Confucianism & Taoism


The name ˇ°Confuciusˇ± is a Latinized version of ˇ°Kong Fuzi,ˇ± meaning ˇ°Master Kong.ˇ± Kong Qiu (551-479 BCE) taught a system of moral wisdom that would become a predominant social force in China, from the second-century BCE until the mid-twentieth-century BCE. Confucianism does not teach as a central doctrine that a God or gods should be worshipped, or that there is a life after death; it has no priesthood, but it does embrace a system of ritual.

The central doctrine of Confucianism is ren, which means goodness, benevolence, humanity, and kind heartedness. Related teachings include loyalty, respect and consideration, propriety, reciprocity, neighborliness, and love. The major work about Confucius is the Analects.

Major interpreters of Confucian doctrine have included Mengzi (or Mencius, 4th cent. BCE), and Xunzi (3rd cent. BCE). Neo-Confucianism emerged in about 1000 CE under Zhu Xi and Wang Yangming. Confucianism has been known to the Western world only since the late 16th century. Taoism (or Daoism) refers to ˇ°the wayˇ± ¨C an inner, spiritual liberation based in retreat from the world and from conventional perspectives and values. Daoism is both a philosophy and a religion. The Dao is seen as a first principle ¨C an indeterminate source from which all things become determinate. A Daoist seeks harmony with nature, not with the contentions and troubles of human civilization. He or she ˇ°sit and forgetsˇ± the senses; the mind is to be emptied of the knowledge of all things ¨C especially the self. Daoism is a way of naturalness, simplicity, and spontaneity.

The two major ancient Daoist texts are Laozi (also called Daodejing) and Zhuangzi; both are named after their purported authors. The texts and over 1,000 additional volumes of scripture comprise the Daoist canon, called Daozang. Important interpreters of Daoist teachings have been Wang Bi (3rd cent, CE), Guo Xiang (3rd ¨C 4th cent. CE), and others including the Heavenly Masters sect (2nd cent. CE under Zhang Ling), and later Perfect Truth sect. Daoism has become better known in the West only since 1937.

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