chapter  3
20 Pages

Religion, philosophy, politics, history (宗教, 哲学, 政治, 历史)

ByLiwei Jiao

This term can mean ‘natural law,’ but it usually means ‘heavenly principle.’ Prominent Neo-Confucian philosopher, Zhu Xi (1130–1200) advocated these Confucian ethics, as reflected in his infamous slogan 存天理, 去人欲 170 (maintain the heavenly principles and eradicate human desires). What were heavenly principles? A perfect example is embodied in a sentence by a Neo-Confucian philosopher Cheng Yi (1033–1107), 饿死事(极)小, 失节事(极)大 171 (Death by starvation is preferable to loss of chastity). However, 300 years later, another influential Neo-Confucian philosopher Wang Yangming (1472–1529) promoted the opposite idea 人欲即天理 172 (human desires are the heavenly principles). 天理 was sometimes regarded as the highest justice by the common people. They would say, ‘还有没有天理?’ (is there any justice?) or 天理难容 173 (heaven forbid) when they did not feel that there was any justice. Some inhuman acts are said to 伤天害理 174 (be against reason and nature). Who guarantees that the heavenly principles are followed? Heaven itself, because 人在做, 天在看 175 (God is watching you) or 举头三尺有神灵 176 (God is watching over you).

#63 Fairness ( 公道); #109 Boldest proclamation of reform (三不足); #183 Earthquakes and women (地震与女人); #268 The most heartbreaking vows (最让人心碎的誓言)