Man Who Defied Time – Confucius
JOURNEY TO JAPAN
Last night I rummaged through my movie collection and by accident I stumbled upon several Japanese classics like “Yojimbo”, “The Seven samurai” and “Twilight Seibei” to name a few. These movies never grow old – watching them from time to time only adds more value to them and opens up new interpretations of the knowledge that they give us, their motives and their spirit. Like the finest Sauvignon, their beauty grows with time, the flavor sweet as the Heaven’s mead.
What drove Yojimbo, The Seven samurai or Seibei? The feeling of justice, honor and humility? or maybe the compassion towards the less fortunate and oppressed?
All of these answers are correct, but to know their source, their origin is a completely different story that needs to be told. The social and moral values of the Old Japan are not a simple thing to understand – its society is a military one since the beginning and through rigid and fierce loyalty to one’s superiors is the system that kept it rolling and nourished it. When it disappeared, the system was turned into nothingness. We are all witnesses of that.
Ask the “modern” historians – they would say mostly that it was bushido that drove them forward. However, the question from where the bushido hails, makes them uneasy. The answer is simple: Confucianism.
What is Confucianism and what does it mean to abide by its laws? It means that you know your place within the society and by extent in cosmos, that you cultivate yourself and your inner being, to advance in your craft and to live in accordance with morals while honoring your ancestors. Those were the words of Confucius.
Of course, there is more to it. In the warriors world, there are virtues that define one’s position and duty. The undoubting loyalty to ones lord, the devotion to duty and constant practice is what Confucius teaches us and this is in Japan so strong that appalls the West. This virtue of loyalty, a virtue so boosted in value and reverence, made warriors what they are. However, the birthplace of Confucianism, China has a different view on it – loyalty to one’s superior must be in accordance with one’s conscience and it is not hereditary. Of course, in Japan it was opposite.
One’s loyalty to his feudal lord was a moral obligation and was until death. It was passed down from father to son within a clan and from, let’s say, 1192. (Yoritomo becomes shogun) to 1868. (Meiji Revolution starts) it was an unwritten society cannon. There were ties of loyalty before and after the given events, but I think that during this period, it was predominant and most pure. Some would say that this stressing of loyalty is scary and too much, and you would be right, but by TODAY’S standards. The undisputed proof is the constitution of Shotoku Taishi, promulgated in 604., in which the ideal of loyalty replaced humanity. This trend of radical propaganda will end in the tragedy of WWII because it was used in a selfish way by a handful of vile people. It had its purity stripped, its pristine value smeared with innocent blood and left for a stiff in the winter of human blindness and astonishing stupidity.
“Poor Confucius…” I say today while looking at Japan, at the begotten abomination plagued with faceless society and dead tradition that only fuels modern deranged trends. Perhaps I am too pessimistic about the entire novel that is modern Japan, but I cannot and to a degree, I reject a different view. The mere metaphors of Confucianism being the father of communism make my skin chill, the mass number of trifle and out-of-this world thesis’s concerning Confucianism makes me doubt the IQ of mankind, especially the scholar class.
So people, there you have it. A general outlook on the Japanese Confucianism is a topic that requires a lot of research and devotion than simple book skimming. Here is some short biography and important facts regarding Confucianism:
1. The Chinese term for Confucianism is “Zhu Jia” ( “School of scholars”).
2. It was the first school of thought in China.
3. The most important books of Confucius: “Analects”, “The book of poems”, “Litanies” , “The annals of spring and autumn”.
4. The family is a nucleus of the entire Confucianism society.
5. Knowledge and reverence of one’s ancestors is the key of the ideal man in the Confucian eyes.
6. The sense of Shame is the compass for human behavior.
Remember what I said in the introduction that history is not a process that is dominated by the few so study with a critical spirit that is also a message from Confucianism. Leave feedback and if enough impulse is collected on this theme, I will write further. See you in China next time.