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Transcript of Imperial China
Mencius' mother lived near a cemetery when Mencius was small and he enjoyed going out to play as if he were working among the graves. Mencius enthusiastically made tombs and performed burials. His mother said, "This is no place to raise my son!" So they moved and dwelt next to the city market. But when her son began amusing himself by pretending to be a merchant, Mencius' mother once again said, "This is no place to raise my son." 1 Once again they moved, settling this time, beside a school. Here, the boy played at arranging sacrificial vessels and the rituals of bowing, yielding, entering and withdrawing. Mencius's mother said, "Here indeed is a place to raise my son." And that is where they stayed. When Mencius grew up he studied the Six Arts. In the end he became a famous scholar. The gentleman says, "Mencius' mother understood enculturation by immersion." . . . .
When Mencius was young, after finishing his studies he returned home. At that moment, Mencius' mother was weaving. She asked him, saying, "How far did you get in your studies today?" Mencius replied, "About the same as usual." Mencius' mother then took up her knife and cut the cloth she was weaving. Mencius became alarmed and asked her to explain her actions. She said, "Your neglecting your studies is like my cutting the cloth I wove. Now a gentleman studies in order to establish his reputation, he asks questions to broaden his knowledge. This is the means by which he obtains peace and happiness at home and avoids harm when he goes abroad. If now, you neglect your studies, you will be unable to avoid a life of menial service and will lack the means to distance yourself from trouble and strife. How is it different from weaving and spinning to make a living? If midway I give up and abandon my weaving, how would I be able to clothe my husband and child and go for long without grain to eat? If a woman who abandons her livelihood and a man who neglects cultivating his virtue do not become burglars or thieves, then they will end their days as slaves." Mencius was frightened by his mother's words. Day and night he studied tirelessly. He then studied with the great master Zisi until he became one of the leading scholars of his generation.
Mencius and His Mother
Confucianism = Humanism
no belief in gods or afterlife
people are basically good
people are teachable, improvable and perfectible
some are naturally superior to others
society functions best when people accept and fulfill their roles
Focused on proper behavior and good government
Learning, decorum and propriety
Respect for tradition, order and ritual were key
State as Family
Confucius saw family as model for the state
good ruler = good father
people should be like good children
Filial Piety [respect son owes father] model for all relationships
wife to husband, sister to brother, younger to older, servant to master, commoner to king
Confucianism and the Family
Confucianism shaped families
Men seen as undisputed head of household
supposed to cultivate selves morally
show benevolence and humanity
Women were to be subservient to
their fathers before marriage
their husbands in marriage
and to her son after her husband died
Confucianism the most influential philosophy in China until the 20th century.
Legalism [an anti-Confucian philosophy] takes over and leads to the unification of China in the Qin Dynasty [221 - 206 BCE]
idea that only laws would keep people in line
laws should be applied equally to all [but the king]
not the same as saying everyone equal
Li Si, 280-208 BCE
Prime Minister - legalist
"Only an intelligent ruler is capable of applying heavy punishments to light offenses. If light offenses carry heavy punishments, one can imagine what will be done against a serious offense. Thus, the people will not dare to break the laws."
Instituted quasi-private ownership of land
standardized currency, written language and measurements
eliminated taxes for those who produced the most grain and cloth
farmer/soldiers valued over merchants and scholars
society divided up into units of 5 to 10 families/took census
functioned as a local government
all mutually liable:
reporting crime brings rewards
failing to report - chopped in half at the waist
Once a family has two military age sons, it was divided into 2
promotions because of merit, not family ties
army & severed heads
Confucianism and Same-sex Relationships
Passion of the Cut Sleeve
One of the names by which same-sex relationships were known by in China.
Story of Emperor Ai (27-1 BCE) and his lover/powerful official Dong Xian.
One day the two lovers were taking a nap and the Emperor Ai woke up first and when he tried to get up from the bed he realized that Dong Xian's head was lying on Ai's sleeve. The Emperor then cut his sleeve in order to be able to get up without waking Dong Xian.