Not a traditional religion, but more an ethical system which has had rituals added for important times in life. Based on the teachings of Confucius.

Six key values:

  • Li: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
  • Hsiao: love within the family:
  • Yi: righteousness
  • Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
  • Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
  • Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.

Comparative Religions and Philosophies

Throughout history, many different religions and philosophies have existed in the eastern part of the world, including Confucianism, Legalism, Taoism, Hinduism, and Buddhism. Confucianism, Legalism, and Taoism began in China, Hinduism and Buddhism in India. Because these all originated at roughly the same time, the 6th century BC, their followers were constantly in conflict, each group thinking that things would be better if everyone believed what it believed. Confucianism, founded by Confucius (552 - 479 BC), seems especially likely to be able to improve human conditions if everyone believes in it. Because of the essential beliefs of Confucianism, this philosophy seems likely to be able to improve human conditions more than the others, if one is deciding between the five previously named religions and philosophies.

To begin with, Confucianism’s key beliefs focus on family and morality, from which stem some beliefs on government. This philosophy states that a competent government and social order begin in the home. Confucianism gives great importance to the filial bond, the bond between parents and children, which connects to the belief in ancestor worship, in which children played an integral part. Ancestor worship had the strength to hold generations together, as elders were deeply respected by all, even in death. Confucian belief also emphasizes education and happiness, stating that everyone should be fully educated and that everyone wants happiness.

Furthermore, these beliefs, if followed by everyone, would lead to the amelioration of human conditions. (This statement is even supported by the Confucian belief that society is made by the individuals.) A capable government and social order are both parts of improved human conditions, and, according to Confucianism, both can be reached by educating people and keeping family bonds intact. Specifically, Confucius believed that a government should be run by people that are qualified, qualifications basically consisting of having a high level of education. Also, he was of the opinion that social order involved education of youth, a good family life, and a reliable government. Therefore, if everyone followed the Confucian philosophy, human life would definitely get better.

Accordingly, none of the other religions or philosophies previously named would bring society to as high a level as Confucianism could. Legalism would suppress the individual, as it involves the belief that everyone should live and die only for the government. This could mean a better government, but society would decidedly take a turn for the worse; thus Legalism would not improve human conditions as well as Confucianism. Taoism, if followed by all people, has a major flaw, and this is that it focuses too much on the individual. It does not compare to Confucianism on the issue of bettering life for all, because if everyone sought harmony with nature, we would revert to the primitive state, which would not necessarily be an improvement. Hinduism entails the caste system, which is all well and good except for the fact that dividing society up into levels that cannot interact with each other would be a step backwards, not forwards. Buddhism also would not attain the goal as well as Confucianism because it contains no laws for improving the government, which is an essential part of elevating the condition of life. Consequently, a goal of the betterment of society is best achieved by Confucianism, if one chooses from these five religions and philosophies.

The philosophy of Confucianism is based on the belief that government and society were at their best in China during the early Chou dynasty. Since this is whence Confucian belief comes, its government and society can be said to follow the standards of Confucianism. According to Confucius, the sage rulers of that time had created an ideal society, so one might say that this philosophy appears to have succeeded in improving human conditions to a high degree. Near the end of the Chou dynasty, the Age of Disunity, Confucianism was accepted by some government officials but was not given time to make a pronounced effect on social conditions because the Legalists took over. However, Confucianism has had success and, if followed by everyone, can succeed in bringing about the improvement of human life.

Con*fu"cian*ism (?), n.

The political morality taught by Confucius and his disciples, which forms the basis of the Chinese jurisprudence and education. It can hardly be called a religion, as it does not inculcate the worship of any god.

S. W. Williams.


© Webster 1913.

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