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Confucianism

Practices, schools, and sacred texts

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Practices:

Confucianism does not contain all of the elements of some other religions, like Christianity and Islam. It is primarily an ethical system to which rituals at important times during one's lifetime have been added.

Since the time of the Han dynasty (206 CE) four life passages have been recognized and regulated by Confucian tradition:

bullet Birth: The T'ai-shen (spirit of the fetus) protects the expectant woman and deals harshly with anyone who harasses the mother to be. A special procedure is followed when the placenta is disposed of. The mother is given a special diet and is allowed rest for a month after delivery. The mother's family of origin supplies all the items required by the baby on the first, fourth and twelfth monthly anniversary of the birth.
 
bullet Upon reaching maturity: This life passage is no longer being celebrated, except in traditional families. It takes the form of a group meal in which the young adult is served chicken.
 
bullet Marriage: This is performed in six stages:
bullet Proposal: the couple exchange the eight characters: the year, month, day and hour of each of their births. If any unpropitious event occurs within the bride-to-be's family during the next three days, then the woman is believed to have rejected the proposal.
 
bullet Engagement: after the wedding day is chosen, the bride announces the wedding with invitations and a gift of cookies made in the shape of the moon.
 
bullet Dowry: This is carried to the groom's home in a solemn procession. The bride-price is then sent to the bride by the groom's parents. Gifts by the groom to the bride, equal in value to the dowry, are sent to her.
 
bullet Procession: The groom visits the bride's home and brings her back to his place, with much fanfare.
 
bullet Marriage and Reception: The couple recite their vows, toast each other with wine, and then take center stage at a banquet.
 
bullet Morning after: The bride serves breakfast to the groom's parents, who then reciprocate.
 
bullet Death: The relatives cry out aloud to inform the neighbors. The family starts mourning and puts on clothes made of a coarse material. The corpse is washed and placed in a coffin. Mourners bring incense and money to offset the cost of the funeral. Food and significant objects of the deceased are placed into the coffin.

A Buddhist or Taoist priest (or even a Christian minister) performs the burial ritual. Friends and family follow the coffin to the cemetery, along with a willow branch which symbolizes the soul of the person who has died. The latter is carried back to the family altar where it is used to "install" the spirit of the deceased.

Rituals are performed on the 7th, 9th, 49th day after the burial and on the first and third anniversaries of the death.

Schools of Confucianism

There are six schools: Han Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, Contemporary Neo-Confucianism, Korean Confucianism, Japanese Confucianism and Singapore Confucianism.

Sacred Texts

These were assembled by Chu Hsi (1130-1200 CE) during the Sung dynasty. They include:

bullet The Si Shu or Four Books:
bullet The Lun Yu the Analects of Confucius
bullet The Chung Yung or the Doctrine of the Mean
bullet The Ta Hsueh or the Great Learning
bullet The Meng Tzu the writings of Meng Tzu (371-289 BCE) a philosopher who, like Confucius, traveled from state to state conversing with the government rulers.
 
bullet The Wu Jing or Five Classics:
bullet Shu Ching or Classic of History: writings and speeches from ancient Chinese rulers
bullet The Shih Ching or Classic of Odes: 300 poems and songs
bullet The I Ching or Classic of Changes: the description of a divinatory system involving 64 hexagrams. The hexagrams are symbols composed of broken and continuous lines; one is selected to foretell the future based on the casting of 49 sticks.
bullet The Ch'un Ch'iu or Spring and Autumn Annals: a history of the state of Lu from 722 to 484 BCE.
bullet The Li Ching or Classic of Rites: a group of three books on the LI the rites of propriety

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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
Author: B.A. Robinson

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