Two great thinkers with far-reaching infl uence on Chinese history emerged
in the Spring and Autumn Period—Confucius and Lao Tze.
Confucius, named Qiu and style-named Zhongni, was a thinker of the State
of Lu. His thoughts were mainly recorded in The Analects of Confucius, a book
compiled by his disciples. The essence of Confucianism is Ren (benevolence)
and Li (ritual norms). He advocated the idea that “the benevolent loves his
fellow people,” and requested the rulers experience and observe the situation
of the people. He was against tyranny and arbitrary punishment. He advocated
the codes of loyalty and tolerance, and called for “not doing to others what you
don’t want to be done to you” (do unto others as you would have them do unto
you) and understanding others as a way to harmonize personal relationships
and stabilize the social order.
Confucius also valued “ruling by morality” and “ruling with the ritual
norms.” He saw that one could maintain the political and educational system
of the country by encouraging self restraint, restoring rituals, and practicing
moral behavior. He attempted to correct the chaotic social class order in
accordance with the ritual system of the Zhou Dynasty and make it perfectly
justifiable, reflecting his conservative political ideology. However, Confucius
was not against improving and reforming obsolete ritual customs and
political orders on the basis of maintaining an outdated social class system.
Mencius and Xun Zi in the Warring States Period inherited and developed Confucius’ theory and made the political ideals and moral norms of Confucianism the mainstream of traditional thought in China for more than two millennia.
Lao Tze, surnamed Li, named Er, and style-named Dan, was a thinker of the State of Chu. Erudite and knowledgeable, he was once the historical official in the royal court of the Eastern Zhou, responsible for managing collections. Confucius once asked Lao Tze about “ritual norms.”
The Tao Te Ching, a book compiled by the followers of Taoism in the Warring States Period, records the thought of Lao Tze and is replete with the philosophy
and wisdom typical of the oriental world. Lao Tze denied the absolute authority of destiny, advocated following natural laws, and ruling without intervention. “Ruling without intervention” means not intervening arbitrarily. Lao Tze
warned the rulers not to oppress the common people too much.
However, his ideal that “though the noises made by the chickens and dogs can be heard, the people do not contact each other until death” and his concept of “making the people ignorant and without desire” led to some negative effects.
His philosophy sides, for example—high and low, front and rear, existence and void, difficult and easy, life and death, noble and humble—and everything could shift to the opposite. Lao Tze has been regarded by later generations as the founder of Taoism. His thought has had and continues to have a great influence on Chinese culture, including philosophy and ethics, as well as the mode of thinking, morality, and personality of the Chinese people. is rich in dialectic thinking. Lao Tze pointed out that everything has two contradictory Lao Tze on an Ox. It is said that Lao Tze, seeing that the Zhou Dynasty was declining, rode an ox out of the Hangu Pass and vanished from the earthly life.