From 1027-221 BCE, the Zhou era, Chinese philosophers “offered insights into how humans should behave in regard to their families, the state, and nature. ” Different philosophers tried to achieve a similar goal of having a well-ordered Chinese society, but they all had vastly different methods of achieving this goal. There were three different schools of Chinese thought that all tried to achieve the goal of having a peaceful society that lived in harmony. All of these ideas were exceptionally diverse and they all varied in different ideas.
“Daoism emphasized harmony with nature; Confucianism emphasized the harmony of relationships; and Legalism emphasized the harmony of a well-regulated state. ” The Three Schools of Chinese thought, Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism had major impact on Chinese History both politically and socially for they each promoted a different approach to achieve a well-ordered society. Confucianism is a philosophy that pushed for a well-ordered society by emphasizing human relationships, a righteous leader, and a good education.
The discoverer of this idea was Confucius, a philosopher and teacher. He grew up in the period of Eastern Zhou, the age of a hundred schools. His goal was to transform the Chinese society into a state of coherence and righteous. He planned this goal was to be achieved by something called filial piety, devotion and service to parents, ancestors, and superiors. He found filial piety important because he believed it would make the people act moral. Another way he planned to achieve this goal was having a wise and moral leader that was able to set good examples for his people.
The Analects state that Confucius said “If you preside over them with dignity, they will be reverent; if you are filial and loving, they will be loyal; if you promote the good and instruct the incapable, they will be mutually encouraging. ” This proves that he believed the ruler should often set a good example for his people in order for them to be moral and show goodness. Another factor that played a huge role in Confucianism was the human relationships.
The emphasized relationships were ruler-people; parent-child; husband-wife; elder sibling- younger sibling and friend to friend. These relationships were crucially important because Confucius believed each person had obligations to fulfill and a certain stance in society. And to fulfill those duties each person was expected to behave. Also the goodness of the people was expected to start at the home. He said, “ Only when the roots are well planted will the Way grow “ This reveals that the longer moral ways have appeared the more moral the person is likely to be.
But if you juxtaposed the other two philosophies compared to Confucianism you would realize that are extremely different. In the contrary one of the other philosophies, Legalism, is much different than Confucianism and is a lot harsher. Legalism also had the goal of well-ordered society but had different idea of achieving this common goal. The dynasties that used the idea of Legalism were the Qin Dynasty and the Han Dynasty. The Qin Dynasty used Legalism to the full extent while the Han Dynasty infused Confucianism and Legalism together.
Han Feizi, the prince of the Han dynasty, through his writings outlined how to maintain a stable society through laws, punishments and other factors. He believed that one way to reach a well-ordered society was to have a strict and strong ruler. Quoted from The Writings Of Master Han Fei, Fei said, “ If conformers to law are strong, the country is strong; if conformers to law are weak, the country is weak …”. From this you can conclude that Han Fei truly believed that a harsh ruler was the key to a successful society.
Another aspects that contributed to the success of the community were to have enforced laws. As stated from The Writings of Master Han Fei “ To govern the state by law is to praise the right and blame the wrong. ” This reveals that Han Fei also thought that through praising the good people and punishing the bad the society would be “well-ordered”. Which also shows that Han Fei believed in harsh punishments to tame the people of his country. A final belief of Legalism was a strong base of realism opposed to idealism.
Realism was encouraged because Fei thought “ …a strong dose of realism was needed to bring his present-day world out of the chaos that beset it” In other words means idealism was not a strict enough way to achieve a well-ordered society. But the idea of Daoism would strongly disagree with the previous concepts. Daoism, also known as “ The Way That Is and Is Not “, enormously differs from the other two philosophies. Daoism was used in the time period of the Eastern Zhou.
The originator of this philosophy was Laozi, an “old master”, who was supposedly immortal. Laozi was against Confucianism and its concepts and perceived things from a diverse view. The goal of Daoism was to maintain a common goal of a well-ordered society. But he planned to attain this goal by following The Law of The Dao is it’s being what it is. Which simply means things are the way they are and you should not interfere. He wanted the people to follow their Dao, their destiny, something you’re naturally good at that doesn’t take any effort.
And he believed by just doing that the society would be in harmony with nature. An additional way to achieve his goal was to have hands off government and ruler that were not strict or influential to the society. This is proven in The Dao Dejing; it says, “ I will do nothing, and the people will be transformed of themselves; I will be fond of keeping still, and the people will of themselves become correct…” In other words Laozi expected the ruler to let the people govern themselves and learn from their own mistakes as opposed to having laws to obey.
Which also relates to a concept that is well known to most Daosist called Nonaction. In summary in Daoism to achieve the goal of having a well-ordered society you must follow your dao and be in harmony with nature. In conclusion The Three Schools of Chinese thought, Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism had major impact on Chinese History both politically and socially for they each promoted a different approach to achieve a well-ordered society. They also still have an impact on today’s modern society.
Each one of these philosophies have some how branched off to religions or philosophes that are still encouraged today. For example Daoism also helped mold the religion of Buddhism. Legalism appears in several of countries around the world where the rulers of a society give there people strict laws with cruel punishments. And for Confucianism Chinese society’s still focus on having relationships with people closest to them. Therefore it was extremely important that these philosophies were studied and discovered.