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What Has Religion Done For Mankind?



Confucianism, a System of Morality

IT WAS in the middle of the sixth century B.C., while the Babylonian empire was still dominating the earth, that the Chinaman whom we know as Confucius was born, 551 B.C., or just twelve years after the reputed birth date of Buddha. Confucius was, of course, not his real name. Because he was of the family of Kung, he came to be called "Kung-fu-tsze", which means "Kung the Master" or "Kung the Teacher". But two thousand years later, or in the sixteenth century A.D., some Roman Catholic Jesuit priests who had been living in China recommended to the pope of Rome that this Chinaman should be added to the list of the saints of the Roman Catholic Church. In making their recommendation the Latin transliteration "Confucius" was the nearest that they could get to the way his name "Kung-fu-tsze" was pronounced.

2 At his birth the name his father gave him was Kin and he added another name at the same time, Chung Ni. But because of the philosophy which he developed on human conduct and social relations he is famous throughout the world under the name Confucius. So we shall refer to him under that name.

l, 2. When was Confucius born, and how did he come to be so named?

3 In our twentieth century, according to the theory of some, it was corruption in the Chinese government that led to the overthrow of the Nationalist Republican regime by the Communist forces in 1949. In the time of Confucius it was also disorder and corruption in government that led him to interest himself in the science of government. The feudal system of government obtained then, a government of lords and vassals. The feudal lords were continually fighting among themselves, with the result that the people were suffering greatly and were burdened with taxation. At the early age of seventeen Confucius in a local government position showed ability in the settling of disputes. It was at this time, when he was adjusting the rival claims of some herdsmen, that he uttered one of his principles for which he is widely known. He showed the herdsmen how foolish it was for them to quarrel and then said: "Do not do to others what you would not want them to do to you."

4 This has been said to be the negative way of stating the Golden Rule laid down by Jesus Christ in his sermon on the mount: "All things, therefore, that you want men to do to you, you also must likewise do to them; this, in fact, is what the Law and the Prophets mean." (Matthew 7:12, NW) By his referring to the Law and the Prophets Jesus located the statement of the principle of his Golden Rule back a thousand years before Confucius, for in the law of the prophet Moses (1512 B.C.) the Most High God inspired this rule: "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself: I am

3. What led to his interest in the science of government, and what widely known principle did he utter early?
4. How does this principle compare with Jesus' "Golden Rule"?

Jehovah." (Leviticus 19:18, AS) The Golden Rule of Jesus, which spells love for one's neighbor, is for positive action in doing good to your neighbor. But the rule of Confucius is one of negative reciprocity of one person toward another. It has in mind, not good, but evil and wrongdoing, and it holds a person back from doing anything for his neighbor for fear he may do his neighbor hurt or wrong.

5 The death of his beloved mother when he was twenty-four years old profoundly affected Confucius. For twenty-seven months he mourned at her grave. In keeping with this he resigned his public office, but he continued his studies. His married life now took a turn for the worse and, to become a traveling teacher, he left his wife and son. He journeyed through the states of China and instructed all ranks of people and gained fame as a reformer of the morals of his people and as a teacher of proper conduct of humans one toward another. In his fifties his great opportunity came. He was invited to serve as a magistrate in his native kingdom of Lu, in what is now Shantung Province, and because of efficient service he rose finally to be minister of justice. He proved himself an efficiency engineer. The success of the administration of the state of Lu roused the jealousy of the neighboring princes. They conspired to estrange the Duke of Lu from his minister Confucius. At length after four years of conscientious public service Confucius resigned from office quite heartbroken. He departed, in search of some ruler who was a virtuous man and from whom he could

5. How did he come to be a traveling teacher, what success did he have in applying his theories, and what did he compile?

get sincere co-operation in carrying on good government according to his plans and theories. He believed that good government was the foundation for all reform. Thirteen years of searching for his ideal ruler proved unsuccessful. Finally he came back to his home state, Lu, not to engage in politics but to carry on his scholarly activities. These remaining four years till his death at seventy-two he occupied in completing his work on compiling and editing the Classics, the sacred books of the Chinese.

6 Confucius looked back on the past as the "good old days". He had great respect for the traditions and ancient customs of his people. His effort was to bring his generation back to the careful observance of these, rather than to introduce any new religious system. He tried to regulate the manners and habits of the people, even going into such details as to how they should sleep in bed. He believed that regard for formality and outward politeness expressed true nobility of heart. So he brought together for ready use and reference all the various ceremonies into one general code of rites, set forth in the Li Ki King, or the Book of Rites. In this book every formality in a person's every relationship in life is so strictly regulated that it tended to make a Chinaman an automaton that was set in motion by the regulations of the Li Ki King. Hence it bears a resemblance to the Jewish Talmud, which is based on the traditions of the Jewish religious fathers. Concerning the religious leaders who were sticklers for such traditions and the minute regulation of the com-

6, 7. Rather than start a new religious system, what did he try to do, and how does his Book of Rites compare with the Talmud?

mon people Jesus said: "They bind up heavy loads and put them upon the shoulders of mankind, but they themselves are not willing to budge them with their finger. All the works they do they do to be viewed by men; for they broaden the scripture-containing cases that they wear as safeguards, and enlarge the fringes of their garments. They like the most prominent place at evening meals and the front seats in the synagogues, and the greetings in the market-places and to be called 'Rabbi' by men." —Matthew 23:4-7, NW.

7 Also to show that sincerity of heart is not always expressed by outward formality, Jesus said to those traditionalists: "And so you have made the word of God invalid because of your tradition. You hypocrites, Isaiah aptly prophesied about you, when he said: "This people honors me with their lips, yet their hearts are far removed from me. It is in vain that they keep paying respect to me, because they teach commands of men as doctrines.'" —Matthew 15:6-9, NW.

8 Confucius made the aim of all living to be the attaining of human virtue by the observance of the five fundamental laws governing the relations (1) between ruler and subject, (2) parents and children, (3) husband and wife, (4) friends and brothers, and (5) the practice of five principal virtues: humanity, justice, order, uprightness, and sincerity or good faith. He had great regard for what compares with the fifth of the Ten Commandments which God gave by Moses: "Honour thy father and thy mother, that thy days may be prolonged in the land that Jehovah thy God giveth

8. How did Confucius aim for men to gain human virtue, and for the principle of which of the Ten Commandments did he have great regard?

thee." (Exodus 20:12, Da) While the writings of Confucius dwell sparingly on the duties of husbands toward their wives, they most rigidly stress the duties and unquestioning submission of children to their parents. It is upon this principle of a child's obedience that Confucius' entire system, moral and political, rests.

9 two chinamenA family is a unit of a nation and is the simplest illustration of how a nation should be run. According to this simple illustration the Chinese emperor stood as the father of all his subjects and so was entitled to their passive childlike obedience. As children are subject to their parents, the citizens are subordinate to and dependent upon the emperor, who is the representative father of the political state.

10 Thus, against independence and equality of men according to the democratic principle, Confucius placed subordination and dependence. This political idea has served the selfish aims of governmental despots very well. This is what has made Confucius such a popular figure with the former governments of China, whether of native or of Tartar origin, for many centuries. While it has operated to preserve China as a nation on its land for two thousand years, it has checked China's progress. It has turned the Chinese common people to being slavish, insincere in their outward acts and fainthearted. These features cannot be made up for by the formal politeness, the gentleness of behavior and the

9.10. How did the applying of the illustration of a family to rulership serve despots well, and how has it affected the Chinese?

good order of conduct. Doubtless for this reason progressive Chinese of today say that nothing has hurt China more than Confucianism.

11 During the Chou dynasty, during which Confucius lived, ancestor worship was highly developed, but only one's own ancestors were worshiped. Ancestor worship was made as important as worship of Heaven. Confucius encouraged this practice but condemned the worship of other people's ancestors as flattery. He said: "As the foundation of things is Heaven, so the foundation of man is the ancestors." Confucius did not talk about spirits, and even detested the worship of them. Whether he recognized the existence of a personal god has been questioned. We find no positive proofs of it in the religious ceremonies which he observed and in certain expressions which he made, such as, "He who offends against Heaven has none to whom he can pray," and, "There is a Heaven that knows me." (Analects III,

11. What worship did Confucius encourage?

13, and XIV, 13) He did in effect deny a personal Creator.

12 In the matter of physical science he maintained that "out of nothing there cannot be produced anything (ex nihilo nihil fit)".ancestral tablet Instead of putting an efficient Cause before the material creation, he argued that material bodies must have existed from eternity and that the cause and also the principle for the being of such things had existed along with the things themselves. Hence this cause is just as eternal, infinite, indestructible, omnipotent and omnipresent as the material things themselves, and the blue sky or heaven (Tien) is the central point of it. Particularly at the equinoxes, offerings should be made to Heaven (Tien). But when Heaven is thus referred to by the Chinese, it does not carry along with it the meaning of a place for human souls to take up residence after the death of the body, nor does it stand for a personal god.

13 Though Confucius' teaching does not directly speak of immortality of the human soul, such a thing is at least suggested in the worship that is paid to ancestors and in the absence of the word death from Confucius' philosophy. The Chinese say that, when a person dies, "he has returned to his family." According to Confucius, the spirits of the good were allowed to visit their old habitations on earth or to visit such ancestral places or halls as were designated by their descendants, in

12. How did he account for creation's existence?
13. What indicates that he believed in Immortality of human souls?

order to receive homage and, in turn, to confer what good influences they could. Hence the duty of performing sacred rites in such places. If any living person neglected such duty toward dead ancestors, his spiritual part would after death of the body be deprived of the high state of bliss that flows from the homage which descendants pay to their ancestors.

14 By all this we can measure how deep the darkness was which shrouded the world lying outside of Jehovah's devoted people who held the truth concerning the promised Seed of God's "woman" and who were the recipients of Jehovah's unfolding revelations upon the divine purpose having to do with the Seed and recorded in His inspired Word. As the apostle Paul says, the worldly nations, including China, were "at that particular time without Christ, alienated from the state of Israel and strangers to the covenants of the promise, and you had no hope and were without God in the world". —Ephesians 2:12, NW.

15 Confucius assembled the religious literature of China. His name is associated with nine Chinese classical books. Five of these are called king, meaning canonical book, and the other four shu. Three of the king were compiled by Confucius. One entitled "Spring and Autumn" was composed by him as a supplement to the third king, and it is the only work coming directly from his hand. In this composition, which contained the annals of his native state of Lu, Confucius was quite immoral, from the standpoint that he hid and twisted facts in order to please his patron. He suppressed

14. How does all this display the darkness which shrouded the world?
15. What religious literature did Confucius assemble or write?

the facts about certain princes and about some of his relatives. The fifth king was compiled by Confucius' disciples from his teachings. It is the Book of Rites and was a textbook especially of ceremonial and etiquette, in which Confucius' teachings hold an important place.


The four shu were written by his disciples. Among these was the Meng-tse-shu, which was the work of his great disciple Meng-tsé (called "Mencius"), who lived a century after Confucius and who ranks among the Chinese next to Confucius as a philosopher and moralist, "a second sage." His statement, "Heaven hears as the people hear," compares with the Roman vox populi, vox dei, meaning, "the voice of the people is the voice of god." Another disciple who attained to greater popularity than that of Mencius was Chu Hsi, or Chucius, of the twelfth century A.D. He tried to add to Confucianism by trying to solve the problem of evil. So wide was the general influence of Chucius' writings that some have said that Confucianism ought to be called "Chucianism".

17 After Confucius died in 478 B.C. the veneration for him grew to such an extent that it amounted to worship. The man who did not teach a personal god became a god to the millions of Chinese. In every district or department a temple was erected to his honor. There are no idols, but ancestral tablets take the place of such in the gilded shrines. In the center is that of Confucius and on the sides are those of twelve of his most celebrated disciples, six on each side. Incense is burned, and even a Whole ox, skinned, and a pig and goat are offered to him. The Mandarins once

16. Among his disciples, who were Mencius and Chucius?
17. How did he become a god to the millions of Chinese?

officiated as priests. An offering is made of material for clothing, coarse silk, and this is finally burned that it might become "spirit silk" in the other world. So the raw material is sent to Confucius. Formerly sacrifice used to be offered before his tomb. As late as A.D. 1906 the same sacrifice was made to him as to Heaven. The attempt by the Empress Dowager that year to deify him failed. In 1912 the Chinese Republic brought to an end the imperial worship of Heaven.

18 What has Confucianism done for mankind? Or. what has it failed to do? It has failed to do away with oppression, violence and corruption in man-made government. It has looked back to the ancient past as a sort of Golden Age and so tried to preserve its cult or form of worship and its social living. Its man-made moral philosophy has failed to supply the answer to the question of righteous government over mankind. Confucianism is not the real science of government, for it has absolutely no prophetic vision of the great theocratic government of Jehovah God. His government is the kingdom to which all his prophets pointed forward and of which the prophet Daniel, a contemporary of Confucius, said to the king of Babylon: "In the days of these kings shall the God of the heavens set up a kingdom which shall never be destroyed; and the sovereignty thereof shall not be left to another people: it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, but itself shall stand for ever." —Daniel 2:44, Da; AS.

18. Why is Confucianism not the real science of government?

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