Guan Zhong


Dao actuates the emphasis on the first principle: People-oriented mindset. The first principle actuates the emphasis on the second principle: Social device for society. The second principle actuates the emphasis on the third principle: Use of pre-logical thinking. The third principle actuates all things to live. All things have a tendency to embrace sunlight under the sun and banish the darkness under the moon in order to absorb as much energy as possible. The Great Nature will mobilize air to harmonize it when an extremism occurs. Similarly, people have a tendency to strengthen themselves as much as possible. The leader of society should use his wisdom to create a new device to harmonize with society when an extremism occurs.” (Ch.42)

The opening four lines of Chapter 42 are very controversial, especially the meaning of the numbers one, two and three. For some cases of interpretation, it is hilarious to find these numbers related to arithmetic or geometry. It is also not related to I Ching《易經》neither.

After the close relation between Daodejing and Guanzi《管子》was identified, it was soon to be found that these numbers one, two and three meant the first three of the ten principles of governance mentioned in Chapter 41 Five Elements (五行) of Guanzi. They were:

1. People-oriented mindset (一者本也),
2. Social device for society
3. Use of ‘pre-logical thinking’
4. Social harmony
5. Education
6. Integrity
7. Establishment
8. Leadership
9. Ultimate purpose of governance
(終者九也) and
10. Functional and well-cooperated government

It is saying when the leader abides by dao, dao will actuate him to be in the position of the people. When the leader sits in the position of the people, this attitude will actuate him to devise a social device for the people. When the leader tries to devise a social device for the people, this motive will actuate him to undertake ‘pre-logical thinking’ to be creative. When the leader undertakes ‘pre-logical thinking’ to be creative, it will actuate him to invent a people-oriented new device to tackle difficult situations so that the people can return to live a normal life again.

Guanzi《管子》emphasized the way of Nature, ‘pre-logical thinking’, ‘subconscious education’, social harmony, people-oriented mindset (以人為本) and ‘society leveraging’ exactly the same as Daodejing. Moreover, Guanzi elaborated all these ideas with many more details, descriptions and examples. All of this is strong evidence to support the argument that it was Guanzi which provided guidance for Laozi to develop his thought and ideals of humanism. Tragically, all of this together with these two great books had never brought up our attention for several centuries until now.

Laozi (老子c.570BC – c.490BC) explicitly mentioned in Chapter 42 with the closing line saying “This is what I learned from our predecessors. I would like to share this wisdom with people” that he learned these principles from someone and used it to support his argument in a debate with someone else. This someone ought to have been Guan Zhong (管仲c.720BC–645BC) and this someone Laozi debated with ought to have been Confucius (孔子551BC–479BC). A lot of cross references between Daodejing《道德經》and Analects of Confucius《論語》and other Confucian texts are found now to support this conclusion.

It is also found that there are a multitude of cross references between Daodejing and Guanzi《管子》that provide lots of evidence to suggest that Guanzi had already existed in the time of Laozi and it was the book of Guanzi which originated Laozi’s thought of pursuing ‘fundamental human rights’ and ‘authority social responsibility’. Most importantly, the original definition of ren () before Confucius is found in Guanzi.

Guanzi《管子》is proven now to be a reference book of governance for the imperial family. It is not surprising that Guanzi was one of the collected books in the imperial library. It is because Laozi was a secretary of the imperial library at that time and it provided many chances for Laozi to come across many books including history, historical documents and royal documents.