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Confucianism

An Introduction to Confucianism

Confucianism is a Chinese ethical and philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius( 551–478 BC). It is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical, and quasi-religious thought that has had tremendous influence on the culture and history of East Asia. It had tremendous influence on the history of Chinese civilization down to the 20th century.

In Confucianism, human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor especially including self-cultivation and self-creation. A main idea of Confucianism is the cultivation of virtue and the development of moral perfection. Confucianism holds that one should give up one's life, if necessary, either passively or actively, for the sake of upholding the cardinal moral values of ren and yi. 

Confucianism was further developed by Mencius (372B.C.-289B.C.) and Xun Zi. During the Han Dynasty Confucianism was promoted to being the state ideology. Study of the Confucian classics became the basis of the government examination system and the core of the educational curriculum. Since then, Confucianism became the orthodox doctrine of Chinese society. And Confucius was glorified as a Saint instead of an ordinary man. In the coming Wei and Jin Dynasties, Confucianism coexisted with Buddhism and Taoism. Up to the Sui and Tang Dynasties, the struggle for dominance between the three became heated. The Song Dynasty witnessed a vital period of the development of Confucianism. Featuring Confucian school of idealist philosophy of the Song and Ming dynasties, Confucianism restored its orthodox role for the following 700 years. After it reformulation as Neo-Confucianism by Zhu Xi and the other Neo-Confucians, Confucianism also became accepted as state philosophies in Korea and Japan.

With the banner of science and democracy, the New Cultural Movement from 1915 attacked the feudal system, including its core ideological system of Confucianism. During the Cultural Revolution, Confucianism was once again under violent attack.

In recent years people can look at Confucianism with a more rational state of mind, some even suggest returning to Confucianism for wisdom while opponents hold that Confucianism should be held responsible for the backwardness of China's development and for that reason its dominance should not be revived. In any event, that would not be possible.  

Today we feel very glad that many scholars devote themselves to the study of Confucianism and its application to modern society. Such study is important as the Chinese language has experienced considerable changes over the centuries and the lack of any punctuation in the ancient classics has made it difficult for us to fully comprehend Confucius' ideology. Confucianism is succinct as well as intensive. Strictly speaking, it is not a religion but more a doctrine than belief, while the meaning behind the beautiful words renders wordy post-modernism pale and dull. Confucianism is not only an integral part of Chinese culture but also a part of world cultural heritage.

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