Confucius, a Chinese philosopher well known even in the West, has been the man of controversy since his death. His opinion of philosophy has changed throughout Chinese history. Following Thomas Kuhn's terminology, the "paradigm" of each era had a different assessment of Confucius and his writings. Furthermore, as Chinese history was often marked by periods of political turmoil and coups, aristocratic leaders also varied in terms of race, family, and class. For example, during the Yuan Dynasty, China was under the rule of Kublai Khan, grandson of the famous Genghis Khan. The Han Chinese, who were the ruling race of the ancient Song dynasty, were treated as the lowest class in the Yuan class system. Such a conversion was often prompted by a shift in perspective towards Confucianism, a philosophy that has endured and reigned in East Asia for over two millennia.
2nd Zhou Dynasty - The Origin of Confucianism
Confucius was born during the period of political turmoil known as Spring and Autumn, a time when several great feudal lords vied for more political power. Although the Zhou dynasty was still present with the emperor as the central figure, the central government was not powerful enough to control the large landlords. Lords powerful enough to become independent began to proclaim themselves kings (wang) rather than lords (gong), and within the Zhou dynasty, kingdoms such as Qi, Chu, Jin, Qin, Yue, Wu, and Song were founded. These kingdoms fought and allied with each other for the political unification of their own states.
In order to gain hegemony over the zhongyuan, which is a term used to describe mainland China, states not only raised large armies, but also invited prominent philosophers to teach and rule like aristocrats, even from other states. Rulers invested large sums of gold to invite and receive famous philosophers. With such investments, prominent philosophers began to emerge across the country and founded the so-called Hundred Schools of Thought (Zhuzobaijia). Of the numerous schools, six schools in particular are famous for their influence on history: Confucianism (rujia), Legalism (fajia), Taoism (daojia), Mohism (mojia), the yin-yang school (yinyangjia) and the logicians (mingjia) . . . A small but influential school was the Military School (Bingjia), famous for its Art of War written by Sun Tzu (Sunzi). Philosophers who followed a certain school traveled across China in search of a ruler who could use their thoughts for royal policy and bring about peace.
According to the record of Sima Qian, the father of Chinese historiography, Confucius was born in the state of Lu, a small state compared to previous states, located in the current Chinese province of Shandong. He started his career as a lowly employee of Lu, managing sheep and cows for the state of Lu. At the age of 53, he has become a top official for his great achievements at work. However, the state of Qi feared that Confucius would strengthen Lu and send beautiful women to the king of Lu to stay away from politics and lead to corruption. Confucius, dissatisfied with the king, resigned his post and embarked on a journey to China known as the Zhouyoulieguo. Confucius' philosophy was formed during this journey, during which he taught various rulers how to strengthen their own states. He also had thousands of disciples who spread his teachings across China, protected him during his journey, and even recorded his teachings in a book called the Analects.
After Confucius' death, Confucius still evolved with notable philosophers like Mencius (Mengzi) and Xun zi. These two philosophers continued their own philosophies, although Mencius' is considered orthodox Confucianism. Although Xun zi was a Confucian, he was most influential on Legalism, which is actually the philosophy that united China. Furthermore, the students who followed Confucius spread out and became aristocrats in some prominent states. The state of Lu, the birthplace of Confucius, eventually became the center of Confucianism and was full of Ruzi, a term for student of Confucianism. The state of Qi, north of Lu, was also full of Ruzi and employed many of its Ruzi employees. For these students, Confucius would not just be a hero, but the great master of all China, as Confucius is Kong Fu zi in Chinese, which means Master Kong.
On the other hand, the state of Chu was mainly dominated by Taoist philosophers, as described in the Analects. According to the Analects, while traveling through the state of Chu, Confucius met Taoist philosophers who lived as humble peasants. Taoists ridiculed Confucianism for its "artificiality" and sometimes simply disappeared in front of Confucius, who then became confused. Sima Qian also records the famous confrontation between Laozi, the founder of Taoism, and the young Confucius, in which the two philosophers try to persuade each other and resolve the difference between two thoughts. However, this attempt fails. Lao Tzu then, to avoid the imminent political unrest in China, crossed the Hangu Pass (Hanguguan), a route into western China and into Qin, where he wrote his magnum opus. These records show that the Taoists did not agree with Confucius. It would be too radical to argue that the Taoists saw Confucius as a villain, but clearly the Taoists did not see Confucius as a hero.
In the final phase of the Warring States period, or Zhou Dynasty, the state of Qin, located west of the Hangu Pass, began to dominate neighboring nations militarily and diplomatically, adopting legalism and legalistic philosophers even before the famous Qin Shi Huang. Di, the first emperor of China. Shang Yang was born in 356 BC. Employed by Duke Xiao as the Prime Minister of Qin. By enacting strict laws based on Li Kui of Fajing, army and land reform, Shang Yang managed to turn Qin, an impoverished state on China's western periphery, into a threat to neighboring states. In order to standardize the state's philosophy as legalism, he ordered Qin officials to burn Confucian books, which Qin Shi Huang Di later did again, but for very different reasons. However, this act of burning shows that legalistic philosophers did not agree with Confucianism and did not accept Confucius as a great teacher, as he was revered by some. Although Shang Yang was executed after Duke Xiao's death, the laws remained in effect and continued until the overthrow of Qin under Liu Bang or Han Gaozu, founder of the Han Dynasty, although book burning did not continue.
Prior to the unification of China, Qin's loyalist policies and Shang Yang's pursuit of Confucianism were limited only to Qin-occupied regions. The prosecution also intended to unify the state's philosophy. However, the situation changed when Shi Huang Di in 221 BC. China successfully united under Qin. with Li Si as his chancellor, using effective military forces formed by Shang Yang's reforms. After unification, the emperor decided to abolish feudalism and institute the junxianzhi, a centralized system in which all regions were ruled by aristocrats appointed by the emperor instead of a single kingdom. However, some officials objected to this new system. In the year 213 B.C. a senior official named Chunganyue petitioned the emperor to abolish the new system and return to old feudalism. Li Si, knowing that the Emperor despised the old system, informed the Emperor that Ruzi was behind this attempt to return to the old system, and argued that Confucianism should be banned. The emperor accepted the advice and ordered the officials to burn all books unrelated to Qin. He also closed academies and private institutions linked to poetry and writing as ineffective. Ruzi, who was now on the brink of existence, asked the Emperor to burn the books. This further angered the Emperor, who already considered Ruzi a troublemaker for disagreeing with his new policy. He ordered over 460 Ruzi who had petitioned against him to be buried alive. It is clear from his policy that Confucius and Confucianism were not held in high regard in the Qin dynasty. From the degree of Ruzi's punishment and the recognition that being buried alive was a means of mass execution for the enemy, it can be inferred that the emperor deeply hated Confucius and his philosophy as politically antithetical, although his opinion is not directly recorded in the History book.
4. Chu-Han dispute
After the death of the first emperor, Zhao Gao, the chief eunuch of the Qin Palace, and Li Si, the chancellor, conspired to prevent Crown Prince Fusu from becoming emperor, which was Shi Huang Di's will. Li Si believed that Fusu, who was tolerant of Ruzi, would eventually have him executed for tricking the emperor into burying over 400 scholars. As Fusu was indeed exiled for defying Li Si's advice, Li Si conspired with Zhao Gao and made Huhai, the emperor's youngest son, the second Emperor of Qin (Qinershi). To avoid conflict, they also forced Fusu to commit suicide and murdered the remaining princes.
Huhai, who was reckless compared to his brother, spent all day drinking and fooling around with naked women. He even chose the most beautiful girls from all over China to be his concubines. He also continued his father's project to build a grand palace, forcing men from all over China to become slave laborers in the extravagant project. This political disorder provoked several uprisings in the east, mainly in the Chu regions of present-day southern China. These rebels finally toppled Qin and returned China to a multi-state feudal society like West Chu, Han, Han, and Qi, with King Xiang Yu of West Chu as the de facto emperor.
Xiang Yu, a descendant of the famous general Xiang Yan of Chu, studied martial arts rather than philosophies. Instead of delving into Confucianism, Taoism or other written works, he preferred Bingjia, the military school he learned in countless battles with the Qin army. His adviser, Fan Zeng, whom he called his father, was from Guigu, a place famous for scholars who studied machinations. According to Sima Qian, although Xiang Yu never killed people of Confucian background, his attitude towards scholars is obviously arrogant, and he threatened some of the scholars to boil them in a pot full of water.(1). He had philosophers as advisers, but he did not use them on the battlefield, believing that his strategy was superior and experienced on countless battlefields. His military strategy led him to become the de facto ruler of China, leading vast troops known to be invincible under his direct command. Even after becoming the leader, he still disliked Confucius.
In comparison, Liu Bang, the King of Han, was an illiterate man. He did not learn formal martial arts like Xiang Yu nor philosophical studies. He was a gang leader in his humble hometown. Not having a good education, he was more tolerant of others' advice and comparatively did not discriminate against schools. Still, he was sarcastic with Ruzi. He considered them completely useless, as they only speak well and cannot work. They didn't know how to make good suggestions in urgent situations or fight in real combat. However, his attitude changed after meeting scholars who remained loyal to him until his death.
Liu Bang, who was the first to reach the Qin capital Xianyang(2), was named King of Han for his outstanding service at the beginning of the new feudal era. However, the state of Han was located in an isolated region of Shu.(3), connected by narrow mountain roads. Shu was sparsely populated and obviously not a land for a strong state. It was evident that Xiang Yu deliberately assigned a rough terrain to Liu Bang to prevent Liu Bang from becoming his potential rival. Liu Bang thought he deserved everything Guanzhong(4)Land promised by the state of Chu before the conquest. To expand his sphere of political influence, Liu Bang invaded Guanzhong and started a dispute between Chu and Han. During this confrontation, he had several followers with different abilities: Zhang Liang, the legendary strategist; Han Xin, a general who has never lost a battle; Xiao He, experienced administrator. These three are known as Sanjie due to their exceptional skills during the Chu-Han competition. In addition to three legendary historical figures, Liu Bang also had several Ruzi advisors who risked their own lives to serve Liu Bang. The devotion of these advisers eventually led Liu Bang to appreciate Confucian values and to respect Ruzi.
When Liu Bang, leading 560,000 troops, lost to Xiang Yu, who had only 30,000 troops, in the Battle of Si River, Liu Bang was forced to retreat to a castle and eventually stationed at Hengyang. Although Xiang Yu only had 30,000 troops, Xiang Yu was able to attract more troops to Guangdong, a region loyal to Chu. With reinforcements, Xiang Yu began to attack Hengyang. Liu Bang admitted that he could not defend the castle from Xiang Yu and left the castle. Zhu Jia and Zhong Gong, two Confucian scholars, volunteered to defend Xiang Yu Castle to buy time to escape Liu Bang. After Xiang Yu took the castle, Zhu Jia and Zhong Gong were boiled to death. With the sacrifice of two scholars, Liu Bang was able to return to Guanzhong to call for reinforcements to stop Xiang Yu's counterattack.
Li Yiji, a Ruzi adviser from Liu Bang, went to Qi State to negotiate. When Li Yiji met Liu Bang to become one of his advisors, the women washed Liu Bang's feet, a disrespectful act. The King of Qi, Tian Guang, accepted the negotiation and agreed to become Han's servant. Although negotiations were successful, Han Sin, who was ready to invade if negotiations failed, decided to invade Qi State and claim it for himself. . The King of Qi was angry with Han and decided to cook Li Yiji and sent his head to the Han camp. Before his imminent death, the king persuaded Li Yiji to remain in the Qi state as an adviser. Li Yiji rejected the offer. Instead, he threatened the king that the Han army would collapse the state of Qi in triumph. In anger, the king ordered his execution. His loyalty was later recognized by Liu Bang. In return, Liu Bang decided to promote his younger brother, who was his general, and take care of his family.
With these sacrifices by Confucian scholars, Liu Bang began to respect Confucius and his teachings. Initially, he employed Sunshutong as his adviser, although he served under more than five rulers, which seemed disloyal to his contemporaries. After the unification and collapse of the Han, Liu Bang ordered Sunshutong to organize the correct imperial court style. He also involved his students in teaching and spreading Confucianism throughout China. Although he did not believe in Confucianism, Liu Bang certainly respected Confucius and his teachings.
Liu Bang, as the first Han emperor, also expanded the Temple of Confucius (Kong Miao) in Qufu, Confucius' birthplace, and performed sacrifices, which became a tradition of the Han dynasty. Every emperor had to visit the Temple of Confucius after his accession to the throne or some other important event in the memory of the great philosopher.
After Liu Bang unified China and centralized political power in his new capital, Zhang'an, the Han Dynasty flourished. When Liu Bang's great-grandson, Liu Che, became Wudi of Han, Liu Che reformed his empire into a Confucian state. Han, as a Confucian state, introduced the preliminary form of civil service, one of the characteristics of the Confucian state. In the Public Contest, candidates were required to demonstrate their knowledge of Confucianism, specifically the Four Books and Five Analects (Sishuwujing), the classics of Confucianism. Therefore, all civil servants had to be Ruzi. This expansion of Confucianism not only changed society and government, but also changed the way people respect Confucius.
The Han dynasty first turned Confucius' descendants into aristocrats with the titles of marquis or duke, who in turn became the progenitors of succeeding dynasties. The imperial court also held grand ceremonies in Kong Miao. Han also built institutions to educate peasants in the virtues of Confucianism, descendants of Sun Shutong's disciples employed by Liu Bang to spread Confucianism. Much of the tradition that continues today stems from this idea of unity.
V.2 Posterior a Han
After a period of unrest in the late Han dynasty, which was a period of Buddhism and anti-Han, as its strongest power was the Northern Zhou, Sui unified China. Sui then restored order and established Confucian educational institutes for middle and upper class officials. He also rebuilt Kong Miao in Qufu, which had been damaged by years of war. Although the dynasty itself only lasted about 40 years (581-618 CE)(5)the institutions established by the dynasty continued into the next Tang dynasty.
The Tang dynasty, known for its rich culture, trade with the West, and conquest of Central Asia, was also a time when Confucianism and Confucian appreciation went even further. In 630, just 12 years after Tang was founded by coup, the Tang dynasty mandated that each school have its own Confucian shrine. Therefore, the great shrines were located near the famous schools. From preliminary forms, Imperial Exams also evolved into a more complex form with dozens of topics.
However, administrative support to promote Confucianism, the impact of Buddhism and traditional beliefs has been somewhat stronger. As the Tang Dynasty was a period of peace and prosperous trade on the Silk Road, the Tang people began to worry about their afterlife. Confucianism, unconcerned with the afterlife, began to lose support. On the other hand, Buddhism was a religion intensely concerned with the afterlife. Numerous Buddhist temples and monasteries were built with the support of nobles and imperial families. Like Christian monasteries of the Middle Ages, these temples were exempt from taxation and owned much of the land, including serfs.
Concerned about the future of Confucianism, a Confucian scholar named Han Yu, the great scholar who later influenced Neo-Confucianism, petitioned the court to abolish Buddhism and other foreign religions. Han Yu wrote "ÐùñýÔ³£¬Ò¬Üýí¡¢Øë?¡¢?ê©á¶?ñýÔ³" on his Wenyizaidao. In translation,"The way itself, the way of the great teacher, the teachings of Mencius and Yang Xiong(6)gave us"This phrase emphasizes the importance of China's own philosophy and not foreign philosophies, especially orthodox Confucianism. Han Yu, who was particularly concerned with politics, influenced both the court and the emperor.
When Han Yu criticized philosophies other than Confucianism, war broke out between the Central Asian and Tang khanates. To finance its army, the Tang needed an efficient system of tax collection, made difficult by numerous temples and monasteries. Emperor Wuzong felt that temple property should be confiscated to defend his empire.
Eventually, Emperor Wuzong banned Buddhism and any other foreign religion to increase tax revenue, and confiscated and destroyed their property for war against the Central Asian Khanates. With the banning of foreign religions, Confucianism and Taoism began to gain importance again. Despite these efforts, Tang still failed to break. At the age of 60, the Tang collapsed and the era of political instability began again. However, the collapse of the Tang led to the height of Confucius worship.
A brief period of political disunity called the "Five Dynasties and Ten Kingdoms" was followed by the Song Dynasty, an era of weak defenses but rich culture. Remarkable private institutions have been established across the country which are also sanctuaries of great philosophers such as Confucius and Mencius. Scholars from these institutions eventually began to build their own schools of thought, as in the days of Zhuzibaijia, based on ancient Confucianism, adding their own commentaries on ancient classics and some Taoist teachings.
A notable Neo-Confucian scholar was Zhuxi, who published four classics with his own commentaries. Its Classics edition was a favorite at the time. Neo-Confucianism was also promoted by the state. Instead of ancient Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism began to evolve into Orthodox Confucianism. Confucianism was called Zhuzixue, not Ruxue as in the early days. However, Neo-Confucian scholars respected Confucius more than Zhuxi. The Song Dynasty added another 400 rooms to Kong Miao.
Four books and five classics became increasingly important in Song. As the civil service exam focused more on Confucianism than writing skills, even memorizing these books was considered mandatory.
This tendency to respect Confucius remains constant except in the Yuan dynasty. In the 20th century, however, China experiences extreme changes in attitude.
VII Modernization of China - Dramatic change in Confucian perspective
Ming and Qing China was a period of Confucianism dominance. Unlike the Yuan, the Qing was also a Confucian state with a powerful Confucian bureaucracy. However, the modernization of the late 19th and early 20th centuries led to a new view of Confucius.
VII.1 Die Taiping-Rebellion
The Taiping Rebellion was a rebellion against the corrupt Confucian bureaucracy. Hong Xiuquan, a man who studied the four classics, converted to Christianity after failing the imperial examination five times. After reading the translated version of the Bible in Guangzhou, he returned to his view of Christianity and preached to others that he was the brother of Jesus Christ and was here to save China from Buddhism and Confucianism. This largely appealed to commoners oppressed by the secular class system led by the Confucian bureaucracy.
Hong even declared that everyone in his country would be equal (including women) and abolished private property, taking on the guise of socialism. This contradicts the teachings of Confucius, who had a conservative view of the class system. There are several quotes in Confucius' writings that suggest Confucius' advocacy of a rigid class system. Hong burned Confucian and Buddhist scriptures and statues, acknowledging these different perspectives.
Although the rebellion failed, it marks the beginning of more liberal ideas in China against Confucius and his teachings, which dominated Chinese politics for centuries. Several rebellions after the Taiping Rebellion also took such forms, in Christian or even Muslim form (in the case of the Du Wenxiu Rebellion in northwest China).
VII.2 One Hundred Days of Reformation
While there were anti-Confucian rebellions across China during this period of modernization, there were also pro-Confucian reformist parties in the Qing bureaucracy. "Hundred Days of Reform", led by Kang Yu-wei, a Confucian scholar, is an example of this type of movement in China. These movements sought a new interpretation of Confucian writings rather than conservative interpretations. Kang Yu-wei, the leader of these reformers, still believed in Confucian principles. He believed that the Confucian is a utopian reformer rather than the conservative reactionary seen by many rebel leaders trying to overthrow the contemporary Confucian social order.
He also fought for educational reforms by founding Peking University and other institutions. However, the reform was only supported by a group of radical elites. Thus, he was easily overthrown by ultraconservatives led by Empress Dowager Cixi, ending the reforms within 100 days in 1898.
VII.3 Boxer Rebellion
The Boxer Rebellion is a conservative, anti-Christian, anti-foreigner rebellion supported by the Qing government to get rid of foreigners who heavily interfered in Chinese politics. The main participants were "Boxers", which were an anti-foreign secret society. They received excellent training in Wushu, the traditional Chinese martial art.
In 1900, Empress Dowager Cixi issued an edict protecting boxers, seizing this opportunity for her ultra-conservative policies. Boxers killed missionaries and a foreign ambassador.
However, is the Boxer Rebellion actually related to Confucianism and ideologies, or is it just the widow Cixi's quest for more power to rid herself of foreign influence in her court? Decrees as a form of social or political bureaucracy. The only ostensible purpose of the rebellion was the removal of foreign influence in China, not Confucian aims.
VII.4 Xinhai-Revolution (1911)
The Xinhai Revolution is China's most notable event of the 20th century. Led by Sun Yat-sen and his nationalist followers, Sun Yat-sen attempted to overthrow the Qing dynasty and replace it with a modern, nationalist, republican government. Like Kang You-wei, he was instructed in the Confucian classics. But he studied in Hawaii, USA after learning the classics unlike other mainstream scholars.
He was against the established order and issued his own principles: "Three People's Principles" seeking nationalism, democracy and populism. This goes against contemporary Confucian teachings with rigid social structures and "heaven's order" instead of following heaven, Sun Yat-sen believed in human beings. However, he never sought a radical eradication of Confucian teachings in China, such as the burning of books and temples. However, this came to fruition 50 years after the communist regime.
VIII. cultural revolution
When China was unified in 1948 by Mao Zedong and his People's Liberation Army, a military organization similar to Russia's Red Army, Mao consolidated his power in the Communist Party by realizing his political ideals. He launched the Great Leap Forward movement, influenced by Stalin's Five Year Economic Plan. However, this movement caused a great famine across China. To alleviate the gravity of the problem, the Communist Party overthrew Mao and installed Liu Shaoqi in his place. Liu Shaoqi's economic success with Deng Xiaoping worsened Mao's political standing. To overcome this political situation, Mao launched a Cultural Revolution, using young students as Red Guards (HongWeiBing) to expel his political enemies for their disloyalty to communist ideals.
The idealistic goal of the Cultural Revolution was to destroy the so-called "Four Olds" of society: the old culture, the old customs, the old habits and the old ideas. Obviously, Confucianism was the target of this new revolution. Red Guards, mostly students across China, began burning books, destroying statues and architecture. Mao also defined Confucius as the enemy of the people (renmin) to justify the social class system and thus defend the former rulers and the bourgeoisie. From the philosophical father of all Chinese people, Confucius became the number one enemy of all Chinese people. Even his temple in Qufu was not safe from revolutionary students. About 200 students entered the temple and smashed Confucius statues and artifacts. Nobody could guard the temple because the Kong family, the direct and legitimate descendants of Confucius, went to Taiwan when Jiang Kai-shek transferred his rule to Taiwan. In the Temple of Confucius in Qufu alone, over 6,000 artifacts were destroyed. Not surprisingly, the Cultural Revolution is often compared to Qin Shi Hwang's persecution of Confucian scholars.
Instead of Confucius, Mao took his place in Chinese student ideology. Mao was respected as close to God. His book, like the Bible, was published throughout China. This book is known as Quotations from Chairman Mao Zedong (Mao Zedong yulu) or simply Mao's Red Book. This book has been studied by people just as the Confucian classics were in the previous era. Unofficially, every Chinese was required to own, read and carry the book. People learned even during official working hours, not to mention in schools. It is considered the most printed book in history with 5 to 6.5 million copies printed during the revolution. The book contained a completely different idea from the Confucian classics. Rather than filial piety, his book emphasized respect for elders and the importance of knowledge, equality, and work. With such a discrepancy between the two ideas, it is obvious that Mao was following Confucianism.
Opinions about Confucius have changed dramatically throughout Chinese history. A controversial figure from the start, he was revered during the Confucian era and heavily criticized in the non-Confucian era, particularly during Mao's Cultural Revolution.
Today, China is giving new attention to Confucianism. As the 2008 Beijing Olympics demonstrated, China is paying renewed attention to Confucianism in the post-Mao era. Companies draw their marketing and management strategy from Confucianism. But feminist groups see Confucius differently because he is sexist. However, Confucius' influence on Chinese and world history cannot be overstated.
Comments(1)Peng Xing - Ancient Chinese method of execution where someone is boiled to death
(2)Near present-day Xi'an, Shaanxi Province
(3)Shu is the current province of Sichuan
(4)Guanzhong is the current province of Shaanxi.
(5) era 2009
(6)Yang Xiong: Author during the Han Dynasty. Considered the first Chinese materialist.
bibliographyNote: The sites listed below were accessed in October 2007.
2.WikipediaArticle: Neo-Confucianism <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neo_Confucianism>
3.WikipediaArticle: Liu Bang
4.WikipediaArticle: Sun Yat-sen
5. K'ang Yu-wei. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2008Encyclopedia.es. July 5, 2009
6.Ko, Junger Kon,The History of Confucian Education in China and Korea, article published in 2009 in WHKMLA, <http://www.zum.de/whkmla/sp/0910/kyk/kyklog.html>
7. Chu Han Zhi, compiled by Lee Mun-Yeol, Min-yeom Press, Seoul
8. San Guo Zhi (Romance of the Three Kingdoms), traduzido por Lee Mun-Yeol, Min-yeom Press, Seoul
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