9

What is the relationship between Confucianism and the Chinese government? If the question is too broad, then I am primarily wondering how does the current Chinese government view Confucianism? What about Neoconfucianism? Favorably? Unfavorably?

For example, I know historically, the communist revolution in China overturned much of the traditionalism in China and that traditional Confucianism suffered under it. However, I know Confucianism lingers in many ways in Chinese culture and the Chinese government hasn’t made it a priority to change this. I also know the Chinese government names many of its modern institutions using the word “Confucian” (like the controversial “Confucian Institutes”).

Is this merely a shallow use of the word, indicating nothing deeper? Has the government chosen to admit some Confucianism over time? Or is the Chinese government trying to rebrand Confucianism, instilling new meaning and ideas and then labeling them “Confucianism”?

6

There are quite a lot of "Confuscianism" in China. But the first thing you need to know is that Confuscianism is not a religion, but a theory of how to live, study, work, and you can say it is a cultural heritage of East Asia. There are no daily praying, there are no offering. Also the destruction of "tradition" only happened during the Mao era, and the Cultural Revolution that saw a lot of these heritage items being destroyed is, for now, being recognized as an error by the Party. And it is just the items and sites that is destroyed, the cultural practices are still alive--although there really aren't any about confuscianism.

For common Chinese citizens Confusciansim is just about respect the teacher, and follow the teachings in "Analects": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analects (usually is some lines in that book people more familiar with instead of having a whole copy of it the West does with bible). For China, Taiwan, Japan, and Korea, Confuscius is the first teacher, the one who started this idea of education is good and thus created a way that can turn a poor farm boy who is willing to learn into the Imperial Prime Minister--at least in theory. (This class-ascending ideology is why East Asians study so hard). Since Analects contain ideologies that authorities must be obeyed, and education is always important to developing nations regardless of which side of iron curtain the nation is in, these "common people confusciansim" is promoted by the Party.

Since Confuscius is a famous icon, the local governments in this "Confuscian circle" will sometimes held some extravagant activities to celebrate the birthday of Confuscius: https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E7%A5%AD%E5%AD%94. And there are places in China where they learn "Guo Xue(National heritage knowledge)": https://zh.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E5%9C%8B%E5%AD%B8. In some of the less well-regulated places, parents who worship the old way of parenting--e.g. bodily punishment--would send their kids to reciting tons of old books from Confuscius and other traditional knowledge--yes, books, not excrepts of books, the entire book. Both of these type of "local government Confuscianism" are good for economy, so the Party A-OK them.

The last type is where things gets tricker. In the original wisdom of Kong Zi (who the West called Confuscius) and his disciples, while the authority must be obeyed, the one with authority must be virtuous and be a good person. (Sort of like Plato's idea of philosopher king) Otherwise, the one below is going to rebel. Even though they never said that the subordinate should rebell against a bad boss, the Kings at that time is still not happy. I mean, who is going to restrain your action when you can roast people alive without reprecussion? That is when other philosopher at the time promoted a different theory--Fa Jia (Legalism). Basically it is a Chinese version of Machiavelli. The King should be able to rule unopposed, Legalism said, and if your rule is not absolute aren't you are in danger. This created the feared Qin Empire. After Qin empire collasped and replaced by Han dynasty, the Han emperors want to make themselves seem nicer than the ruthless and oppressive Qin Emperor, but they do want absolute power. So they combine both Legalism and Kong Zi's teaching and created this "Ruler's Confuscianism" where they held absolute power, do their dirty stuff. But outwardly, they will pretend to be virtuous, show themselves to be humble, and will admit to mistake. This is more or less easier to do in the past--where they can use imperial messager to lecture people, and right now--when Xi JinPing has controlled the internet and brutally suppressed any critism online.

11
  • Any comments on how Confucianism is viewed in newly democratic nations like Taiwan and South Korea? In Taiwan for example, I have the impression that the KMT is a lot more tied to the ideas of Confucius than the DPP is. Confucianism seems great for an authoritarian party, but do democratic parties embrace it?
    – Readin
    Aug 22 at 4:15
  • 1
    “The destruction of “tradition”… is, for now, being recognized as an error by the Party” – do you have a reference for this? The CCP has a reputation for rarely admitting errors. Aug 22 at 4:40
  • This is a document posted on the Chinese Ministry of Education that admitted that Cultural Revolution is an Error: moe.gov.cn/s78/A24/s7670/s7672/201605/t20160517_244816.html. And come on, Deng Xiao Ping got trashed really bad during the Cultural Revolution, won't he try to take revenge agaist this? The Party is not a monolithic group. There are infighting as well, almost look like the US if you know what I mean
    – Faito Dayo
    Aug 22 at 13:25
  • 1
    @Readin DPP claim themselves to be a "Taiwaness" Party and want to "Remove Chinese Culture": en.wikipedia.org/wiki/De-Sinicization. They might consider Confuscianism a "Chinese" thing, so they want that out too. But I can't find anything from Taiwan, it is mostly mainland mouthpiece saying DPP is removing Kong Zi. Also, South Korea also have "Kong Zi Celebration" too: en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Korean_Confucianism
    – Faito Dayo
    Aug 22 at 14:44
  • 1
    @JustSomeOldMan then how about this one? gov.cn/test/2008-06/23/content_1024934_3.htm Just copy the word and put them into Google translate. Also, if you want to know about the real China that isn't pure Party propaganda and pure western anti-China propaganda, the first way to do so is learn Chinese. A lot of misunderstanding comes from people not realizing Chinese culture and society make-up is very different compare to the western world.
    – Faito Dayo
    Aug 23 at 0:14

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .