Diversification into Modern Society

Not long after Confucius's death, his followers split into eight separate schools, and all of them claimed to be the legitimate heir to the legacy. Many superior disciples surfaced though, including Tseng-tzu, Tzu Kung, and Tzuhsia. They were instrumental in continuing the teachings and legacy of Confucius. The man who had the greatest influence on Confucianism and its continuance is Mencius, known as the Confucian intellectual.

Mencius sought social reform in a society that had become oriented almost totally for profit, self-interest, wealth, and power. It was the philosophy of Mencius that a true man could not be corrupted by wealth. Rather than challenging the power structure head on, Mencius offered a compromise of right living and wealth. That way the wealthy could have their cake and eat it and preserve protection for themselves and their families. Mencius's strategy was to make the urge for profit and self-interest part of a moral attitude that emphasized public spiritedness, welfare, and rightness. This attitude of acknowledging human nature and its desire for success and self-improvement in shaping the human condition might today be thought of as surprisingly modern, particularly when one considers when it was said.

Mencius was followed by Hsun-tzu (300–230 B.C.E.), one of the most eminent of noble scholars. Unlike Mencius, Hsun-tzu taught that human nature is evil because he considered that it was natural for men to go after gratification of their passions. His attitude, as opposed to that of Mencius, was that learning produced a cultured person who, by definition, became a virtuous member of a community. Hsun-tzu's stance was a tough, moral reasoning. He believed in progress, and his sophisticated understanding of the political mindset around him enriched the Confucian heritage. Confucians revered him as the finest of scholars for more than three centuries.

The influence of Confucianism on China in particular was largely due to the power of its disciples and of the written works of not only Confucius but also his followers. The vitality of the Confucian ethic permeated much of the basic elements of societal thought and political action in the eastern hemisphere that was unprecedented. But in modern times it began to wane, due to the rise of Marxism-Leninism in 1949 as the official ideology of the People's Republic of China. Confucianism was pushed into the background. In spite of that, the upper crust of that society kept a publicly unacknowledged link that amazingly continued to influence aspects of behavior; it had an effect on the attitudes at every level of life. Confucian roots run extremely deep.

In other regions, especially Japan, Korea, Taiwan, Singapore, and North America, there has been a revival of Confucian studies. Thinkers in the West have been inspired by the philosophy and have begun to explore what it might mean today. Even in China, exploration is taking place between what might be a fruitful interaction between Confucian humanism and other kinds of political practices. There are six different schools of Confucianism: Han Confucianism, Neo-Confucianism, Contemporary Neo-Confucianism, Korean Confucianism, Japanese Confucianism, and Singaporean Confucianism.

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