Wuwei in the Lüshi Chunqiu

Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 22 (3):437-455 (2023)
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Abstract

Given wuwei 無為 describes the life praxis of the sage and statecraft of the enlightened ruler while also denoting the comportment of the Dao 道—an alternating state of quiet dormancy and creative activity—are the standard translations of wuwei as “nonaction” or “effortless action” up to the task? They are not, it will be argued, in that they fail to convey the true profundity of wuwei. The objective of this essay is twofold: to show that wuwei is better understood as “abiding harmony” than nonaction, and to demonstrate this via a close reading of the Lüshi Chunqiu 呂氏春秋 (Master Lü’s Spring and Autumn Annals) which makes wuwei the epicenter of its doctrine of “the Dao of the ruler.” Indeed, the Lüshi Chunqiu’s unique application of wuwei lies not only in its borrowing of Daoist and Legalist norms, but in having the ruler meet the following prerequisites: be without knowledge, keep the senses and heart-mind pure, be reliant on others, follow Yin 陰 and Yang 陽, and study the course of heaven and earth to know the ways of humanity. There is, therefore, more to wuwei than meets the eye.

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David Chai
Chinese University of Hong Kong

References found in this work

Ziran and wuwei in the daodejing : An ethical assessment.Karyn Lai - 2007 - Dao: A Journal of Comparative Philosophy 6 (4):325-337.
Wei-wu-Wei: Nondual action.David Loy - 1985 - Philosophy East and West 35 (1):73-86.
Reflex and reflectivity:Wuweiin theZhuangzi.Alan Fox - 1996 - Asian Philosophy 6 (1):59-72.
Wu-Wei: Lao-zi, Zhuang-zi and the aesthetic judgement.Rui Zhu - 2002 - Asian Philosophy 12 (1):53 – 63.

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