China's early great philosophers lived in or just before the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC).
It was a period of disunity and civil strife but also great cultural and intellectual prosperity. There were so many philosophers, ideas and intellectual currents that it was known as the "golden age" of Chinese philosophy. All ideas were discussed freely, including conflicting ideas; this phenomenon of free discussion and inquiry is generally known as the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought.
Many itinerant scholars were employed by rulers of various states to advise them in government, economics, diplomacy and military strategy.
Six scholars are discussed in the first part of the upcoming series, but there were many more philosophers and schools of thought in contention, with different ideas about whether man was inherently good, whether good behavior could be taught, whether truth could ever be known and how best to govern.
All this came to an end with the rise of the Qin Dynasty (221-206 BC). There would be purges, book burnings and burial of scholars. Legalism, a utilitarian political philosophy that did not consider higher issues, became popular among rulers. Confucianism was revived in the Han Dynasty (206 BC-AD 220) and became virtually a state ideology. By then many schools of thought had disappeared.
Confucius lived in the "golden age" and his teachings later became the foundation for traditional society.
The Confucian classics emphasized order and correct hierarchical relationships, as between father and children and an emperor and his subjects.
Confucius emphasized the importance of virtue in rulers and others, as well as ethical behavior and self-cultivation. Ritual and music were considered very important.
Mencius (372-289 BC) synthesized and applied Confucius' teachings and added his own ideas about economics, government and human nature, which he said was inherently good.
Laozi (believed to live in the 6th century BC) founded Taoism, the second most important school of thought and later a religion. It was the virtual opposite of rigid Confucianism that dealt with strictly prescribed human relationships within society. Laozi, who wrote the "Tao Te Ching," emphasized the importance of the individual living in harmony with nature. Officials following Confucian teachers might be Taoists in their leisure or retirement. Confucian on the outside, Taoism on the inside was a popular saying.
Zhuangzi (369-286 BC), in the Taoist tradition, expressed a sceptical philosophy, saying human senses are limited and so is human knowledge, though knowledge itself is unlimited. He is famous for a passage known as "Zhuangzi dreamed he was a butterfly," in which he doesn't know whether he is Zhuangzi dreaming he was a butterfly or a butterfly dreaming it was Zhuangzi.
Mozi (470-391 BC), the founder of Mohism, was a pacifist, arguing for brother love and saying all men were equal before heaven. He argued for simplicity and frugality, opposing Confucian ritual and social stratification, which was favored by rulers.
Sunzi (544-496 BC) wrote "The Art of War," the earliest known work of military science. It has been applied to other fields such as business and politics. He urges rulers to think strategically and stresses the indirect approach as superior to a head-on attack. He writes, for example, that a leader must be "serene and inscrutable," capable of comprehending "unfathomable plans." Though he outlines battle theories, he advocates diplomacy.
PK! Who is real red carpet queen?
Liberated cover girls on Old Shanghai pictorials
Top10 beauties in court costumes of Qing Dynasty
Female stars hates HD camera ! I bet !
Looted jade seals from Old Summer Palace
Shocking! Stars' impressive outfits
Time to abandon Olympic obsession
Female stars' grins: too horrible to look at !
The silent beauty of the Summer Palace in winter