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A paper on origins and historical development of confucianism in china

Confucianism was perceived by the Mongols as a Chinese religion, and it had mixed fortunes under their rule. The teachings of the Neo-Confucian school of Zhu Xi from the Song period were introduced to the Mongol court at Zhongdu in the late 1230s but… The thought of Confucius The story of Confucianism does not begin with Confucius. Nor was Confucius the founder of Confucianism in the sense that the Buddha was the founder of Buddhism and Jesus Christ the founder of Christianity.

The historical context

Rather, Confucius considered himself a transmitter who consciously tried to reanimate the old in order to attain the new.

He proposed revitalizing the meaning of the past by advocating a ritualized life. He had faith in the cumulative power of culture. The fact that traditional ways had lost vitality did not, for him, diminish their potential for regeneration in the future. ConfuciusConfucius, illustration in E. Werner's Myths and Legends of China, 1922. The historical context The scholarly tradition envisioned by Confucius can be traced to the sage-kings of antiquity. Although the earliest dynasty confirmed by archaeology is the Shang dynasty 18th—12th century bcethe historical period that Confucius claimed as relevant was much earlier.

This elaborate system of mutual dependence was based on blood ties, marriage alliances, and old covenants as well as on newly negotiated contracts. Its implementation enabled the Western Zhou dynasty to survive in relative peace and prosperity for more than five centuries. Inspired by the statesmanship of Zhougong, Confucius harboured a lifelong dream to be in a position to emulate the duke by putting into practice the political ideas that he had learned from the ancient sages and worthies.

Although Confucius never realized his political dream, his conception of politics as moral persuasion became more and more influential.

Lord on High may have referred to the ancestral progenitor of the Shang royal lineage, but heaven to the Zhou kings, although also ancestral, was a more-generalized anthropomorphic god. This emphasis on benevolent rulership, expressed in numerous bronze inscriptions, was both a reaction to the collapse of the Shang dynasty and an affirmation of a deep-rooted worldview.

Partly because of the vitality of the feudal ritual system and partly because of the strength of the royal household itself, the Zhou kings were able to control their kingdom for several centuries.

In 771 bce, however, they were forced to move their capital eastward to present-day Luoyang to avoid barbarian attacks from Central Asia. Real power thereafter passed into the hands of feudal lords.

  • Xunzi singled out the cognitive function of the heart-and-mind xin , or human rationality , as the basis for morality;
  • Another part of the superior person is de, virtue or moral force;
  • When Mencius was asked whether it is ever permissible to murder a ruler, he replied:

Since the surviving line of the Zhou kings continued to be recognized in name, they still managed to exercise some measure of symbolic control. In so doing he attempted to redefine and revitalize the institutions that for centuries had been vital to political stability and social order: Confucius did not accept the status quo, which held that wealth and power spoke the loudest.

He felt that virtue deboth as a personal quality and as a requirement for leadership, was essential for individual dignity, communal solidarity, and political order. The Analects has often been viewed by the critical modern reader as a collection of unrelated reflections randomly put together. That impression may have resulted from the unfortunate perception of Confucius as a mere commonsense moralizer who gave practical advice to students in everyday situations. Interchanges with various historical figures and his disciples are used to show Confucius in thought and action, not as an isolated individual but as the centre of relationships.

The purpose, then, in compiling the distilled statements centring on Confucius seems not to have been to present an argument or to record an event but to offer an invitation to readers to take part in an ongoing conversation.

Through the Analects Confucians for centuries learned to reenact the awe-inspiring ritual of participating in a conversation with Confucius. When one of his students reportedly had difficulty describing him, Confucius came to his aid: Why did you not simply say something to this effect: His strong sense of mission, however, never interfered with his ability to remember what had been imparted to him, to learn without flagging, and to teach without growing weary.

What he demanded of himself was strenuous: It is these things that cause me concern: The community that Confucius created was a scholarly fellowship of like-minded men of different ages and different backgrounds from different states. They were attracted to Confucius because they shared his vision and to varying degrees took part in his mission to bring moral order to an increasingly fragmented world.

That mission was difficult and even dangerous. Confucius himself suffered from joblessness, homelessness, starvation, and occasionally life-threatening violence. Yet his faith in the survivability of the culture that he cherished and the workability of the approach to teaching that he propounded was so steadfast that he convinced his followers as well as himself that heaven was on their side. Since the death of King Wen [founder of the Zhou dynasty] does not the mission of culture wen rest here in me?

If heaven intends this culture to be destroyed, those who come after me will not be able to have any part of it. If heaven does not intend this culture to be destroyed, then what can the men of Kuang do to me? To him, learning not only broadened his knowledge and deepened his self-awareness but also defined who he was.

He frankly admitted that he was not born endowed with knowledge, nor did he belong to the class of men who could transform society without knowledge. Rather, he reported that he used his ears widely and followed what was good in what he had heard and used his eyes widely and retained in his mind what he had seen.

In that sense Confucius was neither a prophet with privileged access to the divine nor a philosopher who had already seen the truth but a teacher of humanity who was also an advanced fellow traveler on the way to self-realization. As a teacher of humanity, Confucius stated his ambition in terms of concern for human beings: His aim was to restore trust in government and to transform society into a flourishing moral community by cultivating a sense of humanity in politics and society.

To achieve that aim, the creation of a scholarly community, the fellowship of junzi exemplary personswas essential. They take humanity as their burden. Is that not heavy? Only with death does their road come to an end.

  1. Without constraints, social solidarity—the precondition for human well-being—would be undermined. Partly because of the vitality of the feudal ritual system and partly because of the strength of the royal household itself, the Zhou kings were able to control their kingdom for several centuries.
  2. When one of his students reportedly had difficulty describing him, Confucius came to his aid. The fact that traditional ways had lost vitality did not, for him, diminish their potential for regeneration in the future.
  3. Most people cast aside what makes us different.
  4. The philosophical originality of the dynasty was mainly represented by monk-scholars such as Jizang 549—623 , Xuanzang 602—664 , and Zhiyi 538—597.

Is that not long? Its mission was to redefine and revitalize those institutions that for centuries were believed to have maintained social solidarity and enabled people to live in harmony and prosperity. An obvious example of such an institution was the family.

That maxim is based on the Confucian conviction that cultivation of the self is the root of social order and that social order is the basis for political stability and enduring peace. Rulers should begin by rectifying their own conduct; that is, they are to be examples who govern by moral leadership and exemplary teaching rather than by force.

Law and punishment are the minimum requirements for order; the higher goal of social harmony, however, can be attained only by virtue expressed through ritual performance. To perform rituals, then, is to take part in a communal act to promote mutual understanding. One of the fundamental Confucian values that ensures the integrity of ritual performance is xiao filial piety. Indeed, Confucius saw filial piety as the first step toward moral excellence, which he believed lay in the attainment of the cardinal virtue, ren humanity.

To learn to embody the family in the mind and the heart is to become able to move beyond self-centredness or, to borrow from modern psychology, to transform the enclosed private ego into an open self. Filial piety, however, does not demand unconditional submissiveness to parental authority but recognition of and reverence for the source of life.

The purpose of filial piety, as the ancient Greeks expressed it, is to enable both parent and child to flourish. Confucians see it as an essential way of learning to be human. Confucians, moreover, are fond of applying the family metaphor to the community, the country, and the cosmos.

When Confucius said that taking care of family affairs is itself active participation in politics, he had already made it clear that family ethics is not merely a private concern; the public good is realized by and through it.

The dual focus on the transformation of the self Confucius is said to have freed himself from four things: Persons of humanity, in wishing to establish themselves, also establish others, and in wishing to enlarge themselves, also enlarge others.

Confucianism

The ability to take as analogy what is near at hand can be called the method of humanity. Yet the Confucians did not exert much influence in the 5th century bce.

The hermits the early Daoistswho left the world to create a sanctuary in nature in order to lead a contemplative life, and the realists proto- Legalistswho played the dangerous game of assisting ambitious kings to gain wealth and power so that they could influence the political process, were actually determining the intellectual agenda.

The Confucians refused to be identified with the interests of the ruling minority, because their social consciousness impelled them to serve as the conscience of the people. They were in a dilemma. Although they wanted to be actively involved in politics, they could not accept the status quo as the legitimate arena in which to exercise authority and power.

In short, they were in the world but not of it; they could not leave the world, nor could they effectively change it. The paradigmatic Confucian intellectual Mencius is known as the self-styled transmitter of the Confucian Way. He argued that cultivating a class of scholar-officials who would not be directly involved in agriculture, industry, and commerce was vital to the well-being of the state.

In his sophisticated argument against the physiocrats those who advocated the supremacy of agriculturehe intelligently employed the idea of the division of labour to defend those who labour with their minds, observing that service is as important as productivity. To him Confucians served the vital interests of the state as scholars not by becoming bureaucratic functionaries but by assuming the responsibility of teaching the ruling minority humane government renzheng and the kingly way wangdao. In dealing with feudal lords, Mencius conducted himself not merely as a political adviser but also as a teacher of kings.

Mencius made it explicit that a true person cannot be corrupted by wealth, subdued by power, or affected by poverty. Mozi, a former Confucian who had become disaffected with rituals that he viewed as too time-consuming to be practical, promoted a mode of collectivism that rested on the principle of loving everyone jianai without respect to social status or personal relationship.

Yang Zhu gained infamy among Confucians for declaring that he would not sacrifice one eyelash to save the world. His point was arguably that people all too often waste their own lives in the service of social arrangements that actually undermine their best interests.

Mencius, however, who as a good Confucian viewed the family as the natural paradigm of social organization, contended that excessive attention to self-interest would lead to political disorder. Mencius, however, was not arguing against profit. Rather, he instructed the feudal lords to look beyond the narrow horizon of their palaces and to cultivate a common bond with their ministers, officers, clerks, and the seemingly undifferentiated masses. Only then, Mencius contended, would they be able to preserve their profit, self-interest, wealth, and power.

He encouraged them to extend their benevolence his interpretation of ren and warned them that this was crucial for the protection of their families. Mencius insisted that an unfit ruler should be criticized, rehabilitated, or, as the last resort, deposed.

While he acknowledged the role of biological and environmental factors in shaping the human condition, he insisted that human beings become moral by willing to be so. According to Mencius, willing entails the transformative moral act insofar as the propensity of humans to be good is activated whenever they decide to bring it to their conscious attention. Mencius taught that all people have the spiritual resources to deepen their self-awareness and strengthen their bonds with others.

Those who are admirable are called good shan. Those who are sincere are called true xin. Those who are totally genuine are called beautiful mei.

Those who radiate this genuineness are called great da. Those whose greatness transforms are called sagely sheng.