Confucius is everywhere. His sayings, his name, and even his picture. But how much of Confucius’ teachings have actually made it through China’s long and tumultuous history into modern day China? Because his teachings are so varied, this article will focus on filial piety, the self and ritual.
Confucius was born in 551 BC, to an older father and a much younger mother who was a concubine. Unfortunately, he never saw himself as the famous thinker he eventually turned out to be, as he passed away before his teachings became popular in China.
His moral teachings emphasized self-cultivation, ancestor worshipping and constructed society in terms of a hierarchy based on five main relationships: father and son, ruler and subject, husband to wife, older brother to younger brother, friend to friend.
Xiao: Filial Piety
Filial piety is visible in so many aspects of Chinese society, even today, especially in terms of family structure.
There is still a lot of pressure on the Chinese to take care of their parents, and when these parents become grandparents they are still extremely involved within the family. Walking around a residential area in the mornings or evenings, for example, you will always see grandparents proudly accompanying their grandchildren. In fact, in both the cities and the countryside the grandparents are prime caretakers for their grandchildren, living in the same house. Through all this, the majority of citizens will financially and emotionally take care of their parents.
Having spoken to a few of my Chinese friends about this, they all agree that they cannot go abroad fo r a very long time because their parents will get older, and they will take care of them when they do. The alternative of course, was to take their parents abroad with them, but most agree that taking them away from their friends and community would be cruel.
Face and Zhongyong – Doctrine of the Mean
Zhongyong, or the Doctrine of the Mean, is a doctrine of Confucianism. Zhong stands for bent neither one way nor another, whereas yong represents unchanging. The goal of the Doctrine of the Mean is to maintain balance and harmony, and follow a path of duty; it is thus a doctrine to help improve the self.
Prior to the 20th century, this concept was integrated into the national education system, and was a key part of the Imperial exams. Even today, this doctrine is present in the education system, as China’s education system has a very strong focus on maintaining an orderly nation, and pupils are taught from a young age to focus on the self.
There are also clear links between Zhongyong and ‘saving face’, a concept which is extremely well ingrained in modern Chinese society. For example, refusing a drink when somebody offers it to you will cause the other person to lose face. Or, on a much simpler level, when you ask for directions and the person does not know, they would much rather lie to you than tell you they don’t know, as it would lead to them losing face.
Ritual has long been an important part of Chinese history, starting off with emperor worship and Confucianism, which ensured that most Chinese citizens were kept in line. However, with increasing materialism, consumerism and neo-liberal elements in Chinese society, the importance of ritual seems to be waning. This is especially so in the cities, where many houses do not have altars anymore.
However, some rituals are still present in China today, which is particularly apparent during the celebration of major traditional festivals. One example includes the burning of paper money to send to ancestors during Hungry Ghost Festival, which is a long standing ritual that still lights up the streets of even the busiest of Beijing’s streets a few times a year.
From a different angle, however, emperor worshipping is clearly not the same today, meaning that there has been a serious decline in ritual over at least the past five decades; but maybe that is for the best. Confucianism is often labeled as having stunted Chinese growth, as it did not allow for individuals to rise, innovate, or disagree with authority.
A society very hardly disposes of all of its past, and China is no different. Strong family relations and a strong sense of filial piety are something that China has inherited from Confucius. Moreover, the influence of Confucianism is not only evident in China, but is very clear in South Korea too. However, ritual, especially in the religious sense, has seen a decline, while some traditions that surround festivals are still prominent; and thankfully so, because they define a lot of Chinese culture and make China a lot more interesting for us all to live in.
Warning：The use of any news and articles published on eChinacities.com without written permission from eChinacities.com constitutes copyright infringement, and legal action can be taken.
Keywords: Chinese society Confucianism in Chinese society
There are plenty of expats who own scooters in China, but how do you keep your scooter from falling apart? This guide will lay out some basic maintenance tips for scooter owners in China.
Train Travel in China, facts and information from a real life train traveler in China.
China has an extensive collection of distinctive desserts, sweets and pastries. Here, we talk you through some of the best.
It seems every Chinese person and their pet Pekingnese has a voice translator these days, but most work poorly at best. Here are four voice translation apps that actually work for English-Chinese.
The alcohol industry the world over has been going through a craft beer revolution of late. China is of course just as thirsty for quality beer. We sink a pint with some of the best China craft beer breweries.
Social media is deeply embedded in Chinese culture, but it’s a confusing place for a newcomer. Here’s our quick guide to China’s social media universe to help you get to grips with the basics
'His moral teachings emphasized self-cultivation, ancestor worshipping and constructed society...' LOL... self-cultivation in 'modern' china = f(self-bank-account-cultivation, self-shitting (both literally and figuratively) in public, self-bragging...etc.) Of all the celebrations and interactions you had with mainlanders, the TV programs you watched, ever heard ONE, out of 1.3+ billion, wishing world peace? Global village is another joke, ever asked any mainland Chinese what his/her idea of global village is, and what the rest of the world is there for?
Aug 28, 2014 11:30 Report Abuse
All comments are subject to moderation by eChinacities.com staff. Because we wish to encourage healthy and productive dialogue we ask that all comments remain polite, free of profanity or name calling, and relevant to the original post and subsequent discussion. Comments will not be deleted because of the viewpoints they express, only if the mode of expression itself is inappropriate. Please use the Classifieds to advertise your business and unrelated posts made merely to advertise a company or service will be deleted.
Please login to add a comment. Click here to login immediately.