Thursday, 29 August 2013



Yamin Cheng

Chinese life is unthinkable without Confucianism. Confucianism is the name given to the teachings of Confucius, the Latinized name of Kung Fu Tzu, or Master Kung, who lived in the 6th century BCE. From the time of the Han dynasty (206 BCE – 220 CE) until today, Confucianism has formed the flesh and blood of Chinese thought, culture, and civilization. It is a remarkable coincidence that the teachings of Confucianism are, on the most part, commensurate with the teachings of Islam so that a Chinese who becomes a Muslim need not abandon his Chinese roots in Confucianism even as he takes on the Muslim identity. One can even go the distance to say that, because of this coincidence of worldviews, a Chinese who is faithful to his Confucian roots is already a ‘Muslim’ in many ways even before he enters Islam.

Wang Yang Ming, a 16th century Confucian scholar, said, with regard to the Confucian view of the world:

‘A great man is one who feels that he belongs to a unity which includes the universe and the different kinds of beings…..When a man sees a child about to fall into a well, he has the instinct of commiseration (same feeling as the child in that situation). This is his sense of human-heartedness, and it is this which makes him and the child one. Still, someone may say that man and a child constitute a unity only because they belong to the same species.

However, when a man sees trembling and frightened birds and animals and hears their cries, he has a sense of pity for them. It is this which makes him one with them. Or someone may say that this unity exists only because birds and animals in common with men have feeling and sense. Nevertheless, even when a man beholds falling trees, he knows pity- and it is this which makes him one with the plants.

Someone may say again that this unity is derived from the fact that plants, like men, are living organisms. In answer to this, we may point out that even when a man sees stones and bricks being broken up, he feels pity. This constitutes his oneness with physical objects. This sense of oneness with the universe is a gift of nature and is conferred by heaven. It is in itself bright and intelligent.’

This view of the world, where everything is connected to everything else in a shared feeling for one another - between humans, and between humans and the animals, plants, and stones - is called 天人合一 / Tian Ren He Yi, or ‘Harmony between Heaven and Human,’ the heart of the Confucian worldview.
In the Confucian worldview, the person is never detached from his family, his community or society, and from Nature and Heaven. He is an individual self, a relational self, and a collective self, all at once. In other words, when a person sees himself, he also sees his community or society, Nature, and Heaven, all at the same time. Therefore, before he does something, he is always aware that whatever he is going to do, it will have implications on these other ‘mirror aspects or selves’ of him. He shares the same mind and sentiments with them. He is them and they are him.
The family is the centerpiece of the Confucian world. It is through the family that a good human being, a responsible social member, and a loyal citizen, are produced. When Confucius was asked why he did not participate in government since he spoke often of the importance of government, he said, ‘Filial piety. Be filial to your parents and dutiful to your brothers, and you will be contributing to government. These virtues surely constitute taking part in government, so why should only a particular activity be regarded as taking part in government?’
The relationship between parents and children is the most important relationship in the family. Concerning this, Mencius, the second most important scholar after Confucius, said:
What is the most important duty? One’s duty towards one’s parents. There are many duties one should discharge, but the fulfillment of one’s duty towards one’s parents is the most basic.

Because of the utmost significance of the parents and children relationship, Mencius makes it the benchmark of the ruler’s behavior. If the ruler can show filial piety towards his parents, then he can be a true ruler. Thus, in Mencius’ view, because parents and children form the crux of human relationship, its proper execution should be exemplified in the ruler himself. If the ruler can carry out his filial duty to his parents, then he is fit to be a ruler. And if he can demonstrate his filial duty to his parents, he will be the model par excellence for his people to do the same. When everyone in society practices filial duty, then there will be peace and harmony in society, and religion would have achieved its objective in the social system.

Dua or Parents
And say, "My Lord, have mercy upon them as they brought me up [when I was] small." (Quran 17:24)

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