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Influence of Confucianism

Q: To what extent does Confucian culture continue to influence the values and education system of China today?

A: The influence of Confucianism on China is deeply rooted. The modern values of the Chinese people have absorbed the essence of Confucianism to a large extent, such as nationalism and family bonds, collectivism, morality, etc. The pattern of social order and complicated interpersonal relationships in Chinese society retain Confucian characteristics. The education system today is also inherited. The Confucian emphasis on education and the idea of 'Ru Shi' (literally translated as 'into the world', which means active social engagement) not only deeply affects the ancient civil service examination (Keju, examination for selecting government officials when China still practiced absolute monarchy), but also the modern national college entrance examination (Gaokao). The most direct evidence for its influence is the utilitarianism of education. Confucianism states that education not only serves to train one into a 'gentleman' (Junzi), but also helps scholars to gain fame and government post (social status and salary). Nowadays, Gaokao still bears certain characteristics of Keju. The majority of Chinese students engage in learning for a degree and view education as a springboard to fame and money. The pursuit of knowledge and joy during the learning process are lost. 


(Q: 你認爲儒家文化多大程度上持續影響現今中國的價值觀和教育體系?

A: 儒家文化對中國的影響是深入骨髓的。中國人現代的價值觀很大程度上是吸取了儒家文化的精華,如家國情懷、集體意識、道德感等,中國社會的差序格局和複雜的人際關係在當下仍有一定影響。教育體系也是一脈相承的,儒家對於教育的重視、對於入世思想的強調,不僅深深影響了古代的科舉,也同樣影響著高考,最直接的體現就在於:儒家體系中,學習除了修身養性、成人成君子,還是一種功利的手段。 “學而優則仕”,學習和功名利祿似乎是綁在一起的,當下的高考仍帶有類似“一錘定音”的影子,大部分中國學子學習的目的是學歷本身,是將學習看作跳板,因此失去了純粹。)


Q: Can you analyze the pros and cons of such influence?

A: As mentioned above, the Confucian view of justice over personal interests and nationalism leads to the resistance to the challenge of globalization. An example is the creation of the concept 'collectivity of human destiny' under the Confucian culture. The disadvantage lies in excessive utilitarianism and pragmatism. These often make people forget about the initial aim of learning, but instead use learning as a tool. I always think that China performs well in 'prominent' aspect, such as total GDP, speed of economic development, etc. but some hidden and spiritual values are quietly being lost.


(Q: 能否分析其中利弊?

A: 正如上文所言,儒家所強調的義利觀、家國情懷對於應對全球化挑戰是大有裨益的,正如“人類命運共同體”這一觀念正是由此而來。弊端在於過度功利化、實用主義,而往往讓人們把本該作為最終目的的“學習”當成手段,從而失去了純粹性。我一直覺得,中國總是贏在顯眼之處:GDP總量,經濟發展速度......但一些隱性的、精神的東西,是在悄然流失的。)


Taylor Xu is a Grade 11 student in Beijing. He is passionate about humanities and social sciences, with certain knowledge in literature and history. He strives to find a way out at the crossroads of transitioning era.


Interviewed, Edited & Translated by Brittany Wong

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