Role of Confucianism in China

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Confucianism is often characterized as a system that involves social and ethical philosophy as opposed to being purely a religion in the traditional definition. It’s based on ancient religious foundations for the establishment of institutions, social values, and ideas of a traditional society. At the core of Confucian ethics were the virtues of filial piety, harmonious relationships, ritual and righteousness. During the Han Dynasty, the teachings of Confucius were studied in order to improve both the quality of life and the chances for one to go to heaven. It was the core to human social life, behavior, and virtues, established moral foundations, but also had evil behind it, and was able to spread very quickly throughout Asian culture.

Confucius lived from September twenty eight, 551 BC, to April eleventh, 479 BC. He was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period. The philosophy of Confucius, also known as Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity.

Although Confucianism originated from the teachings of the Chinese age, it’s not only based on the teaching of Confucius himself. It is a collection of philosophies and superstition’s including those from other philosophers (Totally History). Before the Han Dynasty came the Qin Dynasty. It was ruled by Emperor Qin Shi Huang who wanted to suppress the teachings of Confucianism by burning his books from Confucius. Fortunately, the Qin Dynasty didn’t last very long and was followed by the Han Dynasty.

Ruled by Emperor Han Wudi, he declared China as a confucius state. He also decided to mix Confucianism with Legalism, which allowed both a stable government and religion. During this ruling, other ideologies were banned from teaching; everyone was to learn Confucianism only. The Han Dynasty did benefit from Confucianism. It improved and established the system of ruling the land by morals and ethics, something that the Qin Dynasty has overlooked.

Heaven is a convenient translation of tian, which originally meant “sky” above us, contains other meanings; such as the natural order, the Lord of Heaven, the Mandate of Heaven, and the moral order. During the times of Confucianism, much of what you do determines whether or not you will go to Heaven. It’s the source of virtues, the moral order that guides humans in their social life, and human behavior.

Many philosophers contradict what Heaven really meant, though. Confucius claimed that “Heaven has given birth to virtues that are in me” (Confucius 7:23, p. 89). On the other hand, Mengzi believed that there are two kinds of honors, the honors bestowed by Heaven, for example humaneness, righteousness, and sincerity; And the honors bestowed by humans, for example positions and ranks in the government. (Mengzi 6A:16, pp. 168–169) (Science.jrank). Even though there were many different views of Heaven and earth, Confucians later took Heaven and Earth as the model of moral rules and principles.

There were five cardinals of Confucianism established – faith, being the final virtue, was the most important one with society. Faith in the laws of Heaven were demonstrated through the nobility’s observance of rites or propriety; Among commoners, trust manifested itself as etiquette and filial piety. These virtues were conveyed not just through official texts, notably the “Rites of Zhou,” but also permeated court and folk music.

Representative of this culture are the odes compiled by Confucius into the “Classic of Poetry,” a work containing 300 lyrical pieces from different regions and social classes of the Zhou kingdom. Any ruler who showed faith and trust before death, was allowed to go into the “Mandate of Heaven”. He would also have to act as a virtuous philosopher-king to his subjects and ministers, along with listening to their advice and needs.

Without strong moral bearings, trust between the king and his vassals would decline. They not only needed truth and faith to get into the Mandate of Heaven, but also to ensure a stable ruling. As the “Classic of Poetry” warns: “A wise and knowledgeable person takes advice kindly, and conduct follows virtue. A senseless and ignorant person rejects sincere advice; he regards the advice-giver as harboring improper ambitions” (Epoch Times).

Good things should always happen to good people, but not in all cases. Philosophers wonder why bad things happen to good people, and why good moral intention is never rewarded. This is the problem of evil in classic Chinese philosophy. In many schools of Western philosophy, the positive existence of evil and its arbitrary nature challenge our moral effort and virtuous disposition. Simply stated, they can make us incapable, our lives meaningless, and the world randomly immoral (Muse.jhu).

This brings up the question as to what is the point of living a life of good morals and virtues if someone did something good, but had limited moral efficacy and undeserved misfortune in return. The question is then answered with fatalism. Even if someone did a task with good morals, it would have to rely on fate as to whether the person gets something good or bad in return. The problem of evil is then a challenging philosophical issue related to moral luck and responsibility.

Heaven has been formed in Chinese culture in many ways. From behavior, virtues, established moral foundations, along with evil behind it. It can either be from just Confucianism, or combining with other beliefs like legalism, taoism, and many others. Since it had such a huge impact on Chinese cultures back then, it’s still used in modern parts of China. It’s very important to learn about this religion, so we can compare it to ours and how it has developed and formed other religions over the years.


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Role of Confucianism in China. (2020, Sep 16). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/role-of-confucianism-in-china/

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