Book Review: The Analects of Confucius
China experienced a lot of the revolutionary changes and a proliferation of new ideas in the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period. These periods can be represented as chaotic periods, so eventually there were many tries for solving the disorders of the societies by many philosophers. Philosophers in those periods tried to address within these historical context and requests such as the needs for stability and reunification. Among them, Confucius has become the most noticeable philosopher, and his thought, Confucianism, has influenced significantly the cultures and histories of countries in East Asia such as China, Korea, and Japan. The analects of Confucius is a record of words and discussions of Confucius and his disciples after his death. Although the Analects of Confucius was not directly written by Confucius, this book contains most of critical ideas of Confucius. Also, this book will lead us better to understand ethics of East Asian countries and historical situations of the Spring and Autumn period and Warring States period.
At first we should understand what the main teachings of Confucius are. Confucius stressed the importance of virtue because he thought the disorder of the society came from lack of virtue. Confucius believed that the society would be stable when people recover virtue. Confucius emphasized some kinds of virtue. From my personal perspective, benevolence, ren, is the pillar of Confucian virtues according to the Analects. And Confucius believed only based on benevolence, people can establish the properties, li. In other words, benevolence, which is intangible virtue, is precondition to the properties. Contrary to benevolence, the properties are actual actions to make proper order prevail throughout heaven and earth. Ritual performance and how to interact with other people can be good examples of the properties. Confucius thought benevolence and the properties could be the solution for the social chaos of his time, and he believed these virtues eventually would harmonize people and society.
From the Analects, we can assume that the idea of The Mandate of Heaven of the Zhou dynasty was still affecting on the people’s life, and also it had a great influence on Confucianism. The Mandate of Heaven simply means the right to rule a state from Heaven which helped to strengthen the sovereign power of the Zhou kings, but also this thought stressed on the importance of virtue, responsibility, and ritual performance. Same as the idea of Mandate of Heaven, Confucius emphasized the importance of virtue, particularly benevolence and the properties. Since the life style and thought of people in each period are different, Philosophies in different periods usually have different nature. However, these similarities between the ideas of Mandate of Heaven and Confucius such as stress on virtue and ritual performance tells us that people in the Spring and Autumn period had kept some cultures and ideas of the Zhou dynasty. Confucius adopted these ideas to his thought and developed these ideas to give possible solutions to the social chaos of his period. He might have believed that if the people could have virtue and keep responsibility of their position, the state would be stable and reunified as the Zhou dynasty.
As mentioned before, Confucius’ thought was influenced by the idea of the Mandate of Heaven. Especially, his thought about government was really similar to the idea about politics of the Mandate of Heaven. Both of them stressed that virtue is the most important requirement for rulers. In the analects, Confucius said “The rule of virtue can be compared to the Pole Star which commands the homage of the multitude of stars without leaving its place.” This means that if rulers govern a state with virtue, then the people would follow the rulers naturally. In this quotation, Confucius also claimed that rulers should set the pace first...
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