“Lay Flatism” and “Bamboo Forest Metaphysics”

“Lying flatism” once became fashionable in China in recent months, and it is not that similar ideas were not present in Chinese history. During the period of Wei-Jin-North and South Dynasties (220-589), the so-called “Bamboo Forest Metaphysics” also appeared in the Central Plains, which can be considered as the early “lying flatism”.

The name of “Bamboo Forest Metaphysics” is naturally related to the famous “Seven Sages of Bamboo Forest” in history. The “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Forest” refers to the seven famous scholars in the late Wei and early Jin dynasties: Ruan Ji, Liu Ling, Jikang, Xiang Xiu, Ruan Xian, Shan Tao, and Wang Rong. Their area of activity was in the bamboo forest of Shanyang County (present-day Jiaozuo City, Henan Province), hence the name.

As the representatives of metaphysics at that time, the ideological tendencies of the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Forest” were actually different. Ruan Ji, Liu Ling, Jikang and Ruan Xian always advocated the study of Laozhuang, while Shan Tao and Wang Rong were good at Laozhuang and mixed with Confucianism, and Xiang Xiu advocated the unity of religion and nature. They did not adhere to the rituals and laws in their lives, and were quiet and inactive, drinking and singing in the bamboo forest. Their literary works exposed and satirized the hypocrisy of the Sima court.

Among the “Seven Sages of the Bamboo Forest”, JI Kang (223-263) and Ruan Ji (210-263) were known as “JI Ruan”. But the two had very different lives and endings.

JI Kang, known as Shuyi, was a native of Moushi (now Suixi County, Anhui Province) in Qiao County, Wei Province, in the Three Kingdoms period, and was also known as JI Zhongsan, because he was an official in Cao Wei. He fiercely attacked the worldly norms, advocated following the laws of nature and preserving human nature, and actively promoted the theory of taking food to maintain health, and had a very high reputation and appeal at that time. Later, he was imprisoned for being involved in a lawsuit by a friend. The powerful minister Sima Zhao was afraid that his influence of speech would threaten Sima’s regime, so he was executed.

His father, Ruan Yu, was one of Cao Cao’s seven sons, but he lost his father at a young age and his family fell through the cracks. Ruan Ji had a great ambition to assist the emperor, but at that time, the Cao dynasty was in a weak position, and Sima Yi and Sima Zhao were in power, so he drank and pretended to be crazy, avoiding the right and wrong of the court. Sima Zhao wanted to marry Ruan Ji’s daughter for his son Sima Yan, but Ruan Ji was drunk for more than 60 days in a row, so Sima Zhao could not find a chance to propose a marriage, so he had to give up. Ruan Ji’s trick of “avoiding the world by getting drunk” seems to have been successful, because he ended up in a good place.

Today, Chinese young people choose to “lie flat”, that is, they choose to go to the edge, outside the mainstream path of working overtime, promotion, earning money, buying a house, and using their own way to dissolve the discipline of the external environment on the individual. JI Ruan” in those days proposed to “transgress the famous religion (social and ethical responsibilities) and let nature (innate human nature) take its course”, and “are the rites set up for me? The “metaphysics” was also used to resist the restrictions imposed on individuals by the mainstream values of society.