Religions form an important aspect of any and every culture, whether Indian, Chinese, or Roman. The concept has been a part of humanity since time immemorial and often lays down certain rules and values for people to follow. Religion is an institution that gives people certain ideals about life and constructs a way to live. This is exemplified by how followers of different religions lead different lifestyles. Confucianism is one religion that many people are unaware of. It is often considered a religion by some, others consider it as a way of life or a way to live. Continue reading this article to learn about this interesting religion! Here are a few beliefs and facts about this concept.
Origin of Confucianism
Confucianism is an ancient religion that originated from The Hundred Schools of Thought which was from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius. It encourages a particular social order, respect for the elderly, the respect and elevation of teachers, and the overall good of the community. This religion came up more as an opposition to the existing rituals and religious practices that were then prevalent in China.
Virtues of Confucian Ethics
There are Five Virtues that characterize Confucianism as a religion, not following these virtues is deemed as going against the religion itself. These five virtues are: Ren which is humaneness, Yi which is righteousness or justice, Li which is proper carrying out of rites, Zhi which is proper knowledge, and Xin which is the integrity. These virtues form a part of the Confucian ethics and are considered mandatory for those who follow the religion.
Focus on Familial Relationships
Confucius laid great emphasis on familial relationships and believed them to form the foundation of any civilised society. These relationships were based on decency and mutual benefit. Confucius laid down the most important relationships and the interactions between members in the relationship. First, the father-son relationship was based on the father’s love and care for the child in his youth, and the son’s respect and care for his father in old age. Secondly, the younger brothers should be reverent towards their elder brothers and the elder brothers should be patient and gentle with younger brothers and set a good example for them to follow. Lastly, the husband provides security and kindness to his obedient wife who listens and follows his lead.
Focus on Duties of the Ruler and Subjects
Another relationship that Confucius stated was important was that of the ruler and his subjects. He believed that treating everyone as equal and with kindness, irrespective of changes in status, nationality, or race was the path that would lead an individual to better himself, his family, and his society. He also believed that just as subjects had the responsibility to be deferential and obedient to their ruler, the ruler had a responsibility to act with righteousness, kindness, and generosity to ensure sustaining peace and prosperity in the kingdom.
Sacred Books of Confucianism
There are five books that are considered the sacred books of Confucianism. These are The Book of History, The Book of Poetry, The Book of Changes, The Book of Rites, and the Spring and Autumn Annals. These sacred texts teach the five central virtues of Confucianism- benevolence or humaneness, righteousness, observance of rites, moral wisdom or knowledge, and faith or integrity. It was believed that by understanding and following the virtues given in the books, an individual could achieve moral and cosmic harmony.
The Concept of Junzi
Junzi is translated to “superior person”. Confucius used this term to describe what he called ‘the ideal man’. In Confucianism, the ideal person is the sage or the wisest person. Since it is very hard to become a sage, Confucius came up with the concept of junzi, the gentleman, an ideal that could be achieved by the most ordinary of men. Later, those who became junzi were considered only second to sages. Characteristics of a junzi include loyalty, obedience, knowledge, his actions speak more than his words, and he can live in poverty. The junzi is self-disciplining and lives by the virtue of humaneness. Confucius believed that although junzi literally translated to superior man, any righteous man who made the effort could become the junzi.
Confucianism was the State Religion of China
After Confucianism started gaining popularity and edging out other religions, it was made the State religion of China. This made the influence of Confucianism much broader and it began to affect all walks of life of the citizens from lifestyle to lines of thought. It didn’t just affect those living in the country at the time of the religion’s propagation. It also paved the path for generations of Chinese citizens to come.
Six Principles Govern Confucianism
There are six main principles that are widely recognized in Confucianism. These are: Jen which is humanity. This is the distinct difference between human beings and all other animals. The respect given to each is different. The second principle is Li which is the principle of gain. This is the reason people try to seek out personal relationships and attempt to gain knowledge from individuals, groups, and society as a whole.
The third principle is Yi which is righteousness or the moral obligation to do good. This is the ability to know and differentiate between right and wrong. The fourth principle is Hsiao which is the principle that parents must be revered and honoured as creators. It states that one must bring honour to those who bring honour to them. The fifth principle is Chih which is the moral wisdom of what is right and wrong. The last principle is Te which is the authority with which men set rules and guidelines.
Lack of Rituals
An image showing the worship of ancestors
Confucianism does not have particular rituals like most religions do. This way of life pays more attention and gives more importance to ceremonies and rituals in family life. In addition to being conscious of familial ties and ceremonies, one must also pay attention to duties towards the community and government. There are no Gods or specific teachings regarding souls or the afterlife.
Since Confucianism does not follow many of the same rituals that other religions do, it does not have many holidays based on the religion. The only two holidays that are accepted and followed by followers of the Confucianist belief are the Chinese New Year and the birthday of Confucius, the founder of this way of life. His birthday is not celebrated on the same date every year. Instead, it is celebrated on the 27th day of the eighth lunar month every year