The Early Zhou Period: Origin of the Idea of Political Legitimacy and the Political Philosophy of Confucianism

Lun DU


The Chunqiu and Zhanguo Periods are usually regarded as the birth of Chinese philosophy, especially with regard to practical or moral philosophy. If we think about the concept of political legitimacy in the Early Zhou Period, with ideas like the “Mandate of Heaven”, “respect virtue” and “protect ruled people”, then this Period is not only the origin of this in ancient China, but also of Chinese philosophy, and primarily the political philosophy of Confucianism. The paper will first explain some documents in the “inscriptions on ancient bronze objects” in order to prove that the ideas of the “Mandate of Heaven”, “respect virtue” and “protect ruled people” really originated from this time. Through analysis of several Zhou documents from the Book of the Documents the paper will then demonstrate that these ideas are the three most important innovations in the history of Chinese thinking at that time.


Early Zhou Period, idea of political legitimacy, “Mandate of Heaven”, “respect virtue”, “protect ruled people”

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