Brief Introduction of Xun Zi

Era Information
Time: 770 B.C.-256B.C.
Location of Capital:Disunity of the country
Emperors: Five hegemony in Spring and Autumn, Seven Kings in Warring States
Replaced by: Qin Dynasty

Xunzi in China's historyXunzi, also named Xun Kuang, was born in the State of Zhao in the Warring States Period (475-221BC). He traveled from his native Zhao to the state of Qi when only fifteen to pursue his studies. Soon he became a well-recognized scholar and rose to official posts, including that of magistrate.

Xunzi developed a new version of Confucianism in the period 298-238BC. He can be contrasted with the other great follower of Confucius, Mencius, who saw people as inherently good and governed by a moral sense. Active in the time of instability and disruption in Chinese history known as the Warring States, Xunzi saw people as having an inherently evil nature that required control by education, ritual and custom. His pupil, Han Feizi developed this philosophy further by elevating law to a position of supreme importance in governing human affairs. Han Feizi's presumed influence on the Emperor Qinshihuang, the first emperor of the Qin Dynasty (221-206BC), in such activities as cruel punishments and the attempt to destroy China's past by the burning of books, left a negative impression that reflected back on his teacher. As a result, the work of Mencius for many centuries received much more attention than that of Xunzi.

In spite of his gloomy view of humanity's original nature, Xunzi saw people as perfectible through education and through application of the proper rules of conduct. People were born with a conflicting mixture of desires that if allowed unfettered reign would lead to disaster. It was the role of society, through its culture (including music) to impose order onto the chaos of desires and channel them into constructive, rather than destructive, effort. He held that human intelligence created social organizations in order to bring divergent human impulses into harmony. To this end, Xunzi stressed not only the importance of education but also the correct use of words, often providing extensive lists of definitions. He is also noteworthy in his view that heaven is not the realm of mystical forces embodying ethical principles (Mencius' view) but is part of the realm of nature, indifferent to humans.

Xunzi developed his theories in a logical manner in his master piece Xunzi of some 32 chapters. These might be regarded as the first collection of philosophical essays in China -- as distinct from fragments (analects) or records of conversations.