Confucianism



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Confucianism



What are the basic tenets of Confucianism?

1. Confucianism is a collectivist based value system which embraces a set of moral codes of behavior designed to regulate the relationships between ruler and subject, father and son, friend and neighbor, husband and wife, and brother and brother. Strict observation of this social code promotes collective social norms which constitute the foundation on which social harmony rests.

2. Confucianism emphasizes the importance of personal cultivation of a moral or virtuous individual both at the collective level and the individual level. Self-cultivation promotes “a government by goodness” and improves human relationships that are well structured and balanced.

3. Confucianism is authoritarian in nature. This orthodox ideology emphasizes the paramount need for accepting and obeying the established social order and the centralized power of the emperor based on the doctrine of “the Mandate of Heaven.” The emperor is the “Son of Heaven” with a divine mandate to rule the earth, chosen for his virtue and kept in office for his virtue. Heaven desires to reward good and punish evil, and the emperor is Heaven’s agent or instrument for this on earth. Therefore, for centuries Confucianism was praised by emperors and fully institutionalized as the governing ideology or philosophy of the state to which all social members are required to conform.

4. Confucianism is an elitist model of government. The duty and privilege of rule can only be accorded to those with intelligence and education, because “government by goodness” can only be promoted through study and learning by those who have a superior intellect and moral standard. As Mencius says, those who work with their hands feed those who work with their brains; those who work with their brains rule those who work with their hands (an attitude is still popular among Chinese intellectuals). Therefore, for more than 2000 years the ruling class is constituted by the “Confucian scholar-gentry-officialdom” regardless of dynastic changes over time.


Japanese Confucianism

Comparing Japanese Confucianism with Chinese Confucianism

(1) Confucianism stresses particular social relationships, but it is also a universal moral code, which makes it easy for the Japanese adoption. However, the Japanese transform it in their way and to a certain degree Confucian concepts are applied to relationships carrying a different meaning from those in China. At its most basic of culture, Chinese morality is founded on the family structure, with the most important social ties being that of parent and child and its blood-related family clans. The Japanese moral system is founded on a set of kinship relations that go beyond blood ties or extend to members who have no blood relationship, with the primary tie being that between leader and follower. Therefore, Japanese political culture is more group-oriented, more tribal, or more radical.

(2) Another example is the paired concepts of loyalty and filial piety (zhong and xiao in Chinese, chu and ko in Japanese) that characterize the two cultures. These two values are related: both are the duties we owe to our superiors. Loyalty is our duty to our ruler, and filial piety is our duty to our parents. Both came into the Japanese culture as part of the Confucian influence, but they are treated differently in China and Japan. In China, when there is a conflict between the two, our duty to our parents usually overweighs that to the ruler (ex. the ruler may require our service as a soldier and this may leave our aged parents unsupported –– The Movie Mulan is a story about a girl who attempts to resolve this contradiction). In Japan, the Japanese do not acknowledge this tension or contradiction: one is a filial child only if one gives loyal service to one’s superior. Therefore, loyalty is expressed in unquestioning slave-like obedience and implies total selfless devotion to one’s lord. In other words, loyalty in the Japanese culture usually take precedence over filial piety.

(3) Harmony, rather than competition, is one of the core Confucian ideas and the concept that helps to shape both Chinese and Japanese political cultures. Both China and Japan are highly “collectivistic” societies under the Confucian influence, in which each person is born and melt into a collective entity either family, clan, group, society, or state, each person knows his or her status and identity in relation to others in social relations, and each person is required to conform to the collective values. However, in Japan, more emphasis is placed on group orientation and loyalty to the group, for it is the group that gives one a social identity, provides a feeling of security, and receives the rewards of service. Not only the household and the village but also colleagues, fellow students, neighbors, and even industrial sectors constitute the important groups from which one acquires social status and identity.

(4) Chinese and Japanese rankings of various Confucian virtues are also comparable. According to a Japanese scholar, Michio Morishima, a typical Chinese ranking might run: love (ren), ritual (li), justice (yi), wisdom, and sincerity. A typical Japanese ranking might be: loyalty, ritual, courage, sincerity, and wisdom. In general, Japanese Confucianism place more weight on unconditional subordination to the group and the superior while love (or ren) is largely neglected.



Chinese and Japanese Ranking of Confucian Virtues



China:


Japan:

Love

Ritual
Justice


Wisdom
Sincerity








Loyalty
Ritual

Courage



Sincerity
Wisdom







Opinion Survey





Which Is More Important, Society or Personal Life


[Question]
Some people feel that more attention should be paid to the nation and to society,
while others feel the focus should be more on a fulfilling personal life.


Which view is closer to your own?

(percent)

 

National and Social Development

More Fulfilled Personal Life

Can't say one way or the other

1987

31.7

37.0

25.7

1988

38.3

35.6

20.9

1989

41.6

33.2

20.8

1990

41.3

33.6

20.3

1991

51.3

29.7

16.1

1992

52.6

26.8

16.9

1993

45.1

30.6

20.9

1994

45.3

34.9

16.3

1995

47.4

33.1

15.9

1996

48.0

32.1

16.5

1997

49.9

32.4

14.5

1998

48.3

32.7

16.8

2000

47.5

31.4

18.1






Note:

7 - 20 December, 2000
This survey is held every year, targeting 10,000 people aged 20 or over across the country, with a response rate of around 70 percent.

Source:
Opinion Survey on Social Consciousness


Public Relations Office, Cabinet Office
(Mar. 19, 2001)
1-6-1 Nagatacho, Chiyoda-ku, Tokyo 100-8914
Phone: +81-3-5253-2111





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