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Ethics and Community

Community Organization

In traditional China, Confucianism prevailed within the courts of the nobility and in every arm of the government. The ruler assigned officials to govern at every level, including the local community, and the judiciary was also run by the central government.


The model Confucian leader was the scholar-official. Years of education in the classic texts culminated in a rigorous series of examinations. Positions within the government were assigned based on the results. Subsequent positions would be based on performance and on one's status with respect to the ruling powers.

Principles of Moral Thought and Action

Confucius provided few specific moral principles. One should obey one's elders and superiors and treat rulers, parents, and even those who were not one's social equals with respect. One should also respect ritual, cultivate wisdom, be trustworthy, and strive to do the right thing in any situation.

Vision for Society

Confucius envisioned a society in which all lived in harmony, content with their place within the social hierarchy. He believed that if a ruler's moral character was exemplary, this would influence his people to behave morally as well.

Gender and Sexuality

Women were expected to demonstrate exemplary behavior and uncomplaining obedience. Homosexuality was discouraged, but not specifically condemned as "sinful." Abortion was also discouraged, except in cases where the mother's health was endangered.