Pre-Han Classical Chinese Thought: Confucianism and Daoism-Written Responses for Questions
1. Confucianism is a system of ideological beliefs and ethical philosophy that is developed from the teachings and thoughts of ancient Chinese teacher Confucius. Confucianism originated during the Spring and Autumn period (770 to 476 BC). Confucius emphasized the morality of an individual and the government, the importance of how social relationships should be and how it affects social order and lastly, the justification and earnestness of people. Some of Confucius’ main goals and hopes centralized on China’s period of chaos and turmoil which Confucius believed could be resolved by establishing a form of social order that could promote harmony among society. He also stressed the importance of knowledge to one’s self because this will create a refinement of one’s ethics and personal virtues to become a better individual. In order to achieve social harmony, one must cultivate social order by focusing on the pertinence of rituals, etiquette, respect towards others and the value of learning by reading Chinese classics and taking their ancient teachings and reestablishing them in society. According to Confucius, social order ties into the significance of knowledge in society. The central core of Confucianism is humanism where he stresses humans are teachable and improvable by personally working on one’s self by taking advantage of knowledge and also by connecting to one’s community by self-cultivation and self-creation. The Analects is book that composes many of Confucius thoughts and beliefs. The book was compiled by his followers. In the Analects, Confucius’ focal point was the development of virtues and the maintenance of ethics. The three basic concepts of Confucianism are ren, yi and li. Ren can be defined as humaneness for other individuals, love others. A famous quote from Confucius which puts ren in perspective is, "Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you.” In other words, treat others with respect and love as you would want to be. Li is translated to propriety and good etiquette. To Confucius li was the underlining basis to adequate social order. Confucius believed “a man or a woman was not only supposed to perform the li properly, but to do so with the right attitude. For example, in mourning, a son should bury his father or mother according to the rules of li as well as mourn them with the utmost sincerity” (Sch. 33). Confucius also believed li was invaluable for the importance of people giving respect to hierarchy. Lastly, yi stands for the act of righteousness and justice- someone’s disposition to do the right thing. Junzi was crucial in classic Confucianism. Junzi can be translated as “gentlemen.” In the Analects, junzi is described as man who has reached ethical and cultural ideal or men of learning and noble truth. It was up to the junzi to positively influence the people around him by having the virtues of ren, li, and yi. The junzi played an active role in advocating the teachings and study of Chinese classical traditions. Mencius is known as one of Confucius’s followers and also one of the most famous philosophers after Confucius’s death. Mencius is known for his assertion that humans are naturally good because they were born good. He believed it was society’s fault for cultivating and influencing the moral bad behavior and character of an individual. Mencius had a strong certainty that everyone had the potential to become a sage which is the culmination of human achievement. He exudes, “the major difference between sages and ordinary people was that sages were the rare individuals who developed their moral potential through long and hard study and reflection” (Sch. 37). Mencius takes reference from Confucius’ main concepts and meanings of ren, li, yi and composes the idea system he refers to as “the four sprouts.” He lists ren (humaneness), li (propriety), yi (righteousness), and zhi...
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