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Born circa 313 B.C.; died circa 238 B.C. Ancient Chinese thinker whose views were set forth in his treatise Hsün-tzu.
Hsün-tzu’s ideas about the nature of the world and the origin of things were marked by a naïve materialism and by atheism. His sociopolitical views, which combined the teachings of Confucius about an ideal ruler with the ideas of the Legists (fa-chia), were based on the presumed evil nature of man. Hsün-tzu emphasized the need for an enlightened ruler, for a strict hierarchical social gradation, and for the regulation of all public life on the basis of the Confucian principles of li (’ (proper rules of conduct) and i (sense of duty), supplemented by the Legists’ system of punishments and incentives. Hsiin-tzu’s sociopolitical teachings laid the theoretical foundations for the official ideology of imperial China.