Yang Chu

Yang Chu

▪ Chinese philosopher
Pinyin  Yang Zhu  
born 440 BC, China
died 360?, BC, China

      one of the early Taoist philosophers. Yang has been infamous in Chinese history for what was thought to be his extreme hedonism. This characterization of Yang was fostered by the great Confucian philosopher Mencius (c. 371–289 BC), the second Sage (after Confucius) of China, who condemned Yang Chu for upholding the principle of “each for himself.” According to Mencius, “Though he [Yang] might have benefitted the world by plucking out a single hair, he would not have done it.” The few fragments of Yang's writing that have survived, however, make it doubtful that this is an accurate interpretation of his ideas.

      Yang Chu was an advocate not of license and debauchery but of naturalism. He said, “The only way to treat life is to let it have its own way, neither hindering it nor obstructing it.” He felt that man owes it to himself to live pleasurably and that to live pleasurably means to live naturally. Overindulgence is as much against nature as rigid self-restraint. Interference with others, whether in the form of assistance or encroachment, is out of the question.

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Universalium. 2010.

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