Founder Chiu King 550-479 B.C. - Shantung Province, China
Confucianism and Taoism laid the basic generational foundation within the psyche of the Chinese people which would be passed down for nearly 25 centuries and ultimately pave the way for the rapid acceptance of communism in China in the 1950s.
It is, presumably, for this reason that these Chinese Traditional religions are so readily tolerated by the communist Chinese government today, while nearly every other religion is not.
Chiu King was a contemporary of Siddhartha Gautama (The Buddha) and born just before Plato and Socrates, he went from state to state in China calling for social and political reform.
He was referred to by his disciples as “King Fu-tzu” or ‘Kung the Master’ which was Latinized into the word Confucius. Although Confucius referred to himself as simply a “story teller”, his disciples considered him a wise teacher and his belief system spread rapidly.
As with all world religions, sects, Christian denominations, and cults, the infant belief system requires a transferral from the founding leadership to a strong successor in order to survive, in the case of Confucianism, that successor was Meng-tzu (Latinized Mencius) born in 371 BC. He would became the major proponent of Confucianism and was raised to the rank of 2nd only to Confucius himself
The authoritative writings of Confucianism consists of the Five Classics called Wu Jing these are the collected manuscripts of the ancients which Confucius edited and annotated with commentaries. He put these works into 4 books and wrote the 5th one himself. They have gone through much editing and alteration over the last 2500 years:
The Book of Anals (Shu K’ing) A work of history of the 5 prior Chinese dynasties to Confucius time.
The Book of Poetry (Shih Ching) An ancient book of poetry believed by Confucius to make one virtuous.
The Book of Ceremonies (Li Chi) Taught man to act in an honorable way like the ancients (an important value to Confucius)
The Anals of Spring and Autumn (Ch’un Ch’iu) Commentaries written by Confucius on the state of Lu during Confucius time.
Along with the Five Classics listed above, Confucians also utilize The Four Books (Si Shu) known as “The Teachings of Confucius” some of which were used by him for teaching, while others were written by his disciples and comprise instruction collected into the following works:
- The Analects – The sayings of Confucius, collected by his followers. Contains biographical information of Confucius.
- The Great Learning
- The Doctrine of the Mean – details the relationship of man to the universal order.
- The Book of Mencius – The 1st exposition on Confucianism ever written.
The key practices of Confucianism primarily consist of Doctrinal Principles and a term which has recently become popular in Western culture: Feng Shui.
- The Doctrinal Principles are sometimes called the "6 ways"
- Jen – The “negative” form of the golden rule - given by Jesus: Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire” – Confucius, The Analects XV:24
- Chun-tzu – acting like a true gentleman by the following practices:
Humility, magnanimity, sincerity, diligence, and graciousness.
- Cheng-ming – everyone must act his proper part (know your place and do
not attempt to be or act otherwise). “The ruler must be the ruler, the subject must be the subject…”
- Te – means power – to rule is achieved by leaders who are virtuous and can inspire their subjects to obedience through example.
- Li – has multiple meanings depending on the context where it is found: propriety, reverence, courtesy, ritual, or the ideal standard of conduct.
- Wen – arts of peace: music, poetry, & art should be manifest throughout China.
- Feng Shui - Chinese word of “geomancy” a branch of divination to determine appropriate sites for houses or graves. c.f. divining rods for water
Founded by Lao Tzu or Laozi, appx 5-6th century B.C, China15Taoism is a mystical enigmatic belief system whose founder, Lao Tzu was a contemporary of Confucius(604-570 BC)
Philosophical Taoism began around 300 BC; Religious Taoism began 2nd century BC
It is ultimately considered a “dead religion” but is finding strange revival in “hippies”
of the drug cultures of the 60s and even today (The Tao of Steve)
a. Lao Tzu “Old Philosopher” – a lower level ruler in China like Confucius would
be. He railed against the tyranny of rulers and government in general. He believed that men were supposed to live simple lives without honor and without a fruitless desire for knowledge.
b. Chuang-Tzu – Prolific author in the 4th century, popularizing the teachings of Lao
Tzu. He wrote 33 books.
2. Authoritative writings – Tao Te King “The Way and Its Power” also known as the Lao Tzu.
Written by Lao Tzu himself, it is a little booklet of about 5000 words (about 15 pages)
3. Practices - “The Tao that can be understood is not the real Tao.” or “Those who know, don’t
say. And those that say, don’t know.” – Tao Te King chapter LVI
a. The Tao is “The Way” of ultimate reality, the universe, and how someone should
order their life. To achieve this, one must practice “Wu Wei”
b. Wu Wei – literally means ‘inaction’ – avoidance of all aggressiveness by doing that
which is natural and spontaneous. Live passively, avoiding all forms of stress and violence to properly commune with all nature.
c. Yin & Yang – natural opposites found in nature used to explain the ebb and flow of
man and nature. By finding a balance of these opposites, one can find ‘harmony’ and ultimate fulfillment.
d. According to the Tao Te King:
i. It is the way of the Tao to act without thinking of acting;
ii. To conduct affairs without felling the trouble of them (stress);
iii. To taste without discerning any flavor;
iv. To consider what is small as great, and a few as many;
v. To recompense injury with kindness.
vi. The master of it (The Tao) anticipates things that are difficult while they
are easy, and does things that would become great while they are small.
C. Key Questions
1. Who or what is God to the Confucian?16 to the Taoist?
a. Ancestor Worship – prevalent in China during Confucius’ day. The continued
existence of the ancestors in spirit is dependent upon the attention given them by their living relatives. It is also believed that the ancestors can control the fortunes of their families. This results in the living sometimes living in fear of the dead. It expresses the hope that the ancestors will bless the living with children, prosperity, and harmony, and all that is most worthwhile.
(c.f. tribal survival of Animism)
b. In 195 BC, the Emperor of China offered sacrifice at Confucius’ tomb and from
that time up to at least 1914 AD, Confucius was worshiped as deity
c. Confucianism is not a religion in the sense of man relating to the Almighty but is
rather an ethical system teaching man how to get along with his fellow man.
d. “You are not able to serve man, how can you serve the spirits?” - Confucius
The ethical system of self-effort leaves no room nor need for any God.
e. All things emanate from the Tao (The Way) which is an “impersonal force”
however as time went on gods were brought into the religious system, along with a belief in heaven and hell and the ultimate deification of Lao-Tzu.
2. Who or what is man according to the Confucian? to the Taoist?
a. Confucius hinted at the fact that man at his core, was basically good.
b. Mencius taught that man was ‘basically good’ and likened his goodness to the flow
of water that can flow downward or made to flow uphill by force. Basically, man is good unless an external force causes him to be otherwise.
(c.f. Humanist Manifesto)
c. In Taoism, man is a creature that is simply a transformation from material force that
proceeded from the Tao and will return to the Tao.
d. The Taoist belittles human effort and tells its adherents to refrain from any action
via TOTAL passivity. c.f. hippy generation ‘tune in drop out’
3. How does Confucianism attempt to solve the problem of evil? Taoism?
a. Confucianism attempts to solve the problem of evil by teaching people to adhere an
ethical code which will bring about a more fulfilling life.
b. The Taoist believes that “always without desire we must be found” c.f Buddhism
c. The Taoist looks for ways to find harmony between the opposites of life: The Yin
and Yang but ultimately has no way to solve the problem of evil due to its
passivity and emphasis on withdrawing from the ills of society.
4. What does salvation and/or the afterlife look like to the Confucian? to the Taoist?
a. “You do not even understand life, how can you understand death?” – Confucius
b. The Analects teach that Confucius believed that if there was indeed a heaven, it was
on his side regarding the principles he taught. He never necessary declared belief in or taught of a heaven. He just shifted the current emphasis in China from heaven to earth to bring about better conduct. He felt it dangerous to delve into study of the supernatural so the question has remained open for 2500 years to his followers.
c. Tao – Chuang Tzu when asked about his reaction to his wife dying: “I realize that
originally she had no life; and not only no life, she had no form; not only no form, she had no material force. In the limbo of existence and non-existence, there was transformation and the material force transformed to became form, and the form transformed to became life and life became birth has transformed to become death. This is like the rotation of the 4 seasons: spring, summer, fall, & winter. Now she lies asleep in the great house (universe). For me to go about weeping and wailing would be to show my ignorance of destiny.”
d. ultimately, there is “Tao” which equates to the mystical and unknown “nirvana” &
“Brahman” of Hinduism and Buddhism. People go to ‘sleep’ and are transformed into this mysterious state as part of nature’s cycle.