Chinese Schools of Thought


Confucianism is characterized as a system of social and ethical philosophy rather than a religion. In fact, Confucianism built on an ancient religious foundation to establish the social values, institutions, and spiritual ideals of traditional Chinese society. Confucius (K'ung Fu-tzu), born in the state of Lu (northern China), lived from 551 to 479 B.C. He was a smart teacher, viewing education not merely as the accumulation of knowledge but as a means of self-transformation. His legacy was a system of thought emphasizing education, proper behavior, and loyalty. His effect on Chinese culture was immense.


In Chinese history, Legalism was one of the main philosophic currents during the Warring States Period (and before), although the term itself was invented in the Han dynasty and thus does not refer to an organized 'school' of thought. It basically interprets that humans are evil and need to be controlled using laws in order to prevent chaos. The trends that were later called Legalism have a common focus on strengthening the political power of the ruler, of which law is only one part. The most important surviving texts from this tradition are the Han Fei Zi and the Book of Lord Shang.
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Daoism  is one of China’s major religions indigenous to the country. The primary belief is in learning and practicing “The Way” which is the ultimate truth to the universe. Also known as Taoism, Daoism traces its roots to 6th Century BC Chinese philosopher Laozi. Daoism as a religion didn’t really flourish until hundreds of years later around 100 AD, when Taoist hermit Zhang Daoling founded a part of Daoism known as the Way of the Celestial Matters.
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It is widely believed that Buddhism was introduced to China during the Han period (206 BC-220 AD). After its introduction, Mahayana Buddhism, the most prominent branch of Buddhism in China, played an important role in shaping Chinese civilization. Chinese civilization, as well, exerted a profound impact on the way Buddhism was changed in China.The influence of Buddhism grew to such an extent that vast amounts of financial and human resources were expended on the creation and establishment of impressive works of art .
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