PERSONAL NOTE: Someone in USA is writing about the coming downfall of mainland China and accusing the President of China, President Xi Jinping of using MANDATE FROM heaven to try to control the world! How assurd for this man, Gordon Chang to come to this conclusion. Obviously he did not understand how the concept had been used in Asian to support the legitimacy of one’s rule. peace, steve, usa july 28, 2019 email@example.com blog – https://getting2knowyou-china.com
Nature and the Sacred in Medieval East Asia
Taylor Morgan, Nicole McDonald, and Elisabeth Maillard
Mandate of Heaven
The Mandate of Heaven was a philosophical concept which described the natural relationship between the government and the governed. Steeped in traditional East Asian beliefs, the Mandate of Heaven was derived from the spiritual and social beliefs of Daoism and Confucianism. According to these principles, a just ruler would be granted power and authority by the Heavens, which bestowed their mandate upon the governor of the land. Such a ruler would be granted the title of “Son of Heaven,” and therefore was perceived by the governed as the spiritual representative of God on earth. As such, this philosophy contributed greatly to the political stability of East Asian regimes in both China and Japan.
The Son of Heaven was understood as ruling over tianxia (Chinese: 天下) which literally meant “under heaven;” his rightful domain constituted the whole world. Although the Mandate of Heaven was used to justify the reign of political regimes, if a ruler violated the will of Heaven then he would be overthrown. Famines, floods, and other natural disasters signified the Heaven’s displeasure and would often prompt revolts as the ruler’s legitimacy came into question. If the ruler was overthrown for any reason, then it was clear that he had lost the Mandate of Heaven and no longer had the right to rule.
The kings of the Zhou dynasty, who ruled 1046 to 256 BC, were the first to invoke the Mandate of Heaven following their overthrow of the Shang dynasty. The revolt was led by King Wu of Zhou, a renowned folk hero in Chinese history. Together with eight hundred dukes, he marched an army to attack the weakened Shang. Wu accused the Shang of decadence and moral corruption, and insisted that it was heavens will that they be deposed. The Zhou dynasty reigned for eight hundred years, longer than any other dynasty. When the state of Qin finally overthrew the Zhou dynasty, they justified their new reign with the same rhetoric.
Jimmu, the first Emperor of Japan, according to legend.
The philosophical principles of the Mandate of Heaven eventually diffused into Japan; however, the Japanese interpretation of the mandate differed from that in China. While the Chinese rulers, including King Wu of Zhou, were often of lowborn birth before establishing a new dynasty, the Japanese emperors were supposed to have descended in an unbroken line from the sun goddess Amaterasu. Therefore, it would be impossible for the emperor to lose the Mandate of Heaven, as he himself was a god. Although the emperor was never deposed, other political entities such as the Shogunate did seize power in Japan, relegating the emperor to a symbolic head of state. Power passed from dynastic regents and shoguns in much the same fashion as the Chinese dynasties; the Mandate of Heaven applied to lesser entities, but never to the emperor himself.
The mandate of heaven played a significant role in the political stability of East Asia. For example, Empress Wu Zetian, the only female monarch in Chinese history, similarly invoked the mandate in declaring herself to be an incarnation of the Buddhist god Bodhisattva Maitreya. Although the mandate did not apply specifically to the emperor of Japan, a dynasty which has persisted unbroken since the 8th century, it is possible that this allowed political power to be transferred without affecting imperial supremacy; turmoil was projected onto a series of proxy rulers rather than on the emperor himself.