Dissertation > Philosophy, religion > Chinese Philosophy > Philosophy of the Han Dynasty ( 206 BC to 220 AD)

Naturalistic transformation of the Western Han Dynasty Confucianism Zhongshu Philosophical Study

Author LinSuMin
Tutor XuHongXing
School Fudan University
Course Chinese Philosophy
Keywords Zhongshu Chun Qiu Fan Lu Chun Qiu Fan Lu Confucianism in History Fengtian Farquhar Confucian thought Confucian tradition Treatise of Human Nature Emperor Wu of Han Mencius
CLC B234
Type PhD thesis
Year 2011
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Confucianism changed dramatically in the early Western Han Dynesty. However the change was not well comprehended by the scholars afterwards. Dong zhongshu was one of the most important thinkers who promoted the change. This essay attempts to make better knowledge of the change by re-explaining Dong’s works. The point is that the change is a self adjustment to the foundermental humanism of early Confucianism.The introduction of this essay reviews current researches on Dong zhongshu, making the conclusion that the change introduced into Confucianism by Dong was underestimated. Although there were scholars emphasizing that Dong’s concept of Tian has a personality or is transcendental, the introduction argues that Tian could be the basis of human value without a medium of personification or transcendentalism. So the abandonment of the assumption that Dong’s concept of Tian either has personality or is transcendental is the entrance to the understanding of Dong’s philosophy.The first chapter discusses the main conflict of Dong’s time. It defines the conflict between the expansionist policy of the Emperor Wu of Western Han Dynesty and the wellbeing of the empire as the main conflict. It insists that the expansionist policy of Emperor Wu is not only the result of his personality but of the tendency of human nature. This conflict consisted the space of Dong’s philosophy.The second chapter summarizes the change which Dong introduced into Confucianism-the principle of "naturalism". This principle manifested in Dong’s philosophy as the doctrine of "Following the cosmos as well as the ancient law". The essence of Dong’s philosophy is to retreat from the humanist tradition of early Confusianism, which overestimated the human nature and treated human society and the historical process as self-sufficiency problem domains. On the contrary, Dong regarded human society and the historical process as parts of the material world.The third chapter analyzes main ideological resources of Dong’s philosophy-Gongyang Study on Spring and Autumn. It is argued that Dong’s introduction of naturalism is not a departure from Confucianism. The base of Dong’s philosophy remained the humanist tradition of early Confucianism, mainly of Confucius’s indeology in Spring and Autumn.The fourth chapter analyzes the basic concept of Dong’s philosophy-Tian. Although Tian basically means sky, thinkers before Dong used it in various ways. Most of them had no interest in taking Tian for the object of knowledge but for a symbol of alienity, non-humanity in different senses. However, Dong’s concerpt of Tian derived from objective knowledge. It means the cosmos, which is the material world with the sky as its core and symbol.The fifth chapter analyzes the knowledge background of Dong’s philosophy,the theory of Yin-Yang and Five Elements. It is stated that the introduction of naturalism into Confucianism in early Western Han dynesty is the introduction of the Yin-Yang school, of which the core is empirical knowledge. Confucianism shifted from humanism to naturalism, although humanism remained its principal part, because Chinese’s empirical knowledge had been expanding. The theory of human nature is one of the most important parts of Dong’s Yin-Yang theory. He analyzed human nature more objectively with the method of Yin-Yang school, resulting in denying the doctrine of the goodness of human nature which is the basis of early confucianism.The sixth chapter analyzes the social political meaning of Dong’s philosophy. It is argued that the real question Dong’s naturalism facing is what is the human value in a material world and what is people’s aim in a non-religion society. In early China thinking, the relation of Tian and human is actualy that of king and people. Dong took that sky as the dominant part in the relation of sky and human. He hold that human cannot improve theirselves indepently, thus denied Confucianism’s optimism about human nature and improvement possibility. He emphasized the faith on Holly King, who is considered the agent of the cosmos on earth. Holly King is the counterpart of God in religion, and human nature in humanism. People have to turn to Holly King’s salvation for their improvement.

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