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C O U R S E 
Chinese Thought: Ancient Wisdom Meets Modern Science
Edward Slingerland, University of British Columbia
C O U R S E   L E C T U R E 
Laozi and the Daodejing
Notes taken on April 3, 2016 by Edward Tanguay
The Daodejing
"Classic of Way and Virtue"
earliest transmitted text after the Analects
and early Warring States text
archeological versions of it have been found
versions that are very different from the received text
whole passages missing
different wording
the first of the Daoist texts
there is no Daoist movement per se
it's not a coherent group with a founder
Daoist groups are very loose-knit
have disagreements among themselves
a suspicion of culture
particularly of Confucian culture
a faith in nature
although this manifests itself differently for different Daoists
attributed to a figure named Laozi
name means "the old master"
legendary figure, founder of philosophical Taoism
usually dated to around the 6th century BCE and reckoned a contemporary of Confucius
Laozi's work has been embraced by anti-authoritarian movements
we have stories of him training Confucius
Confucius comes to him to learn ritual
Laozi turns him away because he doesn't quite get it
Laozi is suspicious of language but yet this is being communicated in a book
so there is a tension involved
"He who speaks does not know."
explained by
Laozi was disgusted by how bad China was at the time
attempted to leave to the West but border guard forced him to write a book, so Laozi reluctantly wrote it down
some of these stories say that he was allowed to pass through to the West and became the Buddha Shakyamuni
there were interesting parallels between Daoism and Buddhism
and so it is explained that Buddhism is just watered down Daoism
there was probably never a figure named Laozi
this was common in China: a person or a group of people write a book of teachings and then attribute it to a mythical figure
is a composite text
probably put together by a group of primitivist writers
attributed to Laozi to give it authority
individual chapters of the Daodejing probably circulated in independent form
general themes
how your Daodejing that you put together depended on what you deemed important
the primitivists who wrote Daodejing
parallels with the counter culture movement in the 1960s which was fueled by the Vietnam war
a strong backlash against the establishment and against science
science was being used for horrible things such as Agent Orange and Napalm
reaction against
the military
clearly horrified by the warfare of their times
political and military chaos of Warring States
475-221 BC Warring States period
states are constantly battling against each other, e.g.
the Qin eventually gained power over all of them
a clear disillusionment with the ruling class, with the elites
because these advocates were literate, they were probably from the elite themselves
turning against their own class
475-221 BC Warring States period
a very dangerous time to be alive
pre Warring States
Western Zhou quite stable
Eastern Zhou things started to break down
when we get to the Warring States period, there is full warfare between these states
states are constantly fighting with one another
if you are a member of the elite, it is a dangerous time
you're fighting
you're in the army
if your state gets taken over, you and all of your relatives are killed and all adherents to your state
they eliminate any rebel forces that might later rise up
for commoners, things are also getting bad
the shift in warfare styles from limited warfare to total warfare
originally warfare in the Zhou was an elite practice
similar to Europe at this time: the elite of one state going to war against the elite of another state
chariot-based warfare
states were evaluated by how many chariots they could field in a war, e.g. a 10,000 chariot state
common people were not directly involved
perhaps taking care of the horses and moving food around
warfare then changed
conscription of peasantry
elites still go to war but they are in the back
the people in the front are massive armies of peasants and most of the killing are among the peasants
the first emperor of Qin's tomb
massive army of the dead
gives you a sense of what warfare was beginning to look like in the Warring States
mass armies of peasants fighting against other mass armies of peasants
full-scale warfare
wipe out the other state
burn their crops
destroy villages
Analects responded to this as well
we need to be more civilized
primitivists began to doubt the value of civilization itself
believed that technology was being used more to kill people than to make them healthy and prosper
both armor and armament is getting better
crossbow is being invented around this time
new, powerful ways to kill other people
anti-Confucius strain
Confucius: the enemy of the elite
Confucius is associated with the elite and the elite are viewed as part of the problem
the elite
decide to go to war against another state
call up troops
the Ru class is associated with elite political circles