Philosophy has been a central component in the history of civilization, from ancient China to modern day. Over the centuries, notable Chinese philosophers have produced fascinating and binding thought and have made significant contributions to various industries in China. One of the most popular Chinese philosophers is Xunzi, who contributed to China’s history, culture, and social patterns. Read on to learn about his teachings and his life.
Who is Xunzi?
Xun Kuang, who is widely known as Xunzi, was a popular Chinese Confucian writer and philosopher who lived during the Warring States Era in China. His philosophical works and written works have survived up to date and his teachings were a great influence in forming the solemn state doctrines of the Han Dynasty. Unfortunately, his influence dwindled during the Tang Dynasty when the Chinese were more inclined to the teachings of Mencius, another great Chinese philosopher.
Here are some of the famous Xunzi quotes;
“The petty man is eager to make boasts, yet desires that others should believe in him. He enthusiastically engages in deception, yet wants others to have affection for him. He conducts himself like an animal, yet wants others to think well of him.”
“I once tried thinking for an entire day, but I found it less valuable than one moment of study.”
“The rigid cause themselves to be broken; the pliable cause themselves to be bound.”
“If knowledge and foresight are too penetrating and deep, unify them with ease and sincerity.”
“Since the nature of people is bad, to become corrected they must be taught by teachers and to be orderly they must acquire ritual and moral principles.”
“I once tried standing up on my toes to see far out in the distance, but I found that I could see much farther by climbing to a high place.”
“Human nature refers to what is in people but which they cannot study or work at achieving.”
“Human nature is such that people are born with a love of profit If they follow these inclinations, they will struggle and snatch from each other, and inclinations to defer or yield will die.”
“The person attempting to travel two roads at once will get nowhere.”
Xunzi witnessed the chaotic moment that surrounded the fall of Zhou dynasty and the rise of the powerful Qin state which upheld important state doctrines that focused on state control, by means of law and penalties. He entirely believed that humanity’s inborn nature is bad and evil, which is why ethical norms were invented to correct people. His book, the Xunzi, is a collection of various philosophical writings and it is famous for the great emphasis on education and rituals/propriety.
Along with that, his book is an important source of early theories of governance in ancient China, rituals embedded in Chinese culture, and Chinese cosmology. The ideas within his book are said to influence Legalist philosophers and he used it to criticize prominent philosophers such as Mencius, Laozi, Mozi, and Zhuangzi. Through his book, he teaches that human beings are naturally inclined towards selfishness, and if these tendencies are not dealt with in good time, human societies slowly devolve into chaos. In addition to that, he argues that man can only become good through conscious efforts and social constructs.