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Historical Contingencies of Civilizational Ideologies

Posted on February 21 2010 7:49 am
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by David Hume

Reading An Introduction to Confucianism, which is not the typical historically linear treatment (i.e., Confucius → Han dynasty State Confucianism → Song dynasty Neo-Confucianism, etc.), and is also more comprehensive than most introductions (it’s over 350 pages). In case, the author notes that before the Han dynasty Confucianism was simply one of many contesting schools. It was during the reign of Hanwudi that Confucianism was integrated into the administrative ideological apparatus of the unified Chinese state, resulting in State Confucianism. It is famously known that the Legalist school, which was brought to preeminence by the students of the Confucian sage with the most “tragic vision,” Xunzi, attempted to expunge Confucianism during the Chin dynasty. The Chin dynasty is reviled throughout most of Chinese history (with the Maoists being an interesting exception) for its espousal of Legalism and rejection of the humanistic ethos at the heart of Confucianism, but, it is also acknowledged by modern scholars to have set the foundations for the dynastic system which fostered a resurrection of a unified Chinese imperial state after every political collapse. The Chin united China in a manner which set the template for all of Chinese history; by comparison, the Zhou dynasty which the early Confucians idolized was a primitive and feudal polity.

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