Human Dignity in Classical Chinese Philosophy: The Daoist Perspective


QIANFAN ZHANG, Professor, School of Law, Peking University. Specialties: comparative public law and political theory. E-mail:


This article discusses the Daoist contribution to the idea of human dignity in the classical Chinese philosophy, particularly in aspects that had been ignored by the Confucians and the Moists. By criticizing the traditional morality and reviving the faith in a primitive, self-sufficient life, Laozi and Zhuangzi add an important dimension to the classical understanding of human dignity: individual freedom, particularly the freedom of living under minimum burden, direction, and oppression of the state. By comparing the Daoist conception of human dignity with those of the Confucians and Moists, the article concludes that all three classical schools, if rationally construed, should support the view that the establishment of a liberal constitutional scheme is necessary to preserve and protect minimum/basic dignity in both physical and spiritual well-being of every human person who lives in a modern society.