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Confucius (born Kong Qiu, styled Zhong Ni) was born in the village of Zou in the country of Lu in 551 B.C., a poor descendant of a deposed noble family.


Confucius (born Kong Qiu, styled Zhong Ni) was born in the village of Zou in the country of Lu in 551 B.C., a poor descendant of a deposed noble family. As a child, he held make-believe temple rituals; as a young adult, he quickly earned a reputation for fairness, politeness and love of learning, and he was reputed to be quite tall. He traveled extensively and studied at the imperial capital, Zhou, where he is said to have met and spoke with Lao Zi, the founder of Daoism.

Upon his return to Lu, he gained renown as a teacher, but when he was 35, Duke Zhao of Lu led his country to war, was routed and fled to the neighboring country of Qi; in the disorder following the battle, Confucius followed. Duke Zhao frequently came to him for advice, but upon counsel of one of his ministers, he decided against granting land to Confucius and gradually stopped seeking his counsel. When other nobles began plotting against Confucius' position, Duke Zhao refused to intervene, and Confucius returned to Lu. But conditions there were no better than before, and Confucius retired from public life to concentrate on teaching and studying.

At age 50, he was approached by the Baron of Qi to help defend against a rebellion, but he declined. He was later made a city magistrate by the new Duke of Lu, and under his administration the city flourished; he was promoted several times, eventually becoming Grand Secretary of Justice and, at age 56, Chief Minister of Lu. Neighboring countries began to worry that Lu would become too powerful, and they sent messengers with gifts and dancers to distract the duke during a sacrifice holiday. When the duke abandoned his duties to receive the messengers, Confucius resigned and left the country.

Confucius spent the next five years wandering China with his disciples, finding that his presence at royal courts was rarely tolerated for long before nobles would begin plotting to drive him out or have him killed. He was arrested once and jailed for five days, and at 62 he was pursued, along with his disciples, into the countryside by a band of soldiers sent by jealous nobles, until he was able to send a messenger to the sympathetic king of a nearby country, who sent his own soldiers to rescue them. Once again, Confucius was to be given land but was denied it upon counsel of another high minister. After further wanderings, he eventually returned to Lu at age 67. Although he was welcomed there and chose to remain, he was not offered public office again, nor did he seek it. Instead he spent the rest of his years teaching and, finally, writing. He died at 72.

Mencius(372 B.C.-289 B.C.)

One cannot discuss Confucianism without at least mentioning the man the Chinese call "The Second Sage," Meng Tzu, or Mencius (372-289 B.C.). Mencius, like Confucius and Mo Tzu before him, concerned himself entirely with political theory and political practice; he spent his life bouncing from one feudal court to another trying to find some ruler who would follow his teachings. Like Confucius and Mo Tzu before him, he was largely unsuccessful in his endeavor. In fact, China had degenerated precipitously in Mencius's time: individual states were preying on and conquering others and the rulers of the time had no patience for what they considered prattling about the ancients and their ways. Also, rival schools, especially the Moist schools (see "Mo Tzu" below), were putting up a good fight as far as bending the ears of rulers are concerned.

 

As a Confucian, Mencius based his entire system of thought on the concept of jen : "humaneness," "humanity," "benevolence," etc. To this basic doctrine he added the concept of i : "righteousness," or "duty." What does this mean? Mencius believed that the "humaneness" or "benevolence" that you show to individuals should in some way be influenced by the type of personal relationship you have to that person. One displayed jen to a person based on that person's position (as well as your own) and the obligations you owe to that person, so that you owe more jen to your immediate family than you do, say, to the Prime Minister of Canada. I , then, means that we have obligations to people that arise from social relations and social organization, not because there is some divine law mandating these obligations.

Mencius, like Confucius, believed that rulers were divinely placed in order to guarantee peace and order among the people they rule. Unlike Confucius, Mencius believed that if a ruler failed to bring peace and order about, then the people could be absolved of all loyalty to that ruler and could, if they felt strongly enough about the matter, revolt. 

Mo Tzu (470B.C.-391 B.C.)

Mo Tzu (470B.C.-391 B.C.) is a curious figure among the early giants of Chinese thought. Unlike most of the other names he is associated with (Confucius, Lao Tzu, Mencius, Chuang Tzu, etc.), Mo Tzu, born Mo Ti, seems to have been of low birth, possibly the son of a slave. He was a thoroughgoing eccentric, as famous for his dress and manners as his thought. His direct legacy, Moism, died out fairly quickly; in spite of this, his thought is enormously influential for all Chinese thought to follow. He despised Confucians with a passion, regarding them as uptight, egotistical, pretentious, upper class, and characterized by a mindless devotion to empty rituals. Despite this animosity, Mo Tzu shared with Confucius an overwhelming concern with government; his life was literally spent moving from feudal court to feudal court trying to talk some ruler or other into living by his philosophical teachings.
 

 



Unlike Confucius, Mo Tzu did not shy away from talking about religion and heaven. At the heart of his thinking was the belief that all human beings were fundamentally equal in the eyes of heaven; differences between human beings, such as status, wealth, or position, were artificial and man-made distinctions. The equality of humans before heaven mandated an overriding ethical principle for people to live by: universal love, to love every human being equally. This universal love is not sentimental mush; love for Mo Tzu was a practical thing, closely related to Confucius's jen. To love people was to take care of them, to feed them when hungry, to clothe them when naked, to house them when they are homeless. Universal love also meant avoiding any activity that might hurt another person, such as war or profiteering; universal love also meant avoiding any activity that did not directly take care of someone for this reason, Mo Tzu rejected all the music and rituals that the Confucians were so fond of. This moral obligation to take care of fellow human beings applied to all human beings; you are responsible not only for your family and your friends, you are equally responsible for people you don't even know, such as the homeless in Spokane. If you take care of only a few people that you are intimately related to, you are practicing partial love rather than universal love. It is partial love that is responsible for all the calamities that human beings suffer:

"Humane men are concerned about providing benefits to the world and eliminating its calamities. When we come to ask about the causes of the calamities (war, poverty, etc.) that people suffer, from what do these calamities arise? Do they arise from people loving others and benefiting others? Certainly not. We should say that they arise from people hating and injuring others. If we should classify one by one all those who hate and injure others, will we find that they are partial or universal in their love? Certainly, we'll find them partial in their love. Therefore, partial love is the cause of all the human calamities in the world. Partial love is wrong."

Universal love confers "righteousness" on a person; "righteousness" for Mo Tzu is merely living one's life in accordance with heaven, which after all regards all humans as equal: "One who obeys the will of heaven will practice universal love; one who disobeys the will of heaven will practice partial love." When people live their lives in accordance with heaven, the world is ordered and peaceful; when they don't live their lives in accordance with heaven, the world becomes disorder, violent, and chaotic.

Sun Tzu (   -400 B.C.)

A collection of essays on the art of war is attributed to Sun Tzu. The Art of War by Sun Tzu, compiled over 2,000 years ago by the warrior-philosopher, is still one of the most widely studied and influential books on strategy throughout the world today. The ancient writings are as eagerly studied by politicians and business leaders as by military generals.

This work stresses the unpredictability of battle, the importance of deception and surprise, the close relationship between politics and military policy, and the high costs of war. The futility of seeking hard and fast rules and the subtle paradoxes of success are major themes. The best battle, Sun Tzu says, is the battle that is won without being fought.

The most fundamental of Sun Tzu's principles for the conduct of war is that "All warfare is based on deception". Another key Sun Tzu principle is that "The supreme art of war is to subdue the enemy without fighting."

The Art of War by Sun Tzu, compiled over 2,000 years ago by the warrior-philosopher, is still one of the most widely studied and influential books on strategy throughout the world today. The ancient writings are as eagerly studied by politicians and business leaders as by military generals.

Zhuge Liang (181-234)

Zhuge Liang was born in 181 AD (the last years of East Han Dynasty), in the Yang-tu, Shandong. Historically, he was known as a great statesman, an engineer, and a military strategist in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). As mentioned earlier, he was also the hero of the novel San Guo Yan Yi (Popular Accounts of the Three Kingdoms, also commonly known as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms).

Zhuge Liang was born in 181 AD (the last years of East Han Dynasty), in the Yang-tu, Shantung province, China. Historically, he was known as a great statesman, an engineer, and a military strategist in the Three Kingdoms period (220-280 AD). As mentioned earlier, he was also the hero of the novel San Guo Yan Yi (Popular Accounts of the Three Kingdoms, also commonly known as The Romance of the Three Kingdoms).

Stories say that Zhuge Liang's forefathers were prominent servants of the state, but he was orphaned early in his youth. As a child, he was forced to flee his home province of Shantung during the slaughter of 400,000 civilians by Cao Cao, the powerful warlord of the Wei state.

The origin of his knowledgebase in "science, statecraft, and art" is unknown to many. It has been said that much of his learning was through his own process of researching and self-teaching. Other stories have Zhuge Liang learning from Pang De Gong (a famous educator-thinker of that era).

For a while, he dwelled in a thatched cottage in Longzhong (a district in the Wo Long Gung ridge near a town called Xiang Yang), quietly choosing to farm his land in obscurity and making friends extensively with celebrities, while preparing for the time for displaying his strategic knowledge. Legend states that Liu Bei, then a distant descendent of a royal Han house of minor military distinction, heard of Zhuge Liang's great wisdom and came three times to his home, requesting that he become his military advisor.

After a long discussion, Zhuge Liang was touched by Liu Bei's sincerity as well as Liu Bei's adoption of his plan for setting up a kingdom in the west and allying with the state of East Wu at the same time. He immediately pledged his service to Liu Bei and left his home to join Liu Bei's army. This became a major turning point for Liu Bei. At that time, Zhuge Liang was 26 and Liu Bei was 47 years old. Together they later established the Shu Han kingdom in the province of Sichuan.

Throughout his life, Zhuge Liang vowed to resist the Wei (the kingdom founded by his antagonist Cao Cao) and maintain the independence of the Shu, though the state of Wei had several times more land and people than that of the Shu. He later served as prime minister of Shu Han for Emperor Liu Bei (161-230 AD) and his son Liu Chan (207-271 AD).

Li Qingzhao (1083-1149)

Li Qingzhao was born into a Chinese family known for literary talent and service to the emperor. Her poetry was well known even before her marriage in 1101 to a student, Zhao Mingching (1081-1129). In 1103, her husband began his official career; from 1108 the couple lived in Shandong. From 1121, he spent much time traveling around the province; his periodic absences appear to have provided the occasion for some of Li's love poems. Throughout their married life, the couple collected antiquities; this, combined with the political upheavals of the time, explains the relative poverty in which they lived.

In 1126, the Song dynasty capital, Kaifeng, fell to the Jin people from the north; Shandong was in their path and considerable fighting took place there. In the fighting, the home of Li and Zhao was burnt. In 1127, the emperors were captured by the Jin; the Han loyalists named a new emperor, and the entire court, plus all those who served the court, moved slowly to the south, to establish a new "Southern Song" court in Hangzhou. During this period Zhao died, and Li was left to try to save their collection. Li describes her married life and the turmoil that ended it in Hou hsu.

Li Qingzhao finally arrived at Hangzhou, to spend the rest of her life and to publish her husband's work, Jin shi lu (Records on metal and stone), a 30-volume collection of inscriptions that Zhao had copied over the years. Li continued to write poetry; we know that she was writing for the court in the 1140s. The last official mention of her is in 1149. Some writers of a slightly later period said that she had remarried and then divorced; the story was denied by neo-Confucian writers with the argument that a proper lady wouldn't have done such a thing.

Li's poetry was originally published in seven volumes of shi (traditional poetry) and prose, plus six volumes of ci (these were poems composed to be set to existing popular music). About 50 ci and 17 shi survive. Also extant are two brief prose works: Hou hsu, an epilogue that she added to her husband's Jin shi lu; and Lun ci, a study of the ci form of poetry.

Pu Songling (1640-1715)

Pu Songling, was a native of Zichuan, Shandong in Qing Dynasty. He became a famous literary figure in his youth, but he never passed the imperial exams to be an official scholar. He never became wealthy in his life and he made a living as a private tutor. His fantastic fiction, "Strange Stories from a Chinese Studio", ranks among the most important works in China.

Though well-trained by his father in the classics, he never qualified for public office except for a brief appointment as an aide to a county magistrate in Jiangsu. When he returned to his home town he worked as a private tutor. His most famous work is Liaozhai zhiyi "Strange stories from a Chinese studio", a collection of stories about ghosts and spirits which he began work on at the age of twenty and only completed late in his life.

 

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