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Confucianism. Basic Precepts. Confucianism is practiced primarily by followers in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea) It is not meant as a means for understanding human destiny.

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Basic precepts
Basic Precepts

  • Confucianism is practiced primarily by followers in East Asia (China, Japan, Korea)

  • It is not meant as a means for understanding human destiny.

  • Confucianism concern itself with learning to be human. It focuses on ethical standards for behavior, with moral values and principles being emphasized.

  • It is often practiced by many who claim another faith as their religion.

  • The basic Confucian question: How must one behave so that all humanity will move towards a happier, healthier existence?

Life and times of confucius
Life and Times of Confucius

Lifespan(552 B.C.E-479 B.C.E.)

  • Born to a family of humble, but respected existence, K’ung Fu-tzu (Master K’ung) spent his early life becoming educated.

  • As he learned, he spent his time teaching others and traveled his country teaching.

  • It is from his disciples that his teachings and wisdom have passed through the centuries and that his name has become synonymous with wisdom and moral living.

  • His life was not particularly monumental. He struggled to have his message heard by influential members of society.

  • His philosophies were tempered by the political and social issues affecting East Asia during his lifetime, such as war, feudal civil unrest, moral decay and oppression.

  • Believed harmony and happiness centered around human relationships.


  • The Analects are the teachings, stories and sayings of Confucius as collected and written by his disciples.

    • Justice in dealing with enemies.

    • Believed in the tradition of ancestor worship.

    • Did not focus on the afterlife.

    • Was excited about learning and teaching and expected the same from his students.

Elements of confucianism
Elements of Confucianism

  • Tao: “The Way,” which is universal; what should be followed by everyone

  • Chun-tzu: Human Ideal or Superior Person

    • One must give credit to the heavens

    • Righteousness, humility and sincerity is essential

    • Acquired through learning (rather than inherited nobility)

    • Living a virtuous life so as to contribute to society

    • Respectful, reverent, generous and just

  • Jen (ruhn): Humaneness (the most supreme of all virtues)

    • Goodness, love, benevolence

    • Reciprocity is the one word to guide us

Elements of confucianism1
Elements of Confucianism

  • Li: Ritual etiquette and proper behavior

    • Behaving properly in a given situation

    • Great respect for ancient Chinese traditions

    • Wherever you are in society, you should behave accordingly and with decency

    • Sincerity and reverence are the most important aspects of ceremony

  • Wen: Cultural arts and music

    • Harmony and flow

    • Proper music for the proper occasion

    • Poetry and calligraphy

    • Ensure unity and continuity within society

    • Appreciation of improves ones moral quality and therefore society

  • Te: moral example

    • effective moral leadership

    • nurturing a society’s moral conscience

    • refers to lawmaking and government

Harmony in relationships
Harmony in Relationships

Confucius believed that there are relationships that all human beings are involved in at all times.

  • Self: the core of all human relationships

    • Determined by one’s social status

    • Learning and growing in maturity is the process of self-cultivation

    • Self-reflection and learning are lifelong

    • As the self is cultivated, society is improved

  • Family: one’s role in the family is extremely significant

    • Each member has responsibilities towards the others

    • Relations between elders and children should be one of respect

    • Everyone must live up to his/her moral responsibilities towards each other

    • Deep respect for elders

      • Ancestor worship is important because the dead can intercede for us.

Harmony in relationships1
Harmony in Relationships

  • Nation: concern for good government

    • Leaders should be educated and morally righteous.

    • Leaders should ensure the happiness of its citizens.

    • Everyone takes an active role in government when they live rightly.

  • Heaven: least spoken concept in Confucian tradition

    • Believed humanity must grow in its ability to serve those on earth before it had any hope of serving the spirit world.

    • Believed Heaven was the authority to be followed.

    • Heaven guides and nurtures humanity as the ultimate moral force.


Tao means “The Way” or “The Path”

  • Practiced primarily in East Asia, often in conjunction with Confucianism or Buddhism

  • More of a philosophy than a religious belief system

    Lao-Tzu, the “founder” of Taoism

  • Some believe he is only a mythical character

  • Believed to have lived around the 6th century B.C.E. and a contemporary of Confucius

  • Worked for the government and saw the social and political problems of his people

  • Believed to be the author of Tao’s sacred text, Tao Te Ching (dou day jing)

  • Philosophical wisdom serves as a foundation for Tao practice

  • Speaks of heavens and earth differently from the Western concept

  • Uses paradoxes (“Those with nothing to say speak often.”)


Chuang Tzu (jwahng), the second “founder” of Taoism

  • Lived about 250 years after Lao-Tzu.

  • His wisdom is compiled in the second sacred text, which is named for him.

    Some characteristics of Taoist thought:

  • It is indefinable. Tao must be experienced.

  • A power which surrounds and flows through all things.

  • Sees the need for nature, humans and the universe to be in harmony and balance.

  • Tao is the cause of the universe; the universe flows from Tao; Tao is immanent.

  • Tao surrounds everyone and all must listen to it to find enlightenment.

  • The goal is to become one with Tao.

Virtues and symbols
Virtues and Symbols

Yin and Yang

  • All things have balance

  • All things have an opposite

  • Only constant factor in life is change

  • Yin: the dark side; formed the earth; represents the feminine; calm, passive, introspective; healing; night; Taoism

  • Yang: the light side; formed the heavens; represents masculinity; energetic, agitation, aggression; day; Confucianism

  • All things have a combination of these two forces. Their opposition keeps them in balance.

    • Values are relative to one another.

    • We know good because we know evil.

    • Death is also change, though Taoism does not focus on questions of an afterlife.

Virtues and symbols1
Virtues and Symbols

The Tradition of the Sage

  • One who has mastered living with Tao and has achieved a state of spiritual perfection.

  • Living with Tao means living in harmony, unity and simplicity every day.


  • Primary virtue; living in harmony with Tao; belief in kindness due to reciprocity.

  • Three jewels: compassion, moderation, humility

  • Involves martial arts for many practitioners; noncompetition (judo uses the energy of another)

  • Paradoxes and opposites (action-less activity, giving up to win)

  • Cooperation with nature and ‘hands-off’ approach (avoids human interference)

  • Non-aggression and passivity in daily life: leaving well enough alone.

Shinto basics
Shinto Basics

  • The ancient and native religion of Japan

  • Shinto has adapted over time.

  • Incorporates Buddhism, Zen and Taoism as well as other Chinese traditions.

  • Generates patriotism and respect for the Japanese heritage.

  • Veneration and love of nature.

  • Ritual is primary (Shinto is not concerned with doctrine.)

  • Moral codes adopted from Confucianism .

  • Warrior traditions: bushido and samurai

  • Kami: Shinto is translated as “the way of the Kami”

    • Ancient divine ancestors

    • Overall, kami refers to anything that can be wondered about or is mysterious- nature, people, animals

    • Creation myth gives the Japanese people a sense of pride and divine connection

    • Kami has lead to emperor worship and the belief that the emperor is divine

      • WWII crushed this belief

Shinto worship
Shinto Worship

  • Ancestor worship: ancestors are part of kami

  • Former belief of Emperor as “the living God.”

  • Kamidana: worship in the home

    • Daily purification through washing

    • Offerings and objects as signs of divine presence (often food and flowers)

Shinto worship1
Shinto Worship

  • Ceremonial worship at Shinto shrines

    • Original shrines were beautiful natural spots (waterfalls, mountains, etc.)

    • Leaving the everyday surroundings to be more focused in the presence of the sacred

    • “Torii” (archway) marks the entrance to a shrine

    • Ritual washing for purification

    • Prayers and invocations to the kami are offered

    • Unity with the kami is the desired end.

Shinto seasonal f estivals
Shinto Seasonal Festivals

  • The Great Purification (celebrated in June and December)

    • A festival of purification; transfer the impurities of the people.

  • The festival of the New Year follows the December purification; involves ritual cleaning of the home

    • Everyone is on vacation and spends time worshiping at shrines and temples.

  • Shinto also incorporates other religious festivals, such as Christmas and Halloween.

    • These are often included in Japanese calendars as holidays and special occasions.

The four affirmations
The Four Affirmations

  • Tradition and the family

    • The family is seen as the main mechanism by which traditions are preserved. Their main celebrations relate to birth and marriage.

  • Love of nature

    • Nature is sacred; to be in contact with nature is to be close to the gods. Natural objects are worshipped as sacred spirits.

  • Physical cleanliness

    • Followers of Shinto take baths, wash their hands, and rinse out their mouth often.

  • "Matsuri“

    • The worship and honor given to the Kami and ancestral spirits.

      Three main Shinto sects:

    • Shrine Shinto (nationalism and patriotism)

    • Sect Shinto (primarily lead by women)

    • Popular/folk Shinto (less formalized)