The Government of China (1644-1911)

By Pao Chao Hsieh | Go to book overview

CHAPTER I
THEORETICAL BASIS OF THE GOVERNMENT

In ethics as well as in politics, Confucian theories, to the exclusion of theories of other schools, have dominated China for the last twenty-three centuries. A discussion of Chinese political theory is, therefore, primarily one of Confucius' theories with incidental mention of the supplementary explanations made by his most famous disciple, Mencius, and by other followers of his teaching.

Being a writer on past institutions rather than one on a speculative future, and writing with the aim of stabilizing the traditional order, Confucius can hardly be accused, as many European political theorists have been, of hastening revolutions by building castles in the air. Indeed, Confucius never attempted to formulate a political panacea of his own contriving. The ancient practice of government formed the material on which he contemplated and wrote and from which he sought the betterment of the people. The existing state of things formed the basis upon which he prescribed a remedy. Practical statesman that he was, and because he had seen actual service, he clearly saw that the quickest and safest way of improving the political conditions of his period was to reinstitute the methods that flourished in the "Golden Age" of the ancient regime. He lived in the feudal age when strong feudal lords, though owing allegiance to the emperor, dominated by usurping the imperial authority. Five successful feudal lords wielded the imperial sceptor in different stages in the period of feudalism, as a result of military conquest; none of them, however, showed any willingness or intention to hand their illegitimate powers back to the legitimate possessor, nor was any of them able to put an end to the existing chaos by use of the powers he had usurped.

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