[Footnote 3: Both Taoist practices.]
Thus Lao Tz[)u]’s individualist and anarchist doctrine was not suited to form the basis of a general Chinese social order, and its employment in support of dictatorship was certainly not in the spirit of Lao Tz[)u]. Throughout history, however, Taoism remained the philosophic attitude of individuals of the highest circle of society; its real doctrine never became popularly accepted; for the strong feeling for nature that distinguishes the Chinese, and their reluctance to interfere in the sanctified order of nature by technical and other deliberate acts, was not actually a result of Lao Tz[)u]’s teaching, but one of the fundamentals from which his ideas started.
If the date assigned to Lao Tz[)u] by present-day research (the fourth instead of the sixth century B.C.) is correct, he was more or less contemporary with Chuang Tz[)u], who was probably the most gifted poet among the Chinese philosophers and Taoists. A thin thread extends from them as far as the fourth century A.D.: Huai-nan Tz[)u], Chung-ch’ang T’ung, Yuean Chi (210-263), Liu Ling (221-300), and T’ao Ch’ien (365-427), are some of the most eminent names of Taoist philosophers. After that the stream of original thought dried up, and we rarely find a new idea among the late Taoists. These gentlemen living on their estates had acquired a new means of expressing their inmost feelings: they wrote poetry and, above all, painted. Their poems and paintings contain in a different outward form what Lao Tz[)u] had tried to express with the inadequate means of the language of his day. Thus Lao Tz[)u]’s teaching has had the strongest influence to this day in this field, and has inspired creative work which is among the finest achievements of mankind.
THE CONTENDING STATES (481-256 B.C.): DISSOLUTION OF THE FEUDAL SYSTEM
1 Social and military changes