1.the teachings of Confucius emphasizing love for humanity; high value given to learning and to devotion to family (including ancestors); peace; justice; influenced the traditional culture of China
2.(MeSH)A school of thought and set of moral, ethical, and political teachings usually considered to be founded by Confucius in 6th-5th century B.C. China. (from Cambridge Dictionary of Philosophy, 1995)
ConfucianismCon*fu"cian*ism (?), n. The political morality taught by Confucius and his disciples, which forms the basis of the Chinese jurisprudence and education. It can hardly be called a religion, as it does not inculcate the worship of any god. S. W. Williams.
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Religious Philosophies, Taoism[Hyper.]
Confucianism (n.) [MeSH]
religion d'Asie (fr)[Classe]
religion d'Asie (fr)[Thème]
philosophie orientale (fr)[Classe]
religion d'Asie (fr)[Classe]
Confucianism (pr. n.)
|The Dacheng Hall, the main hall of the Temple of Confucius in Qufu|
Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius (Kǒng Fūzǐ, or K'ung-fu-tzu, lit. "Master Kong", 551–478 BC). Confucianism originated as an "ethical-sociopolitical teaching" during the Spring and Autumn Period, but later developed metaphysical and cosmological elements in the Han Dynasty. Following the abandonment of Legalism in China after the Qin Dynasty, Confucianism became the official state ideology of China, until it was replaced by the "Three Principles of the People" ideology with the establishment of the Republic of China, and then Maoist Communism after the ROC was replaced by the People's Republic of China in Mainland China.
The core of Confucianism is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, the most basic of which are ren, yi, and li. Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community, yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good, and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi. Although Confucius the man may have been a believer in Chinese folk religion, Confucianism as an ideology is humanistic and non-theistic, and does not involve a belief in the supernatural or in a personal god.
Cultures and countries strongly influenced by Confucianism include mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan and Vietnam, as well as various territories settled predominantly by Chinese people, such as Singapore. Although Confucian ideas prevail in these areas, few people outside of academia identify themselves as Confucian, and instead see Confucian ethics as a complementary guideline for other ideologies and beliefs, including democracy, Marxism, capitalism, Christianity, Islam and Buddhism.
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Humanism is at the core in Confucianism. A simple way to appreciate Confucian thought is to consider it as being based on varying levels of honesty, and a simple way to understand Confucian thought is to examine the world by using the logic of humanity. In practice, the primary foundation and function of Confucianism is as an ethical philosophy to be practiced by all the members of a society. Confucian ethics is characterized by the promotion of virtues, encompassed by the Five Constants, or the Wuchang (五常), extrapolated by Confucian scholars during the Han Dynasty. The five virtues are Ren (仁, Humaneness), Yi (義, Righteousness or Justice), Li (禮, Propriety or Etiquette), Zhi (智, Knowledge), Xin (信, Integrity). They are accompanied by the classical Sizi (四字) with four virtues: Zhong (忠, Loyalty), Xiao (孝, Filial piety), Jie (節, Continency), Yi (義, Righteousness). There are still many other elements, such as Cheng (誠, honesty), Shu (恕, kindness and forgiveness), Lian (廉, honesty and cleanness), Chi (恥, shame, judge and sense of right and wrong), Yong (勇, bravery), Wen (溫, kind and gentle), Liang (良, good, kindhearted), Gong (恭, respectful, reverent), Jian(儉, frugal), Rang (讓, modestly, self-effacing). Among all elements, Ren (Humanity) and Yi (Righteousness) are fundamental.
Ren is one of the basic virtues promoted by Confucius, and is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community. Confucius' concept of humaneness (Chinese: 仁; pinyin: rén) is probably best expressed in the Confucian version of the ethic of reciprocity, or the Golden Rule: "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you."
Confucius never stated whether man was born good or evil, noting that 'By nature men are similar; by practice men are wide apart' —implying that whether good or bad, Confucius must have perceived all men to be born with intrinsic similarities, but that man is conditioned and inﬂuenced by study and practise. Xunzi's opinion is that men originally just want what they instinctively want despite positive or negative results it may bring, so cultivation is needed. In Mencius' view, all men are born to share goodness such as compassion and good heart, although they may become wicked. The Three Character Classic begins with "People at birth are naturally good (kind-hearted)", which stems from Mencius' idea. All the views eventually lead to recognize the importance of human education and cultivation.
Rén also has a political dimension. If the ruler lacks rén, Confucianism holds, it will be difficult if not impossible for his subjects to behave humanely. Rén is the basis of Confucian political theory: it presupposes an autocratic ruler, exhorted to refrain from acting 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 dominion shows that he has been mandated by heaven. Confucius himself had little to say on the will of the people, but his leading follower Mencius did state on one occasion that the people's opinion on certain weighty matters should be considered.
In Confucianism, the term "li" (Chinese: 禮; pinyin: lǐ), sometimes translated into English as rituals, customs, rites, etiquette, or morals, refers to any of the secular social functions of daily life, akin to the Western term for culture. Confucius considered education and music as various elements of li. Li were codified and treated as a comprehensive system of norms, guiding the propriety or politeness which colors everyday life. Confucius himself tried to revive the etiquette of earlier dynasties.
It is important to note that, although li is sometimes translated as "ritual" or "rites", it has developed a specialized meaning in Confucianism, as opposed to its usual religious meanings. In Confucianism, the acts of everyday life are considered rituals. Rituals are not necessarily regimented or arbitrary practices, but the routines that people often engage in, knowingly or unknowingly, during the normal course of their lives. Shaping the rituals in a way that leads to a content and healthy society, and to content and healthy people, is one purpose of Confucian philosophy.
Loyalty (Chinese: 忠; pinyin: zhōng) is the equivalent of filial piety on a different plane. It is particularly relevant for the social class to which most of Confucius' students belonged, because the only way for an ambitious young scholar to make his way in the Confucian Chinese world was to enter a ruler's civil service. Like filial piety, however, loyalty was often subverted by the autocratic regimes of China. Confucius had advocated a sensitivity to the realpolitik of the class relations in his time; he did not propose that "might makes right", but that a superior who had received the "Mandate of Heaven" (see below) should be obeyed because of his moral rectitude.
In later ages, however, emphasis was placed more on the obligations of the ruled to the ruler, and less on the ruler's obligations to the ruled.
Loyalty was also an extension of one's duties to friends, family, and spouse. Loyalty to one's family came first, then to one's spouse, then to one's ruler, and lastly to one's friends. Loyalty was considered one of the greater human virtues.
Confucius also realized that loyalty and filial piety can potentially conflict.
"Filial piety" (Chinese: 孝; pinyin: xiào) is considered among the greatest of virtues and must be shown towards both the living and the dead (including even remote ancestors). The term "filial" (meaning "of a child") characterizes the respect that a child, originally a son, should show to his parents. This relationship was extended by analogy to a series of five relationships (Chinese: 五倫; pinyin: wǔlún):
The Five Bonds
Specific duties were prescribed to each of the participants in these sets of relationships. Such duties were also extended to the dead, where the living stood as sons to their deceased family. This led to the veneration of ancestors. The only relationship where respect for elders wasn't stressed was the Friend to Friend relationship. In all other relationships, high reverence was held for elders.
The idea of Filial piety influenced the Chinese legal system: a criminal would be punished more harshly if the culprit had committed the crime against a parent, while fathers often exercised enormous power over their children. A similar differentiation was applied to other relationships. Now[PROC? clarification needed] filial piety is also built into law. People have the responsibility to provide for their elderly parents according to the law.
The main source of our knowledge of the importance of filial piety is the Classic of Filial Piety, a work attributed to Confucius and his son but almost certainly written in the 3rd century BCE. The Analects, the main source of the Confucianism of Confucius, actually has little to say on the matter of filial piety and some sources believe the concept was focused on by later thinkers as a response to Mohism.
Filial piety has continued to play a central role in Confucian thinking to the present day.
Relationships are central to Confucianism. Particular duties arise from one's particular situation in relation to others. The individual stands simultaneously in several different relationships with different people: as a junior in relation to parents and elders, and as a senior in relation to younger siblings, students, and others. While juniors are considered in Confucianism to owe their seniors reverence, seniors also have duties of benevolence and concern toward juniors. This theme of mutuality is prevalent in East Asian cultures even to this day.
Social harmony—the great goal of Confucianism—therefore results in part from every individual knowing his or her place in the social order, and playing his or her part well. When Duke Jing of Qi asked about government, by which he meant proper administration so as to bring social harmony, Confucius replied:
There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son. (Analects XII, 11, trans. Legge)
Mencius says: "When being a child, yearn for and love your parents; when growing mature, yearn for and love your lassie; when having wife and child(ren), yearn for and love your wife and child(ren); when being an official (or a staffer), yearn for and love your sovereign (and/or boss)."[cite this quote]
The term jūnzǐ (Chinese: 君子; literally "lord's child") is crucial to classical Confucianism. Confucianism exhorts all people to strive for the ideal of a "gentleman" or "perfect man". A succinct description of the "perfect man" is one who "combines the qualities of saint, scholar, and gentleman." In modern times the masculine translation in English is also traditional and is still frequently used. Elitism was bound up with the concept, and gentlemen were expected to act as moral guides to the rest of society.
They were to:
The great exemplar of the perfect gentleman is Confucius himself. Perhaps the tragedy of his life was that he was never awarded the high official position which he desired, from which he wished to demonstrate the general well-being that would ensue if humane persons ruled and administered the state.
The opposite of the Jūnzǐ was the Xiǎorén (Chinese: 小人; pinyin: xiǎorén; literally "small person"). The character 小 in this context means petty in mind and heart, narrowly self-interested, greedy, superficial, or materialistic.
Confucius believed that social disorder often stemmed from failure to perceive, understand, and deal with reality. Fundamentally, then, social disorder can stem from the failure to call things by their proper names, and his solution to this was Zhèngmíng (Chinese: [正名]; pinyin: zhèngmíng; literally "rectification of terms"). He gave an explanation of zhengming to one of his disciples.
Zi-lu said, "The ruler of Wei has been waiting for you, in order with you to administer the government. What will you consider the first thing to be done?"
The Master replied, "What is necessary to rectify names."
"So! indeed!" said Zi-lu. "You are wide off the mark! Why must there be such rectification?"
The Master said, "How uncultivated you are, Yu! A superior man, in regard to what he does not know, shows a cautious reserve.
If names be not correct, language is not in accordance with the truth of things.
If language be not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success.
When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music do not flourish.
When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded.
When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
Therefore a superior man considers it necessary that the names he uses may be spoken appropriately, and also that what he speaks may be carried out appropriately. What the superior man requires is just that in his words there may be nothing incorrect."
(Analects XIII, 3, tr. Legge)
Xun Zi chapter (22) "On the Rectification of Names" claims the ancient sage-kings chose names (Chinese: [名]; pinyin: míng) that directly corresponded with actualities (Chinese: [實]; pinyin: shí), but later generations confused terminology, coined new nomenclature, and thus could no longer distinguish right from wrong.
To govern by virtue, let us compare it to the North Star: it stays in its place, while the myriad stars wait upon it. (Analects II, 1)
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. This idea is developed further in the Great Learning, and is tightly linked with the Taoist concept of wu wei (simplified Chinese: 无为; traditional Chinese: 無為; pinyin: wú wéi): the less the king does, the more gets done. By being the "calm center" around which the kingdom turns, the king allows everything to function smoothly and avoids having to tamper with the individual parts of the whole.
This idea may be traced back to early Chinese shamanistic beliefs, such as the king being the axle between the sky, human beings, and the Earth. Another complementary view is that this idea may have been used by ministers and counselors to deter aristocratic whims that would otherwise be to the detriment of the state's people.
In teaching, there should be no distinction of classes. (Analects XV, 39)
The main basis of his teachings was to seek knowledge, study, and become a better person.
Although Confucius claimed that he never invented anything but was only transmitting ancient knowledge (see Analects VII, 1), he did produce a number of new ideas. Many European and American admirers such as Voltaire and H. G. Creel point to the revolutionary idea of replacing nobility of blood with nobility of virtue. Jūnzǐ (君子, lit. "lord's child"), which originally signified the younger, non-inheriting, offspring of a noble, became, in Confucius' work, an epithet having much the same meaning and evolution as the English "gentleman". A virtuous plebeian who cultivates his qualities can be a "gentleman", while a shameless son of the king is only a "small man". That he admitted students of different classes as disciples is a clear demonstration that he fought against the feudal structures that defined pre-imperial Chinese society.
Another new idea, that of meritocracy, led to the introduction of the Imperial examination system in China. This system allowed anyone who passed an examination to become a government officer, a position which would bring wealth and honour to the whole family. The Chinese Imperial examination system seems to have been started in 165 BC, when certain candidates for public office were called to the Chinese capital for examination of their moral excellence by the emperor. Over the following centuries the system grew until finally almost anyone who wished to become an official had to prove his worth by passing written government examinations.
His achievement was the setting up of a school that produced statesmen with a strong sense of patriotism and duty, known as Rujia (Chinese: 儒家; pinyin: Rújiā). During the Warring States Period and the early Han Dynasty, China grew greatly and the need arose for a solid and centralized cadre of government officers able to read and write administrative papers. As a result, Confucianism was promoted by the emperor and the men its doctrines produced became an effective counter to the remaining feudal aristocrats who threatened the unity of the imperial state.
During the Han Dynasty, Confucianism developed from an ethical system into a political ideology used to legitimize the rule of the political elites. Most Chinese emperors used a mix of Legalism and Confucianism as their ruling doctrine, often with the latter embellishing the former. The practice of using the Confucian meritocracy to justify political actions continues in countries in the Sinosphere, including post-economic liberalization People's Republic of China, Chiang Kai-Shek's Republic of China, and modern Singapore.
The works of Confucius were translated into European languages through the agency of Jesuit scholars stationed in China. Matteo Ricci was among the very earliest to report on the thoughts of Confucius, and father Prospero Intorcetta wrote about the life and works of Confucius in Latin in 1687. Translations of Confucian texts influenced European thinkers of the period, particularly among the Deists and other philosophical groups of the Enlightenment who were interested by the integration of the system of morality of Confucius into Western civilization. Confucianism influenced Gottfried Leibniz, who was attracted to the philosophy because of its perceived similarity to his own. It is postulated that certain elements of Leibniz's philosophy, such as "simple substance" and "preestablished harmony", were borrowed from his interactions with Confucianism. The French philosopher Voltaire was also influenced by Confucius, seeing the concept of Confucian rationalism as an alternative to Christian dogma. He praised Confucian ethics and politics, portraying the sociopolitical hierarchy of China as a model for Europe.
Confucius has no interest in falsehood; he did not pretend to be prophet; he claimed no inspiration; he taught no new religion; he used no delusions; flattered not the emperor under whom he lived...
From the late 17th century onwards a whole body of literature known as the Han Kitab developed amongst the Hui Muslims of China who infused Islamic thought with Confucianism. Especially the works of Liu Zhu such as Tianfang Dianli（天方典禮） sought to harmonize Islam with not only Confucianism but Daoism and is considered to be one of the crowning achievements of the Chinese Muslim culture.
Important military and political figures in modern Chinese history continued to be influenced by Confucianism, like the Muslim warlord Ma Fuxiang. The New Life Movement relied heavily on Confucianism. The Kuomintang party purged China's education system of western ideas, introducing Confucianism into the curriculum. Education came under the total control of state, which meant, in effect, the Kuomintang party, via the Ministry of Education. Military and political classes on the Kuomintang's Three Principles of the People （三民主義） were added. Textbooks, exams, degrees and educational instructors were all controlled by the state, as were all universities.
For many years since the era of Confucius, various critiques of Confucianism have arisen, including Laozi's philosophy and Mozi's critique. Lu Xun also criticised Confucianism heavily for shaping Chinese people into the condition they had reached by the late Qing Dynasty: his criticism are well portrayed in two of his works, A Madman's Diary and The True Story of Ah Q.
In modern times, waves of critique along with vilification against Confucianism arose. The Taiping Rebellion, May Fourth Movement and Cultural Revolution are some upsurges of those waves in China. Taiping rebels described many sages in Confucianism as well as gods in Taoism and Buddhism as mere legends. Marxists during the Cultural Revolution described Confucius as the general representative of the class of slave owners. Numerous opinions and interpretations of Confucianism (of which many are actually opposed by Confucianism) were invented.
Confucianism has a related principle idea called "He Er Bu Tong" (和而不同, peaceful while differing or harmonious while diversified). Although people have differences in opinions, interests, preferences, profiles, etc., they should first keep peace among themselves, and people should live in harmony with each other while maintaining their diversity. There are still other aphorisms relating to Confucian ideas, e.g. If what others say is right and you are truly at fault, change it. If not, be ever more careful of committing that kind of fault (有則改之,無則加勉), Seek to emulate others' virtues, and reflect on your own weak points when you see the failings of others' (見賢思齊焉,見不賢而內自省).
In South Korea, there has been long criticism to Confucianism. Many Koreans believe Confucianism has not contributed to the modernization of Korea. For example, South Korean writer Kim-kyong-li wrote a criticism named "Must Kill Confucius, This Nation will be Solved" (공자가 죽어야 나라가 산다). The writer said that filial relationships are one-side and blind. He writes that if these circumstance continue, social problems will continue to be caused by society and the government forcing Confucian filial obligations onto families. 
Confucianism "largely defined the mainstream discourse on gender in China from the Han dynasty onward," and its strict, obligatory gender roles as a cornerstone of family, and thus, societal stability, continue to shape social life throughout East Asia. Confucians taught that a virtuous woman was supposed to uphold 'three subordinations': be subordinate to her father before marriage, to her husband after marriage, and to her son after her husband died. Men could remarry and have concubines, whereas women were supposed to uphold the virtue of chastity when they lost their husbands. Chaste widows were revered as heroes during the Ming and Qing periods, and were deemed so central to China’s culture and the fate of all peoples, the Yongle Emperor distributed 10,000 copies of the Biographies of Exemplary Women (Lienü Zhuan) to various non-Chinese countries for their moral instruction. The book served as Confucianism's seminal textbook for Chinese women for two millennia, but cementing the "cult of chastity" as an exemplar of Chinese superiority also condemned many widows to lives of "poverty and loneliness."
However, recent reexaminations of Chinese gender roles suggest that Daoism and the yin-yang dichotomy played an even greater part in stifling female roles, and that many women flourished within Confucianism. During the Han dynasty period, the important Confucian text Lessons for Women (Nüjie), was written by Ban Zhao (45-114 CE): by a woman, for women.
She wrote the Nüjie ostensibly for her daughters, instructing them on how to live proper Confucian lives as wives and mothers. Although this is a relatively rare instance of a female Confucian voice, Ban Zhao almost entirely accepts the prevailing views concerning women's proper roles; they should be silent, hard-working, and compliant. She stresses the complementarity and equal importance of the male and female roles according to yin-yang theory, but she clearly accepts the dominance of the yang-male. Her only departure from the standard male versions of this orthodoxy is that she insists on the necessity of educating girls and women. We should not underestimate the significance of this point, as education was the bottom line qualification for being a junzi or "noble person,"...her example suggests that the Confucian prescription for a meaningful life as a woman was apparently not stifling for all women. Even some women of the literate elite, for whom Confucianism was quite explicitly the norm, were able to flourish by living their lives according to that model.
Ever since Europeans first encountered Confucianism, the issue of how Confucianism should be classified has been subject to debate. In the 16th and the 17th centuries, the earliest European arrivals in China, the Christian Jesuits, considered Confucianism to be an ethical system, not a religion, and one that was compatible with Christianity. The Jesuits, including Matteo Ricci, saw Chinese rituals as "civil rituals" that could co-exist alongside the spiritual rituals of Catholicism. By the early 18th century, this initial portrayal was rejected by the Dominicans and Franciscans, creating a dispute among Catholics in East Asia that was known as the "Rites Controversy". The Dominicans and Franciscans argued that ancestral worship was a form of pagan idolatry that was contradictory to the tenets of Christianity. This view was reinforced by Pope Benedict XIV, who ordered a ban on Chinese rituals.
This debate continues into the modern era. There is consensus among scholars that, whether or not it is religious, Confucianism is definitively non-theistic. Confucianism is humanistic, and does not involve a belief in the supernatural or in a personal god. On spirituality, Confucius said to Chi Lu, one of his students, that "You are not yet able to serve men, how can you serve spirits?" Attributes that are seen as religious—such as ancestor worship, ritual, and sacrifice—were advocated by Confucius as necessary for social harmony; however, these attributes can be traced to the traditional non-Confucian Chinese beliefs of Chinese folk religion, and are also practiced by Daoists and Chinese Buddhists. Scholars recognize that classification ultimately depends on how one defines religion. Using stricter definitions of religion, Confucianism has been described as a moral science or philosophy. But using a broader definition, such as Frederick Streng's characterization of religion as "a means of ultimate transformation", Confucianism could be described as a "sociopolitical doctrine having religious qualities." With the latter definition, Confucianism is religious, even if non-theistic, in the sense that it "performs some of the basic psycho-social functions of full-fledged religions", in the same way that non-theistic ideologies like Communism do.
Strictly speaking, there is no term in Chinese which directly corresponds to "Confucianism." Several different terms are used in different situations, several of which are of modern origin:
Three of these use the Chinese character 儒 rú, meaning "scholar". These names do not use the name "Confucius" at all, but instead center on the figure or ideal of the Confucian scholar; however, the suffixes of jiā, jiào, and xué carry different implications as to the nature of Confucianism itself.
Rújiā contains the character jiā, which literally means "house" or "family". In this context, it is more readily construed as meaning "school of thought", since it is also used to construct the names of philosophical schools contemporary with Confucianism: for example, the Chinese names for Legalism and Mohism end in jiā.
Rújiào and Kǒngjiào contain the Chinese character jiào, the noun "teach", used in such as terms as "education", or "educator". The term, however, is notably used to construct the names of religions in Chinese: the terms for Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and other religions in Chinese all end with jiào.
Rúxué contains xué 'study'. The term is parallel to -ology in English, being used to construct the names of academic fields: the Chinese names of fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, political science, economics, and sociology all end in xué.
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