The Idea of Li and Governing Essay

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Li, or rites, has played an integral part in shaping early Chinese philosophy, though not all philosophers have agreed on its meaning or reason for application. Some will argue that human nature requires us to us Li to be ethical beings, while others believe that Li will teach and mold us into beings that will follow the norms of our society. The three major Confucian philosophers whom used the idea of Li to shape their theories were Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi. All three of these philosophers used Li to shape their ideal government, but it was Xunzi who would have the most applicable form of an ideal government. Confucius was alive and teaching during the Spring and Autumn period. The power of the Zhou king was on the decline and the…show more content…
Looking back at the social norm of a man holding a door open, even though there is no direct punishment for not holding the door open, a man will naturally feel a sense of shame when not adhering to the social ritual that is ascribed to a man. He wanted men to do the right thing not out of fear, but out of shame. This would lead the common folk to follow the Li and become gentlemen in their own right. There would be no chaos due to lack of basic needs because the everyone in the society was fulfilling their personal role, whether it be to provide food or provide governance. Confucius also put a large emphasis on the Zhou kings of the past, calling them “sage kings” and praising their ability to keep order through promoting Li to their subjects, which caused “peace and security to their fellow man” (The Analects, 22). Mencius, a stark follower of Confucius's teachings, viewed Li in a different light. Living in the time called the Warring State Period, Mencius saw the discourse and chaos that Confucius had worked hard to fight against. While rulers fought amongst themselves for power, Mencius sought to find what was the cause of this chaos and what could alleviate it. Mencius had a nearly identical description of Li as Confucius, yet his Li was largely tied in with human nature and the internal struggle to be a moral person. Li was just one of the
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