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8 Sages, Creation, and the End of History in the Huainanzi

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Chapter Summary

The history of the world, and more particularly the inventions of the sages that drove a history, resulted in the loss of an original unity. The overall arc of the narrative is one in which the inventions of the sages, all properly done in response to problems at the time, also led to an increase in the amount of violence and subjugation. This chapter fully celebrates sagely invention. The cosmic harmony alluded to in the opening portion of the chapter is invoked again, the interchange of yin and Shang Yang energies results in the birth and completion of the myriad things, and their flourishing requires the essence of harmony. The early Han was thus marked by a fundamental conflict between the martialism (wu) inherited from the Qin and the civility (wen), the transmitted teachings of the former sages, supported by those like the Confucians and Mohists.

Keywords: confucians; cosmic harmony; early Han; martialism; mohists; Sages; Shang Yang; yin



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