Confucian Philosophy in the Han Dynasty
HIST Spring 2013
Confucian Philosophy in the Han Dynasty
This paper will evaluate a brief evaluation of the rise of the Han Dynasty and how Confucian corresponds with it. With included references to authors, Tanner, Liang, Dubs, and Wang, will supply knowledge regarding to Sima Qian’s historical points, incorporation of Confucian principles within the Han Dynasty and the emperor, and within the social lives and families. I will highlight some of the major points of beneficial factors to Confucian thought as well as a brief opinion on how it isn’t always good to base a society of false claims regarding to divinity and how the society originated. However, I hope to make clear a better understanding on why and how the Chinese people in general came to be in current day China. “Before the founding of the Han dynasty, thinkers of every stripe cited the Five Classics to legitimate their ideas, but the transmission of the Zhou’s cultural heritage was not clearly documented until Sima Qian (second century B.C.E.) traced the study of the Five Classics back to Confucius.” Sima Qian finished an essay called “The Collective Biographies of Confucians,” which “summarizes classical learning from the beginning of the Western Han to the end of the reign of Emperor Wu.” He is considered the first great exemplar of the Chinese historical tradition; however, before he was able to finish his works and had angered the emperor, he took the option of being castrated over controversial writings about a general that had been defeated and surrendered to the Xiongnu, to finish his writings. Sima Qian was a man dedicated to his work for which he chose castration over having to commit suicide. “The style of Sima Qian’s work was didactic, its purpose to communicate the moral lessons of the past.’ “In both its organization and its approach to history, the ‘Records of the Grand Historian’ served as a model for all subsequent officially sanctioned Chinese historical writing.” Ban Gu eventually took up Sima Qian’s work in 90 B.C., although he was imprisoned at first for his unauthorized history of the Han emperor, but was freed later due to the emperor’s liking of his work. Regardless whether the historical contexts of both Ban Gu and Sima Qian, it shows that the histories were often dishonest due to the preferences of the elite, but as Ban Gu was pardoned, there might be more truth to what the Han’s historical past entails. “It was during the former Han period that Confucianism developed from being the teaching of a few pedants in a semi-retirement, at the end of the Chou period, to become the official philosophy of the government, which had to be adopted by anyone who hoped to enter public life.” Although it was a gradual process, early Han emperors embraced Confucianism by incorporating its teachings in education and establishing a Confucian Imperial University, which ultimately distributed literati among offices in the government. As this concept became bigger and more popular among the elite, the development of the examination became prominent as there was a high importance of literary ability and Confucian training, to be able to obtain a position within a government entity. It was believed that with all of the claimed advantages of Confucianism, “unifying the country intellectually by making one system of thought current among all educated men led to the elevation of Confucianism.” In 141 B.C., Tung Chung-shu, advocated a principle to Emperor Wu that all non-Confucian philosophies should be destroyed with intellectual unification of the country—Emperor Wu did act upon this by proscribing Legalism and elevating Confucians to be his highest officials. With the rise of Confucianism in the Han Dynasty, it not only effected the elites’ primary preferences for what should be within the government body, but it also effected the view of the emperor himself. The conception of the...
Bibliography: Liang, Cai. 2011. “Excavating the Genealogy of Classical Studies in the Western Han Dynasty (206 B.C.E.-8 C.E.).” Journal of the American Oriental Society 131, no. 3: 371-394. Academic Search Complete, EBSCOhost (Accessed February 25, 2013).
Dubs, Homer H. 1938. “The Victory of Han Confucianism.” Journal of the American Oriental Society, Vol. 58, No. 3: 435-449. American Oriental Society. http://www.jstor.org/stable/594608. (Accessed February 25, 2013).
Wang Yü-ch 'üan. 1949. “An Outline of the Central Government of the Former Han Dynasty.” Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 12, No. ½: 134-187. Harvard-Yenching Institute. http://www.jstor.org/stable/2718206. (Accessed February 25, 2013).
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[ 12 ]. Wang Yu-ch’uan. An Outline of the Central Government of the Former Han Dynasty. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies, Vol. 12, No. ½ (June 1949), 139..
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