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Religion Library: Confucianism

Exploration and Conquest

Written by: Jeffrey Richey

Despite these setbacks for Confucianism, post-imperial reformers active during the 1920s and 1930s also attempted to breathe new life into Confucian traditions. The Xin Shenghuo Yundong (New Life Movement) inaugurated by the Chinese Nationalist  leader Chiang Kai-shek (1887-1975), who later ruled independent Taiwan after the victory of his Communist opponents in 1949, combined modern scientific elements -- such as basic hygiene and economic development -- with traditional Confucian moral principles such as li (propriety), yi (righteousness), lian (discrimination), and chi (shame). Later Chinese leaders, such as Singapore's founding prime minister, Lee Kuan Yew (b. 1923), championed Confucianism as the secret to the economic success attained by ethnic Chinese, especially in post-colonial Southeast Asia, and introduced Confucian moral education into Singapore's schools and universities. Thus, Confucianism has played a role in both imperialist and anti-imperialist campaigns during the 20th century.


Study Questions:
     1.     How did Confucian thought influence Chinese attitudes toward non-Chinese peoples?
     2.     How did Confucian traditions in Korea, Japan, and Vietnam compare with their Chinese antecedents?
     3.     What role did Confucianism play in Japan's modernization?
     4.     What role did Confucianism play in China's modernization?

 

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