Confucianism in China: Past and Present
China, a country of ancient history and tradition, known for having one of the oldest roots in history and carrying on ancient practices to the modern day, but China is rapidly changing, with new beliefs, practices and cultural ties China is rapidly becoming a world power, reforming those old traditions and creating new ones. However, the influences of ancient philosophies, such as Legalism, Taoism, and Confucianism, can still be felt in modern China influencing government, society, and business. Out of these 3 philosophies Confucianism had the greatest influence on China in the past and the present.
Confucianism was started in the early 5th century BCE by Kong Fuzi, who came from a wealthy family from Lu in Northern China. While never holding a position of authority in China Kong Fuzi traveled throughout China and amassed a great number of followers, some of whom wrote their teachers’ sayings down and compiled them into a book called the Analects. Kong Fuzi believed that religious thought or questions were beyond that of human thinking, therefore he did not bother with religion, nor did he bother with the organization of the state for he believed that political and social harmony came from good human relationships. For over 2,000 years Confucian thought has influenced those in Chinese government, for those who sought to govern studied through a course developed by Kong Fuzi.
The core values behind Confucianism are known as Ren, Li, and Xiao which, if found in an individual, Kong Fuzi believed that they would gain the biggest social following and have a bigger influence in society. Kong Fuzi, or Confucius as he later became known as, described Ren as “kindness and benevolence or a sense of humanity.” He believed that Ren was needed by one who was in a government position. Li is characterized as “a sense of propriety which called for treating others with respect and deference to elders.” The final value was that of Xiao which emphasized the importance of family in the Chinese society. These three values together, though important, are not all encompassing of Confucianism. Humanism is a big theme in Confucianism, along with believing that the self can be perfected through teachings and self-discovery. Focusing mainly on ethics and morality Confucianism is a philosophy that preaches putting ones’ beliefs over themselves, allowing their being to be perfected by the teachings of Confucianism. Another important factor of Confucianism is that of Junzi. Junzi translates into gentleman, or “noble son” but Confucian took this meaning and twisted it. Once only applying to aristocrats or nobles in Chinese society, which meant that one of lower birth such as a peasant or one of middle class could not rise to the level of Junzi. Junzi, in a Confucian sense, is one who speaks and acts in a certain way when it is appropriate, and one who promotes a human community. The goal of all followers of Confucian followers was to become Junzi, for then they were considered a person of profound capacity and importance.
From its’ conception to the Neo-Confucian age Confucianism played a great role in ancient Chinese society greatly effecting the way the family was structured as well as the government. Confucianism dictated that women were inferior to men, stating that they were under their father until marriage, then under their husband after marriage, and once their husband passed away they were under their sons, therefore suppressing the women of Chinese society so it is ironic that during the Confucian era China had its’ only female emperor Wu Zhao. Along with its’ strong belief in a patriarchal society Confucianism also played a great role in the government of China. Confucianism preached that the ruler must first rule themselves before they can rule their people; they must be logical, and they must put the need of the country or state above themselves, much like today’s...
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