Tao Te Ching

The Power of Goodness, the Wisdom Beyond Words
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Qin Dynasty 秦朝 (221 – 206 BCE)

The first “Imperial” dynasty founded by the first emperor of China, Ying Zheng or Qin Shih Huandi, was ushered into power by the fiercely rigid, legalistic philosophy of Shang Yang. This philosophy helped end constant warfare and unified China into one country but—though very effective as military strategy—did not work well with ruling a country at peace and only lasted 15 years, only 4 years after Ying Zheng died. Though only ruling for 11 years, he made an enormous impact on China. He ruled over 30 million people, had 200 palaces, standardized Chinese writing, and protected the country by unifying the Great Wall of China. On the more negative side, he tried to burn all the books that didn’t agree with his political stance, buried more than 450 scholars alive, killed more than half the population during his rule, and in his obsession with immortality built with 700,000 laborers what is still the biggest grave in the world that includes the world-famous Terracotta Warriors. His successor is only famous for killing messengers who brought news he didn’t like immortalizing the phrase “Don’t kill the messenger.”

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Sages (4)

Archimedes (of Syracuse)
287 – 212 BCE

(2 quotes)

Considered the greatest mathematician of ancient times and one of the greatest of all times, Archimedes was also an inventor, astronomer, and engineer frequently called ”superhuman" by Galileo. Some of his inventions include the block-and-tackle pulley system, the odometer, a way to find the value of π, the measurement of a circle and a sphere, the making of a planetarium, and the system of exponents for expressing large numbers. His formulations for uses of the lever and balance remained without improvement until 1586 CE. Featured on postage stamps issued by Germany, Greece, Italy, Nicaragua, San Marino, and Spain; his exclamation “Eureka!” while running naked through the streets of Syracuse after discovering the principle of displacement is the state motto of California.

Eratosthenes ρατοσθένης (of Cyrene)
276 – 195 BCE


Chief librarian of Alexandria, student of the best teachers of his age: the Stoic founder Zeno, the first serious academic Stoic Arcesilaus, the famous poet Calimachus, and grammarian Lysanias; Eratosthenes invented geography (his terms still used today), made the first Western map of the world including parallels and meridians, calculated the circumference of the Earth and the tilt of its axis for the first time, invented leap day, accurately measured the distance from the Sun to the Earth, and founded “scientific chronology.” The first geographer to mention the Chinese, he criticized the Greek chauvinism of describing foreigners as barbarians and recommended judging people as individuals instead of as members of religious, cultural, or national groups.

Koheleth
c. 330–180 BCE

(15 quotes)

Author of the most mystical, the most in harmony with the non-thought lineage part of the Bible, Koheleth anonymously wrote Ecclesiastes, part of the Hebrew Bible as well as one of the “canonical Wisdom Books” recognized by most Christian denominations. It focuses on the meaning of life, the best way to live, the futility of materialism and wisdom as the highest value. Thomas Wolfe called it “the noblest, the wisest, and the most powerful expression of man's life upon this earth—and also the highest flower of poetry, eloquence, and truth.” Koheleth himself remained anonymous and obscure, not taking credit for this great work.

Upagupta ရှင်ဥပဂုတ္တ (Shin Upagutta)
c. 3rd century BCE


4th Zen Patriarch, disciple of the Buddha’s close attendant Ananda’s regent, the spiritual teacher of Ashoka who spread Buddhism from a very small community into the greater world; Upagupta is still remembered and venerated in many South East Asian countries, Bangladesh, and with a special, high status in Burma that celebrates a major festival in his honor each year. Immortalized in a poem by Rabindranath Tagore, he refuses the advances of his city’s most famous enchantress when she’s young and beautiful only to nurse and stay with her when she’s suffering from a disfiguring disease.

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