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Selasa, 10 Maret 2009

Xuanzang (Hsüan-tsang) (602-664 C.E.)

Xuanzang, world-famous for his sixteen-year pilgrimage to India and career as a translator of Buddhist scriptures, is one of the most illustrious figures in the history of scholastic Chinese Buddhism. Born into a scholarly family at the outset of the Tang (T'ang) Dynasty, he enjoyed a classical Confucian education. Under the influence of his elder brother, a Buddhist monk, however, he developed a keen interest in Buddhist subjects and soon became a monk himself at the age of thirteen. Upon his return to Chang'an in 645, Xuanzang brought back with him a great number of Sanskrit texts, of which he was able to translate only a small portion during the remainder of his lifetime. In addition to his translations of the most essential Mahayana scriptures, Xuanzang authored the Da tang xi yu ji (Ta-T'ang Hsi-yu-chi or Records of the Western Regions of the Great T'ang Dynasty) with the aid of Bianji (Bian-chi). It is through Xuanzang and his chief disciple Kuiji (K'uei-chi) (632-682) that the Faxiang (Fa-hsiang or Yogacara/Consciousness-only) School was initiated in China. In order to honor the famous Buddhist scholar, the Tang Emperor Gaozong (Gao-tsung) cancelled all audiences for three days after Xuanzang's death. (See Romanization systems for Chinese terms.)

1. Xuanzang's Beginnings (602-630)

Born of a family possessing erudition for generations in Yanshi prefecture of Henan province, Xuanzang, whose lay name was Chenhui, was the youngest of four children. His great-grandfather was an official serving as a prefect, his grand-father was appointed as Professor in the National College at the capital, and his father was a Confucianist of the rigid conservative type who gave up office and withdrew into seclusion to escape the political turmoil that gripped China at that time. According to traditional biographies, Xuanzang displayed a precocious intelligence and seriousness, amazing his father by his careful observance of the Confucian rituals at the age of eight. Along with his brothers and sister, he received an early education from his father, who instructed him in classical works on filial piety and several other canonical treatises of orthodox Confucianism.

After the death of Xuanzang's father in 611, his older brother Chensu, later known as Changjie, became the primary influence on his life. As a result, he commenced visiting the monastery of Jingtu at Luoyang where his brother dwelled as a Buddhist monk, and studying sacred texts of the faith with all the ardor of a young convert. When Xuanzang requested to take Buddhist orders at the age of thirteen, the abbot Zheng Shanguo made an exception in his case because of his precocious sapience.

In 618, due to the civil war breaking out in Henan, Xuanzang and his brother sought refuge in the mountains of Sichuan, where he spent three years or so in the monastery of Kong Hui plunging into the study of various Buddhist texts, such as the Abhidharmakosa-sastra (Abhidharma Storehouse Treatise. In 622, he was fully ordained as a monk. Deeply confused by myriad contradictions and discrepancies in the texts, and not receiving any solutions from his Chinese masters, Xuanzang decided to go to India and study in the cradle of Buddhism.

2. Pilgrimage to India (630-645)

An imperial decree by the Emperor Taizong (T'ai-tsung) forbade Xuanzang's proposed visit to India on the grounds on preserving national security. Instead of feeling deterred from his long-standing dream, Xuanzang is said to have experienced a vision that strengthened resolve. In 629, defying imperial proscription, he secretly set out on his epochal journey to the land of the Buddha from Chang'an.

Xuanzang reports that he travelled by night, hiding during the day, enduring many dangers, and bereft of a guide after being abandoned by his companions. After some time in the Gobi Desert, he arrived in Liangzhou in modern Gansu province, the westernmost extent of the Chinese frontier at that time and the southern terminus of the Silk Road trade route connecting China with Central Asia. Here he spent approximately a month preaching the Buddhist message before being invited to Hami by King Qu Wentai (Ch'u Wen-tai) of Turfan, a pious Buddhist of Chinese extraction.

It soon became apparent to Xuanzang that Qu Wentai, although most hospitable and respectful, planned to detain him for life in his Court as its ecclesiastical head. In response, Xuanzang undertook a hunger strike until the king relented, extracting from Xuanzang a promise to return and spend three years in the kingdom upon his return. After remaining there for a month more for the sake of the dharma, Xuanzang resumed his journey in 630, well provided with introductions to all the kings on his itinerary, including the formidable Turkish Khan whose power extended to the very gates of India. Having initially left China against the will of the Emperor, he was no longer an unknown fugitive fleeing in secret, but an accredited pilgrim with official standing.

At long last, Xuanzang reached his ultimate destination, where his strongest personal interest in Buddhism was located and the principal portion of his time abroad was spent: the Nalanda monastery, located southwest of the modern city of Bihar in northern Bihar state. As a far-famed metropolis of Buddhist monastic education, Nalanda was a veritable monastic city consisting of some ten huge temples with spaces between divided into eight compounds, surrounded by a high wall. There were over ten thousand Mahayana monks there engaged in the study of the orthodox Buddhist canon as well as the Vedas, arithmetic, and medicine. According to legend, Silabhadra (529-645), abbot of Nalanda, was considering suicide after years of wasting illness when he received instructions from deities in a dream, commanding him to endure and await the arrival of a Chinese monk in order to guarantee the preservation of the Mahayana tradition abroad. Indeed, Xuanzang became Silabhadra's disciple in 636 and was initiated into the Yogacara lineage of Mahayana learning by the venerable abbot. While at Nalanda, Xuanzang also studied Sanskrit and Brahmana philosophy. Subsequent studies in India included hetu-vidya (logic), the exegesis of Mahayana texts such as the Mahayana-sutralamkara (Treatise on the Scripture of Adorning the Great Vehicle), and Madhyamika ("Middle-ist") doctrines.

The name of the Madhyamika School, founded by Nagarjuna (2nd century CE), derives from its having sought a middle position between the realism of the Sarvastivada (Doctrine That All Is Real) School and the idealism of the Yogacara (Mind Only) School. Xuanzang appears to have combined these two systems into each other in a more eclectic and comprehensive Mahayanism. With the approval of his Nalanda mentors, Xuanzang composed a treatise, Hui zong lun (Hui-tsüng-lun or On the Harmony of the Principles), which articulates his synthesis.

At Nalanda, Xuanzang became a critic of two major philosophical systems of Hinduism opposed to Buddhism: the Samkhya and the Vaiseshika. The former was based upon a dualism of Nature and Spirit. The latter was a realist system, immediate and direct in its realism, resting upon the acceptance of the data of consciousness and experience as such: in brief, it was a melding of monism and atomism. Such beliefs were in absolute contradiction to the acosmic idealism of the Buddhist Yogacara, which evenly repelled the substantial entity of the ego and the objective existence of matter. Xuanzang also critiqued the atheistic monism of the Jains, especially inveighing against what he saw as their caricature of Buddhism in terms of Jain monastic garb and iconography.

Xuanzang's success in religious and philosophical disputes evidently aroused the attention of some Indian potentates, including the King of Assam and the poet-cum-dramatist king Harsha (r. 606-647), who was regarded as a Buddhist patron saint upon the throne like Ashoka and Kanishka of old. An eighteen-day religious assembly was convoked in Harsha's capital of Kanauj during the first week of the year 643, during which Xuanzang allegedly defeated five hundred Brahmins, Jains, and heterodox Buddhists in spirited debate.

Following these public successes in India, Xuanzang resolved to return to China by way of Central Asia. He followed the caravan-track that led across the Pamirs to Dunhuang. In the spring of 644, he reached Khotan and awaited a reply to his request for return addressed to the Emperor Taizong. In the month of November, Xuanzang left for Dunhuang by a decree of the Emperor, and arrived in the Chinese capital Chang'an the first month of the Chinese Lunar Year 645.

3. His Return to China and Career as Translator (645-664)

Traditional sources report that Xuanzang's arrival in Chang'an was greeted with an imperial audience and an offer of official position (which Xuanzang declined), followed by an assembly of all the Buddhist monks of the capital city, who accepted the manuscripts, relics, and statues brought back by the pilgrim and deposited them in the Temple of Great Happiness. It was in this Temple that Xuanzang devoted the rest of his life to the translation of the Sanskrit works that he had brought back out of the wide west, assisted by a staff of more than twenty translators, all well-versed in the knowledge of Chinese, Sanskrit, and Buddhism itself. Besides translating Buddhist texts and dictating the Da tang xi yu ji in 646, Xuanzang also translated the Dao de jing (Tao-te Ching) of Laozi (Lao-tzu) into Sanskrit and sent it to India in 647.

His translations may, by and large, be divided into three phases: the first six years (645-650), focusing on the Yogacarabhumi-sastra; the middle ten years (651-660), centering on the Abhidharmakosa-sastra; and the last four years (661-664), concentrating upon the Maha-prajnaparamita-sutra. In each phase of his career as a translator, Xuanzang saw his task as introducing Indian Buddhist texts to Chinese audiences in all their integrity. According to Thomas Watters, the total number of texts brought by Xuanzang from India to China is six hundred and fifty seven, enumerated as follows:

Mahayanist sutras: 224 items
Mahayanist sastras: 192
Sthavira sutras, sastras and Vinaya: 14
Mahasangika sutras, sastras and Vinaya: 15
Mahisasaka sutras, sastras and Vinaya: 22
Sammitiya sutras, sastras and Vinaya: 15
Kasyapiya sutras, sastra and Vinaya: 17
Dharmagupta sutras, Vinaya, sastras: 42
Sarvastivadin sutras, Vinaya, sastras: 67
Yin-lun (Treatises on the science of Inference): 36
Sheng-lun (Etymological treatises): 13

4. The Faxiang School

a. The development of Yogacara

The Chinese Faxiang School, derived from the Indian Yogacara (yoga practice) School, is based upon the writings of two brothers, Asanga and Vasubandhu, who explicated a course of practice wherein hindrances are removed according to a sequence of stages, from which it gets its name. The appellation of the school originated with the title of an important fourth- or fifth-century CE text of the school, the Yogacarabhumi-sastra. Yogacara attacked both the provisional practical realism of the Madhyamika School of Mahayana Buddhism and the complete realism of Theravada Buddhism. Madhyamika is regarded as the nihilistic or Emptiness School, whereas Yogacara is seen as the realistic or Existence School. While the former is characterized as Mahayana due to its central theme of emptiness, the latter might be considered to be semi-Mahayana to a point for three basic reasons: (1) the Yogacara remains realistic like the Abhidharma School; (2) it expounds the three vehicles side by side without being confined to the Bodhisattvayana; and (3) it does not accent the doctrine of Buddha nature.

The other name of the school, Vijnanavada (Consciousness-affirming/Doctrine of Consciousness), is more descriptive of its philosophical position, which in short is that the reality a human being perceives does not exist. Yogacara becomes much better known, nevertheless, not for its practices, but for its rich development in psychological and metaphysical theory. The Yogacara thinkers took the theories of the body-mind aggregate of sentient beings that had been under development in earlier Indian schools such as the Sarvastivada, and worked them into a more fully articulated scheme of eight consciousnesses, the most weighty of which was the eighth, or store consciousness -- the alaya-vijnana.

The Yogacara School is also known for the development of other key concepts that would hold great influence not merely within their system, but within all forms of later Mahayana to come. They embody the theory of the three natures of the dependently originated, completely real, and imaginary, which are understood as a Yogacara response to the Madhyamika's truth of emptiness. Yogacara is also the original source for the theory of the three bodies of the Buddha, and greatly expands the notions of categories of elemental constructs.

Yogacara explored and propounded basic doctrines that were to be fundamental in the future growth of Mahayana and that influenced the rise of Tantric Buddhism. Its central doctrine is that only consciousness (vijnanamatra; hence the name Vijnanavada) is real, and that mind is the ultimate reality. In other words, external objects do not exist; nothing exists outside the mind. The common view that external phenomena exist is due to a misconception that is removable through a meditative or yogic process, which brings a complete withdrawal from these fictitious externals, and an inner concentration and tranquility may accordingly be bodied forth.

Yogacara is an alternative system of Buddhist logic. According to it, the object is not at all as it seems, and thus can not be of any service to knowledge. It is therefore unreal when consciousness is the sole reality. The object is only a mode of consciousness. Its appearance although objective and external is in fact the transcendental illusion, because of which consciousness is bifurcated into the subject-object duality. Consciousness is creative and its creativity is governed by the illusive idea of the object. Reality is to be viewed as an Idea or a Will. This creativity is manifested at different levels of consciousness.

Since this school believes that only ideation exists, it is also called the Idealistic School. In China, it was established by Xuanzang and his principal pupil Kuiji who systematized the teaching of his masters recorded in two essential works: the Fa yuan i lin zhang (Fa-yuan i-lin-chang or Chapter on the Forest of Meanings in the Garden of Law) and the Cheng wei shi lun shu ji (Ch'eng wei-shih lun shu-chi or Notes on the Treatise on the Completion of Ideation Only). On account of the school's idealistic accent it is known as Weishi (Wei-shih) or Ideation Only School; yet because it is concerned with the specific character of all the dharmas, it is often called the Faxiang School as well. Besides, this school argues that not all beings possess pure seeds and, therefore, not all of them are capable of attaining Buddhahood.

The central concept of this school is borrowed from a statement by Vasubandhu -- idam sarvam vijnaptimatrakam, "All this world is ideation only." It strongly claims that the external world is merely a fabrication of our consciousness, that the external world does not exist, and that the internal ideation presents an appearance as if it were an outer world. The whole external world is, hence, an illusion according to it.

b. Metaphysics of Mere-Consciousness

Broadly speaking, Mere-Consciousness may cover the eight consciousnesses, the articulation of which forms one of the most seminal and distinctive aspects of the doctrine of the Yogacara School, transmitted to East Asia where it received the somewhat pejorative designations of Dharma-character School and Consciousness-only School. According to this doctrine, sentient beings possess eight distinct layers of consciousness, the first five -- the visual consciousness, auditory consciousness, olfactory consciousness, gustatory consciousness, and tactile consciousness -- corresponding to the sense perceptions, the sixth discriminatory consciousness to the thinking mind, the seventh manas consciousness to the notion of ego, and the eighth alaya-consciousness to the repository of all the impressions from one's past experiences. As the first seven of these arise on the basis of the eighth, they are called the transformed consciousnesses. In contrast, the eighth is known as the base consciousness, store consciousness, or seed consciousness. And in particular, it is this last consciousness that the Mere-Consciousness is all about.

One of the foremost themes discussed in the school is the

alaya-vijnana or storehouse consciousness, which stores and coordinates all the notions reflected in the mind. Thus, it is a storehouse where all the pure and contaminated ideas are blended or interfused. This principle might be illustrated by the school's favorite citation:

"A seed produces a manifestation,
A manifestation perfumes a seed.
The three elements (seed, manifestation, and perfume) turn on and on,
The cause and effect occur at one and the same time."

It is the doctrine of consciousness or mind as the basis for so-called "external" objects that gave the Cittamatra (Mind Only) tradition its name. Apparently external objects are constituted by consciousness and do not exist apart from it. Vasubandhu began his

Vimsatika vijnapti-matrata-siddhih (Twenty Verses on Consciousness-only) by stating: "All this is only perception, since consciousness manifests itself in the form of nonexistent objects." There is only a flow of perceptions. This flow, however, really exists, and it is mental by nature, as in terms of the Buddhist division of things it has to be either mental or physical. The flow of experiences could barely be a physical or material flow. There might be a danger in calling this "idealism," because it is rather dissimilar from forms of idealism in Western philosophy, in which it is deemed necessary for a newcomer to negate and transcend previous theories and philosophies through criticism, but the situation in Buddhism, especially Yogacara Buddhism, is such that it developed its doctrines by inheriting the entire body of thought of its former masters. Nonetheless, if "idealism" denotes that subjects and objects are no more than a flow of experiences and perceptions, which are of the same nature, and these experiences, just as perceptions, are mental, then this could be called a form of "dynamic idealism."

Because this school maintains that no external reality exists, while retaining the position that knowledge exists, assuming knowledge itself is the object of consciousness. It, therefore, postulates a higher storage consciousness, which is the final basis of the apparent individual. The universe consists in an infinite number of possible ideas that lie inactively in storage. Such dormant consciousness projects an interrupted sequence of thoughts, while it itself is in restless flux till the karma, or accumulated consequences of past deeds, blows out. This storage consciousness takes in all the impressions of previous experiences, which shape up the seeds of future karmic action, an illusory force creating outer categories that are actually only fictions of the mind. So illusive a force determines the world of difference and belongs to human nature, sprouting the erroneous notions of an I and a non-I. That duality can only be conquered by enlightenment, which effects the transformation of an ordinary person into a Buddha.

c. Some objections answered

Certain objections were interposed to level at Yogacara's doctrine of consciousness. Vasubhandhu, again in his Vimsatika, undertook to prove the invalidity of some of these:
# Spatiotemporal determination would be impossible -- experiences of object X are not occurrent everywhere and at every time so there must be some external basis for our experiences.

# Many people experience X and not just one person, as in the case of a hallucination.

# Hallucinations can be determined because they do not possess pragmatic results. It does not follow that entities, which we generally accept as real, can be placed in the same class.

In reply, Vasubandhu argued that these were after all no objections; they simply failed to show that perception-only as a teaching was beyond the limits of what could be concretely reasoned. Spatiotemporal determination can be elucidated on the analogy of dream experience, where a complete and surreal world is created with objects appearing to have spatiotemporal localization despite the fact that they do not exist apart from the mind which is cognizing them. Moreover, the second objection can be met by recourse to the wider Buddhist religious framework. The hells and their tortures, which are taught by Buddhist beliefs as the result of wicked deeds, and to be endured for a very long time till purified, are experienced as the collective fruit of the previous karmas done by those hell inmates. The torturers of hell obviously can not really exist, otherwise they would have been reborn in hell themselves and would too experience the sufferings associated with it. If this were the case then how could they jovially inflict sufferings upon their fellow inmates? Thus they must be illusive, and yet they are experienced by a number of people. Finally, as in a dream objects bear some pragmatic purpose within that dream, and likewise in hell, so in everyday life. Furthermore, as physical activity can be directed toward unreal objects in a dream owing, it is said, to nervous irritation on the part of the dreamer, so too in daily life.

e. The Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra

Representing a two-hundred-year development within the Vijnanavadin tradition subsequent to the Lankavatara Sutra (Sutra on the Buddha's Entering the Country of Lanka) and being the primary text of the Faxiang School, the Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra is an exhaustive study of the alaya-vijnana and the sevenfold development of the manas, manovijnana, and the five sensorial consciousnesses. As a creative and elaborate exposition of Vasubandhu's Trimsika-vijnapti-matrata-siddhi (Treatise in Thirty Stanzas on Consciousness Only) rendered by Xuanzang in 648 at Great Happiness Monastery, it synthesizes the ten most significant commentaries written on it, and becomes the enchiridion of the new Faxiang School of Buddhist idealism. It is mainly a translation by Xuanzang in 659 of Dharmapala's commentary on the Trimsika-vijnapti-matrata-siddhi, yet it also contains edited translations of other masters' works on the same verses. This is the only translation by Xuanzang that is not a direct translation of a text, but instead a selective and evaluative editorial drawing on ten distinct texts. Since Kuiji aligned himself with this text as assuming the role of Xuanzang's successor, the East Asian tradition has treated the Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra as the pivotal exemplar of Xuanzang's teachings.

In both style and content, the Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra symbolizes a superior advance over the earlier Lankavatara Sutra, a basic Faxiang School's canonical text that sets forth quite a few hallmarks of Mahayana position, such as the eight consciousnesses and the tathagatagarbha (Womb of the Buddha-to-be). Instead of bearing the latter's cryptically aphoristic form, Xuanzang's treatise is a detailed and coherent analysis, a scholastic apologetics on the doctrine of Consciousness-only. Without any reference to the tathagatagarbha itself, the Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra firmly grounds its pan-consciousness upon Absolute Suchness or the existence of the mind as true reality. Aside from human consciousness, another principle is accepted as real -- the so-called suchness, which is the equivalent of the void of the Madhyamika School.

The Vijnaptimatratasiddhi-sastra spells out how there can be a common empirical world for different individuals who ideate or construct particular objects, and who possess distinct bodies and sensory systems. According to Xuanzang, the universal "seeds" in the store consciousness account for the common appearance of things, while particular "seeds" make a description of the differences.

f. Faxiang doctrines

Being a first and foremost idealistic school of Mahayana Buddhism, the Faxiang School categorically discerns chimerical phenomena manifested in consistent patterns of regularity and continuity; in order to justify this order in which only defiled elements could prevail before enlightenment is attained, it created the tenet of the alaya-vijnana. Sense perceptions are commanded as regular and coherent by a store of consciousnesses, of which one is consciously unaware. Then, sense impressions produce certain configurations in this insensibility that "perfumate" later impressions so that they appear consistent and regular. Each and every single one of beings possesses this seed consciousness, which therefore becomes a sort of collective consciousness that takes control of human perceptions of the world, though this world does not exist at all according to the very tenet. This school's forerunner had emerged in India roughly the second century AD, yet had its period of greatest productivity in the fourth century, during the time of Asanga and Vasubandha. Following them, the school divided into two branches, the Nyayanusarino Vijnanavadinah (Vijnanavada School of the Logical Tradition) and the Agamanusarino Vijnanavadinah (Vijnanavada School of the Scriptural Tradition), with the former sub-school postulating the standpoints of the logician Dignaga (c. AD 480-540) and his successor, Dharmakirti (c. AD 600?-680?).

This consciousness-oriented school of ideology was largely represented in China by the Faxiang School, called Popsang in Korea, and Hosso in Japan. The radical teachings of Yogacara became known in China primarily through a work of Paramartha, a sixth-century Indian missionary-translator. His rendition of the Mahayana-samparigraha-sastra (Compendium of the Great Vehicle) by Asanga provided a sound base for the Sanlun (Three-Treatise) School, which preceded the Faxiang School as the vehicle of Yogacara thought in China. Faxiang is the Chinese translation of the Sanskrit term dharmalaksana (characteristic of dharma), referring to the school's basal emphasis on the unique characteristics of the dharmas that make up the world, which appears in human ideation. According to Faxiang doctrines, there are five categories of dharmas: (1) eight mental dharmas, encompassing the five sense consciousnesses, cognition, the cognitive faculty, and the store consciousness; (2) eleven elements relating to appearances or material forms; (3) fifty-one mental capacities or functions, activities, and dispositions; (4) twenty-four situations, processes, and things not associated with the mind -- for example, time and becoming; and (5) six non-conditioned or non-created elements -- for instance, space and the nature of existence.

Alaya-consciousness is posited as the receptacle of the imprint of thoughts and deeds, thus it is the dwelling of sundry karmic seeds. These "germs" develop into form, feeling, perception, impulse, and consciousness, collectively known as the Five Aggregates. Then ideation gradually takes shape, which triggers off a self or mind against an outer world. Finally comes the awareness of the objects of thought via sense perceptions and ideas. The store consciousness must be purified of its subject-object duality and notions of false existence, and restored to its pure state tantamount to buddhahood, the Absolute Suchness, and the undifferentiated. In line with these three elements of false imagination, right knowledge, and suchness is the three modes in which things respectively are: (1) the mere fictions of false imagination; (2) under certain conditions to relatively exist; and (3) in the perfect mode of being. Corresponding to this threefold version of the modes of existence is the tri-body doctrine of the Buddha -- the Dharma Body, the Reward Body, and the Response Body, a creed that was put into its systematic and highly developed theory by Yogacara thinkers. The distinguishing features of the Faxiang School lie in its highlight of meditation and broadly psychological analyses. Seen in this light, it is a fry cry from the other predominant Mahayana stream, Madhyamika, where the stress is entirely upon dialectics and logical arguments.

The base consciousness is interpreted as the container of the karmic impressions or seeds, nourished by us beings in the process of our existence. These seeds, ripening in the course of future circumstances, find the nearest parallel to the present-day understanding of genes. In view of the foregoing, philosophers of this school have constantly essayed to explain in detail how karmic force actually operates and affects us on a concrete, personal level. Comprised in this development of consciousness theory is the concept of conscious justification -- phenomena that are presumably external to us can never exist but in intimate association with consciousness itself. Such a notion is commonly referred to as "Mind Only."

The fundamental early canonical texts that expound Yogacara doctrines are such scriptures as the (Sutra on Understanding Profound and Esoteric Doctrine, the Srimala-sutra (Sutra on the Lion's Roar of Queen Srimala), and treatises like the Mahayana-samparigraha-sastra, the Prakaranaryavaca-sastra (Acclamation of the Scriptural Teaching), and the Yogacarabhumi, etc.

5. Conclusion

As an early and influential Chinese Buddhist monk, Xuanzang embodies the tensions inherent in Chinese Buddhism: filial piety versus monastic discipline, Confucian orthodoxy versus Mahayana progressivism, etc. Such tensions can be seen not only in his personal legacies, which include the extremely popular Chinese novel based on his travels, Xiyouji (Journey to the West), but also in the career of scholastic Buddhism in China.

For a time during the middle of the Tang Dynasty the Faxiang School achieved a high degree of eminence and popularity across China, but after the passing of Xuanzang and Kuiji the school swiftly declined. One of the factors resulting in this decadence was the anti-Buddhist imperial persecutions of 845. Another likely factor was the harsh criticism of Faxiang by members of the Huayan (Hua-yen) School. In addition, the philosophy of this school, with its abstruse terminology and hairsplitting analysis of the mind and the senses, was too alien to be accepted by the practical-minded Chinese.

6. References and Further Reading

Bapat, P. V., and K. A. Nilakanta Sastri, eds. 2500 Years of Buddhism. Delhi: Government of India Press, 1964.

Bernstein, Richard. Ultimate Journey: Retracing the Path of an Ancient Buddhist Monk Who Crossed Asia in Search of Enlightenment: Alfred A. Knopf, 2001.

Brown, Brian Edward. The Buddha Nature: A Study of the Tathagatagarbha and Alayavijnana. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1991.

Ch'en, Kenneth K. S. Buddhism in China: A Historical Survey. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1973.

Chatterjee, Ashok Kumar. The Yogacara Idealism. Delhi: Motilal Banarsidass, 1987.
The Unknown Hsuan-Tsang. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001.

Edkins, Joseph. Chinese Buddhism: A Volume of Sketches, Historical, Descriptive and Critical. San Francisco: Chinese Materials Center, 1976.

Grousset, Rene. In the Footsteps of the Buddha. San Francisco: Chinese Materials Center, 1976.

Hwui Li. The life of Hiuen-Tsiang. London: Kegan Paul, Trench, and Trubner, 1911.

Kieschnick, John. The Eminent Monk: Buddhist Ideals in Medieval Chinese Hagiography. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 1997.

Lan Ji-fu, ed. The Chung-hwa Fo Jian Bai Ke Quan Shu: Religious Affairs Committee of Foguangshan Buddhist Order, 1993.

Lusthaus, Dan. Buddhist Phenomenology: A Philosophical Investigation of Yogacara Buddhism and the Ch'eng Wei-shih lun. London: Routledge Curzon, 2002.

Nagao, Gadjin M. Madhyamika and Yogacara: A Study of Mahayana Philosophies. Albany: State University of New York Press, 1991.

Pachow, W. Chinese Buddhism: Aspects of Interaction and Reinterpretation. Lanham, MD: University Press of America, 1980.

Sharf, Robert H. Coming to Terms with Chinese Buddhism: A Reading of the Treasure Store Treatise. Honolulu: University of Hawaii Press, 2002.

Waley, Arthur. The Real Tripitaka, and Other Pieces. London: George Allen & Unwin, 1952.

Watters, Thomas. On Yuan Chwang's Travels in India: A. D. 629-645. Delhi: Munshiram Manoharlal, 1996.

William, Paul, Mahayana Buddhism (The Doctrinal Foundations). London: Routledge, 1991.

Wriggins, Sally Hovey. Xuanzang: A Buddhist Pilgrim on the Silk Road. Boulder: Westview Press, 1996.


With a number of extant writings, Xenophon is noted for his accounts of life in Greece, both in ancient times and during the 4th and 3rd centuries BCE. Formally a young student of Socrates, he would later record a number of Socratic dialogues as well as personal accounts of Socrates, whom he admired greatly. As a young adult, Xenophon informally served in the army under the Persian prince Cyrus the Younger, helping to lead his contingent over land back to the Black Sea after Cyrus' death in battle. His account of this journey, recorded in his Anabasis, is read in academia today, though more for its language than its testimony. Later joining the Spartan army, Xenophon, not at all a nationalist, was exiled from Athens after fighting against them in their war with Sparta. Eventually settling in Scillus in southern Greece, Xenophon began a long trajectory of writing--historical tracts, generalized works of instruction (specifically on training and rearing animals), essays on the military, politics and economics, as well as the aforementioned Socratic works. These latter works were both a recording of some of Socrates' dialogues, as well as a general history of Socrates' methods of teaching. Though Xenophon's Socratic tracts are largely disregarded, Xenophon's Memorabilia is often referenced as an account of Socrates' religious views.

1. Life

An Athenian, the son of Gryllus, Xenophon was born about 444 BCE. In his early life he was a pupil of Socrates; but the turning point in his career came when he decided to serve in the Greek contingent raised by Cyrus against Artaxerxes in 401. Xenophon himself mentions the circumstances under which he joined this army (Anab. 3:1). Proxenus, a friend of Xenophon, was already with Cyrus, and he invited Xenophon to come to Sardis, and promised to introduce him to the Persian prince. He accompanied Cyrus into Upper Asia. In the battle of Cunaxa (401 BCE.) Cyrus lost his life, his barbarian troops were dispersed, and the Greeks were left alone on the wide plains between the Tigris and the Euphrates. It was after the treacherous massacre of Clearchus and others of the Greek commanders by the Persian satrap Tissaphernes that Xenophon came forward. He had held no command in the army of Cyrus, nor had he, in fact, served as a soldier, yet he was elected one of the generals, and took the principal part in conducting the Greeks in their memorable retreat along the Tigris over the high table-lands of Armenia to Trapezus (Trebizond) on the Black Sea. From Trapezus the troops were conducted to Chrysopolis, which is opposite to Byzantium. The Greeks were in great distress, and some of them under Xenophon entered the service of Seuthes, king of Thrace. As the Lacedaemonians under Thimbrou (or Thibron) were now at war with Tissaphernes and Pharnabazus, Xenophon and his troops were invited to join the army of Thimbron, and Xenophon led them back out of Asia to join Thimbron (399). Xenophon, who was very poor, made an expedition into the plain of the Caicus with his troops before they joined Thimbrou, to plunder the house and property of a Persian named Asidates. The Persian, with his women, children, and all his movables, was seized, and Xenophon, by this robbery, replenished his empty pockets (Anab. 7:8, 23). He tells the story himself, and is evidently not ashamed of it.

In other ways he also showed himself the prototype of an adventurous leader of condottieri, with no ties of country or preference of nationality. He formed a scheme for establishing a town with the Ten Thousand on the shores of the Euxine; but it fell through. He joined the Spartans, as has been seen, and he continued in their service even when they were at war with Athens. Agesilaus, the Spartan, was commanding the Lacedaemonian forces in Asia against the Persians in 396, and Xenophon was with him at least during part of the campaign. When Agesilaus was recalled (394), Xenophon accompanied him, and he was on the side of the Lacedaemonians in the battle which they fought at Coronea (394) against the Athenians. As a natural consequence a decree of exile was passed against him at Athens. It seems that he went to Sparta with Agesilaus after the battle of Coronea, and soon after he settled at Scillus in Elis, not far from Olympia, a spot of which he has given a description in the Anabasis. Here he was joined by his wife, Philesia, and his children. His children were educated in Sparta.

Xenophon was now a Lacedaemonian so far as he could become one. His time during his long residence at Scillus was employed in hunting, writing, and entertaining his friends. Perhaps the Anabasis and part of the Hellenica were composed here. The treatise on hunting and that on the horse were probably also written during this time, when amusement and exercise of this kind formed part of his occupation. On the downfall of the Spartan supremacy, at Leuctra in 371, Xenophon was at last expelled from his quiet retreat at Scillus by the Elans, after remaining there about twenty years. The sentence of banishment from Athens was repealed on the motion of Eubulus, but it is uncertain in what year. There is no evidence that Xenophon ever returned to Athens. He is said to have retired to Corinth after his expulsion from Scillus, and as we know nothing more, we assume that he died there some time around 357.

2. Writings

The following is a list of Xenophon's works. (1) The Anabasis, a history of the expedition of the Younger Cyrus, and of the retreat of the Greeks who formed part of his army. It is divided into seven books. As regards the title, it will be noticed that under the name "The March Up" (ana, i.e., inland from the coast of Cunaxa) is included also the much longer account of the return march down to the Euxine. This work has immortalized Xenophon. It was the first work which made the Greeks acquainted with some portions of the Persian Empire, and it showed the weakness of that extensive monarchy. The skirmishes of the retreating Greeks with their enemies, and the battles with some of the barbarian tribes, are not such events as to elevate the work to the character of a military history. (2) The Hellenica is divided into seven books, and covers the forty-eight years from the time when the History of Thucydides ends to the battle of Mantinea. (3) The Cyropadia, in eight books, is a kind of political romance, the basis of which is the history of the Elder Cyrus, the founder of the Persian monarchy. The Agesilaus is a panegyric on Agesilaus II, king of Sparta, the friend of Xenophon. (5) The Hipparchicus is a treatise on the duties of a commander of cavalry, containing military precepts. (6) De Re Equestri is a treatise on the horse; it is not limited to horsemanship, but also shows how to avoid being cheated in buying a horse, and how to train a horse. (7) The Cynegeticus is a treatise on hunting, and on the breeding and training of hunting dogs. (8) The Respublica Lacedaemoniorum is a treatise on the Spartan states, and (9) the Atheniensium on the Athenian States. (10) The De Vectigalibus, a treatise on the revenues of Athens, is designed to show how the public revenue of Athens may be improved. (11) The Memorabilia of Socrates, in four books, was written by Xenophon to defend the memory of his master against the charge of irreligion and of corrupting the Athenian youth. Socrates is represented as holding a series of conversations, in which he develops and inculcates his moral doctrines. It is entirely a practical work such as we might expect from the practical nature of Xenophon, and it professes to show Socrates as he taught. (12) The Apology of Socrates is a short speech, containing the reasons which induced Socrates to prefer death to life. (13) The Symposium, or Banquet of Philosophers, delineates the character of Socrates. The speakers are supposed to meet at the house of Callias, a rich Athenian, at the celebration of the Great Panathenaea. Socrates and others are the speakers. It is possible that Plato wrote his Symposium later, to some extent as a corrective. (14) The Hiero is a dialogue between King Hiero and Simonides, in which the king speaks of the dangers and difficulties inherent in an exalted station, and the superior happiness of a private man. The poet, on the other hand, enumerates the advantages which the possession of power gives, and the means which it offers of obliging and doing services. (15) The Oeconomicus ("The Complete Householder") is a treatise in the form of a dialogue between Socrates and Critobulus, in which Socrates gives instruction in the administration of a household and property.

3. Xenophon's Account of Socrates

Four of Xenophon's works listed above purport to record actual conversations of Socrates, whom he had known as a young man. In the Anabasis, Xenophon consulted Socrates on his decision to join Cyrus. Socrates advised him to consult the oracle of Delphi, as it was a hazardous matter for him to enter the service of Cyrus, who was considered to be the friend of the Lacedaemonians and the enemy of Athens. Xenophon went to Delphi, but he did not ask the god whether he should go or not; he probably had made up his mind. He merely inquired to what gods he should sacrifice so that he might be successful in his intended enterprise. Socrates was not satisfied with his pupil's mode of consulting the oracle; but as he had got an answer, he told him to go. He tells us frankly that Socrates rebuked him for this evasion, and that is all we know of their discussion. If there had been more to tell, Xenophon would have told it, for he was not averse to talking about himself. At this time Xenophon was under thirty, and Socrates had passed away before his return from Asia. Several of the Socratic conversations he records are on subjects we know Xenophon was specially interested in, and the views he offers in them are just those he elsewhere expresses in his own name or through the mouth of Cyrus in the Cyropadia. Accordingly, no one appeals to such works as Oeconomicus for evidence regarding the historical Socrates. His Apology and Symposium are similarly disregarded as sources of information on Socrates.

Since the eighteenth century, however, it has been customary to make an exception in favor of a single work, the Memorabilia, composed by the exiled Xenophon with the professed intention of showing that Socrates was not irreligious, and that, so far from corrupting the young, he did them a great deal of good by his conversations. It makes sense that the eighteenth-century should have preferred the Socrates of the Memorabilia to that of the Platonic dialogues, for he comes nearer to their idea of what a philosopher ought to be. In other respects it is hard to see what there is to recommend Xenophon. It is recognized that he is far from being a trustworthy historian, and the Cyropaedia shows his turn for philosophical romance. It is methodologically unsound to isolate the Memorabilia from Xenophon's other Socratic writings, unless there are strong reasons to do so. Thus, since it is impossible to get anything like a complete picture of Socrates from the Memorabilia alone, Xenophon supporters fill their outline with Plato's account.

Nevertheless, one of the Memorabilia's chief arguments for the soundness of Socrates' religious attitude is that he refused to busy himself with natural science and dissuaded others from studying it. What Plato tells us of the disappointment of Socrates with Anaxagoras, and his renunciation of physical speculations at an early age is enough to explain Xenophon's contention. Xenophon continues, though, maintaining that Socrates was not unversed in mathematical and astronomical subjects. Further, he knew that what Aristophanes burlesqued in the Clouds was true, since Xenophon makes Socrates tell the Sophist Antophon, who was trying to rob him of his disciples, that he does in fact study the writings of the older philosophers "unrolling the treasures... which they have written down in books and left behind them" (Mem 1:6:14). Admissions like these are more important than the words put into Socrates' mouth denying scientific study. It would be possible to find other admissions of this sort in Xenophon, but it is not clear how far the Memorabilia can be regarded as independent testimony at all. In fact, it is likely that Xenophon relied on Plato's dialogues for his information about Socrates. Otherwise, it would be significant that he has heard of the importance of "hypothesis" in Socrates' dialectic system.


Founder of the Eleatic school of philosophy, Xenophanes was a native of Colophon, and born about 570 BCE. It is difficult to determine the dates of his life with any accuracy and the facts of his life are also obscure. Xenophanes early left his own country and took refuge in Sicily, where he supported himself by reciting, at the court of Hiero, elegiac and iambic verses, which he had written in criticism of the Theogony of Hesiod and Homer. From Sicily he passed over into Magna Graecia, where he took up the profession of philosophy, and became a celebrated teacher in the Pythagorean school. Give way to a greater freedom of thought than was usual among the disciples of Pythagoras, he introduced new opinions of his own opposing the doctrines of Epimenides, Thales, and Pythagoras. He held the Pythagorean chair of philosophy for about seventy years, and lived to the extreme age of 105.

Xenophanes was an elegiac and satirical poet who approached the question of science from the standpoint of the reformer rather than of the scientific investigator. If we look at the very considerable remains of his poetry that have come down to us, we see that they are all in the satirist's and social reformer's vein. There is one dealing with the management of a feast, another which denounces the exaggerated importance attached to athletic victories, and several which attack the humanized gods of Homer. The problem is, therefore, to find, if we can, a single point of view from which all these fragments can be interpreted, although it may be that no such point of view exists. Like the religious reformers of the day, Xenophanes turned his back on the anthropomorphic polytheism of Homer and Hesiod. This revolt is based on a conviction that the tales of the poets are directly responsible for the moral corruption of the time. 'Homer and Hesiod have ascribed to the gods all things that are a shame and a disgrace among mortals, stealing and adulteries and deceiving of another' (fr. 11). And this he held was due to the representation of the gods in human form. Men make gods in their own image; those of the Ethiopians are black and snub-nosed, those of the Thracians have blue eyes and red hair (fr 16). If horses or oxen or lions had hands and could produce works of art, they too would represent the gods after their own fashion (fr. 15). All that must be swept away along with the tales of Titans and Giants, those 'figments of an earlier day' (fr. 1) if social life is to be reformed.

Xenophanes found the weapons he required for his attack on polytheism in the science of the time. Here are traces of Anaximander's cosmology in the fragments, and Xenophanes may easily have been his disciple before he left Ionia. He seems to have taken the gods of mythology one by one and reduced them to meteorological phenomena, and especially to clouds. And he maintained there was only one god -- namely, the world. God is one incorporeal eternal being, and, like the universe, spherical in form; that he is of the same nature with the universe, comprehending all things within himself; is intelligent, and pervades all things, but bears no resemblance to human nature either in body or mind.

He taught that if there had ever been a time when nothing existed, nothing could ever have existed. Whatever is, always has been from eternity, without deriving its existence from any prior principles. Nature, he believed, is one and without limit; that what is one is similar in all its parts, else it would be many; that the one infinite, eternal, and homogeneous universe is immutable and incapable of change. His position is often classified as pantheistic, although his use of the term 'god' simply follows the use characteristic of the early cosmologists generally. There is no evidence that Xenophanes regarded this 'god' with any religious feeling, and all we are told about him (or rather about it) is purely negative. He is quite unlike a man, and has no special organs of sense, but 'sees all over, thinks all over, hears all over' (fr. 24). Further, he does not go about from place to place (fr. 26), but does everything 'without toil (fr. 25). It is not safe to go beyond this; for Xenophanes himself tells us no more. It is pretty certain that if he had said anything more positive or more definitely religious in its bearing it would have been quoted by later writers.

Yinyang (Yin-yang)

Yinyang (yin-yang) is one of the dominant concepts shared by different schools throughout the history of Chinese philosophy. Just as with many other Chinese philosophical notions, the influences of yinyang are easy to observe, but its conceptual meanings are hard to define. Despite the differences in the interpretation, application, and appropriation of yinyang, three basic themes underlie nearly all deployments of the concept in Chinese philosophy: (1) yinyang as the coherent fabric of nature and mind, exhibited in all existence, (2) yinyang as jiao (interaction) between the waxing and waning of the cosmic and human realms, and (3) yinyang as a process of harmonization ensuring a constant, dynamic balance of all things. As the Zhuangzi (Chuang-tzu) claims, “Yin in its highest form is freezing while yang in its highest form is boiling. The chilliness comes from heaven while the warmness comes from the earth. The interaction of these two establishes he (harmony), so it gives birth to things. Perhaps this is the law of everything yet there is no form being seen.”(Zhuangzi, Chapter 21). In none of these conceptions of yinyang is there a valuational hierarchy, as if yin could be abstracted from yang (or vice versa), regarded as superior or considered metaphysically separated and distinct. Instead, yinyang is emblematic of valuational equality rooted in the unified, dynamic, and harmonized structure of the cosmos. As such, it has served as a heuristic mechanism for formulating a coherent view of the world throughout Chinese intellectual and religious history.

1. Origins of the Terms Yin and Yang

The earliest Chinese characters for yin and yang are found in inscriptions made on “oracle bones” (skeletal remains of various animals used in ancient Chinese divination practices at least as early as the 14th century BCE). In these inscriptions, yin and yang simply are descriptions of natural phenomena such as weather conditions, especially the movement of the sun. There is sunlight during the day (yang) and a lack of sunlight at night (yin). According to the earliest comprehensive dictionary of Chinese characters (ca. 100 CE), Xu Shen’s Shuowen jiezi (Explaining Single-component Graphs and Analyzing Compound Characters), yin refers to “a closed door, darkness and the south bank of a river and the north side of a mountain.” Yang refers to “height, brightness and the south side of a mountain.” These meanings of yin and yang originated in the daily life experience of the early Chinese. Peasants depended on sunlight for lighting and their daily life routines. When the sun came out, they would go to the field to work; when the sun went down, they would return home to rest. This sun-based daily pattern evidently led to a conceptual claim: yang is movement (dong) and yin is rest (jing). In their earliest usages, yin and yang existed independently and were not connected. The first written record of using these two characters together appears in a verse from the Shijing (Book of Songs): “Viewing the scenery at a hill, looking for yinyang.” This indicates that yang is the sunny side and yin is the shady side of hill. This effect of the sun exists at the same time over the hill.

2. The Yinyang School

According to Sima Tan (Ssu-ma Tan, ca. 110 BCE), there existed a school of teaching during the “Spring and Autumn” (770-481 BCE) and “Warring States” (403-221 BCE) periods that bore the name of yinyang. He lists this yinyang school alongside five others (Confucian, Mohist, Legalist, Fatalist, and Daoist) and defines its theory as “the investigation of the shu [art] of yin and yang.” According to him, this school focused on omens of luck and explored the patterns of the four seasons. In other words, the yinyang school was concerned with methods of divination or astronomy (disciplines that were not distinct from one another in early China, as elsewhere in the ancient world) and the calendrical arts (which entailed study of the four seasons, eight locations, twelve du [measures] and twenty-four shijie [time periods]). Just as the Confucians (rujia) arose from the ranks of rushi (“scholar-gentlemen”) who excelled at ritual and music, those of the yingyang school came from the fangshi (“recipe-gentlemen”) who specialized in various numerological disciplines known as shushu (“number-arts”). These shushu included tianwen (astronomy), lipu (calendar-keeping), wuxing (“five phases” correlative theory), zhuguai (tortoise-shell divination), zazha (fortune-telling) and xingfa (face-reading). The Han dynasty chronicle Shiji (Records of the Historian) lists Zou Yan (305-240 BCE) as a representative of the yinyang school who possessed a profound knowledge of the theory of yinyang and wrote about a hundred thousand words on it. However, none of his works have survived.

By the Han dynasty (202 BCE-220 CE), yinyang was associated with wuxing (“five phases”) correlative cosmology. According to the “Great Plan” chapter of the Shujing (Classic of Documents), wuxing refers to material substances that have certain functional attributes: water is said to soak and descend; fire is said to blaze and ascend; wood is said to curve or be straight; metal is said to obey and change; earth is said to take seeds and give crops. Wuxing is used as a set of numerological classifiers and explains the configuration of change on various scales. The so-called yinyang wuxing teaching – an “early Chinese attempt in the direction of working out metaphysics and a cosmology” (Chan 1963: 245) – was a fusion of these two conceptual schemes applied to astronomy and the mantic arts.

3. Yinyang as Qi (Vital Energy)

The most enduring interpretation of yinyang in Chinese thought is related to the concept of qi (ch’i, vital energy). According to this interpretation, yin and yang are seen as qi (in both yin and yang forms) operating in the universe. In the “Duke Shao” chapter of the Zuozhuan (The Book of History), yin and yang are first defined as two of six heavenly qi:

There are six heavenly influences [qi] which descend and produce the five tastes, go forth in the five colours, and are verified in the five notes; but when they are in excess, they produce the six diseases. Those six influences are denominated the yin, the yang, wind, rain, obscurity, and brightness. In their separation, they form the four seasons; in their order, they form the five (elementary) terms. When any of them is in excess, they ensure calamity. An excess of the yin leads to diseases of cold; of the yang, to diseases of heat. (Legge 1994: 580).

Here, yin and yang are the qi of the universe. These qi flow within the natural as well as the human worlds. They are the basic fabric of existence:

Heaven and earth have their regular ways, and men like these for their pattern, imitating the brilliant bodies of Heaven, and according with the natural diversities of the Earth. (Heaven and Earth) produce the six atmospheric conditions [qi], and make use of the five material elements. Those conditions (and elements) become the five tastes, are manifested in the five colours, and displayed in the five notes. When they are in excess, there ensue obscurity and confusion, and people lose their (proper) nature… There were mildness and gentleness kindness and harmony, in imitation of the producing and nourishing action of Heaven. There are love and hatred, pleasure and anger, grief and joy, produced by the six atmosphere conditions [qi]. Therefore (the sage kings) carefully imitated these relations and analogies (in forming ceremonies), to regulate those six impulses…When there is no failure in the joy and grief, we have a state in harmony with the nature of Heaven and Earth, which consequently can endure long. ( Legge 1994: 708).

Thus qi, a force arising from the interplay between yin and yang, becomes a context in which yinyang is seated and functions. Yinyang as qi provides an explanation of the beginning of the universe and serves as a building block of the Chinese intellectual tradition. In many earlier texts, one may observe how yinyang generates a philosophical perspective on heaven, earth and human beings. Chapter 42 of the Laozi says that "everything is embedded in yin and embraces yang; through chong qi [vital energy] it reaches he [harmony].” It is through yinyang’s function as qi and the interaction between them that everything comes into existence. Zhuangzi also speaks about the “qi of yin and yang”: “When the qi of yin and yang are not in harmony, and cold and heat come in untimely ways, all things will be harmed.” (Zhuangzi ch. 31) On the other hand, “when the two have successful intercourse and achieve harmony, all things will be produced.” (Zhuangzi ch. 21)

The interpretation of yinyang as qi conceives yinyang as a dynamic and natural form of flowing energy, a complementary in the primordial potency of the universe. The Huainanzi offers more detailed explanation of the cosmological process of yin and yang:

When heaven and earth were formed, they divided into yin and yang. Yang is generated [sheng] from yin and yin is generated from yang. Yin and yang mutually alternate which makes four fields [wei, “celestial circles”] penetrate. Sometimes there is life, sometimes there is death, that brings the myriad things to completion. (ch. 2)

This process also explains the beginning of human life. When qi moved, the clear and light rose to be heaven and the muddy and heavy fell to become earth. When these two qi interacted and attained the stage of harmony (he), human life began. This shows that everything is made from the same materials and difference relies on the interaction.

Qi also takes on various forms and is convertible from one form to another with order and pattern. The concept of yinyang supplies a unitary vision of heaven, earth and human beings and makes the world intelligible in terms of a resonance between human beings and the universe. The Guoyu (Discourses of the States) describes how earthquakes took place at the confluence of the Jing, Wei, and Lou rivers during the second year of Duke You of the western Zhou dynasty. A certain Boyang Fu claims that the Zhou empire is doomed to collapse, explaining that

The qi of heaven and earth can’t lose its order. If its order vanishes people will be disoriented. Yang was stuck and could not get out, yin was suppressed and could not evaporate, so an earthquake was inevitable. Now the earthquakes around the three rivers are due to yang losing its place and yin being pressed down. Yang is forsaken under yin so the source of rivers has been blocked. If the foundation of rivers is blocked the country will definitely collapse. This is because of the fact that the flowing water and flourishing land are necessities for the people’s lives. If the water and land cannot sustain the people’s living conditions, the country will inevitably fall. (Discourse of the States 1994: 22).

Not only does this ¬yinyang-flavored explanation claim to illuminate natural phenomena, it also implies that there is an intrinsic relationship between natural events and political systems. Human beings, especially political leaders, must align their virtuous actions with the morally-oriented universe. If they follow and harmonize with (shun) the order and patterns of the universe, they will be rewarded with prosperity and flourishing, but if they go against and conflict with (ni) it, they will be punished with disasters and destruction. Whether one engages in shun or ni depends upon whether yin and yang are in a state of balance. Thus, yinyang provides a heuristic outlook for human understanding as well as ethical guidance for achieving harmony in action. As chapter 8 of the Huainanzi claims:

Yinyang embodies the harmony of heaven and earth, manifests the forms of myriad things, contains qi to transform the things and completes various kinds of things; yinyang extends and penetrates to the deepest level; begins in emptiness then becomes full and moves in boundless lands.

4. Yinyang as Xingzi (Concrete Substance)

Yinyang also has been understood as some concrete substance (xingzhi), according to which yixing and yangxing define everything in the universe. In the Yijing (I-Ching, The Book of Changes), yinyang is presented as xingzhi. Yang was identified with the sun and yin with the moon:

Heaven and earth correlate with vast and profound; four seasons correlate with change and continuity [biantong]; the significance of yin and yang correlate with sun and moon; the highest excellence [zhide] correlates the goodness of easy and simple.(Sishu wujing 1990: 197)

The Guanzi, an important work of the Huang-Lao school, discusses this view along the same lines: “The sun is in charge of yang, the moon is in charge of yin, the stars are in charge of harmony [he].” (Guanzi 2000: 151). This xingzhi interpretation materializes the concept of yinyang in some concrete contexts and shows that the universe is orderly, moral and gendered. The pattern of the world is written in a gendered language. Yinyang is something one can see, feel, and grasp through the senses. For example, in the Liji (Book of Ritual), music represents the he (harmony) of heaven and earth, while li (ritual) represents the order of heaven and earth: “Music is coming from yang, ritual is coming from yin. The harmony of yinyang receives the myriad things.” (Sishu wujing 1990: 525) In the human world, male as yang should be cultivated, otherwise the day will suffer; female as yin should be cultivated too, otherwise the moon will be affected.

According to Dong Zhongshu, (195-115 BCE), both Tian (heaven) and human beings have yinyang. Therefore, there is an intrinsic connection between tian and human beings through the movement of yin and yang. Yinyang is an essential vehicle for interactions between heaven and human beings: “The qi of yinyang moves heaven above as well as in human beings. When it is among human beings it is displayed itself as like, dislike, happy and mad, when it is in heaven it is seen as warm, chilly, cold and hot.” (Dong Zhongshu 1996: 436) In Dong’s cosmological vision, the whole universe is a giant yinyang. One of many examples of this vision is Dong’s proposal to control floods and prevent droughts by proper human interaction. In chapter 74 (“Seeking the Rain”) of his Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn, Dong asserts that a spring drought indicates too much yang and not enough yin. So one should “open yin and close yang” (1996: 432) He suggests that the government should have the south gate closed, which is in the direction of yang. Men, embodying yang, should remain in seclusion. Women, embodying yin, should appear in public. He even requests all married couples to copulate (ouchu) to secure more yinyang intercourse. It is also important during this time to make women happy. (1996: 436) In chapter 75 (“Stopping the Rain”), Dong alleges that the flood proves there is too much yin so one should “open yang and close yin” (1996: 438). The north gate, the direction of yin, should be wide open. Women should go into concealment and men should be visible. Officers in the city should send their wives to the countryside in order to make sure that yin will not conquer yang. Derk Bodde defines this practice as a “sexual sympathetic magic.” (Bodde 1981: 373)

Finally, yinyang also plays a pivotal role in traditional Chinese thought about health and the human body. The early medical text known as the Huangdi neijing (The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Internal Medicine) provides a detailed account of physiological functions and pathological changes in the body and guidance for diagnosis and treatment in terms of yinyang. Five zang (organs) -- the kidneys, liver, heart, spleen and lungs -- are classified as yin. They control the storage of vital substance and qi. Six fu (organs) -- the gallbladder, stomach, small and large intestines, urinary bladder and triple burner (referring to three parts of the body cavity: the upper burner, which houses the heart and lungs; the middle burner, which houses the spleen and stomach; and the lower burner, which houses the kidney, urinary bladder and small and large intestines) -- are yang and control the transport and digestion of food. The storage is a yin function, and the transport and transformation of substance is a yang function. But the zang and fu organs can be further subdivided into yin and yang. The activity or function of each organ is its yang aspect, while its substance is its yin aspect. Yin should flow smoothly and yang should vivify steadily. They regulate themselves so as to maintain equilibrium. Yin and yang do not exist in isolation but are in a dynamic state in which they interact and fashion the complicated and intricate system of the human body.

5. The Yinyang Symbol

There is no a clear and definite way to determine the exact date of origin or the person who created the popular yinyang symbol. No one has ever claimed specific ownership of this popular image. However, there is a rich textual and visual history leading to its creation. Inspired by a primeval vision of cosmic harmony, Chinese thinkers have sought to codify this order in various intellectual constructions. Whether to formulate this underlying pattern through words and concepts or numbers and visual images has been debated since the Han dynasty. The question first surfaced in the interpretation of the Yijing. The Yijing is constructed around sixty-four hexagrams (gua), each of which is made of six parallel broken or unbroken line segments (yao). Each of the sixty-four hexagrams has a unique designation; its image (xiang) refers to a particular natural object and conveys the meaning of human events and activities. The Yijing thus has generated a special way to decipher the universe. It mainly incorporates three elements: xiang (images), shu (numbers), and li (meanings). They act as the mediators between heavenly cosmic phenomena and earthly human everyday life. From the Han dynasty through the Ming and Qing dynasties (1368-1912 CE), there was a consistent tension between two schools of thought: the school of xiangshu (images and numbers) and the school of yili (meanings and reasoning). At issue between them is how best to interpret the classics, particularly the Yijing. The question often was posed as: “Am I interpreting the six classics or are the six classics interpreting me?”

For the school of Xiangshu the way to interpret the classics is to produce a figurative and numerological representation of the universe through xiang (images) and shu (numbers). It held that xiangshu are indispensable structures expressing the Way of heaven, earth and human being. Thus the school of Xiangshu takes the position that “I interpret the classics” by means of the images and numbers. The emphasis is on the appreciation of classics. The school of Yili, on the other hand, focuses on an exploration of the meanings of the classics on the basis of one’s own reconstruction. In other word, the school of Yili treats all classics as supporting evidence for their own ideas and theories. The emphasis is more on idiosyncratic new theories rather than the explanation of the classics. In what follows, our inquiry focuses on the legacy of the Xiangshu school.

The most common effort of the Xiangshu school was to draw tu (diagrams). Generations of intellectuals labored on the formulation and creation of numerous tu. Tu often delineate structure, place, and numbers through black and white lines. They are not aesthetic objects but rather serve as a means of articulating the fundamental patterns that govern phenomena in the universe. Tu are universes in microcosm and demonstrate obedience to definite norms or rules. During the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE), the Daoist monk Chen Tuan (906-989 CE) made an important contribution to this tradition by drawing a few tu in order to elucidate the Yijing. Though none of his tu were directly passed down, he is considered the forerunner of the school of tushu (diagrams and writings). It is said that he left behind three tu; since his death, attempting to discover these tu has become a popular scholarly pursuit. After Chen Tuan, three trends in making tu emerged, exemplified by the work of three Neo-Confucian thinkers: the Hetu (Diagram of River) and Luoshu (Chart of Luo) ascribed to Liu Mu (1011-1064 CE), the Xiantian tu (Diagram of Preceding Heaven) credited to Shao Yong (1011-1077 CE), and the Taijitu (Diagram of the Great Ultimate) attributed to Zhou Dunyi (1017-1073 CE). These three trends eventually led to the creation of the first yinyang symbol by Zhao Huiqian (1351-1395 CE), entitled Tiandi Zhiran Hetu (Heaven and Earth’s Natural Diagram of the River) and pictured above at the head of this entry.

6. References and Further Reading

Bennett, Steven J. “Patterns of the Sky and the Earth: A Chinese Science of Applied Cosmology.” Chinese Science (March 1978) 3: 1-26.

Chan, Wing-tsit, ed. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1963.

Bodde, Derk. Essays on Chinese Civilization. Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1981.

Dong, Zhongshu. Luxuriant Gems of the Spring and Autumn. Ed. Su Xing. Beijing: Chinese Press, 1996.

Fung, Yu-lan. A Short History of Chinese Philosophy. Trans. Derk Bodde. New York: The Free Press, 1997.

Graham, A.C. Yin-Yang and the Nature of Correlative Thinking. Singapore: The Institute of East Asian Philosophies, 1986.

Guanzi. Ed. Guan Bo. Beijing: Hua Xia Press, 2000.

Guoyu (Discourse of the States). Eds. Wu Guoyi, Hu Guowen and Li Xiaolu. Shanghai: Guji Press, 1994.

Huainanzi. Ed. Liu An. Xi’an: Sanqing Press, 1998.

Henderson, John B. The Development and Decline of Chinese Cosmology. New York: Columbia University Press, 1984.

Inoue, Satoshi. Xianqin Yinyang Wuxing (Pre-Qin Yinyang and Five Phases). Hubei: Education Press, 1997.

Kohn, Livia. “Ying and Yang: The Natural Dimension of Evil.” In Philosophies of Nature: The Human Dimension, eds. Robert S. Cohen and Alfred I. Tauber (New York: Kluwer Academic Publishers, 1997), 91-106.

Legge, James. The Chinese Classics: The Ch’un Ts’ew, with Tso Chuen. Taipei: SMC Publishing Inc., 1994.

Li, Shen and Guo Yu, eds. The Complete Selection of Diagrams of Zhouyi. Shanghai: China Eastern Normal University Press, 2004.

Makeham, John. Transmitters and Creators: Chinese Commentators and Commentaries on the Analects. Harvard East Asian Monographs, no. 228. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 2003.

Needham, Joseph. Science and Civilization in China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1956.

Porkert, Manfred. The Theoretical Foundations of Chinese Medicine: Systems of Correspondence. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1974.

Puett, Michael J. To Become a God: Cosmology, Sacrifice and Self-Divination in Early China. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 2002.

Roth, Harold D. Original Tao: Inward Training (Nei-yeh) and the Foundations of Taoist Mysticism. New York: Columbia University Press, 1999.

Rubin, Vitaly A. “The Concepts of Wu-Hsing and Yin-Yang,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy 9 (1982): 131-157.

Sishu wujing (Four Books and Five Classics). China: Yuling Press, 1990.

Yabuuti, Kiyosi. “Chinese Astronomy: Development and Limiting Factors.” In Chinese Science: Explorations of an Ancient Tradition, eds. Shigeru Nakayama and Nathan Sivin (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 1973), 91-103.

Yang, Xuepeng. Yinyang Qi yu Bianliang (Yinyang Qi and Changes). Beijing: Chinese Science Press, 1993.

Yates, Robin D.S. Five Lost Classics: Tao, Huang-Lao, and Yin-yang in Han China. New York: Ballantine Books, 1997.

Zhuangzi. Ed. Chen Guying. Beijing: Chinese Press, 1983.