What Confucianism and Taoism Mean in East Asian Countries

Confucianism and Daoism are two of the major traditions in China. Separately, the different principals promoted by different authors in these religions have had a great influence on the Chinese people and other east Asian nations. It is difficult to analyze the behavior and political view of Confucianism and Daoism before comprehending the similarities and differences between their major doctrines and beliefs. The following comprises of an argument of the ethics and ways of these particular religions and how they interact with an individual spiritually and mentally.

Confucianism still has a lot of significance in the East Asian countries to an extent that the governments are considering about making it a proper religion of states as it would be more widely accepted by the society. Confucianism was a religion which was based on the teaching and philosophies of Confucius (Master Kong) who was a Chinese philosopher who was born in 551 BC. The Analects is the key source for the principles of Confucius which was a compilation of selections from the conversations Confucius had with his followers and rulers of states. The main philosophy behind Confucianism is to achieve the stature of “Junzi” which symbolizes the conduct of a noble man which consists of five fundamental principles namely filial devotion(Xiao), humaneness(Ren) and ritual decorum(Li).

Humaneness requires the act of an altruistic behavior towards other people in the society which includes loyalty, selfless, show reciprocity in good actions, kindness and pious. Following are a couple selection from the Analects regarding humaneness: 19:6: Zixia said, “In broadly learning, in being genuinely dedicated, in earnestly inquiring, in reflecting on things at hand—humaneness lies right here” (page 63). This passage states that as long as you’re educated, diligent, and reciprocate what you achieve for others, you can achieve humaneness in life.

Filial Devotion is another virtue which requires the respect to elders and the dead. In general, it means to perform your moral duties in life towards your parents, siblings and ancestors which gives them importance in your own life. Example from Analects: 1:2: “Among those who are filial toward their parents and fraternal toward their brothers, those who are inclined to offend against their superiors are few indeed. … The noble person concerns himself with the root; when the root is established, the Way is born. Being filial and fraternal—is this not the root of humaneness?” (page 45)

Ritual decorum is the last main virtue which encompass the rituals and norms that dictate what is the authentic behavior towards religious beliefs. This can also be associated to establishing a correct government with laws advised from the principles of Li.

A Daoist’s main goal in life is to seek the way of nature by minimum human action. Daoism’s impact on the Chinese lifestyle has been extensive but Daoist teaching have often been considered by religious scholars as a safety exit or a from the teachings of Confucius. Daoism literally means a path or a way. Its doctrine basically denotes the right path of working to attain harmony with reality. The main authors that were accountable for the flourishment of Daoism were Laozi(founder) and Zhuangzi. Laozi’s philosophy was to support moderation that is a man fulfilling his role in nature and to go beyond his natural role was to cause chaos.

The fundamental principles of Daoism are Dao that is the natural way of every process caused by the force of nature to keep the universe balanced. Wu Wei is another virtue which means no action. For example, people should not force their will in the world as it causes disturbance in the harmony. They should rather put their will according to nature and the objective would be achieved effortlessly.

Confucianism and Daoism complement each other in many ways when their teaching are combined with each other but they also contradict each other in some principals.

When we combine the principles of both religions it can be assumed that an all rounded personality can be achieved. Both philosophies want the people to think of a communal benefit rather than an individual benefit. Both advise people to follow their obligations which include social, mental, spiritual and physical duties. Selflessness is one common trait discussed by both as Confucian tells us in Ren as you are self-less when you think of yourself same as others and Daoism tells us in Wu Wei where if we don’t disrupt the communal harmony, every course occurs in peace. Both religions inspire people to live dutiful and balanced lives. This is where ritual practice and Dao come to play.

The two religions also promote ethics for making an individual personality better. Confucianism emphasize filial devotion, humaneness and piety while Daoism focuses on nature and how harmony can be attained for the society. Daoism has more operation around self-reformation by following the virtuous path whereas in Confucianism, the ethics operate more around God’s way than God Himself. It gives the people more priority over the way of life and the practice of rites and rituals for mental and social development.

Confucius gave a strict moral code to which people have to abide by. It demonstrates how to act with what characteristic traits and how to apply them in a particular situation. For example, in the analects, “One who governs through virtue may be compared to the polestar, which occupies its place while the host of other stars pay homage to it.” (page 46) If people see their leader following the rules of virtue then they will be inspired from him and follow the same path.

Confucius says in another passage; “To learn without thinking is unavailing; to think with learning is dangerous” (page 47). This is an attempt by Confucius to illustrate that if something is just learned and not practically applied in life may lead to a precocious decision. Pondering over your subject will lead to satisfying results. This theory applies to the ruler of a government as he needs to think before taking actions for his nation. These traits are required for a leader and individuals.

Confucius wanted to portray moralities to establish a well-structured society. He discussed about humaneness in many passages from the analects. It basically tells us to do the same to others as you would intend for yourself and you will certainly get a positive result.

Confucius also explained how will ritual decorum apply in our life for example; Any law will only be followed by the people if they see their leader following it in the first place. This would create a mutual relationship of respect between the leader and his people and they both would make great efforts to maintain stability in the government.

Laozi, on the other hand, outlines the concept of government in a different way. In his selections from the Daodejing he says “Do not value the goods that are hard to come by and people will not steal” (page 80). He says that people should depart themselves from worldly things to help encourage people to follow and attaining virtue.

Generally, the method of governing by Confucius is by worldly action of rituals and benevolence whereas, Laozi emphasizes more on action through inaction and leavings things up to faith by disengaging yourself from your desires. He contradicts Confucius’s philosophy of strict adherence to law by saying that more laws a ruler makes; the more criminals he creates. According to Tao, all human beings are born perfect but they are eventually corrupted by laws and incorrect philosophies they adhere.

The Dao expects us to have no absolute standard of living and no expectations from anything in the world as we are just free spirits in order to achieve the state of harmony. Laozi talks about the state of Yin and yang which means how two contrary forces may be interconnected. If the people can give up their expectations, there would be no expectations to run after.

Daoism relates with Americans trying to achieve the American dream by working hard every day in hope of attaining that stature one day. Daoism wants us to just be in a state of inactivity. If a leader just goes with the flow it would be hard for him to prosper. Productivity is vital in establishing a better government in today’s world. Americans cannot follow Daoism because of their hunger for wealth and power.

If a person follows both these virtues, he/she would be flawless as they’d be doing good deeds individually for themselves and following the norms of the community to maintain order and peace. A person can be a law-abiding citizen of the nation as he would respect the course of nature. This way, the environment can be conserved from climatic disasters like global warming or extinction of species.

If people can fulfill their roles, problems like violence, divorce, sexual assaults would be eradicated from the community as everyone would be knowledgeable of their role and position in life. They have been a great influence on the people of China as they have achieved great success in world economy by concerning for their country from a communal point of view.