Confucianism is not an organized religion as Christianity, Buddhism and Islam are.
Instead, Confucianism is a philosophy for how to live life, and it is taught and/or learned in the home and family as one grows up and parents and family are the role models.
One face of Confucianism is the influence of the family on children, which may explain why China’s civilization and culture has survived for so long without a total meltdown such as what happened in Europe after the Western Roman Empire collapsed in 476 AD plunging Europe into the Dark Ages for a thousand years.
The other face of Confucianism is the political side where Dynasties and Emperors promoted obedience to the state in a futile attempt to control the behavior of the people. An incomplete list of about twenty rebellions and civil wars in China, with the first being in 209 BC, demonstrates how this face of Confucianism seldom works.
In addition, although Confucius may never have intended for this to happen, over the millennia, his philosophy of life traveled throughout East Asia and influenced countries such as Korea, Japan and Vietnam.
For centuries, the notion of harmony, closely identified with Confucianism, has resonated in other Asian traditions and societies and continues to do so today. Both Japan and Korea were deeply influenced by China and have long accorded great value to the concept.
In fact, the influence of Confucius was felt as far away as the Philippines.
The earliest date suggested for direct Chinese contact with the Philippines was 982 AD, while the West’s Ferdinand Magellan did not arrive until 1521, so China had contact with the Philippines more than five centuries before Europeans arrived.
Who is Confucius and what does Confucianism really mean. About one billion people follow the philosophy of Confucianism.
Asia Times says, “The teachings of Confucius run like a red thread through the political history of East Asia. Numerous leaderships in the region’s history used the sage to legitimize their own grip on a fragmented kingdom.”
For Japan, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy says, “The importance of Confucianism in Japanese history is undeniable…”
In fact, during World War II, the Japanese attempted using Confucian values to gain the obedience of the Chinese people but due to a lack of understanding of how the Chinese practiced Confucianism, the Japanese failed to win the people’s trust and obedience.
In addition, in his fight against the communists during China’s Civil War, Chiang Kai-shek described himself as Confucius’ true heir, and it was Chiang that made the study of Confucius mandatory for high school students.
In the home, the other face of Confucianism shows itself and children are taught to respect parents, elders and teachers and emphasizes the importance of working hard to earn an education.
One element of Confucianism the Chinese people have not forgotten is the right to protest and rebel against an unjust and corrupt government.
Continued on December 17, 2011 in The two-faces of Confucius – Part 4 or return to Part 2
Lloyd Lofthouse is the award-winning author of The Concubine Saga. When you love a Chinese woman, you marry her family and culture too. This is the love story Sir Robert Hart did not want the world to discover.
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