Confucius Says

confuciusphotoDuring a visit to the Confucius Temple in Beijing, I saw more than 100 grade school kids in academic garb listening to an expert on the old sage.

I never really understood what Confucius was about and I am uncertain whether I get his teachings now.

But that is what experts are for. So I hired a scholar in Chinese philosophy and religion to give me a one-person tour of the high points.

So here goes with my limited knowledge about Confucius. First of all, he was a philosopher, not a religious figure. He lived 200 years before Socrates. Like Socrates, he didn’t write down his teachings. That was done by his followers.

The current government has embraced Confucius–only 40 years after the leaders denounced his teachings and literally brought intellectuals to the temple site to denounce them. Backed by the Chinese government, Confucius institutes exist throughout the world in an attempt to create an understanding of Chinese culture and language.

Confucius is the middle way of Chinese philosophy. He taught respect for elders. Government should respect the people. Women should respect their men–a particularly troubling aspect of his philosophy for feminists. But, c’mon, he lived 500 years before Jesus Christ.

His philosophy contrasted with the legalists–those who taught that the leaders should tell the people what to do–and the Daoists, who are more or less the libertarians in the scheme of things and the only “religion” of the three.

At the Confucius Temple, students literally wrote his musings in stone. Tall columns of his sayings exist in a virtual mausoleum to him.

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Here is someone who knows a lot more than I do about the three philosophies:

Here is more background about Confucius:

Next up: my attempt to understand Buddhism. It’s tough for a Catholic guy.


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