Neo-Confucianism, also Chinese neo-Confucian philosophy, is a term that refers to a wide range of significantly diverse Chinese thinkers since the times of the Song dynasty (960 - 1279) to the Qing dynasty (1644 - 1911). All these thinkers were united by their mutual allegiance to Confucius as well as his thought. However, despite their common loyalty to Confucius’ legacy, some central beliefs of the neo-Confucians were not known to Confucius and his very early followers and they seemed to be at odds with the then Confucian views. Most of these beliefs were a section of a novel, comprehensive, and elaborate metaphysical scheme that linked the universe (macrocosm) to the human beings (microcosm). These cosmological theories offered a better ground for the Confucians’ claims, strengthening a propensity towards the mystical self-identification with the universe. The changes also led to the transformation of the earlier Confucian concern with a steady moral improvement and self-cultivation to a more dramatic pursuit of spiritual enlightenment, abounding with a conspicuously Confucian meditation style.Going through Neo-Confucian Revolution and the various aspects involved in it one gets to further understand the importance it has for East Asia in modern times and will further have one appreciate some of its positive concepts.
One greatly recognized account of the growth of neo-Confucianism perceives it as a reaction to the part of Confucian scholars towards the apparent supremacy of Buddhist thought. With this, the Confucians had turned out complacent as the Han dynasty ended in the early 3rd century AD to the start of the neo-Confucian movement of the late ninth century. Afraid that their culture was in danger, these later Confucians decided to overcome their competing Buddhists and revive their way of life. Allegedly, these later Confucians gathered that for their success in achieving their goals, they had to develop and organize an account about the Confucian tradition that could contend with and overcome the multifaceted metaphysical schemes used by the Buddhists in arguing against them. Therefore, early neo-Confucians dedicated their attention to literature/texts such as Daxue (great learning), Mengzi (Mencius), and Zhongyong (the Doctrine of the mean). They started developing a new version of Confucianism that was reinforced by the complex and comprehensive metaphysical system as described above.
Nevertheless, another account of the emergence of neo-Confucianism is available. However, the selection of particular texts and the development of new practices and styles of reasoning are not clearly seen as self-conscious strategic borrowings from Daoism and Buddhism. Rather, the typical features of neo-Confucianism are the implications of the pervasive and profound effect that Daoist and Buddhism thought had applied for centuries upon the Chinese intellectuals. There were no distinct or organized groups of thinkers who classified and thought of themselves as Confucians in the centuries right before the neo-Confucian revival. However, the Chinese intellectuals had come to embrace a wide range of spiritual practices and philosophical ideas as an indispensable part of the literati culture.
When some of these trained and broadly read individuals started looking back into the early Confucian figures and writings, they did so via the categories and under the approaches and concerns of their era. Their angle of vision was changed, and thus, they saw these previous sources differently. The new orientation caused them to elevate particular texts to the canonical status. Some texts were often unfamiliar to the sages that they claimed to follow. In addition, these later Confucians acquired certain aspects of classical writings in certain ways that would have been unidentifiable to the founding subjects of the custom they so stubbornly defended. Neo-Confucianism was indeed an ethical-religious movement led by a small and elite group of scholars who were inspired by the vision of a modern sociopolitical order based on moral principles.
The revolution began in China in the 11th Century, and it was established in Korea in the 14th and 15th centuries, while in Japan, it was in the 16th century onwards. It propagated in a wavelike fashion, initially engulfing China, and later sweeping across Korea and ultimately, reaching Japan. Confucianism wanted to preserve and defend one status hierarchy founded on the ideal of an educated gentleman, civilized behavior, and filial piety as traditional life orientations. Western puritanism promoted piety as a way of ‘revolution of the saints.’ However, paradoxically, puritan vocations also led to the fashioning of sensible capitalism of the West. Weber, by contrast, identified some conditions that hindered capitalism in China.
For instance, many technical innovations faced opposition from conservative religious groups/organizations. The very strength of ancestor worship and kinship system protected the members from misfortune while discouraging a work discipline and rationalization of work processes. Moreover, they barred the codification of laws, the nurturing, and the growth of enlightened professional lawyers as well as the expansion of modern legal institutions. Weber’s views have been criticized by the philosophers who currently promote neo-Confucianism as an ethical system that simultaneously fills the moral gap unfilled by the end of secular communism while competing with the western individuality as an account of individual development.
Contemporary neo-Confucianism has faced support from various scholars as a significant shield of the cultural foundation in many Asian nations, as an actual political theory of profound governance, and as a treasured framework for self-realization. There exists a great significance of social relations, whereby the ‘self’ appears in an endless dialogue with the rest, thus rejecting the customary Western view of the remote, sovereign self. One structural limitation on the citizenship is the lack of an independent middle class. The paths towards either authoritarian or democratic rule were based historically on the relationship between peasant, landlord, and bourgeoisie. However, the English case remains paradigmatic. The initial annihilation of the peasantry via enclosures and sheep rearing led to a capitalist agrarian class and an early de-militarization of the dignity.
When the bourgeoisie confronted the aristocracy’ remnants, the peasant class never had a break on modernization. As Theda Skocpol’s distinctive theory states, revolutions occur since states are susceptible to endogenous socioeconomic processes, especially the management of the internal class conflict. Skocpol’s role rejects any responsibility to the human agency in revolutions. Revolutions, for instance, do not result from the revolutionary will of the individual revolutionaries. However, revolution is surprisingly the unintended consequence of the decay of the state alongside its agrarian bureaucracy. Skocpol examines the causal constraints enforced by objective historical circumstances. Three major forms of constraints are the external military pressures, the repressive states’ character, and class relations. These repressive states’ actions have autonomous causal consequences for citizenship and revolutions.
Citizenship is a product of an evolving bourgeois class that is sufficiently strong to create civil rights against the securities of an aristocracy, and whose social authority over civil society ultimately allows social inclusion of the ethnic minorities and junior classes into the social order. Otherwise, conservative bodies of the ancient regime are wrecked by an external invasion and a civil war, allowing the rise of a public consciousness and national civil society, which draws various classes into civil society. However, the bourgeoisie of various nations, such as Singapore and Malaysia, are usually called state bourgeoisies. Hereby, public servants, deriving their incomes from closely integrated companies, are carefully incorporated into the system. Bourgeois classes never offer any significant input into the obvious check on the power of the state since they are already inscribed within the state apparatus.
With the modern migration patterns, the global corporate elites may enjoy the limited interest in the local state’s politics, as there are occasionally enough foreign laborers whose economic aspirations are locked into the global capitalist firms. The notion that the unintentional effect of the democratization of military organization favors the democratization of general society is common to different citizenship accounts. However, another aspect of the argument is that the severe trauma of war on populations can destroy ancient consciousness, exploitation, old forms of hierarchy, and new settings for democracy. The experience of the military skirmish in Asia does not seem to have had any such positive set of unintended repercussions.
The economic and social policies of Mao would seem to have hindered the growth of an autonomous middle class, vibrant civil society, as well as the rule of law. As culture was revolutionized, all the religious sites (Pagodas, Buddhists, Muslim mosques, and Christian churches) were demolished, and therefore, a substantial dimension of civil society just disappeared. The very recent period of liberalization and revolution has seen a modest revitalization of religious institutions although from a low standing point. The existence of Confucianism and the Communism legacies, a relatively weak growth of the middle class away from the state sector, a civil conflict, and anti-colonial wars appear to have left numerous Asian societies with ‘low-quality democracies’ quiescent populations, a stable authoritarian rule, superficial or irregular rotations of government, and fairly subservient elites gathered around the state. Challenges facing democracy and citizenship in Asian nations may be the result of peculiarities of the course of Asian modernization and revolution. However, probably, more deep-seated and generic issues faced the citizens of these countries.
The Chinese diasporic bourgeoisie in Malaysia, Indonesia, and the Philippines have been progressive in economic entrepreneurship. Hereby, Thailand has been somewhat an exceptional case as it was spared all the effects of direct imperialism. Moreover, the development has been done by a traditional monarchy that had strong absolutist tendencies, hiring Buddhism as the chief vehicle of the state legitimacy. In contemporary Asian society, there has been veneration of some dominant, albeit unique, women. Women have had great and historical roles in leading wars and other endeavors that were initially male-dominated. They have been honored for their bravely and militant involvement during tussles against invaders and civil wars.
During the Cultural Revolution, the militancy of young female Red Guards demonstrates their preparedness to being revolutionary heroes while struggling for a just cause. Society has shone admiration and appreciation of all heroines, helping justify all such bold actions as women can successfully define their new roles for themselves alongside their fellow male counterparts. Neo-Confucian philosophy, reflecting back to the 15th century, relegated women for over extensions of the male dominance as well as fabricators of requisite progeny. The traditional perception of the social role of women has faded away with an increasing number of female students having admirable positions in various sectors of the economy of the Asian countries. For instance, the current president of South Korea is a woman. The ancient Confucian respect for everyone’s education remains an important element of the East Asia nations and their culture. Women in Guangdong wore the Cantonese slipper and it received much respect.
Thus, the civil service examinations used to be the gateway to power and prestige for followers of Confucianism as in the Joseon Dynasty. Currently, exams play a significant part of these nations. The content of study has changed over years but it remains to be the means of admission to gaining better jobs and schools. Thus, there exists a cultivated growth in hard work. Many of these nations still emphasize on family and unity-oriented patterns of living. Confucian rituals are still generally practiced today, together with the ancestral memorial services. These acts are a means of showing respect for the deceased members of the community and a means of presenting Confucian filial piety. These practices have kept the majority of the involved communities united and together as they share some common cultural aspects. Therefore, neo-Confucianism has played a significant role in shaping the social-economic aspects of the majority of the East Asian nations.
The concept of the neo-Confucian revolution is one of the most recognized philosophical eras in the history of revolutions. Many accounts of the growth of new colonialism exist and many researchers have identified different areas that developed the revolution. One of the most common stories is that the Confucian scholars reacted to supremacy of the Buddhist thought and this made the revolution begin. The reactions to supremacy amongst other issues lead to the new-Confucian revolution that has shaped the contemporary East Asia.