Dong Zhongshu

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  • Born: c. 179 BCE
  • Died: c. 104 BCE

Dong Zhongshu was a Confucian thinker of the Han Dynasty credited with philosophies connecting the functioning of the social order to that of the natural world.

Confucius himself, and those who followed in the succeeding generations, asserted a connection between societal and natural order, and that the moral power of a righteous emperor would function to place both society (affairs of man) and nature into harmonious order. However, in the Han Dynasty, thinkers questioned just why, or how, this worked. Dong proposed that all things are interrelated in hierarchies, and that just as summer follows spring, so too does every color, cardinal direction, and the like similarly exist in a hierarchy relative to the others. Further, he purported, human actions and behaviors exist in conjunction with the seasons, directions, colors, etc., and that just as one dresses appropriately for each season, so too must people (and the emperor especially) perform all actions in accord with the situation, and it is in this way that the actions of man and the order of nature are linked. When actions are performed in accordance with the circumstances, harmony results.


  • Albert M. Craig, The Heritage of Chinese Civilization, Third Edition, Prentice Hall (2011), 45.