Confucianism deals solely with what

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His famous answers to this type of question were: Remove Ads Advertisement. Remove Ads Advertisement. About the Author Cristian Violatti. Cristian Violatti is an independent author, public speaker, and former editor of Ancient History Encyclopedia with a passion for archaeology and ancient history. Related Content Filters: All. Articles 5. Principles of Confucianism were adopted by successive dynasties Chinese culture is one of the oldest in the world today.

Over 6, The concept of Oneness is expressed repeatedly in philosophical Religious practices in ancient China go back over 7, years Since the 'discovery' of eastern philosophy by western Help us write more We're a small non-profit organisation run by a handful of volunteers. Recommended Books Sorry, we haven't been able to find any books on the subject. Bibliography A. Graham - Disputers of the Tao. Open Court Publishing Company, Charles Hucker. China's Imperial Past. Stanford University Press, Daniel J. The Discoverers. Vintage, Will Durant.

Our Oriental Heritage. Wing-Tsit Chan. A Source Book in Chinese Philosophy. Princeton University Press, Van Norden. Chicago Style Violatti, Cristian. China is believed to have created a historical trajectory of peaceful and harmonious development fundamentally different from that of any other major power in world history. Yet so many historical facts contradict the claim of Confucian pacifism that its century-long popularity appears puzzling. Indeed, how can the foreign policies of any great power be entirely defensive and peaceful, given their necessities as great powers of dealing with issues of war as well as peace, conflict as well as cooperation, competition as well as accommodation?

The scale of Han and Tang expansions needs no emphasis. Yet even the Song, as Yuan-kang Wang documents, did not shy away from expansion. Many of the early Ming campaigns into Mongolia, particularly those initiated by the founding Hongwu emperor r. The claim of the assimilationist power of Chinese culture also needs qualification. No doubt assimilation has been one of the distinctive functions of Chinese culture, contributing to the development of the Chinese civilization and the expansion of the Chinese polity.

It was nevertheless far from effective enough to substitute coercion and administrative control as an instrument of expansion. The spread of Chinese civilization was often a cruel process. Powerful Chinese dynasties often had difficulties assimilating peripheral peoples purely through cultural attraction.

Confucius - Master of Philosophy and Fortune Cookies! l HISTORY OF CHINA

Dennis Twitchett observes that the Tang, reigning over probably the most intensive period in Chinese history of foreign cultural borrowing, failed to transform neighbouring polities despite their having adopted Chinese as their literary language and administrative lingua franca. With powerful cultural identities and a fierce sense of political independence, these entities adopted from China only what seemed to them useful and appropriate. In fact, the modern interpretation of Confucian pacifism as the essence of traditional Chinese statecraft would bemuse many imperial Chinese rulers.

Zhu Xi — , the great synthesizer and founder of Song neo-Confucianism, for example, lamented that the Confucian Sage Way had not ruled the world for a single day since the classical age of Confucius and Mencius. History shows that Confucian pacifism is not a valid description of imperial Chinese foreign policy behaviour. Recent IR scholarship has exposed the enormous discrepancy between this alleged Confucian foreign policy tradition and the frequency and scale of state violence throughout Chinese history.

This observation is as damaging to the claim of Confucian pacifism as is the historical counter-evidence sketched in the preceding section, because it challenges the assumed association of Confucianism with pacifism. The coercive dimension of Confucianism is perceivable in pre-Qin c. Developed after the Song, neo-Confucianism became the state ideology and the dominant intellectual influence during the Ming-Qing period — Although still containing a utilitarian aspect, it was in general more peaceful or conciliatory than earlier Confucian thought due to its insistence on moral self-cultivation.

It should not be construed as a general neo-Confucian theory of foreign policy one may well wonder whether such a unifying theory could have existed in Chinese history. Throughout, the key principle is cherishing the loyal with moral excellence and punishing the disobedient by withholding humaneness and grace and, in the extreme, applying military force. Clearly, this is a moral and normative theory, as we would expect from Confucianism.

As such we should not expect its full realization in practice. Yet it is a moral theory with a notable coercive dimension in the form of punitive expedition. Thus, even if early Ming rulers believe in war as a last resort for settling international disputes, that last resort is intended not primarily for defence even though as a practical matter it often has that function , but for rectifying and punishing perceived inappropriate behaviour of others, which is more offensive, or at least proactive, than defensive in orientation.

When the situation calls for punitive expedition, pacifism indeed runs against the spirit of Confucian foreign policy. Confucian pacifism as understood by many modern scholars existed neither in the thought nor in the practice of imperial Chinese foreign policy. It cannot claim to be the dominant tradition of Confucian foreign policy in Chinese history. The puzzle then becomes that of why the idea of Confucian pacifism has become such a popular notion in the modern era. Although this is not the place to explore it, one can suggest that the modern myth of Confucian pacifism is a product of a historical process, beginning no later than the early 20th century, of socially constructing imperial China into a uniquely peaceful and benevolent country dramatically different from the warring European countries.

If pacifism was not a credible tradition in Confucian foreign policy, what was? Waldron reveals a Ming foreign policy approach under a condition of extreme conflict between the Chinese and the Mongols, one that he variously characterizes as culturalist, moralistic, exclusive, xenophobic, and inflexible.

The Life, Labours and Doctrines of Confucius

The inclusive approach Waldron identified was more than a sort of realpolitik based on situational necessities; it was also derivable from Chinese culture. In fact, the two opposing approaches were both theoretically possible and practically manifested within a Chinese-Confucian cultural framework. A brief comparison of the worldviews of pre-Qin classical Confucianism and Song neo-Confucianism helps clarify this point.

Those yi who successfully acquired de and practiced li should moreover be regarded as culturally Chinese. However, this cosmopolitan and inclusive outlook in classical Confucianism was compromised by a particularistic and exclusivist attitude in Song neo-Confucianism, although it must be pointed out that similar attitudes had long existed before the neo-Confucian transformation. Song neo-Confucians were extremely reluctant to acknowledge the transformative potential of the yi. They therefore chose to erect an almost absolute political and cultural barrier to protect the purity and peculiarity of Chinese culture from the encroachment of foreign influence.

In general, then, classical Confucianism and Song neo-Confucianism embodied two contrasting worldviews. Since Confucian culture influenced both, Confucianism by itself cannot explain their difference. The richness of the Confucian tradition could be interpreted and used in different ways. Sometimes Confucian teachings may inform policy thinking and motives, but sometimes rulers may use the Confucian discourse to justify policies made for other purposes. It is rather the conditions of such varied use of Confucianism that merit analytical focus.

I identify the particularistic and xenophobic tendency in mid-late Ming policies towards the Mongols as embodying the tradition of exclusivism in Confucian foreign policy. Achieving salience in foreign policy-making generally requires one major condition and two contributing conditions: a major condition of the presence of serious foreign threats to Chinese security and authority, and two contributing conditions of Chinese material weakness and a weak executive in domestic decision-making.

Foreign threats to Chinese security and authority tend to become more serious with the decline of Chinese power, although this need not be always the case. Exclusivism may be further disaggregated into two distinct strategic approaches. The major distinguishing condition is the severity of foreign threats. Such policies are fundamentally moralistic and idealistic, based on an extremely narrow interpretation of the Sinocentric ideology rather than on a pragmatic appraisal of situational needs.

If, however, the threats are powerful enough to destroy dynastic survival, rulers will usually turn to realpolitik policies of survival, despite continuing a culturally exclusive and politically comforting discourse for internal ideological legitimation, as in the case of the Song. It is clear that exclusivism in no way suggests pacifism in foreign policy. In the Ming case, it in fact led to more conflicts with the Mongols than necessary.

Exclusivism, however, was not the only notable culturalist, Sinocentric orientation of imperial China. Sinocentrism and Confucianism are perfectly capable of producing a far more cosmopolitan and flexible approach—a Confucian foreign policy tradition that I identify as inclusivism. Its practical policy salience also requires one major condition and two contributing conditions: a major condition constituted by the absence of serious foreign threats to Chinese security and authority, and the two contributing conditions of Chinese material strength and a strong government.

The logical opposites of the conditions of exclusivism, they can be illustrated by a few examples from early Ming foreign policy. Yet it was when the Mongols turned defiant and started raiding Ming frontiers that the emperors began to describe them as heartless beasts that must be punished. It, however, was never pronounced or enduring, because Chinese strength enabled the emperors to launch successful military expeditions against the Mongols, suppress their threats, ensure frontier security, and establish Chinese authority.

This is why Chinese material strength is an enhancing condition of inclusivism. The early Ming case illustrates, however, that neither material capability nor executive power are necessary or sufficient conditions for either exclusivism or inclusivism, since although during the early Ming the two conditions can be seen as more or less constant, both strategic dispositions of inclusivism and exclusivism nevertheless appeared albeit with markedly different degrees of prominence. In the mid-late Ming, as Waldron notes, Chinese capability declined and the imperial court was paralysed by anaemic emperors and rending factions.

Whether or not the rigidity of Ming policy itself provoked these raids, however, was of no concern to many officials, whose positions were based on morality rather than reality. Such arguments were themselves, of course, ideologically constructed for the sake of pushing through a realistic policy position. The point, however, is that these officials had to spin Ming compromise, which was in fact not remarkably different from Song appeasement, into a scenario where the Ming bestowed magnanimous grace on the deferential Mongols in order to establish a necessary condition of perceived Ming superiority and Mongol submissiveness.

Yuan-kang Wang argues that the decline of Ming relative capability determined the final settlement. This rare example of mid-late Ming inclusivism towards the Mongols shows that the absence, whether real or constructed, of serious foreign threats to Chinese security and authority was a key condition of Chinese inclusivism.

I have argued above that exclusivism and inclusivism constituted two major traditions of Confucian foreign policy in Chinese history. I now wish to point out the long established Chinese theory of human nature that underlay these traditions, while further stressing that these traditions were not just culturally informed but also relationally conditioned. I suggest that such understanding reveals a traditional Chinese cultural theory of human nature that tends to see the cultural Chinese as more trustworthy than foreign peoples, and to regard the yi , particularly the nomads, as liable to treachery, duplicity, and cupidity.

Chinese rulers may have adopted all three of these approaches to yi management at different times and to varying degrees.

Confucius (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)

The above discussion on the conditions of exclusivism and inclusivism suggests that, under the general influence of Confucianism, the more powerful China was and the stronger the executive authority in domestic decision-making became, the more open and transformative the approach would tend to be. A jimi relationship was not one of sovereign-vassal, but rather a low-key foreign policy that stressed the necessity of keeping in touch with remote and rebellious countries without establishing substantive political relationships with them. Among the three possible options of transformation, loose rein, and exclusion, whichever one prevailed in practice was not a function of the Chinese theory of human nature just described, but rather a contingent outcome of relational interactions between China and its neighbours, conditioned by the severity of foreign threats to Chinese security and authority.

The theory provided the essential cultural and intellectual background, and may be used to inform or justify each of these options depending on the relational context. This was true even in the case of the exclusivist neo-Confucian approach described earlier, since neo-Confucian exclusivism was itself a product of extreme tension in Song foreign relations, and since it was not always followed during the Ming and Qing, when neo-Confucianism reigned as the state ideology and intellectual orthodoxy.

When no foreign threat existed, and especially when foreign tributary submissions to the Chinese emperor were handy, the open and inclusive aspect of the theory more reflective of classical Confucianism tended to come to the fore. When foreign threats were plentiful, serious, and insurmountable, however, the narrow and exclusivist aspect more fully embodied in neo-Confucianism tended to prevail. The theory of human nature, resting as it does on a fundamental cultural distinction between the hua and yi , is a cultural theory of foreign policy.

If you are humble, you will not be laughed at. If you are magnanimous, you will attract many to your side. If you are sincere, people will trust you. If you are gracious, you will get along well with your subordinates James R. Ware, trans. It is this type of man who can transform society into the peaceful state it was meant to be.

Another important concept according to Confucius was Cheng-ming, or the rectification of names. For a society to be properly ordered, Confucius believed everyone must act his proper part. Consequently, a king should act like a king, a gentleman like a gentleman, etc. Confucius said, "Duke Ching of Ch'i asked Confucius about government.

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Confucius answered, 'Let the ruler be a ruler, the subject a subject, the father a father, the son a son. He said elsewhere, "Tzu-lu said, 'If the Lord of Wei left the administration cheng of his state to you, what would you put first? The word te literally means "power," but the concept has a far wider meaning.

The power needed to rule, according to Confucius, consists of more than mere physical might. It is necessary that the leaders be men of virtue who can inspire their subjects to obedience through example. This concept had been lost during Confucius' time with the prevailing attitude being that physical might was the only proper way to order a society.

Confucius looked back at history to the sages of the past, Yao and Shun, along with the founders of the Chou dynasty, as examples of such virtuous rule. If the rulers would follow the example of the past, then the people would rally around the virtuous example. One of the key words used by Confucius is li. The term has a variety of meanings, depending upon the context. It can mean propriety, reverence, courtesy, ritual or the ideal standard of conduct. Why is it that you talk about li as though it were such an important thing?

Confucius: "What I have learned is this, that of all the things that people live by, li is the greatest. Without li, we do not know how to conduct a proper worship of the spirits of the universe; or how to establish the proper status of the king and the ministers, the ruler and the ruled, and the elders and the juniors; or how to establish the moral relationships between the sexes; between parents and children, and between brothers; or how to distinguish the different degrees of relationships in the family.

The Myth of Confucian Pacifism

The concept of Wen refers to the arts of peace, which Confucius held in high esteem. These include music, poetry and art. Confucius felt that these arts of peace, which came from the earlier Chou period, were symbols of virtue that should be manifest throughout society. Confucius condemned the culture of his day because he believed it lacked any inherent virtue.

He had this to say: The master said, "Surely when one says, 'The rites, the rites,' it is not enough merely to mean presents of jade and silk. Surely when one says 'music, music,' it is not enough merely to mean bells and drums What can a man do with music who is not benevolent? Therefore, he who rejected the arts of peace was rejecting the virtuous ways of man and heaven. The following excerpts are from The Analects and give an example of the teachings of Confucius: Men of superior minds busy themselves first getting at the root of things; when they succeed, the right course is open to them.

One excellent way to practice the rules of propriety is to be natural. When truth and right go hand in hand, a statement will bear repetition. Sorrow not because men do not know you; but sorrow that you do not know men. To govern simply by statute and to maintain order by means of penalties is to render the people evasive and devoid of a sense of shame. If you observe what people take into their hands, observe the motives, note what gives them satisfaction; then will they be able to conceal from you what they are?

When you know a thing, maintain you know it; when you do not, acknowledge it. This is the characteristic of knowledge. Let the leader of men promote those who have ability, and instruct those who have it not, and they will be willing to be led. To see what is right and not to do it, that is cowardice. The superior man is not contentious.

He contends only as in competitions of archery; and when he wins he will present his cup to his competitor. A man without charity in his heart, what has he to do with ceremonies? A man without charity in his heart, what has he to do with music? He who has sinned against Heaven has none other to whom his prayer may be addressed.

Tell me is there anyone who is able for one whole day to apply the energy of his mind to virtue? It may be that there are such, but I have never met with one.


If we may learn what is right in the morning, we should be content to die in the evening. The scholar who is intent upon learning the truth, yet is ashamed of his poor clothes and food, is not worthy to be discoursed with. The superior man thinks of his character; the inferior man thinks of his position; the former thinks of the penalties for error, and the latter, of favors. One should not be greatly concerned at not being in office, but rather about the requirements in one's self for that office.


Nor should one be greatly concerned at being unknown, but rather with being worthy to be known. The superior man seeks what is right, the inferior one what is profitable. The superior man is slow to promise, prompt to fulfill. Virtue dwells not in solitude; she must have neighbors. In my first dealings with a man, I listen to his avowals and trust his conduct; after that I listen to his avowals and watch his conduct. These are the four essential qualities of the superior man: he is humble, he is deferential to superiors, he is generously kind, and he is always just.

Those who are willing to forget old grievances will gradually do away with resentment. I have not yet seen the man who can see his errors so as in a day to accuse himself. Where plain naturalness is more in evidence than fine manners, we have the country man; where fine manners are more in evidence than plain naturalness, we have the townsman; where the two are equally blended we have the ideal man. Better than the one who knows what is right is he who loves what is right. To prize the effort above the prize, that is virtue.

What you find in me is a quiet brooder and memorizer, a student never satiated with learning, an unwearied monitor to others. These things weigh heavily upon my mind: failure to improve in the virtues, failure in discussion of what is learned, inability to walk always according to the knowledge of what is right and just, inability to reform what has been amiss. Fix your mind on truth; hold firm to virtue; rely upon loving-kindness; and find your recreation in the arts.

With coarse food to eat, water to drink, and a bent arm for a pillow, happiness may still be found. Let there be three men walking together, and in them I will be sure to find my instructors. For what is good in them I will follow; and what is not good I will try to modify. Sift out the good from the many things you hear, and follow them; sift out the good from the many things you see and remember them. Without a sense of proportion, courtesy becomes oppressive; calmness becomes bashfulness; valor becomes disorderliness; and candor becomes rudeness. Even if a person were adorned with the gift of the Duke of Chau, if he is proud and avaricious, all his other qualities are not really worth looking at.

Learn as if you could never overtake your subject, yet as if apprehensive of losing it. When you have erred, be not afraid to correct yourself. It is easier to carry off the chief commander of an army than to rob one poor fellow of his will. We know so little about life, how can we then know about death?

If a man can subdue his selfishness for one full day, everyone will call him good. When you leave your house, go out as if to meet an important guest.

Do not set before others what you yourself do not like. The essentials of good government are: a sufficiency of food, a sufficiency of arms, and the confidence of the people. If forced to give up one of these, give up arms; and if forced to give up two, give up food. Death has been the portion of all men from of old; but without the people's trust, nothing can endure. A tiger's or a leopard's skin might be a dog's or a sheep's when stripped of its hair.

Hold fast to what is good and the people will be good. The virtue of the good man is as the wind; and that of the bad man, as the grass. When the wind blows, the grass must bend. Knowledge of man, that is wisdom. The superior man feels reserved in matters which he does not understand.

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Let the leader show rectitude in his personal character, and things will go well even without directions from him. Do not wish for speedy results nor trivial advantages; speedy results will not be far-reaching; trivial advantages will matter only in trivial affairs. The superior man will be agreeable even when he disagrees; the inferior man will be disagreeable even when he agrees. Confucius was asked, "Is a good man one who is liked by everybody? He is liked by all the good people and disliked by the bad! Good men speak good words, but not all who speak good words are good.

Good men are courageous, but not all courageous men are good. The Supernatural Confucianism is not a religion in the sense of man relating to the Almighty but is rather an ethical system teaching man how to get along with his fellow man. However, Confucius did make some comments on the supernatural which give insight into how he viewed life, death, heaven, etc. When asked about the subject of death, he had this to say, "Chi-lu asked how the spirits of the dead and the gods should be served, The master said, 'You are not able to serve man.

How can you serve the spirits?