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Influence of Chinese

Philosophy to their
Political Ideology and
Government
Philosophy 126
I. Introduction

Chinese philosophy is humanist in nature. They concentrated on how people ought to

live. They study the role of humans and its relationship with nature. They developed a system of

philosophy quite different from the western framework. West emphasized the rational, and

India the spiritual, China is home to the worlds greatest tradition of ethical and social thought.

(Burns 2006)

Chinese philosophy is divided into 3 periods: Classical, Medieval and Modern. These

periods have rise and fall; cycle of socio-political turmoil and reorganization. Different problem

arises and solutions to answer it.

The bottom line is that Chinese scholars have developed a different mode of thinking

compared to the Western Civilization. They focused on the immediate reality which they are

submerged into. Their own mode of thinking influenced different aspects in their culture like

social, political, and moral part of their tradition. Their influence is not only on one aspect of

Chinese lives but subdivided into different aspects of their lives.

This paper aims to study how Chinese philosophy influenced one aspect of Chinese

civilization which is politics and government. It shows how different schools of thought shaped

the political lives of the Chinese people. The paper is centralized in the influence of

Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Han Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism to Chinese

Government.
II. Influence of Chinese Philosophy on Politics

A. Classical Age

During the later part of the Zhou Dynasty (1045BC-256BC), The Classical age of

Chinese philosophy began. The period is dominated by social and political disorder. Feudal

states, which are subordinates to the house of Zhou, increased their economic and military power

and seek independence. When feudal states overshadow the Zhou dynasty, it resulted in political

anarchy. The change in the system of government resulted in disturbance in the simple

agricultural culture society of China. A new class of scholar-officials surfaced during the state of

political anarchy and social disorder in order to restore harmony in the government and unite the

country ones again.

Confucius, one of the scholar-officials, proposed that cultivating individual ethical

behavior through Dao (Way), practice of the ancient kings who are sages, is the means to have

a government reform, especially among the rulers and their ministers because they are the role

model of the people. The overall result of the cultivation of individual values is a better society.

Daoism, led by Lao Tzu, follows the principles under the Daodejing (Classics of the

Way and Its Virtue). The book talks about the dao (Way) most of the time. Dao is an element

which both creates the world and tells how objects in the world should live in it. According to

the book, if the people live by the virtue of the dao, they would be contented with simple

agrarian society. They argued that Confucianism removes the simplicity of the dao.

Legalism is a school of thought dominant in the state of Qin during the unruly period of

4th to 3rd Centuries BC. Han Fei and Li Si are the pioneers of this philosophy. It is based on

Xunzis philosophy which says that man is naturally evil but removes the idea that man can be

ethically perfect. They believe that in order to regulate mans ethical behavior, they must be
strictly controlled. Legalists developed the basis of the Chinese bureaucratic government with

their view that officials must be assigned precise responsibilities and rewarded if they met those

responsibilities, but punished if they failed to meet them. (Microsoft Encarta 2009 [DVD]

2008)

Legalist philosophy provided a way of establishing a formidable military and economic

organization in the state of Qin which paved the way in overcoming other feudal states and

unifying it into one empire which is the Qin Dynasty. The Dynasty was characterized by strict

laws, harsh punishment, rigid thought control, government control of the economy, and

enormous public works projects. (Microsoft Encarta 2009 [DVD] 2008)

The oppressive control of the Qin Dynasty pioneered revolt of the people. The dynasty

was overthrown by the Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD). The centralized administration which was

influenced by the legalist persisted until 1912 but the control of the government over the

ideology and economy was decreased.

B. Medieval Age

Han Confucianism was fully adapted from 136 BC and learning it was required for

obtaining government offices. During the Han Dynasty, Confucian philosophers fused different

ideologies to create a new system of thought, they are: yin-yang cosmology of the naturalists, a

Daoist concern for perceiving and harmonizing with the order of nature, Confucian teachings on

benevolent government, rule by virtuous leaders, and respect for learning, and Legalist principles

of administration and economic development. (Microsoft Encarta 2009 [DVD] 2008)

During the Tang Dynasty (618-907AD), Buddhism and Daoism are the dominant

ideologies. Even though these two are dominant, Confucianism is the most suitable ideology for
a centralized government. The revival of the Confucianism is called Daoxue (The Study of the

Way) or neo-Confucianism. Han Yu is one of the pioneers of neo-Confucianism.

III. Conclusion

Chinese philosophy molded the whole history of China, from the ancient sages and

scholars until the present. They presented different ideologies which is suited according to their

time in order to restore peace and harmony in the society.

It is also vitally relevant in Chinese politics and government. Like the legalist, their

philosophy offered a strong central government which China used until 1912. It also proves how

influential their ideology in their own culture. They some philosophies also fused different

thoughts and ideas in order to arrive at a new system of philosophy which is fit for the present

condition of the society like the neo-Confucianism.

Chinese people put their theories into practice. For them, philosophies are not mere

idealistic concepts or thoughts which will only be kept in the mind, but they are put into action. I

wish Philippines have those kinds of ideologies because Filipinos only think roughly but not

execute it, unlike China which put their words into actions.

Chinese philosophy greatly influenced Chinas politics and government. They provide

concepts which are put into action. Chinese Philosophy is their foundation of thoughts and

Chinas politics and government is the application of these ideologies.

References
Burns, Kevin. Eastern Philosophy. Arcturus, 2006.

Microsoft Encarta 2009 [DVD]. Chinese Philosophy. Redmond, Washington: Microsoft Corporation,
2008.