Seven Core Confucian Concepts
Confucianism, as way of life, can be perceived as a philosophy and often a social hypothesis that the Chinese have pursued for around two millennia. Despite the transformation of the Confucianism school of thought over time, it maintains its attribute as a foundation of knowledge, the societal policy of the people, and the basis for morals. Its influence has spread to other nations where kingdoms have had competition for power and prevalent warfare. Confucianism was founded on the traditional customs and cultures of the Zhou, Shang, and Xia dynasties, which dominated feudal societies that have endured the philosophy. Confucianism concepts are essential in providing leaders with the appropriate political direction in contemporary culture since they embrace goodness, heartiness, the distinctive human being nature, the values of gain, concrete direction for human sacrifice, and benevolence.
There are significant in how Confucianism has been presented by different scholars, which widens the gap between eastern and western perceptions of the philosophy. However, there is general concurrence that Confucianism endorses a politics based on virtues that can be comprehended in two ways. First, the political culture in Confucianism intends to enhance particular values and social relationships it perceives as good (Yao 155). Secondly, the philosophy conceives that politics can only be successful if the individuals with authority are virtuous. Therefore, it is logical to state that the Confucian political philosophy is a form of perfectionism that says that the government ought to promote good life, and hence it is expressly opposed to the modern liberal perception that the government and its officials ought to take no stance concerning what makes the good life. As conceived by the Confucian school of thought, the politics of virtue endorses the rule by the wise, as opposed to the rule by the majority. In other words, Confucianism principles stresses for political leaders to cultivate virtues before enjoying liberties and rights; it views individuals’ care for the needy and the poor as stemming from duties or virtues, as opposed to the imperatives of justice or social equality.
Confucianism comprises various concepts that demonstrate how it aligns with contemporary political culture. Among the most distinctive epitomes of Confucian ethics is represented by the centrality it gives its ritual performance in the cultivation of ethics of virtuous character, particularly of Ren, depicting goodness. The Confucianism approach where moral virtues could elicit faith and trust among people, while castigatory measures could deter wrongdoing, is essential for understanding how rituals work. A political leader “who governs the state through his virtue is like the pole star which stays put while the other stars revolve around it” (Lunyu, 2, as cited by Yao 2). An effective way to promote governing through virtue was the performance of rituals that would enable performers to get used to a sense of loyalty and sincerity, as well as to set appropriate examples for the people so that they distinguish right from wrong. The trend is similar in contemporary politics where leaders will desire to promote their ideologies through practicing them individually. The implication is that individuals will seek to learn from them in the end, which makes ruling more effective.
The Confucian concept of ritual performance includes the burial of parents, ancestor worship ceremonies, and the rules prevailing appropriate and respectful behavior between children and their parents. Over time, the performance of ritual can be perceive to cover a wide range of practices and customs that can spell out respectful and courteous behavior of diverse forms (De Bary and Bloom 182). From a Confucian perspective, any whole account of self-cultivation toward an ideal of the model political leader has to be inclusive of the sedulous performance of ritual. The ritual, in essence, is the means through which an individual’s person is rectified. Through behaving in an acceptable manner, politicians’ emotions find peace and calmness in ritual. Through speaking as one’s model leaders speaks, one’s understanding starts becoming similar to that of his or her icon. In this way, individuals can model their leadership based on the behaviors of other leaders that they admire.
A real leader is one who is able to maintain discipline has transformation of the self. The notion is based on the Confucian concept of jen, which follows The Way of Humans, where concern is placed on life, as opposed to death, and on humans, rather than on spirits (Yao 153).Humans are bound to follow the human nature, with the Cultivating Way being a path to enlightenment. The concept is especially important for contemporary leadership because it describes humaneness and righteousness, which are essential virtues for political leadership. Confucius was himself in opposition to being opinionated and he had the golden rule of ensuring people only did to others what they would desire the people to do to them. Here, the aspect of humanity in leadership emerges. Individuals of humanity nature who desire to establish their leadership also need to develop the same traits among others. People who desire to enlarge themselves ought to enlarge others too. The technique of humanity suggested by Confucius is important for political leaders who will always strive to establish themselves. Therefore, it is essential that leaders take complete responsibility for their jurisdictions to benefit the rest of the society.
A real leader will sacrifice himself to safeguard his jen, which is dignity for human life. Sacrifices from individuals are what make life challenging and worth living. Analytically, these feelings apply to all people and not only the state and political leaders. Therefore, as a political leader, it is essential to make sacrifices in order to establish foundations for all human relationships. The concept of dignity to human life provides the individuals with humanity; hence, as leaders, there is little doubt that personality should be in oneself for effective control of nature and humanity. An effective political leader has to demonstrate his respect for human dignity by applying actions that portray generosity, goodness, humanness, and other attributes that make humans appear distinctive in the planet.
The Confucian philosophy requires a leader to be true to his or her nature to ensure effective ruling. The concept of Ren encompasses benevolence, which symbolizes an outstanding attribute in agreement with the society’s ritual norms. Confucianism has posed that the tenets of humanness establish the virtue of being loyal to one’s self and true nature (Yao 231). Subjects expect their leaders to be true to their nature and not to attempt to adapt to personalities that do not fit them best. Therefore, a greatly optimistic outlook of human nature characterizes the concept of Confucianism. Furthermore, the philosophy maintains that humans have faith in the probability of developing into inspiring creatures since it is intensely rooted in the Confucian custom. Essentially, Confucianism is based on the culture of living an ordinary life. It proves that individuals are teachable, perfectible, and improvable through communal and individual effort and is typically Confucian. In other words, effective leaders in modern politics can apply the same attributes of being true to themselves and their subjects will follow suit.
In addition, a competent leader ought to make available public amenities and resources that are essential for effective functioning of a jurisdiction. The Confucian concept of Ren or humanness is a virtue that contemporary leaders strive to apply. A consecrated, humane government comprises leaders who are sensitive of humanity and do their utmost best to serve their people. The principles of humanity represent the foundation of social relationships, the roots of peace, stability, and prosperity for the entire state, individuals, and families. Some leaders might prefer to misappropriate public resources instead of using them for the greater good of society. Societal development would contribute to a thriving economy, which means an improved lifestyle for the people. A leader who portrays the form of responsibility viewed as appropriate can be guaranteed of loyalty and support from his subjects.
An effective political leader is one who is conscious of human relationships, which is guided by the concept of Li. In Confucianism, the concept demonstrates a meaning of solid guide to human relationships and rules ensuring appropriate action that embodies the Jen concept in the real sense. The jen concept is useful when analyzing a leader’s treatment of people in terms of respecting their dignity (De Bary and Bloom 341). Even as a political leader is responsible for upholding reverence for human life, it is imperative for him to also establish an environment that promotes a solid guide to social relationships. Such relationships among individuals are in turn essential for determining the form of respect that the people will have for each other in the end. Poor or constrained relationships among individuals will most likely lead to a deficiency in cohesiveness and brotherliness whereby every individual is only responsible for himself. Any contemporary political leader desires to rule over an intact, unified group of individuals. In enabling and guaranteeing good relationships in society, it is a great achievement for the state, as it would embrace dignity to human life. Establishing concise human relationships in the state is an aspect of the overall principle of social order as postulated by the Confucian school of thought.
For effective leadership, leaders have to demonstrate reverence in the line of duty. As per the Confucian Hsiao, it is important for individuals to show reverence for their parents or elders regardless of their age (De Bary and Bloom 927). It is in the public domain that children are obligated to honor and respect their parents because of the significant contributions they make to their lives. Individuals perceive that an individual has to work hard and bring respect and fame to the family. Similarly, in politics, it is the obligation of the leaders to endeavor towards making their jurisdictions known, respected, and flourish. When a leader does this, he provides the state with the necessary physical care, spiritual, and emotional richness. For a political leader in contemporary culture, it is essential that he or she makes unsatisfied objectives a purpose for the rest of the society in the event of removal from office, demise, or other forms of exit. Moral wisdom derives its content from the awareness of what is appropriate and what is wrong. The concept of Chih hypothesizes that individuals are basically born good (De Bary and Bloom 612). Man has the possibility of being good. Hence, it is sensible for a leader of a competitive state to pursue the Confucian thought regarding man’s morality to push the society to greater levels.
A good political leader will work for others who desire service, as opposed to working for their own desires. In Confucianism, the concept of Chun-Tzu outlines that an individual who does not aim at benefitting himself with wealth and opulence is the superior, ideal person (De Bary and Bloom 544). In reality, very few political leaders achieve this feat. The leaders are required to possess virtues of servant-leadership, as the school of thought of Confucianism taught. Man derives his knowledge of determining right from wrong from innate and external circumstances. For example, it would be to a leader’s disadvantage to let the society and culture go into disarray. Similarly, seeking knowledge from other entities is an essential part of deriving options since it enables individuals to develop senses and feelings.
The concepts of Confucianism provide a foundation for guiding contemporary political leaders because they possess positive aspects such as humaneness, goodness, virtues, morality, benevolence, heartiness, and direction for human life. The Confucian system comprises ethical and social philosophy, as opposed to religion. The Confucian school of thought derives its concepts from a primordial religious basis, and hence can be applied by contemporary political leaders to develop social institutions, values, and other ideals that are essential for effective leadership in the modern setting.
De Bary, Wm. and Theodore Irene Bloom. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Volume 1: From Earliest Times to 1600. Columbia University Press, 1999.
Yao, Xinzhong. An introduction to Confucianism. Cambridge University Press, 2000.