By peace | June 3, 2008
Confucius became a city magistrate when he was 50 years old. During his one year in office, the city of Lu prospered. Reforms were introduced and crime was almost eradicated. He regarded the people with virtue and taught them the value of rites. The elderly was respected and the people treated one another with the appropriate proprieties. Officials in the neighbouring cities used his policies as a model for their own systems.
Confucianism contains a set of moral, social, religious and political principles that has asserted a large influence on the history and development of Chinese society and culture. Its teachings talk about the importance of education and the following qualities: li (correct behaviour), ren (benevolence, humanity), yi (honesty), zhi (knowledge, in the sense of moral wisdom) and xin (faithfulness, integrity).
Living with a moral code was imporant as well. A person should cultivate good moral values before he could concern himself with the morals of others. Confucius believed that if everyone did this, society would likewise be moral. Even teh emperor was not exempt from this rule. As long as everyone accepted and acted within their role in society, the society would function well.
Confucian principles and ideals have had a huge influence on life in China for more than 2000 years. They promoted a moral code that included ethics, humanity, order and harmony. A set of good governemtn and favourable interpersonal relationships was needed for society to function well.
The hierarchical nature of relationships was important, and all parties privy to the relationship had to do their part, based on the obligations of their role. There were five relationships available: father-son, husband-wife, older brother-younger brother, friend-friend, and ruler-subject.
Harmony within the family was dependent on all members observing the requirements of their specific roles. Filial piety is very strong in Confucian teaching and is a two-way process. Just as the father takes care of his son, the son likewise, has to worship his father after his death. As long as everyone is mindful of their role and adheres to it, there would be harmony.
Life was not limited to the living. One also had to consider the needs of the deceased and present them with offerings. This responsibility was undertaken by the children of the deceased, in return for the parent’s actions in caring for them when they were young.
At the beginning of the 20th century, Confucianism was deliberately suppressed, as it was seen as an obstacle to China’s modernisation. It was revived after the Cultural Revolution. Outside China, Confucianism had its most lasting influence in Korea where it was the state ideology for hundreds of years.