Author(s)Tang, Kwok Hung
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AbstractLi (ritual principle) refers to sacrifices, tribal ceremonials and social norms in the ancient China. Gradually, li becomes the effective compass and square for guiding human behaviour in the personal, social and political aspects. Confucius enriches li with ren (benevolence) and yi (morality, rightness). Mencius mainly inherits ren and yi whereas Xunzi further develops li and yi. Xunzi comprehensively enlarges the effective scope of li to encompass yi (by giving it new meaning as the morality of social distinction), fa (rule, regulation and penal law), and yue (the music as tools of keeping the social distinction in harmony and concord). Xunzi is the first known Chinese philosopher who treats qing with the sense of emotion (and desires). He fully recognizes the incentive function of qing on human behviour. Yet, in order to counteract Mencius's naturalism, he deprives qing of its positive role in morality. Furthermore, he does not keep qing (the important quality of xing) in the neutral sense to which it belongs but chooses to exaggerate its bad effects by calling it the root of social disorder. Although he praises the innate emotion towards deceased parents/family members, he chooses to ignore it when it conflicts with ritual, the ultimate rule of the human life. Li and qing are actually in a supervisor-subordinate relationship. The former nurtures and regulates the latter. When the two are in conflict, especially in the socio-political aspect, qing must be transformed in order to suit li's requirement. There are a number of ways to help transformation of qing and all of them are under the supervision of xin (heart-mind). Xunzi tends to overlook the tension between li and qing. He shows us in the case of the disgraceful funeral of a deceased criminal that li as a means of social control is more fundamental than one's emotional needs.