Law and Morality in Ancient China

The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao

By R. P. Peerenboom

Subjects: Asian Studies
Series: SUNY series in Chinese Philosophy and Culture
Paperback : 9780791412381, 380 pages, February 1993
Hardcover : 9780791412374, 380 pages, March 1993

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Table of contents

Chapter I Introduction
1. The Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao
1. 1 Text
1. 2 Title
1. 3 Authorship
1. 4 Dating
2. Methodology
2. 1 Philosophy of Law: A Hermeneutical Framework

Chapter II The Natural Way of Huang-Lao
1. Foundational Naturalism
1. 1 Huang-Lao Naturalism
1. 2 Huang-Lao Foundationalism
2. The Nature of Nature
2. 1 Nature as Impersonal
2. 2 Nature as Constant
2. 3 Nature as Rule Governed
3. The Place of Humans Within the Natural Order
3. 1 Dao
3. 2 Xing Ming: Forms and Names
3. 3 Li: Principle
3. 4 Fa: Law
4. Following the Way
4. 1 Naturalist Foundations of Social Institutions
4. 2 Metaphors of Compliance
4. 3 Huang-Lao Epistemology

Chapter III The Social and Political Philosophy of Huang-Lao
1. Huang-Lao Natural Law Jurisprudence
1. 1 Rule of Law
1. 2 Rule of Natural Law
2. The Huang-Lao State
2. 1 Yellow Emperor as Symbol
2. 2 Centralized Feudal Bureaucracy
2. 3 Government for the People

Chapter IV The Anthropocentric Pragmatism of Confucius
1. General Character of Confucius's Philosophy
1. 1 Pragmatic Coherence versus Foundational Correspondence
1. 2 Pragmatic Coherence and the Logical-Aesthetic Distinction
2. Confucius's Social and Political Philosophy
2. 1 Jurisprudence
2. 2 Politics of Harmony
2. 3 A Huang-Lao Critique

Chapter V The Pragmatic Statesmanship of Han Fei
1. Han Fei's Legal Positivism
1. 1 Rule by Law
1. 2 Rule by Positive Law
2. Han Fei's Pragmatic Arts of Rulership
2. 1 The Practical Way of Han Fei
2. 2 Han Fei's Legalist State

Chapter VI The Daoist Ways of Lao Zi and Zhuang Zi
1. Lao Zi's Way
1. 1 Zhi as Discovery
1. 2 Dao as Emergent Order
2. Zhuang Zi's Way
2. 1 Zhi Dao: Realizing an Emergent Order
2. 2 Zhuang Zi's Politics of Harmony

Chapter VII The Evolution of Huang-Lao Thought
1. Antecedents
1. 1 Emergence of Naturalism
1. 2 Jixia Academy
2. Ascendence in the Early Han
2. 1 Huang-Lao: A Response to the Times
2. 2 Huang-Lao Policies and Early Han Politics
3. The Fall from Power
3. 1 Court Intrigue
3. 2 Explaining the Fall
4. Dénouement
4. 1 Huang-Lao and Religious Daoism
4. 2 Naturalism and Immortality

Chapter VIII Epilogue
1. Huang-Lao and Contemporary Philosophy
2. Huang-Lao and Contemporary Jurisprudence in the PRC

Appendix: He Guan Zi and Huang-Lao Thought


Huang-Lao thought, a unique and sophisticated political philosophy which combines elements of Daoism and Legalism, dominated the intellectual life of late Warring States and Early Han China, providing the ideological foundation for post-Qin reforms. In the absence of extant texts, however, scholars of classical Chinese philosophy remained in the dark about this important school for over 2000 years. Finally, in 1973, archaeologists unearthed four ancient silk scrolls: the Silk Manuscripts of Huang-Lao. This work is the first detailed, book-length treatment in English of these lost treasures.


"The main contributions of this work are threefold. First, making use of the recently discovered Mawangdui silk manuscripts, Peerenboom provides a thorough-going and persuasive account of the philosophical and political import of the previously undocumented Huang-Lao school. His is the first detailed treatment of this material in English.

"Secondly, the author uses the new material to reexamine classical schools of Chinese thought and to clarify relations between them. By taking account of advances in contemporary Anglo-American jurisprudence, Peerenboom is able to provide a coherent analysis of the shortcomings and doctrinal disputes of the various schools which led to the development and dominance of Huang-Lao in the late Warring States and early Han.

"Thirdly, Peerenboom addresses the pressing need to give classical Chinese jurisprudence the attention due to it. Focusing on the differences in pre-Qin legal philosophies not only calls attention to the richness of classical jurisprudence but allows Peerenboom to offer revisions to the standard readings of Confucius, Lao Zi, Zhuang Zi and Han Fei. " — Angus Graham