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Asian Confucianism Philosophy and Literature Essay

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Updated: May 19th, 2020

All nations have their own philosophies of life which shape their attitude towards life and their behavior. There can be no surprise that philosophy permeates literary works of people who write about what they see and what they feel. Confucian philosophy is based on such principles as harmony, virtue, education, moral development and respect. Notably, Asian people had to face numerous constraints including invasion of military forces as well as different ideologies. Thus, Communists had a great impact on the development of Asia as well as its people. The wars and military operations forced numerous people to flee and look for new places.

Thus, numerous Asian people found themselves in the western world with its (quite different) philosophy. Nonetheless, Confucianism is still present in Asian people’s minds and in their literary works as their philosophy, affected by different intrusions, is rooted in their hearts in the form of genetic memory.

In the first place, it is necessary to outline some of major principles of Confucianism. The principle of harmony is one of key elements of Confucianism. Asian people strive for balance in everything. Notably, virtue is seen as an indispensible part of harmony as it is believed that if people follow moral rules build a healthy and balanced society. The next principle to be considered is development and education. Asian people believe that an individual has to learn more about the world, the culture, themselves and so on. Learning is development and the way to reach harmony in a human’s life. Finally, respect to older people, parents and ancestors is also central to the philosophy. Asian people respect their ancestors as well as their philosophy and their mindsets. All these principles are apparent in literary works of Asian Americans.

For instance, this desire to harmonize one’s life can be traced in Amy Tan’s short story. She tells a story of her mother who she does not understand. The Young Asian American woman was ashamed of her mother’s mastery of English, though she finally reveals a simple truth that her mother’s tongue is not limited but enriched by the mix of two great cultures (Tan, 1996). The young writer notes that she understands the beauty of her mother’s tongue which encloses “her intent, her passion, her imagery, the rhythms of her speech and the nature of her thoughts” (Tan, 1996, p. 44). Hence, this work highlights the eternal quest for harmony. Thus, the woman finally lives in harmony with herself as she understands that she speaks different languages with different people. This diversity is certain balance and harmony for the woman.

The principle of virtues permeates lots of Asian American literary works and respect is seen as one of the most important moral values. This principle can be traced in Tan’s and Kingston’s literary works. Thus, Tan (1996) is very respectful to her mother. The young woman sees that her mother is behaving in an inappropriate way. The young woman may try to ask her mother about the reasons for behaving that way but she will never treat her mother disrespectfully.

Kingston (1996) tells a story of a family of ‘new’ Americans and their hardships. It is clear that even though her aunt left the place she left several times she was respectful to the traditions. In her nostalgic account, she warmly talks about some traditions, language and so on. Importantly, the author tells the story of Asian people in the times of Communism in their country through the story of a family. Communists made the family suffer as they killed lots of people and a member of their family. They forced this family to move. However, in the new place, this Asian family still sticks to their roots. Their daughter goes to a Chinese school and aunt’s husband is a typical Asian man who is respected in the family. It is also important to note that the girl wants to know more about her family’s past and this is also manifestation of respect to ancestors.

Nevertheless, one principle of Confucianism is persistent in loads of Asian American literary works. Hence, the idea of education and development permeates works by Tan, Kingston and Chin. At this point it is important to draw a line between formal education and self-study or rather self-development. All three works mentioned above touch upon these two types of education.

Thus, formal education gives people skills to be a part of the society and make the society better. For instance, Tan (1996) studies languages and is a writer who enriches world literature and makes people consider important issues. Chin (1996, p. 368) stresses that formal education makes people’s lives richer and more complete but it can never affect the course of nature as a girl who understood “[t]he tongues of the living, the slang of the dead” still dies. It is noteworthy that it is still clear that the poet makes people understand that education is the right path for every person who wants to live a full life even if it has to end. Kingston (1996) also mentions the importance of education as the aunt makes her children study and get education.

At the same time, it is clear that self-development and learning from own and other people’s experiences as well as from the life itself is seen as one of the most important virtues. The three literary works are permeated by this principle as all of them make the reader learn a lesson. Each individual has to contemplate and change something to become a better person. It is important that in these works people interact with older generations and learn more from them. Therefore, their experience becomes the best lesson for younger generations and younger generations willingly listen to their stories and make their conclusions.

In conclusion, it is necessary to note that Confucianism principles permeate Asian American literature due to peculiarities of this philosophy. Asian people are very respectful to their ancestors and their philosophy. These people understand that it is pivotal to learn more about their past. Therefore, each Asian often thinks of important and eternal issues like life and death, past and future. These ideas are reflected in their literary works as they want to share their inner world with people. Admittedly, Asian people have to cope with numerous influences like Communists’ ideology and western philosophy. It is also necessary to admit that Confucian philosophy is being shaped and Asian people are changing some of their views. However, it is also clear that the milestones of Confucian philosophy remain untouched and Asian people still get their power and stamina from these principles.

Reference List

Chin, M. (1996). Elegy for Chloe Nguyen. In S. Wong (Ed.), Asian American literature: A brief introduction and anthology (pp. 363-368). New York, NY: HarperCollins Pub. Web.

Kingston, M.H. (1996). The making of more Americans. In S. Wong (Ed.), Asian American literature: A brief introduction and anthology (pp. 26-39). New York, NY: HarperCollins Pub. Web.

Tan, A. (1996). Mother Tongue. In S. Wong (Ed.), Asian American literature: A brief introduction and anthology (pp. 40-44). New York, NY: HarperCollins Pub. Web.

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