Confucius and Kautilya

Confucius and Kautilya both provide examples of how they believe a country should be ruled and how the King and his officials should act. They tell of the realities of governing a country and the idealism on which they were based, a comparative between ideologies of ancient Chinese and Indian rulers. Both have a set of ideas for the rulers to follow and how to rule ones subjects and how to keep said subjects in order. The ideas presented by Kautilya and Confucius seemed to be those which helped to shape the way in which their countries were ruled.

Kautilya’s Arthashatra and the handout both described the various layers of a how a country should be governed from the villages to the ruler himself. They describe a country where the rulers should have layers of spies in order to help “maintain the integrity of the country’s officers”(1) basically; it states that officers should have spies who report on their behaviour and the manner in which they conduct their business. The readings also described the manner in which the ruler himself should attend to his personal security, how foreigners and those not related to him should not be able to be part of the personal security detail. The passage describes how the ruler’s safety is to be obtains and maintained. Some of Kaautilya’s ideas appear to be comparable with those of Confucius. The Analects have passages which seem to impart ideals similar to those of Kaytilya’s Arthashatra, thou they do differ in manner in which they believe a ruler should manage his subjects. Confucius, in my opinion seems to impart his wisdom in a more direct manner and promotes the idea of education of the officials. Kautilya’s ideals seem more complex and complicated to understand, and one teaching seems to have several meanings.

The uniformity of the Harappan seems to be evident when you look at the way in which the villages, towns, and cities all seem to have been built using the same template. They all seem to have used the same grid with the main roads running from north to south or east to west. These roads were laid out in strict patterns and were of uniform width. This uniformity seemed to be seen as well in their diets, trade, identity and government. “As with other early urban cultures, there appears to have been a close relationship among the religious, political, and social spheres of Harappan society.”(2) This ancient Indian civilization like it Chinese counterpart seems steeped in symbolic ideologies. The Harappan society like its cities appears to have strict boundaries and rules it follows. Kautilya’s Arthashastra debates such things as monetary and fiscal policies, welfare, international relations, and war strategies in detail while also outlining the duties of a ruler.

Confucius’ Analects are not really just a rule book for the rulers but also a guild for the officials and others to study in hopes to improve the way in which the government of the Chinese didn’t have corruption and a sort of self-governing of oneself. For punishment was to be dealt harshly when needed and rewarding as well. Not one person other than the empire should have complete power, the officials are there to help govern each other and advise the empire. Anyone could become an official as they would test the intellect of a person and pay no attention to the class. Though of course, one could think that not everyone was educated in the ideological way of Confucius’ Analects. Confucius’ teaching were not just political, they could also be viewed at ethical teachings as well. His moral teachings underlined self-cultivation, simulation of moral examples, and the realization of skilled judgment rather than awareness of rules. Confucian ethics could be a well-thought-out type of virtue in ethics. As his instructions seldom rely on reasoned arguments and ethical ideals and methods that are secondarily, through suggestion, hint, and even repetition. My readings showed me some similarities and differences between Kautilya’s Arthasha and Confucius’ Analects. Chapter three of the text stated that Kautilya promoted the rulers to follow his teachings to better the empire; while Chapter 6 of the text has Confucius promoting the empire to have educated officials to help him keep the population in control and to punish those who break the rules (as set out by the readings). Whereas India was set in the cast system and no one was able to advance in this system if one was born in the lower casts. In China it was the opposite, for all you needed was education and an understanding of Confucius’ Analects and an adaptation of them to take a test which would allow you to climb the political ladder. In a way I prefer the Analects to Kautilya’s writings for at least an individual had a chance of bettering themselves by advancing within the levels of the system. Unlike the writings of Kautilya, Confucius’ writings give an individual hope that they could advance within the system, while still maintaining the rulers and regulations as outlined by the writings. Both can be seen as not only an ideology but as based in to religion practice as well.

1 How to Rule an Empire: Kaytilya and Ashoka, 103
2  Peter Von Sivers, et al, Patterns of World History, Volume 1: To 1600 (New York: Oxford University Press, 2012), 78


Von Sivers, Peter et al, Patterns of World History, Volume 1: To 1600, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

Gregory, Candace et al, Sources in Patterns of World History Volume 1: To 1600, New York: Oxford University Press, 2012

How to Rule an Empire: Kaytilya and Ashoka, Handout from HIST 1101 course from prof (no other info was given)


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