Creative Epistolary Exchange - Xunzi and Lord Shang Creative Essay

Creative Epistolary Exchange - Xunzi and Lord Shang
An imaginary letter exchange between a king and a son discussing the differences in ideology between the two famous Chinese philosophers Xunzi and Lord Shang.
# 146759 | 2,491 words | 2 sources | MLA | 2011 | US

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This paper consists of an imaginary letter exchange between a king and his son, as they discuss the ideological differences between Chinese philosophers Xunzi and Lord Shang. For example, the son first advocates for Xunzi to his father, stating that while both philosophers may share his father's perspective on human nature as well as on the role of institutions; however, that is where the similarities end and the radical divergences begin. The paper follows the son's thoughts as he asserts that Xunzi believes that we are capable of goodness, while Lord Shang emphasizes tyrannical and almost mechanical dominance over his subjects. The father responds, writing that Xunzi's overemphasis on morality and cultivation is misguided and gambles with the unpredictability of human nature; in purely logistical terms, Lord Shang's model offers a more all-encompassing and straightforward system.

From the Paper:

"Therefore, cultural forms are unequivocally necessary because while they are not in our nature, they can be promoted by the state to instill goodwill towards your Majesty. The early sages were wise enough to realize that repeated good behavior, which eventually became rituals, trains our dispositions. Our nature, like crooked wood, can be straightened through education and cultivation. Rituals are "means of nurture" (Xunzi 274), and, as Xunzi so poetically illustrates, the five spices are meant to "nurture the mouth" just as bells and drums are meant to "nurture the ears" (Xunzi 274). In direct contrast, Lord Shang, also known as Shang Yang and who, as your Majesty may recall, was the former chancellor of the Qin dynasty several winters ago, believes that "rites and music are...opportunities for the rapacity of the wicked" (Lord Shang 111). The latter promotes an atmosphere of austerity, virtually eliminating the very acts that make us human. Do you, father, truly believe that such an environment would be conducive to a happy, and therefore, loyal population base? Quite unlikely. Take music, for instance, as a generalization for all cultural forms: doubtless that it is an "unavoidable human disposition... people cannot be without [it]" (Xunzi 285). Father, I myself cannot live without music, and I know how much you enjoy "Solitary Orchid" on the guqin; its absence leads to a soured mindset, sowing the seeds of discontent. Imagine this effect, magnified by the entire population of the kingdom, and how it would intensify opposition against you! Avoid it--Lord Shang's view on music, and cultivation in general, is dangerous and detrimental to the welfare of the kingdom."

Sample of Sources Used:

  • Ivanhoe, Philip and Bryan Van Norden. Readings in Classical Chinese Philosophy, 2nd Edition. Indianapolis/Cambridge: Hackett Publishing Company, 2003.
  • Shang, Lord, transl. by J.J. Duyvendak. The Book of Lord Shang. San Francisco: The Lawbrook Exchange, 1928.

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