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Foundations of Confucian Thought

Foundations of Confucian Thought: Intellectual Life in the Chunqiu period, 722-453 B.C.E.

Yuri Pines
Copyright Date: 2002
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  • Book Info
    Foundations of Confucian Thought
    Book Description:

    This ambitious work focuses on the world of Chinese thought during the two and a half centuries directly preceding and partly overlapping the time of Confucius. Ideas developed by Chunqiu statesmen and thinkers formed the intellectual milieu of Confucius and his disciples and contributed directly to the intellectual flowering of the Zhanguo (Warring States) era (453-221 B.C.E.), the formative period of the Chinese intellectual tradition. This study is the first attempt to systematically reconstruct major intellectual trends in pre-Confucian China.

    Foundations of Confucian Thoughtis based on an exploration of theZuo zhuan,the largest pre-imperial historical text. Relying on meticulous textual and linguistic analysis, Yuri Pines argues that hundreds of the speeches of Chunqiu statesmen recorded in the Zuo zhuan were not invented by the compiler of the treatise but reproduced from earlier sources, thus making it an authentic reflection of the Chunqiu intellectual tradition. By tracing changes in ideas and concepts throughout the Chunqiu period, Pines reconstructs the dynamics of contemporary political and ethical discourse, distilling major intellectual impulses that Chunqiu thinkers bequeathed to their Zhanguo descendants.

    eISBN: 978-0-8248-6257-2
    Subjects: History

Table of Contents

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  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. Notes on Translation, Terms, and Quotations
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. Introduction
    (pp. 1-12)

    The three centuries following the time of Confucius (551–479 B.C.E.)¹ are commonly regarded as the most creative period in Chinese intellectual history, an age of an “intellectual breakthrough.”² What is unclear, however, is how this breakthrough occurred. What preceded it? Did Confucius and his followers spontaneously give rise to the flowering of Chinese thought, or rather did they inherit and improve upon the ideas, concepts, and views of their predecessors? And if the latter, how can we define the legacy of the preceding generations?

    Confucius defined himself as a “transmitter,” not a creator, of the new thought.³ Was this...

  6. Chapter 1 Sources of Chunqiu Thought
    (pp. 13-54)

    Any discussion of Chunqiu thought is meaningless unless we can answer the crucial question, what are the sources of Chunqiu intellectual life? Or to formulate this more radically, are there any sources of Chunqiu thought? Many scholars have answered in the negative. The present chapter will suggest that such sources do in fact exist.

    It may be assumed with a high degree of certainty that a philosophical treatise as such did not exist before Confucius’ time. There are, however, rich historical sources that deal with the Chunqiu era, among which the unique position of theZuo zhuan(hereafterZuo) is...

  7. Chapter 2 Heaven and Man Part Ways: Changing Attitudes Toward Divine Authority
    (pp. 55-88)

    Angus Graham opined that the Zhanguo intellectual upheaval was the thinkers’ “response to the breakdown of moral and political order which had claimed the authority of Heaven.”¹ Indeed, even a cursory look at Western Zhou versus Zhanguo writings reflects an enormous gap between their attitudes toward divine authority. Most of the Western Zhou documents of theShu jingand odes of theShi jingpresent Heaven as the foundation and the guardian of political order, whose will should be counseled prior to major undertakings. Most Zhanguo texts, in contrast, largely neglect Heaven’s will, and no Zhanguo thinker, with the exception...

  8. Chapter 3 The Universal Panacea: Ritual and Preserving Hierarchical Order
    (pp. 89-104)

    Confucius depicted Chunqiu history as a process of incessant erosion of power from the Son of Heaven to the overlords, from overlords to nobles, and finally from nobles to their retainers.¹ Indeed, the Chunqiu was the age of disintegration. The continuous usurpation of superiors’ prerogatives by their underlings resulted in incessant strife among the states, among the major lineages in each state, and often within the lineages. The history of Chunqiu political thought may be summarized as the statesmen’s painstaking efforts to put an end to the disintegration, prevent anarchy, and restore hierarchical order. These efforts resulted in a major...

  9. Chapter 4 The World Falls Apart: A Futile Search for International Order
    (pp. 105-135)

    The Eastern Zhou period was unique for its multistate composition. Unlike later periods of disunion, the Chunqiu and Zhanguo multistate system was not considered by contemporaries as an anomaly, but as a political reality that had to be dealt with. Therefore, Chunqiu statesmen did their best to develop appropriate norms of international behavior, which indeed remained influential throughout the history of traditional China’s diplomacy.¹ Generations of statesmen sought to develop appropriate standards for settling interstate disputes and maintaining harmonious relations. Their efforts failed, however, and as a result “the war drums echoed for five centuries.”² In what follows I shall...

  10. Chapter 5 When a Minister Mounts the Ruler: Chunqiu Views of Loyalty
    (pp. 136-163)

    The international turmoil discussed in the previous chapter was not the only source of concern for Chunqiu statesmen. Suppressed tension between rulers and ministers was equally inimical to political stability. Mencius dramatically but correctly described the Chunqiu era as an age when “ministers murdered rulers” and “sons murdered fathers.”¹ Bewildered by incessant struggles at the top of the ruling stratum, Chunqiu thinkers were in constant search for the means to restore harmonious relations between the overlords and their chief aides.

    The notorious deterioration in ruler-minister relations did not come all at once. It reflected deep changes in the overlords’ and...

  11. Chapter 6 Nobility of Blood and Spirit: Chunqiu Ethical Thought
    (pp. 164-204)

    The Chunqiu period was a triumphant age for the hereditary aristocracy. Between the late seventh and the early fifth centuries B.C.E., this stratum dominated the political, economic, and intellectual life of the Chinese world. In most Huaxia states aristocratic lineages overshadowed the ruling families and successfully withstood outsiders’ attempts to break their power monopoly. The aristocrats were increasingly aware of their distinctive status, which differed both from the overlords above and theshiand the commoners below. This self-awareness resulted in the development of a new self-image for this stratum: the concept of the “superior man”(junzi).

    Initially, the term...

  12. Chapter 7 The Chunqiu Legacy
    (pp. 205-216)

    The present study tried to expose the roots of the Zhanguo intellectual breakthrough by exploring intellectual developments that preceded the age of Confucius. What did Confucius transmit? And what was the role of his immediate predecessors and contemporaries in the history of Chinese thought? By reconstructing the intellectual life of the Chunqiu period an attempt was made to locate some major sources of the Zhanguo intellectual flowering.

    The Chunqiu period was “an age of transition.”¹ The political system, inherited from the Western Zhou, was increasingly unable to deal with the new social and political realities. As the centuries-old order deteriorated...

  13. Appendix 1: Grammatical Change in the Zuo: Case Studies of the “Yu” and “Qi” Particles
    (pp. 217-220)
  14. Appendix 2: Zhanguo Data in the Zuo
    (pp. 221-226)
  15. Appendix 3: Comparing Scribal Accounts in the Zuo
    (pp. 227-232)
  16. Appendix 4: Spurious Speeches and Interpolations in the Zuo
    (pp. 233-246)
  17. Notes
    (pp. 247-308)
  18. List of Chunqiu Personalities
    (pp. 309-334)
  19. Glossary
    (pp. 335-344)
  20. Bibliography
    (pp. 345-372)
  21. Index
    (pp. 373-388)
  22. Back Matter
    (pp. 389-390)