Confucianism is a set of complex principles that comprise social, ethical behavior, political, and religious teachings that influence the Chinese way of life. These principles were developed by Confucius, a Chinese philosopher, and the early traditions of the Chinese. Jesuit missionaries Latinized his name K’ung-Fu-Tzu to Confucius.
He was born in the early 551BC to an aristocratic family who lived in the state of Lu in east China. For the greater part of his life, he worked towards his goal, spreading his teachings, moving from one state to another. Before he died at the age of seventy-three, he and his disciples were able to spread and alter the ancient Chinese culture.
Confucianism major aim was to transform humanity into virtuous people who are eager and ready to learn and exhibit good behaviors as gentlemen. Unlike religion, whose main aim is to attain divine enlightenment, Confucianism key concern is to live a moral, upright life here on earth (Xinzhong 16).
Confucian states were created on san gang, which was the ‘three guiding principles’ and wu chang the ‘five constant regulations.’ These five regulations make up the key concepts of Confucianism and operate just like the laws of a country. These regulations are constant and remain the same over time.
They include Ren, which is the crucial channel to humanness, Yi, which is the preservation of righteousness, Li rituals and lastly Zhi and Xin which stand for intelligence and authenticity respectively. Confucianism not only dealt with the moral behavior of an individual but also broadened it to include political matters where it gave the authority guidelines on how to evaluate standard behaviors and views (Xinzhong 34).
Ren is one of the key concepts of Confucianism; it is the ultimate responsibility of selflessness and humaneness for persons within society. Confucian himself described Ren as “loving people” emphasizing the relations of human beings, where, each tries to attain complete humanity as about the others (Chai 15).
Ren is a virtue that cannot be easily defined by comparing one person from the other but is best interpreted from the Confucian golden rule that infers that one shouldn’t do unto others what they would not want to be done unto them. In politics, it also applies in that a leader should not practice autocratic authority and should avoid acts of inhumanity towards his subjects. Any leader that lacks humaneness risks losing the right to rule but the ones that posses it is obeyed by his people. Confucian said that the other qualities pursue it.
Yi is the honorable nature to do well. It is also a vital provision for Ren. It is the ability to know in any given circumstance what the ethical thing to do is. It also symbolizes a community that is doing the right thing by offering a sheep for sacrifice. This applies to Chinese traditions. Confucianism implies that one should do well from the heart, not as an obligation (Chai 70).
Li refers to the ritualized standards that entail suitable behavior regulating all phases of interactions among mankind by their relations and ranks in the community. Initially, Li meant sacrifice. This meaning was then expanded and included worldly ceremonial conduct. Later, it took up the meaning of propriety. According to Confucian, it can be described as the genuine expression of emotion (Chai 55). He criticized the other empty demonstrations of rituals. The main aim of Li is social harmony.
Zhi refers to intelligence that is obtained from learning or simply wisdom. It gives the personality of a wise person to be a state where one is not only able to distinguish a lie from the truth but also entail rationality and sanity. Zhi goes on to refer to a person’s moral cultivation aside from his intellect and aptitude giving one an ability to identify the accepted moral codes of conduct and the societal order that enables them to act appropriately by these rules and live well among people. Very few individuals have this inborn knowledge. One has to learn regularly, and through this, we can understand aspects of life. These life lessons can also be through observation.
Xin is the desirable quality of integrity and honesty. According to Confucius, it refers to the rules of courtesy that people should have that is to be expressed by keeping their words with the pure hopes of extenuating conflicts as applies to the ruling and opposing classes. Xin should be an essential virtue for all human beings and was considered by Confucius to be the building block for the administration and the building of a country (Xinzhong 126).
Confucianism has greatly impacted on Chinese community and also people from all walks of life. The Confucian virtues and norms have been the guidelines for ethical living. Confucius teachings have been in existence for over hundreds of years. People who follow these teachings base them as the foundation for a moral life. The concepts of Confucianism, even in the present world, still hold.
Chai, Chu. Confucianism. Woodbury, Ny: Barron’s Educational Series, 1973. Print.
Xinzhong, Yao. An Introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge [u.a.: Cambridge Univ. Press. 2005. Print.