10-4.1 – Imperialism: CONFUCIANISM – SYNOPSIS

Confucianism is a Chinese ethical moral, social, political and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (K’ung-fu-tzu, lit. “Master Kong”, 551–478 BC). Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, as well as Singapore.

Humanity In Confucianism, human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and SOCIAL ACTION. They learn from one another. They interact with one another. One comes to understand what it means to be human, or to be humane, through one’s interactions with other people. You understand yourself by what you understand of others, and you understand others and treat them by what you understand of yourself.

A main idea of Confucianism is the cultivation of VIRTUE and the development of MORAL PERFECTION.
Zi Gong asked: “Is there any one word that can serve as a principle for the conduct of life?” Confucius said: “Perhaps the word ‘RECIPROCITY‘”. This is the mutual responsibility of one person for another, and is essential to understanding human relations. Humaneness (rén) and “reciprocity” is probably best expressed in the Golden Rule: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” One purpose of Confucian philosophy is propriety (proper behavior) or politeness (manners). Individuals have to defer to one another, have to show respect to one another. They have to be prepared to make some sacrifice for one another..

Harmony is the great goal of Confucianism. It results in part from every individual knowing his or her place in the social order, and playing his or her part well. This theme of mutuality is prevalent in East Asian cultures even to this day. Confucius builds his theory of society and government on the assumption that man is a social being always interacting with other human beings. Moral obligations to other people and the need of public service follow from the “social” nature of humanity..

The term jūnzǐ exhorts all people to strive for the ideal of a “perfect man”, one who “combines the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman.” They were expected to act as moral guides to the rest of society. Confucius said: “…The humane man, desiring to be established himself, seeks to establish others; desiring himself to succeed, he helps others to succeed. To judge others by what one knows of oneself is the method of achieving humanity…” The opposite of the Jūnzǐ was the Xiǎorén (Chinese: 小人; “small person”). petty in mind and heart, narrowly self-interested, greedy, superficial, or materialistic.

Ritual Rituals were routines that people often engage in, knowingly or unknowingly, during the normal course of their lives. Shaping rituals leads to a happy and healthy society, and to content and healthy people.,

Implicit in the Confucian emphasis on RITUAL and SELF-CULTIVATION. Ritual is the idea that life is a continuous process of LEARNING and SELF-IMPROVEMENT.

Confucius stressed the importance of education for achieving personal and social ORDER. Ritual also divide people into categories, and builds hierarchical relationships through rules and ceremonies, assigning everyone a place in society and a proper form of behavior and social correctness. Confucius emphasized that through ritual, people could learn proper relationships.

Particular duties arise from one’s particular situation in relation to others. The individual stands simultaneously in several different relationships with different people. “Filial” Piety between parent and child was extended by analogy to a series of five relationships:
• Ruler to Ruled
• Father to Son
• Husband to Wife
• Elder Brother to Younger Brother
• Friend to Friend

HARMONY will prevail if people ACCEPT their role in society and fulfill THEIR responsiblities to EACH OTHER.
Governance Confucius’ believed that when virtuous men lead by moral example, good government would follow naturally.

Another key Confucian concept is that in order to govern others one must FIRST GOVERN ONESELF.
When developed sufficiently, the king’s personal virtue spreads beneficent influence throughout the kingdom.

POLITICAL THEORY: it BEGINS with an AUTOCRATIC RULE, at the pinnacle of the social order in imperial China was the EMPEROR, the Son of Heaven, who performed rituals designed to PRESERVE the COSMIC ORDER. The ruler was exhorted to not act inhumanely towards his subjects. An inhumane ruler runs the risk of losing the “Mandate of Heaven“, the right to rule. A ruler lacking such a mandate need not be obeyed. But a ruler who reigns humanely and takes care of the people is to be obeyed strictly, for the benevolence of his rule shows that he has been mandated by heaven. If the ruler lacks “humaneness” (rén), it will be difficult if not impossible for his subjects to behave humanely.

The main basis of Confucius’ teachings was to seek knowledge, study, and become a better person. Meritocracy led to the introduction of the Imperial examination system started in 165 B.C.. Candidates showed their moral excellence and prove his worth by passing written government examinations. The Confucian exams lasted days. Anyone who passed would become a government officer, a position which would bring wealth and honor to the whole family. The goal was good government officials that would practice good government.

HIERARCHY” (superiors – inferiors) SOCIAL “EQUALITY”