Part (1) – with the usual excuses – is here.
Based on an article by Prof Wang Zhicheng.
Tu Weiming (杜维明) sees a similar future role for Confucianism. During the recent ten years, he has arranged Confucianism in front of the big Western background, hoping that Confucianism can find its own position within the existing system. He wants to define a globalized background for Confucianism. In “Confucianism and Civilization”, Tu spells out four big background factors of which Confucianism must be aware: ecology, feminism, religious plurality, and the concept of globalization.
In fact, a lot of ecological awareness can be found in traditional Confucianism, such as “man and nature are one” (天人合一)1), “the benevolent is at one with everything” (仁者与天地万物为一体) can be found in Zhang Zai’s Western Inscription (西铭).
These ecological contents have become factors in Confucianism’s revival. Traditional Confucianism didn’t look at women with a great deal of esteem, and has even been condemned for having no respect for women. Feminism has developed greatly, especially during the 20th century, influenced by the Humanities, and has become an epochal question, unavoidable for Confucianism.
Religious pluralism seems to be a striking characteristic within the reality of globalization, and has found broad introduction and appraisal. Prof Tu points out that with this background, if Confucianism wants to take part and play a role in this era, it must see itself as one religion out of many, and take part in a global dialogue with all the world’s major religions. By playing a role in dialogue, Confucianism will further itself. A standard which is part of every major religion – the Golden Rule – provides resources for a global logic. Global logic is a prerequisite of global harmonious co-existence. The Lunyu’s “What you don’t desire yourself, don’t do to others” (己所不欲勿施于人), clearly states this golden rule. Undoubtedly, Confucianism can contribute to the global dialogue.
Tu Weiming is regarded as one of the representatives of Contemporary New Confucianism (当代新儒学), and he is strongly and critically aware of Confucianism’s own problems. He says that “you can severly criticize Confucianism on different levels, be it the petty peasant economy2) (小农经济), clanship, authoritarianism, 工具理念3), people’s development of self-awareness, and so on.” Tu Weiming uses two examples which I believe are particularly important. The first is about the concept of the sage king. A fundamental belief of traditional Confucianism is the inner-sage, outside-king concept. But China’s cultural reality isn’t the sage king, but the king sage4). Tu believes that a thoroughly politicized Confucianist society would be more into persecution and coercion than a purely Legalist society, because Confucianism didn’t only dominate peoples’ body, but also wanted to control peoples’ minds, whereas Legalism only wanted to control those who didn’t obey the law. The other example is about the understanding of the Three Cardinal Guides or sangang (三纲)5). He says that the sangang had entered Confucianism with the Legalists from the beginning of the Han Dynasty. The sangang were seen as lasting concepts: “monarch guides subject, father guides son, and husband guides wife.” Seen from the perspective of modern culture, 君为臣纲 stands for despotism, 父为子纲 stands for authoritarianism, and 夫为妇纲 stands for male-centeredness. All of these should be abandoned. In fact, they were abandoned under the influence of the May Fourth Movement.
Tu Weiming defines the value of Confucianism in our times. As a representative of [contemporary] New Confucianism, he sees Confucianism as a local resource of wisdom which can add a useful common resource to global cultural diversity. One can find some fundamental values within Confucianism, and these values, as the local wisdom which they are, can serve all humankind, and participate in global cultural diversity and religious dialog.
Clearly, neither Yu Yingshi nor Tu Weiming see much likelihood that in this modern era, Confucianism would become institutionalized again in its traditional way. Confucianism and its revival require post-modern, critical reflection. Prof Yu’s idea of letting Confucianism become part of daily life deconstructs Confucianism’s grand narrative; the Confucian sage king‘s ways have taken the nature of daily life6).
1) also often translated as Harmony of Man with Nature.
2) petty peasant economy in itself is just a stage in economic development – the reason to criticize Confucianism for it may be that it kept approving of this kind of isolated, local slave society long after one could – and should – have moved on as an economy, and as a society.
3) 工具理念 seems to be similar to, but not identical with utilitarianism (功利主义). Your input on 工具理念 would be very welcome.
4) I’m not sure of that meaning, but maybe these lines by a prof in Taiwan points into the direction – just maybe:
(…) This could help to explain why Confucian societies, including Taiwan, are based on control rather than on trust: A “sage” or a leader cannot fail or make any mistakes.
Therefore, these “infallibles” have to be somehow isolated from the people they dominate. They are endowed with the aura of a “sage” or an untouchable, and critical analyses of their words and deeds are deemed inappropriate. This status has to be permanently secured. (…)
5) “君为臣纲，父为子纲，夫为妇纲” – “monarch guides subject, father guides son, and husband guides wife.”
6) to take the nature of daily life seems to imply that the sage king’s way has become more trivial.