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Religion Library: Confucianism

Vision for Society

Written by: Jeffrey Richey

The social vision of Confucianism still explains a great many social customs and experiences across East Asia. One example is the Japanese social virtue known as wa (harmony), which non-Japanese have used to explain everything from Japanese business practices to Japanese baseball. Wa may be understood as a distinctively Confucian ritualization of all social interaction. As is well known, Japanese culture favors indirect communication and allusive suggestion over direct communication and explicit expression. While this can frustrate non-Japanese, especially Westerners who may prefer more straightforward social interaction, it does have the virtue of helping to minimize disagreement, neutralize confrontation, and pacify resentment. From the Confucianized Japanese perspective, it seems, no social problem or tension is so important that it ought to take precedence over the preservation of social harmony. If one wishes to see Confucianism, and especially Confucianism's vision of society, in action today, one need look no further than present-day Japan (and much the same could be said of China, Korea, and Vietnam).


Study Questions:
1.         How do Confucians see the relationship between ethics and ritual?
2.         Why is ritual practice so important to Confucians?
3.         What was Zhou Dunyi's contribution to Confucian ethics?
4.         What are some examples of Confucian ethics in practice today?


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