THE "SIX SCHOOLS" OF INDIAN PHILOSOPHY, , the "Six Schools" or "Six Doctrines" of "orthodox" Indian philosophy are the schools that accept the authority of the Vedas and thus religiously are considered part of Hinduism [note]. Accepting the authority of the Vedas, however, does not mean actually using them. Mîmâm.sâ and Vedânta are specifically the schools of interpretation of the Vedas; the other four are based on independent reasoning. "Heterodox" schools, which reject the authority of the Vedas, are found in separate religions, like Buddhism and Jainism, or with the rare, reviled "materialists," whose own texts have all been lost. The treatment follows P. T. Raju's The Philosophical Traditions of India [University of Pittsburgh Press, 1971, p. 35].

  1. Mîmâm.sâ, , "Interpretation," or Pûrva Mîmâm.sâ, , "Prior Interpretation," the School of Interpretation of the Karmakân.d.a, the "action part," or first half, of the Vedas. Mîmâm.sâ originates fairly early, perhaps the 2nd century BC, since it is no more than a extension of the task of explaining the Vedas, a project that started in the Vedas themselves with the Brâ The doctrine of the eternity of the Vedas was argued by this school, and the theory of karma may have originated here; but it mostly confined itself to promoting the sanctity and power of the Vedas. The school later was practically absorbed into Vedânta.

  2. Vedânta, , "End of the Vedas," or the Uttara Mîmâm.sâ, , "Posterior Interpretation," the School of Interpretation of the Jñanakân.d.a, the "knowledge part," or second half, of the Vedas, i.e. the Forest Treatises and especially the Vedânta starts relatively late, since it picks up where the leave off, and there may be as late as 200 AD. Vedânta then sets down to interpret its fundamental texts, which include the, the Bhagavad Gîta, and the Brahma Sûtras of Bâdarâyan.a. The Brahma Sûtras were themselves written in the 1st or 2nd century AD and might be regarded as the first document of Vedânta itself. It is worth noting that the influence of Buddhism still seems very strong in the classic expression of Advaita Vedânta in Shãnkara (c.788-820 AD). Later forms of Vedânta became steadily more theistic and dualistic and thus approximated to Islâm rather than to Buddhism.

    The fundamental division in Vedânta is whether Brahman and the Âtman are identical or different. If they are identical, we have a school of , Advaita or "non-dual" Vedânta. A "non-dual" doctrine can also be called "Monism," that there is only one thing. If Brahman and the Âtman are different, we have a school of , Dvaita or "dualistic" Vedânta. The Dvaita Vedânta of Madhva (12381317 AD) is a Theistic doctrine of a personal God, with the "five differences":  that (1) Brahman is different from Âtmans, (2) Brahman is different from matter, (3) Âtmans are different from each other, (4) Âtmans are different from matter, and (5) pieces of matter are different from each other. Thus, it is a pluralistic metaphysics, not just dualistic.

    In the "qualified" Advaita Vedânta of Ramanuja (10171137 AD), Brahman is a personal God, who nevertheless contains all reality, including multiple selves and the world. This may be called a "Pantheism" and is comparable to the metaphysics of Baruch Spinoza. The God of both Madhva and Ramanuja is identified as the devotionalistic deity Vis.n.u.

    In the "unqualified" Advaita Vedânta of Shãnkara, Brahman is the only thing that exists, and the world and individual selves are part of illusion, Mâya, (which is not illusion, but the creative power of God, for Theistic or other realistic versions of Vedanta). Since the Âtman, identical to Brahman, is not an individual self or soul, individuality over time and from life to life must be carried by the "subtle" bodies that are examined in the Mân.d.ûkya Brahman is left without much in the way of positive characteristics, much like the "One" of Being in Parmenides. But there are three essential attributes of Brahman that are expressed in the formula, , Saccidânanda.

    First is , sat, which is "existence." This is the same root as , satya, "truth," which turns up in the Satyâgraha, , or "Truth Force" of Mahâtmâ Gandhi. Second is , cit, which is consciousness. This diverges from the characterization of Being by Parmenides, who left the existence of both consciousness and the world unexplained. Here, the world, even as illusion, can exist as a representation within the consciousness of Brahman. Third and finally there is , ânanda, which is "bliss." "Ânanda" was also the name of the Buddha's personal attendant, who figures in many stories about the Buddha. Brahman is existence, consciousness, and bliss. The ultimate Self within each of us, the Âtman, is this also. So we do exist, and our consciousness is the consciousness of Brahman.

  3. Sânkhya, , "Counting, Reckoning, Reasoning, Knowledge," the School of Theoretical Knowledge. Sânkhya may well be the oldest school independent of the Vedas, growing up contemporaneously with the themselves. It is argued by some that the Bhagavad Gîta was originally a popular exposition of the doctrine of the Sânkhya School, although the text is later dominated by theistic and devotionalistic additions. For our purposes, the salient features of Sânkhya doctrine are the theory of the, , which was later accepted by all orthodox philosophy, and the principle that the self (or soul, the âtman or, in Sânkhya terminology, the purus.a) neither affects nor is affected by the world of nature (called prakr.ti in Sânkhya terminology). Sânkhya was originally atheistic, with an infinite number of souls, like Jainism. In the Gîta we see the role of Sânkhya changing from the theoretical counterpart to Yoga (in Chapter 2) to an independent yoga in its own right, jñanayoga (in Chapter 3). Jñanayoga in effect becomes simply Yoga, as follows; and historically the role of Sânkhya as the theoretical counterpart to Yoga is effectively taken over by Vedânta.

  4. Yoga, , "Yoking, Vehicle, Equipment, Discipline," the School of the Discipline of Achieving Liberation. The Yoga School is to be carefully distinguished from disciplines that are yogas in the general sense of the word yoga, which is any means of achieving salvation, or a major elements of such means. Thus, there are the three yogas of the Bhagavad Gîta (jñânayoga, , karmayoga, , bhaktiyoga, ), which are meant as classifications of all yogas, and also various yogas that are usually part of some higher order yoga: dhyânayoga (), meditation (mentioned in the Gîta); hat.hayoga, yogic exercises; prân.ayoga, yogic breathing; aus.adhayoga, taking drugs (not a common or esteemed method); mantrayoga, chanting sacred words or phrases; layayoga, the yoga of "dissolution"; etc. Tantrism employs sexual practices for yogic purposes. The method of the Yoga School in particular is sometimes called Râjayoga (), the "royal yoga." The Yoga School based its practice on the doctrine of the Sânkhya School, and the aim of its methods (hat.hayoga, etc.) was to quiet prakr.ti, nature as it exists in the body, so that, like a calm body of water, the body can reflect the true remote and detached nature of the purus.a, effecting liberation. The definitive and most famous statement of Yoga doctrine was in the Yoga Sûtras of Patañjali, perhaps in the 2nd century BC. Patañjali added a personal God to Sânkhya doctrine; but the system is not devotionalistic, and the God exists only as an exemplar of detachment, not as an active or creative Deity after the manner of Vis.n.u or Shiva.

  5. Nyâya, , "Analysis," the School of Logic, and
  6. Vaishes.ika, , "Individual Characteristics," the School of Pluralistic Metaphysics, are closely related minor schools. The relation of the doctrine of these schools to salvation is obscure and secondary. They concerned themselves much more with abstract issues of logic, epistemology, and metaphysics. Vaishes.ika in particular held that reality was an infinite number of atom-like entities, although these were then distinct from souls. This pluralism is similar to the teaching of two early schools of Buddhist philosophy, the Sautrântikas and Vaibhâs.ikas, who held that reality consists of an infinite number of momentary entities, the dharmas.

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The "Six Schools" of Indian Philosophy, Note

I expected that would be written in the Devanagari syllabary with a ligature combination for the retroflex d (d.) and the dental d. Given the regularities of such combinations, the word might look like this:  . However, neither my wife nor I have been able to find such a ligature ever used. As is common in Hindi, Sanskrit in this case seems to write the two letters separately, with the virâma diacritic under the first to show that it is used without a vowel, thus:  .

More substantively, "philosophy" itself in Sanskrit is , darshana-shâstra, where , darshana, is "seeing, appearance, view," or "thought, doctrine," and , shâstra, is "system, science" or "teaching." Thus, , dharma-shâstra, is a law code, a doctrine of dharma or "duty." Another word for "philosophy" is found in Hindi, . This is actually read , falsafâ; and it clearly is not borrowed from English or Greek, but from Arabic , falsafah.

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The tradition was that there were a "Hundred Schools" of philosophy that grew up during the Spring and Autumn Period (722-481) of the Chou (Zhou) Dynasty (1027-256 BC). Later in the Former Hàn Dynasty (206-25 AD), the historian Szu-ma Ch'ien [Sima Qian] (145-86 BC), in the Shih Chi, , "Historical Records," the first great systematic Chinese history, identified "Six Schools," Liu Chia, (or Liu Chiao, ). For these, the treatment below follows Fung Yu-lan's A Short History of Chinese Philosophy [Free Press, 1948, 1966, pp. 30-31].

The Chinese term for philosophy itself is , consisting of , "wise," and , "study." It is not clear to me if this is an ancient or a modern usage. A route along a canal in Kyôto, where one of the Kyôto School philosophers, Nishida Kitaro (1870-1945), used to stroll, is now called the , Tetsugaku-no-michi in Japanese, the "Philosopher's Walk" (literally, "Philosophy Way" or "Way of Philosophy"). This identification was probably suggested by the famous daily walk (Philosophenweg) that Immanuel Kant took in Königsberg. "Philosopher" itself is , Chê-hsüeh-chia [Wade-Giles].

While Fung Yu-lan was clearly using to mean "school," I was originally perplexed that this meaning was not immediately evident in Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary [Harvard University Press, 1972, character #594, p.79], where the primary meaning is "a house, family, a home, relatives" (rather tellingly composed of a pig under roof, which we can imagine made for a prosperous home in much of rural China). However, a secondary meaning, "a suffix to indicate the agent... a specialist in any branch" (as used for "philosopher" above), includes the buried definition "a class or school." This is much clearer in the ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, edited by John DeFrancis [University of Hawai'i Press, 2003, p.408], where the second definition is "school of thought." At the same time, Mathews defines [character #719, p.98] as "to teach, instruct," and "a sect, religions, doctrines," which may apply better to Confucianism and Taoism than to the other schools of philosophy. As seen below, in the expansion of the "six schools" to nine, the different meanings of the first character give rise to some ambiguity or confusion in the tradition.

  1. Ju Chia [], School of the Literati, Confucianism. Confucius, K'ung-fu-tzu, , (551-479 BC) becomes, long after his death, the dominant Chinese philosopher both morally and politically. Mencius (Meng Tzu) (c.390-305 BC) extends and systematizes Confucius's ideas; but, with Confucius's adoption in the Hàn Dynasty as the official moral and political doctrine of the State, the Confucian tradition became so broad that "Scholar," , or "Literatus," , became all but synonymous with "Confucian." And as one of the "Three Ways" (), together with Taoism and Buddhism, Confucianism grew into one of the traditional religions of the Hàn Chinese [1]. Confucius himself had a simple moral and political teaching: to love others; to honor one's parents; to do what is right instead of what is of advantage; to practice "reciprocity," "don't do to others what you would not want yourself"; to rule by moral example instead of by force and violence; and so forth. Confucius thought that a ruler who had to resort to force had already failed as a ruler. This was not a principle that Chinese rulers always obeyed, but it was the ideal of benevolent rule. During the T'ang Dynasty, the canon of Confucian Classics became the basis for the great civil service examinations that henceforth provided the magistrates and bureaucrats for the Chinese government. This system is still impressive, but it was not always to good effect. The founder of the Míng Dynasty (1368-1644) Chu Yüan-chang, an illiterate peasant who rose to expel the Mongols and win the throne, was suspicious of the influence of the scholars. He tried to balance the scholarly with the military establishment so that the scholars would not dominate the government. Later, when the Chinese sent Admiral Chêng Ho [Zheng He], a Moslem eunuch who started out as a war prisoner slave, on seven great naval expeditions into the Indian Ocean between 1405 and 1433, it was the scholars who powerfully opposed engaging in anything so lowly as trade and dealing with such uncivilized barbarians. The expeditions, indeed, visited not only Indonesia and India, but penetrated into the Persian Gulf, the Red Sea, and far down the east coast of Africa. The fleets were large, heavily manned, well armed, and contained, reportedly, ships of nine masts that were more than 400 feet long. But when the court faction of the scholars triumphed and ended the expeditions, they also destroyed their records and made it a capital offense to build anything larger than a two-masted ship. This crippled Chinese trade and foreign involvement; and one is left to wonder just how world history would have been different had Vasco da Gama arrived in the Indian Ocean in 1498, just 65 years later, to discover an overwhelming and technologically equal or superior Chinese naval presence. In China itself, the scholars indeed went on to dominate the government and tip the balance against the military, which left the country so unprepared that in 1644 the forces of Manchuria were allowed in to deal with a rebellion. The Manchus took advantage of this to take over the country; and so the final Chinese Dynasty, the Ch'ing [Qing] (1644-1912), wasn't Chinese at all. This was probably not what the scholars would have wanted, but they had certainly brought it about. Curiously, the Ch'ing adopted scholarly sensibilities and retained Ming naval and maritime policy xenophobia. This left China once again helpless when forces technologically superior to the Portuguese, especially the British, eventually arrived, irresistibly pressing for commercial access to the country. The scholars never did adapt, and the examination system was eventually abolished rather than modernized.

    Confucian Classics

  2. Tao-Te Chia [], Taoism. The philosophical beginnings of Taoism in the Tao Te Ching, reputedly by the sage Lao Tzu, , and the Chuang Tzu -- named after Chuang Tzu [Zhuangzi], c. 369-c.286 BC -- led to the great alternative to Confucianism in Chinese culture. The Tao is the "Way," both as a course of action (what everyone else, like Confucius, meant by it) and a hidden Force that is responsible for the Order of Nature, if, that is, we do not disrupt things by our own attempts at control. Although Taoism begins with considerable political advice, it ends up primarily dealing with art, beauty, and nature. Even Confucians, who otherwise concern themselves with moral and political discourse, could adopt a Taoist side through appreciation of nature and of arts like calligraphy. The proper Taoist sage, however, wanders the highways or lives in the mountains or forests alone -- the , "mountain and forest hermit" -- answering only in riddles questions put to him. This preference for the rural, individual, and paradoxical was certainly a factor in Taoist political advice not being taken very seriously. In this, they look like the Chinese equivalent of the Cynics in Greek philosophy. A Taoist Sage would never put himself forward, which is why it is probable that Lao Tzu, the "Old Master," despite legends about him meeting Confucius, did not exist. A true Taoist might think it too much to put his name on a book -- although, of course, later many did.

    At left we see the Taoist mendicant "Master Gourd" from Robert van Gulik's Judge Dee story, Necklace and Calabash [1967]. Although the stereotype of the Taoist Sage is an asocial recluse, wanderer, and hermit, there is nevertheless the tradition that such person may nevertheless be the wisest in practical, including military, matters. A striking example of this is in The Romance of the Three Kingdoms, , where Liu Pei (Liu Bei), who would become the first Emperor of the Shu Han dynasty, seeks out the Taoist recluse Chu-ke Liang (Zhuge Liang), known as K'ung-ming (Kongming). Liu Pei travels three times to find and petition K'ung-ming before obtaining his services. Then K'ung-ming serves the Dynasty with superior administrative, diplomatic, strategic, and tactical abilities. Thus, while the prevalent political ideas of classical China are Confucian, there is the suspicion that the Taoists may know more about the way things work -- including magical abilities, which K'ung-ming also uses occasionally. Even Master Gourd of the Judge Dee story turns out to be involved in high level Chinese politics.

    We see a bit of overlap again between Confucians and Taoists in the expression , "retired scholar." We have seen , "hidden, withdrawn," above for the Taoist hermit. But when attributed to a scholar, , it is simply "retirement." The retired Confucian, indeed, free of public office, becomes much more like a Taoist, although probably not wandering the highways or becoming a recluse in the mountains or forests.

    Later Taoism grew into one of the three classical religions of China (the "Three Ways"), picking up many popular, especially magical beliefs (things like Chinese geomancy, , the art of discovering auspicious positions and orientations for homes, furniture, businesses, graves, etc.), monastic practices from Buddhism (to the disgust of Confucians), and especially a body of alchemical research whose purpose was to bring about immortality. Taoists thus worshipped a group of deities, the "Immortals," who were supposed to dwell on distant blessed islands. This desire for unnatural life extension seems to contradict the original thrust of philosophical Taoism, to allow Nature to take its course. The idea that mercury, because it preserved bodies so well in embalming (and there are some spectacular mummies found by Chinese archaeology), would be part of an elixir of immortality led to many deaths, including perhaps that of Shih-huang-ti himself, from mercury poisoning.

    The Classics of Taoism are less entensive and less organized than those of Confucianism. Although Taoism counts as one of the Three Ways and thus is in one sense the equal of Confucianism and Buddhism, its books were not used for the civil service examinations and so are more of the status of the texts of other schools of philosophy than of the Confucian Classics.

    1. The Tao Te Ching, of Lao Tzu [Laozi], the legendary and probably composite sage.
    2. The Chuang Tzu, named for its author [Zhuangzi].
    3. The Classic of Simplicity and Emptiness, Ch'ung-hsu Chen-ching [Chongxu zhenjing], by Lieh Tzu [Liezi], or just the Lieh Tzu. An early but possibly derivative work, dependant on the Tao Te Ching and Chuang Tzu.
    4. The Treasury of the Tao, Tao Tsang or Tao Tsang Ching, [Daozang, although I've cited the "treasury" character with its alternative pronuniciation, Tao Ts'ang]. This is a large and much later compilation, c.400 AD, and is thus not one of the core Classics of Taoism, but is often accorded that dignity in its name. Additions were subsequently made in the T'ang, Sung, and Ming Dynasties.
    5. The T'ai Shang Tractate of Actions and Their Retributions, T'ai-Shang Kan-Ying P'ien [Taishang Ganying Pian, "Treatise of the Exalted One on Response and Recompense"]. This is included by James Legge (1815-1897) in "The Sacred Books of the East" series, Volume XL, The Texts of Tâoism, Part II [Oxford 1891, Dover 1962], along with several short works, the Classic of Purity, Ch'ing-ching Ching [Qingjing Jing], the Classic of Harmony of the Seen and Unseen, Yin-fu Ching [Yinfujing], the Classic of the Pivot of Jade, Yü-shu Ching [Yushu Jing], and the Classic of the Directory for the Day, Nei Jih-yung Ching [Nei Riyong Jing]. I believe that these all can be found in versions of the Tao Tsang and are thus similarly late in provenance.

  3. Yin-Yang Chia [], the Ying-Yang School, or the "Cosmologists," where the theory of the fundamental opposites, yin and yang, , was developed. Like the theory of the in India, the theory of yín and yang was eventually adopted in all Chinese thought, and the Yin-Yang School ceased to be a separate entity (if it ever had been). But the Cosmologist philosopher Tsou Yen is reported to have developed the original Chinese theory of the five elements. This School is sometimes also called the School of Divination because of the use of the I Ching [], which embodies Yin-Yang theory.

  4. Fa Chia [], the Legalist School or School of Law []. The Legalists rejected the Taoist and Confucian ideas that government must be based on morality and that good government must foster, in one way or another, moral dispositions in the people that will then automatically make them behave well. The Legalists thought that government was simply a matter of laying down laws and then punishing people, mostly by execution, who did not obey them. This school achieved great historical significance when its views were adopted as official policy by the "First Emperor," Shih-huang-ti [] of the Ch'in [] Dynasty (255-207) [2]. Shih-huang-ti had a ferocious and ruthless disposition that found the advice of the Legalist philosopher Li Szu [Li Si] agreeable. In 213, on Li Szu's urging, Shih-huang-ti outlawed all other schools of thought and began to burn their books. This may be why more is not know about the "Hundred Schools." Scholars who resisted the order were executed: 346 (or more) are supposed to have actually been buried alive [3]. The fall of the Ch'in Dynasty soon thereafter, which also led to the execution of Li Szu, was later seen as proof of the working of the Mandate of Heaven.

    The Classics of Legalism consist of several texts:

    1. The Book of Lord Shang, of Shang Yang.
    2. The Kuan Tzu [Guanzi] of Kuan Chung [Guan Zhong].
    3. The Han-fei Tzu [Hanfeizi], also named for its author.
    4. The Shen Tzu [Shenzi], a one chapter fragment, of Shen Pu-hai [Shen Buhai].
    5. The Shen Tzu [Shenzi], a seven chapter fragement, of Shen Tao [Shen Dao].
    6. The Canon of Laws, of Li K'uei [Li Kui].

  5. Ming Chia [], School of Names, the "Debaters," "Sophists," or "Logicians." this contains a variety of thinkers who were concerned with issues of language, logic, and meaning. Kung-sun Lung (c.320-250 BC) is once supposed to have replied, when told that he could not travel on a certain road with his horse, that his horse was white and that because the rule mentioned horses and not white horses, it did not apply to him:  , "A white horse is not a horse." This leaves us in no doubt why some members of the School of Names can be called "Sophists." While a white horse is indeed a horse, we might supply Kung-sun Lung with a parallel statement that is correct:  "New York is not York."

  6. Mo Chia [], School of Mo Tzu [, or Micius] (479-381 BC), Mohism. Mo Tzu was an early critic of Confucius. Although Confucius teaches both righteousness () and love (rèn), Mo Tzu believed there was far too much emphasis on duty and too little on love. Mo Tzu also rejected Confucius's distant attitude towards religion. That is somewhat ironic, since Confucianism actually became a religion precisely by absorbing traditional religious practices. Mo Tzu advocated a kind of Utilitarianism, called Mutual Profitableness: "Righteousness is that which yields profit...Mutual love produces mutual profit....Common good arises from loving and profiting others....God must like to see men loving and benefiting one another." Confucius might not have rejected this himself, but his references to profit are mostly disparaging and the Confucian tradition came to strongly disapprove of profit as a motive or of its pursuit as an activity. Even Mo Tzu did not advocate any sort of individualistic pursuit of profit. He saw it all, like Utilitarianism itself, as a matter of producing "the greatest good for the greatest number."

    There is one Classic of Mohism, the Mo Tzu [], named for its author.

    Szu-ma Ch'ien's classification contains the schools of historical importance but one sometimes suspects that it may also artificially construct some "schools" out of disparate doctrines and thinkers. Nevertheless, there is a strong tradition, not only of the Six Schools, but of these together with three others, into the Nine Schools, . Indeed, there is a common expression in Chinese:  , the "Three Religions and Nine Classes," or the "Three Great Teachings and the Nine Minor Traditions." The "Three Religions" are of course the "Three Ways" of Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. On the other hand, , the "Nine Classes," has more than one meaning, as itself can mean "current," "class," "kind," or "set of persons." The expression can mean (1) the specific Nine Schools of philosophy, or "Nine Traditions," given here, (2) "nine classes of literature," (3) "various religious sects and academic schools," or (4) it can mean "people in various trades," "people of all sorts," or "people of all walks of life." This latter usage curiously is said to have a derogatory overtone [4]. For our purposes, is rendered "Nine Schools." In various sources the Nine Schools tend to be given in a fixed order, begining with the Six Schools above and then passing into these, which use the more familiar :

  7. Tsung-heng Chia [], School of the Politics or Political Strategists. This is something specific to the Warring States Period (, 481-221 BC). The origin of the term is of great interest. The character can mean "perpendicular; vertical, north-south." The , "North-South Agreement," was an alliance against the Ch'in []. The final alliance, of 240 BC, against the Ch'in consisted of the Six Kingdoms. The character can mean "crosswise, horizontal, east-west." The , "East-West Connection," meant states that had joined with the Ch'in. As far as political strategy went, of course, Ch'in won and the Six Kingdoms were conquered.

  8. Tsa Chia [], School of the Eclectics or Miscellaneous Writers. It is not clear to me whether this is a grab bag for otherwise unclassified doctrines, or whether there are Eclectics who have some kind of theory of Eclecticism. One dictionary simply says "writers of various subjects," which sounds less like a School of Philosophy than another meaning for the "Nine Schools," that they are classifications of literature.

  9. Nung Chia [], School of the Agriculturists. I cannot glean from my sources who this refers to. The expression can now simply mean a "peasant family." In such terms, it fits well with the meaning of the "Nine Schools" as being classes of persons rather than Schools of philosophy.

Much of the information on the "Nine Schools" is simply gleaned out of dictionaries. These include Mathews' Chinese-English Dictionary [Harvard University Press, 1972], ABC Chinese-English Comprehensive Dictionary, edited by John DeFrancis [University of Hawai'i Press, 2003], The Pinyin Chinese-English Dictonary, edited by Wu Jingrong [The Commercial Press, Beijing, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., New York, 1979, 1985], and the Japanese Kôjien dictionary [5th printing, Tokyo Iwanami Shoten, 1999, 2005, entry for "Kyûryû," "Nine Classes"]. All these reference sources give the Nine Schools in exactly the same sequence, though often with slightly different translations. This indicates an ultimate common source in Chinese, but that is not cited.

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The "Six Schools" of Chinese Philosophy, Note 1

The Hàn () Chinese are to be contrasted, for instance, with the Huí () Chinese, who are simply those who practice Islâm, (i.e. the "religion of the Huí"), which is not one of the Three Ways. Since huí can also mean "Turks" or "Uigers," Moslem Chinese obviously were thought of as the equivalent of foreigners. Confucians originally thought of Buddhists as similarly un-Chinese; but Buddhism became so popular after the fall of the Later Hàn Dynasty (220 AD) that, by the time of the Suí (590-618) and T'ang [Táng] (618-906), it was accepted as properly Chinese. The Huí are still counted as an ethnic minority, some 6,490,000 as of 1980, and in the northern province of Ningxia constitute a majority of the population.

Although this usage has now lapsed, the Huí, or Huíhuí (), in the Ming dynasty meant Jews and Christians as well as Muslims. All three groups had come down the Silk Road from Central Asia. The original Christians in this case, of course, were the Nestorians who appeared at the T'ang court in 635. Jews as well as Muslims did not eat pork. They all used related sacred languages, like Arabic, Syriac, and Hebrew. They claimed many of the same prophets, like Abraham, Joseph, and Moses. To the Chinese then, although there might be some differences between these groups, they were more similar to each other than to anyone else, and very different in belief, language, and culture from the Chinese.

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The "Six Schools" of Chinese Philosophy, Note 2

Shih-huang-ti, the "First Emperor," came to the throne as Wang Cheng in 247, changed his name, inventing the title of Emperor (), after the unification of China in 221, and died in 209.

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The "Six Schools" of Chinese Philosophy, Note 3

Mao Tse-tung is reported as saying in 1958:

What's so unusual about Emperor Shih Huang of the Chin Dynasty? He had buried alive 460 scholars only, but we have buried alive 46,000 scholars....We are 100 times ahead of Emperor Shih of the Chin Dynasty in repression of counter-revolutionary scholars.

Mao is often compared, not surprisingly, to Shih-huang-ti.

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The "Six Schools" of Chinese Philosophy, Note 4

A source on the Internet gives this interesting breakdown of the "Nine Schools" as the "Nine Classes," or perhaps "Nine Sets of Persons," in high, middle, and low forms. We go from exalted offices, to the respectable, to the disreputable. Of the latter, the only one that seem positively illegal in traditional China (where brothels and procurers could be legitimate) would be a robber -- however, one might not be elligible to enter the Chinese examination system unless from a family that had not engaged in these "base occupations" for three generations. This is all very different from the ancient theory of the Four Classes, , and it hardly seems exaustive in terms of possible offices, trades, crafts, or professions.

The Three Religions and the Nine Classes
High, Middle, Low,
1prime minister, zaixiangdoctor, yishengbrothel owner, wángba
2grand historiographer, shangshufortune-teller, jinprocurer, gui
3governor general, dufuscrivener, piaohangactor, xìzi
4provincial commissioner, fangaoglyphomancer, tuibugler, chui
5provincial commander, titaiitinerant musician, qinqiconjuror, daicai
6brigade general, zhentaicalligrapher, painter, shuhuàjuggler, xiaocai
7intendant of Circuits, dàowenBuddhist monk, sengbarber, sheng
8prefect, zhifuTaoist priest, daorobber, dao
9deputy of magistrates, zhizhouphysiognomist, mayidrug trafficker, chuihui

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The "Six Schools," Rokushû, , in Japanese history are the speculative, doctrinal, and disciplinary schools of Buddhism that existed during the Nara Period, 710-794, when a permanent Japanese capital was first established, at Nara. These represent a mix of speculative metaphysics from India with a couple of important Chinese schools. The first three never really existed as distinct institutional entities and did not embody any novel religious doctrine or practice. The treatment follows Earl Miner, Hiroko Odagiri, & Robert E. Morrell, The Princeton Campanion to Classical Japanese Literature [Princeton University Press, 1985, p. 369-385]. Shû, , tends to be used for sects of Buddhism, or religions, while the term seen above, , means "household," "school," or "member of a school," as in , Juka in Japanese, "Confucianism" or a "Confucianist." , kyô in Japanese, can mean "teaching," "doctrine," "religion," etc. "Buddhism" is thus , with the character that is used in Chinese, or , with the simplified character that now tends to be used in Japanese, both pronounced Bukkyô in Japanese. Or "Buddhism" can be , Butsudô, the "Buddha Way." , bukka or, more commonly, bukke in Japanese, can mean a Buddhist, or, more commonly, a Buddhist priest (i.e. Japanese monk). The combination by itself means "religion."

  1. Kusha Shû [], introduced to Japan in 658. The name (Chu She in Chinese) translates Sanskrit Abhidharmakosa. Based on the writings of the Indian philosopher Vasubandhu (c.350 AD), this is the Japanese representative of the Indian Theravada Sarvâstivâdin school, which held the metaphysical doctrine that reality consists of an infinite number of real, momentary entities or dharmas []. In India the Vaibhâs.ika subdivision held that the dharmas are directly perceived, the Sautrântika that they are indirectly perceived. This ultimately was not important in Japan. The school had been introduced in China by Paramartha in 556 AD;

  2. Jôjitsu Shû [], introduced in 625; another Theravada school which held that the dharmas don't really exist. This was based on the writings of the Indian philosopher Harivarman. This was not ultimately important in Japan either. It had been introduced in China by Kumarajiva, best known as the translator of the Lotus Sutra, in 408 AD;

  3. Sanron Shû [], introduced in 625. This is the Japanese representative of the important Indian Mahâyâna Mâdhyamika School. Nagârjuna (c.150-c.250), perhaps the greatest Buddhist philosopher in India, held that the dharmas neither exist nor don't exist -- an application of the Four-Fold Negation. There is thus only Emptiness, Shunya. This was not institutionally important in Japan, but most subsequent Japanese schools regarded Nagârjuna as one of the most important figures in the history of Buddhism. This was also introduced in China by Kumarajiva in 408 AD;

  4. Hossô Shû [], introduced in 653. This is the important Vijñânavâdin or Yogâcâra School from India, which held that Consciousness was the only reality (or that Consciousness is all that we can know -- scholars disagree). Vasubandhu, who shifted to Mahâyâna ideas, and his brother, Asanga, as well as other Indian and Chinese figures, contributed texts used in Japan. Hossô is a minor school but still with an important center at the Kôfukuji temple in Nara. The School had been introduced in China by Hsüan Tsang (after his pilgrimage to India, 629-645) in 648 AD;

  5. Ritsu Shû [], introduced in 754, focused on Buddhist monastic discipline (the Vinaya). This was institutionally important in Japan only as it was revived in a Shingon version (Shingon Risshû) by Eizon (1201-1290) at the Saidaiji in Nara. This was introduced to China by Tao Hsüan around 650 AD; and

  6. Kegon Shû [], introduced in 735. This is the important Chinese Hua-yen School of Fa-tsang (643-712) and Hsien Shou (712). Its institutional base, still at the magnificent Tôdaiji temple in Nara, was the most important of its time, but its subtle metaphysics failed to attract much popular following.

    The Six Schools expanded to Eight in the Heian Period (794-1185), when the capital moved permanently to Kyôto:

  7. Tendai Shû [], the important Chinese T'ien T'ai School, founded by Chih I in 575 AD, brought back from China by Saichô (767-822) in 805. Tendai became the institutionally and politically dominant form of Japanese Buddhism when Saichô began what later turned into a vast establishment of temples and hermitages (the "Three Pagodas and Sixteen Valleys") on the sacred mountain, Mt. Hiei, looming over the city of Kyôto to the northeast, the direction of the "mountain" trigram and the perilous "Demon Gate," which could thus be guarded by the temples. Most of the Kamakura schools were essentially spinoffs from Tendai, which emphasized Nirvân.a in this life, the power of the Lotus Sutra -- , Myôhô-Renge-kyô in Japanese -- and devotion to the Buddha Amitâbha, , Amida in Japanese, whose Pure Land was available to anyone who invoked the power of the Vow of Amida with the Nembutsu mantra:  "Namu Amida Butsu." Tendai practice on Mt. Hiei was Lotus Sutra in the morning, Pure Land in the evening. This was vividly formalized by the Abbot Ryôgen in 936, when corresponding adjacent halls for Lotus and Pure Land practice were joined by a covered walkway -- creating a Ninaidô or "carrying hall," i.e. by analogy to the two buckets at the ends of a carrying pole. This duality is expressed in the saying Asa Daimoku, Yû Nembutsu, , , "Morning Daimoku [the title of the Lotus Sutra], Evening Nembutsu." The dualism of this was subsequently broken by Hônen, who posited the Nembutsu as the only effective practice in the Final Dharma Age of Mappô. Nichiren responded to this by asserting that only the Lotus Sutra was the final and effective practice in Mappô. Consequently, Asa Daimoku, Yû Nembutsu began to mean "can't make up your mind" -- their unity in Tendai practice was often forgotten. The monastic army of Mt. Hiei was long a factor in the politics of Kyôto, until in 1571 it was destroyed and the mountain burned by the "Dictator" Oda Nobunaga; and
  8. Shingon Shû [], the Esoteric or Vajrayâna school (Chen Yen, founded in China by Vajrabodhi in 719 AD) brought back from China by Kûkai (Kôbô-Daishi, 774-835) in 806. Kûkai is a legendary figure in Japan, often supposed to still be walking alive among the living and working miracles. Shingon became established at the important Tôji temple in Kyôto and at the site of Kûkai's tomb on Mt. Kôya -- where the sage sits in meditation, either mummified or deathless, as one prefers. His body has never been open for public inspection.

    During the Period of the Kamakura Shôguns (1185-1333) the traditional number of schools expanded to Twelve:

  9. Zen Shû [], the important Chinese Ch'an School, supposedly founded in China by Bodhidharma in 520 AD, first successfully brought from China by Eisai (1141-1215) in 1192. In 1227 Dôgen (1200-1253) founded the Japanese version of the important Sôtô branch of Zen. Both men had also studied at Mt. Hiei. Often said to be the favorite School of the Samurai warriors, who, however, actually preferred Jôdo;

  10. Jôdo Shû [], the "Pure Land," Sect founded by Hônen (1133-1212) in 1174. One of the most widespread forms of Buddhism, though in Japan it is Jôdo Shin Shû (see next) that has the largest membership. The first "single practice" sect, with exclusive devotion to the Buddha Amitâbha, or Amida in Japanese. Founded in China by Hui Yüan in 402 AD;

  11. Jôdo Shin Shû [], the "True Pure Land," Sect, a uniquely Japanese form of Buddhism, founded in 1224 by Shinran (1174-1268), who married, taught salvation by faith alone (in Amida's Vow), and consequently has been called the "Martin Luther of Japan" -- first of all by early Jesuit missionaries in Japan, such as, Alessandro Valignano, who of course did not regard this as to the credit of Shinran; and

  12. Hokke [], "Lotus," or Nichiren Shû [] Sect, also uniquely Japanese, founded in 1253 by Nichiren (1222-1282), who taught salvation by faith in the Lotus Sutra, especially by invoking its title, the Daimoku, , in the mantra "Namu Myôhô-Renge-Kyô." A fierce polemicist, Nichiren and then his followers became known for annoying the government, engaging in acrimonious, distruptive debate with other sects, and refusing to participate in the sort of eclectic practices common to Japanese religion or to accept money from non-believers, including even the Shôguns. The latter refusal was often interpreted as lèse majesté and provoked torture, executions, and suppression of particularly offensive parts of the Sect. Apart from Christians, Nichiren Buddhism thus probably has the largest number of martyrs in Japanese religious history. Shown below is a Nichiren Shû temple in Izu, with its distinctive banners of the Daimoku. Nichiren Shû is the principle Nichiren sect in Japan, but it is less infamous than Nichiren Shôshû, perhaps the most rigorous of the Nichiren sects, and previously conspicuous for its large lay organization, the Soka Gakkai, which helped spread Nichiren Shôshû overseas. The "Gakkai" and Nichiren Shôshû, however, split in 1991, principally over the ambition of the Gakkai to be, as it were, the tail wagging the dog. For instance, in Southern California, where the Soka Gakkai headquarters was on Wilshire Blvd. in Santa Monica, one of the busiest places in the metropolitan area, the Myôhôji temple was located in Rancho Cucamonga, well East of Los Angeles, to prevent casual contact between Gakkai members and the priesthood. After the split, the Myôhôji was relocated to Crescent Heights Blvd. in Hollywood.

All the Kamakura schools were more interested in practice than in speculative metaphysics and consequently came to dominate popular religion.

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