|Posted on December 12, 2011 at 9:00 AM|
Confucianism is a system of ethical philosophy based on the teachings of Confucius. It is a humanist and non-theist ideology with an emphasis on individual morals and ethics and the role of power in politics. There are six schools of Confucianism including Han, Korean, Japanese and Contemporary Neo-Confucianism.
Confucian thought is widespread throughout Asia, specifically any where with a large Chinese population. It is approximated that 6 million people adhere to Confucianism to the exclusion of any other religious or philosophical tenets while nearly 350 million identify with it on some level, pairing it with other religions or schools of thought ranging from Christianity to Buddhism. Only about 26,000 of those people live in North America.
Kung Fe Tzu (often translated to Confucius in English) was born in 551 BCE in the state of Lu during the Chou dynasty. This period was known for it's moral looseness that is often referred to as "legalism". At 22 he opened a school and was eventually appointed Minister of Justice in Lu. After a falling out with the leader of the state he traveled the country advising the leaders of other states and cities while gathering a number of students. He died at 72, in 478 BCE, 2 years after the Buddha.
Confucianism was brought to Europe in the 17th century by way of Jesuit translation into Latin by monks stationed in China. The ideas and philosophies have influenced various thinkers and philosophers, both religious and secular, including Gottfried Leibniz and Voltaire. The Han Kitab is a body of literature written and referenced by the Hui Islam in China from the 1600's on. It is an infusion of the Islamic religion with Confucian ethics and morality, especially in the writings of Liu Zhu, who also included Taoism in his particular blend.
Confucianism has had many detractors over the centuries. Many Chinese have blamed Confucius for the class distinctions that lead to the Cultural Revolution, for instance. It has also been blamed for the inferior station of women in China along with Taoism and the idea of the Ying-Yang.
Confucius taught to internalize actions so that they are controlled beforehand, rather than using the traditional system of laws and punishment where people conform to laws, often without understanding, simply to avoid punishment.
Relationships are central to Confucianism (Filial Piety), eventually creating the 5 Bonds - Ruler to Subject; Father to Son; Husband to Wife; Elder Brother to Younger Brother; and Friend to Friend. This is the idea that everyone has a duty within a relationship, whether it be reverence to an elder or benevolence to a junior. Social harmony is then achieved by everyone, essentially, knowing their place within their relationships. This includes the dead, wherein the living act as the Son, leading to the veneration of ancestors so prevalent in Chinese society.
Since Confucianism does not have all the facets of other religions, ritual celebrations of life milestones were added - birth; maturity; marriage; and death.
To learn more -