Shizi: China's First Syncretist

Copyright Date: 2012
Pages: 256
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    Book Description:

    By blending multiple strands of thought into one ideology, Chinese Syncretists of the pre-imperial period created an essential guide to contemporary ideas about self, society, and government. Merging traditions such as Ruism, Mohism, Daoism, Legalism, and Yin-Yang naturalism into their work, Syncretists created an integrated intellectual approach that contrasts with other, more specific philosophies. Presenting the first full English translation of the earliest example of a Syncretist text, this volume introduces Western scholars to both the brilliance of the syncretic method and a critical work of Chinese leadership.

    Written by Shi Jiao, China's first syncretic thinker, during the Warring States Period of 481 to 221 BCE, Shizi is similar to Machiavelli's The Prince in that it dispenses wisdom to would-be rulers. It stresses the need for leaders to be detached and objective. It further encourages self-cultivation and effective government, recommending that rulers maintain self-discipline, hire reliable people, delegate power transparently, and promote others in an orderly fashion. The people, it is argued, will emulate their leader's wisdom and virtue, and a just and peaceful state will result. Paul Fischer provides an extensive introduction and a chapter-by-chapter summary and analysis of the text -- outlining the importance of syncretism in Chinese culture -- and explores the text's particular features, authorship, transmission, loss, and reconstruction over time. The Shizi set the stage for a long history of syncretic endeavor in China, and its study provides insight into the vital traditions of early Chinese philosophy. It is also a template for interpreting other well-known works, such as the Confucian Analects, the Daoist Laozi, the Mohist Mozi, and the Legalist Shang jun shu.

    eISBN: 978-0-231-50417-1
    Subjects: Philosophy, Religion, History

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. [vii]-[x])
  3. Introduction
    (pp. 1-16)

    The intellectual history of a culture abides as the theoretical framework that informs the many facets of that culture. Chinese culture is a conservative one in that it maintains a deep regard for the scholarly paragons of its past. Even after the thoroughgoing political, social, and cultural revolutions of the mid-twentieth century, Chinese people still often refer to the old masters and Chinese bookstores still stock new editions and new translations of all the old classics. The Chinese understand their history as a continuous thread and are socialized to be mindful of their ancestors. A great deal of scholarship has...

  4. Content
    (pp. 17-34)

    Pre-Qin masters wrote on a wide variety of topics. These include cosmological paradigms, mythological geographies, divination techniques, hemerological injunctions, historical anecdotes, classical canons, government models, court protocol, legal advice, military strategies, social etiquette, ethical systems, self-cultivation, pedagogical methods, and rhetorical devices. Different masters presented competitive versions of all of the above. Generally speaking, these narratives were created in order to secure employment or advancement at the court of a local or state ruler.

    Most pre-Qin masters were concerned with politics. Many took it as their primary concern. The Shizi is thus typical in its focus on advice to the ruler...

  5. Transmission
    (pp. 35-53)
  6. Key Terms
    (pp. 54-55)
  7. Annotated Translation
    (pp. 56-56)
  8. 1. Exhortation to Learn
    (pp. 57-63)

    This chapter, as its name suggests, is about education. The method of education, whether from a particular set of books, from models ancient or modern, or from within a particular school of thought, is not specified. A worthy teacher is suggested once, but elsewhere the implication is that self-study is expected. One major theme is that education is necessary to find worthwhile employment, while another is that such employment itself is worthless if one does not possess the real goal of education: virtue. Finally, the effects of learning are said to be implicated in both theory and practice, for it...

  9. 2. Honoring Words [of Good Advice]
    (pp. 64-69)

    This second chapter is directed primarily to people in positions of authority who receive advice—namely, rulers. This chapter and subsequent ones speak to the importance of hiring good people, either to gain their advice or to delegate authority to them. This chapter expands upon the former situation. After one in a position of power has made the effort to find good people to hire, taken the appropriate steps to gain their employment, placed them in a position that suits their abilities, and taken the time to listen to them, there still follow three more important steps. The first is...

  10. 3. Four Kinds of Proper Conduct
    (pp. 70-71)

    This brief chapter begins by describing a set of four faculties (will, intellect, strength, speech) engaged in four actions (striving, thinking, serving, speaking) with four standard virtues (goodness, propriety, loyalty, faithfulness). It then posits a set of four conveyances (your heart, actions, efforts, words) derived from the four faculties and a final set of ideal outcomes (generosity, orderliness, achievement, trustworthiness) that ultimately derive from the four kinds of proper conduct, described in the opening sentence.

    Actions (should) have four (kinds of) proper conduct: the first is called a will that strives without neglecting goodness; the second is called an intellect...

  11. 4. The Enlightenment Hall
    (pp. 72-76)

    This chapter turns our attention specifically to the ruler, as the title suggests, since the Ming tang is described in chapter 15 as the name of the Zhou royal hall—the place from which Zhou rulers “made bright their bright virtue,” as one venerable text would have it.¹ The eminence of the ruler is a crucial counterpart to Shizi’s prediction in chapter 3 that much of the sage-ruler’s best work will go unnoticed by the people. Though his actions may go unpraised, his station certainly is anything but. This tension between fame and obscurity, between authority and humility, runs throughout...

  12. 5. Allocation
    (pp. 77-83)

    Sages of the past were wise enough to impose order on chaos, defining the proper duties incumbent upon us in our various roles as child, sibling, parent, and so on. If we correctly and adequately fulfill all the roles of our allotted destiny, then we will be complete. Continuing this work of sagely allocation is the modern ruler’s task of imposing order on his court and country. A ruler’s court has many offices and many officials. The ruler must clearly define the offices and actively find people with the right qualifications to fill them. This political aspect of creating order...

  13. 6. Emerging from Delusion
    (pp. 84-91)

    There are several complementary yin and yang dualities that Shizi makes use of in this chapter. First is the emphasis on the ruler both being in control and also delegating authority. The riding-a-horse metaphor at the end of the previous chapter and the beginning of this one is apt: the rider needs to be in control, but he also needs to know the animal and work with it. Once the rider’s commands and actions are familiar to horse and rider alike, then riding is quite easy. Familiarizing a horse with one’s commands is thus analogous to a ruler’s “rectifying names”...

  14. 7. Considerateness
    (pp. 92-93)

    Being considerate is a key Ruist virtue.¹ In this brief chapter, Shizi describes the consideration of the Golden Rule as something found in thinking, speaking, and acting.

    Considerateness takes the (other) person as the thing to be considered:

    “That which you do not desire, do not do it to other people. (If you) hate it in other people then rid it from yourself. (If you) desire it in other people then seek it in yourself.”² This is to be considerate.

    The farmer’s weeding is the ridding of that which harms the sprouts. The worthy’s ordering is the ridding of that...

  15. 8. Governing the World
    (pp. 94-96)

    This chapter is on the theory and practice of the selfless ruler. The first section is reminiscent of chapter 2, where the “spiritous” ruler fixed problems before they got out of hand, or even before they started, while knowing that such efforts would largely go unnoticed. Here, however, the focus is on the attitude of the ruler, rather than his timely action. What is important is that his good objectives are reached, not that he necessarily be the one to effect them. The second section is perhaps what we might expect to follow: that having such a selfless attitude will...

  16. 9. Good Intentions
    (pp. 97-99)

    This is the most idealized chapter in the Shizi. It first recounts the ideal rule of several culture heroes, then describes the “great peace” (太平) that naturally results from such rule.

    The one who (first) ordered the floodwaters was Yu; the one who (first) sowed the five grains was Hou Ji; the one who (first) managed the jails and decided what was proper (in adjudicating conflict) was Gaoyao. Shun (ruled) effortlessly, yet the world took (him) as its parent: in concern for the world none is deeper than him.¹

    Those in the world who approach the excellent are precisely the...

  17. 10. Broad-mindedness
    (pp. 100-102)

    Broad-mindedness (廣) is something that a ruler must have in order to govern well.¹ On the one hand, he needs to be able to judge objectively between various arguments presented to him by his ministers. On the other, he needs to keep the welfare of all his subjects always in mind. The theme of broad-mindedness fits well with Shizi’s emphasis on objectivity in chapters 5 and 6.

    (If you) look at stars from inside a well, only a few stars will be visible. (But if you) look (at them) from a hilltop, then (you will not only) see those beginning...

  18. 11. Generous Fellows
    (pp. 103-104)

    This short chapter briefly recounts the selflessness and generosity of several culture heroes.

    Yao succored the forlorn; Yu was concerned for criminals; Tang and Wu provided for birds and beasts.¹ This is how former kings pacified the dangerous and brought in the distant. (They were) sages in the midst of (the world’s) great self-centeredness (who nevertheless) acted selflessly. They were in the midst of (the world’s) great likes and dislikes but acted without likes or dislikes (of their own).

    Shun played the five-stringed qin and sang the “Southern Wind.” Its lyrics went: “May the fragrance of the southern wind relax...

  19. 12. Dwelling in the Way
    (pp. 105-108)

    The “dwelling” (處) in the title of this chapter is both descriptive and prescriptive. It almost goes without saying that a good ruler will “dwell in the Way,” but the central theme of this chapter is the malleability of the people’s characters and their willingness to emulate a leader. Little or no responsibility for making an ordered society is given to the people themselves. Rather, they are described as passive—but willing—subjects that a good ruler will inspire. Thus, “dwelling in the Way” is also “(causing the people to) dwell in the Way.”

    Kong Zi said: “(If you) want...

  20. 13. Spiritous Enlightenment
    (pp. 109-110)

    The titular “spiritous” (神) has two implications in this short chapter. One is that the enlightened ruler acts in concert with the cosmic dyad of heaven and earth in a mysterious theology that is never fully examined here or anywhere else in early Chinese literature. The second refers to an acute foresight that prompts the enlightened ruler to act early to solve real or potential problems. This was evident in the use of “spiritous” in chapter 2.

    Goodness, propriety, sageliness, and wisdom are joined with heaven and earth. If heaven did not canopy (them), (then) how could the people depend...

  21. 14. Stopping the Chu Army
    (pp. 111-112)

    This entire chapter,¹ as it stands today, is a single story about Mo Zi that can also be found in the Mo Zi, Lü shi chunqiu, Huainan Zi, and Zhanguo ce 戰國策 (Warring States Strategies; c. 10 BCE).² Shizi does not give an explanation for its inclusion here, but it may well have been meant as an illustration of the power of ministerial persuasion upon the ruler.

    Gongshu Ban invented the “meets-with-heaven” (scaling) ladder. (When) the ladder was completed, (Chu) was going to (use it to) attack Song. Mo Zi heard of this and hastened to Chu. (He) traveled for...

  22. 15. The Ruler’s Governance
    (pp. 113-119)

    This final chapter begins with a simple cosmology and then continues with a schemata of early culture heroes who invented cooked food, hunting, and farming.

    The five colors of sunlight and the quintessence of the zenith sun correspond to the ruler’s virtue. (As) the five colors shine brightly (from heaven), (so) the ruler reigns by depending on the earth. The ruler is master of all within the eight extremities: from east to west, twelve thousand kilometers, and from south to north, eleven thousand kilometers.¹ Thus it is said heaven stretches to the left starting from the Ox Leader constellation (in...

  23. Fragments
    (pp. 120-172)

    In addition to the fifteen chapters, the reconstructed Shizi also has 194 extra fragments. I have separated them into eleven categories in this chapter. The “People” category deals with named persons, most of them mytho-historical cultural heroes with obvious pedagogical functions. It is arranged chronologically. The connotations of the fragments in the remaining categories are open to considerable interpretation. The nineteen fragments in the “Addenda” category all have sources later than 1127 CE, when the Shizi was probably lost.

    The categories and related fragment numbers are as follows: People: 1-95; Cosmology: 96-114; Naturalness: 115-119; Learning: 120-121; Ruling: 122-142; Sages, Noble...

  24. Notes
    (pp. 173-228)
  25. Bibliography
    (pp. 229-238)
  26. Index
    (pp. 239-248)