Confucianism, the philosophical system founded on the teaching of Confucius, wholived from 551 BC to 479 BC, dominated Chinese sociopolitical life for most ofthe Chinese history and largely influenced the cultures of Korea, Japan, andIndochina.
The Confucian school functioned as a recruiting ground for governmentpositions, which were filled by those scoring highest on examinations in theConfucian classics. It also blended with popular and important religions andbecame the vehicle for presenting Chinese values to the peasants. The school’sdoctrine supported political authority using the theory of the mandate ofheaven. It sought to help rulers maintain domestic order, preserve tradition,and maintain a constant standard of living for the tax paying peasants.
Ittrained its followers in generous giving, traditional rituals, family order,loyalty, respect for superiors and for the aged, and principled flexibility inadvising rulers. Confucius was China’s first and most famous philosopher. He hada traditional personal name (Qiu) and a formal name (Zhoghi). Confucius’s fatherdied shortly after Confucius’s birth. His family fell into relative poverty, andConfucius joined a growing class of impoverished descendants of aristocrats whomade their careers by acquiring knowledge of feudal ritual and taking positionsof influence serving the rulers of the many separate states of ancient China.Confucius devoted himself to learning.
At the age of 30, however, when hisshort-lived official career floundered, he turned to teaching others. Confuciushimself never wrote down his own philosophy, although tradition credits him withediting some of the historical classics that were used as texts in his school.He apparently made an enormous impact on the lives and attitudes of hisdisciples. Confucianism combines a political theory and a theory of human natureto yield “dao,” a prescriptive doctrine or way.
The political theorystarts with a Doctrine of political authority from heaven’s command: the rulerbears responsibility for the well being of the people and therefore for peaceand order in the empire. Confucianism emerged as a more coherent philosophy whenfaced with intellectual competition from other schools that were growing in theschools that were growing in the fertile social climate of pre-imperial China(400-200 BC). Daoism, Mohism and Legalism all attacked Confucianism. A commontheme of these attacks was that Confucianism assumed that tradition andconvention was always correct. Mencuis (372-289 BC) developed a more idealisticinclination to good behavior that does not require education.
Xun Zi (313- 238BC) argued that all inclinations are shaped by acquired language and othersocial forms. Confucianism rose to the position of an official orthodoxy duringthe Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). It absorbed the metaphysical doctrines of Yin(the female principle) and Yang (the male principle) found in the Book ofChanges and other speculative metaphysical notions. With the fall of the HanDynasty, Confucianism fell into severe decline. Except for the residual effectsof its official status, Confucianism remained philosophically dormant forapproximately 600 years. Confucianism began to revive with the reestablishmentof the Chinese dynastic power in the Tang Dynasty (618- 906 AD). The ZenBuddhist, Chan felt that “There is nothing much to Buddhist teaching.”And, the education offered by Confucist teaching filled the intellectual gap.
The Song Dynasty (960 – 1279 AD) produced Neo-Confucianism, which is aninterpretation of classical Confucianism doctrine that addressed both Buddhistand Daoist issues. Its development was due mainly to Zhenglo (1032) and Zhengi(1033-1107), but for the orthodox statement of Neo-Confucianism, one turns toZhu Xi (1130- 1200). His commentaries on the four scriptures of Confucianismwere required study for the imperial civil service examinations. From thebeginning of the 1200’s to about 1949 and the communist era in China,Confucianism was the belief that told the peasants of China that the mandate ofheaven said that emperors were to rule the Chinese Empire.
Because of thisphilosophy, westerners often viewed the Chinese lifestyle as odd and referred tothe Chinese officials as inscrutable.Philosophy