Confucianism

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Confucianism was best summed up by Rodney King, "can't we all just get along?" With way too many people in close quarters, a religion about how to get along was bound to spring up.

Most people know Confucianism from pithy one-liners on fortune cookies, that begin with "Confucius say". While most of these quotes are not completely accurate or attributable, it is giving credit of Wisdom to a famous and significant man in Chinese history. This is similar to westerners attributing great words or deeds to our Founding Fathers; like the chopping down of a cherry tree by Washington, and the fable, "I can not tell a lie".

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Confucius was a man, alive from 551-479 BC. He sometimes went by the names Kong Zi though he was born - Kong Qiu., in the village of Zou in the country of Lu. (China was many smaller kingdoms).

He was a well-known leader in philosophy and he also made many wise phrases and theories about the law, life, and the government. It isn't a religion in that Confucius isn't worshiped or deified, he was more like the Asian equivalent of Plato, Aristotle, and Niche, rolled into one. But followers of Confucianism have more of a code or credo to live by.

Confucianism is more practical in society than Taoism. They hold some similar views and values, and have probably influences each other. Taoism believes in inaction and letting the natural order take its course, while Confucianism believes in rules, roles, and duties all working in harmony for an improved society.

One of the major concepts of Confucianism is li. Li translates roughly as propriety, order, and courtesy, which is often expressed through ritual and ceremony. Li is basically the laws by which we are governed. These laws may be the etiquette and courtesy with which we interact with one another, or laws made by governments and society, or the social obligations we have to our superiors, inferiors, peers, family members, or strangers. The followers of li are considered to be "superior men" (ch'un-tzu).

The other major concept of Confucianism is jen. While li is the external rules, restraints or obligations, jen is more human nature or inner being. The confucianist belief is that human nature is good. By an individual following his li (duties), he is cultivating his jen.(inner-self). Then through the cultivation of jen, goodness and harmony will permeate society in the form of li.

This help explains why the Orientals tend to put so much emphasis on duty to family, on being industrious, on education, and on knowing ones place. Through the centuries this belief has influenced the Asian cultures. This Confucius inspired thought is the Oriental equivalent of the "Judeo-Christian work ethic".

Confucianism is counting on human nature to be the motivating force behind goodness, while Taoism looks to nature as the eternal good.

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1993.03.27