Criticism of the Way of Confucius and Mencius and of Other Writings

Contemporary Chinese Thought 7 (1-2):157-187 (1976)
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After Emperor Wu [140-87 B.C.] of the Han dynasty "abolished the Hundred Schools and honored only the Confucian literature," the importance of the founder of the Confucian school, Confucius, increased more and more, and the Confucian Classics became more and more sacred. The whole realm of thought was filled with the "opium and malaria" of honoring Confucius and studying the Classics. In the Eastern Han dynasty, the Confucian Classics were indiscriminately combined with the commentaries, and Confucius became even more the sage "destined for the Han dynasty"; no one could commit an offense against his divinity. Wang Ch'ung lived in that evil environment, but he fearlessly opposed the tide. When he criticized the entire system of mystical Confucian thought in the Han dynasty, he made a thorough investigation of it and cut Confucius down to proper size. He not only introduced facts to expose the fallacious argument that Confucius was a sage who "was prophesied a thousand years before and would be known for ten thousand years afterward"; in the two illuminating essays "Inquiry about Confucius" [Wen K'ung] and "Criticism of Mencius" [Tz'u Meng], he also censured and attacked both the sayings and deeds of Confucius and the Confucian Classics. In his opinion, Mencius was just an ordinary "vulgar Confucian," and Confucius himself erred frequently. They could not be worshiped blindly and regarded as infallible idols. He maintained that honoring Confucius and studying the Classics was an aberration and that to oppose Confucius and criticize the Classics was an absolutely correct principle. This is obvious in the following statement



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