The Chinese Cultural Values in Individual Roles And Responsibilities As Derived From Confucius Philosophy
Individual duties and responsibilities to our families, friends, government and society are beyond our capacity to act as we deem fit. However, the shared interests and beliefs attained through participation and cooperation both at the individual level, and the societal level founds the responsibilities. To live a fulfilling life, according to early Chinese culture, it is essential to understand the shared beliefs and the common interests of people living in that community. These values determine people’s behaviour, which reflects the roles of individuals to society. Early Chinese culture require individuals to accomplish duties and responsibilities to families, friends, government and society at large by aligning their actions with commitment, harmony, honesty, benevolence, and righteousness, these values are derived from the philosophy of Confucius.
Portraying the acts of honesty, wisdom, righteousness and benevolence from how the people advocated the same during the particular times, explains the sources of these values in the Chinese culture. The core societal value is harmony as it brings coordination between humankind and nature and people of the society. Harmony leads to the growth of other values such as honesty, commitment, benevolence and righteousness. Harmony enhances the relationship between the government and the people of the community. Duties and Responsibilities of individuals were based on the societal and government roles or service to friends and family. The Chinese culture provided the foundation of societal roles, especially in families and service to the society, as well as the government in providing services to the community.
Individuals are expected to accomplish their duties and obligations with honesty through trustworthiness, integrity and credibility. (Analects, 66) In one Confucius quotes says, “I do not see how a man can be acceptable who is untrustworthy in his word”. Through this quote, the Chinese culture understood that honesty is a vital value in gaining trust from society. A man has to be honest to be accepted by the community. Most importantly, in obtaining wealth, an individual should consider other individuals to acquire wealth reasonably through their labour and not by committing crimes or cheating. From the master’s words in (Analects, 61), “poor yet delighting in the way, wealthy yet observant of the rites”. Lau still stresses on honesty in acquiring wealth through this saying. The Chinese Culture embraced this value among its people to improve the services to family, friends and society. Honesty in work develops acceptance from the community and trust from friends and family.
According to Confucius philosophy in (TTCh, 58), Zhiming says,” honesty help the government achieve their duties serenely”. This means that honesty is essential in running the government and individual duties to the government. When the government is not suspicious, the people in the society believe in it as they are able to explain the governments activities and works. The individuals in the Chinese culture trust their government because of the virtue of honesty, which creates the foundation of its activities. As individuals give their honest opinions and suggestions on the state of government, it easily develops strategies to serve the people and accomplish duties efficiently. A credible government attracts trustworthiness of the society, which in turn creates honest individuals. Honesty value was derived from the Confucius philosophy and adapted by the Chinese culture. Honesty also applies to familial connections in efforts to make it stronger.
Individuals should extend the virtue of benevolence to familial ties and blood connections. Using the Confucius philosophy, (Analects, 73) through a quote says, “benevolent man is attracted to benevolence because he feels at home in it”. The quote shows the importance of familial ties and the satisfaction brought by the same. Benevolence is valued in the Chinese culture as it states the benefits of the familial relations, by blood, in friendships and the relationship between people in the society. Benevolence has kept the Chinese people together through their cultural values. Confucius philosophy is the source of these values, and it encourages values such as wisdom, loyalty and self-discipline among people in the society hence instilling peaceful coexistence. The peaceful coexistence motivates individual and societal prosperity. It founds the importance of performing one’s roles to the community in the Chinese culture. When an individual develops benevolence within oneself, it drives them towards the same value as it creates the feeling of completeness and peace, which makes it easy for the individual to dwell in that situation.
A quote from Confucius philosophy says, “when a man sets his heart on benevolence, he will be free of evil” (Analects, 73). The quote shows that benevolence is a very vital virtue as it brings one too close to heart. It directs an individual to practice honesty and depart from evil activities. Benevolence makes it possible to express love and kindness from the heart hence gives the sense of equality for every individual. Therefore, loving everyone and being kind to them prevents one from planning evil against one another and instead wish for the best for them and even by being part of their happiness and successes. Benevolence creates the togetherness in the Chinese culture hence justifies the service to one another. Equality indeed supports prosperity for every individual, therefore, frees the society from evil. By bringing family and blood relatives close shows love and commitment to one’s specific duties.
Individuals should accomplish their duties with commitment. Just as (Analects, 66) says in one of Confucius philosophy quotes, “Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows lack of courage”. This quote means that individuals should commit themselves to do right regardless of the obstacles. Challenges are a part of human life, and it requires courage to overcome them. When people have the interest and are committed to achieving successful lives, they attain prosperity. In Chinese society, when an individual performs their roles regardless of the challenges they face, it defines courage and becomes an example to others. Failure to tackle the issue at hand describes cowardice; hence, the individual cannot earn respect from society. Confucius founded this value and embraced by Chinese culture. It also states that duties accomplished by a committed individual are usually perfect and to the standard required by the society and government, which contributes to the growth of people and society.
Besides courage in commitment, (Analects, 66) uses Confucius Quote that,” Commitment bears positive results”. This quote means that with commitment to duties as dictated by the society and government, one is predisposed to succeed. Chinese culture uses its rites to encourage involvement in its individuals. Just as derived from Confucius philosophy, with the laid-out responsibilities and roles of every individual, commitment is essential. It pushes one to ensure they are successful in their work. This value applies to the functions in the families, to friends and those developed by society. To add on, the government also gives responsibilities to individuals in society, and it is only possible to perform them if one is committed to attaining the set objectives and goals. Committed individuals work to the expectation of the society hence bear positive results of growth and an excellent example to other people. Commitment to doing things righteously is well advocated in the ancient Chinese culture.
Justice and correctness should dictate our daily activities and decisions, righteousness is key to success in ancient Chinese culture. (Strange writing, 100) says, “There are not only individual benefits but also collective and social benefits”. Yang meant that one should do what is right and avoid harming others since through the Confucius theory, Justice not only seeks to benefit an individual, but also the society at large. On the other hand, correctness is the basis for justice. As individuals are corrected whenever they go wrong, they do the same by showing concern to other people’s issues hence supporting and creating an advantage to the social lives of individuals. The Chinese society believes that everyone is responsible for the growth or failure of the country. This value is supported by encouraging individuals to seek what benefits themselves and also the society. Justice and correctness develop the value of righteousness in people, that help in daily activities and decision making, on matters affecting individuals and the society.
(Strange writing, 103) in a Confucius philosophy quote says, “Give me your head and your sword and I will avenge you” This showed that no matter the command from the top, it is always your duty to abide by it and do the right thing. Correctness instilled in people’s minds, directs them to know the right and wrong. Therefore, as command comes from the top, an individual should first evaluate if it is right to abide by it or not. Also, in an anthropology of poetry and criticism by women writers of china, a poem on the heartfelt feeling of separation expresses the failure of paying respect to dead parents (APC, 31). The Chinese performs the rites of last respect to date, which shows that the Confucius philosophy is the source of righteousness value embraced by the Chinese culture. Righteousness is a virtue that cannot be omitted in our daily life as it dictates the choices made in performing the daily activities.
It is essential to understand the shared beliefs and the common interests of people living in a particular place to understand what individual people owe to their friends, families, societies, and governments. Commitment to one’s responsibilities and roles, honesty towards one’s sources of wealth, benevolence towards people of the family and community, as well as righteousness encompassing correctness and justice, are the virtues aligned with one’s obligations and duties as expected by the society and the government. The Chinese culture has these values, which derived from the Confucius Philosophy. It is from the philosophy that the culture was able to set its societal values in performing individual roles and responsibilities to the society, family, friends and the government.
In general commitment, honesty, benevolence, and righteousness are the basis for peaceful coexistence and fulfilment of obligations to families, friends, government and the society in the Chinese culture and derived from the Confucius Philosophy.
List of References
1. Chang, Saussy. Women writers of Traditional China: An Anthology of Poetry and Criticism. (Stanford University Press, California)
2. Lau, D.C. Confucius: The Analects (New York: Penguin, 1979).
3. Strange Writing : Yang, Xianyi Poetry and prose of the Han, Wei, and Six Dynasties (Beijing: panda Book, 1986).
4. Zhiming, Yuan. Tao Te Ching Original Text and A Modern Interpretation. (Bloomington, United States, 2010).