The Tianxia is generally taken as an early product of the so-called School of Syncretism. This was an attempt to synthesize the many divergent philosophies of the Warring States Period. Confucianism, Mohism, Yin/Yang, Legalism and religious Daoism all had their contributions to make. Together they became what became known as Huang-Lao, a highly political (Legalist or Daoist), cosmologically speculative (Yin/Yang), and religious (Daoism as expressed in the Neiye Chapter of the Guanzi) movement guided by Confucian values. 

“Huang-Lao” designates a fusion of the Yellow Emperor/god, mythological founder of Chinese civilization, and Laozi, the purported founder of Daoism who was himself deified.

This was the historical trajectory of this movement, but we should not superimpose all these developments on the Tianxia itself; it only represents the movement in its nascent form.

Nevertheless, the reader will likely already be alerted to take sense in which the Tianxia represents a clear departure from the philosophy of Zhuangzi. This is not simply a difference in “teachings”, but a movement away from “no positive teachings” at all.

And this radical emptiness of content lies at the very heart of Zhuangzian philosophy. “Just be empty—nothing more.” 

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