Confucianism, a religion of optimistic humanism, has had a monumental impact upon the life, social structure, and political philosophy of China. The founding of the religion goes back to one man, known as Confucius, born 500 years before Christ. Confucianism deals primarily with moral conduct and ethical living and is often categorized as an ethical system, rather than a religion. It emphasizes the earthly, not the heavenly. The doctrines of Confucianism center upon:
1. Ancestor worship – veneration of the deceased ancestors whose spirits are believed to control the fortunes of the descendants.
2. Filial piety – devotion and obedience to and reverence of the elders of the family by the younger members.
Confucianism’s primary principles are:
1. Jen – the golden rule
2. Chun-tai – the gentlemanly man of virtue
3. Cheng-ming – the proper playing of society’s roles
4. Te – the power of virtue
5. Li – ideal standards of conduct
6. Wen – the peaceful arts (music, poetry, etc.)
The ethical system of Confucianism has much to commend it because virtue is always something highly desirable, both in an individual and a society. However, the ethical philosophy Confucius espoused was one of self-effort. Confucius taught that man is capable of doing all that is necessary to improve his life and his culture, relying on the virtue within himself to accomplish it.
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