Christian Cyclopedia

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1. The system of thought growing out of the teachings of Confucius,* who profoundly influenced China's ethics, religion, educ., and pol. systems for more than 2,000 yrs.

2. Writings of Confucianism include 5 sacred books called Ching: Book of History, Book of Songs, Book of Changes, Spring and Autumn Annals, Book of Rites; a 6th, Book of Music, is said to have been lost in the Han dynasty. Of these 6, Confucius probably wrote only the Spring and Autumn Annals; the Book of Rites and parts of the Book of Changes may have been written as late as the 3d c. BC Neo-Confucianists of the Sung dynasty (960–1279) added 4 books called Shu: Analects of Confucius, Golden Mean, Great Study, and Works of Mencius.*

3. Confucius enunciated many ethical precepts and sayings of China's past without organizing them into a coherent system. As Aristotle* later, so Confucius stressed the golden mean bet. extremes. Inevitably Confucianism blended with China's ancient universalism and its antitheses of yin and yang, world souls or forces representing the female (negative) principle and the male (positive) principle in the universe, and assoc. also, e.g., with cold and heat, darkness and light. Yang divides itself into innumerable shen (good spirits) abiding, e.g., in sun, moon, stars, rivers, mountains. The shen of one's ancestors are regarded as included among the gods. Yin is divisible into innumerable kwei, evil spirits or demons that harass men and must be driven away. Heading up all the spirits is T'ien, heaven, also called Ti, emp., or Shang-ti, supreme emp. In its animist, ancestor worship, polytheism, and polydemonism Confucianism has affinities with some schools of Hinduism.

4. From 200 BC to AD 900 Taoism* and Buddhism* greatly influenced Confucianism; the neo-Confucianism resulting during the Sung dynasty had epistemological and metaphysical foundations for its ethics. The religious leadership of the people rested with the emp., called Son of Heaven, until the fall of the empire 1912.

The welfare of the nation was regarded as depending on the proper observance by the emp. of the religious rites, esp. the worship of heaven and earth at the winter and summer solstices resp., at the great altars S and N of Peking. On these occasions the emp., also sacrificed at the tablets of his ancestors and to the sun, moon, stars, winds, rain, clouds, and thunder. Other gods in the pantheon of the state religion were the corn spirits, various mountains and streams in China, the principal seas, famous men and women of antiquity (e.g., Confucius and his disciples), the emp. who taught the people agriculture, the first breeder of silkworms, and the planet Jupiter. Still other gods were worshiped by the mandarins and authorities in the provinces, e.g., physicians of ancient times, a star that is regarded as patron of classical studies, the gods and goddesses of walls and moats, cannons, water, rain, architecture, kilns, and storehouses. Three annual sacrifices were brought for the repose and refreshment of the souls of the departed in gen. There are numerous temples throughout the empire; though there is no priesthood, religious observances are thoroughly ritualistic and attended by great pomp. Sacrifices include swine, cattle, goats, and silks.

5. In his concern for the welfare of the state Confucius preserved what he thought was best in traditional teachings. He made his ethics revolve around jen (human-heartedness, or love; one of his 3 universal virtues, wisdom, love, and courage, and one of his 5 constant virtues, love, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and sincerity). His 5 cardinal relations included those of prince and minister (or ruler and subject), husband and wife, father and son, older brother and younger brother, and friend and friend. His Golden Rule took a negative form: “Do not to others what you do not want done to yourself.” He produced no philos, or theol. system. His teachings were entirely ethical; he did not speak of God, immortality, or sin and its remedy; punishment for wrongdoing is confined to this world; salvation comes by effort. His teachings met little success in his lifetime, but Confucian writings were hidden and escaped the Burning of the Books under Shih Huang Ti ca. 212 BC and thereafter gained in influence. State worship of Confucius began 195 BC under Liu Pang, founder of the Han dynasty, and ended 1912; imperial worship ceremonies were resumed at the Temple of Heaven by the president at the winter solstice 1914.

Confucianism spread to other countries, including Annam and Korea*; it entered Japan* at ca. the same time as Buddhism (6th c. after Christ) and was considerably altered by Jap. influences; e.g., in China the emp.'s rule as Son of Heaven was contingent on the pleasure and support of the people; in Jap. the emp. ruled as Son of Heaven theoretically by right of descent from Amaterasu,* practically by conquest and power; this lends significance to the denial of Hirohito, Jap. emp., in a January 1, 1946, rescript, that he is divine.

See also Chinese Philosophy; Religion, Comparative, Bibliography; Sacred Literature. AJB

Edited by: Erwin L. Lueker, Luther Poellot, Paul Jackson
©Concordia Publishing House, 2000, All rights Reserved. Reproduced with Permission

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Content Reproduced with Permission

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