Ancient China Philosophy

Chinese Philosophy primarily refers to the literary tradition of the Chinese civilization starting from the early recorded history to the present day.

Among the philosophical thought that was taught in the Chinese tradition include Mohism, Buddhism, Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism.

Normally, the general philosophical topics of the Chinese were steadily influenced by the thoughts and ideas of popular figures such as Mozi, Mencius, Confucius, and Laozi.


Historians believed that the beginning of Ancient Chinese Philosophy stemmed from the early Shang Dynasty.

It is, however, important to note that Chinese Philosophy did not become entirely popular until 500 B.C.E. when the four most influential schools were established.

Among the most popular philosophical schools of Ancient China was Confucianism which developed the teachings of philosopher Confucius.

It was later adopted by the Han dynasty and made it as its official doctrine. Together with Taoism, Confucianism became the primary forces of Chinese forces until the 20th century.

In addition, the Confucianism also introduced the Golden Rule, the concept meritocracy, and the popular idea of Yin and Yang.

Common Confucianism concepts include ren or humaneness, li or ritual, zhengming or heaven, li or ritual, and xiao or filial piety.

Consequently, Neo-Confucianism was introduced in the Song dynasty and later became popular during the Ming dynasty.


Interesting Facts about Chinese Philosophy

  • The Taoism philosophical thought is consists of the Three Jewels of Tao which include humility, moderation, and compassion.
  • Buddhism is another Ancient Chinese philosophical thought which primarily focuses on the teachings of Buddha who resided in India from 6thto 5th century B.C.E. The most popular Chinese Buddhist schools were Huayan, Tiantai, Chan, and Sanlun.
  • Mohism promoted a universal love in the hopes of avoiding war and conflict.
  • Mohism was founded by Mozi sometime around 470 to 390 B.C.E. This philosophical thought primarily highlighted pragmatic survival through statecraft, fortification, and farming.
  • Mohism was relatively popular during the Zhou dynasty. However, many Mohists inscriptions were later destroyed in the succeeding dynasties. Confucianism later took over Mohism during the start of the Han dynasty.
  • The most influential Taoism inscription is the Daodejing which was written by Laozi during the 6th Another popular Taoism text was the Zhuangzi which was developed in the 4thcentury.
  • Unlike Buddhism, Confucianism was not typically regarded as a religion. As a matter of fact, most Chinese who were Muslim, Christian, Buddhist, Shintoist, and Taoist still declare Confucianist beliefs.
  • Chinese philosophy started to integrate with Western philosophy concepts during the Industrial and Modern Ages.
  • Humanism is recognized by philosophers as the primary attribute of Chinese Philosophy. It is believed that the role of every human and their place in society has always been taken into consideration by Chinese philosophers.


When was the Golden Rule introduced?

The Golden Rule was introduced by Confucianism.

What are the four schools of Chinese Philosophy?

The four schools that help brought Chinese Philosophy to its peak were Legalism, Confucianism, Taoism, and Mohism.

What are the Analects of Confucius?

The Analects of Confucius is a collection of political, social, quasi-religious, and moral thoughts. It subsequently spread through the rest of China as well as Japan and Korea.

What is Legalism?

Legalism is a pragmatic political philosophy that became immensely popular due to its motto of delivering harsh punishments and set clear strict laws.

The legalism philosophy states that the King should govern a nation based on law or principle, statecraft and power.

It became popular in Ancient China by 221 B.C.E. at the expense of Mohist and Confucianist schools.

Nonetheless, it essentially started to decline during the 3rd century B.C.E. under the ruling of Li Si.