Teachings of Confucius
Heaven and the Divine
- Concern for others (the fundamental moral virtue).
- Honoring one’s parents.
- Right behavior.
- Treating others as you would wish to be treated.
- Ruling with moral standing and benevolence.
Early Chinese writings refer to a supreme or highest god, named Heaven or Heavenly Emperor. Confucius shared this belief, saying: “He who offends against Heaven has no one to whom he can pray.” Heaven presided with moral law. Later followers regarded heaven as the divine moral power of the cosmos, expressed perfectly in harmony with humanity.
Some Basic Daoist Ideas
Daoism also rejects competition, rank, luxury, vulgarity and boasting. Laozi said that the highest level was the least secure. Everyone wants to be at the top of the tree, but were we to achieve that, the tree would break. Instead, we should be like water, always seeking the lowest level.
- Be amiable to everything in the universe, to help maintain universal harmony.
- Live a simple life uncluttered by extravagant ambition or dreams.
- Be modest rather than assertive and dominant. Such ideas have influenced the development of certain Chinese characteristics: “A person is afraid to be famous; a pig is afraid to be fat and strong.” (Chinese saying)
- That is, a healthy pig will be killed and eaten; a successful person will be a target. Many Chinese people keep their work and thoughts to themselves. Parents sometimes tell their children that if they are good at something, they should be modest, even hiding it.
Ancient belief included the veneration of ancestors. Souls reached happiness according to the conduct of their living descendants. Therefore one’s duty was to live a good and virtuous life. Ancestor worship is still practised. For many people it is simply superstition; something that is done “just in case.” For others it is more important. In many houses a small shrine can be found, usually photos of grandparents to which food and cigarettes are offered. The yearly qing ming festival celebrates ancestors with grave cleaning and firecrackers. Christians are taught not to venerate ancestors but this can be a source of family tension, even a barrier to belief.