Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao

By R. P. Peerenboom | Go to book overview

VIII. Epilogue

Huang-Lao studies are just beginning. This work constitutes an initial foray into what has been, particularly for the English-speaking world, largely uncharted philosophical territory. Much remains to be said, not only in regard to Huang-Lao's role in the development of Chinese philosophy, but with respect to its influence on the historical, political, and religious traditions of ancient China.

Histories written prior to the Mawangdui discovery tend to portray Legalists and Confucians as the main contestants in the struggle for Han political power, with Daoists considered too apolitical to dirty their hands with court intrigue. 1 When Daoists are acknowledged to have joined the fray, they are presented as spokespersons for the views of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi. The failure of many historians to distinguish between classical Daoism and Huang-Lao is of course attributable in part to insufficient resources prior to Mawangdui to draw a convincing distinction. It also reflects, however, the tendency to take Sima Tan, the first historian to elide classical Daoism and Huang-Lao, at his word.

The discovery of the Boshu has made it apparent that there are significant differences between Huang-Lao and classical Daoism. Although the most obvious differences may be their respective legal philosophies, the most philosophically fundamental may be their views on the nature of order, both social and cosmological. In any event, these differences furnish historians with a new challenge: to sort out Huang-Lao from Lao-Zhuang supporters in early Han politics and to assess their respective impacts on government policies. 2

The debate as to the relationship between philosophical Daoism and religious Daoism also stands to gain from further study of Huang-Lao. Although I have argued that certain immortality practices adopted by religious Daoism are based on a naturalist world-view that may be traced back to Huang-Lao and ultimately to classical Daoism, there are many other potential links. More research needs to be done to uncover the occurrences, uses, and meanings of Yellow Emperor images in religious Dao

-263-

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Law and Morality in Ancient China: The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Law and Morality in Ancient China *
  • Contents vii
  • Preface xi
  • Acknowledgments xv
  • I - Introduction 1
  • II - The Natural Way of Huang-Lao 27
  • III - The Socical and Political Philosophy of Huang-Lao 75
  • IV - The Anthropocentric Pragmatism of Confucius 103
  • V - The Pragmatic Statesmanship of Han Fei 139
  • VI - The Daoist Ways of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi 171
  • VII - The Evolution of Huang-Lao Thought 217
  • VIII - Epilogue 263
  • Appendix - He Guan Zi and Huang-Lao Thought 273
  • Notes 285
  • Bibliography 355
  • Index 375
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