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Confucianism in China and Japan Essay

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Updated: Sep 4th, 2020

Confucianism is a concept that was born in China. It is not really viewed as a religion but rather as a set of ethical expectations. The basket of norms emphasized in this concept are; respect for elders, courtesy, and benevolent governance. Goodness and truth are among its core values. It was said to have been developed by a famous ideologist, and its aim is to build morality to maintain social order. The concept of Confucianism was incorporated in the Chinese culture since time immemorial and has been emulated by other societies due to cultural exchange with the Chinese. In fact, there are several other philosophers who have developed the concept further, over the past several decades. Although the concept dwells on religion to some extent, it mainly focuses on morality. Overall, the concept offers moral guidance on the appropriate way to lead a social life in an expected manner. Apparently, the Chinese people have been using it over the years as a virtuous means of living. The central and main points of Confucianism under consideration are questions of ordering the relationships between rulers and subjects, moral qualities, which each leader and subordinate should possess.

Most of the ancient Chinese sages had a metaphysical view of the world before the introduction of Confucianism. At some point, this was abused, and there was the need for the revival of the social and moral order (Schirokauer, Brown & Gay 349). Thus the concept was developed, and it was also connected to politics. According to this concept, each human being has inner goodness, and this is what is sought after. Therefore, it gives status or directions on the social life of people, how they should interact with others, how they should live, and how to govern fairly. This concept of Confucianism has been emulated mainly by the Japanese who have had plenty of cultural exchange with the Chinese.

At some point, the concept was adopted by the Japanese people, and its effects still remain to date. A substantial amount of Japanese culture was infused in Confucianism (Schirokauer, Brown & Gay 359). This led to a point where Buddhism, Confucianism, and Taoism were joined into one entity, and became known as the three patriarchs which every Japanese person was expected to follow. The advantages of a different cultural viewpoint can be clearly seen since the introduction of Confucianism in Japan.

First, the Japanese people adopted the Chinese concept of Confucianism and developed it to be more social. For instance, there is not just the pursuance of goodness, but also peaceful social interactions (Schirokauer, Brown & Gay 351). Merchants and business people are expected to be upright, not only good in their businesses. The Japanese took advantage of the great concept developed by the Chinese, and improved it to better their way of living.

Education is one major global interdependent sector that we find the effects of Confucianism. A prime example in this case is the development of language. Previously, the Japanese had no written language which was later developed from the Chinese through the adoption of this concept (Schirokauer, Brown & Gay 367). This was the beginning of the ability to educate people by writing. The Japanese depended upon the Chinese to provide them with the necessary writing materials in the process of developing education. Similarly, most rules applied in the learning institutions were adopted from Confucianism. A good example in this case is the rule of hard work and loyalty.

One of the teachers who upheld Confucianism in schools was Yamazaki Ansai who is known for his sternness (Schirokauer, Brown & Gay 348). School rules are quite evident all over the world, and every student is expected to follow them. The same authors state that both countries found it important to utilize analects instead of song masters as the principles of Confucianism stated. At some point, both countries studied the same historic books.

Interdependence in education is quite clear not just from the social relations, but also the governance of the school. The penal law, humiliation of wrong doers and even leading by example are some of the concepts adopted from Confucianism and used in the education system in both countries (Schirokauer, Brown & Gay 348). The same systems of teaching and learning are used for both countries. For example; in art, the application of similar brushes and calligraphic procedures are quite evident.

Unlike the Chinese, Japan has always taken Confucianism more like a culture not as a religion. In as much as there may be quite an insurmountable evidence of the differences between the Confucianism of the Japanese and Chinese people, the concept is almost similar especially when it comes to educational matters. Quite a number of resources are available when looking at Confucianism in the two countries. Most of the authors of such resources agree on the fact that there is quite an amount of interdependence on globally important issues such as art, business, governance, medicine and education among other things (Berthrong & Nagai-Berthrong, 99).

In his book called “handbook to life in the medieval and early modern man” William Deal shows how the Japanese borrowed medical knowledge from the Chinese. He states that Confucianism brought to life important effects of Chinese medicine and the Japanese borrowed from it. Some of this knowledge was used in training medical doctors in Japan. Apparently, some of this interest in Chinese medicine was not just from contemporary knowledge, but from the adoption of Confucianism.

Furthermore, he states that in the process of becoming a Buddhist priest, one had to study books from China, written in Chinese which in a way involved studying Confucianism. Therefore, according to the same author, quite a number of interdependent issues exist even to date in both countries and to some extent, globally (Berthrong & Nagai-Berthrong, 124).

Kakuzo Okakura is another author whose book gives us explicit evidence of the effects of Chinese art in Japan since the introduction of Confucianism. Apparently, most of the art in Japan was as a result of Confucianism, which was mainly adopted from China. In his book, “The Ideals of the East” he gives a comprehensive view of art beginning from calligraphy to stamps and even modern paintings as being similar in both countries. Another example provided here is the rule of governance in both countries.

Most ideas of Confucianism, especially in the aspect of monitoring the government, for now may seem to us as naive. However, it should be remembered that Confucianism existed as an ethic study practically till nowadays, taking into account the fact that it was born long before B.C.

Works Cited

Berthrong, John & Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong. Confucianism:a short introduction. Michigan: Oneworld, 2000. Print.

Schirokauer Conrad, Miranda Brown & Suzanne Gay. A Brief History of Chinese and Japanese Civilizations. New York: Cengage Learning, 2011. Print.

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