Tag Archives: Confucius

Emerging from turbulent times: the origins of the Analects and the Daodejing

Dao

The Daodejing emerged at a time in Chinese history that was every bit as turbulent as the one we live in now.

During the five centuries that comprised the Spring and Autumn Period (771 to 476 BCE) and the Warring States Period (403 – 221 BCE), rulers of a veritable patchwork of feudal states and fiefdoms vied with each other for supremacy while the traditional culture and civilization of the ancient Zhou Dynasty (1046 – 771 BCE) collapsed around them. Wars were waged, armies were slaughtered, and alliances were broken almost as soon as they were forged, while the common people were left to lead miserable lives of endless poverty, back-breaking labor, and relentless suffering.

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Situational leadership in the Analects and the Daodejing

The main reason for my interest in the Analects and the Daodejing is that they focus on providing practical solutions to real-world problems.

Unlike many of the works in the Western philosophical cannon, they don’t feature any agonized searches for a universal “truth” or any promises of eternal salvation for ascribing to the “right” set of values or behaving in the “correct” manner. Instead, they are concerned with dealing with the challenges of the here and now, exploring how you can improve your character to make a greater contribution to the stability and prosperity of your family, community, and society overall.

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Two reasons for reading the Analects and the Daodejing

Statue of Confucius, Nishan
Statue of Confucius, Nishan

How are the teachings of Confucius and Laozi relevant to the modern world? This is the question I have been asking myself as I have been reviewing my translations of The Analects and the Daodejing.

On one level, this is an easy question to answer. Given China’s growing global political and economic influence, it makes practical sense to learn more about the two seminal philosophical texts that provide the underpinnings of a nation that President Xi Jinping pointedly reminded President Trump yesterday has the longest uninterrupted culture in the world. What could be a more effective way of understanding China’s traditions and customs than reading two of the most influential and enduring works in world history? Continue reading Two reasons for reading the Analects and the Daodejing

Daodejing Chapter 18: the abandonment of the great way

Daodejing Chapter 18

「大道廢,有仁義;智慧出,有大偽;六親不和有孝慈,國家昏亂有忠臣。」
When the Great Dao is abandoned,
There is “humanity” and “rightness”.
When “knowledge” and “wisdom” appear,
There is great hypocrisy.
When family relationships are not harmonious,
There is “filial piety” and “parental love”.
When a country falls into chaos and disorder,
There are “loyal” ministers.
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Daodejing Chapter 1: the gateway to all secrets

Daodejing creativity

「道可道,非常道,名可名,非常名。無名天地之始,有名萬物之母。故常無欲以觀其妙,常有欲以觀其徼,此兩者同出而異名,同謂之玄,玄之又玄,眾妙之門。」
The way that can be spoken of is not the constant way;
The name that can be named is not the constant name.
The nameless is the beginning of heaven and earth;
The named is the mother of the myriad things.
Therefore, by always remaining free of desire you can observe its secrets;
While by always remaining full of desire, you can observe its manifestations.
The two emerge from the same source,
But they have different names;
Call them both mysteries;
Mystery upon mystery;
The gateway to all secrets.
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