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Malcolm Issac Javell Smith

Social Studies Honors 9

DBQ: Ancient China Philosophies
May 6, 2014
Ancient China
In a world full of sinners and wrongdoers, most people look to religion. They look to a
god high above to show them the way, to guide and nurture them. During the time of The Seven
Warring States at the end of the Zhou Dynasty, many Chinese philosophies were presented to
shine light on the dark period in Chinas history. Although these Chinese philosophies main
purpose were to spawn an ideal society, the means by which some of them tried to achieve it was
less than ideal. In Ancient China philosophies were a big part of their society. The time period of
The Seven Warring States resulted in the three main philosophies of their time, Confucianism,
Daoism, and Legalism.
All of these three main philosophies were created to attain that perfect society that the
Chinese so wholeheartedly searched for; but the roads they took to achieve them all branched off
in different directions, seeking ideal societies that when looked at closely hardly resemble each
other at all. Confucianism, a philosophy that I believe embodies peace to the fullest believed that
a ruler must lead by example and then the people would follow. They preached respect and honor
to all of their followers; values that were ever present in their version of an ideal society. In their
eyes if you did well then good would come to you. At the center of the very core of
Confucianism you find a sort of reward system; you got out of the world what you put into it
(Doc 3). Finally, this quote really shows the very epitome of the values the confucists believed an
ideal society contained Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of humanity This really
shows what an ideal society was to them. Filial piety and brotherly respect are the root of all

humanity, the ROOT of all humanity. That quote sums up their values all in one word; respect.
To Confucists and ideal society is one in which we all respect each other and our beliefs, sounds
pretty ideal to me.
To continue although Confucianism seems pretty convincing in terms of an ideal society
we cant forget about the other philosophy giants that reigned during this time period, one of
them being Daoism. In many ways Daoism closely resembles Confucianism in terms of the ideal
society. But the ways and beliefs they practice to achieve it is what really differentiates their
ideal society from all the rest. Manifest plainness. Embrace simplicity. Do not think just of
yourself. Make few your desires [Chapter 19] (Doc 8). To me this quote is saying three things;
try not to stand out, fade away into the crowd and forget your personal desires. This strikes me as
really odd. I feel as if the ideal society that they preach is one where not only is everyone equal,
but there is also little free will. They believe that everything is already determined by The Way.
To even further elaborate on their idea of an ideal society I dont even think it actually exists. I
seem to imagine their ideal society something you can only reach on the inside, in your soul.
Their values on the other hand are rather simple; dont worry about anything around you,
everything has already been decided. I find it weird they call something an ideal society when
you seem to lack such individuality and sense of self. But thats the point isnt it? That no one
persons idea of an ideal society is exactly the same?
Now the last and maybe the harshest of the Chinese philosophies would be Legalism.
This philosophy speaks of cruel punishment and rule and strict laws that you wouldnt dare to
break. To them an ideal society is one where the common public has no actual say in what goes
on in the government; their intelligence is not to be trusted, ever. To a Legalist such as Han Fei;
and ideal societys values would be ones of discipline and constant supervision. They believe that

nothing is a strong as the law (Doc 5). It rules with an iron fist and shows no mercy to anyone,
not the noble or the commoner.
Finally, not only did these philosophies only have different views on ideal societies; they
also had different visions for what an ideal ruler should be. Confucianism believes that an ideal
ruler is one who is compassionate and cares for all their citizens. They must believe in respect
and honor and peace before violence. This is a big contrast to Daoisms views of an ideal leader.
They on the other hand believe that there is no reason to even really rule, because in the end
everything is already decided so if you just do the right thing then there is no need to worry.
They believe that everything flows into The Way so