Five Confucian Concepts
Confucianism emerged as a system of ethical and philosophical teachings during major social and political upheavals in China. The central issue raised by Confucianism is the regulation of relationships between the rulers and subordinates. Particular attention is paid to the moral qualities that these individuals have to possess to carry out the main functions. From the formal perspective, this system of teachings cannot be regarded as a religion due to the lack of this institution. However, its significance, the promotion of education, the degree of penetrating human souls and public consciousness, and influence on the behavior formation reflect the fact that Confucianism successfully played the role of religion. The current paper seeks to examine five Confucian concepts underlying the entire philosophical thought.
Humanism is the core of Confucian teachings. The main aim of Confucianism is the creation of a harmonious society following the ancient examples, where every personality has its own function. Jen and Li are the main concepts of Confucianism. The harmonious society is built on the idea of loyalty and devotion between the superiors and subordinates. The teaching is based on the five qualities of a noble man. Confucianism encouraged using moral codes in political and social spheres rather than only in individual matters (Xinzhong 34). Confucius regarded these principles as the essence of human life and the core of a successful society.
The first concept of Confucianism is Jen, which indicates the human beginnings, love of people, benevolence, compassion, and humanity. The last aspect (humanity) is the fundamental principle of Confucian ethics that serves as a supreme law of relations between people in the society and family. Confucius formulated the golden rule of ethics, encouraging people to act after thinking about possible adverse consequences. Jen can be deeply examined in the political context as it serves as a basis of the Confucian political model. The ruler’s failure to comply with the Confucian morality could lead to the loss of the mandate and, as a result, his loss of power. A man who rules wisely and complies with all the rules shows that he is worthy of power granted to him by Heaven.
Jen focuses on such aspects as responsiveness, generosity, and benevolence, which make a man a human-being. Confucius never saw the full expression of virtues by humans. However, a man might sacrifice his life to preserving Jen, thereby making his life worthy to live. This concept reflects the dignity of human lives and encourages people to act humanly towards others to increase own self-esteem. Jen can be applied to any person regardless of his/her race and background. It forms human relationships. Confucius regularly referred to the man’s natural perfectibility but rejected the way some people act, focusing more on positive things and neglecting negative ones. Jen serves as a guide to human actions, and Confucianism encouraged people to extend it to others.
Li is the second important concept promoted by Confucianism. It focuses on compliance with rituals, fidelity to customs, and respect for parents. In a more general sense, Li is any activity aimed at preserving the society foundations. Confucius believed that conscious and deliberate actions occur due to the fact that a person sets a reason. They take place with the sense of arrangement in the form of rituals. This principle of ritualization of daily life is designed to allow people live a better life and feel its spirit. Undoubtedly, any real ritual must be performed with respect and dignity towards oneself, nature, and other people. Fire is the symbol of Li and also serves as a guide to concrete human actions. Virtue helps to balance own interests and those of other individuals (Lecture Notes 1).
Li guides human actions and checks whether people comply with the rules embodying Jen and social order. Only a well-ordered society can express this concept. Li teaches how to act properly in a specific situation. Confucius encouraged people to be open to each other and use language according to the truthfulness of things. If a person acts in a proper manner, he/she will overcome all the challenges on his way. Human relations cannot be considered transitive, and actions should be undertaken in a proper manner not to insult other members of the society. The family is the most valuable unit that has ever existed, and Confucius highly valued love and reverence between sons and fathers, respect and gentleness of brothers and sisters. The ability to listen and be objective in conversation is highly valued in the married life. The conversation between older and young interlocutors should be deferential and considerate. The interaction between rulers and their subordinates should be loyal and benevolent. Regardless of the type of conversation, individuals have to respect each other, follow the principle of social order, and conform to the norms of the core principle Li. Although individuality is limited, actions undertaken by one person affect the others. Confucius promoted order in every sphere of life. Behavior and possible improvisation affect the way people formulate their response to a particular situation. A well-conducted person never faces problems in his life.
The third key aspect is Yi, which refers to truth and justice. Individuals are morally disposed to do good things and avoid negative ones. Superior men should also adhere to this principle. Yi helps to differentiate between right and good deeds and recognize the consequences of certain actions. Intuition, culture, and values can help a person choose a perfect direction and never deviate from the chosen path. In some cases, a man sets a goal and performs actions for that sole purpose, considering them to be right and justified. However, from the perspective of other people, these actions may be wrong. In the society where members confront due to conflicting interests, harmony can balance different ideas and views (Lecture Notes 3). The value of a particular action lies in its rightness regardless of its consequences and intentions set by a person. Yi does not imply determined intentions and consequences of free will. Confucius believed that undertaken actions first bring benefit to a person himself and then to his set objective. Practicing of Yi and Jen are similar. Yi principle indicates that a man acts in a manner he considers to be right. This situation has nothing to do with learning. In case of Jen, undertaken actions should demonstrate a person’s respect for others. Here, a man is concerned about himself, not his individual acts.
The fourth fundamental principle is Hsiao, which emphases reverence and filial piety. As parents give life to their children, they are revered. They sacrifice a lot. The family and ancestral sacrifice is the eternal corporation that has significant values (Lecture Notes 5). In order to make this institution respected and well-known, a person has to do well, thereby bringing honor to all the members. The aspect of reverence indicates that a person is thankful for giving him/her life and sacrifices made by his/her parents. In addition to physical care, the family provides spiritual and emotional richness. In case a parent dies, his/her unrealized purposes will be fulfilled by children. Values of children and their parents significantly differ, and it is particularly evident in the ever-changing society. Some aspects of Jen can be found in Hsiao principle. If parents are loved, respected, and revered, then Hsiao is extended to the mankind, society, and friends. The ability to respect and revere reflects the person’s inner world. If a ruler or a governor takes care of his parents, then he will care about the country’s fate as a whole (Xinzhong 33). People can naturally become more humane towards each other if they act the same way at home, with family members.
Submission is one of the main ideas of Confucian ethics. It includes humility and reverence for parents, younger brother’s submission to his older brothers, and the subordination of subjects to their rulers. All these aspects are reflected in the main concepts of the system of ethical and social philosophy. To address discontent with the predominant hereditary aristocracy in a proper manner, Confucius suggested that the ruling class should pay more attention to the development and progress and encouraged it to alleviate the burden of levies and duties. Filial piety is considered to be one of the main concepts of Confucian philosophy and ethics and a vital element of traditional East Asian mentality. The basic meaning is connected with respect for parents. In a broader sense, it applies to all ancestors. As Confucius considered the emperor to be a nation’s parent, Hsiao affected the social-political sphere. The violation of these norms was regarded as the gravest crime.
The fifth core aspect is Chun-Tzu, which refers to the existence of a superior, mature, gentle, and magnanimous man serving the nation. This Confucian key principle can be applied not only to a social and political figure. Every law-abiding man can utilize this concept in practice regardless of his/her intentions, goals, and model of behavior. A person who is respectful and helpful towards others is perfected and ideal. He has the ability to control the situation regardless of a place, time, and surroundings. A man is concerned with helping others and does not prioritize personal ambitions. In specific situations, individuals must act according to what others expect and require from them (Xinzhong 35). A person is intelligent to react and act adequately as well as respond to a particular case without fear. Unfortunately, only a few people can reach this ideal. In order to establish adequate relationships, individuals are encouraged to study, think, and engage in an adequate decision-making process. Sincerity, wisdom and kindness can only accelerate this process. Confucius encouraged a man to be intelligent and wise and follow moral laws. A superior man will never ignore rules due to his law-abidingness. Confucius and his system of social and ethical philosophy highlighted the importance of both ethics and morality in the study of human-beings. The system’s values and principles provide individuals with the valuable instructions about how they have to act in specific situations to remain rational beings.
To conclude, Confucianism emerged in ancient China, and it is an integral part of the ethical and religious teaching. The main principle of Confucianism is the idea of universal justice. It justifies the presence of masters and workers in the society, mental and physical labor. The system also calls for submission to higher authorities. Through the core principles such as Jen, Li, Yi, Hsiao, and Chun-Tzu, Confucius provided the basis for social morality. Confucianism is a moral and spiritual doctrine taught by the Chinese philosopher and teacher Confucius. It is a kind of ethical teaching about how people should treat each other. Confucius also expressed his ethical views on the governance framework in his teaching. He encouraged people to live in harmony with the surrounding world. Confucianism also attached great importance to the unity and cohesion of the society. Reverence and great respect for ancestors are the essential features of Confucian behavior.