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Contemporary Confucianism
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March 11, 2014

Confucianism
The system of thought known as Confucianism has its roots in the teachings of the Chinese scholar Confucius, who lived over twenty-five hundred years ago. Confucius devised a set of guidelines for individual moral development and for creating a harmonious, orderly society. During the early twentieth century, Confucianism lost its dominance in the political and educational systems of China. Throughout the modern era, the moral teachings that form the heart of Confucianism have continued to shape the attitudes and behaviors of millions of people worldwide.(Coogan, 1998) The contemporary issues can be understood by examining the common characteristics of Confucianism and other eastern religions, analyzing the interactions between the modern world and Confucianism, and studying how those interactions influence Confucianism and the modern world.
Common Characteristics Among Eastern Religions
Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism are three religions that make up the essence of traditional, Chinese culture. While all three religions have differences, the religions also share fundamental elements such as purpose, principle, and teachings that have created a strong and long lasting way of life for the Chinese culture. When comparing religions a person can deduce that all religions have a purpose and follow a specific set of rules, guidelines, and traditions. The vessel that leads each individual to their ultimate purpose can be different, as well as where the instructions originate from. The similar purpose of these Eastern religions is for the attainment of inner harmony with self and nature.(Coogan, 1998) This purpose can be achieved by living by a set of principles. The principles of these religions vary slightly but essentially, all lead to the same path. These principles teach believers to learn ethical and moral standards that will improve the follower’s relationship with the Universe, and Confucianism specifically, provides a system of rules for proper behavior and for good government. Such principles include the importance of meditation and pacifism as a means of achieving inner harmony and a higher level of existence for a particular believer. Confucianism, eventually, became the basis of a state religion and is considered both a religion, as well as a philosophy in China, and Asia as a whole. Confucianism basically, emphasizes human conduct over belief in God. Most followers believe in one God, Ti’en or Heaven, but in the way a Deist would rather than in the way a person who believes in Christianity would. Confucianism teaches that a person can follow more than one path or practice more than one religion and does not consider it a paradox. Political ideas and social harmony are acceptable notions in the teachings of Confucius, and support the ideas about brotherhood of humanity.(Slavicek, 2002) The teachings become divided at that point with Taoism and Buddhism. Taoism focuses on health and the human body, believes in Deities, and super natural beliefs. Buddhism accentuates psychology and nature of the mind. Ultimately, all three religions come together in the idea of living life in accordance of the natural way through its purpose, principles, and teachings.(Breuilly, O’Brien, & Palmer, 1997)
Interaction between the modern world and Confucianism
The world as we know has changed is so many ways. Many things in the modern world have changed the way religion is practiced such as money, urbanism, women’s rights and science and technology. The new world order makes cross-cultural contact practically unavoidable as television, radio, film, travel, books, and the Internet all work to narrow the gulfs that once separated Religions and people.
Confucianism was harshly, criticized by the New Culture Movement, in the early 20th century. The premise of the movement was that virtually everything about China’s traditional culture was holding it back from becoming a modern nation-state. On the list was Confucianism. The reformers felt that there was nothing worth salvaging in Confucianism. At the same time, some intellectuals felt that Confucianism, too, could be reformed over time. Aspects of Buddhism and Taoism philosophy influenced Confucianism to be reformed to a more modern religion.
The New Culture Movement, also, criticized Confucianism for its age and gender-based hierarchies. Confucianism stayed with the old Chinese tradition that sons were preferred over daughters, because women were inferior to the man. Exemplary behavior and uncomplaining obedience was expected of them. By custom, aristocratic men and women lived separately. Men had multiple wives and concubines, but women were not allowed to see men other than their close relatives, husbands, or masters, or the palace eunuchs. At no point in her life was a woman, according to the traditional Confucian view, expected to function as an autonomous being free of male control. Prior to that, women enjoyed a relatively greater degree of freedom in Confucian societies, and some women actually played prominent roles as Confucian thinkers, although this was unusual. Dong reduces what are, at best, suggestive cosmological associations to gender essentialism: “The husband is yang and the wife is yin, the male acts; the female follows.” In that very same era, a Confucian woman, Named Ban Zhao wrote her Nüjie (Lessons for Women), in which she advocates education for women using Confucian arguments. Even so, it must be acknowledged that Ban’s text mostly served to reinforce the growing Confucian conviction that women best fulfilled their spiritual potential by becoming dutiful wives and mothers. The association of Confucianism with these kinds of social views and practices help drive progressively-minded East Asian thinkers far from the tradition in the 20th century. Until recently, few liberal-minded Chinese women would have considered endorsing Confucianism, However, the recent revival of Confucianism as a popular ideology in mainland China has been driven, in part, by the immense appeal of media produced by none other than a woman, Beijing Normal University professor Yu Dan. In her writings and her television and radio broadcasts, Yu has tended to stress the application of Confucian teachings to contemporary concerns such as stress reduction and finding meaning in one’s job, and has avoided more controversial aspects of the tradition. The fact that a woman stands at the center of the current Confucian revival in China speaks volumes about the capacity of Confucianism to grow beyond its past limitations.
Confucianism has become a more popular religion or way of living because of books television and Internet. Through other people’s views and willingness to teach Confucianism, more of the world has become aware. A charismatic Beijing Normal University professor was plucked from obscurity to host a state television program that explained “The Analects of Confucius,” a collection of teachings attributed to the philosopher, in everyday language. Professor Yu Dan then wrote a $3 book based on her lectures, which sold 4 million copies, more than double the sales of the previous bestseller, “Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone.” This is just one example of how others want and can learn about the religion, and how books and modern television works to teach others.
Like the struggles of bridging the gap between the American Baby Boomer Generation and Generation Z, so continues the toils of incorporating traditional Confucianism cultures with modernized new age Confucianism principles. Integration of eastern and western religious beliefs has vastly influenced and contributed to changes in the modern age of Confucianism.
Traditional Confucians strongly value and believe in applying the fundamental, ethical principles of Confucianism teachings. Striving daily to achieve harmony with mankind and nature by expressing mercy, maintaining social order, and exercising self-responsibility are the doctrines of old. Although the religious concepts of the basic principles remain hierarchy; largely, actions of incorporating westernized education, industrialization, family structure, war, and politics have practically comprised and contradicts the actions in the modern society of Confucianism.
Changing Traditional Confucian’s Principles
The evolution of time has continually changed the restructuring of Confucianism practices. Classified as the revival era, the Song dynasty (950-1279) also termed “Neo-Confucianism” challenged the traditional philosophical and religious teachings (Adler. pg. 4. 2011). Confucian emphasized harmony and social responsibility; however, the revival eras promoted war for the purposes of prosperity in securing and stabilizing society, political motivates, and economic industries. In addition, the Song Dynasty introduced the earliest forms of currency and gun powder (Nova. 2009).
The notable, May 4th Movement of 1949 was a volatile turning point for traditional practices because of sweeping socialism, which changed the common family structure during that period in society. According to Joseph Adler, “Confucian ethics had been based on the family, so any remnants of Confucian thought were, obviously, regarded as a millstone around the neck of the “New China” (2011. p. 8). As a result, callous actions were evoked for the purposes of eradicating all customs of the religion.
Confucianism in the 21st Century
Although decades have brought about many changes, essential Confucianism principles are yet evident in the modern times of the 21st century. Striving to find a place of peace, harmony, and balance in life, is a frequent struggle within confines of chaotic, hectic work responsibilities, family, and an unstable economy. Even the slightest actions of frustration and rudeness from stressed out people are often taken out on others; however, those who follow Confucian teachings of benevolence, love, and self-control continue to express their beliefs through meek, humanitarian actions. In addition, trust in business relationships is vital to disciples of Confucianism. Business partnerships are not based solely on contract verbalizing and financial gain but are also heavily weighed on trust of Confucian devotees. According to the Journal of Business Ethics, “This virtue serves a purpose in encouraging a person to self-regulate in following through on commitments made in relationships…” (2011. p. 673. DOI 10.1007). Moreover, respect for elders, fathers, and parents are imperative to Confucianism culture.
Military growth and threats to the global economy are events that create panic to world-wide governing authorities. These developments and crisis have enacted what is presently known as “the rise of China” and “hard power” government (Junbo. 2009). However, the social order of harmony, based on traditional philosophies of Confucianism teachings termed “soft power” are heightened and highly pursued in the cultural movement, in Beijing. While this may not appear to be an issue to non- supporters of Confucian, Confucianism is yet dominating in Chinese traditions. According to United States politician-scholar, Joseph Nye, soft power is the capability to gain what one wants through co-option and appeal, as opposed to hard power, which is the use of intimidation and compensation. By this, culture is not soft power itself, but a very important potential resource of it (Nye. 2009). In essence, the fundamental teachings of Confucian play a vital role in Confucianism humanities and cultures; therefore, values should not be voided but researched and reassessed to enhance effective, nurturing societies.
Conclusion
The eastern religions imparted that the teachings of the wise men for a natural way of life were imperative to success and longevity of the Chinese culture. Followers of those wise men gradually incorporated and matured in to the essence of these teachings. The followers of K’ung Futzu, better known as Confucius, saw him as a moral teacher and wise man, not necessarily a religious god, prophet, or leader. Throughout the dramatic ups and downs Confucianism has experienced during the course of the twentieth century, the ancient philosophy quietly lived on in the hearts and minds of many of the Chinese citizens. Above all, Confucianism lived on in Chinese attitudes toward family. Although the ruling elite have attempted to replace the traditional Confucian loyalty to family with loyalty to the state, the Confucian ideal of family was too deeply ingrained in Chinese life to be easily abandoned. Today, especially in rural areas where most Chinese reside, daily life continues to revolve around the family, just as it did when Confucianism was China’s official ideology.(Breuilly et al., 1997) What will be the role of Confucianism in the twenty-first century? Will it survive as a vibrant and influential system of belief or will it be little more than a remnant of East Asia’s past? In our rapidly changing world, can a two-thousand-year old philosophy still make a meaningful contribution to the quality of people’s personal lives and to society as a whole? For one to fully understand Chinese tradition and the richness of the Chinese culture, and other eastern cultures, it is vital to fully examine the history and how it relates to the modern era. The contemporary issues can be understood by examining the common characteristics of Confucianism and other eastern religions, analyzing the interactions between the modern world and Confucianism, and studying how those interactions influence Confucianism and the modern world. Confucianism has thought-provoking ideas, values, and teachings. If the world embraced some of the morals and values would it be a better place?

References
Adler J. (April 14, 2011). Pearson Living Religions Forum New York. Confucianism in China Today. Retrieved from website: http://www2.kenyon.edu/Depts/Religion/Fac/Adler/Writings/Confucianism%20Today.pdf
Breuilly, E., O’Brien, J., Palmer, M. (1997). Religions of the World. New York, NY: Transedition Limited and Fernleigh Books.
Chung, Douglas K. Confucianism: A Portrait. In Beversluis, Joel (Ed.). (1995). A Sourcebook for Earth’s Community of Religions. Grand Rapids: CoNexus Press
Coogan, M. D., (1998). The Illustrated Guide to World Religions. New York, NY: Oxford University Press.
Junbo J. (October 9, 2009). Asia Times. Confucianism a vital string in China's bow. Retrieved from website: http://www.atimes.com/atimes/China/KJ09Ad01.html

Nova. (2000). China’s Age of Invention. Retrieved from website: http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/nova/ancient/song-dynasty.html
Patheos Library. (2008-2014). Retrieved from http://www.patheos.com/Library/Confucianism/Resources/Bibliography.htm
Slavicek, L. (2002). Confucianism. San Diego, CA: Lucent Books.
Washingtonpost.com. (1996-2014). Retrieved from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2007/07/23/AR2007072301859_2.html
Woods P. & Lamond D. (2011). What Would Confucius Do? – ConfucianEthics and Self-Regulation in Management. Journal of Business Ethics (2011) 102:669–683 2011DOI 10.1007/s10551-011-0838-5. Retrieved from website: http://www.academia.edu/3778667/What_Would_Confucius_Do_-_Confucian_Ethics_and_Self-Regulation_in_Management

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