A Lesson from Confucius: The Concept of a Chun-Tzu

Every one of us desires to live in a place where peace and harmony exists. Nobody in this world would deny a life that is peaceful and meaningful, nor deny a place where he, together with his love ones is well-secured. Since man live in a world that is full of trials, he is prone in experiencing the difficulties and challenges in life. We cannot deny the fact that the world we are living is not safe at all. Immorality is observed everywhere; corruption in any aspect is rampant; ignorance imprisons a lot of people, etc. Considering all of the influences that this world can give us, we strive to overcome all of these treats, and make important actions that only rationality can provide.

Here comes a man with an idea on what is to be really a man of rationality. Confucius was considered a moral philosopher of the ancient China. His philosophy was mainly concerned about the practical way of life. He lived in a warring state period where violence and injustice is rampant.

Observing all these actions in his society, he wanted to reform his society that’s why one of his aims was on the improvement and the reformation of society and of man himself. He was convinced that the problem within his society was the lack of virtue. That is why, he introduced to the Orient, and later to the whole world; the concept of a Chun-Tzu.

A Chun-Tzu is primarily described as the ideal man of the society. This concept of Confucius does not necessarily mean as somebody who will lead a society or a political figure. Instead it is a concept that every man can achieve. It is a concept that can be applied by any individual in the ordinariness of their daily lives.  Confucius believes that a Chun-Tzu must have learn the principle “sageliness within; kingliness without.” This considers two important aspect of being a Chun-Tzu. He must be an intelligent person like the sages, who uses it for good and a strong character like great kings has.

A Chun-Tzu embraces virtues that are one with the moral law. As written in the analects, “a superior man will never forget the moral law.” Confucius believes that morality or ethics is a very important field of every man’s study, for it gives humanity the instructions on what they are ought to do as human beings, or as rational beings. This concept teaches humanity six important virtues; Yen, Yi, Li, Hsiao, Hsin, and Chih.

The virtue of Jen means benevolence, kindness, compassion, humanity, human heartedness, consideration for others, goodness; or in other terms Charity and Love. This gives the notion of a Chun-Tzu on being a man for others. This means that becoming one, a man must have a big heart. On this virtue, every man must consider the existence of the golden rule; which is formulated into two different ways; one positive which is known as Chung (do unto others what you want to do unto you), and the other negative which is known as the Shu (do not do unto others what you don’t want to do unto you). The golden rule must be the first principle of every good man. A Chun-Tzu must never neglect to consider this rule on everything he does. “A man of humanity, wishing to establish his own character also establishes the character of others, and wishing to be prominent himself, also helps others to be prominent (analects 6:28).”

The virtue of Yi is considered as the virtue of Righteousness. This virtue accompanies the virtue of Jen primarily because it dictates a man on how to act for his neighbor according to his identity. Confucius believes that all of us have our own specific roles in life. It is the virtue of having the responsibility of working for others. It teaches a man on how to work for others primarily because that is what he is ought to do, and not because of financial matters. For example; a student studies because he is ought to do it for life and not because of gaining money someday. This is what Rectification of Names is all about. “Stick by the title and go by the essence of the title” (analects 12.11). Man carries a natural responsibility towards his nature, neighbor, society, and self. Confucius points out the role of everyone in this world. Let be the father be the father and the son be the son. If you are a politician, you must do what a good politician does; which is serving the citizen and the society. If there are circumstances that the individual failed to do his responsibility according to his title, he must go to the conditions of Rectification of Malfunctions; namely, to change or mend his ways and the second is to change the title.

The virtue if Li means Propriety. This virtue teaches a man to do things in such a manner of perfect execution of actions. This virtue is primarily intended for the rituals done by the Chinese. As what Confucius says, “Put your heart and mind on what is being done.” Focusing and devoting a self on what is being done is the proper thing in executing such actions. Make sure that everything you do is in proper order. This virtue also includes the virtue of jen primarily because compassion is needed in everything man does.

The virtue of Hsiao means Filial Piety. This virtue is very Asian by nature; primarily because this virtue shows the importance of family. A peaceful and harmonious society is founded on the relationship within the family. The family is the basic unit of a society. Everything starts from the family. It is in the family that man develops himself. A person cannot live alone. He needs the care and concern of others that’s why man is sociable. Furthermore, a man’s action reflects what family he comes from. That is why, it is very important to every individual to preserve the good name of his family. Respect to our parents is a must. “Even if you disagree with your parents, gently remorse or express your disagreement. Do not be rude, do this with respect and gentleness. Never lose that respect even you disagree with the decision of your parents. Do it with reverence (analects 4:18). This is what a dutiful son does, and it reflects to a typical Asian characteristic which made it unique among the others. It is important to always consider your loyalty and faithfulness in your family in everything that man does. Everything a man does reflects what family does he belong.

The virtue of Hsin is known as the Word of Honour. This directly questions what kind of character a man has. Giving your word to somebody is a sacred thing. Keeping your promises into nothing is a grave offense to the one you gave your word and most especially to yourself. This is the virtue which tells a man to keep his words and be responsible in every word he gave. “The superior man wants to be slow in word but diligent in action (analects 4:24).” Accomplishing his promise is a must. A Chung-Tzu carries the truthfulness of his words. If a man failed to do so, this will lead to the questioning of his character, and eventually to his family. The spoken word is always an extension of thy self. It became a part of being you.

The virtue of Chih  is believed to be developing as people grow older in life. That is why in the ancient China, intelligent persons are mostly presented by an image of old an old man. Becoming old is a sign of intelligence, where experiences of man are being gathered and put into compilation. This virtue completes what a Chung-Tzu is, namely, “a man of humanity, a man of courage, and a man of wisdom (analects 14.31).” A man of wisdom becomes the very example of every man. By his learning and experiences, he could teach and share to others what he knows. “A good man is not concerned of his reputation. A good man goes out to know others (analects 1:16).”

The teachings of Confucius might be old and forgotten but the essence of it lives in every society. The legacy of Confucius lives most especially on the standards of our morality down to the simple things man does. Thus, we cannot deny the contributions of the Ancient China for giving the world a man of wisdom. There might be a big gap between Confucius and the present situation but the outcome of his teachings is the same. The result leads to goodness. These teachings should always be remembered and at the same time promulgated. The teachings of the past are useful in producing a better future. Legacies are made and thus every one of us should know how to look at it and apply the lessons of the past in the ordinariness of life.

You may also watch this video to learn more about Confucius and Confucianism:

 

 

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About the Author

The author is Mr. David John D. Pereira, from the province of Isabela. He is 22 years of age and a working-student. He is an ex-seminarian of the Sons of Holy Mary Immaculate and took his Degree in Philosophy at Rogationist Seminary College-Manila. Currently, he is studying at Rizal Technological University-Mandaluyong taking Masters of Arts in Instructional Technology.

 

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