Monday, November 15

Reading: Yin-Yang Five-Forces Theory During the HanThe Arts of the Fangshi

We initially encountered the theories of yin & yang and of the Five Forces when we studied Warring States era "Naturalism." It appears that during the period of the Qin, these ideas came to dominate the operation of the new Imperial government, particularly in matters of court ritual. Like other aspects of the Qin, these elements continued to flourish during the Han, and in fact became pervasive in both state and popular cosmologies. Fangshi cults also persisted throughout these periods, and, in fact, most of our information about early fangshi come from accounts of their influence during the Han.

During the early Han, these ideas, together with the ideology of Huang-Lao, had a clear field in terms of government influence, although at no point was there a complete absence of Confucian influence at court. Confucianism had, in fact, always been a minor voice in political contexts, both before and after the Qin unification, but as we will soon see, that began to change dramatically in the year 135 BC, when Confucianism was established as a sponsored ideology of the Han state under Wu-di. That is the point after which there comes to be some sense to the characterization of the Chinese state as "Confucian," though it remains always Legalist in structure.

However, the early Han traditions of Huang-Lao thought, yin-yang cosmology, and the arts of fangshi practices all continued to provide important contributions to philosophical and religious structures, although in transformed ways. Ultimately, the fangshi arts about which you will read, along with elements of yin-yang/five-forces and Huang-Lao thought contributed to the formation of later Daoist religious traditions, which first flower during the second century AD.