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Confucianism is one of the three great pillars of Chinese society that comes down to us today. China, though it went through periods of warring states, has never been expansionistic in the European/American mold. Confucianism, along with Buddhism and Taoism, is an important reason. Each complements the others. Each arose in response to the times. And each was effective in its own way.

Confucianism deals with man's relationships to man. All relationships must be virtuous and come from having:

  • Li: Propriety, etiquette, ritual, decorum.
  • Hsiao: Love of family, parents for children; children for parents.
  • Yi: Righteousness.
  • Xin: Honesty and trustworthiness.
  • Jen: Benevolence, humaneness toward others.
  • Chung: Loyalty to the state.

Confucius taught five fundamental relationships:

  • ruler to subject
  • father to son
  • husband to wife
  • brother to brother
  • friend to friend

Confucius taught that if everyone used these principles life would be better.

From Confucianism:

Confucius revealed the process, step by step, by which self-development is attained and by which it flows over into the common life to serve the state and bless mankind. The order of development which Confucius set forth is as follows:

  • Investigation of phenomena,
  • Learning,
  • Sincerity,
  • Rectitude of purpose,
  • Self-development,
  • Family-discipline,
  • Local self-government, and
  • Universal self-government.

Confucius gives us a timely map of human development of great benefit in our day.

Although described by many as a religion, it is not, at least in the common sense that defined religion involves worship of a supreme being.

Confucianism is a philosophy and more. Confucian philosophy is like a religion ought to be, peace loving and peace bringing. Its adherents generally do behave in these ways.

Confucious taught a system of ethics and belief that drew upon and transformed Chinese social tradition. He taught via proverbs, stories and aphorisms.

Moreover, Confucianism meets the same emotional needs that religion does. Its rituals speak to the need people feel for togetherness. Its code of behavior supplies the moral directives--without negative injunctions--which provide the basis for social ethics and morality. Confucians are generally a peaceful lot. Confucianists are free to believe whatever they wish about God.

The only feature that sets Confucianism apart from main-stream religion is that it does not speak of god or God. In all other respects it is a religion with which it has much more in common than in difference. Following Confuciansim amounts to doing good--a purpose in life. Perhaps because it leaves God to the individual, Confucianism has been rather stable in expression over milennia. Confucianism simply teaches how to live a worthwhile life.

Confucianism has split into two main sects with only a minor difference having to do with our inborn temperaments:

  • Mengzi believe humans are born basically good.
  • Xunzi believe that humans are born neither evil nor good, but capable of either--given time.

Confucianisms basic principles are essentially acceptable to both groups, and most people for that matter. It would be hard for an apostate to hijack something so basically pure as Confucianism for his own selfish ends. It is no accident that Confucianism has become the cornerstone of Chinese society. From a web-site now gone silent:


...Confucius did not write about the gods except to indicate that he accepted the religious beliefs of his day. Neither he nor his followers challenged the existing beliefs in a pantheon of gods and the spirit world which included the spirits of one's prominent ancestors. The cult of worshiping one's ancestors pre-dates Confucianism. This custom had been formalized under the Zhou dynasty. Princely families had the right to worship their ancestors from the founder of their family line to the present. Secondary families in theory were only supposed to be allowed to worship their last 4 generations of ancestors. The head of the family acted as the high priest of the cult and had the responsibility to see that the ancestors were properly worshipped. Powerful ancestors, like any other spirit, had to be placated because they could still have an impact on the natural world.

This practice of worshipping one's ancestors partly explains the strength of the family in Chinese culture. From the earliest stages, Chinese civilization seemed to center around the family unit. Head of family was the all but supreme ruler of his own living family. The sense of family, though, was broadened to include not only present members, but also the dead as well as future generations. Arguably, this concept of family encouraged the conservation of traditions and a sense of continuity.

Chinese agree that their strong family units are important to peaceful living. What is equally true is that teachings conducive to peace come with Confucianism. It is quite likely that it inhibited Chinese expansionsim.

Further references:

History Maker
Kung Fu Tzu


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