Sunday, November 27, 2011

My Huang-Lao project

I have an abandoned project that I need to resurrect and finish.

Years ago, I started a website entitled '', focusing on my take of Huang-Lao Daoism.  As I understand it, Huang-Lao was the political and spiritual philosophy of the early Han emperors Wen-Di and Jing-Di.  They were influenced greatly by Wen-Di's Daoist wife, the Empress Dou. 

Huang-Lao blends the notion of leadership in the model of Huang-Di, the legendary Yellow Emperor, founder of China (agriculture, the Yi Jing, and a whole raft of other stuff) with the passivist teachings of Lao Tzu; hence the name Huang-Lao.  This style of leadership, living and ruling in harmony with the Way of nature, is distinct from any other philosophy or religion. 

The period of Wen and Jing endured for about 1/2 century, during which there was more peace and prosperity in China than ever before, and perhaps ever since.  Taxes were reduced to 3% or less.  Universal healthcare and social security was in place.  Full employment was assured.  Punishments and jail terms were mostly eliminated.  While there were still issues in the society, especially the intrigue among feudal lords, the society was very prosperous and just.  At the end of the 50 year reign of Wen and Jing, the granaries were so full of excess grains that they began to experience rot among the excess.  All this is not legendary, but rather, the facts of history.

Daoism (Taoism) was at its philosophical peak during this period.  The earliest copies of the full version of the Dao De Jing (Tao Te Ching) were discovered in a Han-era tomb for someone buried during this reign.  The Huainanzi, an encyclopedia of scientific and leadership principles representing Huang-Lao thinking was written during this period.  Civil service examinations providing for meritocracy rather than patronage become part of the civil service. Governance and ruling was minimal in harmony with Lao Tzu, but effective.

When Wen-Di's grandson, Wu-Di became emperor, Grand Epress Dowager Dou maintained her Daoist influence for the first few years of Wu-Di's reign.  However, as old as she was at the time, she could not control the rising up of the intelligencia associated with the feudal lords.  Once she died, five years into her grandson's reign, Wu-Di immediately changed the working of affairs from Huang-Lao to a type of Confucian Legalism that became the state ruling philosophy ever after.  Wu-Di also restarted the wars with the Huns (Xiong-Nu), re-instituted penalities, increased taxation, and bankrupted the country within his reign, in trying to expand his borders to the current extant of China.

Wu-Di would become the greatest expander of China, but the basis of China's greatness is the short period of time that Huang-Lao philosophy established prosperous and effective society.

So I think it is time to resurrect the project.

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