Loyalty, honestly, reciprocity, integrity, and humanity are all characteristics of a diffused religion founded by Master Kong named Confucius. Confucius was a teacher and a philosopher. Although there is not much research done on his early life, researchers are certain about one thing. His teachings shaped China’s ideology. He accidentally founded this religion when he was trying to save the Zhou Dynasty. (Berling) Confucius wanted a perfect society. He determined that the only way to get a perfect society was to teach others how to treat each other and how to treat themselves. Through his teachings, Confucius encouraged his followers to be the best that they can be by emphasizing education and the importance on the way that people treat each other.
“Confucianism focused on education as a means of attaining worth and status and was adopted as an official philosophical school under the Han Emperor Wu Ti in the second century BC.” (Gosha 2017) Confucius wanted his followers to be successful and to have worth. Therefore, he put so much focus on knowledge and inspiring his people to learn and grow. He wanted his followers to be teachers, in a way. He encouraged his men to follow and act according to how he taught them so that the people watching them will learn and follow behind. Confucius believed that learning was a process. It included observation, processing, and replication. He would watch something, decide if it was positive or negative, then replicate it if he thought it was positive. (McEnroe & Ed 2014) Along with being full of wisdom and knowledge, Confucius also encouraged people to be respectable and humanely.
As the Golden Rule says, Confucius wanted people to treat each other the way that they would want someone to treat them. Confucius was focused on being kind and respectable to other people. He wanted peace in the world, and he knew that had to start from within. For someone to be nice and caring to another person, they must take care of themselves first. This is what Confucius called self-cultivation. It is about respecting and caring for oneself. There were three main roots that Confucius used to develop this: Cheng, Shen, and Chi. Cheng correlated with being sincere and authentic to oneself. He wanted people to know who they are and to show off their real self. Shen dealt with a person’s spirituality. A person must know what they believe in. The last one, Chi, is about choosing the good or evil sound and finding one’s power and voice. After accomplishing these three roots, a person can begin to really focus on helping others. (Sideris, 2013)
Confucius believed that a person’s individual well-being depended on how others treated him/her. (“Confucianism.”) Confucius’s main purpose was to produce gentlemen. He wanted his followers to radiate with integrity, grace, and wisdom. (Riegel 2013) He showed people how to treat each other and how to love. He taught his people compassion and integrity. This is what the Five Constant Virtues essentially were. It was teaching people how be an ethical human being. These virtues were Jen, Yi, Li, Zhi, and Xin. Jen stood for humaneness, which basically means to have compassion and a helping hand. Yi stands for justice and righteousness. This means doing the write thing and standing up for what is right. Li means propriety or etiquette, which, in other words, means being polite. Zhi stands for knowledge. Confucius believed that knowledge held a huge weight on how people look at others and how people are classified. He stressed the importance of education and wisdom. Lastly, Xin stands for integrity. He wanted his followers to be able to trust each other and have faith. Without integrity, that is impossible to accomplish. (Wŭcháng, 2009)
Along with so many other important values Confucius set in place, he taught the importance of family and relationships to his followers. He showed his followers how to treat family members with kindness, love, and respect. “The inner pole of Confucianism was reformist, idealistic, and spiritual. It generated a high ideal for family interaction: members were to treat each other with love, respect, and consideration for the needs of all.” (Berling) He placed a huge emphasis on having a healthy relationship within families. He also emphasized the importance of a family’s ancestors and the respect people should have for their parents, elders, and ancestors. This is called Filial Piety. He wanted each member of the families to know the hierarchy of the family. The ancestors were on top, being the most respected. Following behind the ancestors are the elders and parents. Behind the parents are the children. He wanted to make sure that everyone knew what their responsibility was and that each member was fulfilling it. For example, the parents’ responsibilities included keeping their children out of harm’s way. On the other hand, the children’s responsibilities included obeying and respecting their parents and elders. (“Confucianism”)
Not only did he want the family relationships to prosper, but he wanted all of his followers to have prosperous relationships between one another. He strived for peaceful interaction for all. He wanted his followers to focus on maintaining healthy relationships with one another and to prosper and succeed together. He encouraged his followers to be supportive and helpful to one another. He wanted to have a team of followers that could rely on and help each other whenever needed; he wanted social harmony for his people.
Social harmony is a team effort. It required members to be responsible of their duties according to where they stood in the social hierarchy. These duties included loyalty, obedience, understanding, and so much more depending on which relationship it was. There were five different kinds of relationships according to Confucius: friend to friend, husband to wife, father to son, older brother to younger sibling, and the ruler to his followers. These were called the Five Bonds. “Very prominent in the Confucian tradition is the idea of the five relationships. The relationship between, if you take it according to Mencius, parent and child, minister and ruler, husband and wife, older and younger brother, friend and friend. Those five relationships and the fact of human relatedness are of crucial importance in the Confucian tradition.” (Bloom) Each bond required different duties depending on who was involved in the bond. For example, the bond between the ruler and his followers would consist of support and obedience.
Confucius’s ideas are still prevalent in the world today. People abide by his teaching daily, regardless of whether it is realized or not. When someone is being respectful of their ancestors or if a person stops to help someone with a flat tire, these are both examples of what Confucius wanted. He wanted his followers to set aside their differences and create peace and harmony in this world.
- Berling, Judith A. “Confucianism.” Asia Society, Center for Global Education, asiasociety.org/education/confucianism.
- Bloom, Irene. “Confucian Teaching.” Asian Topics, Columbia University, afe.easia.columbia.edu/at/conf_teaching/ct07.html.
- “Confucianism.” United Religions Initiative, www.uri.org/kids/world-religions/confucianism.
- Gosha, Christopher. “What Is Confucianism?” History Today, 9 Mar. 2017, www.historytoday.com/history-matters/what-confucianism.
- McEnroe, A. M., and Ed. “Confucius’s Educational Theory.” Maria Montessori on Education, New Foundations, 13 Apr. 2014, www.newfoundations.com/GALLERY/Confucius.html.
- Riegel, Jeffrey. “Confucius.” Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, Stanford University, 23 Mar. 2013, plato.stanford.edu/entries/confucius/#ConEdu.
- Sideris, Jackie. “Confucian Beliefs and Practices.” Prezi.com, 9 Dec. 2013, prezi.com/53fo_gnyp_os/confucian-beliefs-and-practices/.
- Wŭcháng, Sāngāng. “Three Fundamental Bonds and Five Constant Virtues.” China Connect University, Berkshire Publishing Group LLC, 2009, chinaconnectu.com/wpcontent/pdf/ThreeFundamentalBondsandFiveConstantVirtues.pdf.