School of Naturalists

The School of Naturalists or the School of Yin-yang (陰陽家/阴阳家; Yīnyángjiā; Yin-yang-chia; "School of Yin-Yang") was a Warring States era philosophy that synthesized the concepts of yin-yang and the Five Elements.

Birth Places of Chinese Philosophers
Birth places of notable Chinese philosophers from Hundred Schools of Thought in Zhou Dynasty. Philosophers of Naturalist are marked by circles in yellow.


Zou Yan is considered the founder of this school.[1] His theory attempted to explain the universe in terms of basic forces in nature: the complementary agents of yin (dark, cold, female, negative) and yang (light, hot, male, positive) and the Five Elements or Five Phases (water, fire, wood, metal, and earth). In its early days, this theory was most strongly associated with the states of Yan and Qi. In later periods, these epistemological theories came to hold significance in both philosophy and popular belief. This school was absorbed into the alchemic and magical dimensions of Taoism as well as into the Chinese medical framework. The earliest surviving recordings of this are in the Ma Wang Dui texts and Huang Di Nei Jing.


Zou Yan (Chinese: 鄒衍; 305 – 240 BC) was an ancient Chinese philosopher best known as the representative thinker of the Yin and Yang School (or School of Naturalists) during the Hundred Schools of Thought era in Chinese philosophy. Zou Yan was a noted scholar of the Jixia Academy in the state of Qi. Joseph Needham, a British sinologist, describes Zou as "The real founder of all Chinese scientific thought." His teachings combined and systematized two current theories during the Warring States period: Yin-Yang and the Five Elements/Phases (wood, fire, earth, metal, and water).

During the Han dynasty, the concepts of the school were integrated into Confucian ideology, Zhang Cang (253-152 BCE) and Dong Zhongshu (179-104 BCE) being the chief instrumental figures behind this process.


  1. ^ "Zou Yan". Encyclopædia Britannica. Retrieved 1 March 2011.

For the Celtic F.C. footballer, see Zheng Zhi

There are many Chinese words whose pronunciation can be represented as "chih" (or, in the modern romanization, zhi) in Chinese:

志 zhì, aspiration, will. The "will" is a fundamental concept in the philosophy of Mencius, leading authorities such as David Nivison to classify Mencius as a "voluntarist" philosopher. Mencius believes that humans have four fundamental "beginnings" or embryonic drives that can, if protected and properly nurtured, form the basis of a human being who has immense powers to retain his or her autonomy. Each individual's zhì chooses that person's course in life on the basis of the four fundamental ethical drives and on other factors such as the desire for food, water, and the fulfillment of other ordinary requirements of life.

智 zhì, wisdom. This "wisdom" is the name of one of Mencius's four virtues which grow from the above-mentioned four beginnings. It is the innate ability to distinguish right from wrong in the actions of other people. For instance, one will automatically see something wrong when a large and powerful person takes advantage of a weaker adult or a child and be motivated to rectify the situation.

知 zhī, to know

質 zhí, substance. The Huai-nan-zi, 3:1a/19, says:Heaven (seen here as the ultimate source of all being) falls (duo 墮, i.e., descends into proto-immanence) as the formless. Fleeting, fluttering, penetrating, amorphous it is, and so it is called the Supreme Luminary. The dao begins in the Void Brightening. The Void Brightening produces the universe (yu-zhou ). The universe produces qi. Qi has bounds. The clear, yang [qi] was ethereal and so formed heaven. The heavy, turbid [qi] was congealed and impeded and so formed earth. The conjunction of the clear, yang [qi] was fluid and easy. The congelation of the heavy, turbid [qi] was strained and difficult. So heaven was formed first and earth was made fast later. The pervading essence (xi-jing) of heaven and earth becomes yin and yang. The concentrated (zhuan) essences of yin and yang become the four seasons. The dispersed (san) essences of the four seasons become the myriad creatures. The hot qi of yang in accumulating produces fire. The essence (jing) of the fire-qi becomes the sun. The cold qi of yin in accumulating produces water. The essence of the water-qi becomes the moon. The essences produced by coitus (Yin) of the sun and moon become the stars and celestial markpoints (chen, planets). The idea that there is a heavier fraction of qi seems to have originated with this passage. Similar ideas show up in the writing of Song dynasty philosopher, particularly Zhu Xi, and there this kind of "materialized lifebreath" is called zhí. Zhu Xi uses the idea of "materialized lifebreath" to explain what we today would call the phenotypical nature of a human being as opposed to the genotypical nature of that human being.

Fa (concept)

Fa (Chinese: 法;Mandarin pronunciation: [fà]) is a concept in Chinese philosophy that covers ethics, logic, and law. It can be translated as "law" in some contexts, but more often as "model" or "standard." First gaining importance in the Mohist school of thought, the concept was principally elaborated in Legalism. In Han Fei's philosophy, the king is the sole source of fa (law), taught to the common people so that there would be a harmonious society free of chance occurrences, disorder, and "appeal to privilege". High officials were not to be held above fa (law or protocol), nor were they to be allowed to independently create their own fa, uniting both executive fiat and rule of law.Xunzi, a philosopher that would end up being foundational in Han dynasty Confucianism, also took up fa, suggesting that it could only be properly assessed by the Confucian sage (ruler), and that the most important fa were the very rituals that Mozi had ridiculed for their ostentatious waste and lack of benefit for the people at large.


Huang–Lao or Huanglao (simplified Chinese: 黄老; traditional Chinese: 黃老; pinyin: Huáng-Lǎo; Wade–Giles: Huang-Lao; literally: 'Yellow [Emperor] Old [Master]') was the most influential Chinese school of thought in the early 2nd-century BCE Han dynasty, having its origins in a broader political-philosophical drive looking for solutions to strengthen the feudal order as depicted in Zhou propaganda. Not systematically explained by historiographer Sima Qian, it is generally interpreted as a school of syncretism, developing into a major religion - the beginnings of religious Taoism.

Emphasizing the search for immortality, Feng Youlan and Herrlee Creel considered said religious Taoism to be different from if not contradictory to the more philosophical Zhuangzi strain of Taoism. Probably originating together around 300 BCE, the more politically dominant Huang–Lao denoted both for much of the Han. Highly favoured by superstitious rulers, it dominated the intellectual life of the Qin and early Han together with "Chinese Legalism", and the term Taoism (dao-jia) was probably coined with Huang–Lao and Zhuangzi content in mind.

Jing (philosophy)

Jing (Chinese: 敬; pinyin: Jìng) is a concept in Chinese philosophy which is typically translated as "reverence." It is often used by Confucius in the term gōngjìng (Chinese: 恭敬), meaning "respectful reverence". The Confucian notion of respect has been likened to the later, western Kantian notion. For Confucians, jìng requires yì, or righteousness, and a proper observation of rituals (lǐ). To have jìng is vitally important in the maintenance of xiào, or filial piety.

Jixia Academy

The Jixia Academy or Academy of the Gate of Chi was a scholarly academy during the Warring States period. It was located in Linzi, the capital of Qi (present-day Shandong). The academy took its name from its position outside the city's western gate, named for the harvest god Ji.

Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider

See also his son, Carl Anton Bretschneider, the mathematician

Karl Gottlieb Bretschneider (February 11, 1776 in Gersdorf, Saxony – January 22, 1848 in Gotha, Thuringia) was a German Protestant scholar and theologian from Gersdorf, Saxony. He is noted for, among other things, having planned and founded the monumental Corpus Reformatorum.

In 1794 he entered the University of Leipzig, where he studied theology for four years. After some years of hesitation he resolved to be ordained, and in 1802 he passed with great distinction the examination for candidatus theologiae, and attracted the regard of Franz Volkmar Reinhard (1753–1812), author of the System der christlichen Moral (1788–1815), then court-preacher at Dresden, who became his warm friend and patron during the remainder of his life.

From 1804 to 1806 Bretschneider was Privatdozent at the University of Wittenberg, where he lectured on philosophy and theology. During this time he wrote his work on the development of dogma, Systematische Entwicklung aller in der Dogmatik vorkommenden Begriffe nach den symbolischen Schriften der evangelisch-lutherischen und reformirten Kirche (1805, 4th ed. 1841), which was followed by others, including an edition of Sirach with a Latin commentary.

On the advance of the French army under Napoleon into Prussia, he determined to leave Wittenberg and abandon his university career. Through the good offices of Reinhard, he became pastor of Schneeberg in Saxony (1807). In 1808 he was promoted to the office of superintendent of the church of Annaberg, in which capacity he had to decide, in accordance with the Canon law of Saxony, many matters belonging to the department of ecclesiastical law. But the climate did not agree with him, and his official duties interfered with his theological studies. With a view to a change he took the degree of doctor of theology in Wittenberg in August 1812. In 1816 he was appointed general superintendent at Gotha, where he remained until his death. This was the great period of his literary activity.

In 1820 was published his treatise on the Gospel of John, entitled Probabilia de evangelii et epistolarum Ioannis Apostoli indole et origine cruditorum, which attracted much attention. In this work, he collected with great fulness and discussed with marked moderation the arguments against Johannine authorship. This called forth a number of replies. To the astonishment of every one, Bretschneider announced in the preface to the second edition of his Dogmatik in 1822, that he had never doubted the authenticity of the gospel, and had published his Probabilia only to draw attention to the subject, and to call forth a more complete defence of its genuineness.

Bretschneider remarks in his autobiography that the publication of this work had the effect of preventing his appointment as successor to Karl Christian Tittmann (1744–1820) in Dresden, the minister Detlev von Einsiedel (1773–1861) denouncing him as the slanderer of John (Johannisschander). His greatest contribution to the science of exegesis was his Lexicon Manuale Graeco-Latinum in libros Novi Testamenti (1824, 3rd ed. 1840). This work was valuable for the use which its author made of the Greek of the Septuagint, of the Old and New Testament Apocrypha, of Josephus, and of the apostolic fathers, in illustration of the language of the New Testament.

In 1826 he published Apologie der neuern Theologie des evangelischen Deutschlands. Hugh James Rose had published in England (1825) a volume of sermons on the rationalist movement (The State of the Protestant Religion in Germany), in which he classed Bretschneider with the rationalists; and Bretschneider contended that he himself was not a rationalist in the ordinary sense of the term, but a rational supernaturalist. Some of his numerous dogmatic writings passed through several editions. An English translation of his Manual of the Religion and History of the Christian Church appeared in 1857.

His dogmatic position seems to be intermediate between the extreme school of naturalists, such as Heinrich Paulus, Johann Friedrich Röhr (1777–1848) and Julius Wegscheider on the one hand, and DF Strauss and FC Baur on the other. Recognizing a supernatural element in the Bible, he nevertheless allowed to the full the critical exercise of reason in the interpretation of its dogmas (cp. Otto Pfleiderer, Development of Theology, pp. 89 if.).

Lingnan Confucianism

Lingnan Confucianism (Cantonese Jyutping: Ling5 naam4 jyu4 hok6; Traditional Chinese: 嶺南儒學) refers to the Confucian schools of thoughts in Lingnan - the Southern Chinese provinces of Guangdong and Guangxi. These schools are primarily formed by Cantonese people, who have traditionally been the dominant demographic in the region.

List of Chinese philosophers

This article is a list of Chinese philosophers.

Qing (concept)

In Chinese philosophy, qing (情) is a concept translated variously as "reality", "feelings," "genuine", "essence", "disposition", or "emotion". Neo-Confucians understand qing as products of environmental circumstances affecting xing, or innate human nature. This interpretation of qing as an emotional or dispositional concept, especially as connected to xing, arose after the Warring States period. A broader, or at least earlier, Confucian interpretation would be the behavioral quality of a person given their context. For Confucians, who emphasized cultivation of ren (humaneness), li (ritual propriety), and yi (righteousness) to build de, or virtuous moral character.

School of Names

The Logicians or School of Names (Chinese: 名家; pinyin: Míngjiā) was a school of Chinese philosophy that grew out of Mohism during the Warring States period in 479–221 BCE. It is also sometimes called the School of Forms and Names (Chinese: 形名家; pinyin: Xíngmíngjiā; Wade–Giles: Hsing2-ming2-chia1). Deng Xi has been named its founder.

Si (concept)

Si 思 is a concept in Chinese philosophy that is usually translated as "reflection" or "concentration." It refers to a species of attentive, non-rational thought that is directed at a specific subject.

Sima Tan

Sima Tan (traditional Chinese: 司馬談; simplified Chinese: 司马谈; pinyin: Sīmǎ Tán; Wade–Giles: Ssu-ma T'an, c. 165 BC – 110 BC) was a Chinese astrologer and historian during the Western Han Dynasty. He studied astronomy with Tang Du, the I Ching under Yang He, and Daoism under Master Huang. He held the position of Court Astrologer (太史令) between 140-110 BC. While Sima Tan had begun the Records of the Grand Historian (Shiji), he died before it was finished. It was left to his son, Sima Qian, to complete. The year of Sima Tan's death is the year of the great imperial sacrifice fengshan zh:封禅 by Han Wudi, for which the emperor appointed the fangshi, leaving Sima behind and thus probably causing him much frustration.

An essay by him has survived within the Records of the Grand Historian. In this essay, Sima Tan speaks of six philosophical lineages or "schools" (家 jiā): Confucianism (儒家 Rú jiā), Daoism (道家 Dào jiā), Legalism (法家 Fǎ jiā), Mohism (墨家 Mò jiā), School of Names (名家 Míng jiā), and School of Naturalists (陰陽家/阴阳家 Yīnyáng jiā) – the central figure of this last "school" being Zou Yan. This organization of the philosophers of the past into six schools was somewhat original. As for his assessment of these schools, it is rather biased towards Daoism as Sima Tan was a follower of Huang-Lao, an early Han form of Daoism.


Taoism (, ), or Daoism (), is a philosophical or religious tradition of Chinese origin which emphasizes living in harmony with the Tao (Chinese: 道; pinyin: Dào; literally: 'the Way', also romanized as Dao). The Tao is a fundamental idea in most Chinese philosophical schools; in Taoism, however, it denotes the principle that is the source, pattern and substance of everything that exists. Taoism differs from Confucianism by not emphasizing rigid rituals and social order, but is similar in the sense that it is a teaching about the various disciplines for achieving "perfection" by becoming one with the unplanned rhythms of the universe called "the way" or "dao". Taoist ethics vary depending on the particular school, but in general tend to emphasize wu wei (action without intention), "naturalness", simplicity, spontaneity, and the Three Treasures: 慈 "compassion", 儉 "frugality", and 不敢為天下先 "humility".

The roots of Taoism go back at least to the 4th century BCE. Early Taoism drew its cosmological notions from the School of Yinyang (Naturalists), and was deeply influenced by one of the oldest texts of Chinese culture, the I Ching, which expounds a philosophical system about how to keep human behavior in accordance with the alternating cycles of nature. The "Legalist" Shen Buhai (c. 400 – c. 337 BCE) may also have been a major influence, expounding a realpolitik of wu wei. The Tao Te Ching, a compact book containing teachings attributed to Laozi (Chinese: 老子; pinyin: Lǎozǐ; Wade–Giles: Lao³ Tzŭ³), is widely considered the keystone work of the Taoist tradition, together with the later writings of Zhuangzi.

Taoism has had a profound influence on Chinese culture in the course of the centuries, and Taoists (Chinese: 道士; pinyin: dàoshi, "masters of the Tao"), a title traditionally attributed only to the clergy and not to their lay followers, usually take care to note distinction between their ritual tradition and the practices of Chinese folk religion and non-Taoist vernacular ritual orders, which are often mistakenly identified as pertaining to Taoism. Chinese alchemy (especially neidan), Chinese astrology, Chan (Zen) Buddhism, several martial arts, traditional Chinese medicine, feng shui, and many styles of qigong have been intertwined with Taoism throughout history. Beyond China, Taoism also had influence on surrounding societies in Asia.

Today, the Taoist tradition is one of the five religious doctrines officially recognized in the People's Republic of China (PRC) as well as the Republic of China (ROC), and although it does not travel readily from its East Asian roots, it claims adherents in a number of societies, in particular in Hong Kong, Macau, and in Southeast Asia.

Ti (concept)

Ti (simplified Chinese: 体; traditional Chinese: 體; pinyin: tǐ; Wade–Giles: t'i) is the Chinese word for substance or body. The philosopher Zhang Zai described the ti as "that which is never absent, that is, through all transformations."In Neo-Confucianism, this concept is often associated with yong, which means "use" or "function." Such function or how the yong of a thing is its activity or its response when stimulated underscores the link. Like the concepts of nei-wai (inner-outer) and ben-mo (root-branch), ti-yong is central to Chinese metaphysics. The link was adopted in order to manifest the actual meaning of the two truths and the relationship between them.

Xu Xing (philosopher)

Xu Xing (Chinese: 許行; Wade–Giles: Hsü Hsing) (c. 372 BC - c. 289 BC) was a Chinese philosopher and one of the most notable advocates of Agriculturalism, a political philosophy that advocated peasant utopian communalism and egalitarianism. With a group of followers he settled in the state of Teng in about 315 BC. A disciple of his visited the Confucian philosopher Mencius, and a short report of their conversation discussing Xu Xing's philosophy survives.

Yi (Confucianism)

Yi, (simplified Chinese: 义; traditional Chinese: 義; pinyin: yì; Jyutping: Ji6; Zhuyin Fuhao: ㄧˋ), literally "justice, righteousness; meaning," is an important concept in Confucianism. It involves a moral disposition to do good, and also the intuition and sensibility to do so competently.Yi resonates with Confucian philosophy's orientation towards the cultivation of benevolence (ren) and skillful practice (li).

Yi represents moral acumen which goes beyond simple rule following, and involves a balanced understanding of a situation, and the "creative insights" necessary to apply virtues "with no loss of sight of the total good. Yi represents this ideal of totality as well as a decision-generating ability to apply a virtue properly and appropriately in a situation." In application, yi is a "complex principle" which includes:

skill in crafting actions which have moral fitness according to a given concrete situation

the wise recognition of such fitness

the intrinsic satisfaction that comes from that recognition.

Yin and yang

In Chinese philosophy, yin and yang ( and ; Chinese: 陰陽 yīnyáng, lit. "dark-bright", "negative-positive") is a concept of dualism in ancient Chinese philosophy, describing how seemingly opposite or contrary forces may actually be complementary, interconnected, and interdependent in the natural world, and how they may give rise to each other as they interrelate to one another. In Chinese cosmology, the universe creates itself out of a primary chaos of material energy, organized into the cycles of Yin and Yang and formed into objects and lives. Yin is the receptive and Yang the active principle, seen in all forms of change and difference such as the annual cycle (winter and summer), the landscape (north-facing shade and south-facing brightness), sexual coupling (male and female), the formation of both men and women as characters, and sociopolitical history (disorder and order).There are various dynamics in Chinese cosmology. In the cosmology pertaining to Yin and Yang, the material energy, which this universe has created itself out of, is also referred to as qi. It is believed that the organization of qi in this cosmology of Yin and Yang has formed many things. Included among these forms are humans. Many natural dualities (such as light and dark, fire and water, expanding and contracting) are thought of as physical manifestations of the duality symbolized by yin and yang. This duality lies at the origins of many branches of classical Chinese science and philosophy, as well as being a primary guideline of traditional Chinese medicine, and a central principle of different forms of Chinese martial arts and exercise, such as baguazhang, taijiquan (t'ai chi), and qigong (Chi Kung), as well as appearing in the pages of the I Ching.

The notion of a duality can be found in many areas, such as Communities of Practice. The term "dualistic-monism" or dialectical monism has been coined in an attempt to express this fruitful paradox of simultaneous unity and duality. Yin and yang can be thought of as complementary (rather than opposing) forces that interact to form a dynamic system in which the whole is greater than the assembled parts. According to this philosophy, everything has both yin and yang aspects (for instance, shadow cannot exist without light or dark). Either of the two major aspects may manifest more strongly in a particular object, depending on the criterion of the observation. The yin yang (i.e. taijitu symbol) shows a balance between two opposites with a portion of the opposite element in each section.

In Taoist metaphysics, distinctions between good and bad, along with other dichotomous moral judgments, are perceptual, not real; so, the duality of yin and yang is an indivisible whole. In the ethics of Confucianism on the other hand, most notably in the philosophy of Dong Zhongshu (c. 2nd century BC), a moral dimension is attached to the idea of yin and yang.


Ziran is a key concept in Daoism that literally means "self so; so of its own; so of itself" and thus "naturally; natural; spontaneously; freely; in the course of events; of course; doubtlessly". This Chinese word is a two-character compound of zi (自) "nose; self; oneself; from; since" and ran (然) "right; correct; so; yes", which is used as a -ran suffix marking adjectives or adverbs (roughly corresponding to English -ly). In Chinese culture, the nose (or zi) is a common metaphor for a person's point of view.

Zou Yan

Zou Yan (; Chinese: 鄒衍; 305 BC – 240 BC) was an ancient Chinese philosopher best known as the representative thinker of the Yin and Yang School (or School of Naturalists) during the Hundred Schools of Thought era in Chinese philosophy.

Schools of Thought
Regional schools

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