Beliefs, teachings, and relationships
Confucian ethical teachings include the following values:
Li: includes ritual, propriety, etiquette, etc.
Hsiao: love within the family: love of parents for their children and of children
for their parents
Xin: honesty and trustworthiness
Jen: benevolence, humaneness towards others; the highest Confucian virtue
Chung: loyalty to the state, etc.
Confucius taught that when societies operate under laws, people are punished
after having committed illegal activities. People generally conform to the laws,
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
"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:
"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
||Ruler to Subject
||Father to Son
||Husband to Wife
||Elder Brother to Younger Brother
||Friend to Friend.
"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
- "Confucianism," Wikipedia, on 2009-SEP-28, at:
Copyright © 1995 to 2009 by Ontario Consultants on Religious
Original publication date: 1995-JUL-12
Latest update: 2009-MAY-31
Links last checked: 2004-SEP-28
Author: B.A. Robinson