Confucianism in East Asian Cultures Essay

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Confucianism in East Asian Cultures

Confucianism is often characterized as a system that involves social and ethical philosophy as opposed to being purely a religion in the traditional definition of religion. As a matter of fact Confucianism is based on ancient religious foundations for the establishment of institutions, social values, and transcendent ideas of traditional societies. The paper is a critique of Confucian legacies in East Asian modernities, knowledge as well as pedagogies. Specific examples are drawn from China, Japan and Korea for the purpose of comparative analysis. These three countries in East Asia have all experienced historical repetitions of the disregarding followed by revival of the Confucian legacy at different times during their modernization. However, all of them have kept strong Confucian pedogic culture that frames ways in which knowledge is transmitted and applied for the definition of modernity in East Asia. Confucianism has a very immense continuity even though it has travelled widely and has been rewritten throughout time in history. There have been a lot of East Asian histographies, writings and rewritings of the Confucian legacy within the East Asian modernization since late 19th century (Kim, 2009).

Scholars have attributed lack of development in East Asia to tradition initially, now attributing the success to these traditions. In other words; Confucianism has been used as an account for both successes of moderation as well as its failures. Confucianism was being condemned as a cause of economic stagnation of East Asian countries within the 19th and 20th centauries and then it began being praised as a constituent in the rapid economic take-off, although it was belated, as well as sustaining industrialization process in Korea, Japan and China. Overall, Confucianism has been used as a frame of reference when it comes to explaining East Asia as though legacy of Confucianism is key when it comes to the understanding of the commonality of East Asia enigma concerning late development and fast modernization. The firm belief in Confucianism by these three countries apparently can be referred to as a major propelling force that drives their innovation and transparency within the society. One of the tenets of Confucian is "dedication to learning as a lifelong spiritual calling, emphasis on social relationships and moral integrity despite the temptations of fame, power and wealth." (Jeffrey L.R., 2013:Pp 7) This expressly drives everyone within the three countries to keep seeking knowledge with the moral integrity as a cornerstone hence the quick development.

Orgins of Confucianism in China

Looking at the development and origin of Confucianism in China, Korea and Japan respectively, it is realized that the founder was born in China 551 BCE, Confucius lived at a time when there was a lot of political turmoil. There were a lot of kingdoms that divided the area today known as China, each of which fought to dominate. Many people suffered displacement, hunger and even death as a result of the fighting and amidst all the anarchy, Confucius wanted to bring peace and order to this society (Cartwright, 2012). He wanted to do this as a high minister within the government but this was not possible therefore he strived to teach others how they can live in harmony with others around them as well as the principles of good governance. His teachings eventually were embraced by the society and he turned out to be one of China's greatest teachers and social philosophers (Kim, 2009). The focus of his teachings was mortal world of the rulers and those who are being ruled as opposed to life after death. In Confucianism peace and order were given the first priority. Rulers achieved harmony and order within their kingdoms when they abided by moral codes that were strict and sought after virtues. These virtues are such as humility, humanness, ritual, filial piety and diligence. Confucius also taught that the safety of the society was dependent on how people maintained and strengthened five key relationships namely; ruler and ruled, father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger and a friend to a friend. After the death of Confucius these teachings spread throughout China (Jeffrey L.R., 2013: Pp 10).

China, Korea and Japan had a strong bond that made it easy for Confucian philosophy to spread easily through these there countries. The Confucian system of society, thought and government has a very long history in Korea. The knowledge of its form can be traced in the earliest days of the peninsula. For many centauries Confucianism had a strong influence in Korea but it was not pervasive. With 14th and 15th centauries, the influence that Confucianism had on government and society started being decisive and particularly from the sixteenth century on it became dominant almost completely the thoughts and philosophies of the peninsula. Korea and Confucianism became closely intertwined during latter periods such that Korean history is not understandable without Confucianism, while studying Confucianism is greatly enriched by resorting to the Korean experience. The beginning of Confucianism in Korea dates back to the formation of the first states within the peninsula. From the period where writing was adopted by Koreans Confucian concepts were objects of study by court nobles and Korean literate for their masters in literary forms as opposed to its philosophical values. This means that from an early period, Confucian classics had an influence on intellectual life of classes that were concerned with ruling the country.

Confucianism in Korea

Though the first Confucian academy in Korea was established in 1954 shortly after the Geneva conference failed to resolve the political division at the Peninsula pitting the Communist North and the Capitalist South, the movement has had a longer contact and history within Korea. It all begins with China's relation with the Han dynasty which was a t the Northern peninsula of Korea and the Chinese built colonial outposts there in the second Century BCE. There is some evidence from the artefacts that are found in that region, though apart from that, there is little more evidence. It is ironical, though true, that Buddhism became the platform on which Confucianism was introduced into North Korea, bearing the hostile relations that these two religions had. Buddhism was accepted generally as the unifying factor at the peninsula and the silk road provided an avenue through which Buddhism spread as well. However, it was the same Buddhist monks that helped propagate the Confucian traditions in Korea (Jeffrey L.R., 2013: Pp 24). Indeed, Jeffrey points out further that there was a synthesis between the Buddhist and Confucian teachings that was referred to as Hwarangdo or way of the flower boys. This formed the basis of a group of elite young men that came into being in Silla with the attempt of unifying the North and the south of the Peninsula. Hwarangdo had five tenets; Loyalty to one's Lord, Filial Piety to One's parents and teachers, Trust in one's friends, No surrender in Battle and No taking of life without just cause. By the tenth century, Korea had a strong blend of Buddhism, Confucian and Daoism.

Confucianism in Japan

The reference most commonly used to Confucianism in Japan history, tradition and modern are the terms Jukyo and Jugaku. Ju is Japanese reading of Chinese words Ru that refers to weaklings. These terms were used by scholars who were trying to give an explanation of the Confucius teachings. Accepting this term was a reflection of how Confucius distaste for the coercive force as opposed the soft power of ethical examples as well as the efficiency of moral persuasion. Confucianism was first used as a result of contact between Jesuit missionaries and Chinese scholars. Viewing Confucianism in Japan as a philosophy began with Jesuit anthology, Confucius and was published in 1687. Hegel's view of the history of the philosophy was inclusive of the Asian philosophy together with the Chinese philosophy with Confucius being the prime representative of the Chinese philosophy, is what influenced the first definition of Japanese philosophy as well as the Japanese Confucian philosophy. The Confucian tradition in Japan is said to be possibly rooted in as an early as the 108 BCE when the Chinese set up the colonial posts in North Korea Peninsula. The Chinese diplomats who were stationed in these posts started travelling with the aim of exploration in the strait between the Korean Peninsula and the Japanese islands. It was in these voyages that the diplomats taught the Japanese Buddhism and by extension Confucian tradition just as was the case in Korea (Jeffrey L.R., n.: Pp 41).

Therefore we can say that the beginning of Confucianism was as a result of the teachings by Confucius and then spread through out East Asia to Korea and Japan. On the Confucianism in East Asia particularly China, Korea and Japan, it can be noted that what is termed as uniquely Confucian in these countries is secularism and meritocracy which is epitomized within tradition of exam oriented schooling as well as exam-based selecting civil servants in the regions. The state has control of the curriculum as well as…[continue]

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