In Chinese history, no one could find a man with an impact on Chinese culture that would equal that of Confucius. Confucius was born in the year 551 BC. He came from a poor family and worked since early childhood. Confucius wandered much across the country in search of teachers to get their knowledge. He became the founding father of Confucianism, a philosophical system. According to the ideas of Confucius, to develop, one had to live in harmony with others, respect elders, and observe the ritual, be sincere with friends, and be able to keep his word, and the rulers shall in his writings show diligence that the people were happy.
The doctrine of Confucianism is sometimes called a “School educated people” for its ideology and way of thinking. Coming from a bankrupt family of aristocrats, Confucius learned much, and as he put it, he “knew the will of Heaven.” As the result, Confucius is considered a Great Sage. As a philosopher, he was on top. However, unlike many, he had not talked about ‘supernatural’ things. He placed emphasis was on the public–political life and its morality. At that time, the creation of a sustainable society occupied the minds of ordinary people most of all. It was believed that during his lifetime, Confucius was not very appreciated. His cult was established after his death. Thus, in the place of his death an altar was built, and later, the temple to serve. Throughout China, there were also other temples for the glory of Confucianism as a religion. In more recent times, the Chinese emperors even granted him the rank of protector of China. Thus, Confucius was deified and elevated to the rank of “Teacher of Wisdom” (2). People often make cults figures out of someone who himself did not believe in God, usually to maintain order in the country and control the people, although, at that period, such an approach was justified.
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Humanism is the core of Confucian teachings. Confucianism considered its ideal the creation of a harmonious society that would correspond to some ancient pattern. In this pattern, every person would have a function. Harmonious society resides on loyalty that should exist between the superior and the subordinate. More to say, loyalty aims at the preservation of harmony and society.
Most principles of Confucianism have morality at their core. Even when Confucius was asked why he was not interested in religion, rituals, and spirits, he replied that because he led a moral life, all the rest did not interest him and that he was right before Heaven. In his opinion, it was already enough to comply with moral principles. However, at that time, it was a very common belief in the ancestral spirits and nature spirits, and there were many rituals on this topic (1). Confucius assigned the principles of morality to each person. Thus, according to the principles of Confucianism, parents should be revered, even if the children were not treated well by their parents. Furthermore, regarding service attitude at work, a sense of duty should come first, not the ability to earn money. The first place in human relations belongs to love and respect.
Confucius identified 5 virtues of a righteous man. The first principle is Jen – the ‘beginning’, ‘love for people, ‘humanity’, ‘compassion’, ‘humanity’. It is the human element in man, which is also his duty. Not to say that is a man, not answering at the same time the question of what his moral calling is. In other words, man is what he makes of himself. Following Jen means to be guided by compassion and love for people. This principle distinguishes a man from the animal as opposed to the animal qualities of wildness, meanness, and cruelty. Later, a symbol of constancy Jen became a Tree (1).
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Jen is a category intended to denote any existing spiritual phenomenon, existential state, or experience of a particular individual (e.g., similar to conscience). Jen is an evaluative category used for the external fixation of some spiritual state again, a particular individual (for instance, honesty). Confucius believed that no matter whom the person was born (wealthy, poor), but man was what he made of himself. Mencius, in turn, believed that all human beings were born good, and only then, succumbing to weakness, they might deteriorate.
Additionally, Jen can be seen in a political context. Jen is the basis of the Confucian political model. Failure to comply with the ruler of Confucian morality could result in the loss of the Heavenly Mandate, and as a result, the removal from power. He, who governs wisely following all of the rules, shows that they are worthy of the power that is granted to him by the Sky.
Yi – is ‘the truth’, ‘justice’. Although adherence to Yi out of self-interest is not a sin, fair man should be correct. Yi is based on reciprocity. Therefore, it is fair to honor parents in gratitude for the fact that they have raised their children. Balances as Jen and reports to a nobleman necessary hardness and rigor. Yi is opposed to selfishness. “The nobleman seeks for Yi and low – benefit.” A virtue of Yi was subsequently linked to the Metal.
Li – is literally ‘custom’, ‘rite, ‘ritual’. It means being faithful to the customs, the observance of rites such as respect for parents. More generally, if there is any activity aimed at the preservation of the fabric of society. The symbol connected with Li is Fire. The word ‘ritual’ is not the only English equivalent of the corresponding Chinese term ‘Li’ that can be translated also as ‘rules’, ‘ceremony’, ‘etiquette’, ‘rite’ or rather, ‘custom’. In most general terms, the ritual refers to specific norms and patterns of social good conduct. It can be interpreted as a kind of lubricant of the social machinery. This principle of ritualization of everyday life allows people to feel life and its spirit better. Of course, any ritual should be full of respect (for oneself, others, and nature) and dignity.
Chih, or common sense, prudence, wisdom, judiciousness, is the ability to calculate the consequences of one’s actions, to see them from the side, in perspective. It balances quality and prevents stubbornness. Chih is opposed to stupidity, and it makes one thing. The more one thinks, the less one has to do. The idea was given to man to distinguish him from cattle. Nothing is more precious than wisdom. Thus, to learn to think meant to have a lifetime. Therefore, Chinese officials had exams until death – even the old men learned the subject. Without this, it was impossible to occupy any post in the state. Chih in Confucianism was associated with the element of Water.
Hsiao means honesty, ‘good intention’, ease, and integrity. Hsiao balances, preventing hypocrisy. Blue corresponds to the element Earth. The idea of submission from top to bottom is one of the main ideas of the ethics of Confucianism. This includes obedience and piety. Thus, younger brothers should show respect and subordination to their older brothers. The submission also means the subordination of subjects to their ruler. All of this is reflected in the concept of ‘loyalty. To smooth the discontent of the lower classes’ domination of the hereditary aristocracy, Confucius proposed the ruling class to pay more attention to the development of agriculture, and he advised not to break the seasonality of agricultural work, calling to ease the burden of levies and duties (2).
Moral obligation is a matter of one’s upbringing, culture, and education. Confucius did not divide those virtues. All of them belong to the category of ‘Wen’ that can also mean the cultural meaning of human existence. However, it has not been created artificially in man.
Confucius was a great teacher; he believed that everyone should have the opportunity to get an education. Confucius traveled to many ancient kingdoms in search of a wise sovereign who would use his ideas about the government, but the dreams of the great thinker about the perfect ruler never came true (1). However, Confucius remained faithful to his ideals until the very end. Confucius can be called the spiritual leader of the Chinese nation, as for more than two thousand years, his ideas have influenced the minds not only in China but also throughout the world. Moreover, they have become a powerful symbol of Eastern culture.
Confucius himself sought to make more people educated, literate, and fully conversant with written and spoken language. The word education means, primarily, the teaching of morality and human virtues. Thus, the philosophy of Confucianism is built primarily on morality, devotion, and sincerity. For example, the principles of sincerity and honesty, were fundamental for the Chinese rulers since they, according to Confucius, would avoid the many coups taking place in China. According to his study, the Sky gave man the good nature; however, the passion overshadowed it, and therefore, the person needed to return to morals, The philosophy of humanism in Confucianism seeks to win over ordinary human passions with the help of certain rules of behavior and a return to ancestral virtues of the Heavens to man.