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Confucian Concepts

Analyze Five Concepts of Confucianism

\Confucianism is a way of life that originated in China. It was developed by Confucius, whose principal concern was the fundamental principles of humanity. As the political, economic, and socio-cultural life of China evolved, the same happened to the philosophy of Confucianism. Alternatively, it underwent positive changes while at other times suffered from the breakdown in the social structures. The advancement of Confucianism was directly linked to the changes in the dynasties in East Asia. The influence of Confucianism in this region was extensive. However, dominance has slowly reduced, although it still plays a vital role in culture, ethics, politics, religion, and philosophy (Yao 11). This paper will explain the Confucian effect on social thinking and society and analyze five concepts of Confucianism which are: Confucianism as a family, Confucianism as a cult, Confucianism as a form of learning, Confucianism as a political system, and the way of Confucianism.

Confucianism as a Family

Confucius had approximately three thousand students and 72 close disciples. When he died, they mourned for three years after which they dispersed to different places. Some of these people established schools, and some engaged in administration, where they taught the principles of Confucianism presented in the ru tradition. The members of ru developed a different understanding of the philosophies of Confucius. This resulted in eight categories and methods of learning the tradition. The Confucius’ followers became respected as the scholars of the ancient classics. Slowly, this other category became known as ru jia (Yao 25).

Jia is a term that means a family home. It also refers to a group of people who share the same beliefs. Therefore, those committed to the tradition of ru were called ru jia. The scholars were determined to make the teachings prevail in the present world. The traditions were multidimensional and included harmony, rules of propriety, and the values of rituals. Ru jia focused on the study of these classics and were geared to maintain peace and order in the world. The tradition was subsequently spread with the help of other disciples that joined the family. Their main activities included a thorough study of the instructions in ancient writings, performing rituals, and playing music (Yao 26, 27).

Confucianism as a Cult

Confucianism was just one of the multiple schools during the Warring States period. The teachings of Confucianism had played a prominent role in Chinese history. However, it did not enjoy any privileges. In fact, it was frequently mocked and criticized by followers of other schools. They claimed that Confucianism neither gave sufficient answers to the challenges in life nor showed any advantage over other schools. During the Qin Dynasty, legalism was favored over Confucianism. As a result, this philosophical teaching underwent suppression and humiliation. During the reign of Emperor Wu, it became dominant again and was called jiao and later became a cult for the learned (Yao 27).

Confucianism was adopted as the state ideology. The worship and reverence for Confucius were made part of the religious activities. He was given the title of Perfect Sage and Ancient Teacher. His birthday was celebrated by religious ceremonies and sacrifices were offered to temples dedicated in his honor during the festivals. Confucianism was referred to as Kong jiao or ‘the cult of Confucius’. The Ancient Teacher was considered sacred and thus should be respected by all members of the society (Yao 28, 29).

Confucianism as a form of learning

Confucianism is a unique tradition owing to its primary commitment to the study of the ancient classics. Is also emphasizes the transmission of these classics to new generations. Confucius is said to have been a great scholar of the classics. Generations of Confucian masters and scholars that followed have made great contributions to the learning and enriching the doctrines of Confucianism. It has founded scholarship and was then referred to as ru xue. The tradition has survived persecutions throughout history because it was mainly sustained by further learning and not only social but also religious privileges. Due to this fact, many scholars in East Asia chiefly consider Confucianism as a form of learning rather than as a family or a cult by appreciating that the spirit of Confucianism lies in learning (Yao 28).

Confucian learning is different from the learning used in the modern world. Learning does not only concentrated on academic subjects but it also includes reading, understanding, and deliberating. In Confucianism, the purpose of learning is to promote righteousness and building of character. It is closely related to human nature and destiny. In this respect, Confucianism is known for three features. First, its members are well-cultured, learned, and civilized people. Second, the members commit themselves to interpret and expanding the classics. Finally, they intend to transform the world by implementing the political and ethical principles of the classics (Yao 29, 30).

The Way of Confucianism

From the teachings of Confucius, the world is made of three powers: heaven, earth, and humans. Together they are the origin of all things. They work in harmony to generate, nourish, and perfect things. Scholars of Confucianism focus on how to use the principles of heaven and earth to affect human life and society and how to find the ultimate way to restore peace to the world (Yao 139).

The way of heaven is considered as the source of spirituality in Confucianism. The doctrines practiced by its believers appeared from observation of the laws of heaven and earth. The ancient sages would look up and observe the pattern of heaven and then look down to observe the order of the earth to understand the cause of various affairs. Although heaven is clearly important in Confucianism, there was no agreement on what heaven is. It either considered the cosmos, the material world, or nature. It is also thought to be the ultimate reality to which human beings are answerable as it concerns their destinies. The way of heaven is the basis of the Confucian view of the world, universe, and human society (Yao 141, 142).

Confucianism gives priority concern to life rather than death and humans rather than spirits, making it considered as secular humanism. However, Confucians believe that the self is occupied with a transcendental spirit that enables one to co-ordinate the world when it is fully developed. The way of humans means following the human nature that is received from heaven. The Way cannot be separated from humans. It is essentially morality and is sometimes called humanness and righteousness. Confucians fervently believe that humankind must practice the way of humans to enable them to coexist with heaven and earth. Unlike other religions, Confucianism does not focus on salvation and damnation. Rather, they are more interested in bridging the gap between humans and non-human and therefore the way of humans is education and self-cultivation. Self-cultivation enables people to develop the potential within them that differentiates them from birds and other animals (Yao 142).

In the doctrines of the Way, there is no clear distinction between the Way of Heaven and the Way of Humans. The relationship between the two forms the foundation of the Confucian view of the world. The two co-exist in harmony without conflict or confrontation. The point of convergence of these Ways is harmony attributed to the fact that Confucianism was formed with the help of the tome of chaos. The ways, therefore, rely on finding a solution to the chaos and disorder. One of the fundamental essences of Confucianism is music which was an indispensable part of religious and social ceremonies. It was a form of unity promoting friendliness among people. In addition to this, rituals were also done during the ceremonies. They were meant to express the order of the universe. Confucius believed in music as a source of good character that could be used to harmonize human sentiments and bring social order. Confucianism classifies music as either harmonious and peaceful or seductive and violent. The followers of this philosophy encourage peaceful music because seductive music is believed to promote immoral sentiments. From music, harmony gets the definition of an orderly combination of sentiments (Yao 170).

The concept of harmony in Confucianism is practical in its function of conflict solving so that the order can overcome the disorder. Scholars of the tradition attach great value to the resolution of conflict while appreciating that harmony is not a static state. They regard it as a result of constant change and reconciliation after conflicts that occur due to the buildup of tension. The Way of Harmony, therefore, emphasizes overcoming tension. It focuses on three kinds of relationships. The first is the search for harmony between an individual and others by working on human nature. The second is encoded in the family relationships by building mutual responsibilities among the family members. The last kind of relationship focuses on the government in which virtues surpass selfishness. In summary, Confucianism aims to build a society where no conflict is ignored and the opposition is contained within reasonable limits (Yao 178).

Confucianism as a Political System

Confucianism means the doctrine of the literati (scholars). It is made of socio-political, ethical, and religious systems (De Bary and Lufrano 30). Confucius had great concern over political irregularities. He paid attention to the rules of propriety, the discrepancies between a name and the reality and between rights and duties. He argued that if a ruler or a father fails to fulfill his duty, then they were abusing their titles, what he considered to be the source of political chaos. He defined the role of any leader as restoring the Way of the Ancients. According to the rule of propriety, loyalty had to be reciprocal between rulers and subjects. As a result, Confucianism formed the core of state orthodoxy (De Bary and Lufrano 35).

For a long period in history, government bureaucracy and Confucianism became similar notions. Leaders were chosen from scholars of Confucianism or individuals who practiced the virtues of Confucianism. During the Han Dynasty, a systematic way of choosing leaders based on Confucianism was officially adopted. The system was later improved to form a network of civil servant examinations at different levels of county, namely at the provincial and national levels. Confucius’ learning became of the utmost importance in society. To advance a career, individuals had to pass the examinations. In the 1980s, Confucianism lost its influence on the state and people’s way of thinking due to the rise of Daoism and Buddhism. It was attacked and criticized by both liberals and communists. Confucian scholars also started engaging in these new doctrines and they were later considered to be half-Confucian and half-Daoist. These scholars were involved in the administration and out of office they focused on self-cultivation (De Bary and Lufrano 38).

Confucian Effect on Social Thinking and Society

Confucianism puts a significant emphasis on morality, not only in theory but in practice. Taking it as a basis, various codes of ethics, as well as rules of propriety and guidelines for social and daily living, were set. In most parts of East Asia, it established the foundation of the basic structure of society. Most of the ideals of morality presented by Confucius are similar to those in the world today. For instance, both inner motives and external character before evaluating an individual’s conduct are equally important. Confucius taught his disciples the need to have sincere hearts and devoted spirits even if they follow all the ancient rituals and practices strictly. According to him, morality revolved around relationships in society. He identified the relationships between parents and children, among siblings, among spouses, and among friends. He underlined the duty of each person in whichever relationship to fulfill his/her responsibilities to each other with sincere hearts. Confucianism considers family virtues as the bedrock of social order and world peace. Confucius’ way of thinking focuses on righteousness, morality, and harmonious society (Yao 32, 33).

Conclusion

Confucianism originated from China and was named in honor of its founder Confucius. This philosophy is not only a religious and philosophical tradition but a way of life. It is composed of several concepts and has evolved over the ages. Confucianism was mainly influenced by political changes throughout history. Its doctrines emphasize the need for harmony in both social and political settings because this teaching originated during a time of instability. It is a tradition that is also known for its scholars who were dedicated to learning it and passing it to other generations. Confucianism was used as a government tool especially during the Han Dynasty and, at some point in Chinese history, it was considered as the state orthodoxy. Nowadays, philosophers and continue to learn the ways of Confucius, and consequently, it has gained superiority over other traditions owing to its ability to reinvent itself throughout the course of history.