The Chinese tradition.Wang Chong philosophy

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"По ту сторону добра и зла" (1886) - одна из наиболее важных работ Фридриха Ницше, предваряющая заключительный период его творчества. В этой работе развиваются идеи, сформулированные в книге "Так говорил Заратустра". Свои мысли Ницше излагает в форме афоризмов, в которых сконцентрировалась его критика современности, в первую очередь современной европейской морали. Работу можно считать пророческой, поскольку в ней Ницше предсказал и распад европейской духовности, и воцарение "грядущего хама", и умаление личности под лозунгом всеобщего равенства, и грядущий тоталитаризм как следствие демократизации. Неизбежность всего этого Ницше выводит из победы "морали рабов", следствием которой может быть только тирания. Ницше призывает людей будущего возвысится над этой моралью, найти силы стать "по ту сторону добра и зла".


General biography
Work and philosophy
Early scientific thought
5. References

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The Chinese tradition.Wang Chong philosophy.














                                                                           student group IES 204

                                                                    Marina Abramova








Kyiv 2012



  1. General biography
  2. Work and philosophy
  3. Early scientific thought
  • Meteorology
  • Astronomy
  1. Conclusion

     5.  References



















1. General biography

          Wang Chong (Chinese; pinyin: Wang Chong; Wade–Giles: Wang Ch'ung , 27–c. 100 AD), courtesy name Zhongren , was a Chinese philosopher active during the Han Dynasty. Wang was born into a poor family at modern Shangyu, Zhejiang. Born a son of Wang Song, he was admired in his local community for his filial piety and devotion to his father. With the urging of his parents, Wang travelled to the Eastern Han capital at Luoyang to study at the Imperial University. It was there that Wang became acquainted with the prestigious historian Ban Biao (3–54), the latter who initiated the Book of Han. He also befriended Ban Gu (32–92), the son of Ban Biao who made further contributions to the Book of Han. Since he was poor and lacked enough money to purchase proper texts of study, Wang had to resort to frequent visits to bookshops to acquire knowledge. Rafe de Crespigny writes that during his studies Wang was most likely influenced by contemporary Old Text realists such as Huan Tan (d. 28). Due to his humble origins, Wang became resentful towards officials who were admired simply because of their wealth and power and not for any scholarly abilities.

     Although Wang's rationalistic philosophy and criticism of so-called New Text Confucianism were largely ignored during his lifetime, the prominent official and later scholar Cai Yong (132–192) wrote of his admiration for Wang's written works. The official Wang Lang (d. 228) acquired a copy of Wang's Lunheng and brought it with him on his trip in 198 to the Han court established at Xuchang by Prime Minister Cao Cao (155–220). As some of the questionable tenets of the philosophy of New Text Confucianism fell out of use and repute, Rafe de Crespigny states that the rationalist philosophy of Wang Chong became much more influential in Chinese thought.

2. Work and philosophy

Wang Chong reacted to the state that philosophy had reached in China. Daoism had long ago degenerated into superstition and magic, and Confucianism had been the state religion for some 150 years. Confucius and Laozi were worshipped as gods, omens were seen everywhere, belief in ghosts was almost universal, and fengshui had begun to rule people's lives. Wang derided all this and made a vocation of giving a rational, naturalistic account of the world and the human place in it.

     At the centre of his thought was the denial that Heaven has any purpose for us, whether benevolent or hostile. To say that Heaven provides us food and clothing is to say it acts as our farmer or tailor — an obvious absurdity. Humans are insignificant specks in the universe and cannot hope to effect changes in it, and it is ludicrous arrogance to think that the universe would change itself for us.

     Wang insisted that the words of previous sages should be treated critically, and that they were often contradictory or inconsistent. He criticized scholars of his time for not accepting this, as well as what he called the popular acceptance of written works. He believed that the truth could be discovered, and would become obvious, by making the words clear, and by clear commentary on the text.

     One example of Wang's rationalism is his argument that thunder must be caused by fire or heat, and is not a sign of the heavens being displeased. He argued that repeatable experience and experiment should be tried before adopting the belief that divine will was involved.

     He was equally scathing about the popular belief in ghosts. Why should only human beings have ghosts, he asked, not other animals? We are all living creatures, animated by the same vital principle. Besides, so many people have died that their ghosts would vastly outnumber living people; the world would be swamped by them.

     People say that spirits are the souls of dead men. That being the case, spirits should always appear naked, for surely it is not contended that clothes have souls as well as men.

     Wang was just as rational and uncompromising about knowledge. Beliefs require evidence, just as actions require results. Anyone can prattle nonsense, and they'll always be able to find people to believe it, especially if they can dress it up in superstitious flummery. Careful reasoning and experience of the world are needed.


Bernhard Karlgren called his style straightforward and without literary pretensions; in general, modern western writers have noted that Wang was one of the most original thinkers of his time, even iconoclastic in his opinions. They note that he gained popularity in the early 20th century because his ideas correspond to those that later evolved in Europe. His writing is praised for being clear and well ordered. But, because there was no functioning scientific method or larger scientific discourse in his time, his formulations can seem alien to the modern eye — to some readers, even as peculiar as the superstitions that he was rejecting. But despite this barrier to his work, he gained some fame, though mostly after his death. He had an effect on what Karlgren called, the 'neo-Daoism’ — a reformed Daoist philosophy with a more rational, naturalistic metaphysics, without much of the superstition and mysticism into which Daoism had fallen.

3. Early scientific thought


     With his acute rationale, brilliance, and objectivity, Wang Chong wrote many things that would be praised by later modern sinologists and scientists alike as being incredibly modern-minded. For example, much like Greek Aristotle's 4th century BC Meteorology portrayed the hydrologic cycle, Wang Chong wrote this about clouds and rain:

  • The Confucians also maintain that the expression that the rain comes down from heaven means that it actually does fall from the heavens (where the stars are). However, consideration of the subject shows us that rain comes from above the earth, but not down from heaven.
  • Seeing the rain gather from above, people say that it comes from the heavens — admittedly it comes from above the earth. How can we demonstrate that the rain originates in the earth and rises from the mountains? Gongyang Gao's [i.e. Gongyang Zhuan] commentary on the Spring and Autumn Annals says; "It evaporates upwards through stones one or two inches thick, and gathers. In one day's time it can spread over the whole empire, but this is only so if it comes from Thai Shan." What he means is that from Mount Tai rain clouds can spread all over the empire, but from small mountains only over a single province — the distance depends on the height. As to this coming of rain from the mountains, some hold that the clouds carry the rain with them, dispersing as it is precipitated (and they are right). Clouds and rain are really the same thing. Water evaporating upwards becomes clouds, which condense into rain, or still further into dew. When the garments (of those travelling on high mountain passes) are moistened, it is not the effect of the clouds and mists they pass through, but of the suspended rain water.
  • Some persons cite the Shujing, which says, "When the moon follows the stars, there will be wind and rain," or the Shijing, which says, "The approach of the moon to Pihsiu [the Hyades] will bring heavy rain showers." They believe that according to these two passages of the classics, heaven itself causes the rain. What are we to say to this?
  • When the rain comes from the mountains, the moon passes the (other) stars and approaches Pihsiu. When it approaches Pihsiu there must be rain. As long as it does not rain, the moon has not approached, and the mountains have no clouds. Heaven and earth, above and below, act in mutual resonance. When the moon approaches above, the mountains steam below, and the embodied qi meet and unite. This is (part of the) spontaneous Tao of Nature. Clouds and fog show that rain is coming. In summer it turns to dew, in winter to frost. Warm, it is rain, cold, it is snow. Rain, dew, and frost, all proceed from the earth, and do not descend from the heavens
  • Astronomy

          Like his brilliant polymath contemporary Zhang Heng (78–139) and others before him, Wang Chong discussed theories about the causation of eclipses, with solar eclipse and lunar eclipse. However, Wang Chong's theory went against the correct 'radiating influence' theory supported by Zhang Heng (that the light of the rounded moon was simply a reflection of the light emanating from the rounded sun). Writing little more than a century before Zhang Heng, the mathematician and music theorist Jing Fang (78–37 BC) wrote in the 1st century BC:

     The moon and the planets are Yin; they have shape but no light. This they receive only when the sun illuminates them. The former masters regarded the sun as round like a crossbow bullet, and they thought the moon had the nature of a mirror. Some of them recognized the moon as a ball too. Those parts of the moon the sun illuminates look bright, those parts it does not, remain dark.

Zhang Heng wrote in his Ling Xian (Mystical Laws) of 120 AD:

     The sun is like fire and the moon like water. The fire gives out light and the water reflects it. Thus the moon's brightness is produced from the radiance of the sun, and the moon's darkness is due to (the light of) the sun being obstructed. The side that faces the sun is fully lit, and the side that is away from it is dark. The planets (as well as the moon) have the nature of water and reflect light. The light pouring forth from the sun does not always reach the moon owing to the obstruction of the earth itself—this is called 'anxu', a lunar eclipse. When (a similar effect) happens with a planet (we call it) an occultation (xingwei); when the moon passes across (the sun's path) then there is a solar eclipse (shi).

Conclusion: Wang Chong developed a rational, secular, naturalistic and mechanistic account of the world and of human beings and gave a materialistic explanation of the origin of the universe. His main work was the Lunheng ("Critical Essays"). This book contained many theories involving early sciences of astronomy and meteorology, and Wang Chong was even the first in Chinese history to mention the use of the square-pallet chain pump, which became common in irrigation and public works in China thereafter. Wang also accurately described the process of the water cycle.

     Unlike most of the Chinese philosophers of his period, Wang spent much of his life in non-self-inflicted poverty. He was said to have studied by standing at bookstalls, and had a superb memory, which allowed him to become very well-versed in the Chinese classics. He eventually reached the rank of District Secretary, a post he soon lost as a result of his combative and anti-authoritarian nature.




























  1. Needham, Joseph (1986). Science and Civilization in China:

     Volume 3, Mathematics and the Sciences of the Heavens and the                                                                                    Earth. Taipei: Caves Books Ltd.

  1. Zhou, Wenying, "Wang Chong". Encyclopedia of China (Philosophy Edition), 1st ed.
  2. de Crespigny, Rafe. (2007). A Biographical Dictionary of Later Han to the Three Kingdoms (23-220 AD). Leiden: Koninklijke Brill. ISBN 90-04-15605-4.

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