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The Emperor and the Mandate of Heaven

Robert Oxnam :: The Chinese emperor was understood to be the "Son of Heaven" responsible for maintaining harmony between the human sphere and heaven. He ruled society with the "Mandate of Heaven."

Myron Cohen :: The emperor as the Son of Heaven had received the Mandate of Heaven to rule society. The emperor, therefore, played a key role in linking the human social order to other domains of the cosmic order. Therefore, the emperor could be held fully responsible for disturbances in that order.

Wm. Theodore de Bary :: The idea of the Mandate that one claims to have received from heaven is one that doesn't emphasize so much the confirming of one's authority as the importance of anyone who exercises or claims to exercise that authority doing so in a responsible way, responsible for the welfare of the people. So it really is a concept that imposes a moral test, a qualification, on the ruler, rather than accepting simply the claims that he might assert on the basis of either heredity or the acquisition of power.

Irene Bloom :: This idea of course remains one of the most important ideas in all of Chinese political thought, right down to the twentieth century. When the students were demonstrating in Tiananmen Square in the spring of 1989, one of their arguments was that the Communist party had lost the Mandate of Heaven. And so you can see this continuity over time from the early Zhou period from the eleventh century right down into our own time.