Confucianism and its Effects on China
Confucius and his ideas gave birth to a philosophy and way of living that came to give structure and conduct to an early China. Through the five main themes or ideals of Confucianism, China’s political structure and social standards changed drastically. While at the same time giving stability to a country which had been affected by many change overs of each dynasty it experienced. My goal of this research essay is to explain that Confucianism affected almost every facet of China’s way of living and thinking. I will expand on four different areas. First, I want to show how Confucianism began and its initial response. Second, define the five main themes of Confucianism. Third, I’ll give examples of political influences and the ways China was ruled. Lastly, I will expand on the social influence of Confucianism and its effects on the role of women in China’s society.
Kong Qiu (better known as Confucius), was born around 552 BCE (1). Confucius was a teacher and philosopher around the time that formal education began in Early China. He had many students, who were mostly from a higher class. His ideas took traditional values and gave them a new meaning. Confucius placed much importance on family and rituals to promote harmony in his “broken” society. He actually was not well known during his own generation, but later on his disciples popularized his ideas. Some
of which took his ideas to different directions leading to philosophies such as legalism. Which was a crucial part of Chinese Dynasties moving forward.
Confucianism has five main themes or fundamentals. They are Rem, Yi, Li, Zhi, and Xin. Rem is a person’s humanness and that a human being should exhibit certain behavior to promote community(2). It exemplifies the ideal of what a human being should be or strive to be like. Yi is justice and righteousness, a human being’s moral to do well and make right decisions(2). You’re ability to recognize right from wrong. Li is propriety and etiquette; the way things should be done(2). An idea of how relationships should be treated such as a father and son relationship. Zhi is knowledge and wisdom, a human being’s ability to understand(2). Xin is integrity and keeping your word, a human being’s capability of being faithful and capability of being trusted with a task(2). An example of this would be like in the Mandate of Heaven and how the ruler must keep his word and be just(1). All of these themes strongly influence China in many aspects.
The Era of Emperors used different revised versions of Confucianism. Leading to political ideas such as Legalism and Imperialism. The Han Dynasty used Confucianism mixed with legalism. Emperor Han Wudi declared China a Confucian state. The Han Dynasty greatly benefitted from Confucianism. It Improved stability and established a system of ruling by morals and ethics. It became the official ideology of the Imperial system to control its people. Standardization of its people led to who should do which job. Written exams were given to determine who is best for each job. As well as rulers picking each person for a task based on merit. All of these ideas can easily be connected to the five main themes of Confucianism. Etiquette, justice, and how a human being
should act seemed to all be influences in political ideas. Confucianism’s ideals lead China to champion feudalism and stress benevolence. Every child was taught Confucianism. Through the ideas of Confucius, China developed a bureaucracy where social interactions were very important. Civil service positions were given to students that passed an exam based on the Confucius’ “Five Studies”. Every Dynasty following the Han used Confucianism as a core concept in either its political or social structure.
Socially Confucian ideals shaped China’s way of life and conduct of relationships in family life. Emphasis on respect for ancestors and elders became a tradition of families. Belief that...
Cited: 1. Bulliet, Richard W., Pamela K. Crossley, Daniel R. Headrick, Steven W. Hirsch, Lyman L. Johnson, and David Northrup. The Earth and Its Peoples. Boston: Houghton Mifflin, 2008. Print.
2. Lai, Karyn. An Introduction to Chinese Philosophy. Cambridge, UK: Cambridge UP, 2008. Www.lagontoinfo.co.uk. Web.
3. "Women and Confucianism." Lesson: (Women in World History Curriculum). N.p., n.d. Web. 04 Nov. 2014.
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