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Confucianism – by Tahira Mohothar

The main topic for week 4 was on religions around the world. This is one of the most interesting topics that I find to talk about. We were taught about many new religious views of people in the world. Most of them I have never even heard. Among them were Christianity, Islam, Confucianism, Manichaeism, Thiruvalluvarism, Chanakyanism, Behaism, Zoroastriasm, Lamasin, Buddhism, Taoism, Indigenous, Hinduism and Judaism. All these fall under different types of ethical perspectives. I also learnt many new terms like monotheism, atheism, polytheism and pantheism.

We were asked to choose any topic from above that we are unfamiliar with and thereafter do a research on it and reflect on what we got to know about the particular new religion. Therefore I chose Confucianism. The reason to choose this is because I found this name attractive and funny. To be honest, I thought Confucianism was about people who were confused with religions. But after doing a research on this, I really got to know what it is exactly about. This was quite new to me and I never knew that there was a religion as such existing in this world. After reading through many articles, my understanding on Confucianism is as follows.

Confucianism is a way of life taught by Confucius in the 6th–5th century BC. Sometimes viewed as a philosophy, sometimes as a religion, Confucianism is perhaps best understood as an all-encompassing humanism that neither denies nor slights Heaven.

Confucianism has been followed by the Chinese for more than two millennia. It has deeply influenced spiritual and political life in China; its influence has also extended to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. East Asians may profess themselves to be Shintoists, Taoists, Buddhists, Muslims, or Christians – but seldom do they cease to be Confucians.

Confucius, the common name of Confucianism’s founder, is a Latinized form of the Chinese K’ung-fu-tzu, “Master K’ung.” The terms “Confucianism” and “Confucian,” derived from the Latinized Confucius, are not meaningful terms in Chinese. They are western terms, coined in Europe as recently as the 18th century.

The main principle of Confucianism is ren (“humaneness” or “benevolence”), signifying excellent character in accord with li (ritual norms), zhong (loyalty to one’s true nature), shu (reciprocity), and xiao (filial piety). Together these constitute de (virtue).

Confucianism is characterized by a highly optimistic view of human nature. The faith in the possibility of ordinary human beings to become awe-inspiring sages and worthies is deeply rooted in the Confucian heritage (Confucius himself lived a rather ordinary life), and the insistence that human beings are teachable, improvable, and perfectible through personal and communal endeavor is typically Confucian. Confucius regarded Heaven (T’ien) as a positive and personal force in the universe; he was not, as some have supposed, an agnostic or a skeptic.

Aside from its important ethical principles, Confucianism does not prescribe any specific rituals or practices. These are filled by the practices of Chinese religion, Taoism, Buddhism, or other religion which Confucians follow.

Today, Confucianism is mainly practiced in China, Japan, the Koreas and Vietnam. There are over six million adherents of Confucianism. While it was once the state philosophy in China, its popularity has dwindled drastically since the Communists came to power.

(week 4)


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