Confucian Philosophy in the Han Dynasty

Categories: HistoryPhilosophy

This paper will evaluate a brief evaluation of the rise of the Han Dynasty and how Confucian corresponds with it. With included references to authors, Tanner, Liang, Dubs, and Wang, will supply knowledge regarding to Sima Qian’s historical points, incorporation of Confucian principles within the Han Dynasty and the emperor, and within the social lives and families. I will highlight some of the major points of beneficial factors to Confucian thought as well as a brief opinion on how it isn’t always good to base a society of false claims regarding to divinity and how the society originated.

However, I hope to make clear a better understanding on why and how the Chinese people in general came to be in current day China. “Before the founding of the Han dynasty, thinkers of every stripe cited the Five Classics to legitimate their ideas, but the transmission of the Zhou’s cultural heritage was not clearly documented until Sima Qian (second century B.

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C. E. ) traced the study of the Five Classics back to Confucius. Sima Qian finished an essay called “The Collective Biographies of Confucians,” which “summarizes classical learning from the beginning of the Western Han to the end of the reign of Emperor Wu. ” He is considered the first great exemplar of the Chinese historical tradition; however, before he was able to finish his works and had angered the emperor, he took the option of being castrated over controversial writings about a general that had been defeated and surrendered to the Xiongnu, to finish his writings.

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Sima Qian was a man dedicated to his work for which he chose castration over having to commit suicide. “The style of Sima Qian’s work was didactic, its purpose to communicate the moral lessons of the past. ’ “In both its organization and its approach to history, the ‘Records of the Grand Historian’ served as a model for all subsequent officially sanctioned Chinese historical writing. ” Ban Gu eventually took up Sima Qian’s work in 90 B. C. , although he was imprisoned at first for his unauthorized history of the Han emperor, but was freed later due to the emperor’s liking of his work.

Regardless whether the historical contexts of both Ban Gu and Sima Qian, it shows that the histories were often dishonest due to the preferences of the elite, but as Ban Gu was pardoned, there might be more truth to what the Han’s historical past entails. “It was during the former Han period that Confucianism developed from being the teaching of a few pedants in a semi-retirement, at the end of the Chou period, to become the official philosophy of the government, which had to be adopted by anyone who hoped to enter public life. Although it was a gradual process, early Han emperors embraced Confucianism by incorporating its teachings in education and establishing a Confucian Imperial University, which ultimately distributed literati among offices in the government. As this concept became bigger and more popular among the elite, the development of the examination became prominent as there was a high importance of literary ability and Confucian training, to be able to obtain a position within a government entity.

It was believed that with all of the claimed advantages of Confucianism, “unifying the country intellectually by making one system of thought current among all educated men led to the elevation of Confucianism. ” In 141 B. C. , Tung Chung-shu, advocated a principle to Emperor Wu that all non-Confucian philosophies should be destroyed with intellectual unification of the country—Emperor Wu did act upon this by proscribing Legalism and elevating Confucians to be his highest officials.

With the rise of Confucianism in the Han Dynasty, it not only effected the elites’ primary preferences for what should be within the government body, but it also effected the view of the emperor himself. The conception of the central government of the Han Dynasty from a Confucian perspective was that the ruler must be a man, be of noble origin, ordained by Heaven, having great wisdom and virtue, and must be a ruler that is “all-under-Heaven. ”

To strengthen the claim to the throne, “all the rulers of China before Liu Pang were believed to have been of divine origin. “However, the living Han ruler, like the rulers of other dynasties, was not regarded as a god, nor was any worship instituted for him. ” It was common practice, as in all histories, to have a greater social distance between those who command and those who obey, often times through rituals and ceremonies. The Confucian scholars introduced ceremonies in 201 B. C. which was considered necessary for a new ruler to elevate to an “unapproachable position. ” This of course resulted in the emperor or ruler to be catapulted into the highest authority.

Much like in other empires, that due to this common practice of using divinity as the main aspect of the throne, that anyone who goes against, protests, or is considered disrespectful, most often paid the price through draconian laws and usually sentenced to death. The morality of Confucian belief as it was incorporated into the social lives of the common people, also included what the roles should be within the family. Ban Zhao (48? -116? CE), historian Ban Gu’s sister, was famous for her writings on the expected roles of women in Han society.

Ban Zhao believed that it was the husband’s duty to control while the wife serves him, but at the same time the wife would be allowed to be educated and literate. Ban Zhao further mentions that the husband and wife must play their roles, but men have the ultimate responsibility to control and to have authority. She further continues, “If women are to understand and perform their expected roles, then they must learn to read so that they can learn from the same ritual texts as men do. ” This all of course is stemming and adding to the Confucian ideology.

Perhaps, even though she was a remarkable matriarchal woman, she believed that this ideology is a cornerstone for maintaining a strong and healthy nuclear family environment. In conclusion, it is very apparent that Confucian ideology was the main stronghold for both the Eastern and Western Han Dynasty. Confucianism, with Sima Qian, Ban Gu, Ban Zhao, and a collaboration of other historians, had a major influence on how the elitists, the government, and the common people, were to go about their daily lives and follow what was considered a respectable social order at that time.

The ideology of Confucianism built a halo around the emperor to catapult him to a position of higher order, causing the people to look up to him rather than revolt against him for being in a position undeserving. As with many empires, which all rise and fall at some point, the elitists and the emperor always has a philosophical tale which tries to explain where its origins came from, sometimes referring the emperor as a god himself. In essence, there is usually no ground proof what the true history was, mostly due to the perversion of some historians’ ideology relating to their religious affiliations.

Perhaps too, with fear of draconian laws and punishment, especially with low self-esteem and high-ego type of authority, that history in itself will only boil down to “his story. ” Regardless, despite whether or not the histories of Confucianism and the Han Dynasty are valid, there is strong evidence that the Confucian principles still exist today as we see in the current-day Chinese culture regarding to the social lives and families of many.

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Confucian Philosophy in the Han Dynasty. (2016, Nov 03). Retrieved from

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