Confucius (孔子/Kong Zi/K’ung Tzu): Forming a Chinese Social Identity
Throughout the world, perhaps no single Chinese historical personage is as recognized as Confucius is. Indeed, the writings of Kong Zi (the correct transliteration of his name) are comparable in their effect on the Chinese, and Asian, world view as are the Classical philosophies of Plato and Aristotle are in the West.
Alongside Confucianism, Taoism forms the fundamental basis for much of Chinese Culture. Its origins lie in the philosophical works of Lao Zi, (老子/Lao Tse), in particular the Dao De Jing (道德經/Tao Te Ching), or Classic of the Virtuous Way. The name of the tradition itself comes from the central idea of ‘dao’, or ‘the way’.
Since its first arrival in China in the Han, Buddhism has put down deep roots in Chinese society. Although Buddhism did not originate in China, to say that it is a ‘foreign’ religion is to disregard the majority of Chinese history, in which Buddhism played a major role. Moreover, the Buddhism that evolved in China is different from any other iteration of the religion, and must be considered in its cultural and societal context, according to its own characteristics. In general, Chinese Buddhism has emphasized meditation and monasticism above scripture and doctrine: the pursuit of enlightenment is achieved through casting aside the ‘illusions’ of text and even the physical sensations of the world.
Neo-Confucianism – Updating the Classics, New Perspectives
By the Song Dynasty, the Confucian classics were almost a millennia old. As a result, especially when it came to enacting filial rituals, the standards of proper conduct were exceedingly difficult to follow adequately. Technologies, social customs and the cultural context in general that the Confucians were engaging with in their pursuit of moral refinement had all changed to such an extent that certain parts of the Confucian canon were either impossible to follow or had slipped into the obscurity of archaism.