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Confucianism, Daoism, and Legalism

In: Philosophy and Psychology

Submitted By jkimmy
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In ancient China many different rulers tried to unify and rule the country using a variety of methods such as Confucianism, Legalism, and Daoism. Each theory has its own set of rules of how people should act both in public and privately. The overall goal of each philosophy was to set a standard, acceptable living that would ensure harmony and success for the society. However, each theory was different and therefore had different results on the dynasties. I believe the best way for the people of Chinese government to succeed in a peaceful, stable, society occurs when both Confucianism and Legalism philosophies are combined.
The theory of Legalism encourages to be scared of your leader, not inspired by them. Almost every crime, had a harsh punishment, which scared people from behaving that way, without question. It gives the people almost no civil rights or personal freedoms outside of the laws they must follow. The legalists believed in the well-being of the state or region, not an individual person. Legalism may be seen as inhumane to many because of all the killings from the forced labor. However, Legalism was a very successful philosophy that did provide China with stability. There were numerous achievements accomplished for China under the Shi Huangdi who followed legalism. “Emperor Qin divided the empire into 40 administrative units called “commanderies” 1 which were further divided into districts and counties. He created separate provinces and districts headed by officials selected for their talent and loyalty. He was responsible for building a complex irrigation system and constructed what is now the Great Wall of China. Shi Huangdi “standardized the written language and legal code, coins and taxes, weights and measures, and even the width of roads and axle width of carts.” Although there were uprisings from the peasants due to the forced labor which eventually led the Qin dynasty to it’s end, Legalism was a very effective way of stabilizing China and upholding the legal code.
The core of Confucianism is humanism. “Confucius believed that a good government depended on good officials, men of jen, or humanity, benevolence virtue and culture.” The term “gentleman” came up in Confucianism as a moral leader who had the vision to move the society toward peace and virtue. A gentleman would be concerned about political leadership and influence others in society to be honorable, hard working, honest, and just. Confucius believed that gentlemen were not born but made, through proper education. However, within Confucianism, class and gender was a huge factor. Women were often considered less important as were lower class peoples. Only the well off male members of society could receive the required education to become a gentleman. If everyone in the government was educated to become a “gentleman” as Confucianism states, he believes that they will put the society’s needs before their own (selfish) needs and encourage harmony throughout the society. To have the education to become a “gentleman” Confucius believes that it is important to start by forming the proper character; respect for others, especially parents and elders. “A young man is to be filial within his family and respectful outside it.” If the government is filled with gentlemen as Confucianism encourages, society would ensure harmony and success for the society.
Daoism was much less focused on the government. As Confucianism required people to act a certain way in public, Daoism required them to act in private and individual way in order to influence harmony in society. Daoism itself follows “The Way”, a natural path that keeps the universe in balance. It basically teaches people to treat nature and the natural world, as well as themselves personally. In my opinion, the concept of Daoism is surprising because the thought of letting things take their course over time is unsettling. Living an excellent life according to the Daoists would have to be trying not to conquer the natural world. To live an excellent life following Daoism, they would do so by flowing with the natural occurrences and processes of the world.
Morphing Legalism and Confucianism philosophies will ensure a peaceful and stable, society. Legalism provides a stable empire due to the strict legal code which accomplished many achievements. Confucianism encourages healthy education which teaches to being a “gentleman” leading to harmony and success for the society. The Daoism theory of treating nature as you treat yourself and letting things take their course (“The Way”) over time does not sound realistic. Combining Legalism and Confucianism will make a stable society while advancing the empire. At the same time there will be peace and harmony among the people without revolts.

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