What is Confucianism?
Confucianism, Confucianism or Ruism is a religious and philosophical doctrine with ritual expressions promoted by the thinker Confucius in the 5th century BC. Confucianism proposes a return to a primordial order –which would have deteriorated throughout history– through two systems: the practice of study and the practice of virtues.
The purpose of Confucianism is not individual salvation, but the participation of subjects in the transformation and restoration of society, aimed at recovering harmony with the law of Heaven or Tian. Therefore, it is a doctrine with ethical-political implications.
According to the beliefs of Confucianism, filial piety (xiao) and respect for superiors (gave) are the fundamental basis of social order, which expresses the importance of hierarchies in the private and public (the family and the State respectively). Therefore, everything "old" deserves the highest respect. Along with these virtues, the following also stand out:
- ren: kindness, benevolence or altruism;
- shu: mutual respect;
- zhong: loyalty;
- xin: sincerity;
- yi: Justice;
- li: property;
- zhi: wisdom;
Characteristics of Confucianism
Confucianism has a set of characteristics that distinguish it from other religious doctrines. Let's look at the most important ones.
- It is a more civil than religious cult.
- His respect and sacralization of the past makes him tend to conservatism.
- He is observant of a marked ritualism, visible also in the formulas of courtesy.
- Although he acknowledges the divinity called Tian (Sky), does not delve into metaphysics.
- Thus, it does not rival the pantheons of other religious doctrines.
- He conceives the study as the contemplation of the philosophical-literary texts that provide exemplary models of conduct.
- The ethics of Confucianism is a political ethic.
- Hence, Confucianism is contrary to the pursuit of individual benefit.
- It does not admit individual salvation, but rather the search for the restoration of the primordial order.
- There is no concept of progress.
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Who was Confucius?
The thinker Confucius, whose real name was Kong Kio, was born in China into a noble family. He lived between 551 and 479 BC. Upon reaching middle age, Confucius conquered some important positions with the intention of putting his theories into practice. Among them, Minister of Justice of the federal state of Lu.
Upon leaving office, he traveled the country in search of authorities sensitive to his teachings. Back home, he founded a private school to train royal advisers. Since then he was called Kong-fuzi, which means ‘Master Kong’. The expression Kong-fuzi became Latin as Confucius, from where it derived to its current form.
Sacred books of Confucianism
Among the sacred books of Confucianism, the majority compiled by Confucius, we can cite the so-called Five classics (wu jing):
- Shujing (History book);
- Shijing (Book of songs);
- Yijing, (Book of mutations or changes);
- Li Ching, (Book of rites).
- Ch "a Ch" iu (Annals of Spring and Summer), written by Confucius himself.
To this are added the so-called Four books (yes shu), namely:
- Analects of Confucius, complication of dialogues, phrases and anecdotes collected by his disciples after his death;
- Great knowledge, compiled by Zhu Xi;
- Doctrine of mediocrity, attributed to Zisi, grandson of Confucius;
- Mencius, which collects the teachings of Master Meng, called Mencius.
Origin and history of Confucianism
Confucianism arises in a period of crisis in Ancient China. Its promoter, Confucius, did not see himself as a founder, but as a preacher of the message he had received from his ancestors.
After the founding of the first school, Confucian thought began to spread widely, not without resistance. In fact, it was persecuted in the days of the first empire and was contested by the Taoist school.
With the rise of the Han dynasty in the 3rd century BC, Confucianism was vindicated. By then the currents of the masters Mencio and Xunzi already existed.
During the Han dynasty, other currents appeared. One of them would be that of Dong Zhong-Shu, based on the cosmology-politics relationship and the theory of the five elements (wu-xing). The current of Han fu Wang Chong also emerged, returning to rationalism and condemning superstition.
Confucianism tolerated other beliefs such as Buddhism. Over time, however, some practices of foreign religions, such as celibacy, were seen as undermining the values of the state.
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Despite this, Confucianism had to give space to metaphysical thought. This determined the appearance of a new current during the Sung dynasty (X-XIII AD): Neo-Confucianism represented by the masters Zhu Xi and Wang Yang-Ming.
During the Qing dynasty (17th-early 20th), Neo-Confucianism was contested by the defenders of primitive Confucianism, of a more rationalist nature. With the advent of modernization and later with the People's Republic of China, Confucianism has gone through phases of persecution and phases of tolerance by the government.