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Xunzi Human Nature Essay

Introduction Xunzi (Xun Qing, or Xun Kuang: c. 310-c. 219 BCE) lived at the very end of the Zhou dynasty. Like Mencius, he was an advocate and interpreter of the teachings of Confucius. Living a generation after Mencius, Xunzi lived through the final, brutal wars which ended with the state of Qin absorbing and unifying all the Chinese feudal states. Xunzi was a widely traveled scholar, teacher, and official. Document Excerpts with Questions (Longer selection follows this section) From Sources of Chinese Tradition, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, 2nd ed. , vol.

1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 179-183. © 1999 Columbia University Press. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Selection? from? the? Xunzi:? “Human? Nature? Is? Evil”? ? Human? nature? is? evil:? its? goodness? derives? from? conscious? activity.? Now? it? is? human? nature? to? be? born? with? a? fondness? for? profit.? Indulging? this? leads? to? contention? and? strife,? and? the? sense? of? modesty? and? yielding? with? which? one? was? born? disappears.?

One? is? born? with? feelings? of? envy? and? hate,? and,? by? indulging? these,? one?is? led? into? banditry? and? theft,? so? that? the? sense? of? loyalty? and? good? faith? with? which? he? was? born? disappears.? One? is? born? with? the? desires? of? the? ears? and? eyes? and? with? a? fondness? for? beautiful? sights? and? sounds,? and,? by? indulging? these,? one? is? led? into? licentiousness? and? chaos,? so? that? the? sense? of? ritual,? rightness,? refinement,? and? principle? with? which? one? was? born? is? lost.?

Hence,? following? human? nature? and? indulging? human? emotions? will? inevitably? lead? to? contention? and? strife,? causing? o the? example? of? a? teacher? and? guided? by? the? way? of? ritual? and? rightness? before? one? will? attain? modesty? and? yielding,? accord?? with? refinement? and? ritual,? and? return? to? order.? …? ? …?

A? questioner? asks:? If? human? nature? is? evil,? then? where? do? ritual? and? rightness? come? from?? I? reply:? ritual? and? rightness? are? always? created? by? the? conscious? activity? of? the? sages;? essentially? they? are? not? created? by? human? nature.? …? ? If? human? nature? were? good,? we? could? dispense? with? the? sage? kings? and? desist? from? the? practice? of? ritual? and? rightness.? Since? human? nature? is? evil,? we? must? elevate? the? sages? and? esteem? ritual? and? rightness.? ?

Primary Source Document, with Questions (DBQs) on SELECTION FROM THE XUNZI: “HUMAN NATURE IS EVIL” Questions: 1. How does Xunzi’s understanding of human nature compare to your own? 2. How does Xunzi’s understanding of human nature compare to that of Mencius? Which do you prefer, and why? 3. Why might the two men, from the same background, both self-appointed interpreters of Confucius, and only one generation apart, come up with their respective understandings of human nature?

4. What implications does Xunzi’s understanding of human nature have for family life and government? Longer Selection From Sources of Chinese Tradition, compiled by Wm. Theodore de Bary and Irene Bloom, 2nd ed. , vol. 1 (New York: Columbia University Press, 1999), 179-183. © 1999 Columbia University Press. Reproduced with the permission of the publisher. All rights reserved. Selection? from? the? Xunzi:? “Human? Nature? Is? Evil”? ?

Human? nature? is? evil;? its? good? derives? from? conscious? activity.? Now? it? is? human? nature? to? be? born? with? a? fondness?for? profit.? Indulging? this? leads? to? contention? and? strife,? and? the? sense? of? modesty? and? yielding? with? which? one? was? born? disappears.?

One? is? born? with? feelings? of? envy? and? hate,? and,? by? indulging? these,? one? is? led? into? banditry? and? theft,? so? that? the? sense? of? loyalty? and? good? faith? with? which? he? was? born? disappears.? One? is? born? with? the? desires? of? the? ears? and? eyes? and? with? a? fondness? for? beautiful? sights? and? sounds,? and,? by? indulging? these,? one? is? led? to? licentiousness? and? chaos,? so? that? the? sense? of? ritual,? rightness,? refinement,? and? principle? with? which? one? was? born? is? lost.?

Hence,? following? human? nature? and? indulging? human? emotions? will? inevitably? lead? to? contention? and? strife,? causing? one? to? rebel? against? one’s? proper? duty,? reduce? principle? to? chaos,? and? revert? to? violence.?

Therefore? one? must? be? transformed? by? the? example? of? a? teacher? and? guided? by? the? way? of? ritual? and? rightness? before? one? will? attain? modesty? and? yielding,? accord? with? refinement? and? ritual,?and? return? to? order.? From? this? perspective? it? is? apparent? that? human? nature? is? evil? and? that? its? goodness? is? the? result? of? conscious? activity.? ?

Thus? warped? wood? must? be? laid? against? a? straightening? board,? steamed,? and? bent? into? shape? before? it? can? become? straight;? blunt? metal? must? be? ground? on? a? whetstone? before? it? can? become? sharp.? And? in? that? human? nature? is? evil,? it? must? wait? for? the? example? of? a? teacher? before? it? can? become? upright,? and? for? ritual? and? rightness? before? it? can? become? orderly.?

Now,? if? people? lack? the? example? of? teachers? they? will? be? partial? and? narrow? rather? than? upright;? if? they? lack? ritual? and? rightness? they? will? be? rebellious? and? chaotic? rather? than? orderly.? In? ancient? times? the? sage? kings,? recognizing? that? the? nature? of? human? beings? is? evil???? that? they? incline? toward? evil? and? are? not? upright,? that? they? are? disposed? toward? chaos? and? are? not? orderly? ??? created? ritual? and? Asia for Educators | Columbia University | http://afe. easia. columbia. eduю


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