Much of what was taught by Confucius is still relevant in our modern world

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 31 July, 2011, 12:00am


I refer to the report ('Is Confucianism the answer?' July 20).

The article said that as, 'China struggles to give its people moral and ethical education fast enough to keep pace with its economic growth, Confucianism is seen as a useful philosophy'. The central theme of Confucius' teaching is, 'Do not do to others what you do not wish them do unto you', which all of us would do well to practise.

Confucius urged people to practise 'filial piety' towards their parents and loyalty towards their superiors, which are good virtues, but unfortunately this teaching has been twisted throughout the ages by Chinese parents and superiors to mean 'blind obedience'.

The major non-applicable aspect in modern society of Confucius' thoughts is that he believed the emperor had the divine right to govern his people.

We cannot really blame Confucius for this, as humankind had to wait for more than 2,000 years until the American revolution of 1776, when it was declared that all of us are born equal and have the same basic human rights.

Confucius' teaching of 'deference to the emperor' has been a millstone hindering the progress of Chinese society for more than 2,000 years. Although, to be fair to Confucius, he did mention that when our parents or our superiors are in the wrong we need to remind them of it politely, this part of his teaching has been conveniently ignored by most Chinese parents and people in authority even up to the present day.

Chinese people should cling to the good parts of Confucius' teachings, which have influenced our society for more than 2,000 years, but we should let go of those elements which do not work in modern society. In such a society, a successful country's citizens understand they have responsibilities together with the rights they enjoy.

When citizens only pay attention to their rights and not their responsibilities, we have problems such as the debt crisis affecting Greece and other European nations, not to mention the oldest democracy in the world, the US, having reached its US$14.3 trillion debt [ceiling].

If the central government could protect the lives, freedom and property of its citizens, and make sure that its people, when exercising their rights, do not infringe the same rights of their fellow citizens, it would be able to face any criticism of its system.

Alex Woo, Tsim Sha Tsui