Intellectuals and the Criticism of Authoritarian Government: Two Types of Qi Theory in the Mencius and Zhuangzi

Vol. 43 No. 1   03/2013    


Intellectuals and the Criticism of Authoritarian Government: Two Types of Qi Theory in the Mencius and Zhuangzi


Lai, Hsi-san  









Key words

Mencius, Zhuangzi, qi, ethics, mysticism, intellectuals  


        Both the Mencius and the Zhuangzi share a fundamental concern with ethics. This concern, which begins with human beings and extends to heaven, earth and the myriad things, is tied to the physical and psychological aspects of qi. It is only through an intimate understanding of qi that an ethics based in a profound concern for the myriad things can truly be put into practice. This study begins by exploring how the “ontology of qi” is realized in ethical practice. Mencius and Zhuangzi both espoused psychological and physical harmony, which, they asserted, led to a feeling of connectedness between self and other, as well as the development of sympathy and care for human beings and all things. On the basis of this theory, Mencius and Zhuangzi established the ethical practices of Confucians and Daoists. In addition, both thinkers used this theory to confront the injustice of authoritarian violence encountered by people in political society. Internal physical and psychological sympathy provided both Confucians and Daoists with a potential means of criticism that could demonstrate the care and courage of intellectuals. In this way, the theory of qi can be connected to not only the Confucian and Daoist concern for the public welfare, but also to their criticism of authoritarian government. Through a comparison of how the Mencius and the Zhuangzi conceived of these two issues, this paper intends to demonstrate a point of complementarity between Confucian and Daoist intellectuals.



Author: Lai, Hsi-san
Genre: Article