CONFUCIANISM IN CULTURAL STUDIES FROM DIFFERENT PERSPECTIVES 6
Confucianismin Cultural Studies from Different Perspectives
Confucianismin Cultural Studies from Different Perspectives
Confucianismis a philosophical and ethical system that has been present in theEast Asia culture for a long time. There have been differentinterpretations of this system and the different scholars who havefollowed the teachings in Asia and Japan have interpreted theteachings of Confucius differently.Confucianism comes in differentperspectives depending on the person interpreting it. Confucianismfollows the teachings of Confucius, who was an aristocrat whoseambitions, were to hold a political office and be able to influencepeople. The closest he got to his dream was by becoming an officebearer. He travelled from one feudal state to another to try and geta leader who shared in his ideas to try and assert his position. Helater ended up teaching. Confucianism can be construed from differentangles depending on the teachings that the particular personadvocates for.
Confucius,the founder of Confucianism was not a rich man and he sustainedhimself from the fees that he got tutoring his students. In hisclasses, he only wanted people who were ready to learn andunderstand. It was up to the students to dig deeper and understand, aconcept supported by the learning of Chinese art and literature wherea lot of work is centered on the learner and not the instructor. Histeachings are contained in the Analects, which are a collection oflecture notes that his students wrote and the writings of hisfollowers. These teachings are mainly conversations and statementsthat help in giving a picture of the person who Confucius was. Thereason for this is that there has not been any material found to bein his writing about his teachings.
Accordingto him, his role was to teach the Chinese traditional values in a waythat was suited for the modern age in which he lived. He wanted todeal with the problems that came about as a result of civilization.In the middle of the 6thcentury, the Zhou dynasty was falling. According to Confucianism, theterritory was falling mainly because the rulers focused more on powerand territory. The future of the states was uncertain and this iswhat masked the fate of civilization. His focus was on teachingtraditions that could fit in the modern times to solve moderncivilization problems. He aimed at promoting the manners and style ofthe noble.
BothConfucius and Mencius emphasized on interpersonal relationships andmore so on personal cultivation in dealing with those relationships.There is what is generally expected of a man if he is to work towardsbeing noble. He tried to show that values such as the nobility wereacquired by the wise, not that they were inherent in birth. In hisdispositions on the term junzi, to him, it was not a matter of beingborn of loyalty. Anyone could become a junziso long as his nobility derived from moral character and commitment:it was about stringent measures that focused on behavior. Such a manshould conduct his dealings with other men in a humane manner.
Eventhough he was non-committal on the issue of spirits, he believed thatany sacrifice made should be carried out as if the spirits werepresent. This was about the rituals known as liin Chinese that governed the interactions among men. If peoplefollowed the sacred rituals diligently, then everybody would do whatthey were required to do diligently and with devotion. As a result ofthis, there would be harmony and, thereby, there would be no need forphysical sanctions. He believed that so long as there was abenevolent ruler in office who acted with the advice from men, thepeople would have confidence in the governance, which was even moreimportant than the arms given by the government.
Confucianismputs a lot of emphasis on the role of the family even in governance. Confucius believed that filial devotion practiced with theperspectives of family had a great bearing in the society. Accordingto him, it was always better that someone related thinking tolearning and learning to thinking. By doing this, one would be ableto internalize the ideas learnt. He is, however, criticized as havingfailed to raise some questions such that his disciples developed histeachings in a manner different from what he used.
Onenotable follower of this philosophy was Mencius, who travelled fromone state to another trying to gain support for his ideology. Justlike Confucius, he later went into teaching to assert his ideas ofthe people who came across his teachings. His contributions to thetheory of human nature are intriguing and he is of the view thatgenerally, man is good and his goodness comes naturally. Hecontributed to the Confucian philosophy by developing the theory ofself-cultivation. Everybody can become a sage so long as the personis willing to retrace his steps and finding his lost mind and goingback to his original state.
Hemade a relation between self-cultivation and governance and observedthat this was the root of peace in the society. The self-cultivationwould result in a better family and with a better society, one willhave a regulated society. This was the foundation of all goodness andall persons, including the son of heaven. The aspects of goodness hadto be sought and cultivated in order for them to flourish and benefitthe society.
Accordingto Mencius, the government had a role to play in providing aconducive environment for human goodness to thrive. The government isbased on divine and moral sanctions, a ruler gets authority from themandate of heaven, and this can be revoked if he goes beyond hisauthority. Rebellions were justified on the basis that heaven speakswith the voice of the people and acts as people desire. According toConfucius, the mandate of heaven is about a higher power that guideshuman behavior that dictates even individual behavior. However, tohim it was not more of a deity, but about an order that was of ahigher status. It brought some sense of responsibility and comfort inhuman life. He admits that it would not be easy to understand how theheavens function. There is a place for man in the natural order, towhich he is called to, and his position in the natural order issignificant.
Thereare those standards that man is expected to maintain. Bothperspectives focus on the role of family. Governance has its basis onthe family and there is a need for the rulers also to observe thethree practices on rituals, humanness and filial devotion for theprogress and comfort of the society. If filial devotion is practicedwithin a family perspective, the results are notable and the societywill be stable. Ritual decorum deals with the ideal means that guideone’s personal behavior. It guides the rulers on how they aresupposed to handle the people in a dignified manner.
Asdiscussed in the essay, the different perspectives on Confucianismpoint at the idea of people leading spiritual lives and being guidedby certain principles to be able to create a harmonious environmentfor all to live in. There is the emphasis on the idea ofself-cultivation and self-creation in order to reach a certain moralideal. People, especially those in leadership are supposed to treatothers as they would love to be treated and by doing this, there isno way that, they will harm others. The emphasis is on four guidingprinciples that Confucius gave to his students: ritual decorum,filial devotion, and humaneness. The focus on the mandate of heavenis also essential in this teaching as it denotes the source ofreality for the followers of these teachings. Even though Confuciusfelt that towards the end of his life he did not gain an influentialposition, as he would have loved, as a teacher, he did a goodexposition of the system of nobility.
Schirokauer,C., & Brown, M. (2012). ABrief History of Chinese Civilization (4thed.). Cengage Learning