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Example research essay topic: Zhu Xi Great Teacher Confucius - 754 words

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Confucianism is a rigid set of social guidelines and rituals based on ones place in a mainly patriarchal society. Taoism is based on the harmony of the universe and the union of polar opposites-Yin and Yang; a philosophy that one lives their life by. In times of war, Confucianism is prevalent while Taoism is usually practiced during peace. In this essay I will explain how both Confucianism and Taoism, two major Chinese traditions, complement each other as a part of Chinese concept of cosmic order. Confucius was a failed politician, great teacher, and Eastern democrat. It is said that culture provides a set of rituals to fall back upon in an unknown situation, like shaking hands with someone when meeting them for the first time.

Living during a time of constant war, when morals and ethics were at an all-time low, he drew up a set of strict guidelines for the immoral man to follow. Confucianism, major system of thought in China, developed from the teachings of Confucius and his disciples, and concerned with the principles of good conduct, practical wisdom, and proper social relationships. Confucianism has influenced the Chinese attitude toward life, set the patterns of living and standards of social value, and provided the background for Chinese political theories and institutions. It has spread from China to Korea, Japan, and Vietnam and has aroused interest among Western scholars. Although Confucianism became the official ideology of the Chinese state, it has never existed as an established religion with a church and priesthood. Chinese scholars honored Confucius as a great teacher and sage but did not worship him as a personal god.

Nor did Confucius himself ever claim divinity. Unlike Christian churches, the temples built to Confucius were not places in which organized community groups gathered to worship, but public edifices designed for annual ceremonies, especially on the philosopher's birthday. Several attempts to deify Confucius and to proselyte Confucianism failed because of the essentially secular nature of the philosophy. The principles of Confucianism are contained in the nine ancient Chinese works handed down by Confucius and his followers, who lived in an age of great philosophic activity.

These writings can be divided into two groups: the Five Classics and the Four Books. The keynote of Confucian ethics is ren, variously translated as love, goodness, humanity, and human-heartedness. Ren is a supreme virtue representing human qualities at their best. In human relations, construed as those between one person and another, ren is manifested in zhong, or faithfulness to oneself and others, and shu, or altruism, best expressed in the Confucian golden rule, Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself. Other important Confucian virtues include righteousness, propriety, integrity, and filial piety. One who possesses all these virtues becomes a quiz (perfect gentleman).

Politically, Confucius advocated a paternalistic government in which the sovereign is benevolent and honorable and the subjects are respectful and obedient. The ruler should cultivate moral perfection in order to set a good example to the people. In education Confucius upheld the theory, remarkable for the feudal period in which he lived, that in education, there is no class distinction. With the flow of time the ideas of Confucius were further developed, which resulted into creation of Neo-Confucian movements. Neo-Confucianism branched out into two schools of philosophy. The foremost exponent of one school was Zhu Xi (Chu Hsi), an eminent thinker second only to Confucius and Mencius in prestige, who established a new philosophical foundation for the teachings of Confucianism by organizing scholarly opinion into a cohesive system.

According to the Neo-Confucianist system Zhu Xi represented, all objects in nature are composed of two inherent forces: li, an immaterial universal principle or law; and qi (chi), the substance of which all material things are made. Whereas qi may change and dissolve, li, the underlying law of the myriad things, remains constant and indestructible. Zhu Xi further identifies the li in humankind with human nature, which is essentially the same for all people. The phenomenon of particular differences can be attributed to the varying proportions and densities of the qi found among individuals. Thus, those who receive a qi that is turbid will find their original nature obscured and should cleanse their nature to restore its purity. Purity can be achieved by extending one's knowledge of the li in each individual object.

When, after much sustained effort, one has investigated and comprehended the universal li or natural law inherent in all animate and inanimate objects, one becomes a sage.


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