Overview and History 9
Eventually, the Qin, the strongest state of the seven or
so remaining by the 4th century BC, fought its way to the
forefront and reunited China under their own banner.
The Spring and Autumn Period
During the Spring & Autumn Period, names like Lao-zi, Meng-zi,
Zhuang-zi, and Kong-zi were among those whose world (and
other-worldly) views floated among the ‘Hundred Schools of
Thought’ that battled to capture the minds of the people and
their rulers at the time.
From this era of free-ranging thinking emerged three
important world views— Confucianism, Daoism and Legalism—
outlined in Confucius’ 5 Classics, in Lao-zi’s Tao de ching and in
various writings from Xun-zi. Collectively, these sage men of old,
and many others like them, gave us the ideas of filial piety, yin
and yang and the Ta o, among many others.
In his development of the codes and ways of behaving that he
believed necessary to attain certain virtue, Confucius also codified
the concept of the ‘Mandate of Heaven’. During a time when the
success of a hunt or a crop cycle was supposedly dictated by
Heaven and the gods inhabiting Heaven and Earth, it was not
a large leap to put the king in the position of supreme placator.
He and the dynasty he represented held power only as long as
Heaven was placated; and they lost it—for whatever reason—
when it was not.
Qin (221–206 BC)
The chaos of the later Zhou created the perfect vacuum of
power to allow the aggressive Qin rulers to rise to the top
(that and a prevalence of weaponry created from stocks of
iron far greater than the other states around them).
The Qin rulers were firm believers in the logic of Legalism,
which was first espoused by Confucius’ disciple, Xun-zi,
during the Spring & Autumn period. Legalism had at its roots
a belief in man as inherently focused on his own good, and
therefore basically evil. The only way to ensure control over
a society of essentially selfish and self-serving individuals
was institution of a set of draconian laws and corresponding