Re: Confucianism in Chinese History

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Posted by Yutopian ( on May 09, 2001 at 23:03:53:

In Reply to: Confucianism in Chinese History posted by Rachel on March 08, 2001 at 01:42:46:

: Hey, I am doing a school project on Confucianism in Chinese History (obviously) and I am looking for someone to interview on this topic. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

We were interviewed by Rachel and here are the contents.

1) Main teaching of Confucianism-
Confucianism stresses the goodness of human nature. The central element of its teaching was the duty of the right behavior in everyday relationships. He detailed the virtues, sincerity, kindness, respectfulness, moderation, and faithfulness, as the basis of happy relationships. It also specified the five particular relationships from which a perfect community would result- ruler and subject; father and son, husband and wife; elder brother and younger; friend and friend. It accepted ancestor worship as the continuation of piety of a son after the death of his parent(s).

2) Main Teaching of Mencius-
While Confucianism stressed the proper conduct and behavior more on a personal level, Mencius stressed the importance of a good government. Good governments are established by good men. Social problems don’t arise because of the nature of men, but out of the wickedness of governments. Therefore, philosophers must become kings, and kings of this world must become philosophers. A good ruler shall never raise war. A ruler who has aroused the enmity of his people has lost the ‘mandate of Heaven’ and should be removed.

3) How did Confucianism develop as a state cult?
The doctrine of Confucianism to influence and achieve public employment (working for the government as officials or judges was highly regarded), created a class of Confucian scholars destined to become the most powerful group in the empire. To become a Confucian scholar thus became the dream of million of Chinese. This was even more so during the Han Dynasty, with the introduction of the ideas and methods of Confucius into education of Chinese youth and statesmanship.

4) Did Confucianism have any negative impacts on China? See Below
In What Ways did Confucianism affected the History of China?
The influence of Confucianism can be divided into two eras, 1) the Ancient Chinese Empire (before 1700 AD), and 2) the Sick Men of Asia (between 1700 and 1910 AD).
With the help of Confucianism, China developed a harmonious community life, a zealous admiration for learning and wisdom, and a quiet and stable culture which gave China a strong civilization unmatched in ancient Asia. Neighboring countries like Japan and Korea paid tribute to this ‘big brother’ whom they tried to learn from, sending shipload of scholars for centuries to learn its culture. In short, Confucianism helped China to become a strong ancient empire.

Unfortunately this system of memorizing Confucius’ teaching left little room for imagination. Knowledge of science and technology were often despised under such a system. Students graduated from such schools are conservative and lack of creativity. Such conservative teaching also helped to keep women in supine debasement. Its cold perfection froze the nation into a conservatism as hostile to progress as it was favorable to peace. Confucianism seemed to be practical for centuries, but with the advent of science and technology in the West (in the 18th century), China became relatively weak. This led eventually to the invasion of China by countries like England, Russia, America, France, Germany, etc., labeling China with the nickname of the ‘Sick Men of Asia’.

5) When was Confucianism officially recognized as a religion of China?
There are two levels of answer to this question, one on Ancestor Worshiping and the other on the worship of Confucius. As mentioned before, Confucianism views Ancestor Worshiping as an extension of piety. This began as early as when Confucianism was first introduced during the Zhou Dynasty. The first temple erected to Confucius, was built by Emperor Tai Zong of the Tang Dynasty.

6) Did Everyone accept Confucianism when it was first brought in?
No, a rival school, the ‘Legalists,’ disputed the leadership of Confucius thought in the political world, and occasionally moulded the policy of the state. They believe that not men but laws should rule the nation. The laws must be enforced until, becoming a second nature to a society (laws are obeyed without force). The clash between Confucianism and the Legalists persisted throughout the Chinese history. One good example was Emperor Qin Shi Huang Di’s sought to end the influence of Confucianism by burning all Confucian literature. Emperor Qin was a Legalist.

7) How did Confucianism affect the Chinese in Their day to day life?
This question was answered in part in other questions. To summarize, the Chinese stressed the importance of proper conduct and behavior. They valued the five relationships, between the ruler and subject, father and son, husband and wife, between brothers, and between friends. Women had very low status under Confucianism. Chinese also worshipped ancestors under such a system.

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