Encounters with Confucius

Confucianism is very remarkable in all aspects, I may say. It is something that us, Asians, should be proud of. Not only that this philosophy reached the West (and even challenged its supremacy), but also because it lived for the longest time. We might just not notice it at first glance, but when we reflect deeper in our lives, we can say that it has affected (or enlightened) our belief systems in more ways than one, in the most unbelievable places too. There might be criticisms against Confucian philosophy but all I can say is that Confucianism is already established and we just have to live with it.

We might just see Confucius as an ordinary Chinese citizen who emerged in the scene to become one of the most celebrated scholar of the Zhou dynasty (and beyond) during a series of social, economic, and political upheaval in China. My first “encounter” with him was in our high school History class but the discussion did not focus further on his philosophies. All I know during that time is that he was the one who suggested the civil service exam that changed public service in China during his time (a system that was spread across the globe as well and a test that I need to take by next year). It was during college that I was able to read deeper about him in my Ethics and History of East Asia classes. I was also blessed with a very rewarding experience of reading and editing textbooks over and over again where this Chinese scholar’s name appears in it. There was more to life than civil service exams and Confucius.

Morality is highlighted several times in every online article I find about Confucianism when I press CTRL + F. I am not saying that we can reduce Confucianism is morality but I can say that morality is embedded in Confucianism. Ren is a very important concept that we should always remember when we read Confucianism. It will always serve as a clue. Confucius set the bar so high when he elaborated on his educational philosophy. For him, education should be available for all citizens to gain equal opportunities in serving the government during his time. Nation-building relies to students who are the best in their craft and is a man of integrity (the characteristics we should demand from our public officials at present). Teachers should be nothing but the best in providing quality education to China’s future leaders. If that were the best things in China during that time, no wonder that they moved on from their struggles as a nation since changed started at home. What a time to be alive.

How did his philosophy affected me? Well, it sent me to the realm of what ifs. What if education is not a privilege of those who can only afford it? What if students (including me) are inspired to study and are motivated to be the change our present society needs? What if teachers are well compensated and their profession is treated with utmost respect? I am living in the What Is. Education is first and foremost a right. Students are not able to go to school or most of the time prefer not to because of pressing societal conditions. Some move to other places where their value is highly appreciated. This reality shook me. Maybe, Confucianism is very much alive in our history books, in theory but rarely in practice.

 

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