The writings of Confucius, Mencius, and Xunzi efficiently explain the development of Confucianism from the 5th century. In his works, Confucius emphasized that Confucianism was developed to allow correctly conducting rituals, implanting the importance of responsibility and loyalty in the society as well as perfecting moral values to become a better person. In general, Confucius revealed that Confucianism mainly focused on humanism, historical values, and music. The conceptualization of these elements of Confucianism by Confucius gives the possibility to understand the peculiarities of its development in the Chinese society.
Through the teachings of Confucius, numerous schools of thought were able to further develop Confucianism. In fact, the schools of thought established that Confucian models were able to overcome ideologies of Huang-Lao that had integrated with realist models of legalism. The discontinuation of the Han political movement in the 2nd century BC was appropriate as it allowed the development of Buddhism and Neo-Taoism doctrines. The two doctrines were able to provide the spiritual support that Confucianism lacked. However, the revival of Confucianism can be traced back to the Tang dynasty. Hereby, Confucianism expanded to counter the doctrines of Taoism and Buddhism and was later reformulated to be called Neo-Confucianism. Interestingly, the reformulation was perceived as a form of imperial exams and the main philosophy for academic scholars during the Song dynasty.
Confucius was able to propose the revitalization of past elements by advocating for a ritualized situation. Importantly, love of antiquity is usually motivated by a strong desire to understand why particular life issues and activities such as religious practices had existed for years. Confucius had a strong conviction that it is of paramount importance to communicate and interact with various individuals. One of the main Confucian values that helped to support the integrity of ritual performance is Xiao. Thus, Confucius stressed the need to improve moral excellence within the society.
With a strong emphasis on social unity and family, Mencius and Xunzi noted that the core element of Confucianism was the humanistic one. They noted that Confucianism regarded the human life as sacred, and the development of human relationships was a clear manifestation of moral development and sacred lives. Confucianism emphasized the importance of a certain order of life that required the awareness of Tian. The concern of Confucianism is grounded on the belief that people are good and perfectible by interactive and societal focuses through self-creation. Hereby, Confucian reflections are linked with the culture of maintaining ethics. The basic Confucian ethical practices include benevolence that is defined as the ability of people to show compassion to others. Confucius determined that Confucianism holds individuals in contempt who do not act within the main moral values. In fact, Confucianism had a strong influence on the cultures of East Asia nations, including China, Vietnam, and Hong Kong among others. Confucianism emphasized the need for the fight for unity and collaboration between people and God to create a heavenly relationship. The elements of heavenly behavior include the development of divine authority and order in the society.
The concepts of later philosophers led to the emergence of differences with the original ideas of Confucius. In fact, Confucius emphasized the role and significance of religion in promoting moral values in the society. In contrast, later philosophers, including Mencius and Xunzi, did not recognize the role of organized religion in shaping Chinese culture. Thus, they explained that Confucianism is different from organized religion since it influenced the Chinese literal cultures as well as supported spiritual and political lives of people.
Certain elements and concepts of Confucianism have not changed even among later philosophers so that Confucian ethical elements and values form a major source of information and promote human interaction between various stakeholders in the East Asia region. In the later period, the influence of Confucianism reduced due to the emergence of churches that lowered the popularity of virtues. Mencius and Xunzi identified the differences relating to the development of civil society groups and western cultures that limited the efficiency of Confucianism in controlling cultural values and norms.
After the death of Confucius, Mencius attempted to improve the principles of politics in the society but was unable to make it work. The reason is that Confucians failed to recognize the benefits of the ruling minority as their social knowledge compelled them to serve the public. To show the connection between social and political realities and Confucian moral values, Mencius started exposing impractical ideologies of collectivism and elements of Yang’s individualism. Moreover, Mozi promoted the concept of collectivism which is dependent on the principle of love for all people, without recognizing social position and personal relations. In addition, Yang Zhu fought for the role of nourishment in promoting social values and organizations that were affected by nature. Furthermore, Zhu obtained authority among Confucians as he determined that individuals undermine the best interests of social relationships.
Talking about the strategy of Mencius, it aimed to develop social reform through promoting self-interest and power by making it an effective way to understand moral discourse with welfare and influence within the society. Interestingly, Mencius was focused on promoting profit levels within the society. He never advocated against profit among organizations. However, he informed feudal officials on the importance to examine the small horizon of their locations and develop a common relationship with officers and other stakeholders. Hereby, Mencius argued that stakeholders would protect their profit, wealth, and power. Most importantly, he emphasized the need to protect families and the importance of benevolence similar to Confucians.
Mencius’ focus on a common relationship with people was aimed at aligning with a strong populist status that is more important compared to the state one. The populist concept of politics was followed by the philosophical strategy stating that people could perfect their lives through continued efforts and good human relations. Taking into account the concepts of Mencius, human willingness involves transformative moral actions, as the model of humans’ good actions. Even though Mencius and Xunzi recognized the impact of biological and environmental factors on shaping the human status, Mencius emphasized that humans become moral when they are willing to do it.
Unlike Confucians, Mencius and Xunzi understood the need for individuals to have spiritual resources to expand their understanding of their bonds with other people. Thus, it was possible that continued enlargement of self-reflections would promote excellence. The concepts of Xunzi sought to develop a Confucian thought as a political and social force and pressures. Hereby, fellow individuals focus on developing a way of promoting human nature as moral optimism. Evidently, Xunzi undermined the centrality of self-development and cultivation. He was able to define the process of obtaining Confucian knowledge to accumulate skills and relevant wisdom. Xunzi emphasized that people are naturally evil. He also found flaws in the perception of Mencian commitment to the credibility of human nature as a possible result of neglecting rituals and authority in the society.
Similar to Confucius, Xunzi identified the element of cognitive function of human rationality, as the model of promoting morality. Evidently, individuals became moral through showing their desires to work in line with the societal values and norms. The same as Mencius, Xunzi recognized the importance of perfectibility of individuals through self-development in social harmony. He was also able to share a common element with the Confucian concept of learning to define socialization. Thus, the authority of classical tradition and government rules are important in promoting the socialization of humans in the community.
Additionally, Xunzi had a strong stance on laws through the practice of social conformation. He also insisted on objective guidelines of human behavior to promote moral values. Confucian classics still existed as the foundation of literate culture and advanced comments to dominate political systems and government. Evidently, political systems were different from Confucian concepts and values. Apparently, the development of Confucian ethics is critical in influencing the government and society. Thus, all public institutions were required to improve education and understand the importance of traditional Chinese values.
The penetration of Buddhism into Chinese culture was an interesting aspect. Buddhism remains the only foreign religion that was successfully adopted by the Chinese. In fact, Buddhism was able to gain huge success compared with other religions in China, including Judaism, Islam, and Christianity. The unstable political climate that was caused by the fall of Han Dynasty was responsible for the decline in Muslim, Jewish and Christian faith, allowing the entry of Buddhist. The transformation of Buddhism in the early period offered the confused Chinese a new future and way to reach salvation. In the last days of Han Dynasty, peasant farmers’ uprisings alongside other happenings, including corruption, political conflicts, and fragile power structures, hastened and eased the penetration of Buddhism into China.
Chinese people had started losing hope and faith in the core religious models of Taoism and Confucianism trying to resolve their problems. Buddhism came to save all individuals searching for peace and nonviolent doctrine of Buddhism that would offer them to obtain peace. Hereby, Buddhist doctrines gained universal popularity among all people in China, ranging from the peasants to the high social class individuals. Moreover, the interest in Buddhism increased when Silk Road trade encouraged interests in trading exotic merchandise. The penetration of Buddhism from India into China was connected with the success of active trade between the two nations. As trade goods such as coral and perfume were obtained from India, the Chinese collaborated with Buddhists. It is worth noting that the first Buddhist monks came with begging bowls when only individuals in China dressed and acted as beggars. Buddhism was later able to gain the interest of Han Ming who sent an official envoy to India.
In approximately 67 BCE, Buddhist scriptures and Indian monks arrived in China after the request of the emperor, and they started translating Buddhist texts. The efforts were critical in supporting the proper development of Buddhism in Chinese culture. At the beginning, the translations of Buddhist elements and values were vague. Afterward, different forms of Buddhism were expanded by missionaries from other nations who created a major challenge. Adding to the complexity, Chinese people could notice the difference between Taoism and Buddhism. One of the most interesting elements in the history of Buddhism includes the use of its ideas to strengthen the imperial power and authority. In fact, the religion had a tendency of perceiving the emperor as Buddha. The use of sanctification of the emperor was critical in promoting the penetration of Buddhism into the society. Therefore, the growth of Buddhism in China was seen in the late 5th centuries when the number of temples increased to around 1,300 temples.
Various factors were responsible for the immediate integration of Buddhism into Chinese culture, including historical, social, and other elements that impacted on the process of interacting and concentrating the thoughts and ideas of philosophy. The major influence on the growth of Buddhism in Chinese culture was literal views of both Confucianism and Buddhism as both cultures were liberal and receptive. In fact, the openness of Confucianism emphasizes the need to promote social harmony that allowed the integration of new values and religion. The importance of improving tolerance and harmonious reflection of mentality in culture was related to the ideas and thoughts of Chinese people that emphasized unity and harmony. The perception of equilibrium was the main component of integrating the world’s values and religion. It is due to liberal attitude and mentality, which made the Chinese accept new religions, thinking they could absorb important thoughts and practices from different cultures.
Buddhism was able to fill the gap in Chinese philosophy relating to the future life by educating people on the rebirth as Confucius failed to examine the nature of afterlife and Daoism learning about future life, while taking into consideration bad behaviors. Thereafter, Buddhism was able to examine the doctrine of rebirth by teaching about humans, gods and other things in life. In fact, such teachings were useful to Chinese people as they were able to respond to their life challenges and questions. Additionally, in the traditional Chinese philosophy, they did not discuss death. On the contrary, Buddhism provided a clear discussion of death within its Buddhist scriptures. Therefore, such elements indicated the important role of Buddhism in providing Chinese people with knowledge about life issues.
When Buddhism was introduced, it intermingled with elements that promoted goodness in the world. The thoughts have influenced Buddhists and led to significant consequences of interpenetration of Buddhism into other cultures. Buddhism has not led to the creation of conflicts while hosting local cultures but integrated with them. Thus, it transformed into Chinese Buddhism with Chinese cultural elements when it entered China and incorporated numerous Chinese cultural values in the past years. Also, Confucianism, Buddhism, and Daoism are relevant Chinese religions which do not agree with divine revelation but include human nature. The inclusiveness of the three religions offered a strong philosophical background for Buddhism to integrate well into Chinese culture.
In the past, Chinese scholars, including Sun Chuo, promoted the concept of syncretism of three religions. Due to the efforts of Chinese scholars and Buddhists, Buddhism integrated into Chinese culture through complementing the three religions in holistic cultivation of individuals. Compared with the Chinese scholars, as indicated by Buddhism, in regard to the cultivation of people’s mind, Daoism supported the development of Confucianism for the government. Thus, the three religions played a crucial role in the integration of Buddhism into the Chinese life and society.
With the advent of Buddhism, the Chinese society was able to experience expansion in moral learning and philosophy. Initially, Chinese intellectuals did not like the Confucian learning developed from the Han dynasty. Therefore, the Buddhist scriptures were critical in assisting in evaluating the concept of emptiness in the Chinese society. Apparently, the similarities between the Buddhist doctrine and Chinese philosophy were relevant in studying the teachings of Buddhism. Moreover, the similarities were critical in promoting the reception of Buddhist philosophy that developed during the Tang dynasty. Buddhism developed Buddhist models and was influenced by Chinese thoughts that were critical to Buddhist schools.
The approach to Buddhism when it penetrated into China was different from the one it had being originally developed in India. The reason is that the ideologies of Indians were influenced by sectarian splinters. In fact, it was not seen as a form of religion. After Buddhists came to China, there occurred additional strategic transformations. Buddhism transformed the way of presenting and the objective of religion to improve the lives of people. It was initially focused on providing the truth about the individual’s opportunity for salvation. Apparently, heavily regulated monarchs did not bring a large number of followers. Hereby, many Chinese people chose to sacrifice small resources. In spite of the above-mentioned facts, Chinese people could feel a strong connection with Buddhists compared with the existing traditional Chinese religions such as Taoism. The ritualistic approach could be employed as a replacement in promoting the long-term tradition of worship.
Statistics show that Buddhists had built over 9,000 temples in China and had over 150,000 monks and nuns. During the 8th century, the social structure of China transformed, and Buddhism was in decline. It followed the emergence of a new social class of farm workers as the social relations increased amongst employees and employers. Thereafter, it shows the implications of money economy that created social classes which were heavily isolated from others. Buddhism had developed after it was accepted by different social groups in the Chinese society.
The division of Buddhists into social classes had a diffusing impact on Buddhism adoption due to its universality. The decline of Buddhism was caused by the revival of Confucianism in the society. Following the breakdown of the Han Dynasty, the collapse of the inherent social structure and values created a good environment for Buddhism to grow. The monks and missionaries spreading Buddhism used a strategic approach. They ensured that Buddhism evolved in a manner that met their Chinese needs. The arguments prove that Buddhism in China was even more successful than in India.