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February 08, 2008


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"better a Taoist than a Legalist."

You are assuming there is a difference. Remember, Yellow Emperor Daoism was the first legalist school.

I'm just sayin' . . .

Better a Confucian on the outside and a legalist on the inside than a crypto-legalist on the outside and a legalist on the inside, na?

But I will say that I view the failure of the GLF as more one of bureaucratic alienation (and if that ain't Confucian, I don't know what is), and I think that is a good lesson to keep in mind. Confucius had a lot of bad things to say about busy-bodies who worries about things outside their ministry, but he had far worse things to say about people who were only concerned with their ministry and being promoted within it. Zhu Xi made it clear that the chain-logic of the Great Learning wasn't a chain at all, but rather that all elements should be practiced all the time by and educated individual. That is what is missing here.

Though I will say I admire legalism for its state-building ability. And, while I don't see a jailer raising a rebellion (though the PRC is doing its best to provide ample candidates for that role) I do like the return to Confucian values the Party has been taking recently. Who knows, in ten years, I might even see eye-to-eye with them.

Better the reed than the oak, as they say, especially when the big wind comes.



Mao will be different thing for different people for a long time, both inside and outside China. Objective assessment of him is absolutely important to make now. One might have to wait for 100 years or more to be remotely neutral.

The gap between Liu and Buruma is so wide and it can never be bridged by words. Here is the Taoist disdain of futile discourse.

From my personal bias, Buruma know his interest very well and he is running full speed to fulfill his mission: to render the globe "Others" helpless and divided, so the “Masters of the Universe" could rule supreme. Mao, by picking up the Chinese pieces together, made their dream uncomfortable, or even a nightmare. Therefore, he can't be blame for showing such venom to Mao. After all, one can't ask him for more.

Arab or Muslim world is still seeking their Mao; they have the hope since they still have their culture. Native Americans forever lose the hope even to seek their Mao...

Lao Tze is right the word is such futile tool...

"Heaven and earth are not benevolent, they use all things as straw dogs. The sage is not benevolent, he uses the people as straw dogs."

"Of old those who excelled in the pursuit of the way did not use it to enlighten the people but to hoodwink them."

Now that you mention it, it does seem that there are parts of the Dao De Jing which might have appealed to Mao. Yes, I know those parts can be interpreted in a more humanistic fashion but readers are free to choose their own interpretations.

Yes, Taoism was used by Legalists, especially Han Fei Tzu, to rationalize the role of the ruler. I am one who sees this as a distortion of the spirit of Taoism but we cannot deny the historical fact of the Legalist usurpation of Taoism. Perhaps it suggests a certain weakness in Taoist thought that renders it vulnerable to such manipulation.
And since Mao was inspired by Qin Shi Huangdi, we should expect to find some Taoist resonances in his rule.

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