Skip to Gallatin Navigation Skip to Gallatin Main Content

Competing Images of the Sage: Confucius and Lao Tzu

Semester and Year FA 2017
Course Number IDSEM-UG1695
Section 001
Instructor Ethan Harkness
Days MW
Time 9:30 AM - 10:45 AM
Units 4
Level U
Requirement   HUM, PREMOD, GLOBAL



Among the early Chinese philosophers whose ideas have framed moral, social and political discourse in East Asia, the figures of Confucius and Lao Tzu stand out, not only as thinkers of towering influence, but also as diametrically opposed archetypes of wisdom. In this seminar, we begin by reading the works attributed to each man, and then we proceed to examine the ways in which their legacies have been and continue to be appropriated by others. Toward this end we explore competing manifestations of Confucius and Lao Tzu in Chinese religion, in popular culture, and in the marketplace of ideas. Themes include the opposing impulses of idolization and iconoclasm, censorship and propaganda, and the sacralization and commercialization of traditional values. Apart from Confucius’  Analects  and Lao Tzu’s  Tao Te Ching , assignments may include  Lao-tzu and the Tao-te-ching  edited by Livia Kohn and Michael LaFargue, selections from  Early Daoist Scriptures  by Stephen R. Bokenkamp,  Confucius from the Heart: Ancient Wisdom for Today's World  by Yu Dan, and the controversial 2010 Hong Kong film  Confucius  starring Yun-fat Chow.


All Syllabi

Course Type

Interdisciplinary Seminars (IDSEM-UG)