Chinese Humanism

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= " Chinese humanism refers to an Asian world view that is largely descended from the teachings of Master K'ung, or Confucius, from about 500 BCE, which emphasizes the inherent goodness of humanity, the value of human life, secular relationships, good governance, and education". [- Joseph Dillard]


Joseph Dillard:

"China never differentiated religion from culture. Beginning with the Jesuits in 1579, Christianity could never gain a lasting toehold in China because there was little about the dominant culture, with its emphasis on moral perfection in a secular humanistic framing, that was amenable to acceptance of a doctrine of spiritual salvation. Therefore, Christianity won relatively few conversions and Jesuit visitors in the 16th and 17th centuries came away impressed with the sophistication and internal coherence of Chinese culture and society.

Although other religious traditions have been influential in China, Chinese humanism is primarily composed of four main traditions: Chinese folk rituals, which are a mixture of shamanism and Buddhism, Taoism, and Confucianism. The spiritual outlook of most Chinese people traditionally consists of some combination of beliefs and practices from these four traditions. Buddhism itself had a very widespread and powerful expression in China from 200 BC, probably due to its philosophical and atheistic nature, which was compatible with Chinese humanism, until a persecution in the Tang dynasty in 845 AD led to the almost complete eradication of Buddhism from China. Therefore, outside of Chinese folk traditions, Buddhism has not been a major influence in China for centuries, primarily because Chinese society and culture continuously reverts to its humanistic roots.

While Western humanism emphasizes individual liberties and rights, Chinese humanism emphasizes personal perfection for the good of family, state, and natural collectives. While the former emphasizes freedom, the latter emphasizes responsibility and obedience. Western humanism takes the form of collectivist actions and institutions to protect the individual, such as protests, unions, and the Bill of Rights, while Chinese humanism manifests as individual actions and institutions designed to protect the collective, such as social ritual, observance of social hierarchies, obedience, and meritocracy. While Western humanism was a rational and secular reaction to pre-rational, absolutist, and religious culture, society, and religion, Chinese humanism was organic and not reactive. As a result, it has a degree of deep-seated authenticity that reactive world views find difficult to sustain. Indeed, this is validated not only by the multi-millennial influence of Chinese humanism but by its continued existence within the current communist-socialist-capitalist Chinese governmental structure and in contrast to the ongoing collapse of major elements of Western humanism and neoliberal economics.

Among the various schools of Chinese thought, the teachings of Master K'ung, called “Confucianism,” is particularly overlooked and minimized by the philosophical, psychological, spiritual, and of course, the political traditions of the West, perhaps because Confucianism may seem arcane, abstract, and largely irrelevant to those things that are of concern to Westerners." (