last updated: 4/10/13

Spring Semester 2013

45.372 Chinese Philosophy

TTH 11:00-12:15 

Professor Eric S. Nelson                                                                    Email:
Office: Dugan Hall 200F                                                                                Telephone: 978-934-3996

Spring Office Hours: T and TH 12:45-1:50pm, 3:30-4:30pm and by appointment.


Course Description

This course is an introduction to Chinese philosophy from Kongzi (Confucius) and Laozi to Chan Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism. We will examine writings (in English translation) associated with the primary figures of early Chinese intellectual traditions from the waning of the Spring and Autumn Period to the Ming dynasty.


Course Goals

The primary goals of this course are to promote students’ (1) awareness of philosophical questions and arguments in the context of early Chinese thought and culture; and (2) ability to critically interpret and evaluate philosophical texts, positions, and arguments.



This course has no prerequisites in philosophy or in Chinese culture, history, or language.


Course Assignments

Note that beginning with the fourth absence, each additional absence will lower the grade by 0.3/0.4 out of a 4.0 scale. There will be oral and written, individual and group, in-class assignments based on the readings and class-discussion.


Course Requirements

Students are required to: 1. Complete all assigned readings. 2. Maintain regular attendance.
3. Participate in class discussion and in discussion groups. 4. Complete all written assignments on-time. 5. Plagiarism (copying the notes, writings, publications of others as if they were your own) will result in failure of the course and other potential consequences.


Required Texts (Available at the UML South Campus Bookstore!)



I. The Sources of Early Chinese Philosophy

1. Jan. 22 (T): Introduction to the class, Ancient China, and Confucianism

2. Jan. 24 (TH): Confucius, The Analects (Lunyu 論語). Read RCCP, pages 3-27

3. Jan. 29 (T): Confucius continued. Read RCCP, pages 28-54

4. Jan. 31 (TH): Mozi and Mohism. Read RCCP, pages 61-90

5. Feb. 5 (T): Mozi continued. Read RCCP, pages 90-111

6. Feb. 7 (TH): Laozi, Daoism, and the Daodejing. Read RCCP, pages 163-183

7. Feb. 12 (T): Daodejing continued. Read RCCP, pages 183-203

8. Feb. 14 (TH): (In-Class) Exam 1!

II. Nature, Morality, and Society

9. Feb. 19 (T): No class, Monday class schedule

10. Feb. 21 (TH): Zhuangzi (莊子), pp. 208-215.

11. Feb. 26 (T): Zhuangzi (莊子), pp. 215-226.

12. Feb. 28 (TH):  Mengzi (孟子). Read RCCP, pages 117-133

13. March 5 (T): Mengzi (孟子). Read RCCP, pages 134-151

14. March 7 (TH): Xunzi (荀子)? Read RCCP, pages 256-307

March 12, 14: Spring Break, No classes

15-18. March 19- 28: Research projects on Xunzi and Hanfeizi

III. Chan Buddhism and Neo-Confucianism

19. April 2 (T): Early Chan Buddhism, Zen Sourcebook, 13-33

20. April 4 (TH): Hongzhou and Linji Chan: Killing the Buddha? Zen Sourcebook, 34-60

21. April 9 (T): The Development of the gong an / koān, Zen Sourcebook, 72-95

22. April 11 (TH): The gong an / koān, Zen Sourcebook, 95-117 / Documentary film

23. April 16 (T): (In-Class) Exam 2 (Zhuangzi to Chan Buddhism)

24. April 18 (TH): Liu Xiangshan, Read Lu-Wang School, 27-62

25. April 23 (T): Liu Xiangshan, Read Lu-Wang School, 63-98

26. April 25 (TH): Wang Yangming, Read Lu-Wang School, 99-141

27. April 30 (T): Wang Yangming, Read Lu-Wang School, 141-184

28. May 7 (T): Exam Three due at before or by midnight!