Santa Clara University



See also China.

1. Brief Introduction
2. Religion and Politics Sections
3. A Short Introductory Course
4. Other Resource Materials
5. Recent Articles

1. Brief Introduction:

Confucius (551-479 B.C.E.) grew up in an agricultural society whose moral foundations were focused on an appreciation of the power of nature and the necessity of conforming to the natural Way [Dao]. Although Confucius lived in a period of social and political chaos, this sage insisted that individuals, perfected by moral education, could bring about a virtuous and ordered society. Each person must, above all, fulfill the duties of his station in the social hierarchy. The emperor, for example, ruled with the mandate of heaven, but that mandate remained conditional on the emperor taking care of the people. Confucius’s two greatest disciples, Mencius and Hsun Tzu, disagreed over whether human nature was good or bad. The latter tradition stressed the necessity of government control to inculcate moral discipline in the people.

The most significant political form of the Confucian tradition, Neo-Confucianism, arose during the Sung Dynasty (960-1279 C.E.). In 1190 the scholar Chu Hsi published editions of the four official books of Confucianism which became the required texts for the public examinations that qualified men for the official scholar class from 1313 to 1906.  Since these examinations controlled all upward social mobility during this time, Neo-Confucianism exercised tremendous influence on Chinese thought. Confucianism thus became the ideology of the ruling state, not a separate religious or philosophical institution. The last Confucian dynasty fell in 1911.

When Mao established the People’s Republic of China in 1949, his Chinese Communist Party also demanded a similar monopoly of state ideology and penetration and control of any quasi-independent religious institutions. Such a system, of course, immediate set up a battle between the party and religious groups lacking government approval. In radical periods of state policy like the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution, the party attacked even controlled institutions. With the success of Deng Xiaoping, the former dynamic of state penetration and control has returned, though non-approved institutions like the Falun Gong have been vigorously persecuted. The Democratic Republic of Vietnam has experienced a similar political-religious dynamic. As Chinese Marxism has weakened as a state and popular ideology, Confucianism has experienced a mini-revival that pits it against economic materialism and many religious competitors to fill the country's "ideological vacuum."

2. Religion and Politics Sections:

“China and Japan: Confucianism, Buddhism, and Maoism” (pp. 111-19)

“VI. East Asia: Modernization and Ideology” (pp. 164-97)

3. A Short Introductory Course:

Yang’s book is a classic examination of religion in the Chinese cultural context, showing how both Confucianism and Maoist Marxism can be considered religious analogies. Madsen analyzes the tensions between Confucian and Communist values in a small village in southern China. The Bell and Hahm volume offers essays on Confucian perspectives on democracy, capitalism, and law. The Bell collection covers Confucianism and civil society, boundaries and justice, ethical pluralism, contemporary feminism, and war and peace.

Yang, C.K. Religion in Chinese Society. (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1961).

Madsen, Richard. Morality and Power in a Chinese Village (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1984).

Bell, Daniel A., and Hahm, Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World (New York: Cambridge University Press, 2003).

Bell, Daniel A., ed. Confucian Political Ethics (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2008).

4. Other Resource Materials:

Baker, Don, “World Religions and National States: Competing Claims in East Asia,” Rudolph, Susanne Hoeber, and Piscatori, James, Transnational Religion and Fading States. (Boulder, Co.: Westview Press, 1997), 144-72.

Chan, Joseph, “Confucian Attitudes toward Ethical Pluralism,” Madsen, Richard, and Strong, Tracy B., eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 129-53.  

Creel, H.G. Confucius and the Chinese Way. (New York: Harper and Row, 1960).

Fukuyama, Francis, “Confucianism and Democracy,” World Religions and Democracy. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 42-55.

Hahm Chaibong, “The Ironies of Confucianism,”World Religions and Democracy. (Baltimore: The Johns Hopkins Press, 2005), 27-41.

Ivanhoe, Philip J., “The Concept of De “Virtue” in Early Confucianism and Daoism,” lecture at Santa Clara University, spring 2001. While given different connotations in the two traditions, for both De was a personal kind of power that accrued to spiritually and ethically accomplished individuals.

Küng, Hans, “Chinese Religion” in Tracing the Way: Spiritual Dimensions of the World Religions (New York: Continuum, 2002), 78-130.

Madsen, Richard. Democracy's Dharma: Religious Renaissance and Political Development in Taiwan (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007). Madsen shows how humanistic Buddhism and Taoism have adopted Confucianist values to support democratization and the religious needs of the middle class in Taiwan.

Tamney, Joseph B., and Chiang, Linda Hsueh-Ling. Modernization, Globalization and Confucianism in Chinese Societies. (Westport, CN: Greenwood, 2002).

Wan, Sze-kar, “Christian Contributions to the Globalization of Confucianism (Beyond Maoism,” in Max L. Stackhouse and Diane B. Obenchain, eds., God and Globalization: Christ and the Dominions of Civilization (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity International Press, 2002), 173-212.

Yearley, Lee H., “Two Strands of Confucianism,” Madsen, Richard, and Strong, Tracy B., eds. The Many and the One: Religious and Secular Perspectives on Ethical Pluralism in the Modern World. (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2003), 154-60.

5. Recent Articles:

See entries on China, Japan, North Korea, South Korea, and Vietnam

List of other Religions

October 16, 2009