Comparison of Taoism and Confucianism

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Confucianism and Taoism have contrasting views on both religion and politics. However, they stem from a similar goal and have similar beliefs. Confucianism is mainly centered around virtue and ethics as a means to an ordered society and believes that an ordered society is what people should strive for. Taoism, on the other hand, focuses on the individual life in relation to the Tao, or "way of nature." Both are considered philosophies and not religions and acknowledge a path that a person should follow in life. However, they take opposing views not only on religion and politics, but also on the person's responsibilities.

Confucianism is based on the teachings of Confucius (also known as Kongzi). In these teachings Confucius talks about virtues and how they apply to social ethics. For the most part, Confucianism rejects mysticism and any sense of spirituality beyond filial piety, or reverence and respect for one's ancestors. Confucians seek to cultivate virtues within themselves. The way they go about doing such is by seeking to achieve ren (humanity). They strive to be a superior man and ren is the only way in which they can achieve this. Ren is made up of xiao (filial piety), li (respect), zhong (loyalty), zhi (wisdom), and xin faithfulness). Confucianists have, at times, attacked Taoism because they feel it lacks the necessities for social order.

Taoism, unlike Confucianism, is filled with mysticism. There are two forms of Taoism: philosophical and esoteric and both place a huge emphasis on metaphysics and immortality through religion as well as relying greatly on cosmic forces. The central teaching of Taoism is similar to Buddhism in the way that it centers around emptiness. The meaning of emptiness used in Taoist and Buddhist beliefs is not that of the Western notion but a lack of a permanent individual identity.

When a person manages to become one with the Tao, they are no longer having an individual identity because they are now a part of everything just as everything is a part of them. One of the ultimate goals in Taoism is to achieve immortality. This is greatly illustrated in the book "Monkey" where the Monkey King mentions his desire to live forever at numerous points.

The Taoist philosophy is based on the teachings of Laozi and seems to have a more religious flow to it. Where as Confucian writings focus on the government and social order. Confucius believed that if a person behaved properly, then their family would follow suit, then their neighborhood, their city, and in time the whole country. The basis for a good system of government was the ideal Confucius family. Confucius talked about the 5 relations. They are emperor/subject, parent/child, husband/wife, older sibling/young sibling, friend/friend; all of which (with the exception of friend/friend) were based on the parent/child relationship. A large part of Confucianism is filial piety. The Superior Man, according to Confucian beliefs, is not only virtuous because of his actions but because of his attitude as well. This is why the Confucian belief that should the government behave in such a way the whole country will see this good and follow it.

Unlike the Confucians, who actively tried to change the political system, Taoists pursue wuwei (nonaction) in living. According to the Tao Te Ching, by not acting one is not doing any harm which is the result of surrendering to the Tao. By doing such, one no longer has a corrupt nature and is moral and perfect human. If a person is in harmony with the Tao they are also in harmony with all other creatures and humans. By practicing wuwei no part of nature is disrupted and the Taoists believe that natural order is the best order for individuals and the government. Their view on politics is to stay out of them. In other words, the best ruler is one who creates less chaos by not going against the Tao.

Although Confucianism and Taoism have different points, they have distinct...
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