This is a fairly traditional essay format exam. There are three questions below, and you will answer two of the three questions in roughly 400-450 words each (Question 2 is an exception to this limit, as you’ll see).
Your answers need to be short, but they should also reflect thought and analysis. I have written questions that I hope will require you to think and reflect, rather than simply restate facts. So your answers should reflect a creative and original perspective on these issues. Among other things, this means that your answers should have a clear thesis, followed by supporting arguments and a clear conclusion.
We have seen that Buddhism, Daoism, and Confucianism have all influenced each other. To what extent do you think we should think of these as separate traditions? Or should we think of them as distinct flavors of a single tradition (perhaps: “Chinese religion”)?
“Confucius, Zhuangzi, and the Buddha walk into a bar…”
Complete this story. This is not an essay, but is more of a creative writing project. You may write in prose, or you can structure your response as a dialogue or a screenplay (if you write a dialogue or screenplay, feel free to go past the regular word limit). Feel free to be humorous, but make sure that your story reflects the distinctive elements of each tradition. In other words, when these figures speak to each other (and anyone else you introduce to your story) make sure that the things they say accurately reflect the sentiments of these historical figures.
In their classical forms (for us, this means as found in the Analects and Zhuangzi, NOT immortality/ritual Daoism or Neo-Confucianism), both Confucianism and Daoism are responses to the political and social disarray of their time. That is, each tradition perceived the society and culture around them to be deeply flawed and each tradition tried to offer a solution to that problem. In this essay, I want you to select either classical Daoism or classical Confucianism (not both!) and then offer your own analysis of how effectively you think this tradition would be at dealing with or remedying that problem. What in the tradition do you think would effectively help alleviate social/cultural ills of the time, and what do you think would not work? Overall, is the tradition you’re looking at a good answer to the problems it was created to fix? Or does it simply create new problems? In essence, I’m asking you to evaluate one of these traditions, giving your opinion of how effective you think it would be at fixing the type of problems it was created to fix.
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