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Xunzi (Chinese: 荀子; Hanyu pinyin: Xūn Zǐ; Wade-Giles: Hsün Tzu) (298 - 238 B.C.) was one of the three original Confucian philosophers. The most important concept in Xunzi's philosophy is the Way (dao). The term originally referred to a path, however, it has been extended to a way of doing things, a way of acting, or the right way to live. The style of writing in the Xunzi is quite indifferent, and the Xunzi was rejected in favour of the Mencius in the neo-Confucian imperial corpus; many see the decision to be as a result of the Mencius' superior style, and not superior content. On the other hand, whilst Mencius believed that humans are naturally good, and it is enough to let their natural inclinations surface, Xunzi believed that all humans are naturally "bad", and that, through schooling and Confucian-style self-cultivation, humans can become "good."


Xunzi had a different view on Heaven than other early philosophers, although not different to the views of most Chinese philosophers, primarily because the word for "heaven" in Chinese is "天", which also means "sky", amongst other things, and is quite ambiguous, and a very common character. "Heaven" as a concept does not means "a place of the after-life" in the Chinese philosophical tradition, and to translate it as "heaven" is simply for convenience, as in reality there is no synonym in English. Xunzi believed Heaven is much like nature in that it acts as it always does, neither helping the good nor harming the bad. This is different from other early theological thinkers in the middle east, who believed that Heaven was the dwelling place of an anthropomorphic God who had a personal interest in the lives of humans.

Nature of Man

Xunzi believed that the nature of man was evil, a different position than many other philosophers, but one that matches much of western religious teaching.[1]


  1. http://www.uoregon.edu/~chn305/Xunzi.htm

Although the classical Chinese word "e" is often translated as "bad" or "evil," the term itself is not consistent with the concept of "evil" as it's understood in the Western tradition. For example, it is not associated with notions such as "sin" or "fallen-ness." That is, "evil" in the Judeo-Christian sense refers to a phenomenon that entered upon the world after the fall, both the fall of man and the fall of Lucifer. For Xunzi, "evil" never entered upon the world as a supernatural force acting counter to the will of a benevolent God. Here we ought to remember that Xunzi was an atheist. Rather, when Xunzi refers to the nature (xing) of man (renzhi) as evil (e), he seems to mean that the human animal is organized in such a way that civilization, morality, rituals, etc. are not things that come naturally to the human being and are artifacts (wei) that are supervene upon human animality by means of assiduous self-cultivation (xiushen).