Throughout the course of the first half of the semester we have taken a broad scope of the major aspects of the phenomena that has been the recent history of China. When studying Modern China a common thread of ethical, cultural, religious, political, social, and economic aspects can be analyzed in relationship to Confucianism and its affect on international relations. These aspects show that historically (particularly the nineteenth century) China initially resisted the acceptance of Western influence in order to maintain its high level of uniqueness, isolation, and Confucianism which has bred its prosperity and demise.
From its early to modern societies it was abundantly clear that China would be a largely Confucian-based society. Confucianism is a major system of thought in China.
Developed from the teachings of Confucius and his disciples, their ideals centered on concern with the principles of good conduct, practical wisdom, and proper social relationships. Confucianism has influenced the Chinese attitude toward life, and set the patterns of living and standards of social value. The keynote of Confucian ethics is jen, variously translated as “love,” “goodness,” “humanity” and respect for your neighbor (http://www.formosa-kingdom.com/chinese/). Jen is a supreme virtue representing human qualities at their best.
In human relations, jen is manifested in chung, or faithfulness to oneself and others. Other important Confucian virtues include righteousness, propriety, integrity, and filial piety. It is in this light that thoughts of Confucius can so largely affect all facets of life.
Confucianism can affect and determine the ethical viewpoints of entire nations. The ideal social structure of East Asia was that of a Confucian hierarchy followed individually by a strong familial structure. Chinese society was modeled in a true Confucian structure with governmental workers being the elite, followed by the crop producing farmers, then the merchants, and finally soldiers.
Chinese ethics place an enormous emphasis upon respect. It was my understanding from discussion and research that a Confucian society is primarily based on honor and the ideology that everything is done in the best interests of the family or society. Confucius states in the first article of his constitution that: Harmony should be held a treasure, and the person who eschews selfish opposition should receive honor (East Asia, pg. 64 from last year). This was the case in the book Thousand Pieces of Gold when a young girl named Lulu virtually sacrifices her entire life for the greater good. She played an uncharacteristic female role of a helping farmhand to help her family survive famine and through many other hardships she thought only of the good of her family.
The classical legacy of Confucian politics in China has remained fairly constant as it is a centralized state under the rule of an enlightened emperor, and the spiritual individualism of the Buddhist faith seeking and promotes peace and prosperity. Modern China was dominated for nearly three centuries by the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) (in-class handout). The Qing Dynasty was a relatively weak Dynasty as they were easily influenced by outside powers and found little respect in their rule due to the lack of ethnic similarity to the people they ruled over. The Qing rulers were autocratic and despotic. The national economy was still based on agriculture. In the culture and practiced ideology, feudal ethics and rites continued to dominate society.
Worse still, the Qing rulers persecuted many intellectuals, banning and destroying works that did not meet with their approval. The foreign policy of the Qing Empire was one of isolationism and a clear credo of nonacceptance to the West. The government was conservative and arrogant. It failed to join the industrial revolution that was spreading across the countries in the West. Sadly, these factors led to China falling more and more behind the developing world and the gap between it and Western nations inevitably widened. Rampant corruption, a steady decentralization of power, warfare, rebellions, overpopulation and economic disasters plagued the once glorious empire.
They were Manchu Monarchs that came to power after Kangxi and Qianlong. The Manchu acted as Confucian civilizers over the Chinese they assumed authority over. The often feeble and inept Manchu leaders were kept in power by Westerners who sought a Chinese government that was corruptible. This corruptibility led to .