A core Course of General Education An outline of the Traditional Chinese Culture 中国传统文化概览 Shandong University Contents



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Confucius

Born at Zouyi (south-east of the present Qufu, Shandong Province), Confucius (551—479 B. C.), whose given name was Qiu and courtesy name Zhongni, was the founder of Confucianism. As one of the greatest thinkers and educators in the history of China, Confucius’ legacy lies in the following three aspects. Firstly, he compiled and preserved literary works of three generations. The six documents (The Six Classics) under his compilation, including Shi (The Book of Songs), Shu (Collection of Ancient Texts), Li (The Rites), Yue (The Music), Yi (I Ching, or The Book of Changes), and Chun Qiu (The Spring and Autumn Annuals), are considered as the classics of Confucianism. This accomplishment makes an enormous impact on the succession and development of the traditional Chinese culture. Secondly, Confucius established a system of philosophical thoughts with “ren”(benevolence) as its fundamental virtue. This virtue is the central theme of his Analects. As a moral and ethical system, ren focuses on human love that is hierarchical and differentiated. Thus Confucius created his version of humanism. Based on ren, Confucius objected to the fantastic powers that confused the human spirit. He took a skeptical and indifferent attitude toward religion and further developed his humanistic ideas. Confucius’ concept of li refers to a set of ritual and musical systems, with the hierarchical system as its core. Ren and li are complementary: li is the exterior principle of ren while ren is li’s intrinsic guiding power. To accomplish ren, one must abide by li, while ren will be naturally generated in the process of practicing li. Fundamentally, the purpose of Confucius’ li is to restore the traditional rites of the Zhou Dynasty. Thirdly, Confucius established private schools and founded a systematic educational framework. He maintained the idea that everyone has the right to be educated despite class differences. In teaching practice, Confucius adopted flexible teaching methods which involve the combinations of learning andthinking, learning and reviewing as well as teaching and learning. He strived for educating students in accordance with their aptitude and adopted a heuristic style of teaching. These philosophical thoughts are still valuable in application today.



Sun Wu

Sun Wu, whose courtesy name was Changqing, was born at Le’an (now Huimin, Shandong Province). Revered as “Sun Zi (or Sun Tzu)”, he was a well-known military strategist in late Spring and Autumn Period. To escape from domestic chaos, he took refuge in the State of Wu, where he was appointed general by the king. Under his command, the forces of Wu defeated the strong army of the State of Chu, subdued the people of the State of Yue, and deterred the states of Qi and Wei. Sun Wu’s The Art of War, composed of 13 articles, was the first systematic book on military strategies and tactics in ancient China and one of the earliest works on military strategies and tactics in the world. In his theories, the art of war lies in the strategies of conquering the enemy. He held that five factors are of pivotal importance in the military affairs, that is, dao (the moral law), tian (heaven), di (earth), jiang (the commander), and fa (method and discipline). Dao refers to political strategies, which require the monarch and his people to make concerted efforts to support the war. Tian and di refer to the natural conditions in warfare. Jiang refers to the qualities of the military commander, in which “zhi (wit), xin (credibility), ren (benevolence), yong (courage), yan (strictness)” are a must. Fa refers to the relevant rules and regulations during warfare. Decrees must be issued and the systems of penalties and rewards must be applied to reinforce these rules and regulations and to heighten morale. In The Art of War, Sun Wu elaborated on his strategic principles, which include ample preparations before war, better maneuverability over the adversaries, go-ahead offensive tactics, mobile and allied warfare, secret operations and flexible commanding without always obeying the sovereign’s decrees. The Art of War is rich in dialect thoughts, an example of which is Sun Zi’s suggestion that the interactions among climatic, geographical and human factors are pivotal in combats. Also of pivotal importance are the quick and flexible reactions to complicated situations, on which Sun Zi pointed out that “he who can modify his tactics in relation to his opponent and thereby succeed in winning, may be called a heaven-born captain”. His assertion that “all warfare is based on deception” reveals his perception of the special nature of strategies as an art.






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