Two Chinese girls relayed insight into their culture. Majoring in English, they attended UCO for one semester and returned to China to complete their degree. They lived with us for a few weeks several years ago.
We exchanged many books and one that S. gave me was The Spirit of the Chinese People, a book written about 100 years ago but still widely read in China. Like she said, “I thought it was logical and never questioned it.” [I believed some things in the book but I questioned much of it. However, it did help me understand some of the Chinese thinking.]
Confucianism, according to the author Hu Hong Ming, claims to be a substitute for religion. He proposes that religion offers people two main things – security or order, and permanence or eternal life. Confucius offers to fill these two needs in a totally different way. [Interesting how he acknowledges these two needs are universal.]
First, Confucianism teaches that loyalty to the King or Emperor can maintain order and offer security. This is the idea of the State. The author contrasts Confucianism to European religions. “A religion in the European sense of the word teaches a man to be a good man. But Confucianism does more than this; Confucianism teaches a man to be a good citizen.” In Confucius own words, he states that “If you live as a dutiful son and a good citizen, you have religion.” [In my opinion, a good man will be a good citizen and good soon, but a good citizen or son may not necessarily be a good man.]
The second universal need, permanence, is fulfilled by loyalty to the family or ancestors. Or ancestor worship. I have never understood this but when I talk to the Chinese college students they are fearful of letting their parents or grandparents down. Eternal happiness is dependent upon your prodigy remembering you. Otherwise, you are lost. [Remember the “dutiful son” comment from Confucius above.]
Do you see the implications? Chinese students are very loyal, maybe more so than we are. In Confucius-based countries, loyalty to the State and to the family is fiercely taught and followed. It is a way of thinking. Completely accepted.
The author further defines religion in a broader sense, as a system of teachings with rules of conduct, so he therefore acknowledges that Confucianism has become like a religion.
One difference, Ming states, is that Conficianism did not come from supernatural means.
And, we know that Christianity did.
And Christianity also meets people’s basic need of security and eternal life.