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Clart, Philip, Chen, Na and Lizhu Fan, forth coming. Journal of Business Ethics, Vol.

Sociology of Religion: Religion and China. Beijing: Current Press. Fan, Lizhu and Na Chen, forth coming. A Moment at Cmetery of Confucius. Jing, Jun Kang, Xiaoguang, In: Fenggang Yang and Joseph Tamney, eds. Leiden: Brill. King, Ambrose, The Transformation of Confucianism in Hong Kong. In: Weiming Tu, ed. Cambridge: Harward University Press. Schwartz, Benjamin, Sun, Anna, The Revival of Confucian Rites.

Tu, Weiming, Confucian Spirituality in Contemporary China. Minjian Ruxue Heyi Keneng? Yang, Ching Kun, Chinese Social Sciences Studies , Vol. Export Citation. Here you can find all Crossref-listed publications in which this article is cited. User Account Log in Register Help. Search Close Advanced Search Help. Show Summary Details. More options …. Cultural Diversity in China. Open Access. Online ISSN The monarchy was superstitious and Machiavellian. As the physical embodiment of power, even the emperor most familiar with the Confucian classics knew that the blood flowing through his veins was the blood of Legalism, and believed that the "laws and methods of governing" were all encompassing.

Edited by Lewis R. Rambo and Charles E. Farhadian

As for Confucians, benevolent rule was the goal and the monarchy a means to that end. But even the best Confucians were only tools for the dynasty; the heart of the emperor remained Legalist. To save tianxia , the Confucians were willing to change dynasties; to keep their empire, the Qing were willing to sacrifice tianxia. Since the alliance between the monarchy and the Confucians was based on mutual exploitation, and since their ultimate goals were not the same, a split was inevitable.

But what the emperor wanted was the legitimacy that Dong's theory conferred on the empire, and he hated Dong's notion of the "concordance between heaven and man" which placed the "heavenly mandate" above imperial power. Dong composed a memorial entitled "Disasters resulting from unusual phenomena" but someone secretly informed the court before he could submit it. Han Wudi was furious, and decided to have Dong Zhongshu beheaded.

Later he relented out of respect for Dong's abilities, and granted a pardon, but Dong lost his position, and he never again intervened in the affairs of government. He spent his sunset years studying and writing. The link between Confucianism and Legalism suggests that the monarchy and the Confucians ruled tianxia together, but in fact in terms of power the bond was unequal and lacked institutional guarantees. Imperial power was active and dynamic, while the scholars were passive.

The political space available to the Confucians depended completely on whether the ruler was enlightened, on the extent to which he was open to their proposals. Over the centuries, China knew good times and bad in cycles of good governance and disorder. This was not caused by the system but rather by the nature of the rulers and ministers who governed the state. Under an enlightened ruler, everything flourishes, but if he is followed by a poor ruler, the people are lost as government disappears.

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What was lacking was precisely long-range institution building. But Confucian doctrine was too empty, and Legalism too focused on the nuts and bolts of ruling, and neither was able to achieve a government transcending the ruler and according the greatest power to the legislature, which would be a hardy constitutional order. Of course, traditional Confucian politics was not without value. Over the course of several thousand years of historical practice of alliances with and struggles against imperial power, Confucians accumulated a rich store of political wisdom: the marriage of moral and political authority, the collaboration of Confucians and rulers to rule tianxia , the practice of listening to criticism from below, the examination system and the censorate—such political wisdom and institutional practice derived from the popular will and took heavenly principles as their highest value.

With Confucian scholars serving as a nexus of social power, over a comparatively long period they limited imperial absolutism, so that in certain dynasties and periods Chinese politics maintained an enlightened, rational order, enabling the ancient Chinese empire to maintain more than two thousand years of enlightened rule over a vast territory, a huge population, and a varied culture.

Yet Confucian politics had internal limitations that it could not overcome. From this perspective, the value of restoring Confucian politics in a modern society is not immediately obvious. Whether Confucianism can have value in the future is entirely dependent on how Confucianism is attached to the system. If we return to a system with a Confucian exterior and a Legalist heart, consistent with the ancient Qin-Han system, an old system which was never entirely functional for two thousand years, how can we expect it to flourish in the twenty-first century?

Confucian politics itself is neither good nor bad in the abstract; everything depends on who they partner up with. If it can, as the former generation of New Confucians like Mou Zongsan and Tang Junyi suggested, relocate its place within a legal, democratic framework, then it might generate its own transformation.

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What is the Difference Between Daoism and Confucianism?

But Confucianism still has another option, which is to take the road down to the people and transform itself into a Confucian religion, becoming a religion of the soul, like Protestantism, Islam, Buddhism and Daoism. In the past few years, the process of secularization in China has hollowed out people's souls. In response to spiritual emptiness, a vacuum of values and loss of meaning, Protestantism, Catholicism, Buddhism, Daoism, Islam and many kinds of popular religion have developed very quickly, accompanying the spiritual crisis provoked by secularization, and the religious revival has reached a point of no return.

Where is Confucianism in all of this? Can Confucianism transform itself to become like Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity and Islam, a genuine religion with a place among the people?

Turning Confucianism into the Confucian religion has been tried in the past. They believed that everyone possessed innate knowledge and that everyone could become a sage. They preached among the common people of all walks of life and attracted a good many followers, and were not far from establishing a religion. Kang Youwei was merely the spiritual leader; the real organizer was Chen Huanzhang, the philosophy Ph. Chen not only set up the Confucian religion in a way that imitated Protestantism, he also added modern content and rituals.

Still, his efforts ended in failure.

China Confucianism: Life of Confucius, Influences, Development

The most important reason for the failure was that although Kang and Chen circulated among the people, their hearts were in the imperial court. They couldn't bear the indifference of the people, and sought to use state power to make Confucianism into a state religion.

Those involved in the Confucian Religion Society were old and young fogeys from the Qing court as well as frustrated, unemployed politicians and traditional gentry.


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They were backward-looking and greedy, and unconcerned about saving souls—their ambitions were political. The Confucian Religion Society was not even up to the standards of the Wang Yangming movement of the late Ming, and was quite distant from society and out of touch with the common people.

They borrowed Christian forms, but had none of the Christian spirit; they did not resist political power, or diligently sow their seeds among the people, and displayed none of the true religious spirit of changing the world through saving people's souls. In the past few years, the New Confucian group led by Jiang Qing b. They have set up popular academies and studies, but are not content with grass-roots society and instead want to return to the halls of power and have Confucianism recognized as the national religion, with the traditional Four Books and Five Classics at the center of education, or perhaps even the subject matter for national exams.

According to my own observations, there is a great difference between popular Confucian religion on the mainland and in Taiwan. Taiwan's Confucian religion has a grass-roots feel and a human touch. It is rooted in popular society and concerned with the suffering of the people.

It is devoted to the reconstruction of the spiritual order. On the mainland, while some of the followers of Confucian religion are among the people, most seem like grifters or officials. These two occupy different positions, but they share a personality type in that they both want to tell people what to do.

What was the impact of Confucianism in China?

Sacrifices at the Confucian temple were displays of state power, in a space that the people dared not enter, a closed space that evoked respect and fear. It is a public religion, not an individual religion. For the average person, the heavens are distant and the emperor far away. The average person's religious needs are for salvation, spiritual support, faith in destiny, and a sense of the meaning of life and death. Buddhism, Daoism, Christianity and Islam all make such promises and hence can serve as something for the people to believe in. Confucianism has a religious character, but it is a scholar's religion, that pays more attention to the here and now, human affairs, and rationality.

Clearly, today's Confucian revival remains the affair of a small number of elites running around in their own little circles. It has nothing to do with grass-roots society. This is not surprising. Confucianism is not a religion of revelation, and belief is not the most important thing. What Confucians hold dear is individual cultivation, in which one achieves a certain enlightenment at the level of knowledge, and then through moral practice becomes a model gentleman or a sage. But the demands in terms of knowledge and moral character are too high, and can only be the ideal of a small number of scholars.

Average people need "belief," or more precisely, they hope to obtain spiritual protection through simple religious rituals. It doesn't matter whether it is the protection of a transcendent god, or a simplistic religious ritual. These two are Confucianism's weak points. Were Confucianism to become a popular religion like Christianity or Buddhism, this would go against Confucianism's original nature, and abandon its historical tradition and social position.

The Confucian tradition has been very well preserved in South Korea and Taiwan, yet to date we see no moves toward the creation of a Confucian religion at the level of individual religious meaning. Why would this happen on the mainland where the Confucian tradition has been cut off? Both of these have fairly clear religious components. The third is as a religion of order building on ethical and moral concerns.

Second, Confucianism does not communicate with the spirits to ask for protection via prayer, worship, and other religious means, nor does it aspire to an eternal life in a transcendent realm. Instead it focuses on actual life as lived, and through civil transformation, employing the rituals of secular daily life, conveys Confucian doctrines to people's hearts, producing excellent customs. Third, Confucianism does not provide the meaning of life and ultimate values for individual spiritual order, but rather builds an ethical, moral order commonly shared by society as a whole, through the transformation of "benevolence" into "ritual.

This is what is meant by the expression "using the spirit world to inculcate virtue.

Cultural Diversity in China

Looking at the three historical bodies of Confucianism in the context of modern society, the idea of hoping for a new honeymoon with state power as official ideology is a dead end. I would add that seeing it as tool for self-cultivation is also the affair of a small number of elites, with little relationship to most citizens. In my opinion, Confucianism's most important function in China's future is to develop into a set of civil teachings with common ethics and morals at its core that would contribute to the reconstruction of a proper Chinese social order.


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  • In that case, if Confucianism were seen as civil teachings leading to the establishment of an ethical, moral order, then what would its relationship be to other religions and to liberalism? China is different from the West in that it is polytheistic. Qiu Feng argues that China has "one civil teaching and many religions," which in a word sums up the true nature of the relationship between Confucianism and other religions.