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The Impact of Confucius on the Development of Chinese Thought and Culture

Chinese culture belongs to one of the most ancient ones since it includes the following components: religion, philosophy, visual arts, cuisine, martial arts, literature, music, architecture, and ceramics. It was influenced by the social, political, and historical factors. However, the impact of Confucianism on the development of Chinese thought was also obvious. This Chinese way of thought was the official philosophy of China and an indispensable part of Chinese culture. Moreover, Confucianism was based on Cultivation, Education, Virtue, Neutrality, Rite, and Humanity as the essential aspects of human behavior. Thus, Confucius influenced the development of Chinese thought and culture as he popularized it and made it more spiritual by placing Confucianism philosophy in the center of Chinese culture.


Confucius’ Influence on Chinese Thought

Confucius created the strong ideological system that had a strong effect on Chinese philosophy and formation of Chinese character. Thus, Chinese thought was preconditioned by the principles of morality and virtues that should be preserved by every person. Perfection, kindness, and truth were Confucius’ main virtues which he reflected through his moral theory and philosophy. It is necessary to mention that his ethical and moral principles were based on the older Chinese traditions that promoted harmonious social relations, civil order, and good government. Thus, the Han Dynasty chose Confucianism as the official state ideology.

According to Yang and Tamney (2011), Confucianism is related to the spiritual traditions of the country. Thus, Chinese thought was preconditioned by the following aspects of Chinese life: a loss of faith in Communism, the increased nationalistic feelings, and governmental support for the Confucian Renaissance. Moreover, the scholars underlined that Confucianism is already Chinese thought and philosophy as it is the norm for the Chinese community.

Confucianism focused its attention on people’s relationships and their understanding of heaven. Therefore, Chinese philosophy also struggled to find the answers to these questions. Moreover, Confucius managed to share his evaluation of the significance of the human being and his/her virtues with people. Consequently, this philosophy reveals the codes of the universe that serve human beings and the nature of human being (Tiwald, 2010). It is also worth mentioning that Confucianism coincides with Chinese state ideology as they both develop morality considering the social, educational, and political factors.

Confucian philosophy teaches how to be gentlemen and develop the five virtues, namely kindness, diligence, good faith, magnanimity, and courtesy. Moreover, Chinese people had to learn Confucianism if they wanted to pursue their career (Hoobler & Hoobler, 2009). It means that Confucian thought was the most influential and recognized one in the Chinese society. Currently, Confucianism is revitalized in the country, especially mind and political Confucianism as its ideas are still applicable to many areas (Fan, 2011). This famous and influential philosopher taught his disciples the crucial importance of diligence, the pursuit of truth, and being a perfect personality. Apart from this, he inspired them with courteousness, modesty, kindness, and integrity and passed his wisdom to the subsequent generations.

Confucianism supported the idea of self-regulation that helped to achieve the perfection with the help of mentoring, self-examination, rites and rituals, and music. Consequently, Chinese philosophy presupposes the achievement of self-control, building the harmonic relationships among people, shaping human character, and developing morality.

The Confucian philosophy is ancient, but its principles are still relevant to Chinese culture as they promote ethical and moral values. In essence, Chinese ethics is the reflection of Confucianism as it pays attention to positive patterns of behavior and human virtues. Thus, one should distinguish the following key virtues of Confucius’ moral theory: Ren (humanity, charity, and benevolence), Li (worship, ceremony, politeness, good manners, propriety, and correct behavior), Xin (integrity and faithfulness), Zhi (knowledge), and Ji (uprightness and honesty).

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Confucius’ Impact on Chinese Culture

As Confucius was an intellectual and educational person, he promoted education and intellect with a noble morality. It means that the philosopher also contributed to the Chinese education. Thus, he inspired the generation of his compatriots to develop their intellectual abilities. This distinguished man was not only the philosopher but a teacher who had the achievements in education due to his avant-garde approaches. Confucius promoted the idea that all people should be educated despite their social status.

Concerning teachers, he claimed that they should take into consideration students’ peculiarities and characteristics. It means that Confucius gradually brought Chinese education closer to breaking the tradition of educating only the aristocracy. Thus, he wanted to make people intelligent, educated, and moral. Confucius’ principle of teaching was based on imparting knowledge and creating lasting impact on his followers (Tiwald, 2010).

Confucianism became a state religion in 136 B.C. and prevailed in the Chinese education system for 2,000 years (Hoobler & Hoobler, 2009). This philosophy of life contains many principles concerning study that underlined the significance of the processes of teaching and thinking. As a result, Confucius stated that studying without thinking was impossible as it led to confusion, but thinking alone was ineffective as it led to laziness. In addition, he suggested the system of examinations that could check the students’ knowledge.

The Chinese classics “The Analects” accumulated Confucius’ words of wisdom. It means that he truly had a strong influence on the Chinese literature. “The Analects” emphasized on cultural and ethical values anchored in Chinese tradition and described the ways of maintaining the productive society. Hoober &Hoober (2009) insist that Confucianism is not a religion but the system of ethics and values that have formed Chinese humanism. Moreover, even Confucius saw religion as a form of education. Thus, Confucianism was the unity of religious, moral, ethical, and educational principles that fostered the cultural development of the Chinese community (Bell, 2010). It is not without reason that Confucius received the title of “the teacher of ten thousand generations” as his disciples succeeded in politics, language, literature, and morality and contributed to the development and formation of Confucianism (Yu, 2007).

Another impact of this way of thought was evident in the Chinese language as it had undergone the changes. Moreover, Confucius implemented the idea of the lack of any punctuation in the ancient classics making it difficult for comprehension. Hence, Confucian ideology remains full of ambiguities and interpretations. The presence and influence of this wise teacher were obvious in Chinese art as the philosopher regarded art as the medium for the political purpose and character improvement. Confucius intentionally taught his disciples to develop the aesthetic value and inspired them to be poets, musicians, philosophers, and artists. It is necessary to mention that Chinese painting also fell under Confucius’ influence. Painters associated the depicted objects with ethical values and moral virtues. For example, they depicted cypresses and pines as the symbols of moral integrity, bamboo and orchids as the symbols of aloofness from material and political pursuits, while vanilla stood for the noble person, and winds – for villainy (Yu, 2007). Moreover, Confucianism brought the aspects of mythology in Chinese art, making it more based on the imaginary plants and animals. It is necessary to mention that the Great Wall of China is the example of modern Confucianism, although it was built in seventh century B.C (Bell, 2010). In fact, it symbolizes unity, hierarchy, and order.

Confucianism evaluated such elements as fire, water, wood, metal, and earth. Those were the natural virtues that should be respected. Thus, they were used by artists for the depiction in painting, sculpture, and literature (Berthrong & Berthrong, 2014). Chinese figure painting also was under Confucius’ influence. For instance, the portraits before the Tang Dynasty depicted the respected statesmen in the context of righteousness and beauty. Hence, the traditional Chinese portraits made the impression of philosophical and peaceful dispositions (Kiong, 2012).

In terms of poetry, Confucianism also had influence on this sphere of human activities. It is possible to feel Confucius’ presence in poems by Qu Yuan, especially in Lisao where romantic lyrics was combined with moral and ethical values. The impact of Confucianism was seen in art design that was characterized by the animal and plant imagery. Consequently, Confucian temples had a feature statue of Confucius and symmetrical lines. In this sense, the Chinese designs incorporated Confucian reference to the nature.

Confucius contemplated on the virtues of a moral person, human morality, relationships, and the core elements of Chinese philosophy that should be taken into consideration while negotiating. Thus, currently, Confucianism has become the basis for Chinese business culture that differs from other countries by the implications that are not typical to them (Giessen, 2014). It is evident that Chinese culture is deeply rooted in the Confucian teachings.

In conclusion, the impact of Confucius on the development and growth of Chinese thought and culture is evident even nowadays. Confucianism is not only a religion but also an ideological system that promotes moral and ethical principles, educates, teaches wisdom, and positively influences human personality. Moreover, philosophy shared by Confucius made Chinese culture more spiritual, moral, and popular. It has also significantly influenced art, humanitarian sciences, music, painting, and literature.

Confucius promoted education and improved teaching process. It indicates that Confucianism became the driving force of Chinese intellectuals as it brought the growth of musicians, politicians, philosophers, and artists. This way of thought is the cornerstone of Chinese culture that made it more related to the natural imagery, the moral entity of human character, and development of virtues. Currently, Chinese culture is one of the most ancient, distinct, and ethical cultures in the world.

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