What is Confucianism?

What is Confucianism?

Confucianism is a Chinese ethical, philosophical and religious system, founded by Confucius. It was the official doctrine of China for more than two thousand years, until the beginning of the twentieth century.

There are no churches or organization in the form of clerics, so Confucianism does not fit the religious currents as they are commonly known in the West. There is also no worship of deities and there is no notion of the afterlife.

Meaning of Confucianism

The basic principle of Confucianism is known as junchoio, the teaching of the wise.

Confucianism, like Taoism, believes in the Tao, in the higher path that all individuals seek in their life, in the balance between worldly and spiritual life, between man and nature.

Confucius is not a prophet, God, or priest of Confucianism. The figure of the thinker is like a spiritual guide, a philosopher who guides the lives of his followers along the path of harmony.

One of the ways to play this guiding role is through his teachings, often disseminated among Confucianists and sympathizers of philosophy through the phrases that would have been uttered by Confucius. They are motivational and instructive axioms or statements that guide the choices of the individual.

Confucianism does not have a single sacred book, but several textual works that guide the followers of doctrine. Among them are the Anacletos, or Chinese Lun Yu, which brings together the teachings of Confucius, the Mengzi, a book written by Mencius, the second sage of Confucianism, and Wu Ching, or the five classics.

Each of Wu Ching’s works speaks of one aspect of life according to Confucianism. The Shu Ching is about politics, the Shih Ching poetry, the Li Ching book of rites with a social notion of Chinese groups, the Chun-Chiu with a historical view, called the annals of the Spring and Autumn.

The I Ching is best known in the West and is called the Book of Changes, or even known to be the Chinese oracle. It is in this text that the idea of Yin and Yang appears as the complementary forces that rule the universe.

According to the teachings of Confucius, individuals are formed by four dimensions, self, community, nature and heaven. And five essential virtues must compose the human being: to love the neighbor, to be just, to behave properly, to be aware of the will of the sky, to cultivate the wisdom and the sincerity disinterested.

Confucianism understands that man has all the tools to improve his life, through his virtues, and does not point out the need for a God or higher being to achieve inner peace.

It is ethically based to the West, still widely used in corporate settings in Japan and the Asian Tigers, for example, to guide negotiations and the spirit of work. It believes in knowledge and education as a way to improve society, as it builds a solid character.

Rituals of Confucianism

As a religion, Confucianism inherits traditional Chinese cults by developing a kind of oriental religious syncretism. Like the concept of Tao as source of life and path of harmony, an idea of Taoism. As well as the ancestor worship and filial piety, which represents obedience and reverence to the older members of the family who is very politically and socially strong in China to this day.

The most important rituals of Confucianism are those related to the family, with marriage and funerals being the largest of them. Marriage is therefore the formation of a new family, and the funeral in reverence to the ancestors.

Feng Shui, oriental technique for building and housekeeping according to the earth’s vital energy, chi, is a Confucian practice that has become popular in the West.

Origin of Confucianism

The Chinese philosopher known by his Western name Confucius, lived from 552 to 479 BC. The reading of the Chinese ideograms on his name can be written as Kung-fu-tzu or Koung Fou Tseu, and there are still records calling him Master Kung.

Confucius comes from a poor family in the period of feudal China, and had to change himself often for survival reasons. In this way he develops skills as a teacher of different areas, and gains the respect of his community as a wise man in whom the people can trust and ask for help. Upon returning to the region where he was born, he gathers disciples and begins to propagate his doctrine.

The influence of Confucianism on Chinese society begins in the second century and extends to the beginning of the twentieth century, with the Proclamation of the Republic. And it is even more limited with the arrival of the Communist Party to power in 1949, for presenting ideologies that do not complement each other.

Symbols of Confucianism

Confucianism uses as a symbol the ideogram of water, as a representation of the path and the source of life.

Another symbol used comes from Taoism, the yin and yang applied to the I Ching. It is Tai Chi, or even the bagua as it is called by followers of the Feng Shui technique, where each side of the geometric figure indicates an area of the individual’s life to be transformed.