Oneness: reading the "All things are flowing in form (Fan Wu Liu Xing) 凡物流形" (with a translation)

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Ancient Chinese philosophers have persistently engaged in strenuous negotiations (and re-negotiations) of the boundaries between the metaphysical and the concrete. Their worldview reflects the fact that their understanding of the nature of the universe has conditioned their sense of the place and the role of human beings within the natural order; they reflect on what is the 'given' in the cosmos and determine what needs to be constructed by the minds and actions of humans. Fan Wu Liu Xing 凡物流形 (All things are flowing in form, hereafter FWLX) in the Chu Bamboo Manuscripts of the Warring States Period (475–221 BC), housed in the Shanghai Museum (Shanghai Bowuguan cang Zhanguo Zhushu 上海博物館藏戰國竹書) is a pre-Qin example of the synthesis of political theory and cosmology. Without any received counterpart in the textual tradition, the primary concern of the FWLX is to establish a unified, well-regulated state with emphasis on the ruler's understanding and imitation of the heavenly pattern, advocating the efficiency of kingship with the recognition of the fundamental principle of yi 一 (one, oneness) as a precondition for governing and unifying a state.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)285-299
Number of pages15
JournalInternational communication of Chinese culture
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2015


  • The Shanghai Museum collection of the Warring States bamboo manuscripts
  • Chinese ancient texts
  • Chinese philosophy
  • Chinese political culture
  • The Fan Wu Liu Xing text 凡物流形
  • oneness

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