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Creation in Confucianism

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Confucianism is a moral and social framework developed by the Chinese philosopher and government official, Confucius. Confucianism provides a set of principles explaining how moral individuals should act. It is grounded in values such as respect of hierarchies and filial piety. Confucianism is not a succinct religion and the followers of different faiths, such as Shintoism and Buddhism, can also support Confucian principles. Because of its focus upon the appropriate conduct of human beings, Confucianism does not offer a succinct creation myth. Creation in ConfucianismThe behavior of the gods or other supernatural beings did not really interest Confucius and are discussed only tangentially as a springboard for the discussion of persons.

Confucianism and Forces of Nature

Confucianism does discuss the fundamental forces of nature that the Chinese believed contributed to the creation of the world. For example, Confucianism speaks of the hot and masculine yin being tempered by the cool and feminine yang. These two fundamental spiritual forces were believed to have generated the act of creation. They were also essential to the longevity and maintenance of life. Rather than focus upon how these forces created the world or humans, Confucius assumed that they were vital to creation and then explained how they would continue to guide the lives of men by supporting hierarchies, respect and other Confucian values.

Confucianism Thought on Creation

While Confucianism is filled with a myriad of sayings and truisms that encompass the development of this philosophy, researchers have noted that Confucian thought is guided five basic principles. These include:

  • Jen – Jen refers to the character of human being that should be present in all relationships between men. Although Confucius noted that he had never seen Jen fully manifested in society it referred to the benevolence, respect and unselfishness that one man should show to another.
  • Chun Tzu - Chun Tzu is noted to be the opposite of a petty person and is meant to represent humanity at its best. A person that embodies this quality is noted to be a true gentleman and hostess, satisfied and content in an environment surrounded by others.
  • Li – Li has two meanings under Confucianism. The first meaning refers to propriety. Confucius felt that most individuals needed help with propriety. As such, he collected what he believed to be the finest examples of propriety and put them into writing for others to follow. The second meaning of Li is ritual in the sense that the individual should do what is right. In this case, Li connotes rite, rather than right. However, the message is that the individual lives a life that is right in the context of respecting his fellow man.
  • Te – Te refers to the power by which men rule, however, Confucius did not believe that this power should be derived from subjugation. Rather Confucius believed that the power to rule should come from the willingness of the people to be ruled.
  • Wen – Wen is the final pillar of Confucian thought and refers to the creation of culture in the state. Confucius did not believe in the creation of art for art’s sake. Rather he felt that art should be created for the nobler task of uplifting society.
Considering Confucius’ views on ideal government, it becomes clear that Confucius saw the initial bond created between child and parent as being extended into the larger context of society. This process, when done properly would lead to a high degree of moral excellence. Confucius believed that those who achieved this state should serve in government. This would create the ideal community. “For Confucius, the ideal human community was bound together in a firm but flexible network of interpersonal relationships”. Li would serve as the basis for this process. “In Confucius’ ideal society, Li governs every aspect of interpersonal relations, including government. Because Li derives from relationships within the family, an ideal society is like a family writ large. Li, in other words, is the means by which the root value of filial piety grows and develops into a fully-developed”.

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