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Neo-Confucianism is the cornerstone of traditional Chinese culture. Neo-Confucianism developed as a result of both ethical and political factors which emphasized a number of obligations regarding individuals in the society. The main ones included, respecting the elders and responsibility to the community. Through observation of these rules, individuals made governing by the rulers easier. In addition, it would promote harmonious family relationship. Over years, it developed into a set of moral laws, and overtime has formed the basis of most of China’s fundamental civil examinations which stressed the importance of Confucian learning. Though it originally began in china, Neo-Confucianism became an international movement which spread to other East Asia countries. It has significantly influenced the history, social structure and the people of China, Korea and Japan. Neo-Confucians intention was to promote a unified vision of humane success that in the end would help a person become worthy by means of various forms of self-cultivation. There are many recurring themes in the Analects of Confucius. There is an overemphasis of the main themes due to their importance. The theme of relationships is central to Confucianism and the varying duties arising as a result of different status held by an individual in relation to another. For example, in relation to their parents and elders an individual becomes a junior. With regards to individuals who are younger, for example, children and younger siblings, an individual becomes a senior. The juniors have an obligation of respect and service to their seniors. On the other hand, seniors have a duty to help and guide the juniors. Even today, the theme of relationship particularly with respect to children duties towards parents and elders, and the parent’s duty toward their children, manifest itself in many aspects of East Asian culture time and again.
Confucius stressed a set of rules that should be respect (Analects 15:23). If individuals in the community followed these, rules then social relationships would become significantly harmonious. Also, the rulers and the ruled needed to embrace sensitivity to others for peaceful coexistence. It required compassion, tolerance and empathy when dealing with others. Individual’s development was of considerable concern to Confucius. He maintained that this occurred within the framework of human relationships and sensitized the ways in which an individual should act towards another from an underlying attitude of humaneness. The Confucian version of the Golden Rule which urged individuals to do to others as they would want to be done to them, best express Confucius’ concept of humaneness. According to Ryazan it will be incredibly difficult for an individual to behave humanely if the ruler lacks the basic theory of Confucianism. It presupposes a ruler to avoid acting in an inhumane manner towards his subjects. Such a ruler stands to lose the mandate and the right to rule and thus should not be obeyed. However, a ruler who rules in a humane manner and has people’s welfare at heart has the mandate and the right to rule. Though Confucius himself had little to say on the will of the people, on one occasion his follower Mencius did state that the people’s opinion on certain weighty matters should be polled. Confucius specified gender role with men having more status than women. The society expects Japanese women to serve as willing subordinates to men. Moreover, there was a popular saying of the time which suggested that a virtuous wife is a wise mother. The widely accepted teachings of Hayashi Ryazan contribute to this submissive role. He developed a Confucian group of people who share common opinion that placed emphasis on authority and inferiority in certain relationships. The needs and success of the husband depended upon a woman fully devoting herself to him. Japanese females have gotten used to the societal expectations for them to play the role of dutiful wives. Some of their ambitions and desires remain suppressed as the society considers them male.
Hayashi Ryazan’s teachings, although developed a long time ago, formed the basis of the Japanese social and cultural structure for centuries. Throughout history the issues of human relationship with one another, those pertaining to close family members, the rulers and ministers, individuals, siblings and friends, also crop up as is the case in Analects of Confucius. According to Ryazan, the Way is not something obscure and isolated. It exists between ruler and minister, father and son, man and wife, old and young, and in the interaction between friends. Schools in China placed emphasis on the issue of human, moral relations. Their intention is to improve the custom of people by changing attitudes and beliefs of individuals.
The Family is the most valuable part of Korean life. The husband heads the family, and according to Confucian tradition he should provide food, clothing and shelter for the family. In addition, he approves marriages or other decisions made by the family members. Duties of the eldest son to his parents should come first. Secondly his duties are to his brothers starting from the oldest to youngest in the family. His sons come third, and fourthly his wife with his daughters coming last. There is more significant placed on family welfare than the individual. Rulers have an obligation to love and care for their subjects and serve them diligently. In the family, fathers should be compassionate with their sons. Management of external matters is the duty of husbands whereas; wives obligation is to order the family’s internal affairs. Among the siblings, elder brothers should teach their younger brothers. The younger should follow their elder brother’s instructions. Friends association with one another should be on the basis of rites and justice. Introduction of Confucian thought as a part of cultural influence from China had a significant influence in the Koreans traditions and cultural values. To-date the legacy of Confucianism has remained a fundamental part of the Korean community. It has played a role in shaping the ethical structure, people’s way of life, social relations between different age groups and high culture. Also, the legal system derives much of it’s basis from Confucianism. In Korea, observing of Confucius traditions is viewed as a sensible way of holding the nation together by doing away with various forms of conflicts arising in the community. Arrangement of marriages by families through a matchmaker is still a common practice. Korean dates are often with individuals chosen by the family as possible mates. Koreans would not consider public display of affection in public as this, according to traditions would amount to significant breach of etiquette. According to Confucianism, repressing emotions is a sign of culture. There are many family rituals closely tied to Confucian tradition. When one sees a string of dried red peppers hanging across an entrance to a Korean home, it is a sign that the birth of a baby boy will occur within a week. Confucian traditions also demand treatment of the elderly with outmost respect at all times. Young Koreans never lie around, dress in a manner that is disrespectful, or eat first with the elders present. In conclusion, all the three philosophers emphasize on the theme of relationship. They all agree that, for the harmonious existence of human beings, everyone must observe his or her duties as expected.