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Japanese Confucianism View Point Essay

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Updated: Jan 13th, 2020


Confucianism ideals are popular among the Japanese. Confucianism appoints various philosophical movements that had different views in Japanese culture. For instance, Jukyo explained that Confucianism was a scholars teaching and Jugaku described it as learning of scholars.

Japanese traced Confucian philosophy from ancient history. This was illustrated during the Tokugawa period which characterized politics of Samurai, to the Meiji era. The Meiji era was viewed as a restoration of the colonial rule. However, the most remarkable development of Confucian philosophy was linked to Tokugawa period.

This paper discusses the Confucianism on a Japanese view point. The writer illustrates that the Japanese views asserted that Confucianism was a social system which influenced morality in the society. It was also a practice which enhanced fidelity and devotion, the pillars of ethics. Further, Confucianism was viewed as a practice enhancing wisdom and encouraging effective political leadership.


Japanese Confucianism was significant in influencing the society. They placed a stronger emphasis on members of the society to embrace moral life for a better living. Hence, respect and love were imperative elements that thrived in a family setting than in the society. On the contrary, human and equality was viewed as vital for a fair society.

Confucianism underlined the model and widespread truth expressed by past sages. They also supported self-improvement. These elements were set in the Confucianism doctrine of Zhong, heart and middle, which suggested faithfulness and Shu, which suggested treasuring the heart, as it belongs to oneself

Social harmony

Japanese Confucianism was viewed as a social system embedded on morality than rules. It was viewed that if a person was led and respected the laws to escape punishment, the person had no intelligence. But, if a person was directed by moral guidance and respected the code of conduct, that person had wisdom and was guaranteed of an upright life.

The Japanese culture placed a strong emphasis on group and social harmony. These views were showed in the Japanese ideas of Wa, the idea of being a group and perpetuating harmony. The thoughts of shared responsibility and decision making by consent was fixed to social harmony in the society. Hence, being special from the group was viewed as disruptive manners.


The Confucian values in ancient and modern day Japan are viewed as a teaching of fidelity and devotion. Fidelity and devotion are pillars to the Confucian ethics. However, equally important is the collective ethical prescriptions such as Jin (humaneness). Humaneness was explored differently in Japanese culture, mostly, Japanese linked humaneness with being careful not to offend others. Humaneness was viewed as model of all Confucian virtues.

Similarly, another ethical view of Confucian ethics was Justice, gi. Justice was translated to mean ‘rightness’ and ‘righteousness’. Gi also showed wisdom in perspective or accountability, commitment and duty. To draw someone was a gi elicited ethical honor, while failure meant conviction. Gi was harmonized with humaneness to form Jingi. Jingi illustrated justice and humaneness. These were political merits that shaped lucid legitimacy of an organization embracing them.


The Confucian viewed mind as supreme to the body because it influenced body activities. When ri, principle, and generative force, ki, were combined, the mind controlled the body. This was because the mind had the ability for lucid and unclouded intelligence.

Political thought

A political touch to Confucianism philosophy characterized the political context of Japan. As it was anchored on Confucius himself, the Japanese followers embraced the teachings to direct their rulers. They viewed that embracing Confucianism views guaranteed a successful solution to political crises. Confucianism valued an individual with good virtues connected to royal birth.

Therefore, they looked down on a person who was born in a royal context and ignored the activities connected to self-cultivation. This person, in Confucius view, never advanced the standing granted to birth (Berthrong and Evelyn 173). Hence, understanding the true prince demonstrated those born in a higher caliber must struggle to attain respect, self-cultivation and the choice to exercise influence basing on their standing in the society.

These conditional perspectives of Confucianism on leadership and governance spread among the ruling community in the Japanese history. According to Berthrong and Evelyn (2) to affirm Confucius perspectives, the political teachings were a requisite of the selected few among the ruling elite, rather than being taught to the wider population. However, Confucianism education covered extensively in the country such that the poor began to comprehend the basics Confucianism political thoughts (Berthrong and Evelyn 2).

The poor’s protest activities were embedded on the idea that virtuous leaders needed to embrace the needs of the majority rather than the needs of the selected few. However, when these wishes were not embraced, the poor showed their anger through remonstrations.

Confucius philosophy ensured a leader understands the merits of of self-cultivation (Berthrong and Evelyn (32). Daigaku, which was designated as the Great Learning, was a significant literature which spelled out pertinent instructions for a ruler to follow.

It was compulsory for rulers to embrace Daigaku to achieve luminous virtues. Besides, rulers had to humble themselves with sincere thoughts to simplify acquisition (Berthrong and Evelyn 186). Thus, when these virtues were gained the people would be assured of ordered families, well managed and governed state and great peace. A society with efficient rule strengthened a culture of self-cultivation on the side of the ruling rank.


According Berthrong and Evelyn (85) education was one of the significant contributions of Confucius to the Japanese culture. Confucianism highlighted education at all ranks in the society. Confucianism illustrated that education was a requisite for attaining self-cultivation.

At upper level, learning was viewed as a vital constituent in recognizing an organized state and peace in the world. Learning was achieved through emulation. Emulation process was used in early-modern Japan.

Emulation was embraced by heterodox thinkers such as Ogyu Sorai and Ito Jinsai. Jinsai was famous for using calligraphy to elucidate that education can be acquired by emulation (Berthrong and Evelyn 65). Thus, using emulation, a learner was given a teacher’s sample to emulate it. A learner who showed consistent practice and efforts increased his/her chances of comprehension of the task. The growth of education in Japan increased.

Hence, advanced literacy rate in the nineteenth century led to developing mass printing, fixing of schools in various Samurai’s and the rise of learning movements linked to Japanese culture and literature. Learning movements were critical of Chinese style philosophy. The Confucianism view on education was that it was an essential aspect of human life which enabled a person to attain better life and live harmoniously in the society.

Works Cited

Berthrong, John H and Evelyn Nagai-Berthrong. Confucianism: a short introduction, Oxford: Oneworld, 2000. Print

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