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Department of Chinese, NTNU
Chinese people had had the idea of "essence" and "triviality" in her ancient history. However, it never formed a relative concept until Han Dynasty. From then on, "Essence vs. Triviality" became a common phrase, which was usually applied to the ways of governance. The writer infers that the concept of "Essence vs. Triviality" was possibly related to the popularity of Taoism and the Leglist School in that period. The issue of "Essence vs. Triviality", which was a heated argument in Han Dynasty, was mostly concerning about a national policy-encouraging agriculture or discouraging commerce. Emperor Liu Che (武帝) encouraged the development of business and industry. He constrained the official management of salt and iron. Since most of the arguments about "Essence vs. Triviality" were focused on economic policy, many discussed these issues from political points. The arguments of "Essence vs. Triviality" almost corresponed to the debates of "Justice vs. Interests." Some of them emphasized the way of ethical sovereign from the point of justice, and the other asserted practical measures from the aspect of interests. When one discussed the concept of "Essence vs. Triviality" individually, it didn't make any sense. However, when it combined with another concept, it presented an opposite position. The connotation of "Essence and Triviality" implied a sequence, which highlighted one's fundamentality and superiority to the other. It was deliberately related to the priority of economical development. Later on, metaphysicians such as Wang-Pi (王弼) even combined it with the concept of "Being vs. Non-being" or "Theory vs. Practice." Scholars of Han Dynasty related the concept of "Essence vs. Triviality" to "Justice vs. interests". Their consideration rather focused on social, economic, and political issues. When it came to the Southern & Northern Dynasties, the concept of "Essence vs. Triviality" was combined with metaphysical thinking such as "being vs. non-being" or "theory vs. prac
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