Hundred Schools of Thought
The Hundred Schools of Thought were philosophers and schools that flourished from 770 to 221 BC during the Spring and Autumn period and the Warring States period (春秋戰國時代/春秋战国时代), an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China
Chinese civilization may refer to:* China for more general discussion of the country.* Chinese culture* Greater China, the transnational community of ethnic Chinese.* History of China* Sinosphere, the area historically affected by Chinese culture...

. Even though this period was fraught with chaos and bloody battles, it is also known as the Golden Age of Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy
Chinese philosophy is philosophy written in the Chinese tradition of thought. The majority of traditional Chinese philosophy originates in the Spring and Autumn and Warring States era, during a period known as the "Hundred Schools of Thought", which was characterized by significant intellectual and...

 because a broad range of thoughts and ideas were developed and discussed freely. This phenomenon has been called the Contention of a Hundred Schools of Thought (百家爭鳴/百家争鸣; bǎijiā zhēngmíng; pai-chia cheng-ming; "hundred schools contend"). The thoughts and ideas discussed and refined during this period have profoundly influenced lifestyles and social consciousness
Social consciousness
Social consciousness is consciousness shared within a society. It can also be defined as social awareness; to be aware of the problems that different societies and communities face on a day-to-day basis; to be conscious of the difficulties and hardships of society.- Theory :Many studies have been...

 up to the present day in East Asian countries. The intellectual
An intellectual is a person who uses intelligence and critical or analytical reasoning in either a professional or a personal capacity.- Terminology and endeavours :"Intellectual" can denote four types of persons:...

 society of this era was characterized by itinerant scholars, who were often employed by various state rulers as advisers on the methods of government
Government refers to the legislators, administrators, and arbitrators in the administrative bureaucracy who control a state at a given time, and to the system of government by which they are organized...

, war
War is a state of organized, armed, and often prolonged conflict carried on between states, nations, or other parties typified by extreme aggression, social disruption, and usually high mortality. War should be understood as an actual, intentional and widespread armed conflict between political...

, and diplomacy
Diplomacy is the art and practice of conducting negotiations between representatives of groups or states...

. This period ended with the rise of the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

 and the subsequent purge
Burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of the books and burying of the scholars is a phrase that refers to a policy and a sequence of events in the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China, between the period of 213 and 206 BC. During these events, the Hundred Schools of Thought were pruned; legalism survived...

 of dissent.

Confucianism and its derivatives

Confucianism (儒家; Rújiā; Ju-chia; "School of scholars") is the body of thought that arguably had the most enduring effects on Chinese life. Its written legacy lies in the Confucian Classics, which later became the foundation of traditional society. Confucius
Confucius , literally "Master Kong", was a Chinese thinker and social philosopher of the Spring and Autumn Period....

 (551–479 BC), or Kongzi "Master Kong", looked back to the early days of the Zhou dynasty for an ideal socio-political order. He believed that the only effective system of government necessitated prescribed relationships for each individual: "Let the ruler be a ruler and the subject a subject". Furthermore, he contended that a king must be virtuous in order to rule properly. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values; thus his ideal human was the junzi
Junzi or nobleman, was a term used by Confucius , to describe his ideal human. To Confucius, the functions of government and social stratification were facts of life to be sustained by ethical values; thus his ideal human was the junzi...

, which is translated as "gentleman" or "superior person".

Mencius was a Chinese philosopher who was arguably the most famous Confucian after Confucius himself.-Life:Mencius, also known by his birth name Meng Ke or Ko, was born in the State of Zou, now forming the territory of the county-level city of Zoucheng , Shandong province, only thirty kilometres ...

 (371–289 BC), or Mengzi, formulated his teachings directly in response to Confucius.

The effect of the combined work of Confucius, the codifier and interpreter of a system of relationships based on ethical behavior, and Mencius, the synthesizer and developer of applied Confucianist thought, was to provide traditional Chinese society with a comprehensive framework by which to order virtually every aspect of life.

There were many accretions to the body of Confucian thought, both immediately and over the millennia, from within and without the Confucian school. Interpretations adapted to contemporary society allowed for flexibility within Confucianism, while the fundamental system of modeled behavior from ancient texts formed its philosophical core.

Diametrically opposed to Mencius, in regards to human nature (性), was the interpretation of Xunzi (c. 300–237 BC), another Confucian follower. Xunzi preached that man is not innately good; he asserted that goodness is attainable only through training one's desires and conduct.


The School of Law or Legalism (法家; Fǎjiā; Fa-chia; "School of law") doctrine was formulated by Han Feizi (d. 233 BC) and Li Si
Li Si
Li Si was the influential Prime Minister of the feudal state and later of the dynasty of Qin, between 246 BC and 208 BC. A famous Legalist, he was also a notable calligrapher. Li Si served under two rulers: Qin Shi Huang, king of Qin and later First Emperor of China—and his son, Qin Er Shi...

 (d. 208 BC), who maintained that human nature was incorrigibly selfish; accordingly, the only way to preserve the social order was to impose discipline from above, and to see to a strict enforcement of laws. The Legalists exalted the state above all, seeking its prosperity and martial prowess over the welfare of the common people.

Legalism greatly influenced the philosophical basis for the imperial form of government. During the Han Dynasty
Han Dynasty
The Han Dynasty was the second imperial dynasty of China, preceded by the Qin Dynasty and succeeded by the Three Kingdoms . It was founded by the rebel leader Liu Bang, known posthumously as Emperor Gaozu of Han. It was briefly interrupted by the Xin Dynasty of the former regent Wang Mang...

, the most practical elements of Confucianism and Legalism were taken to form a sort of synthesis, marking the creation of a new form of government that would remain largely intact until the late 19th century.


Philosophical Taoism or Daoism (道家; Dàojiā; Tao-chia; "School of the Way") developed into the second most significant stream of Chinese thought. Its formulation is often attributed to the legendary sage Laozi
Laozi was a mystic philosopher of ancient China, best known as the author of the Tao Te Ching . His association with the Tao Te Ching has led him to be traditionally considered the founder of Taoism...

 ("Old Master"), who is said to predate Confucius, and Zhuangzi
Zhuangzi was an influential Chinese philosopher who lived around the 4th century BCE during the Warring States Period, a period corresponding to the philosophical summit of Chinese thought — the Hundred Schools of Thought, and is credited with writing—in part or in whole—a work known by his name,...

 (369–286 BC). The focus of Taoism is on the individual within the natural realm rather than the individual within society; accordingly, the goal of life for each individual is seeking to adjust oneself and adapting to the rhythm of the natural (and the supernatural) world, to follow the Way (tao
Dao or Tao is a Chinese word meaning 'way', 'path', 'route', or sometimes more loosely, 'doctrine' or 'principle'...

) of the universe, and to live in harmony. In many ways the opposite of rigid Confucian morality, Taoism was for many of its adherents a complement to their ordered daily lives. A scholar serving as an official would usually follow Confucian teachings, but at leisure or in retirement might seek harmony with nature as a Taoist recluse.


Mohism or Moism (墨家; Mòjiā; Mo-chia; "School of Mo") was developed by followers of Mozi
Mozi |Lat.]] as Micius, ca. 470 BC – ca. 391 BC), original name Mo Di , was a Chinese philosopher during the Hundred Schools of Thought period . Born in Tengzhou, Shandong Province, China, he founded the school of Mohism, and argued strongly against Confucianism and Daoism...

 (also referred to as Mo Di; 470–c.391 BC). Though the school did not survive through the Qin Dynasty
Qin Dynasty
The Qin Dynasty was the first imperial dynasty of China, lasting from 221 to 207 BC. The Qin state derived its name from its heartland of Qin, in modern-day Shaanxi. The strength of the Qin state was greatly increased by the legalist reforms of Shang Yang in the 4th century BC, during the Warring...

, Mohism was seen as a major rival of Confucianism in the period of the Hundred Schools of Thought. Its philosophy rested on the idea of universal love: Mozi believed that "everyone is equal before heaven", and that people should seek to imitate heaven by engaging in the practice of collective love. His epistemology can be regarded as primitive materialist empiricism
Empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge comes only or primarily via sensory experience. One of several views of epistemology, the study of human knowledge, along with rationalism, idealism and historicism, empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence,...

; he believed that human cognition ought to be based on one's perceptions – one's sensory experiences, such as sight and hearing – instead of imagination or internal logic, elements founded on the human capacity for abstraction.

Mozi advocated frugality, condemning the Confucian emphasis on ritual and music, which he denounced as extravagant. He regarded offensive warfare as wasteful and advocated pacifism or at the most, defensive fortification. The achievement of social goals, according to Mozi, necessitated the unity of thought and action. His political philosophy bears a resemblance to divine-rule monarchy: the population ought always to obey its leaders, as its leaders ought always to follow the will of heaven. Mohism might be argued to have elements of meritocracy
Meritocracy, in the first, most administrative sense, is a system of government or other administration wherein appointments and responsibilities are objectively assigned to individuals based upon their "merits", namely intelligence, credentials, and education, determined through evaluations or...

: Mozi contended that rulers should appoint officials by virtue of their ability instead of their family connections. Although popular faith in Mohism had declined by the end of the Qin Dynasty, its views are said to be strongly echoed in Legalist thought.

School of Yin-yang

The School of Naturalists or Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements
Five elements (Chinese philosophy)
The Wu Xing, also known as the Five Phases, the Five Agents, the Five Movements, and the Five Steps/Stages, are chiefly an ancient mnemonic device, in many traditional Chinese fields....

; Zou Yan
Zou Yan
Zou Yan was the representative thinker of the Yin and Yang during the Hundred Schools of Thought era in Chinese philosophy. Zou Yan was a noted scholar of the Jixia Academy in the state of Qi...

 is considered the founder of this school. His theory attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature: the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the Five Elements or Five Phases (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In its early days, this theory was most strongly associated with the states of Yan
Yan (state)
Yān was a state during the Western Zhou, Spring and Autumn and Warring States Periods of Chinese history. Its capital was Ji...

 and Qi
Qi (state)
Qi was a powerful state during the Spring and Autumn Period and Period of the Warring States in ancient China. Its capital was Linzi, now part of the modern day city of Zibo in Shandong Province....

. In later periods, these epistemological theories came to hold significance in both philosophy and popular belief. This school was absorbed into Taoism's alchemic and magical dimensions as well as into the Chinese medical framework. The earliest surviving recordings of this are in the Ma Wang Dui
Mawangdui Silk Texts
The Mawangdui Silk Texts are texts of Chinese philosophical and medical works written on silk and found at Mawangdui in China in 1973. They include some of the earliest attested manuscripts of existing texts such as the I Ching, two copies of the Tao Te Ching, one similar copy of Strategies of the...

 texts and Huang Di Nei Jing.


The School of Names or Logicians (名家; Míngjiā; Ming-chia; "School of names") grew out of Mohism, with a philosophy that focused on definition
A definition is a passage that explains the meaning of a term , or a type of thing. The term to be defined is the definiendum. A term may have many different senses or meanings...

 and logic
In philosophy, Logic is the formal systematic study of the principles of valid inference and correct reasoning. Logic is used in most intellectual activities, but is studied primarily in the disciplines of philosophy, mathematics, semantics, and computer science...

. It is said to have parallels with that of the Ancient Greek sophists or dialectician
A dialectician is a philosopher who views the world in terms of complementary opposites and the interactions thereof. In popular usage, the central feature of dialectic is the concept of "thesis, antithesis, synthesis" - when an idea or phenomenon arises, it carries within itself the seed of its...

s. The most notable Logician was Gongsun Longzi
Gongsun Longzi
Gongsun Long was a member of the School of Names of ancient Chinese philosophy. He also ran a school and enjoyed the support of rulers, and supported peaceful means of resolving disputes in contrast to the wars which were common in the period...


Schools listed in the Hanshu

The Taishigong Zixu (太史公自序) of Shiji (史記/史记) lists the above six major philosophies within the Hundred Schools of Thought. The Yiwenzhi (藝文志/艺文志) of Hanshu (漢書/汉书) adds four more into the Ten Schools (十家; Shijia).

The School of Diplomacy
School of Diplomacy
The School of Diplomacy , or "School of Vertical and Horizontal" Alliances was a political and diplomatic clique during the Warring States Period of Chinese history...

or School of Vertical and Horizontal [Alliances] (縱橫家/纵横家; Zonghengjia) specialized in diplomatic politics; Zhang Yi
Zhang Yi (strategist)
Zhang Yi was born in the Wei state during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. He was an important strategist in helping Qin to dissolve the unity of the other states, and hence pave the way for Qin to unify China...

 and Su Qin
Su Qin
Su Qin , was an influential political strategist during the Warring States Period of Chinese history . He was born in Chengxuan Village, Luoyang in present day Henan Province. According to legend Su Qin was a disciple of Gui Guzi, the founder of the School of Diplomacy...

 were representative thinkers. This school focused on practical matters instead of any moral principle, so it stressed political and diplomatic tactics, and debate and lobbying skill. Scholars from this school were good orators, debaters and tacticians.

The Miscellaneous School (雜家/杂家; Zajia) integrated teachings from different schools; for instance, Lü Buwei
Lü Buwei
Lü Buwei , Lord Wenxin 文信侯 was a Warring States Period merchant who schemed his way into governing the State of Qin. He served as Chancellor of China for King Zhuangxiang of Qin, and as regent and Chancellor for the king's young son Zheng, who became Qin Shi Huang, the first Emperor of China...

 found scholars from different schools to write a book called Lüshi Chunqiu
Lüshi Chunqiu
The Lüshi Chunqiu is an encyclopedic Chinese classic text compiled around 239 BCE under the patronage of the Qin Dynasty Chancellor Lü Buwei...

 (呂氏春秋) cooperatively. This school tried to integrate the merits of various schools and avoid their perceived flaws.

The School of "Minor-talks" (小說家/小说家; Xiaoshuojia) was not a unique school of thought.
Indeed, all the thoughts which were discussed by and originated from non-famous people on the street were included in this school. At that time, there were some government officials responsible for collecting ideas from non-famous people on the street and report to their senior. These thoughts formed the origin of this school. This also explains its Chinese name, which literally means "school of minor-talks".

Another group is the School of the Military (兵家; Bingjia) that studied warfare and strategy; Sunzi and Sun Bin
Sun Bin
Sun Bin was a military strategist who lived during the Warring States Period of Chinese history. An alleged descendant of Sun Tzu, Sun Bin was tutored in military strategy by the hermit Guiguzi...

 were influential leaders. However, this school was not one of the "Ten Schools" defined by Hanshu.


Agriculturalism (農家/农家; Nongjia) was an early agrarian
Agrarianism has two common meanings. The first meaning refers to a social philosophy or political philosophy which values rural society as superior to urban society, the independent farmer as superior to the paid worker, and sees farming as a way of life that can shape the ideal social values...

 social and political philosophy that advocated peasant utopian communalism
Communalism is a term with three distinct meanings according to the Random House Unabridged Dictionary'.'These include "a theory of government or a system of government in which independent communes participate in a federation". "the principles and practice of communal ownership"...

 and egalitarianism
Egalitarianism is a trend of thought that favors equality of some sort among moral agents, whether persons or animals. Emphasis is placed upon the fact that equality contains the idea of equity of quality...

. The philosophy is founded on the notion that human society originates with the development of agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

, and societies are based upon "people's natural prospensity to farm."

The Agriculturalists believed that the ideal government, modeled after the semi-mythical governance of Shennong
Shennong , which names mean "Divine Farmer", but also known as the Emperor of the Five Grains , was a legendary ruler of China and culture hero reputed to have lived some 5,000 years ago...

, is led by a benevolent king, one who works alongside the people in tilling the fields. The Agriculturalist king is not paid by the government through its treasuries; his livelihood is derived from the profits he earns working in the fields, not his leadership. Unlike the Confucians, the Agriculturalists did not believe in the division of labour
Division of labour
Division of labour is the specialisation of cooperative labour in specific, circumscribed tasks and likeroles. Historically an increasingly complex division of labour is closely associated with the growth of total output and trade, the rise of capitalism, and of the complexity of industrialisation...

, arguing instead that the economic policies of a country need to be based upon an egalitarian self sufficiency. The Agriculturalists supported the fixing of prices
Price fixing
Price fixing is an agreement between participants on the same side in a market to buy or sell a product, service, or commodity only at a fixed price, or maintain the market conditions such that the price is maintained at a given level by controlling supply and demand...

, in which all similar goods, regardless of differences in quality and demand, are set at the exact same, unchanging price.

For example, Mencius once criticized its chief proponent Xu Xing (許行) for advocating that rulers should work in the fields with their subjects. One of Xu's students is quoted as having criticized the duke of Teng
Teng (state)
The State of Teng was a small Chinese state that existed during the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period, and was located in the south of modern-day Shandong province. Its territory is now the county-level city of Tengzhou....

 in a conversation with Mencius by saying:
‘A worthy ruler feeds himself by ploughing side by side with the people, and rules while cooking his own meals. Now Teng on the contrary possesses granaries and treasuries, so the ruler is supporting himself by oppressing the people’.

History and origins

The Yi Wen Zhi of the Book of Han
Book of Han
The Book of Han, Hanshu or History of the Former Han Dynasty |Fan Ye]] . Various scholars have estimated that the earliest material covered in the book dates back to between 206 and 202 BCE...

 claims that the officials working for the government during the early Zhou Dynasty lost their position when the authority of the Zhou rulers began to break down in the Eastern Zhou period. In this way, the officials spread all over the country and started to teach their own field of knowledge as private teachers. In this way the schools of philosophy were born. In particular, the School of Scholars (i.e. the Confucian School) was born from the officials of the Ministry of Education; the Taoists came from the historians; the Ying Yang School was born from the astronomers; the Legalist School from the Ministry of Justice; the School of Names from the Ministry of Rituals; the Mohist School from the Guardians of the Temple; the School of Diplomacy from the Ministry of Embassies; the School of Miscellaneous from the government counselors; the School of Agriculture from the Ministry of the Soil and Wheat; the School of Minor Talks from the minor officials.
Although the details are unclear, the Burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of books and burying of scholars
Burning of the books and burying of the scholars is a phrase that refers to a policy and a sequence of events in the Qin Dynasty of Ancient China, between the period of 213 and 206 BC. During these events, the Hundred Schools of Thought were pruned; legalism survived...

 during the Qin was the end of the period of open discussion.

It should be stressed that only the Ru, or Confucians and the Mohists were actual organized schools of teachers and disciples during this period. All the other schools were invented later to describe groups of texts that expressed similar ideas. There was never an organized group of people describing themselves as "Legalists," for example, and the term "Daoist" was only coined in the Eastern Han.

External links

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.