Was the Dao De Jing a Confucian Text?


An interesting parallel between the Dao De Jing (Way Virtue Classic) and the Yijing (Change Classic) is evident from analysis of the two texts. The Yijing (that is the 64 hexagrams, the lines, and associated commentary) – for reasons not yet fully understood – is separated into two parts.

1) Upper Canon = Hexagrams 1-30

2) Lower Canon = Hexagrams 31-64

This refers, of course, to the oldest strata of the Yijing – and not the Ten Wings – the latter of which formed a separate book before being before being integrate into the Yijing proper. Now, the Dao De Jing is also separated into two parts:

a) Dao Jing = Chapters 1-38

b) De Jing = Chapters 39-81

The Zhouyi (i.e. Yijing) is demonstrably far older than the Dao De Jing, and it is an interesting consideration that the author(s) of the latter may well have been copying the organisation structure of the former, as a means to ensure political and social legitimacy for their text. This would follow the Confucian habit of looking to (and mimicking) the past in the present – because antiquity was assumed to have been ‘perfect’. If this is the case, it would seem similar to the structure of the Ch’an Buddhist dialogues, which although carrying a foreign philosophy (i.e. Indian Buddhism), are structured very much inaccordance with the Confucian Lun Yu (Analects), and other Confucian texts. In a sense, this should not be surprising, as the Confucian scholars not only set the academic standards, but were also directly involved in the government. Nothing could ‘officially’ happen in China without their knowledge and approval. It is an interesting speculation that the Dao De Jing – although now thoroughly associated with Daoism – might have been originally intended to be a new kind of Confucian thought. Perhaps one that emphasised Confucius’s ‘natural law’, rather than the strict adherence to conformity – which is what State Confucianism eventually become. I have been looking at the art of Taijiquan over the years. The term ‘taiji’ arises in the Yijing – and the Yijing is a Confucian text and not Daoist as many seem to think. This would mean that the advanced and subtle ‘internal’ art of fighting is in fact a typical Confucian approach which sees the ‘superior person’ triumphing without effort, because he or she possesses a virtuous character that has inherent within it, a more profound view of the universe. This might explain why Taijiquan often has associated with it, (through qigong exercises), the so-called ‘drawing of the bow’ – the firing of the bow from both sides of the body being a requisite element of Confucian education and governmental examination.


©opyright: Adrian Chan-Wyles (ShiDaDao) 2015.


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