Kenneth Holloway

Published in print April 2009 | ISBN: 9780195371451
Published online May 2009 | e-ISBN: 9780199870653 | DOI:

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The Guodian manuscripts were buried with the teacher of the heir apparent to the Chu throne. The tomb was closed around 300 BCE shortly before one of the most significant period-defining events in ancient history, the Qin conquest of China. Unseen for two millennia, before their discovery in October 1993, these manuscripts challenge many assumptions about Chinese religion, philosophy, and Confucianism. Guodian texts are interested in unity, but this is not surprising from a time when many were becoming concerned that the First Emperor would soon succeed in his campaign of conquest. What is surprising is that in this time of crisis, unity could continue to be described as achievable only through individual empowerment. In the Guodian, the most important function of government is to assist in the harmonization of state and family relations. It sees the relationship between these two entities—the family and the collection of families that ultimately constitute the state—as being inherently problematic; they are conflicting social groupings. The Guodian posits an interesting solution: state and family disharmony can be overcome by developing a hybrid government that employs both meritocratic and aristocratic methods. The latter emphasize rulership that is based on the family and humanity; the former emphasize meritocratic methods that promote the good of the state and righteousness. This new understanding illuminates central issues of government, religion, and philosophy in early China that were overlooked prior to the discovery of Guodian.

Keywords: Guodian; humanity; righteousness; Confucius; philosophy; religion; government; family; First Emperor; Chu

Book.  224 pages. 

Subjects: East Asian Religions

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