Confucianism Research Paper



K’ung-/fu-tzu (Confucius) was born in 551 B.C. at a time when China was unstable politically, experiencing epidemics, and nationwide starvation. The death of Confucius’ father when Confucius was three years of age left the family impoverished. Poems and Chinese culture interested Confucius as a young man. Studying these subjects prepared him to be appointed to leadership positions in the maintenance of the state granaries and public lands, as well as the magistrate of his province, and minister of works and justice. Many religions were practiced at the time; Confucius refined them into an organized ideology that gave the people his perspective concerning how to approach life.

In Confucius’ day, the Chinese people practiced several religions, namely “animism, polytheism, and ancestral worship.” Although Confucius combined the three, even including the idea of heaven, Confucianism is said to be an ethical belief system instead of a religion. Confucius believed that humans needed more than a God to believe in, they needed rules to live by. Confucius taught that given the choice, humans would do the right thing. If they did not, it was because they needed instructions on how to do so. 

To achieve these goals, Confucius established Five Constraints and Four Virtues. They are benevolence, righteousness, ritual, knowledge, integrity, filial piety, loyalty, contingency, and justice/righteousness. These principles were based on interaction within the family, with children obeying their parents, younger siblings submitting to the elder, and women to men. If this behavior permeates the entire society, the result would be peaceful lives leaving no reason for harsh laws and a dictatorial government. 

Also, Confucius, being affected by ancient Chinese practices, combined them into the belief system with the most important principle being that the sphere of man and nature cannot be separated, they and depend on each other. Following that precept, Confucius instituted additional principles for man to live by. The first is the Tao (Dow) or a “path” that leads to a harmonious life as man aligns himself with the orderliness of nature. Next, the Shang Ti, or chief god in the heavens, who rules over all other gods; from Shang Ti came all aspects of Chinese society. In addition, the weather and climate were controlled by Shang Ti. Third, Confucius presented the Yin and Yang principle, with Yin standing for goodness and Yang standing for wickedness. According to Confucius. there were good and bad influences that affected all aspects of life. The last principle, divination, was useful in ancestor worship and discovering how to stay in harmony with nature. Confucius was confident that the Chinese citizens could govern themselves according to the precepts he had established. However, Confucius’ aim was for the entire world to adopt his teachings.

During the first and second centuries, emperors began worshiping Confucius, by bringing animal sacrifices to his grave, making it a shrine. The people emulating their leaders, prayed at Confucius’ gravesite, leaving money and other valuables in the second century as well. By 630 AD, the emperor ordered every governor in China to build a temple to Confucius where sacrifices could be offered. A century later statues were placed in these temples. In the 1900s leaders of the Manchu province wanted to declare Confucianism the predominant religion. Dr. SunYat-sen, founder of the Republic of China, advanced the tenets of Confucianism, Chiang Kai-shek based his interpretation government operation on the teachings of Confucius, and no matter how hard Mao Tse-tung tried, he could not coerce the Chinese people to renounce Confucianism and embrace communism instead. Confucianism had become an integral part of Chinese society having been practiced for hundreds of years, encouraged by previous Chinese leaders.

Bibliography

Berling, Judith A. Confucianism. (no date) Asiansociety.org/Confucianism. Pg. 1

Confucianism Class Notes

Eckman, J (2006) The Truth About World Views. Wheaton: Evangelical Training Association Pgs. 42, 43, 46

Mark, Emily. Most Popular Gods and Goddesses of Ancient China. www.ancient.eu. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 25 April 2016 

Mark, Joshua J. Confucianism: Definition. www.ancient.eu/Confucianism. Ancient History Encyclopedia. 07 July 2020. Pgs. 1, 4, 5