Class #35

Xunzi on Man and the Cosmos

Reading:  Burton Watson, trans., Xunzi, pp. 35-57: "The Regulations of a King"

Lecture PowerPoint Deck

The most important aspects of this chapter are its extension of the role of li and of Confucian self-cultivation to a portrait of man's role in the universe, and the way in which this portrait legitimizes the Confucian ideal of the hierarchical state. Where the "Treatise on Tian" and "Man's Nature is Evil" seem principally to separate man from Nature, this chapter forges some very profound linkages. Parts of the chapter are among the most poetic in Confucian literature, while at the same time retaining the hard-headed quality that distinguishes the best parts of the Xunzi. Ask yourself how man's role in the universe relates to li, and use this chapter, which brings together many of the text's major themes, to review how the many theories of the Xunzi served to defend and promote the Confucian ritual lifestyle. (Pages 49-57 deal with specifics of political organization, and may be skimmed.)