief introduction to the work and thinker it concerns and concludes with a short and lightly annotated selective bibliography. The volume is intended to serve as an introduction to and source book for these texts and not as a philosophical primer for the thought of these authors. Introductory and interpretive material is kept to a minimum, but the volume includes four appendices—Important Figures, Important Periods, Important Texts, and Important Terms—that describe mythical and historical figures, periods of time, classical texts, and specialized terms that regularly appear in the texts translated here. There is also a Map of China during the Spring and Autumn Period, which shows the approximate locations of the major states and rivers. Readers are encouraged to turn to these reference materials whenever they encounter terms or names in the text that are not explained in footnotes. Explanatory notes are provided at the bottom of each page in cases of a single occurrence of an obscure term or name or when more explanation appeared to be warranted. Those who wish to pursue additional secondary literature in English concerning the texts and thinkers included in this reader are encouraged to consult the Title Web Site link that is maintained in support of this volume at Knowledge of the Chinese language is not in any way required for making full

and thorough use of this volume. However, Chinese characters are provided for important references and terms of philosophical art in order to help the beginning student of Chinese and for the common edification of all. We do not provide characters for textual emendations or other textual notes, as these issues require advanced facility in the classical Chinese language and other basic research languages of sinology. Readers interested in pursuing textual issues are encouraged to consult the appropriate sections of the web page mentioned above. We have used the Pinyin romanization system throughout this volume, although

we have chosen to romanize the common formal names of Chinese thinkers—their surnames and the honorific title zi (literally “Master”)—as one word rather than two. So, for example, Zhuang Zi (literally “Master Zhuang”) is written as Zhuangzi and Han Fei Zi (“Master Han Fei”) appears as Han Feizi. All romanizations in the bibliographies and notes remain in their original form in order to facilitate locating these sources. We have provided a complete table comparing the Pinyin and older


Wade-Giles systems of romanization following this Preface. We, the editors, have tried to balance a desire for consistency in the use of

specialized terms with the variety of senses many of these terms have within the range of texts presented here, as well as with the different sensibilities and styles of the individual translators. In cases where a certain important term of art is rendered in different ways, we have provided notes alerting readers and directing their attention to the other occurrences and translations. We would like to thank the contributors to this volume for their work and their

patience with us throughout the editorial process. Edward G. “Ted” Slingerland III, a member of the Department of Asian Studies at the University of British Columbia, translated The Analects of Kongzi (“Confucius”); Paul Kjellberg, Chair of the Philosophy Department at Whittier College, contributed the selections from the Zhuangzi and on the thought of Yang Zhu; Eric L. Hutton, a member of the Philosophy Department of University of Utah, translated parts of the Xunzi; and Joel Sahleen, from the Department of Asian Languages at Stanford University, contributed selections from the Han Feizi. We, the editors, contributed the remaining translations of the Mozi, Mengzi (Mencius), and Laozi (The Daodejing), as well as the selections representing the thought of Gongsun Longzi. We would like to thank Robert B. Rama and Jeremy R. Robinson for their help in

preparing the manuscript for this volume. Denin Lee provided invaluable assistance in locating and helping to reproduce the illustrations of individual philosophers that appear at the beginning of each chapter. Mark Csikszentmihalyi, Shari Ruei-hua Epstein, Eirik Harris, T. C. “Jack” Kline III, Pauline Chen Lee, Shuen-fu Lin, and Eric Schwitzgebel offered very helpful corrections and comments on various parts of earlier drafts of the manuscript.



The following conversion table is provided in order to allow the reader to keep track of and convert between the Pinyin and Wade-Giles systems of romanization.




Chinese history and thought extend much farther back in time than the period covered in this volume, though it is fair to say that philosophy—in the sense of self- conscious reflection upon, modification, and defense of one’s views—begins with the debate between Kongzi and Mozi. Nevertheless, a general sense of the trajectory of Chinese thought prior to this period and some understanding of the shape of the intellectual landscape on the eve of the age represented here will help the reader to appreciate more deeply the views of the thinkers presented. The earliest substantial written documents we have from China are carved onto

bone and shell or etched onto ritual vessels of bronze. These incised inscriptions, together with other modern archeological discoveries, have allowed scholars to reconstruct speculative yet intriguing pictures of very early Chinese society and culture.1 Most of the so-called “oracle bone inscriptions” date from around the twelfth to mid-eleventh century B.C.E., the closing years of the Shang dynasty.2 They record the queries of royal diviners—often the king himself—who sought the advice and assistance of various ancestral and Nature spirits. Ritual vessel inscriptions, which date from the Shang and continue, in their high form, on down through the eighth century B.C.E., in the period known as the Western Zhou dynasty, also provide a wealth of information concerning very early Chinese elite culture, particularly many of its religious views.3 These sources describe a precarious world, saturated with unruly and

unpredictable spiritual powers. Above there was Shang Di , “The Lord on High,” a powerful and only vaguely understood spirit who controlled the forces of nature and largely determined the fate of human beings. Unlike ancestral spirits and even the spirits of Nature, Shang Diw as so remote from human concerns and so far from human understanding that he could not be approached directly. Other spirits and particularly ancestral spirits, though, could appeal to Shang Di on behalf of their living descendants and solicit his support for their all-too-human endeavors. The majority of oracular and bronze vessel inscriptions record attempts by the

ruling members of Shang and Zhou society to influence the spirits through ritual supplication and sacrifice. Those appeals that are directed specifically at ancestral spirits are among the clearest early expressions of “ancestor worship,” and, given our concern with the development of philosophy, it is interesting that even at this early stage we find an explicit concern with the inner life of the worshipper. For these inscriptions make clear that sacrifice was not simply an external behavior; in order for one’s sacrifice to be accepted by the appropriate spirit, one had to offer it with the proper inner attitudes and feelings of respect and reverence. Moreover, it was thought that with enough effort of the right sort, one could cultivate the


appropriate attitudes and feelings. In early Chinese religious thought, ancestral spirits bridge what in other

traditions often looms as an abyss between the spiritual and human worlds. There is no fundamental metaphysical rupture in the cosmos; at the very least, living human beings have concerned representatives in the spiritual world who can temper and appeal to more remote and recalcitrant forces. This gives early and even later Chinese religious thought a distinctively “this-worldly” orientation, and it had a profound influence on the shape and style of later philosophical reflection. Another fascinating and productive aspect of this complex of beliefs, attitudes,

and practices is the attention early diviners paid to keeping track of their past interactions with the spiritual world. Shang diviners kept extensive records of their oracular activities; these included notes concerning the consequences that resulted from following the advice derived through divination. K. C. Chang argues that these records were kept in the belief that by studying these past records thoughtful individuals could discern the most reliable patterns of productive human-spirit interaction.4 He further suggests that such practices deeply influenced later Chinese conceptions of and attitudes toward history and in particular the value and role of historical precedent. Together, these beliefs about the role of ancestral spirits and the wisdom of

history laid the foundation for beliefs and attitudes that shaped and endured throughout the Chinese tradition, particularly in the tradition of the “Erudites” or “Confucians.” They in particular preserved and elaborated on the idea that by keeping the lessons of the past in one’s mind and the ancestors in one’s heart, one could find a way through a dangerous and unpredictable world. These ideas find various expressions in the later philosophical literature. Different thinkers defend tradition on a variety of grounds, extending from a fundamental faith in a past golden age preserved in traditional cultural forms, to more subtle defenses of the accumulated authoritative force of efficacious precedents. As Benjamin Schwartz has pointed out, the unique part the ancestors played as mediators between the human and spiritual world lends itself to a form of life in which finding and fulfilling one’s designated familial and social roles—whatever these might be in a particular case—allows one to take one’s proper place in a harmonious universal scheme that worked for the benefit of all.5 The fact that such family-based roles also appear to be “natural” further reinforces this general conceptual scheme and opens up a way—that was taken by some of the thinkers we present here—to provide a more naturalized account of this early conception of the good human life. When the Shang were overthrown and their conquerors founded the Zhou

dynasty, we find the beginning of a tendency to “naturalize” and in a certain sense domesticate aspects of earlier Shang belief.6 By “naturalize” we mean a preference for accounts of actions and events in terms of systematic, natural phenomena rather


than spiritual power. For example, while the early Zhou rulers appear to have promoted the idea that their supreme deity Tian (literally “Heaven” or “sky”) was identical to the earlier Shang Di, with the passage of time Tian came to be thought of as the structure or disposition of the universe itself, as opposed to an entity or being with consciousness and intention. This transition is clear in texts like the Analects, where one finds both conceptions of Heaven as an active agent and conceptions of Heaven as the natural order of things. Another idea that manifests what we are calling the trend toward naturalized accounts is the notion of Tianming , “Heaven’s Mandate,” which the Zhou invoked to justify their conquest of the Shang. The idea was that Heaven confers its “mandate” to rule on those who best represent its interests and concerns for humankind. The Zhou portrayed the last Shang kings as drunken, self-serving despots who had forsaken their role-specific obligations and indulged their passions, thus bringing chaos to the world. As a consequence of this ethically reprehensible behavior, they were stripped of the mandate to rule.7 This “naturalizes” the earlier scheme in the sense that now an individual’s intentional actions and chosen way of life directly define their relationship with the spirit world and determine who secures and maintains Heaven’s favor. The shift to a new conception of Heaven and the appeal to Heaven’s Mandate also domesticate earlier Shang beliefs in the sense that they open up the workings of the world to broader human understanding and control. In Shang times, the spirit world was largely beyond direct human understanding; oracular inquiries were like scouting parties, sent out into potentially hostile territory in search of strategically useful information. And even such indirect knowledge and partial control of the spiritual world was limited to royal diviners. In the emerging Zhou worldview, anyone was potentially capable of understanding and harnessing the ethical power of Heaven.8 Later thinkers offer very different and at times conflicting accounts of the

Western Zhou and its exemplary individuals, but there is broad agreement that this period was one of remarkable internal stability, peace, and prosperity. And there is as yet no evidence available that would cause one to doubt such a claim. But given the newly developed views discussed above—which claim that an ethically superior ruler is necessary for sustained and successful government—such an age was destined to come to an end, for there is always the threat of moral rot. According to traditional accounts, the fall of the Western Zhou was the result of its last king’s lack of virtue. It seems that King You was deeply enamored of his concubine Bao Si and indulged himself by amusing her. Bao Si in turn was terribly fond of having the king light the series of beacon fires that were supposed to be used to summon his vassals from surrounding territories in times of attack. And so, even though there was no danger of attack, he would have the fires lit for her amusement. His vassals would gather their forces and rush to the capital, only to find that it was a false alarm. After a number of such false alarms, they stopped coming and hence were


not there when the real attack came, toppled his regime, and forced the remnants of the Zhou court to flee and found a new capital far to the east.9 From this we are to see how self-indulgence weakens the power of a ruler, and that eventually such conduct will result in the loss of Heaven’s Mandate to rule. Political failure follows closely upon the heals of moral decay, and both are regarded as being largely within an individual’s control.10 These distinctive characteristics of Zhou religious, ethical, and political thought became central features of much of later Chinese philosophy. From the perspective of the present work, the Eastern Zhou marks the dawn of the

“classical period” of Chinese philosophy. It begins with Kongzi (“Confucius”), in a period when China consisted of a number of increasingly independent states, and culminates with Han Feizi, with the unification of central China under a new dynasty known as the Qin.11 Of the nine thinkers covered, three—Kongzi, Mengzi, and Xunzi—are from what came to be called the Ru (“Erudite” or “Confucian”) tradition and two—Laozi and Zhuangzi—are from the more loosely affiliated group of thinkers later called the Daojia (“Daoist School”).12 In addition, there are selections from Mozi, founder and leader of the fascinating, powerful, and highly organized movement known as the Mojia (“Mohist School”), from Gongsun Longzi, a member of the Mingjia (“School of Names” or “Sophists”), from a “Yangist” text (one influenced by the thought of Yang Zhu), and from Han Feizi, an incisive, eloquent, and influential representative of the Fajia (“Legalist School”). As will be clear from the notes and appendices included in this volume, this

selection of writings by no means exhausts or even fully represents the range of thinkers who lived, thought, argued, and wrote during this period.13 There was a remarkably wide variety of thinkers active during this time in early China, a fact reflected in another name for this age: the baijia , “hundred schools,” period. Even among the thinkers we present here, one finds a broad range of philosophical views. There are reflective defenders of tradition, ethical sensibility theorists, nature mystics, consequentialists, and egoists as well as those who present a purely political theory of state organization and control. One finds a variety of visions of the good life, ranging from those who insist that only the right kind of society presents human beings with a way to live complete and satisfying lives, to those who argue that any self-conscious attempt to produce a good life will inevitably be contaminated and undermined by such effort. For proponents of this latter view, the only solution is to stop trying to find a solution and allow oneself to fall back into the preexisting harmony of Nature. Many of these different views rest on explicit or implied views about the character of human nature, and here again we see remarkable variety. This is true even in the case of the founder and first two most eminent defenders of Confucianism—Kongzi, Mengzi, and Xunzi—who shared a significant number of commitments and looked to a common historical and textual


heritage. The thinkers of the hundred schools period disagreed not only in theory but also

with each other. That is to say, not only were their views in conflict, but they themselves often argued with one another. Such exchanges led to greater philosophical sophistication, with thinkers responding to and often adapting each other ’s views in order to enhance their own positions. The careful reader will be able to see numerous examples of such disagreement and mutual borrowing in the selections presented here, and understanding this aspect of philosophical life during this period is important for a full appreciation of the lively and creative spirit of the time. The intellectual variety seen among the early philosophers represented here did

not stop with this first “classical period.” Throughout subsequent history Chinese thinkers continued to produce philosophical views of stunning originality and power. While certain early schools of thought died out, their influence remained and is clearly reflected in the thought of their more long-lived competitors.14 Over time, other, non-Chinese traditions of thought came and profoundly influenced indigenous traditions. For example, Buddhism, which arrived in China sometime around the first century C.E., generated a fundamental and enduring transformation of every active philosophical school. The most important lesson to take away from this rich and complex history is that

“Chinese philosophy” is not a single theory, thinker, or tradition but rather a diverse and lively conversation that has been going on for more than twenty-five hundred years and that is still active and evolving in our own time. And so Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy might more accurately be entitled Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophies. It is the hope of the editors and other contributors to this volume that this work serves to facilitate an engagement with and appreciation of the wealth of philosophical ideas found in early China.

Philip J. Ivanhoe Boston, MA

Bryan W. Van Norden Poughkeepsie, NY

June 2005

1The best introductions to this period of Chinese civilization are Kwang-chih Chang, Shang Civilization (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1980) and David N. Keightley, ed., The Origins of Chinese Civilization (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1983). Michael Loewe and Edward L. Shaughnessy, eds., The Cambridge History of Ancient China: From the Origins of Civilization to 221 B.C. (New York: Cambridge University Press, 1999) is a useful survey covering Chinese history from the earliest times through the period we cover in this book.

2For a remarkably edifying introduction to Shang oracular inscriptions, see David N. Keightley, Sources of Shang


History: The Oracle-bone Inscriptions of Bronze Age China (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1978). 3The most illuminating and thorough introduction to early bronze inscriptions is Edward L. Shaughnessy, Sources

of Western Zhou History: Inscribed Bronze Vessels (Berkeley, CA: University of California Press, 1991). 4See Chang, Shang Civilization, op. cit., p. 90. 5See Schwartz (1985), p. 23. 6Most contemporary scholars recognize that the traditional date of the Zhou conquest (1122 B.C.E.) is too early by

about one hundred years, though there is still no clear consensus on exactly when it occurred. 7This idea can still be seen in the modern Chinese word for “revolution,” which is geming “stripping the

mandate.” 8Early Chinese society restricted women to primarily domestic vocations. However, there were exceptions to this

general rule, and there was a developed literature on woman’s virtue quite early in Chinese history. See Lisa Raphals, Sharing the Light: Women and Virtue in Early China (Albany, NY: SUNY Press, 1999) and Robin R. Wang, Images of Women in Chinese Thought and Culture (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing Company, 2003). Moreover, one does not find explicit arguments about purported reasons that prevented women from developing complete forms of the full range of virtues, as one finds, for example, in the writings of Aristotle.

9For a discussion of the figure Bao Si, see Raphals, Sharing the Light, op. cit., pp. 64–66. 10Uncontrollable and inexplicable factors could still affect one’s overall destiny, but as these were beyond one’s

choice and conscious control, they received very little attention in the developing literature. 11It is from “Qin” that we get our name “China.” 12For brief descriptions of these “schools” of thought, see Important Terms. 13This is true even if one counts only the thinkers for whom we have at least some samples of their work. Extant

bibliographies and references in texts that we do have point to an immensely rich and extensive literature that is either lost or has not yet come to light.

14For example, the Mohist School died out around the time of the Qin conquest, but it left a deep and indelible influence on both Daoist and Confucian thought.



1. Chan, Wing-tsit, tr.

1963 A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

2. Fung, Yu-lan

1983 A History of Chinese Philosophy. 2 vols. Derk Bodde, tr., reprint. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.

3. Graham, A. C.

1989 Disputers of the Tao. La Salle, IL: Open Court Press.

4. Ivanhoe, Philip J.

2000 Confucian Moral Self Cultivation. Indianapolis, IN: Hackett Publishing Company.

5. Legge, James

1895 The Chinese Classics. 4 vols. (Originally published in 5 vols. Reprinted many times. Includes translations of the Analects, Mencius [Mengzi], Greater Learning, Doctrine of the Mean, History [The Shoo King], Odes, and the Spring and Autumn Annals with the Zuozhuan [Zuo’s Commentary].)

6. Munro, Donald J.

1969 The Concept of Man in Early China. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.


7. Nivison, David S.

1996 The Ways of Confucianism. Chicago, IL: Open Court Press.

8. Schwartz, Benjamin I.

1985 The World of Thought in Ancient China. Cambridge, MA: The Belknap Press.






“The Analects”


The Analects (Lunyu —literally, the “Classified Teachings”) purports to be a record of the teachings of Kongzi or “Confucius” (551–479 B.C.E.) and his disciples.1 Kongzi believed that the Golden Age of humankind had been realized during the height of the Zhou dynasty, from c. 1045–771 B.C.E. (the so-called Western Zhou period). Personified by the cultural heroes King Wen (d. c. 1050 B.C.E.), his son King Wu (r. 1045–1043), and the virtuous regent, the Duke of Zhou (r. c. 1043–1036 B.C.E.), the early Zhou rulers established and maintained a special relationship with tian , “Heaven,” by properly and sincerely observing a set of sacred practices collectively referred to as the li , “rites” or “rituals.” The scope of the rites was quite vast, including everything from grand state ceremonies to the proper way to sit or fasten one’s lapel—details that we might think of as issues of etiquette. In return for such formal obedience to Heaven in all matters great and small, the Zhou royal line was rewarded with a ming , “Mandate,”2 to rule China, manifested in the form of a charismatic de , “Virtue,” or power. By Kongzi’s age, the Zhou kings had been reduced to mere figureheads, and real

political power was in the hands of various local rulers. In …