China’s new Confucianism

Confucianism is one of the most powerful leading mindsets in imperial China. It was produced by Confucius, and his students who wrote it down what Confucius said in thousands years before. Confucianism affects most of Chinese people about behaviors, educations, and mindsets in many generations. Countries and cultures strongly influences by Confucianism including Taiwan, Korea, Japan , Vietnam, and Singapore.

The book “China’s New Confucianism” by Daniel A. Bell is talking about what is “New Confucianism” in Bell’s meaning, and it is difference to another authors’ “New Confucianism”. Daniel A. Bell was the first foreigner hired since the Cultural Revolution to teach humanities at QingHua University in philosophy department start from the year of 2004 in Beijing.

Basic on his Chinese life experience, learning and research, he wrote this book. In “China’s New Confucianism”, he tries to use New Confucianism to discuss regarding China’s political, social, and educations problems. He wants to explain why leaders of china are touching on the relevance of laws to this vision of Confucianism as everyday social practice.

One of the main points that Bell discusses in New Confucianism, which is the most puzzling features of East Asian societies is that they seem both rigidly hierarchical and egalitarian ritual. The egalitarian ritual is one of the cores in Confucianism, and it affected most of Asian people. As like Bell ask “‘who pays at a dinner gathering?’ ‘who takes care of family obligations?’ ‘who takes care of the unemployed?’”

Those are normal questions when people confused what they should do. If they learn the Confucianism, they will get the answer right away. Older brother has responsibility to take care the younger brother, working person should take care of the unemployed in the same family, and younger people must respect older people or more life experience people. This is egalitarian ritual that East Asian people follow.

Western societies always have questions that why East Asian people do follow the egalitarian rituals? Western societies emphasize social rather than material equality. As like Bell said in the book “An average American would never dream of bowing to an aged person yet might not be perturbed by

the gross inequalities of income in the United States.” Bell didn’t mean that East Asians worry less about social than economic inequality, he has his own view which is social inequality can actually contribute to economies equality.

The ritual of Xunzi is an example to explain Bell’s view that social inequality can actually contribute to economies equality. “Xunzi is widely regarded as one of the three “founding fathers” of Confucianism (along with Confucius and Mencius)” (China’s New Confucianism, 39). Bell agrees Xunzi’s idea that “human nature is bad”. If people follow their bodily natures and indulge their natural inclinations, they will fall behind the society. It because “people lack good teachers and models, so they are prejudiced, wicked, and not upright; there are no rituals or conceptions of moral duty, so there’s rebellion and chaos and it’s impossible to govern society. (China’s New Confucianism, 39).

Therefore, Bell believe the rituals can benefit the socially to move into the right way. Bell cites many Xunzi’s ideas of Ritual in the book, such as “the ritual is to civilize our animal natures, and if people are just going through the outward routines without any emotion, they are not likely to transform their natures.”(China’s New Confucianism, 40).

It means that human have to have ritual in social life, because ritual involves emotion and behavior which is the biggest difference compare to animal. Also, he thinks rituals are no coercive (In contrast to legal punishments). Rituals is one of morals in human being, it is not a judgment to judge people must do this or that. It likes a ruler that to defined people nice or not. Later on, when more people learn more about rituals and follow it, it will become a rule.

Moral resources build up the relationship between employers and domestic workers. In the book, Bell told us a story about his friend and domestic worker. His friend just came back from trip and had a few dirty clothes, so Bell asked him to put all the clothes to laundry basket and his domestic worker could take care them. However, his friend objected, and said he could take care to himself. Bell feel wonder form this case, he think that domestic worker has responsibility to take care dirty clothes is common in Hong Kong. Why his friend object his offer? After he interview a few domestic workers from different location, include Hong Kong, Beijing and volunteer worker he understand. Confucian values treat domestic worker as a family member.

The most important relationship by far is family in East Asian. The Confucianism places special emphasis on filial piety, the care for elderly parents. In Confucianism, we need to serve our parents with love, and the way we interact with family members contributes to society at large. Even though domestic workers are not real family members in the family, main land Chinese could treat them as a family member. Families hire domestic workers to service their families be hope they do as well as they can. Generally, “the tie between the employee and the employer’s family was based on mutual concern and caring, not simply fairness and respect.” (China’s New Confucianism, 78)

So the family member treat domestic worker as valued members of the family. Than domestic worker will do extra work back to the family. These cases always happen in main land china, but why? One of the reasons that Bell finds out is due to shared language and culture, it may be more common for domestic workers to be treated like members of the family. The other one is if the worker feels cared for and love, then she will supply higher-quality care. However, western employers treat domestic workers in different ways. Most of domestic workers in Hong Kong came from Filipina. They came to Hong Kong just want to make more money.

They expect the western employers treat them more personal space and on equal terms, they satisfied. In their opinions, good treatment means paying beyond the minimum wage and giving more free time to employee. That’s their goals. Before some of domestic workers work with western employers, they would sign a contract to declare their duties, wages, working hours and so on. Each side just follow the contract and not necessary to be close as family. Therefore, even though western employers want to treat them as a family member, they will refuse it. The idea that the domestic worker belongs to the family can be used as an excuse to do extra work.

Therefore, the relationship between western employer and domestic workers are western employer respect domestic worker, and clear their duties. But Bell thinks that legal rights should protect the basic interest of workers, but if rights don’t lead to promote affective ties, it should change Confucianism way. Because Confucian can make people trust within the family. On being Confucian needn’t be old but it is a life time learning. Most of people when they talk about Confucian, the first thing they can image is that person should be old. Why is that? In many

years before, only elder people would read or learn Confucianism. So people have this kind of image. Also, Confucianism was produced by thousands year ago, people just jump to their conclusions that people talk with Confucianism means they are old. However, Bell doesn’t think like this way. When he was trying to write an essay “On Being Confucian”, his friend suggests him to change title as “On Becoming Confucian”. Because Bell’s friend thinks they don’t have qualification to “on being Confucian”.

He thinks that they all need to improve more than can become Confucian. As he mention “is that the quest for self-improvement is never-ending, there will always be better people and better ideas worth learning from there is no “end point” or “Confucian destination.”(China’s New Confucianism, 154). Bell realizes that nobody can be perfect, and it’s impossible to really become a “Confucian” in one’s lifetime. Becoming Confucian is like a step for our lives, no stop learning and continue self-improve. In conclusion, what is new Confucianism?

New Confucianism is should be accepting hierarchal rituals like bowing to superiors, passively to treat domestic workers as a friend member in a fair position, and it suggests people never stop self-improve to be a good person.