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Hundred Schools of Thought

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Hundred Schools of Thought (Chinese: ;

pinyin: zhz biji) were philosophies and schools that Hundred Schools of Thought
flourished from the 6th century to 221 BC, during the Spring Traditional Chinese
and Autumn period and the Warring States period of ancient
Simplified Chinese
An era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in
Standard Mandarin
China,[2] it was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, but it
was also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy Hanyu Pinyin zhz biji
because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed WadeGiles chu1-tzu3 pai3-chia1
and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the
Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (/ IPA [ts pitj]
; biji zhngmng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred Wu
schools contend"). The thoughts and ideas discussed and
Romanization Tsoe tzy ba' ga
refined during this period have profoundly influenced
lifestyles and social consciousness up to the present day in Yue: Cantonese
East Asian countries and the East Asian diaspora around the Yale Romanization Jy-j baak-ga
world. The intellectual society of this era was characterized
by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various Jyutping Zyu1-zi2 baak3-gaa1
state rulers as advisers on the methods of government, war, Southern Min
and diplomacy.
Ti-l Tsu-ts pah-ka
This period ended with the rise of the imperial Qin Dynasty
and the subsequent purge of dissent.

1 Schools listed in the Shiji
1.1 Confucianism
1.2 Legalism
1.3 Taoism
1.4 Mohism
1.5 School of Yin-yang
1.6 Logicians
2 Schools listed in the Hanshu
2.1 School of Diplomacy
2.2 Agriculturalists
2.3 Syncretism
2.4 School of "Minor-talks"
3 Unlisted schools
3.1 Yangism
3.2 School of the Military
4 History and origins
5 See also
6 References
7 External links

Schools listed in the Shiji

A traditional source for this period is the Shiji, or Records of the Grand Historian by Sima Qian. The
autobiographical section of the Shiji, the "Taishigong Zixu" (), refers to the schools of thought
described below.


Confucianism (; Rji; Ju-chia; "School of scholars") is the body of thought that arguably had the most
enduring effects on Chinese life. Its written legacy lies in the Confucian Classics, which later became the
foundation of traditional society. Confucius (551479 BC), or Kongzi ("Master Kong"), looked back to the
early days of the Zhou dynasty for an ideal socio-political order. He believed that the only effective system of
government necessitated prescribed relationships for each individual: "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a
subject". Furthermore, he contended that a king must be virtuous in order to rule the state properly. To
Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical
values; thus his ideal human was the junzi, which is translated as "gentleman" or "superior person".

Mencius (371289 BC), or Mengzi, formulated his teachings directly in response to Confucius.

The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on
ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucianist thought, was to provide
traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework by which to order virtually every aspect of life.

There were many accretions to the body of Confucian thought, both immediately and over the millennia, from
within and without the Confucian school. Interpretations adapted to contemporary society allowed for
flexibility within Confucianism, while the fundamental system of modeled behavior from ancient texts formed
its philosophical core.

Diametrically opposed to Mencius, in regards to human nature (), was the interpretation of Xunzi (c. 300
237 BC), another Confucian follower. Xunzi preached that man is not innately good; he asserted that goodness
is attainable only through training one's desires and conduct.


The School of Law or Legalism (; Fji; Fa-chia; "School of law") doctrine was formulated by Li Kui,
Shang Yang (d. 338 BC), Han Feizi (d. 233 BC), and Li Si (d. 208 BC), who maintained that human nature was
incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above,
and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity and
martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.

Legalism greatly influenced the philosophical basis for the imperial form of government. During the Han
Dynasty, the most practical elements of Confucianism and Legalism were taken to form a sort of synthesis,
marking the creation of a new form of government that would remain largely intact until the late 19th century.


Philosophical Taoism or Daoism (; Doji; Tao-chia; "School of the Way") developed into the second
most significant stream of Chinese thought. Its formulation is often attributed to the legendary sage Laozi ("Old
Master"), who is said to predate Confucius, and Zhuangzi (369286 BC). The focus of Taoism is on the
individual within the natural realm rather than the individual within society; accordingly, the goal of life for
each individual is seeking to adjust oneself and adapting to the rhythm of the natural (and the supernatural)
world, to follow the Way (tao) of the universe, and to live in harmony. In many ways the opposite of rigid
Confucian morality, Taoism was for many of its adherents a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar
serving as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings, but at leisure or in retirement might seek
harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse. Politically, Taoism advocates for rule through inaction, and avoiding
excessive interference.

Mohism or Moism (; Mji; Mo-chia; "School of Mo") was developed by followers of Mozi (also referred
to as Mo Di; 470c.391 BC). Though the school did not survive through the Qin Dynasty, Mohism was seen as
a major rival of Confucianism in the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Its philosophy rested on the
idea of impartial care (Chinese: ; pinyin: Jian Ai; literally: "inclusive love/care"): Mozi believed that
"everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of
collective love. This is often translated and popularized as "universal love", which is misleading as Mozi
believed that the essential problem of human ethics was an excess of partiality in compassion, not a deficit in
compassion as such. His aim was to re-evaluate behavior, not emotions or attitudes.[3] His epistemology can be
regarded as primitive materialist empiricism; he believed that human cognition ought to be based on one's
perceptions one's sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing instead of imagination or internal logic,
elements founded on the human capacity for abstraction.

Mozi advocated frugality, condemning the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music, which he denounced as
extravagant. He regarded offensive warfare as wasteful and advocated pacifism or at the most, defensive
fortification. The achievement of social goals, according to Mozi, necessitated the unity of thought and action.
His political philosophy bears a resemblance to divine-rule monarchy: the population ought always to obey its
leaders, as its leaders ought always to follow the will of heaven. Mohism might be argued to have elements of
meritocracy: Mozi contended that rulers should appoint officials by virtue of their ability instead of their family
connections. Although popular faith in Mohism had declined by the end of the Qin Dynasty, its views are said
to be strongly echoed in Legalist thought.

School of Yin-yang

The School of Naturalists or Yin-yang (/; Ynyngji; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was
a philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements; Zou Yan is considered the
founder of this school.[4] His theory attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature: the
complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the Five
Elements or Five Phases (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In its early days, this theory was most strongly
associated with the states of Yan and Qi. In later periods, these epistemological theories came to hold
significance in both philosophy and popular belief. This school was absorbed into Taoism's alchemic and
magical dimensions as well as into the Chinese medical framework. The earliest surviving recordings of this
are in the Ma Wang Dui texts and Huang Di Nei Jing.


The School of Names or Logicians (; Mngji; Ming-chia; "School of names") grew out of Mohism, with a
philosophy that focused on definition and logic. It is said to have parallels with that of the Ancient Greek
sophists or dialecticians. The most notable Logician was Gongsun Longzi.

Schools listed in the Hanshu

In addition to the above six major philosophies within the Hundred Schools of Thought, the "Yiwenzhi" of the
Book of Han adds four more into the Ten Schools (; Shijia).

School of Diplomacy

The School of Diplomacy or School of Vertical and Horizontal [Alliances] (/; Zonghengjia)
specialized in diplomatic politics; Zhang Yi and Su Qin were representative thinkers. This school focused on
practical matters instead of any moral principle, so it stressed political and diplomatic tactics, and debate and
lobbying skill. Scholars from this school were good orators, debaters and tacticians.

Agriculturalism (/; Nongjia) was an early agrarian social and political philosophy that advocated
peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism.[5] The philosophy is founded on the notion that human
society originates with the development of agriculture, and societies are based upon "people's natural
prospensity to farm."[6]

The Agriculturalists believed that the ideal government, modeled after the semi-mythical governance of
Shennong, is led by a benevolent king, one who works alongside the people in tilling the fields. The
Agriculturalist king is not paid by the government through its treasuries; his livelihood is derived from the
profits he earns working in the fields, not his leadership.[7] Unlike the Confucians, the Agriculturalists did not
believe in the division of labour, arguing instead that the economic policies of a country need to be based upon
an egalitarian self sufficiency. The Agriculturalists supported the fixing of prices, in which all similar goods,
regardless of differences in quality and demand, are set at exactly the same, unchanging price.[7]

For example, Mencius once criticized its chief proponent Xu Xing for advocating that rulers should work in the
fields with their subjects. One of Xu's students is quoted as having criticized the duke of Teng in a conversation
with Mencius by saying: "A worthy ruler feeds himself by ploughing side by side with the people, and rules
while cooking his own meals. Now Teng on the contrary possesses granaries and treasuries, so the ruler is
supporting himself by oppressing the people".


Syncretism, or the School of Miscellany (/; Zajia) integrated teachings from different schools; for
instance, L Buwei found scholars from different schools to write a book called Lshi Chunqiu cooperatively.
This school tried to integrate the merits of various schools and avoid their perceived flaws. The (c. 330 BC)
Shizi is the earliest textual example of the Syncretic School.

School of "Minor-talks"

The School of "Minor-talks" (/; Xiaoshuojia) was not a unique school of thought. Indeed, all
the thoughts which were discussed by and originated from non-famous people on the street were included in
this school. At that time, there were some government officials responsible for collecting ideas from non-
famous people on the street and report to their senior. These thoughts formed the origin of this school. This also
explains its Chinese name, which literally means "school of minor-talks".

Unlisted schools
These schools were not listed in the Hanshu but did have substantial influence.


Yangism was a form of ethical egoism founded by Yang Zhu. It was once widespread but fell to obscurity
before the Han dynasty. Due to its stress on individualism, it influenced later generations of Taoists.

School of the Military

Another group is the School of the Military (; Bingjia) that studied warfare and strategy; Sunzi and Sun
Bin were influential leaders.

History and origins

The "Yiwenzhi" of the Hanshu claims that the officials working for the government during the early Zhou
Dynasty lost their position when the authority of the Zhou rulers began to break down in the Eastern Zhou
period. In this way, the officials spread all over the country and started to teach their own field of knowledge as
private teachers. In this way the schools of philosophy were born. In particular, the School of Scholars (i.e. the
Confucian School) was born from the officials of the Ministry of Education; the Taoists from the historians; the
Yin-yang School from the astronomers; the Legalist School from the Ministry of Justice; the School of Names
from the Ministry of Rituals; the Mohist School from the Guardians of the Temple; the School of Diplomacy
from the Ministry of Embassies; the School of Miscellany from the government counselors; the School of
Agriculture from the Ministry of the Soil and Wheat; the School of Minor Talks from the minor officials.
Although the details are unclear, the burning of books and burying of scholars during the Qin was the end of the
period of open discussion.

It should be stressed that only the Ru, or Confucians and the Mohists were actual organized schools of teachers
and disciples during this period. All the other schools were invented later to describe groups of texts that
expressed similar ideas. There was never an organized group of people describing themselves as "Legalists,"
for example, and the term "Daoist" was only coined in the Eastern Han after having succeeded the Western
Han's Huang-Lao movement.

See also
Axial Age
Hellenistic philosophy
Hundred Flowers Campaign
Jixia Academy

1. "Chinese philosophy" (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/112694/Chinese-philosophy#ref1714
69), Encyclopdia Britannica, accessed 4/6/2014
2. Graham, A.C., Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (Open Court 1993). (htt
p://www.questia.com/PM.qst?a=o&d=91219343) ISBN 0-8126-9087-7
3. The Shorter Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy. Edited by Edward Craig. Routledge Publishing.
4. "Zou Yan" (http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/607826/Zou-Yan). Encyclopdia Britannica.
Retrieved 1 March 2011.
5. Deutsch, Eliot; Ronald Bontekoei (1999). A companion to world philosophies. Wiley Blackwell. p. 183.
6. Sellmann, James Daryl (2010). Timing and rulership in Master L's Spring and Autumn annals. SUNY
Press. p. 76.
7. Denecke, Wiebke (2011). The Dynamics of Masters Literature: Early Chinese Thought from Confucius to
Han Feizi. Harvard University Press. p. 38.

External links
Classics of the hundred schools, Chinese Text Project (Chinese and English)
Many fragmentary and newly discovered texts of the hundred schools of thought.

Hundert Schulen
Hundred Schools of Thought, ChinaCulture
Zhou dynasty literature, thought, and philosophy, ChinaKnowledge

Mo Zi-Wikisource
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This page was last edited on 2 August 2017, at 10:19.

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