Time and Location:
The period that we’ll be looking in the next section of class is commonly called the Late or Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
The timed period we’re interested in is roughly 500 – 200 BCE. The location we’re interested in is highlighted in the image below:
Government and Political Climate of the Period:
The Eastern Zhou dynasty was a feudalism, which is a system of regional government in which wealthy land owners (called lords) offer protection and land to others (vassals) in return for certain services (typically farming).
The Eastern Zhou Dynasty was neither peaceful nor prosperous because lords were constantly at battle with one another for land. The remarkable and constant warring between feudal lords caused historians to name the period we’re interested in the Warring States Period.战国时代
Note: technically, this period began shortly after the start of the Eastern Zhou Dynasty.
The violence rampant in the culture of the time period had one positive effect: it prompted many great thinkers to ponder about the methods for achieving long lasting social peace.
Hence, given the cultural climate, the one over-arching question that was at the forefront of every political thinker was:
What is the best way to restore peace to society?
The Rise of Political Philosophy:
There were so many different political philosophies developing in response to social unrest that the period is said to have developed the Hundred Schools of Thoughts 百家争鸣
This slogan represents the fact that there were many “competing” responses to the social unrest.
Among the most well-known schools (at least from a contemporary perspective) are the following:
Confucianism 儒家 Mohism 墨家
We’ll be looking over each of these in detail.
The types of questions we’ll be addressing in the next section of class include ones like:
How ought one to act?
Is one obligated to act in the benefit of the state?
What is virtuous behavior?
What is the role of law in bringing about social harmony?
Are humans naturally good? Are humans naturally evil?
So, in short, we’ll be discussing questions related to ethics, political philosophy, and even human nature.
Let’s now move on to Kongzi, i.e. Confucius.
Kongzi lived between 551 – 479 BCE.
His nameliterally means “Master Kong.”
‘Kong’ is a word uttered to express thankfulness when prayers are granted.
“Confucius” comes from a 1600 Jesuit and Latinized interpretation of his name.
Extremely Basic Biography:
Kongzi was born into an impoverished family in the small state of Lu in the Shandong peninsula in