9 CONFUCIANISM BY Suh Hu Ⅰ In order to understand the teachings of Confucius, we must first understand the conditions of the age in which he lived. Confucius was born in 551 B.C. and died in 479 B.C. His was an age of great social upheaval and intellectual unrest. The system of feudalism which had existed in China for many centuries was breaking down, and the hundreds of feudal Stateswere being gradually conquered by a few rising powers. The rapid changes of political allegiances and the great misery andsuffering caused by the wars of conquest, had produced in China an era of intellectual unrest which might be justly called the Era of Chinese Enlightenment. There had arisen a great galaxy of public teachers much resembling the Greek Sophists, both in their educational activities and in their destructive criticism of the existing social and political institutions. One of the most illustrious representatives of this group was Lao Tze, the so-called founder of Taoism, a religion whichhe himself would have most probably repudiated had he lived to see it. Lao Tze was an anarchist and nihilist. He attributed all the evils of the time to the artificial institutions of civilization which have made men deviate from the innocent state of nature. Nature, said he, does nothing, and yet what does it fail to accomplish? So he advocated the abolition of all the arts and conventions and institutions of civilization and taught a return to the ways of nature. In politics, he favored the policy of laisses faire, of leaving everything to the work of nature, for, said he, "the net of nature is wide-meshed, but it loses nothing." Nature is "the great executioner" ever just and ever efficient. The age which produced such strong criticism as this was indeed an age of political chaos and moral degeneracy. There were, for instance, thirty-six cases of regicide recorded in a brief period 6 of about 200 years. Mencius who flourished two centuries later, described the age of Confucius in these words: "Perverse doctrines and violent deeds had been arising. There had been ministers murdering their princes and sons murdering their fathers. Confucius was afraid." Indeed Confucius was afraid. He toiled and taught and travelled throughout his long life in the hope that he might do something toward the reformation of the corrupt age. He knew Lao Tze and is said to have studied under him. He was probably influenced by the latter's conception of nature as that which does nothing and yet achieves everything. But he could not believe with him that the remedy lies in the abolition of all institutions of civilization. Confucius saw in nature the great principle of order. Said he: "What does nature say? The seasons come and go, and all things grow. What does nature say?" The principle of order is the basic concept of Confucianism. Confucianism aims at the establishment of an order of ideal relations. In the Book of Change, we read: "When the father is father, the son is son, the elder brother is elder brother, the younger brother is younger brother, the husband is husband and the wife is wife, then the family is in proper order. And when all families are in proper order, all is right with the world." Again, in the Lun Yu, we read that, when asked about government, Confucius answered: "Prince the prince, minister the minister, father the father and son the son." That is to say, the Confucian ethics is a system of ideal relations in which every father is fatherly, every child is filially pious, every husband and wife live in perfect concord and peace, every minister faithfully performs his ministerial duties, and every ruler is, and is regarded as, a ruler. This doctrine is commonly expressed in the principle of five relations; namely, that "there should be love between parents and children, righteousness between rulers and subjects; distinction between husband and wife;
10 order and respect between the aged and the young, and faithfulness between friends." That is Confucianism. After many years of idealization and romanticization of Confucianism, I have come back to this apparently prosaic and uninteresting interpretation, because I have become more and more convinced that in this relationalism lies both the strength and weakness of the Confucian system. Confucius was first and last a humanist. His interest was in this world and in this life. He was never a religious man in the ordinary sense of the term. He accepted the religious rites of his time as the Stoics accepted the religious rites of Rome. And if he labored to preserve the traditional rites and rituals of worship, sacrifice, burial, mourning, etc., it was not necessarily because he believed in the after life or in the existence of spirits and gods, but because he believed that the cultivation of such ceremonies and sacrifices would tend to improve and consolidate the relations between man and man. TsanTze, one of his disciples, made this significant remark about the practice of ancestral worship and death rituals: "Respect death and recall forefathers, and the good in men will again grow sturdy." Herein lies the essence and the justification of what is ordinarily regarded as the "religious" phase of Confucianism, which, though originated longbefore the time of Confucius, was incorporated into the Confucian system because its cultivation was believed to be conducive to the strengthening of human relations. Ⅱ The relationalism of Confucius was later developed by the Confucians in two seemingly similar but fundamentally different directions. My own conception of this difference is that the one regards the family as the centre of relations, and the other makes the individual the centre of activities. I take two Confucian classics as the typical representations of the two views. The first is represented by the Book of Filial Duty (Hsiao King), the second by the Book of Great Learning (Ta Hsuoh). The first and earlier development of the Confucian system makes filial piety the summumbonum of morality. "Filial piety," says the Book of Filial Duty, "is the foundation of all virtue, and the seed of all education. Every hair and skin of our body is received from our parents, and should not be injured: that is the beginning of filial duty. Then we should always so conduct ourselves and carry out our beliefs that we may establish our own reputation and thereby glorify our parents: that is the end of filial duty. It begins with serving one's parents, finds expression in serving one's princes, and ends in establishing one's own character." The Book of Filial Duty then devotes one chapter each to the proper duties of the Son of Heaven, the princes, the grand officers, the gentry, and the common people. Each fulfils his filial duty by faithfully performing the particular duties appropriate to his particular status in the social order. And he should so perform these duties not because he is a citizen, an official, a prince, or an emperor, but because he is the son of his parents. Thus, for instance, while a eugenist may say that we owe it to our posterity not to drink or otherwise dissipate our energies, the Confucian would tell you that you must not injure your body and vitality because you owe them to your parents. The Confucians have worked out a detailed code as to one's duties towards one's parents from morning to evening, from childhood to death, in poverty as well as in wealth, for better and for worse. In order to disseminate these ideas, numerous stories and legends of pious sons and daughters and daughters-in-law have been recorded or invented to give concrete examples of filial piety. Pious sons and daughters have been honored by the various dynasties and are given a separate section in the national biographies. The doctrine of filial piety has greatly influenced many of the social and political institutions of the nation. One of the most interesting examples is the custom of retrogressive honors, which consists of conferring titular honors on the parents, living or dead, of all high officials. Such honors at times go as far as five generations back of the present recipient. Even Buddhism, which 7
11 renounces all family relations, has not escaped the influence of this doctrine. Says a Chinese proverb: "When a son becomes a Buddha, the whole family goes to Heaven." Similarly, the sins of the dead are said to be expiated by the good deeds of their living children. Thus the Buddhistic doctrine of Karma becomes a principle of collective responsibility. Similarly, when a man becomes wealthy or attains high official honors, he is expected not only to support his own parents, which goes without saying, but also to give support to a host of cousins, uncles and other near and remote relatives. In short, in this system, a man is not a man, but a son of his parents. Whatever he does, he does as a son. If he disgraces himself, he thereby disgraces his parents. If he achieves anything, the credit goes back five generations. If he marries, he does not marry his wife, but his parents' daughter-in-law. If he has a son, he is having a male descendant to continue his ancestral line. And if he has no son, he must either adopt a son of his brother or cousin, or marry a second wife. And this is no question of personal morality, but a matter of family responsibility. For, said Mencius, "there are three sins against filial piety, and the greatest of all is not to have posterity." Ⅲ This phase of Confucianism has continued to dominate and mould Chinese life and thought and institution for more than 2,000 years. But the Chinese mind at last grew tired of it, and a new line of development was inaugurated when the philosophers of the Sung dynasty ( A.D.) discovered a little work of the Confucian school entitled "The Great Learning." This is a short treatise of about 1,750 words, of unknown authorship, which for over a thousand years had remained one of the forty odd books collected under the title of Li Ki or The Book of Rites. This long-neglected book was suddenly discovered by the Sung philosophers, who finally exalted it to the enviable position of one of the Four Books of Confucianism. And this little treatise of 1,750 words has for the last 900 years been the Novum Organum of Confucianism or, more correctly speaking, of Neo-Confucianism, not necessarily because of its intrinsic merits, but because of what has been read into it. The main thesis of this book, which forms the essence of Neo-Confucianism, is this: When things are thoroughly investigated, knowledge will be extended to the utmost. When knowledge is extended to the utmost, our ideas will be made true. When our ideas are made true, our minds will be rectified. When our minds are rectified, our individual character will be improved. When our individual character is improved, our family will be well ordered. When our families are well ordered, the State will be well governed. When the States are well governed, the whole world will be in peace. The whole doctrine is summed up in this sentence: "From the Son of Heaven to the common people, all must make the perfection of the individual the foundation of everything else." This, you will notice, is also a kind of relationalism. But it differs from the other school in that, instead of making filial piety the beginning and the end of all human conduct, it makes the individual the centre of all activity and all relations. All extension of knowledge and all rectification of purpose are for the perfection of the individual. And from the individual there radiate his duties and relations to the family, the State and the world at large. The individual is a concrete centre of activity and is no longer merely a son of his parents. It differs from the extreme views of individualism in that it conceives of the individual not as an isolated being, but in active relationship to the family, to society, to the State, and to humanity in general. The perfection of individual character is not regarded as an end in itself, but as the necessary preliminary preparation for his larger duties and endeavors. This phase of Confucianism has ever since the eleventh century been the dominating system of moral teaching in China. While it has never consciously come into open conflict with the family collectivism of the other and older school, it has undoubtedly enriched the Confucian ethics to a greater extent than it is generally recognized. This shifting of emphasis from family collectivism to individual perfection becomes more unmistakable 8
12 when we study the new Neo-Confucianism of the Ming Dynasty ( ), which is commonly known as the school of Wang Yang-Ming ( ). This new school went much further than the Sung philosophers in its emphasis on the individual. It holds that the individual has within himself the "intuitive knowledge" which is co-extensive with the cosmic reason and which constitutes the highest authority for himself in questions of truth and morality. While we cannot now enter into the details of the teachings of this new school, it suffices to say that both the Sung and Ming schools of Confucians represented the different stages of a continuous development of Confucianism from the traditional family collectivism to a conscious recognition of the place and worth of the individual. IV Confucianism has had the greatest influence in moulding the thought and life and institutions of the Chinese nation. Many there are who believe that Confucianism has been responsible for much of the social and political evils in China and has retarded the progress of the nation by its absolute domination over the other and non-confucian schools of thought. And it is the belief of many thoughtful persons in China that the Confucian system of ethics is incompatible with modern ideas and ideals such as the principles of individual liberty and democratic government. It is for that reason that the recent attempts constitutionally to establish Confucianism as the state religion of China have met with tremendous opposition and have failed in spite of the great support they have received from the conservatives and the reactionary monarchists. It seems certain that in these days of intellectual emancipation it is very unlikely that Confucianism will ever recover its former absolute authority over the Chinese mind. And if Confucianism cannot hope to survive without the help of a constitutional establishment, then it has certainly outlived its vitality and deserves its dethronement and even condemnation. And as far as the present writer can see, if Confucianism is to survive at all, its future will largely depend on its ability to liberate itself from the traditional family collectivism and so to re-interpret its relational ethics as more fully to develop its essential doctrine that all education should contribute toward the perfection of individual conduct and character, and that the improvement of individual character is the indispensable preliminary preparation for the realization of the larger self in active participation in the ordering of the family, the community, the State and humanity at large. ( 席 云 舒 整 理 ) 胡 适 与 丹 诺 自 传 张 书 克 一 中 学 时 曾 经 读 过 一 本 台 港 散 文 选 真 ( 喻 大 翔 编, 武 汉 出 版 社 1989 年 版 ), 其 中 收 有 陈 之 藩 的 一 篇 散 文 丹 诺 自 传 纪 念 适 之 先 生 之 六 这 大 概 是 我 第 一 次 接 触 陈 之 藩 的 文 章 同 时 大 概 也 是 我 第 一 次 知 道 世 界 上 有 适 之 先 生 其 人 陈 文 说 :1957 年 夏 天, 陈 之 藩 在 纽 约, 忽 然 收 到 一 本 书, 是 胡 适 先 生 寄 来 的, 扉 页 上 写 着 : 一 位 最 可 敬 爱 的 美 国 人 自 传 送 给 之 藩 胡 适 一 九 五 七 年, 七 廿 ( 今 年 五 月 一 日, 芝 加 哥 全 市 纪 念 此 君 的 一 百 岁 ) 陈 之 藩 不 知 道 丹 诺 究 竟 是 何 许 人 也 他 拿 起 书 来 就 看, 一 下 子 被 吸 引 了 从 此 他 认 识 了 丹 诺, 经 常 搜 购 与 这 位 大 律 师 有 关 的 书 籍, 并 且 经 常 和 9
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