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    Taoist Egalitarianism in China



    When arguing for the benefits of anarchism, I've often been stumped by the counter argument that their is no historical example of a stable anarchy (or egalitarianism for that matter - unless we go back to pre-agricultural era, and little is actually known about that time).

    A friend of mine sent me this link in just such a discussion. There is an example, a short lived one, but a clear one.

    My question is, if the Chinese could nearly achieve an egalitarian society, without the aid of modern technology and infrastructure, then shouldn't it be easier for the modern world to do it?

    The collective wealth of the globe is millions (billions? trillions?) of times larger than it was then, and production per capita is exponentially higher.

    It's more shocking to consider how we haven't made this progress.

    Here's the link and an excerpt:

    http://taoism21cen.com/Englishchat/essay5.html

    When the throne was in the hands of the founder’s grandson, Literate, he was a sincere Taoist believer, and put it into practice. Taoism became the guiding philosophy of this ancient Chinese empire. Historians like to compare Chinese Han dynasty with the Roman Empire, since they were contemporaries but the cultures were totally different.

    Lao Tzu’s three treasures, frugality, kindness, and no competition were adapted as ethic principles during these golden years. In ancient time the tax rate was about ten per cent. During these years, the tax rate was reduced to three per cent, and tax collection was stopped altogether for many years. To follow the Taoist natural way, there was nothing to be busy about in the country for several decades. People became rich and the government had a big surplus. In the central government, the money was left over for years so that all the strings along which the coins were chained rotted. There was no way to count how much money was there. Grains were piled up year after year as they all rotted away. It was no surprise that the government stopped tax collection.

    For example, Literate was on the throne for twenty three years but did not add any new garden, palace or new service. Every year he led his court officials farming on a piece of land and producing grains for ritual usage in the palace. His wife led palace maids raising silk worms and so on. The emperor set up strict dress rule for the royal family members and court officials. The emperor wore a black cotton robe, and no embroidery was allowed in his wife’s bedroom.

    He apparently endured inconvenience in the benefit of his people. Royal officials once planned to build a dew plateau. The cost was 100 pieces of gold. Emperor Literate stopped it saying,

    “100 pieces of gold equal the annual income of ten farmer families. I inherited the palace from my father, and I often feel I am unworthy of it. How can I expand it?”


    One official took a bribe. Emperor Literate heard about it and sent some of his own money to this official. In his last will, Literate wrote shortly before his death:

    I have learnt that myriad things on earth which have births will die, and there is no exception. Death is the nature of heaven and earth, a natural happening. Why do we grieve much? Now people like life and hate death, and have elaborate funerals to burden the living ones. I dislike such a trend. Furthermore I had no virtue to help my people, and now that I am dying, and it would make me feel even guiltier to have my people to grieve over my death. … I am not a clever person, and often feared of error or misconduct that would embarrass my father’s legacy. Thus in those years I was often afraid that death might not come soon. Today I am lucky enough to have my end. Praise it, there is no need for grief and sorrow. Here is my order, that after three days of the funeral, all people will take off their funeral clothes. There will be no ban on weddings, drinking of wine, or eating of meat. Let the people enjoy their lives without interruption…


    If the emperor was like this, the officials followed his example, and the people followed the officials’ example. Everybody was self-contained and content. In such a huge country there must be someone who was a trouble maker. Several local lords once united in a rebellion. The general who came to put the rebellion down used the Taoist principle to win the war without much fighting. He avoided any direct battle with the enemy but cut off the enemy’s supplies, and waited for the enemy’s starvation. When the enemy ran away, he put a heavy reward on the head of the rebellion leader. In three months the rebellion was over.

    Sun, Jun 19, 2011  Permanent link
    Categories: Politics
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