The 3 Philosophies of China

Confucianism | Daoism | Legalism


Confucianism was based on the teachings of a man named Confucius. Born about 550 b.c. to a farming family, Confucius lived when rival kings fought each other for power. Confucius criticized the misrule of these kings. He urged the people to follow the beliefs of their ancestors. If people would do that, Confucius believed, it would bring peace and harmony to China.


Another Chinese philosophy would be Daoism also made a peaceful society. Dao means "path" and is often translated "the Way." Daoism began with the ideas of Laozi. Laozi is believed to have lived during the same time as Confucius. Like Confucianism, Daoism teaches people how to live a good life. Daoists believed that people should free themselves from worldly desires and live simply. They should turn to nature and the Dao—the spiritual force that guides all things. In this way, they would enjoy a happy life.


A third philosophy stressed the importance of a system of laws. This philosophy became known as legalism. A thinker name Hanfeizi introduced the ideas of legalism during the 200s b.c. Unlike Confucius or Laozi, Hanfeizi believed that humans are naturally evil. Strict laws and harsh punishments were necessary to force people to do their duty. Many aristocrats supported legalism because it emphasized force. Legalism did not require rulers to consider the needs or wishes of their people. Its ideas led to cruel punishments for even the smallest crimes.