The Rhythms of Nature and of Society in the “Yueling”

Social Sciences in China (Chinese Edition)

No.2, 2014


The Rhythms of Nature and of Society in the “Yueling”



Wang Lihua


During the Warring States and the Qin and Han Dynasties, as an agrarian economy took shape and national politics converged on unification, local experiential knowledge of natural seasonal changes was integrated, in the Spring and Autumn Annals of Master Lü (吕氏春秋), with the feudal lords’ “seasonal calendars” and the pre-Qin philosophers’ “temporal policies” into a system of political ritual whereby policies accorded with the time of the year. Han Dynasty Confucians extracted these elements and compiled the “Yueling” (Monthly Ordinances), which was incorporated into the Book of Rites (礼记). From the Han dynasty on, a great number of related works appeared, and such ideas and knowledge were gradually disseminated and made their way downwards. They played an important role in molding traditional society’s adaptation to the environment, productive life and seasonal customs. The “Yueling” takes heaven, earth, life, and man as a closely related and interacting whole, and constructs a whole set of model relationships between man and nature in which the rhythm of society accords with that of nature. It implies an underlying ecological ethic of respecting nature, learning from nature and complying with nature; this is its core environmental and historical value.