Basic Chinese Wisdom

Basic Chinese wisdom can be divided neatly into three broad schools of thought known as 'San Jiao' which can be translated as The Three Teachings. They are Confucian School, Dao School and Buddha School.These are the three schools of thought (and religion) that have been most prevalent in China over the centuries.

The Confucian School (called Rujia in Chinese) is the English name for this school of thought in honour of its most influential thinker, Confucius. Many of the core texts of Confucianism were edited, compiled and or commented on by Confucius. Lunyu might be likened to a Chinese counterpart to Plato's Dialogues. It is an account of Confucius' dialogues with his students and others and a kind of primer for the 'Confucian Method'. The original Confucian canon consisted of six books which were to be mastered by students. In later times the number was raised to thirteen books to be mastered, known as the Thirteen Classics. One of the texts, the Yijing (I Ching or Book of Changes) was also influential in the formation of the Dao School. Of course besides its philosophical development there were also religious and dogmatic lines of development.

The Dao School started with the study of Laozi Daodejing (Lao Tzu Tao Te Ching) and Zhuangzi (Chuang Tzu). It was developed by later thinkers in texts such as Liezi and Huainanzi. During the period known as South North Dynasties, Dao School philosophy was further developed under the auspices of 'Xuanxue' which can be translated as mysticism or the study of the profound and mysterious. Philosophers such as Wang Bi discussed and commented on the Yijing, Laozi Daodejing and Zhuangzi texts.The Daoist religions compiled many religious, ritual and alchemical texts which were compiled in the Ming Dynasty into the 'Daozang' translated as Taoist Canon (zang means repository).

The Buddha School came from India to China in ancient times and was absorbed and became part of Chinese culture. Mahayana 'Dacheng fojiao' translated as Great Vehicle Buddhism was the basic system from which the many Chinese schools of Buddhist religion and thought developed. The Buddha School through its various religious traditions such as Pure land Sect, Huayan Sect, Consciousness Only Sect, Chan (Zen) Sect produced a large body of wisdom and philosophy in China.

The three schools interacted and sometimes conflicted with each other whilst also mixing and borrowing ideas from one another and for many they became a harmony of rich wisdom each with its appropriate time and place for invocation or consultation. Thus the three teachings taken together represent the most basic Chinese wisdom, a wisdom of integration and balance, of using the right method at the right time.

Another way to approach Chinese wisdom is through the 'siku quanshu' traditional Chinese library classifications. All Chinese texts are divided into four categories. Texts under the 'Zi' category are philosophical. In consulting the above sources the reader has a good start towards developing and integrating basic Chinese wisdom into their own mind and life.