A research paper I spent years on has finally been published in the journal Sino-Platonic Papers, #235, to which there is free access at the link below. The paper is entitled “The Evolution of the Concept of De 德 in Early China” and is quite lengthy. After looking into the graphical “etymology” and supposed Oracle-bone inscriptional evidence, I begin with study of the bronze inscriptions of the Western Zhou period (1045-771 B.C.E.), and continue with its use in the Documents and Poetry classics, in the process explaining the martial character of the nobility at this time and the subsequent denial by Confucians of this past. As I move through the Springs and Autumns and Warring States eras (771-221 B.C.E.), I explore many texts, such as the Zuozhuan, Guoyu, and the philosophical texts of the Lunyu, Shangjunshu, Laozi, Zhuangzi, Hanfeizi, Guanzi, Mengzi, Xunzi, etc. I also discuss special uses of De in the Guanzi, the excavated Mawangdui texts, the Huainanzi and Chunqiu Fanlu of the Han Dynasty (206- B.C.E. – 220 C.E.). The discussion of De in both the Zhuangzi and Laozi I think is explained more thoroughly and perhaps more originally than it ever has been before. The final section discusses De and Yuan 怨, “ill-will, resentment,” in the context of reciprocity, with explorations of passages in a number of texts as well as the “famous” controversy between Confucius and Laozi about how one should repay Yuan. I finish this with a discussion of the ethics of “not seeking repayment” for and actually forgetting the good deeds we do.

Professor Victor Mair of the University of Pennsylvania tells me that “it is exactly the sort of thorough, nuanced examination of De that I have long hoped someone would write,” and I am very grateful to him to help me get this published. Do feel free to scroll through to parts that may of interest if reading the whole thing is tiresome.


Note: My series of essays on Classical Daoism is still ongoing and will continue.