Confucianism (pronounced kuhn-fue'-shuhn-izm), the philosophical system founded on the teaching of Confucius (551â€“479 B.C.), dominated the sociopolitical life of China for most of that country's history and largely influenced the cultures of Korea, Japan, and Indochina. The Confucian school functioned as a recruiting ground for government positions, which were filled by those scoring highest on examinations in the Confucian classics. It also blended with popular and imported religions and became the vehicle for articulating Chinese mores to the peasants. The school's doctrines supported political authority using the theory of the ...view middle of the document...
He apparently made an enormous impact on the lives and attitudes of his disciples, however. The book known as the Analects, which records all the "Confucius said, â€¦" aphorisms, was compiled by his students after his death. Because the Analects was not written as a systematic philosophy, it contains frequent contradictions and many of the philosophical doctrines are ambiguous. The Analects became the basis of the Chinese social lifestyle and the fundamental religious and philosophical point of view of most traditionalist Chinese intellectuals throughout history. The collection reveals Confucius as a person dedicated to the preservation of traditional ritual practices with an almost spiritual delight in performing ritual for its own sake.
Confucianism combines a political theory and a theory of human nature to yield a dao (tao) â€” a prescriptive doctrine or way. The political theory starts with a doctrine of political authority based on the mandate of heaven. The legitimate ruler derives authority from heaven's command. The ruler bears responsibility for the well-being of the people and therefore for peace and order in the empire. Confucian philosophy presupposes a view of human nature in which humans are essentially social animals whose mode of social interaction is shaped by li (convention or ritual), which establishes value distinctions and prescribes activities in response to those distinctions. Education in li, or social rituals, is based on the natural behavioral propensity to imitate models. Sages, or superior people â€” those who have mastered the li â€” are the models of behavior from which the mass of people learn. Ideally, the ruler should himself be such a model and should appoint only those who are models of de (te, or virtue) to positions of prominence. People are naturally inclined to emulate virtuous models; hence a hierarchy of merit results in widespread natural moral education.
Then, with practice, all people can in principle be like the sages, by acting in accordance with li without conscious effort. At that point they have acquired ren (jen, or humanity), the highest level of moral development; their natural inclinations are all in harmony with dao (way). The world is at peace, order abounds, and the harmony between the natural and the social sphere results in material well-being for everyone. This is Confucius's utopian vision, which he regards as modeled on the practice of the ancient sage kings.
Confucianism emerged as a more coherent philosophy when faced with intellectual competition from other schools that were growing in the fertile social upheavals of preimperial China (c. 400â€“c. 200 B.C.). Daoism (Taoism), Mohism, and Legalism all attacked Confucianism. A common theme of these attacks was that Confucianism assumed that tradition or convention (li) was correct. Mencius (c. 372â€“c. 289 B.C.) developed a more idealistic version of Confucianism stressing ren as an...