Article

Classical Confucianism

Paul Goldin

in Chinese Studies

ISBN: 9780199920082
Published online April 2013 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199920082-0060
Classical Confucianism

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As one of the oldest and most widespread belief systems in East Asia, Confucianism has meant different things to different people. For the purposes of this bibliography, “classical Confucianism” refers to the foundations of the Confucian tradition, that is, the philosophy of Confucius (Kong Qiu, Kong fuzi; traditional dates b. 551–d. 479 bce) and his followers down to the 3rd century bce, an interval that is sometimes called the Warring States period. Reconstructing the historical parameters of Confucianism is increasingly difficult the further back one goes in time, as the first masters did not leave written summaries of their views. What we know of Confucius and Mencius (Meng Ke, Mengzi; b. c. 372–d. 289 bce), for example, comes from books that were compiled after their deaths under unknown circumstances. Moreover, it has always been a tenet of Confucianism that acting on one’s knowledge is as crucial as knowledge itself, and thus the domain of Confucianism includes socially constructive action, ritual practice, and other activities that are not always directly recorded in historical documents. If there are three basic convictions shared by all classical Confucians, they are that (1) human beings are born with the capacity to develop morally; (2) moral development begins with moral self-cultivation, that is, reflection on one’s own behavior and concerted improvement where it is found lacking; and (3) by perfecting oneself in this manner, one also contributes to the project of perfecting the world.

Article.  9930 words. 

Subjects: East Asian Studies ; Asian History ; East Asian Philosophy ; East Asian Religions

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