Visiting Confucius

Standard

Hands open
catch your fate
Peace within
comes from choice
Inner trust
trumps all doubt

Beijing Temple of Confucius, China, 2005
Photo by: c.b.w.

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c.b.w. 2012

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15 thoughts on “Visiting Confucius

  1. It’s interesting that visitors always find Confucian temples so ‘peaceful’. If he gave the Chinese anything it was a very rigid social order (children obey parents without question, wife obeys husband without question, social inferior obeys social superior without question, citizen obeys emperor without question, all rever ancestors without question…); there is a kid of peace which comes with acquiescence to this, but to my way of thinking it is the social equivalent of the Stockholm Syndrome. It is very interesting that in the decades since the death of Mao Zedong and the end of the ‘Cultural Revolution’, during which time all that was old and traditional was uprooted, the Chinese government has rebuilt the Confucian past of China, realising perhaps that the Chinese Constitution, in which the State is supreme, will be well served by a rediscovery of the notion of a defined social order.

    Confucius considered himself to be a follower of the Duke of Zhou, a very interesting statesman and a stabilising force in the Zhou monarchy about three thousand years ago. Statues to Confucius and to Zhou Dan seem to have been erected prominently in modern China.

    Blogging on your blog again! :)

    M

    • One could also argue that the rigid social order provided peace after a rather turbulent history of civil war and political upheaval. I think what separates Confucius from Mao is the element of choice. Those who choose to follow the teachings of Confucius do so of their own accord (and find immense calm in the practice) while Mao forced his rigid social and political code with fear and violence.

      I’m a little fascinated with Mao’s hold on the Chinese people even now. When I traveled through Beijing and the mountains of Yan’an I was always shocked by how many people revere him, but now I think its more of a pop culture phenomenon (oddly enough).

      As always, your thoughts are interesting and unique. You are always welcome to blog on my blog! :-)

      • Don’t get me wrong, I’m not championing Mao. To my mind he usurped every principle of communism (I’m using that word in a very broad sense, and am including its most rational and humane principals as well as its statist flaws). On the other hand he is one of the most fascinating figures of the 20c, and I can recommend Jung Chang’s biography of him (a highly controversial book, by the way). However I do regard Confucianism as having had a stultifying effect on the collective psyche of the Chinese people, setting in stone a very conservative (in the broad sense also) mind-set and impeding certain important paths of progress and human development. One thing which is interesting about Mao’s revolutionary but oligarchic response is that he felt it necessary that Confucianism should be almost totally boulversé, but retained the element of reverence for the Emperor in his own personality cult.

        You’re comparison of a pop cult is not without merit. Whilst the current state-party oligarchs have taken China down a very different route (one where, it seems to me, they have the worst of communism and the worst of capitalism), they certify their own legitimacy by reference to Mao (the 20c God-Emperor) even though under his aegis ‘mistakes were made’.

        George Orwell called this ‘Doublethink’.

        M

      • I have read Jung Chang’s bio and thought it was absolutely fascinating. Controversial as it is, I think its one of the better ones out there. I am very anxious to read the newest bio, “Mao: The Real Story” by Alexander V Pantsov and Steven I. Levine. It supposedly includes to new insights from recently uncovered Russian documents and other newly discovered primary sources. Mao was a tragedy in terms of human life and suffering, which is probably why I spend so much time trying to understand why he (and others) go to such extreme measures with no regard for human life. It’s a behavior I’ll probably never understand, but perhaps the more we know the better we off we are at preventing another instance of that kind of leadership.

        Confucianism is a rigid belief system, but most early faiths are. ;-) In a modern sense, I think Confucianism has somewhat softened and continues to do so as some of the wisdom of Confucius still rings true.

      • The major revelation from Jung Chang’s book is that Mao’s motivation was one of personal destiny, making him more a disciple of Nietzsche than Marx.

        I don’t see Confucianism as a faith per se. It is much more an ethical system based on a kind of humanism. As such it is a very powerful tool in the hands of governments, parties, and oligarchies. It’s assumption that people are teachable is limited by its rigidity about what ought to be taught.

        I shall look out for the Pantsov and Levine book on Mao.

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