Editorial & Introduction

Confucianism: Comparisons and Controversies

In: Culture and Dialogue
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  • 1 Philosophy Department, Colorado State UniversityFort Collins, COUS
  • | 2 Professor of economics, Nordakademie, University of Applied SciencesElmshorn and HamburgGermany
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On October 2019, the China Daily ran an article, “Is Confucius still Relevant?,” which began as follows: “The ideas of the ancient Chinese sage may need a little tweaking, but …[they] now point the way to world peace.”1 This is remarkable for a variety of reasons, not least because the China Daily is published by the Publicity Department of the Communist Party of China, which has since the late 1960s spilled an inordinate amount of ink attacking the Confucian tradition. As the China Daily’s Chinese language sister publication Renmin Ribao wrote in January 1967, “to struggle against Confucius, the feudal mummy, and thoroughly eradicate … reactionary Confucianism is one of our important tasks in the Great Proletarian Cultural Revolution.”2 This was followed in 1973-1976 by Mao Zedong’s “Anti-Lin Biao, Anti-Confucius Campaign,” which again held up Confucius as the punching bag and source of many of China’s ills.

Despite this, Confucius and his ideas have been experiencing a revival. In 2019, more than two thousand people celebrated the 2,570th anniversary of his birth in Qufu, Shandong province. The highest-ranking member of the Communist Party’s local chapter attended the ceremony as a guest of honor. More generally, recent decades have seen a revival of Confucius, fostered in part by the Chinese government. As the China Daily puts it, “He [Confucius] has emerged again as a central figure in defining what it means to be Chinese, and the message is spreading through hundreds of teaching institutions worldwide – the Confucius Institutes.”3

This might sound bombastic, but it reflects an increasingly popular opinion. Even if stereotypically, Confucius and the ideas based on his teachings, Confucianism, are heavily associated with China and East Asia, and contemporary China’s foreign policy capitalizes on this stereotype.4 Increasingly, the academic5 and popular6 discourses in China are turning to Confucianism as a source of inspiration and in order to generate new resources. This is not simply a manifestation of zeitgeist. And, it should be noted, this ever-shifting relationship with Confucius is not new. Twentieth century China has long had an uneasy and rapidly shifting relationship with Confucius. From the Boxer Rebellion through the May 4th Movement and into the early years of the People’s Republic, Confucius has alternated between savior and scourge. He has been seen as the reason for China’s decline and lack of competitiveness with the West in the early twentieth century by some and simultaneously as a fount of resources for repelling the West by others. Indeed, even those within the Communist Party itself have regularly changed positions on this issue. In 1939, the second Chairman of the PRC Liu Shaoqi wrote On the Ethical Cultivation of Communist Party Members – a treatise that draws deeply on Confucian ideas of moral cultivation.7

The ideas prompted by Confucius and his followers have been discussed for almost two thousand five hundred years. They have been adapted, modified, and enriched by staying in constant dialogue with others, such as Daoism, Mohism, Buddhism, Christianity, Pragmatism, Historicism, Communism, and many more. At various points in time, Confucianism was the official doctrine of Chinese (and other East Asian) Dynasties, which again enriched its thinking by making it operative in political, legal, commercial, and other ways. Confucianism, which is unique for its longevity among others, became engrained in East Asia (although and obviously not everything East Asian is Confucian). In any case, Confucius and Confucianism are part of East Asia’s history and present. In virtue of this and because of its wealth of intellectual resources, its contemporary strengthening is more than just a fad.

This is also the reason for this co-edited issue of Culture and Dialogue, a journal devoted to cross-cultural philosophy and the humanities. In its own terms, the journal seeks to encourage and promote research in the type of philosophy and theory that sees dialogue as a fundamental ingredient of cultural formations and whereby culture is understood as a manifestation of human achievement in the arts, languages, forms of expression (whether secular or religious), and customs of all kinds including political ones. Dialogue, in this context, means a mode of relationship that lets cultural formations unfold by bringing together human beings and, for example, their natural environment, their historical past, traditions, external cultural influences, contemporary trends, other communities, or simply other persons in conversation.

1 Aims of This Issue

In this spirit, a dialogue with Confucianism is conversation not only with its historical development but also with its contemporary shapes. Moreover, a dialogue with Confucianism is equally a dialogue with those engaging with the tradition. The aim of this issue is indeed to engage in such a dialogue from multiple perspectives to show that Confucianism is a multi-facetted, cross-sectional and interdisciplinary endeavor. Similarly, diverse are the ways of engaging with it. The authors of the papers assembled here cover a wide range of contemporary and historical issues, from inner-Confucian to wider Chinese and comparative perspectives.

This Issue of Culture and Dialogue discusses contemporary Confucian ideas as such – what is often labelled “New Confucianism,” by examining the contemporary development of a dialogue Chinese scholars have long had among themselves. The selection of essays also brings Confucian ideas into conversation within a broader contemporary discourse, for example Confucianism and democracy or gender. The Issue explores not only inter-Confucian controversies but also intra-Confucian ones, addressing, for example, the “updating” of the Confucian program, its relationship to increasingly open and diverse societies, and its relevance in a world in which commerce is important. Finally, more traditional Chinese critiques of Confucianism – from a “Legalist” and a “Daoist” perspective – are equally included here.

The essays target a broad public in philosophy and the humanities and refrain from delving into specialized investigations that may be of interest to only a few. As a matter of style, Chinese characters have generally not been used in the essays. Instead, Romanized transliterations refer to the Chinese terms in italics. The exceptions to this rule are this Introduction and the first essay. In the Introduction, the key names are written in Chinese characters as well as their tonal transliterations. The first essay, which provides a philosophical and historical overview of the development of New Confucianism, maintains Chinese characters in order to allow interested readers to cross-reference terms and the political lingo.

It should be noted that the contributors of this Issue do not always rely on the same English translation of texts such as the Analects, Mencius, and Xunzi. This is because there is, in short, no “standard” translation for these texts. There are numerous excellent translations, but even among these, there are disagreements about how to interpret various terms, concepts and ideas. For this reason, interested readers may well wish to consult a variety of translations. There are also a variety of ways of referring to the texts. While some authors quote texts and mention the pages of the translations, other quote according to established numerations, e.g. chapter and passages in the Analects or chapters in Xunzi. Because of this diversity, we as Guest Co-Editors refrained from defining a standard and left it up to authors to use the referencing systems they deem most adequate.

The remainder of this Introduction gives a very brief overview over Confucianism and its development as well as a short expose of the different essays in this collection.

2 Confucius and Confucianism

The present Introduction cannot provide a complete overview of Confucius and Confucianism. There is, however, excellent literature dedicated to this.8 Instead, the focus here is a loosely historic account of the development of Confucianism-at-large. This account is marked by Confucianism’s relationships to other ways of thinking as well as by its internal differentiation. Two words of caution: first, the account given here is incomplete, relating to issues and episodes mentioned in the papers of this issue; second, there is not one body of thought called Confucianism. Rather, Confucianism can be better pictured as family-resemblances.9

2.1 Beginning

Between 771 and 221 BCE, China was torn apart. Wars between competing kingdoms, migration, and poverty marked the day-to-day reality. In this climate of insecurity, brutality, and social breakdown, Chinese thought emerged as philosophy. Ways of thinking flourished, giving rise to a period often known as the time of the “Hundred Schools of Thought,” myriad intellectual movements both large and small, all seeking to establish order. Many of the thinkers of this time period were centuries later grouped together and labelled as “schools” of thought by court historians, including the more famous Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism, Mohism, and School of Names. And, while these groupings can be useful, they can also easily mislead for they denote at best some fuzzy family resemblance, often concealing substantive differences as they reveal important similarities.10

It does not come as a surprise that in such a climate of conflict, fear, and scarcity, concepts such as the Way, Chaos, and Order became central to philosophizing. The Way is not a metaphor, but a natural patterned structure to be uncovered by thinking and action. Chaos is what happens when people do not find a Way. Not finding a Way is bad for everyone and everything. But if people and communities follow the right Way, Order arises. This Order is not about just solving a political problem: it is about bringing peace, increasing welfare, and finding positive interactions.

The concept of the Way, or Dao (Tao in older Romanizations: dào 道), which originally and most literally means a physical path, came to be broadened to refer to ways of doing things, and, in the case of the intellectual corpus, the right way to do things – from attacking one’s enemies to ordering the state to serving one’s role. And in the more philosophical texts, it is broadened even further and can refer to the natural structure of the cosmos that is uncovered by thinking and action and the principles that create order. (Early) Chinese philosophy is about the many interpretations of how to harmonize political order, political discourse and the natural Dao.11 But how to follow the Dao? While there were many different answers to this question in the time period, three main ways gained particular traction and were subsequently handed down through the centuries.

Confucianism: The teachings of Kong Zi (Kǒngzǐ 孔子, “Master Kong” – “Confucius” is the Latinization of Kǒng Fūzǐ 孔夫子, “Great Master Kong”; 551?-479? BCE) as recorded in the Analects, stress moral cultivation and the development of certain traits of character that allow for human and societal flourishing. Much of the work needed to develop these traits and cultivate oneself arise from the performance of roles, virtuous behavior, ritual adequacy, and education. The Confucian idea of Order was based on emulating the wisdom of the ancient sage kings. This belief in a golden age of the past leads to an emphasis on the playing of particular societal roles. These roles are not chosen by the person; they are given by the place a person has in the community. The most important roles are “father, son,” “older brother, younger brother,” “ruler, subject,” “older friend, younger friend,” and “husband, wife.” By performing these roles and coming to understand what underlies and justifies them, people can cultivate themselves and gain wisdom. This process of moral cultivation is seen to require substantive effort over long periods of time – according to the Analects 2.4, Confucius himself needed seventy years to fully align his desires with the Way. Confucius stresses primordial virtues: benevolence, righteousness, ritual property, loyalty, knowledge, and filial piety. Rituals guide and help the cultivation of the person’s self in becoming virtuous. Here the Dao manifests itself as the ordering principle that provides the framework for individual and community flourishing.

Daoism: The Daodejing (Dàodéjīng 道德經) and the Zhuangzi (Zhuāngzǐ 莊子) are often taken as the bases for Daoism. While the Daodejing is traditionally attributed to a likely unhistorical person called the “old master,” Laozi (Lǎozǐ 老子), the Zhuangzi is attributed to Master Zhuang (369-290? BCE). One of the central concepts of these texts is the Dao. In this discourse, Dao is the process of reality itself, the way things come together, while still transforming. While language itself is insufficient to explain what the Dao is, it is not another-worldly entity. Rather, the Dao is holistic. It is a pattern that shapes reality but at the same time is itself the structure of reality. Those who experience oneness with Dao have a facility to act in a wu-wei (wúwéi 無為) fashion, which might be best understood as an un-self-conscious letting the Dao of things flow through one’s action. Conformity with the Dao automatically leads to order. The Dao, as it unfolds and if left untampered, is always a force of good. Virtue – the ability to navigate and accord with reality as it naturally is – comes from the Dao, and not from rituals or self-cultivation.

Legalism: The “Legalists,” Fajia, (fǎ jiā 法家) is a label often applied to a range of different philosophers who used the fa – standards or laws – as a pivotal concept. Among those who began their philosophical endeavors from the standpoint of impersonal standards are Shen Dao (Shèn Dào 慎到, c. 350-c. 275 BCE), Shang Yang (Shāng Yāng 商鞅, 390-338 BCE), Li Si (Lǐ Sī 李斯, c. 280-208 BCE), Shen Buhai (Shēn Bùhài 申不害, c. 400-c. 337 BCE), and Hanfei (Hán Fēi 韓非, c. 280-233 BCE). Their objective was to create order by making the state strong. They wanted to strengthen the position of the ruler by standardizing the instruments of government and governance. Standardization includes a general set of rules valid and applicable to all people, uniformity in weights, measures, and units of account, as well as predictable administrative processes. With the “two handles” of praise and punishment, rulers would be able to create a well-functioning state-machinery that would lead to order and peace. Generally, these thinkers subscribed to the idea that where the state is well-ordered, communities are well-ordered, too. Order leads to strength and strength leads to order. In their discourse, it was the ruler’s task to identify the natural Dao and mold social standards so that they accord with the overarching patterns of this natural Dao. This, then, results in a state-machinery that effectively oversees the compliance with these standards, aligning social actions with the natural Dao via the maintenance of standards.

2.2 Establishing

At different times and in different ways, the teachings of Confucius developed. With their development, there was also increased inner differentiation. The more Confucianism became the established way of thinking of the Chinese Courts, the more it was permeated and interpreted by politics. Some of the figures and steps in establishing Confucianism are:

Mencius: Mencius is the Latinization of Mengzi (Mèngzǐ 孟子: “Master Meng,” c. 371-c. 289 BCE). He was an early Chinese philosopher whose development of the ideas of Confucius later earned him the title “second sage.” Chief among his basic tenets was an emphasis on the obligation of rulers to provide for the common people. The book Mencius records his doings and sayings and contains arguments for the goodness of human nature, a topic warmly debated by a wide range of thinkers who saw themselves as developing the ideas of Confucius.12

Xunzi: Xunzi (Xúnzǐ 荀況, c. 300-c. 230 BCE), elaborated and systematized the work undertaken by Confucius and Mencius, giving a cohesiveness, comprehensiveness, and direction to Confucian thought that was all the more compelling for the rigor with which he set it forth; and the strength he thereby gave to that philosophy has been largely responsible for its continuance as a living tradition for over two thousand years. Many of his achievements came to be obscured as later Confucians focused on the misanthropic view attributed to him that human nature is basically ugly or bad, and, beginning about the twelfth century CE, his writings fell into a period of disfavor and neglect from which they have only recently reemerged.13

Han dynasty: It was only with the founding of the Han dynasty (202 BCE- 220 CE) that Confucianism became “Confucianism,” that the ideas associated with Kongzi’s name received state support and were disseminated generally throughout upper-class society. The creation of Confucianism as a state-doctrine was neither simple nor sudden, and happened in at least three different ways. In the year 136 BCE the classical writings taught by Confucian scholars were made the foundation of the official system of education and scholarship, to the exclusion of titles supported by other philosophers. The Five Classics (or five scriptures, Wujing) were the Classic of Poetry (Shijing), the Classic of History (Shujing), the Classic of Changes (Yijing), The Record of Rites (Liji), and the Chronicles of the Spring and Autumn Period (Chunqiu) with the Zuo Commentary (Zuozhuan), most of which had existed prior to the time of Confucius. Although at the time he was believed to have written or edited some of the Five Classics, his own statements (collected in the Analects, Lunyu) and the writings of his closest followers were not yet admitted into the canon. Second, Confucius’ name was implicated more directly in the second example of the Confucian system, the state-sponsored cult that erected temples in his honor throughout the empire and that provided monetary support for turning his ancestral home into a national shrine. Members of the literate elite visited such temples, paying formalized respect and enacting rituals in front of spirit tablets of the master and his disciples. And third, there was considerable political sponsorship of Confucius’ ideas. Zhongshu Dong (Dǒng Zhòngshū 董仲舒, c. 179-104 BCE) was instrumental in promoting Confucian ideas and books in official circles. Dong was recognized by the government as the leading spokesman for the scholarly elite. His theories provided an overarching cosmological framework for Confucius’ ideals, sometimes adding ideas unknown in Confucius’ time, sometimes making more explicit or providing a particular interpretation of what was already stated in Confucius’ work. Fourth, the social hierarchy implicit in Confucius’ philosophy came to be perceived as useful and natural to the dynasty, its state and empire.14

2.3 Developing

While Confucianism maintained its status as dynastic, state, and imperial doctrine in the remainder of Chinese History until the fall of the Qing (1644-1911), it continued to change and develop. This occurred partly out of political necessity and partly because of the dialogues in which it engaged. Some of its developing forms are:

Neo-Confucianism: Buddhism reached a creative and flourishing peak during the Tang dynasty (618-907); but the Sung dynasty (979-1279) saw a reaction to this “foreign” religion and a creative revitalization of the stagnant Confucian tradition. In the political world this took the form of a reform movement that attempted to address the pressing socioeconomic problems of the day by a creative reinterpretation of ancient ideal Confucian institutions. Of more lasting importance was the intellectual and spiritual reshaping of the tradition. This re-discovering and re-shaping of tradition directly addresses a range of Buddhist claims of transcendence and spirituality. The first phase of the revival of the Confucian tradition was completed by the philosopher Xi Zhu (Zhū Xī 朱熹, 1130-1200). Especially after the Song, the Neo-Confucian movement included speculative philosophers, painters, poets, doctors, social ethicists, political theorists, historians, local reformers and government civil servants. By the fourteenth century, Zhu’s version of Confucian thought, known as daoxue (the teaching of the way) or lixue (the teaching of principle), became the standard curriculum for the imperial civil service examination system.

The greatest inner-Confucian challenge to Zhu’s initial synthesis of the various themes and praxis of daoxue was presented by the Ming philosopher, poet, general, and civil servant, Yangming Wang (Wáng Yángmíng 王陽明, 1472-1529). Wang, while continuing many of the characteristic practices of the movement, argued for a different philosophical interpretation and cultivation of the xin or heart-mind, so much so that Wang’s distinctive philosophy is known as xinxue (the teaching of the heart-mind) in order to distinguish it from Zhu’s teachings. In the Qing Dynasty (1644-1911) there was a further reaction against the speculative philosophy of both Zhu and Wang and the movement known as hanxue, the learning of Han. The Neo-Confucian dominance of the civil service continued until the whole system was abolished in 1905.15

And while the discussion so far has been on the development of Confucianism within China itself, Confucian ideas and arguments – and responses to them – made up much of the philosophical conversations found throughout South-East and East Asia, including Vietnam, Korea and Japan.16

New Confucianism: Is an intellectual movement that began in the early twentieth century in Republican China, and further developed in post-Mao era contemporary China. It is deeply influenced by, but not identical with, the neo-Confucianism of the Song and Ming dynasties. It is a neo-conservative movement of various Chinese traditions and has been regarded as containing religious overtones; it advocates for certain Confucianist elements of society – such as social, ecological, and political harmony – to be applied in a contemporary context in synthesis with Western philosophies such as rationalism and humanism. Its philosophies have emerged as a focal point of discussion between Confucian scholars in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and the United States.17

3 Papers in This Volume

We have seen now a brief discussion of Confucianism in its historical context. But how does Confucianism relate to contemporary issues? This is an overarching question all papers in this volume address. While all the papers assembled here are philosophical papers, they engage in a dialogue with Confucianism and other disciplines. Some also take a perspective rooted in history, or in a historical discussion.

Jana Rošker’s paper chronicles the coming about of New Confucianism and its role in contemporary discourse. While giving an overview of its historical development, she focusses on whether a Confucian philosophy can cope with development, modernity, and the global place of China. Of particular interest is her analysis of the New Confucian conception of personhood and its plausibility in light of Western conceptions of individualism.

The three papers that follow focus on a range of contemporary issues in political philosophy. Sarah Flavel and Brad Hall work to rehabilitate the early Confucian conception of paternalism as a way of challenging what they see as a problematic and too facile dismissal in the Western literature of the positive role that paternalism, understood as it was by the early Confucians, can play in the political realm.

Continuing the work of engaging both the Chinese and the Western tradition is the paper by Yutang Jin, which takes as its target both those who work to develop plausible conceptions of Confucian political meritocracy and those developing conception of Confucian democracy. In doing so, he presents an alternative, realist Confucian democracy that should be of interest to political philosophers both East and West.

Zhuoyao (Peter) Li also examines Confucianism from the perspective of contemporary political philosophy, focusing in particular on the role that Confucianism can play in an increasingly pluralistic world. In short, he works to show how Confucianism, which originates as a substantive conception of the good that saw itself as superior to all other conceptions, can be reconciled with pluralism and democracy. In doing so, he engages not only with contemporary scholars working in the East Asian tradition but also those in the West.

Henrique Schneider’s and Gordon Mower’s papers each examine important questions about how Confucianism deals with central aspects of contemporary societies. Schneider’s begins with the understanding that China engages in commerce. Indeed, in today’s world, commerce often becomes a benchmark for a polity’s, a society’s, and even an individual’s success. But, while Mencius may be well known for his attack on King Hui of Liang for seeking only after profit, Confucianism is not opposed to profit. Rather it works to integrate it into the broader social exchange.

Mower continues this engagement with contemporary social issues by examining how Confucianism can be adapted in light of an understanding of the moral equality of women – with a particular emphasis on women’s access to property. While Chinese society has long treated women unequally, Mower argues that Confucianism has resources internal to its own tradition to rectify these problems. In particular, he examines how appeal to both ritual and to the Confucian canon itself should lead Confucians to recognize the importance of equal access to property.

This volume ends with two criticisms of Confucianism. Both are rooted in historical debates, but their philosophical arguments remain pressing today. Eirik Lang Harris gives voice to Han Fei’s skepticism of the Confucian political program in general and its conception of a moral meritocracy in particular. Aligning politics and society to a high moral ideal is not only difficult, but also potentially dangerous. Furthermore, those things that are morally meritorious are not always those things that are politically meritorious. A non-moral political and social program, in comparison, could be much more feasible at achieving a strong and stable political and social entity.

Andrej Fech also takes up the question of Confucian meritocracy, examining and critiquing it from the perspective of a range of early Daoist texts. While Daoism has itself ideals of excellency, it questions whether meritocracy can be a stable basis of society. Furthermore, as Fech details, it also calls into questions the (later) Confucian link between meritocracy and heredity.

This volume, of course, does not exhaust the variety of philosophical dialogues that can be had with Confucianism. Nor does it commence such dialogue. Rather, Confucianism has been in dialogue with itself ever since Mencius and Xunzi began to write. And it has been in dialogue with the West at least since Buddhism entered China in the first or second century and renewed such dialogue when the Jesuits entered China in the sixteenth century. Rather what this volume works to do is to broaden this dialogue with Confucianism, making it more accessible to a non-specialized public and providing the reader with jumping off points for further engagement.

The Guest Co-Editors wish to thank the many peer reviewers who made this issue possible and the authors of the contributed manuscripts. We also wish to thank the Editor-in-Chief of Culture and Dialogue, Gerald Cipriani, for giving us this opportunity. Jessa Ramsey’s contribution to the editorial work deserves equal mention.


Henrique Schneider is Professor of Philosophy of Social Sciences and Economics at Nordakademie, Germany. His areas of interest include philosophy of economics, Chinese Legalism, and Epistemology. In 2018, he published An Introduction to Hanfei’s Political Philosophy.

Eirik Lang Harris works in the fields of political philosophy, ethics, and philosophy of law, with a focus on the early Chinese tradition, especially Confucian and Legalist views. His latest book was The Shenzi Fragments: A Philosophical Analysis and Translation (Columbia University Press, 2016).


China Daily, “Is Confucius still relevant?” (30/10/2019). (accessed August 31st, 2020).


Cited in A. James Gregor and Maria Hsia Chang, “Anti-Confucianism: Mao’s Last Campaign,” Asian Survey 19, no. 11 (1979): 1075-1076.


China Daily, “Confucius.”


Ying Zhou and Sabrina Luk, “Establishing Confucius Institutes: a tool for promoting China’s soft power?,” Journal of Contemporary China 25, no. 100 (2016): 628-642.


Examples are Sophie Pezzutto, “Confucianism and Capitalist Development: From Max Weber and Orientalism to Lee Kuan Yew and New Confucianism,” Asian Studies Review 43, no. 2 (2019): 224-238; Andrew Smith and Miriam Kaminishi, “Confucian Entrepreneurship: Towards a Genealogy of a Conceptual Tool,” Journal of Management Studies 57, no. 1 (2020): 25-56; Alex Payette, “‘Countryside Confucianism’: Organizing the Confucian Revival, Saving the Villages, and Cultural Authority” East Asia 33 no. 2 (2016): 73-90; Huey-Li Li, “Rethinking Confucian Values in a Global Age.” In Confucianism Reconsidered: Insights for American and Chinese Education in the Twenty-First Century, eds. Xiufeng Liu and Wen Ma (Albany: SUNY Press, 2018): 221-36; Qin Pang, “The Confucian Revival Among Intellectuals and the State Responses,” in State-Society Relations and Confucian Revivalism in Contemporary China (Singapore: Palgrave Macmillan, 2019): 125-160.


Refer to the discussions in Jun Deng and Craig A. Smith, “The rise of New Confucianism and the return of spirituality to politics in mainland China.” China information 32, no. 2 (2018): 294-314; Gerda Wielander and Derek Hird, eds., Chinese Discourses on Happiness (Hong Kong: Hong Kong University Press, 2018); Xi Wang and Ting Wang, “Discourse on nationalism in China’s traditional cultural education: Teachers’ perspectives,” Educational Philosophy and Theory 50, no. 12 (2018): 1089-1100; Wonho Jang, “Identification, Confucianism, and Intersubjectivity: Issues Related with Social Empathy in East Asia.” Journal of Asian Sociology 48, no. 1 (2019): 43-52.


See Bryan W. Van Norden, trans., “On the Ethical Cultivation of Communist Party Members,” in Readings in Later Chinese Philosophy: Han Dynasty to the 20th Century, Justin Tiwald and Bryan W. Van Norden, eds. (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2014): 370-373. For more on intellectual efforts to integrate Confucianism and Communism, see David S. Nivison, “Communist Ethics and Chinese Tradition,” The Journal of Asian Studies 16, no. 1 (November, 1956): 51-74 and Joseph R. Levenson, “The Place of Confucius in Communist China,” The China Quarterly no. 12 (1962): 1-18.


Among several high-standing introductions to Chinese philosophy and its history are Benjamin I. Schwartz, The World of Thought in Ancient China (Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard University Press, 1985); Bo Mou ed., The Routledge History of Chinese Philosophy (London: Routledge, 2008); Philip J. Ivanhoe, Confucian Moral Self Cultivation (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2000); Bryan W. Van Norden, Introduction to Classical Chinese Philosophy (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2011).


See part II of the following edited volume: Roger T. Ames and Peter D. Hershock, eds., Confucianisms for a Changing World Cultural Order (Honolulu: University of Hawai’i Press, 2017).


For more on the problems with thinking about early Chinese thought via such schools, see Kidder Smith, “Sima Tan and the Invention of Daoism, ‘Legalism,’ et cetera,” The Journal of Asian Studies 62, no. 1 (February, 2003): 129-156; Mark Csikszentmihalyi and Michael Nylan, “Constructing Lineages and Inventing Traditions Through Exemplary Figures in Early China,” T’oung Pao 84, (2003): 59-99.


It is in this context that we can understand the title of A.C. Graham’s magisterial Disputers of the Tao: Philosophical Argument in Ancient China (La Salle, IL: Open Court, 1989).


Xiusheng Liu and Philip J. Ivanhoe, eds., Essays on the Moral Philosophy of Mengzi (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2002).


Compare Eric Hutton’s introduction in: Xunzi: The Complete Text, trans. Eric L. Hutton (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2014).


Ronnie Littlejohn, Confucianism: An Introduction (London: I.B. Tauris, 2010).


Stephen C. Angle and Justin Tiwald, Neo-Confucianism: A Philosophical Introduction (Cambridge: Polity Press, 2017).


For more on this, see Benjamin A. Elman, John B. Duncan, and Herman Ooms, eds., Rethinking Confucianism: Past and Present in China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam, (Los Angeles: UCLA Asian Pacific Monograph Series, 2002); Philip J. Ivanhoe, Three Streams: Confucian Reflections on Learning and the Moral Heart-Mind in China, Korea, and Japan (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2016).


See the first paper in Daniel A. Bell, China’s New Confucianism: Politics and Everyday Life in a Changing Society (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2010) as well as John Makeham, ed., New Confucianism: A Critical Examination, (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).

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