What is a fulfilling life according to Confucianism and Daoism respectively, regarding their views on human nature, one’s relationship to his/her family/society, and nature? According to Confucianism philosophy, Confucianism is more than just a religion. A complex set of rules, which for nearly 2000 years dictated almost every aspect of Chinese life, it encompasses the fulfillment of life by living ethically and morally. Likewise, aside from being beneficial, it is also considered ones duty to live your life being involved in economic and political works, along with the spirituality. It is noted that while spirituality is very important, it is highly frowned upon for one to withdraw from society to seek spiritual enlightenment or a higher state of consciousness. This is because there is a great priority to make sure everybody actively contributes to society. “The core of Confucius philosophy was moral practice, centered on the virtue of REN, or humanity.” Do unto others as you would have done unto you. Hawai’i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture, pg 45. Confucianism in the sense of family and society also must include a context of the government as well.
It is for all (filial piety) you must consider the big picture in order to evaluate ones family and social acts. “The Lord of She said to Confucius – in our village there is one Upright Gong. His father stole a sheep, so the son testified against him. Confucius said “the upright people of my village are different from this. The fathers are willing to conceal their sons; the sons are willing to conceal their fathers. Uprightness lies therein.”” Hawai’i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture, pg 49. This is an example of filial piety. While being successful or wealthy can corrupt someone, if they have been properly trained and have strong morals, they can overcome the desires of evil. The degree of wealth, or lack there of, just determines one’s place or station in life. This is also referred to as The Doctrine of the Mean. No matter one’s station in life, Confucius teaches that of foremost concern should be family and community. Focusing on material and physical needs, such as food, shelter, clothes and relationships, these are what are important. “To repay resentment with kindness – how about that? The master said then with what should one repay kindness? Repay resentment with uprightness. Repay kindness with kindness.”
Hawai’i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture, pg 49. Confucianism views of human nature can be assimilated in how one should act; and when one strays, how to educate one’s self to find the correct path back. Confucianism deals with the concerns of actions of authoritative people, as their behavior is what determines the tone of all of society. Kind rulers nurture their subjects, creating a morally healthy society. Corrupt rulers will undermine their subjects, creating chaos. Confucius uses the roles of ritual as a guide for obtaining social harmony. Confucianism can be “taught”, as shown through ritual roles. Confucianism and its thoughts on nature are about a simplistic down to earth mentality. Tu Wei-ming talks about “anthropocosmic vision.” His interpretation of Confucianism is that all things in the universe are interrelated and mutually interact, a transcendent dimension uniting people, nature and heaven. This goes beyond what is referred to today as “secular humanism.” This feeling is based on the fact that Chinese peoples’ relative emphasis is on group life. Chinese feel that individual life shows disinterest, whereas group life sees individuals in their natural context as relating to others, extending to the whole universe.
T.H. Barrett states that despite the surface differences, this philosophy encompasses traits of Buddhist and Taoist traditions. He feels Confucianism is regarding “this worldliness” and Buddhism is “other worldliness.” Daoism is about how things relate to one another and the idea that nature is in essence a form of the super natural. Dao is thought of in terms of infancy, that you are born with harmony. The people following the Dao philosophy feel that you must work to keep harmonious and fallow the way. If you do not continually work throughout your entire life, then you will be corrupt, and no longer possess harmony from within. Thus, Daoism is shown to be a manual of physical self-cultivation. With regard to Daoism and its interactions with family and society, Dao gave no infusion with the government and little (filial piety). It is the opposite of Confucianism.
With little interaction from the government, people came closer together; however, some, like the hermits, limited their interaction with other people and a few disbanded from the government cites. Per Sources of Chinese Tradition, Second Addition, page 103, it states that Daoism cannot be taught. “What I care about is the Way which goes beyond skill. … Now I go at it by spirit and don’t look with my eyes.” It also states that “The eternal Way cannot be explained in words; moreover, it cannot be perceived by our corporeal sense organs.” This leads us to believe there is no guidance given to the people that they just have to watch and hopefully learn for themselves how to exist and behave. There is no encouragement to help the rest of society. “We realize that the Way is everywhere. … We must pattern ourselves after the Way, which is like water: formless, yielding, and therefore capable of filling any space and passing through any crevice.” Hawai’i Reader in Traditional Chinese Culture, pg 78. Those in the society would behave naturally and ethically without need for education and return to a state of infancy and lead a life following the Way.