The Analects of Confucius

The Analects of Confucius Confucianism

Readers of the The Analects will see much of how its ideology makes up the tenets of Confucianism, an ethical and philosophical system that has influenced the cultures of many Asian nations, including China, Taiwan, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam. The Analects present many of the same themes found in Confucianism, including Jen/Ren, Hsiao/Xiao, Li, as well as the concept of the Chun-tzu/Junzi.

Confucianism is believed to have developed during what is known as the Spring and Autumn Period of Chinese history (circa 771-476 BC), corresponding roughly with the first half of the Chou (or Zhou) Dynasty. It was during this time that Chou kings began to lose their grip on power, a fact that Confucius laments in the text. During the Han Dynasty, Confucianism began to take on additional metaphysical and cosmological elements. However, it was with the advent of the Qin (or Ch'in) Dynasty (221-207 BC) that Confucianism became the official ideology of the Chinese state. It remained so until the establishment of the Republic of China.

Confucianism does not promote the worship of a group of deities or a monotheistic ideology. Instead, it stresses the self-cultivation of virtue and a maintenance of personal ethics and responsibilities. The Analects contains the core of its beliefs and teachings, including loyalty, goodness, filial piety, rituals, etiquette, and proper governance.

Although Confucius himself stated that he was not inventing anything new but rather simply transmitting what he had been taught, some Western thinkers, such as Voltaire, credit him with a then-revolutionary concept that came to be known as meritocracy. In its basic sense, this is a system of governance wherein responsibilities are assigned to those based on their own merits, instead of by lineage as was the norm in Western states. One's heritage was not a basis for judgment in Confucius's eyes. Indeed, the disciples he chose came from a variety of classes.

In modern times, Confucianism has gone on to influence many other ideologies but has also faced criticism. The Cultural Revolution in China by Marxists was seen as a condemnation of Confucian ideals. It is important to remember in this instance that many of the depictions of Confucianism were invented during this period, many of them directly opposed to Confucian ideals. In South Korea, Confucianism has long been blamed for limiting the modernization of the country. Filial relationships in particular are seen as detrimental to the nation's well-being.