Confucianism is an ancient philosophical and ethical system which developed in the East Asia and influenced the development of such countries as Japan, Vietnam, Korea, Taiwan, China, and Singapore. It is sometimes supposed that Confucianism is a religion because of the governmental advocating of Confucian values in some countries.
Confucianism is a complex system of moral, ethical, philosophical and political doctrines. Therefore, when this teaching spread in East Asia, it influenced all spheres of people’s life and conditioned further development of culture and history of these nations. The founder of this philosophical system was a Chinese philosopher Confucius.
However, his thoughts and teachings were not very popular and accepted in his lifetime. Moreover, all his attempts to persuade contemporary kings to follow his principles of ruling the country failed. Instead of being guided by Confucius’ rules of honesty and morality, Eastern kings struggled for power and military dominance, bringing chaos to their countries. Thus, Confucius was expelled from many countries and Confucianism became popular only after his death due to the writings made by his disciples.
All Confucius’s political and philosophical thoughts based on ethical ideas, main of which are performing of rites, the honesty in people’s relations and the filial respectfulness. We might speak about three main components of Confucian ethics: li, yi and jen. All of them are interrelated and depend on each other. As any Chinese character, describing an abstract notion, Li can be translated differently, but the main idea, rendered by this ideograph is “ritual”¯. Thus, li presupposes performing of rites and keeping to the norms of proper social behavior. While li is often the action which is thought correct by society, yi is the action which is correct in its essence. Very often these two notions coincide.
Speaking about jen, it is necessary to note that jen is the highest virtue in Confucian teachings. The term jen is usually considered to be coined by Confucius himself, though there are records of these words in earlier works.
Nevertheless, today the notion of jen is commonly associated with Confucius. It is always rather difficult to translate this word as the notion includes all the ideas about humane and benevolent behavior of people and their relations.
The character jen consists of two elements. One of them represents a person and another represents number, therefore, this character is often interpreted as the way how people should treat each other.
The notion jen is very broad. It comprises all the nuances of relations between people of different age, gender and social status. However, in any case they should be based on humanity and kindness towards others. Confucius believed that people’s self-development depends on their relations with others. Therefore, in his opinion, jen influences on all actions of people and on their life. In fact, every person stands in different relationships with people and Confucius distinguished five types of such relations.