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3. Wang Ch`ung's Philosophy.
At first sight Wang Ch`ung's philosophy might seem dualistic, for he recognises two principles, which are to a certain extent opposed to each other, the Yang and the Yin fluid. But, although the former, which is conceived as forming heaven as well as the human mind, be more subtle than the latter, from which the earth has been created, yet it is by no means immaterial. Both these principles have been evolved from Chaos, when the original fluid became differentiated and split into two substances, a finer one, Yang, and a coarser one, Yin. We do not find a purely spiritual or transcendent correlate to these two substances such e.g. as Tao, the all-embracing mystical force of the Taoists, or Li "Reason," which in Chu Hsi's system rules over Matter "Ch`i," and thus makes this system truly dualistic. Even Fate, which takes such a prominent place in Wang Ch`ung's philosophy; has been materialised by him, and it is hardly anything more than a sort of a natural law. We cannot be far wrong, if we characterise his philosophy as a materialistic monism.
Compared with western thought Wang Ch`ung's system bears some resemblance to the natural philosophy of Epicurus and Lucretius. In the East we find some kindred traits among the Indian materialists, the Chârvâkas.
Epicurus attaches great importance to physics. The knowledge of the natural causes of things shall be an antidote against superstitions. Wang Ch`ung likewise takes a lively interest in all physical problems, and tries to base his arguments on experience, as far as possible. He wishes to explain all natural phenomena by natural causes. His method is quite modern. If he often falls into error nevertheless, it is not so much owing to bad reasoning as to the poor state of Chinese science at his time. He regards many things as proved by experience, which are not, and in spite of his radicalism has still too much veneration for the sayings of old classical authors.
Wang Ch`ung's views agree, in many respects, with the Epicurean Physics, but not with its Eudæmonology and Sensualism, his Ethics being totally different. Ethical Epicureanism has its representative in China in the pre-Christian philosopher Yang Chu, who seems to have concerned himself with Ethics exclusively, whereas Wang Ch`ung has especially devoted himself to the study of metaphysical and physical questions. The professed aim of the philosophy of Epicurus is human happiness. By delivering them from errors and superstitions he intends to render people happy. Wang Ch`ung likewise hopes to do away with all inventions, fictions, and falsehoods, but in doing so he has truth, and not so much happiness in view.
The pivots of Wang Ch`ung's philosophy are Heaven and Earth, which have been formed of the two fluids, Yang and Yin. "The fluids of the Yin and Yang, he says, are the fluids of Heaven and Earth" (Chap. XXX). These two principles are not of Wang Ch`ung's invention, they are met with in ancient Chinese literature, in the Yiking and the Liki for instance (see Tchou Hi, Sa Doctrine et son influence, par S. Le Gall, Chang-hai 1894, p. 35).
Earth is known to us, it has a material body like man (p. 93), but what are we to understand by Heaven? Is it a spirit, the Spirit of Heaven or God, or merely an expanse of air, the Blue Empyrean, or a substance similar to that of Earth? Wang Ch`ung considers all these possibilities and decides in favour of the last. "Men are created by heaven, why then grudge it a body?" he asks. "Heaven is not air, but has a body on high and far from Illegal HTML character: decimal 156