AP World History
September 3, 2013
Comparing and Contrasting Confucianism and Legalism
Confucius once said, “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.” Amidst the chaos of political instability and constant warring of the Zhou era, many philosophers arose that impacted China in the fields of politics, religion, and philosophy. Two of these philosophers were Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 B.C.E., and Han Feizi, who lived around 233 B.C.E. These two created the Confucianism and Legalism that significantly changed the society is still in use in modern China. Confucianism became the dominant way of thinking and the later philosophy of Legalism gained immense recognition as well. Each party had their own proposals for creating a better, harmonious society through the leaders, government, and individual lives of the people. Both approaches were very distinct but at the same time, they contained similarities as well.
Confucianism resulted from a Chinese philosopher named Kongfuzi (551-479 B.C.E), also known as Confucius, becoming disheartened with the way the government ignored his ideas of how to create a just, harmonious society. His teachings, which he had passed on to his followers/students, include the Analects. It is within this document that he tried to teach men how to be gentlemen. If a man were able to follow the steps to becoming a gentleman and complete the duties of his status, that gentleman could influence others in society to be honorable, hard working, honest, and just. However, within Confucianism, class and gender was a huge factor. Women were often considered less important as were lower class peoples. Only the well off male members of society could receive the required education required to be a gentleman. An example of this is: “The Master said, A gentleman who is widely versed in letters and at the same time knows how to submit his learning the...
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