Classical Daoism – Is There Really Such a Thing? Part 5.2

Classical Daoism’s Amoral Ethos: Pertinent Ethical Terms


This essay is part of my series exploring the validity of the existence of “Classical Daoism” or Daojia 道家, “Dao Specialists.” Prior to examining the various texts on matters pertaining to ethics or morality, it’s prudent to briefly discuss some relevant Chinese “ethical terms.” This is a work in progress: comments and questions are most welcome, as are notification of any typos or mistakes. For unknown reasons, the formatting has changed on its own a few times, so please forgive me for any bad formatting. ~ Scott

(Part 5.1 – – – Part 4.4 – – – Part 4.3 – – – Part 4.2 – – – Part 4.1 – – – Part 3 – – – Part 2 – – – Part 1)




De 德 is one of the oldest words to be examined here and is commonly translated as “virtue” or “power.” The character is composed of two semantic signifiers, 心, “heart/mind” and 彳, “walk/conduct,” with 直, “straight/upright” as the phonetic component.[1] On early Western Zhou bronze inscriptions, it seems to signify two things. First, it appears to be an attribute, or aggregate of attributes, traits, strengths and likely the conduct of revered persons, such as deceased fathers, grandfathers, and former kings, likely what we might call their “character.” The men who commissioned and used these bronze ritual vessels desired to live up to the expectations of their ancestors and “follow and model themselves on” (shuaixing 帥型), “diligently maintain” (bing 秉) and “make shine/conspicuous”  or “display” (ming 明) their de, that is, their character and conduct, their prestige and ethos. Being an attribute of a revered person, we might further specify its meaning as good or exemplary character, but we need to be careful about our assumptions about what “good” means. We need to keep in mind what character strengths and virtues would be esteemed by those with a warrior-ethic, as was the case in the early Zhou period.[2] “Exemplary character” in this period was linked with “awe-inspiring or intimidating decorum” or perhaps “gravitas” (weiyi 威儀) and attributed to those renowned for their military prowess or excellence. By the Warring States period however, de regularly denoted morally good character or moral virtues.

Many modifying adjectives accompanied de. Most of them are positive, such as “good” (ling 令),” “brilliant” (ming 明) and “great” (da 大), but some of them negative, such as “bad, baleful, faulty” (xiong 凶), and “cruel, violent” (bao 暴). In the Shijing  詩經 we hear of the de of the Elder of Shen (申伯之德) which is described as “gentle” (rou 柔), “kind” (hui 惠) and “straightforward/just” (zhi 直).[3] Centuries later the Di 狄 people would be described as having the “de of ravenous wolves” (豺狼之德) and the de of the legendary tyrant Jie 桀 was described in the Mozi as “greatly unruly” (daluan 大亂), whereby Heaven was said to order the Shang leader Tang 湯 to overthrow him.[4] In these and other examples, “character” or “nature” seems to be implied, although pluralistic terms such as “character traits,” “qualities,” or “virtues/vices” are possibilities. From the Chunqiu period on, a number of texts broke down de into individual character traits, virtues or practices – the three de 三德, four de 四德, five de 五德, and so on – from common moral terms such as “benevolence” (ren 仁), “righteousness” (yi 義), “ritual propriety” (li 禮), and “wisdom” (zhi 智), to more peculiar and idiosyncratic lists.

Also in the early period, de referred to “beneficence” or “blessing,” which could be “solicited from” (gai 匄) or “sent down by” (jiang 降) Heaven or the “High God” Shangdi 上帝, just as could “good fortune” (fu 福), and “blessings” (xiu 休). It was sometimes paired/contrasted with “punishments” (fa 罰 and xing 刑). By the mid-3rd century B.C.E., de could connote life-enhancing or beneficial cosmic forces/energies in full view in spring and summer and associated with yang 陽. Its complementary opposite, xing 刑 corresponded to the period of dormancy, devitalization, or torpidity that takes place in fall and winter and associated with yin 陰.[5]

Whether from the force of character or goodwill and generosity, de was widely understood in terms of charisma and the power to influence. It was contrasted sometimes with “physical force, coercion” (li 力). Some had little power of influence and instead were primarily subjects of this influence. Confucius is recorded as saying “The de of the Superior Person (is like) the wind, the de of the Inferior Person (is like) the grass: when the wind passes over the grass it is sure to bend” (君子之德風,小人之德草。草上之風,必偃。).[6] Despite this passage, the “Inferior People” (xiaoren 小人), or common people in general, were rarely ascribed de; rather, they were often considered “lacking in de” (wude 無德). The influence that goodwill and generosity generate elicits gratitude and pre-disposes those encountered to treat one favourably and with goodwill in return. In this sense, it is often contrasted with “resentment, ill-will” (yuan 怨).


In many of the Daoist texts, de was usually understood as the benign or salutary influence/power one subtly and unassertively manifested when one enjoyed the calmness and composure of inner peace and/or embodied the Dao. Thus, one could have (you 有) it or lack (wu 無) it; one could manifest a higher (shang 上), efficacious form or a lower (xia 下), more problematic form. It was regarded as prior to moral and ritual propriety (yi 義 and li 禮), and, despite appearances, was considered more substantial and superior. In Laozi 51 it is described as a “maternal,” nourishing power, yet in chapter 55, it is rather a “cherubic,” disarming power, dissolving any ill-will one may come across.





Shan 善 is a very common word in the early Chinese literature and is traditionally translated in English as “good.” Originally written as 譱, the Erya 爾雅 and Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字 associate shan with words like zang 臧 “good/favourable,” shu [7] “good,” jie [8]“good,” ji 吉 “good fortune/ favourable,” xiang 祥 “good fortune,” liang 良 “good/admirable,” and so on. Mengzi simply says that shan is “the desirable” (keyuzhi 可欲之).[9] This word indicates a positive evaluation or judgement and often suggests morally good and objectively beneficial or advantageous. In this regard, shan is usually contrasted with e 惡 “bad/despicable” or “unfavourable.” When we encounter “good words” (shanyan 善言) and “good conduct” (shanxing 善行), they are understood in this objectively moral way. Although it is often left unexplained what actually is or makes something “good,” sometimes an author spelled out what he regarded as good. For example, in his chapter entitled “Human Nature is Despicable” (Xing e 性惡), Xunzi claimed:



In every case, both in ancient times and in the present, what everyone under Heaven calls shan is being correct, ordered, peaceful, and controlled. What they call e is being deviant, dangerous, unruly, and chaotic. This is the division between shan and e.[1]

But shan also has another sense which was equally as common in the early texts, and that is: to be good at, skilled or adept. In this sense it is contrasted not by e 惡, but simply by its negation, bushan 不善.[11] In the literature we find reference to “those who are good at swimming” (shanyouzhe 善游者), “those who are good at war” (shanzhanzhe 善戰者) and “those who are good at archery” (shanshezhe 善射者). Additionally, we find reference to good horses (shanma 善馬) and good clothes (shanyi 善衣). Obviously, none of these indicate moral evaluations. But when we encounter shanren 善人, “good person,” or weishanzhe 為善者, “one who is/does good” it often does not seem to refer to a person with simply any qualities or actions one (or everyone?) admires, but morally good qualities or actions.





One of the most common and esteemed character traits/virtues in the early corpus of texts was ren 仁.[12] The most common English glosses are benevolence, humaneness, kindness and goodness. Although the word’s etymology is apparently Sino-Tibetan, and referred to the heart,[13] the character’s etymography is linked to the graph for human (ren 人) and could thus plausibly pertain to something about a person, or within a person, (like heartfelt kindness). Although ren was defined or explained in various ways and its scope could be wide or narrow, there was overwhelming consensus in early China that ren entailed “caring for others” or “loving others” (airen 愛人). Confucius, his disciple Zigong 子貢, Mengzi, Xunzi, Dong Zhongshu and others all affirmed this.[14] The Mohist Canons also claimed that “ren is (a way/kind of) caring or loving” (仁,愛也). The ancient Greek “philanthropos” is an apt translation; however, in modern English, the meaning of “philanthropy” has narrowed to providing monetary benefits to others, and this is very rarely appropriate in the early texts.[15] The same is true for the Latin “humanitas,” or “humane” as a translation: it is now commonly used to refer to the practice of treating animals well.

Arthur Waley argued that ren 人 (the component on the left of the graph 仁) originally referred to members of one’s own tribe and speculated that ren 仁 consequently meant “possessing the qualities of one’s tribe” or indicating the “special forbearance” one shows towards those of one’s tribe (as opposed to outsiders).[16] Robert Gassmann likewise argued that in the Eastern Zhou period, ren


denotes intra-group behavior, i.e., the correct behavior towards one’s relatives … it was not, at that time, a general, abstract philosophical, or ethical concept. It had no affinity to “humanity,” “humaneness,” or “benevolence,” and all attempts to read such meanings into the pre-Qin texts are highly questionable and misleading.[17]

There is evidence for the hypothesis that ren was basically an attitude taken towards one’s own parents and family that was subsequently extended to others. For example, Confucius’ disciple Youzi 有子 asserts that “filial piety and brotherly deference” (xaioti 孝弟) are the basis of ren (Lunyu 1.2) and the so-called “Doctrine of the Mean” (Zhongyong 中庸) chapter of the Liji declared “ren is a characteristic of human beings and treating one’s parents/kin as parents/kin (i.e., as they should be treated) is the most important part” (仁者人也,親親為大). The Shuowen likewise glosses ren as (the way one should treat) parents/kin: 仁:親也.[18]


While this appears to be the case early in the Zhou Dynasty, Gassmann goes too far in claiming it carried this narrow (and basically premoral) meaning in (all?) pre-Qin texts. There are many examples in Warring States texts where ren is an attitude (and behaviour) one should take towards everyone. Furthermore, it is often used more narrowly than the generic “correct behavior towards one’s relatives,” which is quite ambiguous. Just as English “kind” and “kin” are etymologically related, qinqin 親親 perhaps should be rendered “be kind to kin,” which is then extended to a general kindness or benevolence towards others. It is at this point it moves from a kin-selective, premoral virtue to a moral virtue or morally praiseworthy behavior.





Occurring twice as often in the early texts as ren, yi is also an exceptionally important term. Just like ren may originate from a norm of how one should treat our family and relatives: in a caring and kindly manner, it has been argued that yi 義 has its original meaning reflected in the phonetic component of the character (on the bottom): 我, a pronoun meaning “I” or “We” (and pronounced quite differently today). Peter Boodberg thus speculated that the word yi 義 referred to loyalty or “allegiance to the we group.[1]” By the Warring States period, he speculates that,

The narrow loyalty to the ‘we’ group, an ideal sufficient to sustain the knights of a small city state of the preceding period, conflicted now with duties towards a larger whole, the extensive state of which the self-satisfied original unit was now a subordinated part.[20]

It is cognate with another yi: 宜, meaning appropriate(ness) or fitting(ness),[21] but 義 is more specifically moral appropriateness, and what is 義 is generally what is considered morally right. Following Boodberg, possibly it originally suggested the duties appropriate (宜) to one’s group (我). On the other hand, perhaps the 我 component is only a phonetic, just as it is, for example, in the character for “hunger,” e 餓.[22] The semantic element in the common character is 羊 and depicts a sheep. Some have suggested that the sheep is suggestive of (righteous?) ancestral sacrifices, but the relevance is uncertain.[23] Some excavated texts replace 羊 with the heart component (心, but placed underneath 我), just as we find with ren 仁 above.[24] In other excavated texts, its cognate yi 宜 is found in places where the traditional received texts that are their counterparts have 義, which complicates the matter.


Schuessler regards yi to be cognate with several words in early Tibeto-Burman, some of which mean “to consider, to need, to long for” and others “be customary and be necessary,”[25] the latter two appearing very close to the Chinese yi, “what is fitting, what one has a duty to do.” “Propriety,” meaning conventional standards of behaviour is close, although it may be more fitting a translation of li 禮. “Propriety” as “the condition of being right, appropriate, or fitting”[26] is more apt, or perhaps “moral propriety” is better. Yi also signifies dutifulness and responsibility; yet, while these vary with one’s social position, the duties, moral obligations and responsibilities stressed in the early Chinese literature are to one’s (male) social superiors (incl. those with seniority), such as one’s father (fu 父), elder brother (xiong 兄), (any) elder (zhang 長) or ruler (jun 君).[27] As a virtue, yi is the tendency to adhere to the moral standards, duties, and practices sanctioned by “moral authorities” such as the sages or by Heaven. Xunzi asserted that no other living things possess yi[28] and that a sense of yi is what prohibits and prevents people from acting deplorably and deceitfully.[29]


Although Confucius contrasted yi with li (利) “profit/benefit,” the Mohist Canons connect the two: 義、利也.[30] These may not be as contrary as they might first seem, since Confucius was contrasting one who is motivated by duty or moral concerns with one who is motivated by personal profit, whereas the Mohists seem to be claiming that yi “morality” is in the business of benefiting people in general. Confucius and Mozi would agree that yi is beneficial to human beings. However, in Mozi 11, Mozi claims that in the distant past there was chaos because everyone had different moral standards (yiyi 異義). Rather than question the usefulness moral standards themselves, Mozi wanted to unify (yitong 壹同) them, to get everyone on the same page, (which seems to be a project still underway today!). Hard-line political philosophers like Hanfei and Shang Yang had no patience for or faith in this project, deciding instead to replace yi with fa 法, (amoral) standards and laws and emphasized the enforcement of these fa. Finally, when we find in the Daoist texts denigration of yi 義 and recommendations to reject it, a charitable reading will prevent us from concluding that they suggest we don’t do what we find the most “fitting, appropriate, or right” in a given situation.[31] (Likewise with ren 仁: they are not arguing one should never be kind.) Surely they have something more specific in mind. “Righteousness” may be fitting as a gloss if the authors were criticizing inflexible, self-righteous moralists and the moral obligations they insisted upon.[32] They advocated avoiding the whole idealistic concept of moral standards and dealing with life in other, more spontaneous ways.





Along with ren and yi, (conformity to) li 禮 was a very important “virtue” in early China, especially among the ru 儒, the “classicists” and/or “Confucians.” Originally written as 豐, it originally referred to an imperial religious rite, ceremony or sacrifice (and possibly a vessel used in such sacrifices).[1]  The Shuowen Jiezi says li is “that which is used to serve the spirits to attract good fortune” (所以事神致福也),[2] which suggests the common gloss “rites,” and the (rule-governed) “ritual propriety” that is involved in carrying them out. Early texts talk of the “li of sacrifice” (祭祀之禮), the “li of mourning” (喪之禮), and the “li of marriage” (昏禮). Those who took part in these rites and ceremonies were the nobility, the elites. The common people in the various regions also had their customs in these circumstances, but these seem to be referred to as the simpler, cruder su 俗. These li could be understood as elaborations (fan 繁) of these simpler customs, sometimes irritatingly complex (fan 煩).[3] They commonly got their authority by being referred to as the li of the ancients (古之禮) or the li of the former kings (先王之禮).

The Mozi Canon says that “li are (ways of showing) respect” (禮、敬也).[36] “Respect” or “reverence” (jing 敬) is found connected to li in many texts, such as the Lunyu,[37] Mengzi,[38] Xunzi[39] and Liji.[40] Another word for respect was also associated with li in these texts, which is gong 恭. Paul Kroll says that the latter “mainly referred to externally evinced display [of respect]” whereas jing were “internally held sentiments [of respect].”[41] Mengzi 4B28 says the one who practices li shows respect for others (jingren 敬人); in 6A6, “feelings of respect pertain to li” (恭敬之心,禮也), and in 2A6: “feelings of deference are the beginnings of li” (辭讓之心,禮之端也). Rooted in people’s natural emotional responses (renqing 人情) and often designed to restrain (jie 節) them, they quickly became prescribed ways to show or display respect and critics decried their artificiality (wei 偽) and superficiality (bao 薄). Moreover, the li could be practiced out of fear of rejection or ulterior motives,[42] rather than genuine respect and deference. Nevertheless, most acknowledged the need for common courtesy and etiquette between people, and li often denoted little more than this.


Li is also paired with other words in the early literature, such as with yi 儀 and yi 義. The meaning of the former overlaps with li as “ceremonial decorum,” although it may refer more to the external clothes and comportment of participants in formal occasions.[43] In both the Lunyu and Zuozhuan, the li were the means or manner of putting into practice (xing 行) the latter yi, or “moral standards.”[44] The two became a compound: liyi 禮義, occurring often in the Xunzi. The manner in which respect was displayed and morality practiced through li were often described as decorous or patterned (wen 文) and embellished or ornamented (shi 飾). In Jia Yi’s 賈誼 Xinshu 新書 8.3, he defined li as “(one’s) movements embodying aesthetic patterns” (動有文體)[45] and in his “Discussion of Li” (Lilun 禮論) chapter, Xunzi wrote:



“Overall, ritual works to ornament happiness when serving the living, to ornament sorrow when sending off the dead, to ornament respect when conducting sacrifices, and to ornament awe-inspiring power when engaged in military affairs.”[1]

Hierarchy was the basis for determining many of the specifics or orientations of the rites and ceremonies. Males and elders (deceased or alive) were always on top and were deemed the most deserving of respect, as were rulers (who were always male). Duties and moral obligations (yi 義) existed between men and women (男女), the old and the young (長幼), near and distant relatives (親疏), husband and wife (夫婦), father and child (父子), older and younger brothers (兄弟), guests and hosts (賓主) and rulers and ministers/subjects (君臣) and accordingly there were li for all of these pairs. In addition, Yuri Pines stresses that the li were standard and often essential in interstate interactions.[47] Just as important as showing respect,[48] the li were designed to impose, regulate and maintain these hierarchies, deemed by most to be self-evident. Many texts use the word bie 別 with regards to a function of li: it distinguishes and separates. Heiner Roetz has argued that the Confucian stress on the li served to maintain the inequality of people.[49]


The relationships mentioned above are fairly objective: there is no questioning who is a male or female, husband or wife or ruler and subject. A fragment of Shen Dao’s 慎到 writings explains that



States have li governing treatment of the honored and the lowly but lack li governing the treatment of the worthy and the unworthy. They have li governing the treatment of the old and young but lack li governing the treatment of the courageous and the timid. They have li governing treatment of close and distant relatives but lack li governing the treatment of those cared about and those loathed.[1]

Interestingly, gui 貴, “honored, noble” and jian 賤 “lowly, humble” are not treated as subjective value judgments (like worthiness, bravery and caring) and thus appear to refer to objective status. The Mozi Canon says that the li prescribe calling those of high status, the nobles, by the honorific “Sir” (gong 公), whereas the given names (ming 名) can be used with those of low status.[51] Many passages in the Laozi and Zhuangzi argue that promulgating these divisions of status (and devaluation of the lower) guaranteed social strife (zheng 爭).


Some texts argue that the li do not apply to the commoners, that they are better regulated by laws.[52] However, Confucius famously argued that the common people (min 民) could be better regulated (qi 齊) by li,[53] but they could not be expected to take part in or go to the extravagant lengths that the nobles’ ceremonies did. Confucius probably hoped they would at least be influenced by them, yet everyone was felt to understand the gist of the li, as the Records of Rites (Liji 禮記) Quli shang 曲禮上 writes: “Now the li involve humbling oneself and honouring others. Even porters and peddlers are sure to respect and honour others; how much more should the rich and noble do so.” (夫禮者,自卑而尊人。雖負販者,必有尊也,而況富貴乎?).


The ru were specialists in rites, ceremonies and formal, sometimes pedantic, polite etiquette, as seen especially in the writings of Xunzi and the Liji and Yili 儀禮.[54] Not usually being nobles themselves, they believed that mastering the li were vital to help them rise above other shi 士 and were “a powerful force distinguishing new elite members from the commoners.[55]” In fact, some argued that the li are what separated humans from animals, and civilized humans from barbarians,[56] with Xunzi and the authors of the Liji saying the world would literally fall into ruin without the li. Confucius famously claimed that one should not look at, listen to, speak or move in any way, or at anything,  that is discourteous or undignified (fei li 非禮).[57] Since their livelihood often depended on this specialist knowledge, their stress on the li were sometimes suspected as being self-serving. Few questioned the value of funerals, sacrifices, weddings, etc., but they did question the specifics of these, and the motivations behind them.



Zhong and Xin


Zhong 忠 is most commonly translated as “loyalty.” The “Remnant Zhou Documents” (Yi Zhoushu 逸周書) chapter on posthumous titles, the Shifajie 諡法解 says that zhong is used for someone who “would endanger their lives in service to superiors” (危身奉上). Naturally, zhong was considered an essential character trait or virtue (de 德) of chen 臣: ministers, public servants, officials, subjects, subordinates and servants.[61] Zhongchen 忠臣 itself occurs often as a compound.[62] In Lunyu 3.19, “Duke Ding asked, “How should a lord employ his ministers? How should a minister serve his lord?” (定公問:「君使臣,臣事君,如之何?」) Confucius replied, “A lord should employ his ministers with ritual, and ministers should serve their lord with dutifulness” (孔子對曰:「君使臣以禮,臣事君以忠。」).[63] “Dutifulness” is Edward Slingerland’s gloss of zhong, and others include “doing his best” (Lau), “loyalty” (Chan) and “devotion to his cause” (Waley).[64] Yuri Pines has argued that, as shown in the Zuozhuan, zhong “primarily referred to the devotion to altars of soil and grain, while personal loyalty to the ruler was a marginal or even nonexistent dimension.”[65] These “altars of soil and grain” (sheji 社稷) represented the interests of the state as a whole, and not whoever was ruling it at the time; although, ideally rulers too were devoted to the state (i.e. to the people and the “local spirits”). When this loyalty was to the ruler personally, it was rarely blind obedience. Confucians and Mohists alike agreed that “remonstrance” (jian 諫) was an important aspect of zhong. According to Xunzi’s “The Way of Minsters” (Chendao 臣道) chapter, zhong is most clearly demonstrated when one disobeys (and risks punishment) to benefit one’s lord:


從命而利君謂之順,從命而不利君謂之諂;逆命而利君謂之忠,逆命而不利君謂之篡 。

To follow orders and thereby benefit one’s lord is called ‘being properly compliant.’

To follow orders but not thereby benefit one’s lord is called ‘flattering.’

To go against orders yet thereby benefit one’s lord is called ‘being loyal.’

To go against orders but not thereby benefit one’s lord is called ‘usurping.’[1]

Hanfeizi would seem to have held that both the ruler and state were the objects of loyalty, in that he regarded “deceitful proposals, transgressing (state) laws, turning one’s back on the ruler and pugnacious remonstrance” (詐說逆法,倍主強諫) as “disloyal” (buzhong 不忠) acts.[67]


A loyal minister or subject would be expected to be honest, and this was another sense of zhong, especially when associated with speech. In the Zuozhuan, we read: “(He whose) mouth does not speak words that are honest and trustworthy is duplicitous” (口不道忠信之言為嚚。).[68] Confucius taught, “In speaking, focus on being honest” (言思忠),[69] and “In speaking, be honest and trustworthy, in action, be diligent and respectful” (言忠信,行篤敬).[70] With this sense of the term, the word easily can apply to all sorts of relationships and not more narrowly that of a subordinate and his or her superiors.


More so than with zhong, the virtue of xin 信 is more closely linked with speech, often involving promises or speaking truthfully and sincerely. As a verb, xin means to believe, to trust and to regard as truthful; as an adjective, believable, trustworthy, true/truthful, credible and reliable; as a noun, trustworthiness, truthfulness, faithfulness and fidelity. “Fidelity” is, in fact, an appropriate word to translate zhongxin 忠信, as it means trustworthiness, truthfulness, sincerity, loyalty, dutifulness, supportiveness and reliability. Unfortunately, fidelity is a rather rare word and is now most commonly associated with an investment firm, the quality of an audio recording or marriage vows. The last two have relevance insofar as they pertain to faithfulness, but not enough relevance to help us understand zhong and xin in early China.[71]


Ode #92 of the Shijing, Yangzhishui 揚之水, contains the stanzas: “Do not trust what people say, they are truly deceiving you … Do not trust what people say, they are truly untrustworthy!” (無信人之言,人實迋女。  … 無信人之言,人實不信!) and several odes caution against believing or trusting slander (xin chan 信讒).[72] “Slander,” being a false or dishonest representation and “deceiving/deception” (wang 迋, read as kuang 誑) can be understood as antonymous with xin, just as are dan 誕 and qi 欺; for example:



Let there be a measure of people’s words; Investigate their actuality. Thus divide those trustworthy (xin 信) and those false (dan 誕). Ensure them a reward or penalty. Then those below won’t deceive (qi 欺) those above; All will tell how things are disposed truly, and, like the sun, matters will shine clearly.[1]

Other contraries include violating oaths and covenants (fu zumeng 覆詛盟), going back on one’s word (fuyan 復言), “eating one’s words” (shiyan 食言), and lightly-made promises (qing nuo 輕諾).[74] Confucius confesses that he used to believe/trust (信) people would do what they said they would, but has learned that he needs to verify it.[75] In the same way, political and military thinkers stressed the need for promises of reward to be “reliable” (信) for the reward-punishment incentivization to work.[76]


Laozi 81 opens with the aphorism: “Truthful words are not beautiful; beautiful words are not trustworthy” (信言不美,美言不信。), where xin – “truthful” and “trustworthy” – could, following Michael LaFargue, also be glossed as “sincere.” [77] This is the sense suggested by the Mozi Canon, where xin is when one’s words truly represent one’s thoughts, intentions and beliefs (言合於意也).[78] It is also suggested by what many early sources say is a synonym: cheng 誠.[79] Meanings that cheng had in the earliest texts include genuine, sincere, honest, true, complete and earnest.



Xiao and Ci


In Lunyu 12.11, Confucius says that “a lord should act as a lord should properly act, a subject should act as a subject should properly act, a father should act as a father should properly act and a son should act as a son should properly act” (君君,臣臣,父父,子子。).[83] There was no one term used for how a lord should act, but being generous (hui 惠), benevolent (ren 仁),[84] and acting righteously (yi 義) are some. We have already seen that a minister should be loyal/honest (zhong 忠). As we will discuss shortly, a father (and mother) should be dedicated/loving (ci 慈) and a son/child invariably should be xiao. Xiaozi 孝子 is usually translated as “filial son,” but “pious son” would be more exact.[85] Xiaozi 孝子 is a binome as common as and parallel with zhongchen 忠臣, “loyal minister/subject.” The Liji says “With regards to a loyal minister serving his lord and a pious son serving his parents, their basis is the same” (忠臣以事其君,孝子以事其親,其本一也。).[86] Both are in the inferior position and should act respectfully and dutifully.


With regards to xiao, the earliest sources focus more on the treatment of parents, in particular, one’s deceased parents and grandparents, and consisted of offering sacrifices (of food and drink) to them. Keith Knapp and others have argued that the attitude of deference and respect/reverence was a later concern/meaning.[87] But this is far from clear. Early Zhou bronze inscriptions contain many pledges to follow and model oneself on one’s ancestors. Shijing ode 286 (an old Zhou hymn 周頌): “Pity me, Your Child” (Minyu Xiaozi 閔予小子) reads,



Pitiable am I, the little child; I have received a house unachieved; solitary am I, in distress; Oh, august dead father, for endless generations you deserve to be piously revered (xiao 孝). I think of these august ancestors who[se spirits] ascend and descend in the court; I the little child, morning and evening I will be reverent (jing 敬). Oh, you august kings, forever you will not be forgotten.[1]

Even if xiao here doesn’t refer to pious reverence or filial piety, but rather “offer sacrifice,” the entire poem is more or less all about being filially pious, or piously reverent to one’s ancestors. It seems a small stretch to affirm that an attitude of reverence accompanies the presenting of sacrifices to them in these early examples. This is exactly what Confucius insists must exist for a person said to be considered xiao in Lunyu 2.7: one must be earnestly reverent (jing 敬) towards one’s parents, not simply nourish (yang 養) them.[89]


“Nourishing (one’s) parents” (yang qin 養親, yang fumu 養父母) and “nourishing the elderly” (yang lao 養老) were essential parts of xiao, at least with regards to living parents. “Nourishing” deceased parents took place at sacrifices (ji 祭). The Shuowen says xiao is “excelling at serving one’s father and mother” (善事父母者),[90] The Mozi Canon says xiao is “benefiting parents” (li qin 利親) and the Xinshu says it is “to love and benefit parents” (aili qin 愛利親). How does one serve and benefit one’s (living) parents? The Liji “The Pattern of the Family” (Neize 內則) says,



Zengzi said, ‘A filial son, in nourishing his aged, (seeks to) make their hearts glad, and not to go against their wishes; [seeks to please their ears and eyes, and] to promote their comfort in their bed-chambers and the whole house; and with leal heart to supply them with their food and drink: – such is the filial son to the end of life. By ‘the end of life,’ I mean not the end of parents’ lives, but the end of his own life. Thus what his parents loved he will love, and what they reverenced he will reverence. He will do so even in regard to all their dogs and horses, and how much more in regard to the men (whom they valued)![1]

Philip Ivanhoe believes xiao is best understood as a virtue rather than a duty that one can be commanded to uphold.[92] He admits, however, that “In the traditional account, children seem to have an absolute obligation with regard to their parents, an obligation that trumps all other demands and moral concerns,” even if one’s parents are despicable. Ivanhoe doesn’t believe we should adopt this aspect of xiao in today’s world.[93] Lastly, while a son or daughter was expected to be obedient to their parents and even, after they had passed away, not change the ways they did things (for three years),[94] they could, like a “loyal minister,” remonstrate (jian 諫) with their parents if they believed they were doing something wrong, or at least a son could.[95]


Occurring about five times less in the period under consideration, ci is a term that represents how a mother and father should treat their children. Ci 慈 is cognate with zi 子, “child/son, to treat as a child/son” zi 孳, “to propagate, multiply, assiduously,” zi 字, “’ to care for, nurture” as well as zi 滋, “produce; multiply; thrive.”[96] All of the meanings listed here could be represented by the different characters, depending on the writer’s choice. In fact, most early excavated texts do not use the character 慈 to write the word ci, “parental love.” Many simply use the phonetic component 兹.[97] Nearly all the transmitted texts from this era use the character 慈 to denote the proper way to treat one’s children (子) or the young (you 幼). Early texts that have it the most are Mozi, Guanzi and Hanfeizi. In Mozi, it often forms a binome with xiao 孝 and usually signifies the way fathers should feel towards their children/sons. It is also often combined with ai 愛, “love, care, concern,” hui 惠, “generous, kind,” and qin 親, “parents.” Just as Jia Yi said xiao was “to love and benefit” (aili 愛利) one’s parents, ci involves loving and benefiting one’s child(ren).[98] The Shuowen says that ci is (a kind of) loving/caring: 慈:愛也。 A chapter in the Hanfeizi says that  parent who is ci “(seeks to bring about) good fortune … [and] eliminate ill fortune” (致其福 … 除其禍) for their child(ren).[99] Not only does ci denote parental love, but devotion and dedication as well.


Sometimes ci is/should be exhibited by an adult for his/her elderly living parents,[100] and ci could also prescribe the proper way for a ruler to treat his subjects,[101] although Hanfeizi strongly argued against the latter. Hanfei felt that ci was too soft and lenient as a government disposition or practice. In chapter 30 we find “Now, one who exhibits parental devotion and love (ci) cannot bear the suffering of others and one who is generous likes to give. (If one) cannot bear the suffering of others, then one won’t punish those who have committed transgressions. (If one) likes to give, then people will receive rewards before they have accomplished anything.”[102] Chapters 47, 49 and 50 carry on with this theme and he clearly believes that “strictness, severity” (yan 嚴) and “fear, might” (wei 威) are much more effective at getting people to listen/behave (ting 聽) or “be good” (shan 善) than parental love or compassion. In these chapters, Hanfei does not question the dedication of parents, but the emotion of love and tender-heartedness. In a second definition of ci, Jia Yi also used the term “to bear suffering” (ren 忍) in relation with ci; specifically, the ability to bear the suffering of others is the opposite of ci (fanci 反慈). In this definition, Jia Yi describes ci as “to sympathize and feel for others” (惻隱怜人).[103] These uses which connect ci to suffering make “compassion” an appropriate translation. In the context of how people should treat their children or the young, however, ci is much broader than a response to suffering.


[1] Old Chinese pronunciations: *tək (德) and *drək (直), (Axel Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, University of Hawai’i Press, 2007, p. 208 and 616); or *tˤək and *N-tək, (William H. Baxter & Laurent Sagart, Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction, Oxford University Press, 2014, p. 334.)

[2] See my “The Evolution of the Concept of De 德 in Early China” in Sino-Platonic Papers 235, 2013, pp. 14-18.

[3] Ode # 259, “High and Lofty” (Song Gao 崧高).

[4]Guoyu: Zhouyu 國語 • 周語 1.15 and Mozi 墨子 19 非攻下, respectively. The Mozi the passage goes on to say that the same scenario happened near the end of the Shang dynasty, where Heaven was displeased with the de of the Shang king Zhou 紂. Heaven was not displeased with his “Virtue” or virtues, but his “character” or bad character traits (vices).

[5] See Huangdi Sijing 黃帝四經: Jing 經: Guan 觀 and Xingzheng 姓爭, Huainanzi 淮南子 3, Chunqiu Fanlu 春秋繁露 44 and 55, as well as the Yantielun 鹽鐵論 54.

[6] Lunyu 論語 12.19. This saying is also attributed to Confucius in Mengzi 孟子 3A2.

[7] The Shuowen Jiezi 說文解字 has this meaning under 俶, possibly an allograph.

[8] The Erya 爾雅 writes this as 介.

[9] Mengzi 7B25. Another way of putting this is “what should be” or “what is appropriately” (可) desired (欲). This involves a moral judgement and is not simply whatever one may desire.

[10] Xunzi 荀子 23, translated by Eric L. Hutton, Xunzi: The Complete Text, Princeton University Press, 2014, p. 252.

[11] It is also occasionally contrasted with zhuo 拙 “ineptness/stupidity.” Bushan also occurs as an opposite of shan in the moral sense.

[12] The graph “仁” was not the only one used in texts of the period discussed here; in the state of Chu (at least), for example, the graph contained the heart (心) semantic component, taking such forms as 忎 and (身+心). Seeing that it’s etymology points toward the meaning “heart,” these allographs seem to preserve an ancient meaning. Note that, although impossible to see in the modern orthography, both 身 and 千 (the top parts of these characters) are composed of the graph 人 (which appears on the left side of the current graph 仁. See Imre Galambos’ Orthography of Early Chinese Writing: Evidence from Newly Excavated Manuscripts, Department of East Asian Studies, Eötvös Loránd University, 2006, pp. 73-76.

[13] Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, p. 440-441. Cf. The Sino-Tibetan Etymological Dictionary and Thesaurus:

[14] Respectively: Lunyu 12.22, in Xunzi 29, Mengzi 4B28, Xunzi 15, Chunqiu Fanlu 29.

[15] There are examples of this usage. See Ting-Mien Lee’s ““Benevolence-Righteousness” as Strategic Terminology: Reading Mengzi’s “Ren-Yi” through Strategic Manuals” in Dao 16.1, 2017

[16] The Analects of Confucius, Book of the Month Club edition, 1992, p. 27. Originally published in 1938. Schuessler points out, however, that people of foreign tribes were referred to as 人 as well, (ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, p. 440).

[17] “Understanding Ancient Chinese Society: Approaches to Rén 人 and Mín 民” in the Journal of the American Oriental Society 120.3, 2000, p. 359.

[18] In three places in the Mengzi ren is said to consist of the proper treatment of one’s parents/kin (4A27, 6B3, 7A15), but in 7A45 ren stops short of this.

[19] “Some Proleptical Remarks on The Evolution of Archaic Chinese” in the Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 2.34, 1937, p. 361. No doubt drawing on Boodberg’s theory, one definition of yi given by Peter Kroll in his dictionary of Classical Chinese is “dutiful(ness), esp. of responsibilities and appropriate actions owed to one’s acknowledged ‘we’ group, as function of one’s proper social relations and status.” (A Student’s Dictionary of Classical and Medieval Chinese, Brill, 2015, p. 550.)

[20] Ibid., p. 362.

[21] Baxter and Sagart claim, “In fact, {義} *ŋ(r)aj-s ‘duty; justice’ is just the nominal derived from {宜} *ŋ(r)aj ‘proper; should’ by means of the suffix *-s.” (Old Chinese: A New Reconstruction, p. 65) Cf. William Boltz, “Why So Many Laozi-s?” Studies in Chinese Manuscripts: From the Warring States Period to the 20th Century (Budapest: Institute of East Asian Studies, ELTE) 2013, p. 16 n20.

[22] The reconstructed pronunciation of Wo 我 is *ŋˤajʔ, yi 義 is *ŋ(r)aj-s and e 餓 is *ŋˤaj-s. (Ibid, p. 65, p. 65 and p. 336 respectively.)

[23] Taking yang 羊 into account, Roger Ames and Henry Rosemont imagine that yi is “the attitude one has, the stance one takes, when literally preparing the lamb for the ritual slaughter.” (The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation, Ballantine Books, 1998, p. 54)

[24] See note 55.

[25] ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, p. 566.

[26] Oxford’s Lexico:

[27] Hence, there came to exist a “Classic of Filial Piety” (Xiaojing 孝經), but no “Classic of Parental Love” (Cijing 慈經).

[28] Xunzi 9: 水火有氣而無生,草木有生而無知,禽獸有知而無義,人有氣、有生、有知,亦且有義,故最為天下貴也。

[29] Xunzi 16: 夫義者,所以限禁人之為惡與姦者也。

[30] Lunyu 4.16 and Mozi 10.1.15 Jingshang 經上.

[31] Sima Tan 司馬談 claimed that the Daoists “did nothing inappropriate” (無所不宜), in Shiji 130.

[32] “Righteousness” can be defined as “the quality of being morally right or justifiable”

( but is rarely used in modern English except in the form of “self-righteousness.”

[33] See Paul Nicholas Vogt’s PhD dissertation, “Between Kin and King: Social Aspects of Western Zhou Ritual,” 2012, pp. 192—. Although the character apparently shows a “platter” with strings of jade inside, it is often believed that either meat (肉) or “sweet wine” (醴) was served in it. The semantic classifier 礻was added much later. 豐 appears as 豊 in the modern character.

[34] However, it strangely begins by claiming that li is a kind of, or way to li 履: a near homonym usually referring to a shoe or “to tread.” The earlier Erya similarly says that li 履 is (a kind of) rite or ritual rules (禮). This is a very rare usage and may be a case of a phonetic loan, since the two are believed to be near-homonyms. But the two don’t appear to be cognate.

[35] Xunzi 11 compares those who “show reverence for li and yi” (隆禮義) with those (including rulers and ministers) who follow less refined customs (俗). See Hutton p. 115.

[36] Mozi Jing 40, A9.

[37] Lunyu 3.26 and 12.5.

[38] Mengzi 4A4, 4B28, 6A6, etc.

[39] Xunzi 12 and 13 (恭敬、禮也).

[40] Liji 1, 26, etc.

[41] A Student’s Handbook of Classical and Medieval Chinese, p. 135 and 219, respectively.

[42] For example, in Lunyu 3.18, Confucius laments that people assume that exhaustive performance of the li is little more than flattery (chan 諂).

[43] Accordingly, it may be more fruitful to focus on the earliest usages of 儀 to understand li 禮, rather the earliest graphic representation: 豊 or 豐.

[44] Lunyu 15.18; Zuozhuan Xigong 僖公: 28.12 and Chenggong 成公: 2.2.

[45] Jia Yi adds that the opposite of li is lan 濫, “unrestrained,” which Rune Svarverud glosses as profligacy, but finds little evidence this was an accepted antonym (Methods of the Way: Early Chinese Ethical Thought, Brill Publishing, 1998, p. 341-2).

[46] Xunzi 19. Translation by Hutton p. 212. This is repeated again in chapter 27.

[47] See his “Disputers of the Li: Breakthroughs in the Concept of Ritual in Preimperial China” in Asia Major 13.1, 2000.

[48] It doesn’t appear that “respect” was regarded as the appropriate emotion to feel for or show to women and children.

[49] Confucian Ethics of the Axial Age: A Reconstruction under the Aspect of the Breakthrough Toward Postconventional Thinking, SUNY Press, 1993, p. 121.

[50] Eirik Lang Harris, The Shenzi Fragments: A Philosophical Analysis and Translation, Columbia University Press, 2016, p. 131. I have “reverse-translated Harris’ “rituals” to “li,” primarily to not rule out the interpretation of li as the rule-governed behaviour involved in rituals and other interactions.

[51] Mozi Jing shang 墨子 經上 42 A9: 禮。貴者公,賤者名,而俱有敬僈焉,等異論也。

[52] For example, the Liji Quli shang contains the saying: “The li do not (reach) down to the common people” (禮不下庶人), versions of which are also found in the Xinshu, Baihu Tong 白虎通 and the excavated Guodian text named Zun Deyi 尊德義. See Charles Sanft’s discussion of this issue in his “Rituals That Don’t Reach, Punishments That Don’t Impugn: Jia Yi on the Exclusions from Punishment and Ritual” SAOS 125.1, 2005.

[53] Lunyu 2.3, Liji 23, Xiaojing 7, etc.

<[54] The Yili 儀禮 was a ritual text, originally known as the Shili 士禮, Lijing 禮經 or simply Li 禮. (William G. Boltz, Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, Michael Loewe ed., Early Chinese Texts: A Bibliographical Guide, Early China Special Monograph Series #2, 1993, p. 234.)

[55] Yuri Pines, “Disputers of the Li, p. 19.

[56] Eg., Liji Quli shang and Liji Tan Gong xia 檀弓下.

[57] Lunyu 12.1. Confucius says this is the road to becoming ren 仁.

[58] Lunyu 7.25.

[59] Lunyu 1.8, 9.25 and 12.10.

[60] Mozi 21.

[61] The excavated text referred to as Liu De 六德 “Six Virtues” from Guodian says as much: 忠者,臣德也。

[62] It is sometimes contrasted with xiechen 邪臣 or jianchen 姦臣 / 奸臣, which can be translated as “crooked” or “wicked chen-officials.”

[63] Translation by Edward Slingerland, Confucius Analects, Hackett Publishing, 2003, p. 25. In Lunyu 5.19, Confucius praised the prime minister of Chu as being zhong – loyal and dedicated to the state, (rather than dedicated to his own interests).

[64] D.C. Lau, The Analects, Penguin Books, 1979, p. 70; Wing-Tsit Chan, A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy, Princeton University Press, 1963, p. 25; Arthur Waley, The Analects of Confucius, Book of the Month Club edition, 1992, p. 99, (Originally published in 1938).

[65] The Foundations of Confucian Thought, University of Hawai’i Press, 2002, p. 149).

[66] Xunzi 13, translation by Hutton, p. 134.

[67] Hanfeizi 6. “Turning one’s back on” (bei 倍) is said to be the antonym of zhong in Jia Yi’s Daoshu 道術 chapter (Xinshu 新書46)

[68] Zuozhuan Xigong 24.

[69] Lunyu 16.10.

[70] Lunyu 15.6.

[71] The excavated text, Liu De, in saying that xin is a “wife’s virtue” (婦德), gives as an example a wife who is faithful to her husband even after he has died (i.e., she doesn’t remarry).

[72] Odes #197, 198 and 219.

[73] Xunzi 25, translated by Hutton p. 276.

[74] Shangshu Luxing , Zuozhuan Aigong 16, Shangshu Tangshi 尚書 湯誓 and others, Laozi 63, respectively.

[75] Lunyu 5.10: “At first, when evaluating people, I would listen to their words and then simply trust that the corresponding conduct would follow. Now when I evaluate people I listen to their words but then closely observe their conduct.” (始吾於人也,聽其言而信其行;今吾於人也,聽其言而觀其行。) (Translated by Edward Slingerland, p. 43).

[76] For example, in the Hanfeizi, Shangjunshu 商君書, Guanzi 管子, Lüshi Chunqiu, Huainanzi, Zhanguoce 戰國策, Sunzi 孫子, Wuzi 吳子, Wei Liaozi 尉繚子 and Liu Tao 六韜.

[77] I suspect “not usually truthful” is intended, rather than being a claim that “beautified,” “embellished,” “elegant” words (meiyan 美言) are never truthful or trustworthy. In chapter 63, “seldom trustworthy” (guaxin 寡信) is more explicit in this regard. A prescriptive tone could be implied as well: “embellished words should not be trusted/regarded as truthful.”

[78] Mozi Jing 40.14.

[79] The Erya, Shuowen Jiezi, Baihutong 白虎通. The older term yun 允, “trust, be true, sincere,” was considered a synonym in the Erya, Shuowen and Fangyan 方言 and Axel Schuessler believes them to be cognate, (p. 539). The Erya, Shuowen and Fangyan also list xun 恂/詢/洵, “sincere, truly” as a synonym.

[80] Lao 老 – abbreviated to 耂 – seems to also be the phonetic component. In Baxter’s and Sagart’s Old Chinese reconstruction, 老 is *C.rˤuʔ and 孝 is *qʰˤuʔ-s (Old Chinese, p. 167 and 103 respectively).

[81] Some translators don’t like some connotations of the word “piety,” so, Ames and Rosemont, for example, prefer “reverence” or “deference” (The Chinese Classic of Family Reverence, University of Hawai’i Press, 2009, p. 1) They also prefer “family” to “filial,” but do not mention why. The elders of a family do not “revere” the young.

[82] 慈 and 兹 are allographs: 兹 writes 慈 in numerous excavated manuscripts and 慈 actually writes 滋 (“increase”) in the Guodian Laozi A manuscript. In the Guodian Laozi C, the “child” graph (子) replaced the “heart/mind”: 孳 (which is the cognate word zi meaning “procreate” or “busily”) and in the Guodian Laozi A text, only the graph 子 occurs in the place 慈 normally is found. This will be discussed later.

[83] The Yijing and Xunzi add “the older brother should act as an older brother should act” (兄兄) and “the younger brother should act as a younger brother should act” (弟弟). The Yijing and Guodian “Liu De” text include the same prescriptions for husbands and wives (夫夫、婦婦。). In early texts, elder brothers (xiong 兄) should be “decent” (liang 良) or “friendly” (you 友) or “caring” (ai 愛) and younger brothers (di 弟) should be “deferent” (ti 弟/悌); husbands should be “wise” (zhi 智) or righteous (yi 義) and wives should be “faithful” (xin 信) or “obedient” (shun 順). No text includes a prescription for mothers, i.e., 母母.

[84] As discussed earlier, ren seems early on to have referred to “treating kin as kin should be treated” (qinqin 親親).

[85] Since “filial” means relating to or befitting a son or daughter, which is what zi 子 stands for. “Pious grandsons/descendants” (xiaosun 孝孫) are also mentioned in early sources: “filial” may be less fitting here.

[86] Liji Jitong 祭統.

[87] “The Ru Reinterpretation of Xiao” in Early China 20, 1995, p. 206. Cf. Martin Kern, “Shijing songs as performance texts: a case study of Chuci (Thorny Caltrop)” in Early China 25 (2000), p. 84 n116 and p. 87 n131; Yuri Pines, Foundations of Confucian Thought, p. 187-9.

[88]  Bernhard Karlgren, The Book of Odes, Museum of Far Eastern Antiquities, 1974, p. 248-9; Cf. Waley p. 301, Legge believes it is not the speaker, King Cheng, that is pledging to be xiao, but claiming his father had been.

[89] Similar arguments were made regarding de 德: the ancestral spirits cared less for the sacrifices and more about one’s character.

[90] The Erya, in glossing Shijing ode #177, says “being good to one’s father and mother is xiao” (善父母為孝).

[91] ‘The Sacred Books of China: The Texts of Confucianism: Part III: The Li Ki, I-X, Clarendon Press, 1885, p. 467-8.

[92] “Filial Piety as a virtue” in Filial Piety in Chinese Thought and History, Chan and Tan, eds., Routledge, 2004, p. 194.

[93] Ibid. p. 197-8.

[94] In Lunyu 4.20 and 1.11, Confucius says that one should, out of respect, wait three years before changing (gai 改) the way their father did things, that is, his dao (fuzhidao 父之道). Cf. Lunyu 19.18.

[95] The aforementioned Neizi chapter of the Liji says that if they don’t listen, one should concentrate on being xiao and reverent and try again later. One should keep repeating this, even if one’s parents ‘beat you till the blood flows’ (撻之流血)!

[96] See Axel Schuessler, ABC Etymological Dictionary of Old Chinese, p. 633; Laurent Sagart, The Roots of Old Chinese, John Benjamins Publishing, 1999, p. 210-11. See also William Boltz’s The Origin and Early Development of the Chinese Writing System, The American Oriental Society, 2003 (1994) pages 110-113 for a discussion on many of these words/characters (except 慈) as well as xiao 孝.

[97] Too many variations exist to mention here, but one relevant example is that in the Guodian proto-Laozi manuscripts, 慈 writes the word normally found as 滋 and 孳 and 子 appear to write the word normally written as 慈.

[98] Xinshu Daoshu: 親愛利子謂之慈,反慈為嚚。 The word given as an antonym is the rare word yin 嚚, which earlier was glossed as “duplicitous,” and is found most often as describing the legendary Sage-King Shun’s 舜 (despicable) mother. Aili 愛利 occurs frequently in the Mozi and may be a term they coined.

[99] Jielao 解老.

[100] E.g., Zhuangzi 31, Mengzi 4a2, Guanzi 20: “be xiao and ci to one’s father and mother” (慈孝於父母).

[101] E.g., Mozi 兼愛上: 雖父之不慈子,兄之不慈弟,君之不慈臣,此亦天下之所謂亂也。, which shows that ci pertains to the elder or authority figure and Guanzi 20: “be ci to (one’s) subjects” (慈於民).

[102]  內儲說上: 夫慈者不忍,而惠者好與也。不忍則不誅有過,好予則不待有功而賞。

[103] Ceyin 惻隱 is a binome that appears famously in the Mengzi, referring to the root of ren 仁.