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Beliefs, teachings, and relationships

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Confucian ethical teachings include the following values:

bulletLi: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
bulletHsiao: love within the family: love of parents for their children and of children for their parents
bulletYi: righteousness
bulletXin: honesty and trustworthiness
bulletJen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
bulletChung: loyalty to the state, etc.


Confucius taught that when societies operate under laws, people are punished by authorities after having committed illegal activities. People generally conform to the laws, often without necessarily understanding the rationale behind them. He promoted a different way: to internalize behaviors so that actions are controlled beforehand. People then behave properly because they wish to avoid feeling shame and want to avoid losing face. In theory, the result is a reduction in the number of coercive laws required for smooth functioning of the society. 1


Wikipedia states:

"Relationships are central to Confucianism. Particular duties arise from one's particular situation in relation to others. The individual stands simultaneously in several different relationships with different people: as a junior in relation to parents and elders, and as a senior in relation to younger siblings, students, and others. While juniors are considered in Confucianism to owe their seniors reverence, seniors also have duties of benevolence and concern toward juniors. This theme of mutuality is prevalent in East Asian cultures even to this day."

"Social harmony -- the great goal of Confucianism -- therefore results in part from every individual knowing his or her place in the social order, and playing his or her part well. When Duke Jing of Qi asked about government, by which he meant proper administration so as to bring social harmony, Confucius replied:

'There is government, when the prince is prince, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son. (Analects XII, 11, trans. Legge)' "
" 'Filial piety' ... is considered among the greatest of virtues and must be shown towards both the living and the dead (including even remote ancestors). The term 'filial' (meaning 'of a child') characterizes the respect that a child, originally a son, should show to his parents. This relationship was extended by analogy to a series of five relationships:"

The Five Bonds:
bulletRuler to Subject
bulletFather to Son
bulletHusband to Wife
bulletElder Brother to Younger Brother
bulletFriend to Friend.
"Specific duties were prescribed to each of the participants in these sets of relationships. Such duties were also extended to the dead, where the living stood as sons to their deceased family. This led to the veneration of ancestors. The only relationship where respect for elders wasn't stressed was the Friend to Friend relationship. In all other relationships, high reverence was held for elders."

"In time filial piety was also built into the Chinese legal system: a criminal would be punished more harshly if the culprit had committed the crime against a parent, while fathers often exercised enormous power over their children. Much the same was true of other unequal relationships. ..."

"Filial piety has continued to play a central role in Confucian thinking to the present day." 1

Reference used:

  1. "Confucianism," Wikipedia, on 2009-SEP-28, at: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki

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Copyright © 1995 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious Tolerance.
Original publication date: 1995-JUL-12
Latest update: 2009-MAY-31
inks last checked: 2004-SEP-28
Author: B.A. Robinson

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