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Theories of Yellow Emperor and Laozi

Huanglao Zhishu (Theories of Yellow Emperor and Laozi) is a philosophic and political school that came into being during the Warring States Period (475-221BC) in China. It was widespread in the Western Han Dynasty (206BC-8AD) as an ethos. The representatives of this school allege that its doctrines are from Yellow Emperor and Laozi, however this school is actually the combination of thoughts of Taoists and Legalists. Moreover, it also adopts the viewpoints of yin/yang, Confucianism, the Mohist School and other schools.

As to the contents, Huanglao Zhishu inherited and altered Laozi's thoughts on Tao. It deems that Tao must exist as the objective inevitability. It advocates the theory of Wuwei (inaction), which means that the government shall not interfere with people's life, neither seeks for so-called great achievements and the political hegemony.

The viewpoints of Huanglao Zhishu played a positive role in the early Han Dynasty (206BC-220AD), and the flourishing period of the reigns of Emperors Wendi and Jingdi thus appeared. The theory of Yellow Emperor and Laozi was combined with the newly produced theory of Chenwei (divination combined with mystical Confucian belief) during the Eastern Han Dynasty (25-220). It gradually evolved into the method of natural immortality, and greatly affected the formation of Taoism.

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