The Pheasant Cap Master and the End of History: Linking Religion to Philosophy in Early China
Following a catastrophic defeat at Changping in 260 BCE, and the reported immolation of close to half a million Zhao soldiers by Qin, a mysterious figure appeared on the stage of history. He was called Heguanzi, the ‘Pheasant Cap’ master and appeared incognito. Seemingly a political refugee, this Daoist Demosthenes in outspoken jeremiads warned against a looming danger of total collapse and Zhao’s imminent annexation by the ruthless kingdom of Qin. Pheasant Cap’s writings, long neglected and misunderstood, combine a potent mix of religion, metaphysics, philosophy, politics and strategy to unroll a vibrant picture of life and death in perhaps the most climactic period of Chinese history. Against the totalitarian system of Qin, he offers an alternative vision of meritocracy and inclusiveness to unite a fractured world. Marnix Wells offers readers the first full translation and analysis in any language.