There are no verified and verifiable statistics available on the number of adherents of Confucianism but estimates shows that it ranges from 5,600,000 to 6,000,000.
Confucians are also found in Vietnam, Cambodia and other parts of Far-East but as they are traditionally considered as a cult of traditional Chinese Folk religion, so exact number of Confucians can not be figured out.
- Confucius: founder and the prime exponent of Confucianism. His Chinese name is K’ung-tze, or K’ung-fu-tze. He was born in 6th century B.C., in the feudal states Lu. He pursued a political and intellectual but unsuccessful in that turned to social reformation. (Charles F. Aiken.)
- Emperor Wu of Han: he is one of the greatest emperors of ancient China who reigned in the 1st and 2nd century B.C. he declared Confucianism as the state religion (rather philosophy) and implemented its code of conduct and social practices. (wikipedia)
- Mencius: He is regarded as the greatest Confucian scholar, philosophr and preacher. Born in 4th century B.C. he gave a proper shape to the socio-political ideas of Confucious.
- Xun Zi: Xun Zi is also regarded as the second most important scholar and adherent of Conficusnism. Unlike Mencius, he regarded humankind as of evil nature and was of the view that morality through social organization is necessary to cultivate goodness into human nature.
- Zhu Xi or Chu His: He was another leading scholar of Confucianism in the 12th century. He founded the school of Principle. He most important contribution is the establishment of a rational Neo-Confucianism. He systensized all the major precepts of early Confucian thought and developed a proper code of conduct. He basic idea includes the investigation of things and natural phhenomenon.
- Wang Yangming: He was another influential Neo-Confucian of late 15th and early 16th century who was adept in the art philosophy, education, calligraphy. He discarded the orthodox rationalism of Zhu Xi and is reagrded the most influential Neo-Confucian thinker after Zhu-Xi.
- Motoori Norinaga: He was a Japenese Confucian scholar in the 18th century who re-established and reconstyructed some of the religious thought of Confucianism.
Confucianism is regarded as a cult or code of conduct rather than a religion as it has no church, no clergy. It has no proper philosophy about the existence of God and it suggests ritualism on the worship of God or gods. It has no particular concepts as life hereafter and has no divine scriptures. “Confucianism is actually a philosophy of life, not a Religion… like Buddhism.”
Confucianism is considered a rationalization of these two extremes in the ancient Chinese society i.e. legalism and Taoism. (Cheung, 2006) Confucianism neither believed in the idea of harsh punishments, impersonal laws and inhuman rules toward the mass nor it gave approval to absolute individual freedom of thought and action as it would lead to utter anarchy. Confucianism adopted an equidistant approach between the two extremes and propagated a philosophy based on the beautiful combination of individual needs and social needs. Confucianism served as a balance between the extreme centralization of power and subjugation of masses as embodied in Legalism and the utter chaos created by the absolute individualistic approach of Taoism.
The “Jen”: Scholars say that all the teachings of Confucius can be encapsulated by this word. This word is equivalent to “social virtue”. Confucianism suggested another way i.e. to get social harmony through social cohesion of individuals manifested by Jen. It took care of individuals’ needs as well as the socio-political needs. To Confucius, society was not a mere collection of individual but is has other internal and external dimensions.
Internally, it is the substantial device that moulds our beliefs and attitudes while on the external horizon, it exerts and maintains pressures from the society to facilitate conformity to the above-mentioned collective beliefs and attitudes. Confucius perceived society as a separate and distinguished unit. It is an entity independent of individuals. This argument clearly manifests that social facts i.e. norms, values and institutions, have their independent existence and are not sustained by individual actions but individuals react to them.
Confucius also suggests that individual desires are cravings are unlimited and individual hankers after more and more. This natural insatiability produces individual propensities in humans. (Sommer 1995, Lopez 1996 & Ching 1993) So all the social virtues like charity, honesty, sincerity, altruism, kindness, benevolence etc. that can create social harmony are a manifestation of Jen and Jen is the only pre-requisite of a strong, prosperous and peaceful society.
Nature of God
- Confucians follow following four books that are primarily related to different aspect of Confucius’ thought.
- The Confucian Analects: These are twenty in number and are written by Confucius’ pupils. Basically these are compilations of his thoughts and preaching. These are equivalent to Bible.
- Lun Yu, and Meng Tzu: It is another important book written by Mencius. It contains various discussion between Mencius with his disciples that deals with the basic questions of Confucian philosophy. Furthermore, it contains certain advice for contemporary rulers.
- Ta-Hsueh: it is treatise that deals with political and ethical issue.
- Chung Yung: It means Doctrine of the Mean. It was written by grandson of Confucius; Kung Chi. It is an essentially philosophical enterprise and also takes into account the general conduct and morality. (Jochim,1986)
Ethics & Morality
“Golden Rule” of Confucianism is: “What you do not want done to yourself, do not do unto others” and “The injuries done to you by an enemy should be returned with a combination of love and justice”. This golden rule is a symbolic manifestation of Jen that means to do all the acts to create harmony in the social life. This harmony starts with one’s own life and one’s relationship with his neighbor. ( Martinson,1978)
Confucius considers human nature as essentially virtuous and inclined toward goodness. But he further reinforces the idea that level and intensity of this goodness vary from person to person. But he also says that some chosen ones are blessed with perfection in their character and they only manifest these virtues during their stay in the world. Sages and saints are the ultimate epitome of goodness but every person can achieve the higher level by his piety and perfection in Jen. Later on Xun Zi discarded this ideas of inherent goodness in human nature and said that human nature is evil and only society can mould it into something good and virtuous.
Confucius says that ordinary men can lead the path of Jen by the great learning process. He has distinguished these steps in the developmental process;
- Investigation of phenomena,
- Rectitude of purpose,
- Local self-government, and
- Universal self-government.
- Chin, John. 2004. Confucianism. RELIGION-INFO.COM . A Guide to Religions, Religious Information and Help in Search for God. Retrieved June20, 2007 from http://www.religion-info.com
- Ching, Julia. 1993. Chinese Religions. Maryknoll, N.Y.: Orbis.
- Confucianism. Wikipedia. Retrieved June20, 2007 from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucianism
- Confucianism. Wikipedia. Retrieved June20, 2007 from http://chineseculture.about.com/cs/confucius/index.htm
- Domínguez, J. World Religions and 101 Cults and Sects. Confucianism. Retrieved June20, 2007 from http://www.religion-cults.com/Eastern/Confucianism/confuci.htm
- Jochim, Christian. 1986. Chinese Religions: A Cultural Perspective. Englewood Cliffs, N.J.: Prenctice-Hall, Inc.
- Lopez, Donald S., Jr. 1996. Religions of China in Practice. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press.
- Martinson, Paul Varo. 1978. A Theology of World Religions: Interpreting God, Self, and World in Semitic, Indian, and Chinese Thought. Minneapolis, Minn.: Augsburg.
- Sommer, Deborah, ed. 1995. Chinese Religion: An Anthology of Sources. New York: Oxford University Press.