Home > Religions and Beliefs

Confucianism Culture


Confucianism Culture is a cultural school established by Confucius during the Spring and Autumn Period. With the core value of forgiveness, loyalty, filial piety, humility, courage, benevolence, righteousness, etiquette, wisdom, and faith, the Confucianism doctrine emphasizes blood relationships, ethics, self-fulfillment, self-cultivation, and moral rationality. It had dominated the Chinese feudal society for over 2000 years and still plays an critical role in current Chinese culture.


In the Spring and Autumn Period, the intensified social crisis caused by the irreconcilable contradictions shook the authority of traditional culture, making people skeptical about what they used to believe and began to seek new ways to solve the social problems. What kind of social model the future will become had become a major issue of worldwide concern, and it has caused a controversial debate in the ideological circle. Meanwhile, people had to figure out how to treat the old traditional culture. Different schools presenting the interests of various classes came up with different proposals, one of them was brought up by Confucius.

Confucius used to believe that people should follow the practices created by King Yao and King Shun in  ancient times and the systems of Wen King and Wu King of Eastern Zhou Dynasty. The new social tendency made Confucius seek change. He fused the spirit of that era into his own ideological system and appropriately adjusted the traditional culture to establish a new harmonious order in social practice.


Confucianism has gone through four stages, the establishment by Confucius in Spring and Autumn Period, Han Dynasty Confucianism represented by Dong Zhongshu, Neo-Confucianism in Song and Ming Dynasties, and the modern Confucianism under the impact of Western ideology.

Establishment in Spring and Autumn Period

In the late Spring and Autumn Period, an unprecedented reform was taking place. In terms of social form, the feudal society gradually replaced the slavery society, and in politics, the legal systems gradually substituted the ritual institutions.

Two greatest representatives of Confucianism at this time is Confucius and Mencius. With the core value of “generosity”, Confucius thought people should love and be kind to each other, and they should not to do unto others what we would not want others to do unto us. He also emphasized that the rulers should rule by virtue and restore the ritual and musical systems of Western Zhou Dynasty. As the first person ever proposed the education for all classes, Confucius was regarded as the “exemplary teacher for all ages”. Mencius is the successor of Confucius. He inherited the Confucianism and put forward his own ideas. The core concept of Mencius’ idea is “benevolent government”, which further developed the first people-oriented thoughts “the people are the most important, state second, and the rulers last”. Mencius also believed that no one was born discriminatory.

The early Confucianism is considered modern and advancing, and it was not well accepted by the ruling class. Before the establishment of Qin Dynasty, Chinese society was in chaos. All the states, big or small, were fighting each other for resources. The ideology Confucius brought up was not able to help the ruling class to gain what they wanted. However, Confucius had taught a lot of students and his thoughts were well accepted by the commons.

Development in Han Dynasty

In the early Western Han Dynasty, the Huanglao Taoism was practiced to that the economy can recover after years of war. In the reign of Emperor Wu, the economy was gradually recovered and strengthened. However, the ever-expanding power of the vassal states, the fierce land annexation, and the invasion of the Huns all threatened the stability of the Western Han Dynasty. To strengthen the centralization, a positive mindset was in urgent need. This is when the Confucianism began to dominate the Chinese thinking.

The representative of Confucianism at this time was Dong Zhongshu. He developed the Confucianism and brought new concepts. He vigorously advocated the ideas of “divine power of kings” and “interaction between heaven and mankind”. To help ruling the subject, Dong Zhongshu also proposed three principles and five virtues to restrain people’s behavior. The three principles refer to “ruler guides subjects”, father guides son” and “husband guides wife”, and the five virtues refer to benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom and trustworthiness. These ideas were accepted by the ruler and institutionalized. People had to abide by those standards willingly or not.

Neo-Confucianism in Song and Ming Dynasties

The Confucianism went unpopular after Han Dynasty until Song Dynasty when the Confucian scholars launched a series of activities to criticize Buddhism and Taoism and revive Confucianism. A new Confucianism system with "principle" as its core was formed in Song Dynasty. The representatives of the neo-Confucianism at this time were Cheng Hao, Cheng Yi, and Zhu Xi. With the core belief that the principle came before the substance, the neo-Confucianism animateurs believed that the heavenly principle is the origin of the universe, and there is only one heavenly principle that can control everything.  They also thought that the heavenly principle in society was the same as the three principles and five virtues of the moral norms, which represented the highest level of human nature. However, the acquired human desire had blinded the heavenly principle. So, to save the human nature (heavenly principle), the human desires must be destroyed.

Lu Jiuyuan of the Southern Song Dynasty and Wang Yangming of the Ming Dynasty put forward the idea that "heart" is the "reason". They believed that everything in the universe were in people heart, and that there is no need to seek reason, just look inside to the heart. Their doctrine is called "Mindology", also called Mindology of Lu and Wang. Wang Yangming absorbed the Buddhist thought that there is no Buddha outside the heart, and the mind is the Buddha, and promoted the propositions that there is no thing outside the heart and that there is no reason outside the heart. Epistemologically, he put forward the doctrines of "for the conscience" and "the unity of knowledge and action", which had a profound impact on future generations.

Modern Confucianism

In early 20th century, China was facing both internal and external crisis. Some people took the advantage of the chaos and attempted to revive the Confucianism. In 1916, Yuan Shikai restored the monarchy reminded the young radical democrats that the autocratic monarchy thought still alive. Those democrats believed that the root cause was that they didn't touch the old ideas, morals and cultures. Thus, they launched a spiritual liberation movement and made strong critiques of Confucius and his thoughts. There was a slogan back then "Down with Confucius". Under such impact, the Confucianism has lost its appeal to Chinese intellectuals.

Main Confucianism Propositions

Respect and Trust Others

In ethics, with the central idea of generosity, the Confucianism focuses on self-cultivation, which requires people to maintain a harmonious relationship with others. The younger generations should treat the elders with respect. Friends should keep their words. Officials should be honest and care people. Rulers should carry out benevolent governing and care the subjects. Common people should be self-aware and share their social responsibilities.

Be Generous and Orderly

The political ideas of the Confucianism mainly focuses on the relationships between the ruling class and common people. Confucius said that the ruler should treat his minister with due respect, while the ministers should stay loyal to their ruler. Mencius believed that the people are the most important, and the state goes second and lastly goes the rulers. Xuncius, another Confucianism advocate, thought that one should abide by the morality standard instead of the ruler’s thought, follow the social justice instead of listen to his father. In terms of the real political problems, Confucianism requests both the ruler and the ruled take responsibility. Theoretically, the ruled have the right to rebel any ruler who failed to carry out his duties. In terms of international politics, the Confucianism advocates the distinguish of Hua and Yi (central Chinese civilization and the surrounding nations), which promoted the spreading of advanced Chinese culture in old times, but hindered the China modernization.

Say A Lot by Saying Very Little

There is a tradition in Confucianism - archive history. The things that Confucius compiled in “Spring and Autumn” were not only historical events, but also choose certain characters to make his points. In fact, the Chinese chronicles has never been stopped since 841 B.C. (the founding year of Western Zhou Dynasty).

Justice Outweighing Benefit

The Confucianism emphasizes that justice outweighs benefit, commerce outweighs politics, agriculture outweighs business.


The thoughtcase in Confucianism means to seek knowledge by studying the principles of the substance. There is no record to trace this school nowadays.

What are the pros and cons of Confucianism?


1.Value Education. The Confucianism attached great importance in teaching, especially in individualized teaching.

2.Value Morality, Ethic Code, Generosity and Justice. It requests people to be honest and kind to each other.

3.Dialectical Thinking, Value Experience. The Confucianism values the agriculture and it believes that the natural order is the root for human rationality and the human rationality is the foundation of the natural order.

4.Rule by Virtue. It emphasizes that people should stay loyal to their country and fight against any invaders. If the rulers do harm to the country, people should confront them and help them to rule better.


1.Disvalue Science. The Confucianism thinks official career is the most important.

2.Disvalue Logic. The Confucianism stresses experience and neglects the logic and deep rules of objects.

3.Disvalue Individual Interests. It stresses that the collective interests comes first and suppressed the individual personality, which further subdued the human creativity.

4.Strict ethical ideas. The Confucianism advocates three principles and five virtues, which greatly oppressed human mind. It also stresses the hierarchy.

How to treat Confucianism?

As the main foundation of Chinese culture, the Confucianism has a deep influence in modern lives. We should value the good parts of the Confucianism concepts and discard the disadvantageous parts.