Confucianism as Cultural Constraint

by Ken Tamai

Due to its uniquely adaptable qualities, Confucianism has survived 2,500 years of history and still exists as the core of morality in Asia, specially in the north eastern part of Asia: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Although there is a tendency recently to attribute Asia's economic success to the moral qualities of Confucianism, the shapes and forms of Confucianism vary greatly. Confucian moral values have developed in different ways through different processes of history in their respective countries, and it thus becomes necessary for researchers to clarify the characteristics of Confucianism in each respective nation.

This study aims at looking into Confucian influences on the behavior of the Japanese, particularly influences on human relationships. Three hypothetical views on Japanese Confucianism are introduced: 1) Confucianism as a framework that determines reciprocal social roles of the people involved. 2) The effect of determined social role as default interpersonal relationship which enables high- context communication. 3) The tight and inseparable combination of moral values with the social structure. Discussion follows here on three of the most influential moral values: loyalty, filial piety and harmony. These values are considered to be working not only as a source of moral qualities but also as expected behavioral codes in different contexts of one's social life. Thus, by focussing on the socio- functional aspect of Confucianism, it becomes possible to find and observe its different faces, beginning here with the case of Japan.

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