Confucius (1950 words) Essay

Confucius
As Confucius’ philosophy still remains in the heart of many Chinese people. His
images of the greatest professional teacher of all time, the greatest
philosopher in Chinese history and his influence toward the future and the past
2000 years of Chinese civilization has made his thought the essence of the
Chinese culture. He always said the importance of teaching could change the
future of the civilization. And he also encouraged his students to explore the
various things to learn, but be very selective and careful. The purpose of
Confucius’ teaching was practical and designed to help each person improve his
character and conduct, and perhaps become prepared for an official position in
the court. According to one passage in the Analects, Confucius taught four
things: culture, conduct, loyalty, and truthfulness.1 Culture consisted of
literature and music. Confucius suggested the value of each: “Let a man be
stimulated by poetry, established in character by the rules of propriety, and
perfected by music.”2 These pursuits were means by which one may achieve
the higher ideal of following the Way. “The gentleman extensively studies
literature and restrains himself with the rules of propriety. Thus he will not
violate the Way.”3 And also “Set your heart upon the Way. Support
yourself by its virtue. Rely on goodness. Find recreation in the arts.”4
Confucius put the moral duties before the arts as the essential activities of
the gentleman. “A young man’s duty is to behave well to his parents at home
and to in love to all, and to cultivate the friendship of the good. If, when all
that is done, he has any energy to spare, then let him study the cultural
arts.”5 Confucius taught many topics around these subjects, but the most
importance of these is the propriety, ritual and the Way of being a Gentleman.


From these to achieve the Jen. Confucius had one overwhelming message: if we are
to achieve a state of orderliness and peace, we need to return to traditional
values of virtue. These values are based entirely on one concept: Jen, which is
best, translated as “humaneness.” This humaneness is a relatively
strange concept to Western people, because it is not primarily a practicable
virtue. The rules of propriety offered a code of accepted behaviour that
demonstrated to themselves and others that they were cultured and proper
gentlemen. For Confucius, the gentleman knew and behaved according to the rules
of propriety. In the first chapter of Analects, Yu-Tzu gives the value of the
rules of propriety. “Among the functions of propriety the most valuable is
that it establishes harmony. The Way of the ancient kings from this harmony got
its beauty. It is the guiding principle of all things great and small. If things
go amiss, and he who knows the harmony tries to achieve it without regulating it
by the rules of propriety, they will still go amiss.”6 Confucius explains
what can happen if conduct is not guided by propriety. “Courtesy not
bounded by the rules of propriety becomes tiresome. Caution not bounded by the
rules of propriety becomes timidity, daring becomes insubordination,
straightforwardness becomes rudeness.”7 Nevertheless, Confucius did not
believe in over-wallowing in ceremonies, and the feelings should be proper to
the situations. “In ceremonies it is better to be sparing than extravagant.

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Funeral ceremonies should be observed in deep sorrow rather than in fear.”8
By the same mean, “When substance, one becomes pedantic. When substance and
refinement are properly blended, then one is a gentleman.”9 Confucius knew
that the ancient routes had been reduced in his time, and that such reduction
was politic. “Were anyone today to serve his prince according to the full
rules of propriety he would be thought a sycophant.”10 Many Confucius’
students were interest to become officials in government and so as Confucius
himself, wanted the opportunity to advise rulers. His aim is to put his
knowledge into practice. “A man may be able to recite the three hundred
Odes; but, if when given a post in the government, he does not know how to act,
or when sent on a mission to far parts he cannot answer specific questions,
however extensive his knowledge may be, of what use is it to him.”11
Nevertheless, an official must improve himself and regulate his own conduct
before he could hope to rule over others. Hence, self-improvement was
prerequisite to engaging in politics. “If a minister makes his own conduct
correct, he will have no difficulty in assisting in government. But if he cannot
rectify himself, how can he possibly rectify others?”12 Despite Confucius
illustrates wisdom and Jen as essential to ruling, they still must be
accomplished with dignity, and according to propriety. He explains why. He whose
wisdom brings him into power, needs goodness to secure that power. Else, though
he gets it, he will certainly lose it. He whose wisdom brings him into power and
who has goodness to secure that power, if he has not dignity to approach the
common people, they will not respects him. He whose wisdom brought him into
power, who has goodness to secure that power, and dignity to approach the common
people, if he handles them contrary to the rules of propriety, full excellence
is not reached. 13 Confucius believed that official’s political action should
follow the Way. His actions will vary depending on whether the government is
following the Way or not. Confucius gives this advice for the different
circumstances: Have sincere faith and love learning. Be not afraid to die for
pursuing the good Way. Do not enter a state that pursues dangerous courses, nor
stay in a chaotic one. When the Way prevails under Heaven, then show yourself;
when it does not prevail, then hide. When he Way prevails in your own land and
you are poor and in a humble position, are ashamed of yourself. When the Way
does not prevail in your land and you are wealthy and in an honourable position,
are ashamed of yourself. 14 These was someone misunderstand how to put the Way
into practice. Chi K’ang-tzu asked Confucius if it would be a good idea to kill
those who had not the Way in order to help those who had the Way. Confucius
said, “You are there to rule, not to kill. If you desire what is good, the
people will be good. The essence of the gentleman is that of wind; the essence
of small people is that of grass. And when a wind blows over the grass, then it
bends.”15 The proper relationship between a ruler and his minister is the
ruler should love his people, while the minister should be loyal to the ruler.


Confucius explains the proper behaviour of each. “How can he be said truly
to love, who exacts no effort from the objects of his love? How can he be said
to be truly loyal, who refrains from admonishing the objects of his
loyalty?”16 Confucius summarizes the art of the ruler as follows: A country
of a thousand war-chariots cannot be administered unless the ruler attends
strictly to business, punctually observes his promises, is economical in
expenditure, loves the people, and uses the labour of the peasantry only at the
proper times of year.17 The main subject matter in Confucius’ teachings was how
to become a good and virtuous person by improving his own character. When Tzu-lu
asked if courage was to be esteemed by the gentleman, Confucius said, ” The
gentleman holds justice to be of highest importance. If a gentleman has courage
but neglects justice, he becomes insurgent. If an inferior man has courage but
neglects justice, he becomes a thief.” 18 Confucius’ main methods for
achieving these virtues was learning. However, learning is not enough to fulfil
the need. People must be able to think. “He who learns but does not think
is lost; he who thinks but does not learn is in danger.”19 Confucius also
mentions the friendship and the virtues of faithfulness and sincerity.

“First and foremost, be faithful to your superiors, keep all promises,
refuse the friendship of all who are not like you; and if you have made a
mistake, do not be afraid of admitting the fact and amending your ways.”20
Confucius explain to his students which kinds of friends are beneficial and
which are harmful to their characters. “There are three sorts of
friendships which are advantageous, and three which are injurious. Friendships
with the upright, friendships with the sincere, and friendships with those well
informed are advantageous. Friendships with those who flatter, friendships with
those of weak principle, and friendships with those talk cleverly are
injurious.”21 The master also reveal there are three sorts of pleasures
which are advantageous, and three which are injurious. Finding pleasure in the
discriminating study of ceremonies and music, finding pleasure in discussing the
good points in the conduct of others, and finding pleasure in having many wise
friends, these are advantageous. But finding pleasure in profligate enjoyments,
finding pleasure in idle gadding about, and finding pleasure in feasting, these
are injurious.22 Ritual, was an important subject of study. It has been
illustrate by the poetry and music from the study of Confucius. It is also the
Way of teaching people to the Gentleman level. “If a man is not humane,
what has he to do with ritual? If a man is not humane, what has he to do with
music?”23 Confucius had explain the relationship between ritual and Jen in
greater details. Yen Hui asked about humaneness. The master said, To subdue
oneself and return to ritual is humane. If for one day a ruler could subdue
himself and return to ritual, then all under Heaven would respond to the
humaneness in him. For does humaneness proceed from the man himself, or does it
proceed from others…do not speak what is contrary to ritual, and make no
movement, which is contrary to ritual.24 Poetry had broader humanistic values
for understanding oneself and other people, and even increased one’s awareness
of the natural world. My children, why do you not study the Book of Poetry? The
Odes serve to stimulate the mind. They may be used for purposes of
self-contemplation. They teach the art of sociability. They show how to regulate
feelings of resentment. From them you learn the more immediate duty of serving
one’s father, and the remoter one of serving one’s prince. From them we become
largely acquainted with the names of birds, beasts, and plants.”25
Confucius was also a great lover of music and played some himself. However, the
teaching of this art was apparently handed over to the Grand music master to
whom Confucius gave his ideas on how music should follow the ideal of the
ancient pattern and then allow for some improvisation while still maintaining
harmony. “Their music in so far as one can find out about it began with a
strict unison. Soon the musicians were given more liberty; but the tone remained
harmonious, brilliant, consistent, right on till the close.”26 Ssu-ma
Ch’ien quotes this exact passage, but then goes on to give more information in
regard to Confucius’ use of poetry and music. He once also said, “After my
return to Lu from Wei, I have been able to restore the musical tradition and
classify the music of sung and ya and restore the songs to their respective
original music.” In the ancient times, there were over three thousand
songs, but Confucius took out the duplicates and selected those that were suited
to good form. The collection began with the songs of Ch’i and Houchi, covered
the great period of the Shang and Chou kings and carried it down to the times of
the tyrants Yu and Li. It begins with a song of marital love, and therefore it
is said “the song Kuan-ch’ih heads the collection of Feng; Luming heads the
collection of the ‘Little ya’; and Ch’ingmiao heads the collection of the
Sung.” Confucius personally sang all the three hundred and five songs and
played the music on a string instrument to make sure that it fitted in with the
score of hsiao, wu, ya, and sung. Through his efforts, the tradition of ancient
rites and music was therefore rescued from oblivion and handed down to
posterity, that they might help in the carrying out of this ideal of a king’s
government and in the teaching of “the Six Arts.”

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