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Red Cliff and Early Chinese Notions Essay

Introduction The philosophies of early Chinese thinkers differ greatly from the mindset of modern day philosophers. The four major philosophies of China, Confucianism, Mohism, Taoism and Legalism arose primarily during the Warring States era from 475 BC to 221 BC. Following the end of the Qin Dynasty and the fall of Qin Shi Huang, Confucianism became the dominant philosophical school in China. Confucianism represented the teachings of Chinese philosopher, Confucius, concerning the fields of ethics and politics and emphasizes on personal and government morality, humaneness and one’s duty to family and society.

Following the popularity of Confucianism and the death of Confucius, the creation of The Analects or Lunyu ?? , was written by Confucius’ followers and disciples in the Warring States period. His teachings were the first to introduce the concept of meritocracy which considers that one’s status in society should not be determined by ancestry, wealth, or friendship but rather on education and one’s character. Confucius also explores notions on human nature and self cultivation and the purpose of human existence.

This paper will focus on early Chinese philosophies of the relationship between the individual and the state and the relationship between man and nature with references and examples from the film, Red Cliff. The Relationship between the Individual and the State The three core concepts of Confucianism, “filial devotion (xiao), humaneness (ren), and ritual decorum (li)” (Sources of Chinese Tradition, p. 43) embed the behavioural standards and expectations of how a person should practice these virtues. Furthermore, the three essential values integrate into Confucius’ views on government as well.

Filial piety practiced within one’s family translates into how much one is willing to give to society which results in the stability of a state. Humaneness observes the importance of a ruler treating his people as how he would want to be treated if he were in their position. In Confucius’ perspective, ritual offers a sense of respect as rites are a mean of expression of a leader’s morality and also “encourages a sense of dignity and responsiveness among the people” (Sources of Chinese Tradition, p. 43). Filial piety ? is considered the most fundamental of all Confucian teachings.

The term can have a broad meaning that not only includes the obedience a child must show for his parents but also respect that should be shown to the living and dead. Filial piety develops into five relationships: ruler to ruled, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and friend to friend. When subjects respect their ruler and the ruler respects the Heavens, the state will in turn thrive and prosper. From The Analects, Confucius states, “If a ruler himself is upright, all will go well without orders.

But if he himself is not upright, even though he gives orders they will not be obeyed”. The concept of filial piety is displayed in many different ways in the film, Red Cliff. Because of the compassion and brotherhood the southern warlord, Liu Bei, has shown towards his subjects, they were prepared to sacrifice their lives for him and the state. Because Liu Bei has treated his ministers and warriors with respect, as a result, they willingly followed his leadership. Conversely on Cao Cao’s side, his subjects were obedient towards him but only because they were afraid of him.

They know not to trust Cao Cao because of his apprehensive and suspicious character that could result in impulsive decisions to kill anyone without any reason or justification. Loosely quoted from Zhuge Liang, “Although Cao Cao leads a large army, the majority surrendered to him so they are not as trustworthy. ” He has not shown humaneness ? to his subjects, therefore they were not motivated to fight for him. Another example of filial piety and the relationship between the individual and the state is displayed through Xiao Qiao’s decision to cross over to Cao Cao’s camp in order to buy time for the Southerners.

Her duty to her husband and the state required her to forsake her personal interests including her life, her child’s life, and her relationship with her husband, for the greater good. “This is our home. Our people gladly give their lives for her sake. How can I stand idly by. ” – Xiao Qiao (Red Cliff II, 2009) Many Western philosophers may not understand and argue that the Chinese philosophy of individualism emphasizes on one’s connection to external powers of authority rather than total independence and creativity.

However the Chinese tradition is not about conforming each person’s ideas and sacrificing oneself for society, it “focuses on the individual as a vitally integrated element within a larger familial, social, political, and cosmic whole” (Internet Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Brindley). The core meaning of individualism is the thought of one’s self cultivation and the moral obligation to society and the importance of public service. This definition leads to the term junzi ?? which simply means the ideal of becoming the “perfect man” who “combines the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman”.

The two most prominent examples of a junzi in the film are Zhou Yu and Zhuge Liang. Zhou Yu’s forgiving nature allows him to achieve a greater good for his people when he chose to pardon his friend’s action of siding with Cao Cao. He did not choose to kill him when his childhood friend tried to convince him to surrender to Cao Cao but instead tolerated his friend’s disloyal character. On the other hand, Zhuge Liang is a good representation of a junzi as he uses his moral autonomy to help the people.

Because he knows clearly what is right and wrong, he combines his intelligence with righteousness to convince others of accepting his strategies as an advisor. In conclusion, both having filial piety and being a junzi are two of the ways the early Chinese believe an individual can contribute back into society. In the film Red Cliff, the underlying moral of the story relates back to these two themes whether it is in the form of brotherhood, husband and wife or a leader and his subjects. The Relationship between Man and Nature

The relationship between man and nature in classical Chinese philosophy can be characterized as the “relation of Heaven and man” or the fundamental concept of “tienren he yi” ????. The academic aim of Chinese thinkers was to educate the people on this philosophy. As quoted from Sima Qian stating the purpose of his work Records of the Grand Historian, “I want to hereby elucidate the relation of Heaven and man, to discern its historical development from Past to Present, and to state my distinctive views.

” After the middle period of the Warring States, classical thinkers strongly emphasized the relation of Heaven and man. When Confucius speaks about the “Mandate of Heaven” and when Mozi talks about the “Will of Heaven”, they are ultimately referring to nature as Heaven being the supreme entity of the world, above all kings and all sources of power. However this philosophy was divided into two sides, one highlighting the unity between man and nature and the other putting much emphasis on the separation of the two.

Nevertheless, the doctrines supporting the unity of man and nature was more influential and accepted more widely as the thought of stressing on the separation of the two was only held by a minority. Therefore it can be assumed that most Chinese philosophers place high social values on peace and harmony and the idea of “unity of nature and man”. To the Chinese, the relationship between humans and nature was regarded as reciprocals. Heaven, earth, and man represented a single unity governed by the cosmic law or dao.

Mencius, the most famous of Confucius’ followers, thought of Heaven as the highest order in which even the emperor or “Son of Heaven” should obey. Reinstating the idea of the hierarchy of respect Mencius states that …when the personal life is cultivated, the family will be regulated; when the family is regulated, the state will be in order; and when the state is in order, there will be peace throughout the world. From the Son of Heaven down to the common people, all must regard the cultivation of personal life as the root or foundation.

Mencius believed that a person’s moral self is the basis of having a harmonized society. And in order for a leader to earn the respect and support of his subjects, he must first respect the Heavens. Since humans are an integral part of nature, man should also obey the laws of nature. According the Mencius, human nature is given by Heaven, therefore the two are interconnected. In Confucian thinking, the meaning of Heaven or nature has a variety of aspects, including the sky, weather, the natural order, and also a moral order.

One of Confucius’ disciples Xunzi quotes “tian as a natural order, operating according to unchanging principles, not intervening in extraordinary ways in human affair but, rather, providing the context within which all living things exist” (Sources of Chinese Tradition, p. 170). Other Confucians also adopted the idea of oneness of Heaven and man. “All things exist together, and they do not harm each other; all ways exist together, and they do not come into conflict” – Zhongyong (Doctrine of the Mean). In the film Red Cliff, an example of acting out against nature or Heaven can be seen from Cao Cao’s perception of the war.

When Cao Cao tells Zhou Yu that he cannot believe he lost the war because of the wind, Zhou Yu replies him, “Because you don’t understand the Will of Heaven. ” The meaning of this phrase can be seen as having two connotations. The first, because Cao Cao did not understand the patterns of the weather, he was unable to predict the time when the wind was going to change directions. The second significance has a more profound undertone in which Zhou Yu means that Cao Cao did not recognize the natural order wherein society should follow under harmonized principles that the Heavens intended (tian yi,??

). Because Cao Cao always thought he was responsible for bringing together all the states as an order of the Emperor, he could not see past his own greed and ambitions. He perceived the war as child’s play and disrupts peace in the country to achieve his goal of total dominance. His belief of unifying the states contradicts the early philosophers’ notions of all things existing in harmony and having self cultivation and moral order as the true “Will of Heaven”. Conclusion

In conclusion, one can see that classical Chinese philosophers developed ideas that are rarely seen in Western philosophies. The Chinese philosophies characterize how fundamental they perceive moral principles and self cultivation as the basis of society. Essentially, these notions relate to the promotion of human relations towards a harmonious society through its inclusiveness of Heaven, Earth, and Human order. Reference List De, Bary William Theodore, Irene Bloom, Wing-tsit Chan, Joseph Adler, and Richard John Lufrano.

Sources of Chinese Tradition. New York: Columbia UP, 1999. Print Hagop Sarkissian. “Individualism in Early China: Human Agency and the Self in Thought and Politics (review). ” Philosophy East and West 62. 3 (2012): 408-410. Project MUSE. Web. 17 Oct. 2012. <http://muse. jhu. edu/>. Red Cliff Chi Bi. Magnolia Home Entertainment, 2008. DVD “Theories Concerning Man and Nature in Classical Chinese Philosophy. ” CHAPTER I. N. p. , n. d. Web. 13 Oct. 2012. <http://www. crvp. org/book/Series03/III-1/chapter_i. htm>. \


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