Neo Confucianism: Ethical and Personal Growth
Confucianism seems to have been one of the major thoughts and ideas for 2000 years in conventional Chinese culture, and has been leaving a great effect on Chinese culture, economy, politics, and social psychology. However, with communist took over in 1949, Marxism ideology has replaced neo-Confucianism in China. With the influx of industrial development and intrinsic development of Chinese society in the modern era, emergence of significant social and ecological challenges have become quite common these days. Hence, a number of scholars are recommending to go back and follow the Neo-Confucianist thoughts again. It has been argued by Kim (2016) “human being can find much resourceful and valuable wisdom in Confucianism thoughts” which is mostly required and highly suggested in this quick changing and highly frustrating Chinese society. This particular essay is hence particularly aimed at analyzing the concept of Neo-Confucianism after 1949 in a broader sense, throwing light over its history of origin, conceptual and theoretical framework, highlighting the strategical approaches and pointing out the overbearing differences of this concept. The essay eventually argues that Neo-Confucianism has been one of the concepts that has undergone the serious modifications to fit with the modern thoughts even after being an archaic thought, developed ages back. The essay first develops the background, then goes on highlighting a brief history of its origin, followed by presenting its deep-rooted thoughts in simpler approaches, analyzing them from the different standpoints and finally summarizing all the aspects effectively at the end.
Neo-Confucianism seems to have a significant impact on the different fields like religious, economic, environmental, social and others which evidently helped China to grow and get developed. The movement known as Neo-Confucianism started during 11th century with factional disputes among the intellectuals: between the reformists led by Wang Anshi and the conventionalists led by Sima Guang, between the rich-minded philosophies and traditional principles of governance. The movement went through a number of hectic period and got evidently changed and modified in the hands of Zhu Xi and later in the hands of Wang Yangming. However, both earlier and after falling of Qing dynasty in 19th century, Confucianism had undergone serious criticism and had been slapped as New Culture Movement. China’s traditional culture, as pointed out by Jung (2017), has been the only vector holding the nation back from becoming a modern nation-state. Considering science and democracy in China, in the growing intensity of Communism, the potential reformers after 1949 felt that salvaging in Confucianism may not seem to be worthy. Also, the intellectuals have been of this view that Confucianism, in order to match with the changing environment of these days, too, needs to undergo serious reformation. Especially they have referred to carpeting Neo-Confucianism with Buddhism and Western philosophy. Considering the effectiveness of ‘New Confucianism’ thought, a strong manifestation with the current challenges and contemporary issues have been developed in order to manage the issues (Lee, 2015). The new thought was although different from that of the Neo-Confucianism thoughts of the past, it has a significant simile with the current rapidly changing economic, social and political structure.
The concept and the main ideas of Neo-Confucianism philosophy is perpetually based on the social and ethical aspects of metaphysical ideas, considered as more humanistic and rationalistic in nature, stating that the human being of the universe can be recognized through the human reasons and activities (Kim, 2016). The concept is more critical to state that this is completely up to humanity responsible for the “creation of a harmonious relationship between the universe and the individual” (Nam-Ho, 2014). The thought of utmost rationalism and forward thinking approach in Neo-Confucianism stands in evident contrast to that of mysticism which is considered to a dominant thought of Chan Buddhism. Lee (2015) has been of this view that unlike the conventional Buddhists, Neo-Confucians are of this view that reality exists, and can be highly understood by application of the humankind. However, the explanation of reality has been seemed to be somewhat specifically dissimilar to that of the actual and archetypal Confucianism thoughts, depends more on unconventional thought of the school of Neo-Confucianism. Unlike Buddhism and Taoism, the concept of Neo-Confucianism checks into reality as a “tool of gradual realization of the Great Ultimate” that drives towards attaining more in-depth knowledge and also helps in seeing the universe from the detrimental and more humane viewpoint (Jung, 2017). Buddhists and Taoists in some respect have been seen depending on meditation to have the insight of the supreme reason Neo-Confucianists, in higher degree, choose to follow the reasons, presuming that it is the thought and the reality that would help in developing the relation between the human life and the expectations (Goldin, 2014). Hence, it can be understood that the concept of Neo-Confucianism is more dynamic and strategic, rational and coherent to be practiced and followed that helps the followers to lead a simpler life than leading a luxurious life.
Upsurge of Communism in China from 1949, Confucianism has been started to consider as ‘feudal ideology’, despite this fact that the socio-political structures of China has never been feudal in nature since Zhou dynasty. Gallinaro (2017) has opined that Marxism considers feudalism as an inevitable stage before Capitalism takes control. China had always been against of capitalism and the Chinese society had never accepted the capitalistic ideology. Goldin (2014) has regarded “Confucian ethics had been based on the family, so any remnants of Confucian thought were, obviously, regarded as a millstone around the neck of the ‘New China”. All traces of the Confucianism thoughts have been seriously eliminated. Mao’s approach to develop a new China came as a repercussion in the form of Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution between 1966 and 1976. However, after the death of Mao, it was under the leadership of Deng Xiaoping a process of liberalization and opening the connectivity with the West and the rest of the world started. This approach also included in the rehabilitation of monasteries and temples, giving the scholars enough opportunity to study on Confucianism. Choi (2014) has pointed out that from 1980 Neo-Confucianism had not been considered as a feudal ideology rather a legitimate philosophical system, a significant part of traditional Chinese culture. In 1982, with the acceptance of the new Chinese constitution ‘freedom of religious belief’, an intense boost to different religious ideologies had been given, but still Confucianism was not officially given the religion stamp. It has been critically ascertained that Confucianism acts more as a reformist idea that that of an ideological approach.
Post 1980, China seems to have received a serious growth in its economy. With Communist rule relaxed, Chinese organisations have started expanding their perimeters across the globe. Naturally, Chinese thoughts become more liberal and the concept of Neo-Confucianism got chance to study not only in China but in the other countries as well. Countries like South Korea, Japan and others have started accepting Neo-Confucianist thoughts in comparison to that of China. Tiananmen massacre in China in 1989 seemed to have put the last nail in the Communist ideology since people had started experiencing a moral void in Chinese society which again boosted the urge of the common people to renew their interest in Confucianism. During 1990s, with opening the Chinese gates to the world, the country had significantly experienced ‘Confucius Fever’ (Lee, 2012). A wide range of books, journals were written on this particular theory and a number of research work started being done by the scholars. Till this day Confucius thoughts are getting an immense strengths. In the recent time, high government officials of PRC have been seen attending the celebration of the birth of Confucius, exactly opposite that of the harsh anti-Confucian practices of last century. Now, question may arise why PRC has changed completely and promoting Neo-Confucianism politically and geo-politically (Youn, 2011).
First, this particular strategy gives the government of China to reclaim the traditional Chinese culture so that it can be presented that China had a great past. Secondly, they are trying to present Confucius as the world’s most significant philosopher, a man advanced of his time in thoughts, ideas and philosophies, whose thoughts enriched the conventional Chinese culture. The premeditated approach of Chinese government to open ‘Confucius Institutes’ across the globe is only to prove the greatness and richness of the Chinese culture (Nam-Ho, 2014). Chun-Hwa (2018) has considered it as China’s ‘soft diplomacy’ in order to refine its image in the global stage. At the same time, this proves Communist party’s effectiveness and loyalty to understand the demands of the people. Choi (2018) has observed that Confucianism is being used as a potential ally of the government to maintain social stability and gain the faith of the common people on the government. However, it might not be unjustified to mention that the Confucius thoughts, ideologies and practices are in the commiseration these days are far different from that of the actual Confucian ideology. One might argue that an age old concept cannot exist unless it accepts the changes. Still, the question remains if the extra pampering to the Confucianism provided by the Chinese government really work in the evidential development of the society. Possibly, the thought of Confucius might have impacted significantly in the overall development of the society.
The theory Neo-Confucianism in this contemporary age proclaims that every human being is a particular mix of heavenly principle which in other words is moral and social aspects, and impure material force which is considered as selfish desires (Slote De Vos, 2011). A human nature is essentially developed with the predominant gestures like rituals, righteousness, and wisdom. Nature of a human being although comes from Heaven while the personal capacities basically come from material forces. It is basically the duty of a human being to get back to the perfection so that the possible balance in the total structure is maintained (Gallinaro, 2017). A human nature has been compared to water and thereby basically tried to be given thought about the clarity in one’s nature. Hence, although a man may act evil or treacherous, however, the spirit is completely pure which is basically balances its similarity with the thoughts of Buddhism. One again needs to overcome the potential challenges those create the material flaws in him and conquer the difficulties which again leads to a harmonious and unified world of growth and graciousness. A person although it seemed to be self-centric in nature which eventually create a serious challenge to the material world and which might not be effectively mundane in nature (Yoo, 2013). Righteousness, wisdom, faithfulness are the basic ideas to be achieved and selfishness should be shunned because it has been considered as a serious devil that challenges the world significantly, even challenges the existence of a person (Chun-Hwa, 2018). Being more straightforward and dedicated to the development of the others, one can eventually expect to gain significant advantages. So the concept is asking a person to be more open and is also asking to be more spacious and kind in nature.
All through the essay the main point that has been specifically concentrated by the essayist is the ethical growth and spontaneous development of a human being that eventually leads to potential growth in this world of materials stated in Neo-Confucianism concept that modified and spiralled after 1949. The essay has analyzed the factors and thoughts from the different standpoints, analysing them effectively to highlight how the thoughtful process of Neo-Confucianism has eventually become a significant concept of humanism is evidently portrayed in every line of the essay. Eventually, there has been a critical approach and though process that created a seriously calculated and critically stifled approaches to discuss this theory. Naturally, it is clearly seen that presentation of this particular thought in Neo-Confucianism eventually leads to serious manifestation of the ethical and pre-ethical aspects that would significantly promote the optimal development process.
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