| The early Han dynasty (207 B.C.-9 A.D.) devoted
itself to regaining the same level of central government as the Ch'in (221
B.C.-207 B.C.) and the Legalists had so ruthlessly accomplished. This ideology
of central government, along with the Legalists' attempts to standardize
Chinese culture and Chinese philosophy, led thinkers of the Han to attempt
to unify all the rival schools of Chinese thought and philosophy that had
developed over the previous three hundred years.
The Legalists attempted to standardize Chinese thought by burning the books of rival schools and by making it a capital crime to speak of Confucius, Lao Tzu, or Mo Tzu. The Han thinkers, who thoroughly despised the Legalists and their methods while adopting many of their goals, took a different approach; rather than reject alternate ways of thinking, they took a syncretic approach and attempted to fuse all the rival schools of thought into a single system. This syncretic project of the early Han is known as the Han synthesis.
|The Han philosophers concentrated specifically on the Five
Classics, attempting to derive from them, particularly the I
| The essentials of the yin-yang school are as
follows: the universe is run by a single principle, the Tao, or Great Ultimate.
This principle is divided into two opposite principles, or two principles
which oppose one another in their actions, yin and yang. All the opposites
one perceives in the universe can be reduced to one of the opposite forces.
The yin and yang accomplish changes in the universe through the five material
agents, or wu
|The yin and yang represent all the opposite principles one finds in the universe. Under yang are the principles of maleness, the sun, creation, heat, light, Heaven, dominance, and so on, and under yin are the principles of femaleness, the moon, completion, cold, darkness, material forms, submission, and so on. Each of these opposites produce the other: Heaven creates the ideas of things under yang, the earth produces their material forms under yin, and vice versa; creation occurs under the principle of yang, the completion of the created thing occurs under yin, and vice versa, and so on. This production of yin from yang and yang from yin occurs cyclically and constantly, so that no one principle continually dominates the other or determines the other. All opposites that one experiences—health and sickness, wealth and poverty, power and submission—can be explained in reference to the temporary dominance of one principle over the other. Since no one principle dominates eternally, that means that all conditions are subject to change into their opposites.|
| This cyclical nature of yin and yang, the opposing
forces of change in the universe, mean several things. First, that all
phenomena change into their opposites in an eternal cycle of reversal.
Second, since the one principle produces the other, all phenomena have
within them the seeds of their opposite state, that is, sickness has the
seeds of health, health contains the seeds of sickness, wealth contains
the seeds of poverty, etc. Third, even though an opposite may not be seen
to be present, since one principle produces the other, no phenomenon is
completely devoid of its opposite state. One is never really healthy since
health contains the principle of its opposite, sickness. This is called
"presence in absence." Once you have this principle down, the particular
Chinese view as expressed in literature,