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east asian worldview+confucianism

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University of Toronto St. George
Andre Maintenay

East Asian Worldview (China, Korea, Japan) Mar 21 All these countries have a shared history, cultural interactions. The central unifying feature in both ancient and modern times – is the Chinese graphic writing system. In ancient times there was a long development in China. Chinese writing system is unique, a sign represents an idea rather than a sound, different from most world languages. China was an evolved country, already early on in history, core system of philosophy that extends back a long way. East Asian worldview is different from South Asian / Indic Approach of assessment of the world: The world is understood being a good place, there is an optimistic appraisal of our experience in the world (vs. the Indic worldview that has much darker perspective on the world). The body is good and valuable (vs. the Indic worldview where the body need to be mastered, since it is a source of distraction), reverence of the body. Reverence for lineage, for parents, for ancestry, for lineage to which one has emerged in the world – FILIAL [, ] PIETY. You approach your parents in the spirit of reverence, respect, care, devotion. East Asian worldview is less exclusive in its sense of identity and much more syncretistic– absorbing ideas from elsewhere and evolving identity that is comfortable with receiving knowledge from elsewhere. Religion and culture and their work are inseparable. The task of religion is to raise, produce a cultivated individual in every sense, a true religious person is also cultivated in the arts, with an educated and refined mind. No distinction between the work of culture and the work of religion. Religion and culture support each other. Harmony – major ethic of East Asian worldview! Harmony in the natural and cosmic aspect, social harmony. There is interest in continuity of all sorts. Continuity from one generation to another, continuity in ideas from a teacher to a disciple and succeeding further. Less concerned about claiming the originality of idea, rather to align oneself with existing ideas, forwarding 1 insights that have been present for much longer. You are not inventing an idea, rather passing along received teaching. The East Asian societies have a common Confucian character, shared legacy with a distinctly moral focus and a social ethic that particularly focuses on relationships, social relationships, familial relationships. Ideas prevailing in ancient Chinese societies: Extensive archeological remains from Chinese preliterate yielding us record about a civilization ~ 5000 years old with well preserved artifacts. From these sites we learn about ancient Chinese religious practices: reverence for nature, for nature deities – the Earth, the Sun, the Moon, the Sky. Ancient Chinese culture was also SHAMANIC in nature. Importance to a character of a SHAMAN – a person who has a special ability to communicate with spirit world, to receive visions, to communicate the desires of the spirit world/the world of deceased humans, controls natural forces. Shamans are central figures in many cultures. Shaman communicates with the supernatural and also functions as a healer. Ancient Chinese also practiced divination, fortune telling, reading of oracles. Shaman’s specialization was a cultivation of a trance state and spirit possession. Great reverence and worship of ancestors’ spirit. Ancestors are seen as semi-divine figures. Reverence for mother goddesses and female divinities Some belief in a supreme deity was understood in different ways in different periods of history. Sometimes understood as a supernatural being/heaven, other times as a personal deity. Against this backdrop of practice and a culture that had traditions of arts, dance, music, poetry, we start to see the emergence of Confucianism , associated with the figure of Kung Fu Tzu/ Confucius. 2 Confucius 551-479 BCE - roughly contemporaneous with the figures of Buddha and Mahavira in the Indian subcontinent. (Some scholars see this age as an axial age, fertile period for reflection on the world, great philosophers of Greece). Confucius is born during the reign of Chou Dynasty to a, family whose ancestors who have been prominent members in the previous dynasty, but lost their position through political struggle. His father, a soldier died when Confucius was 3 years old. Confucius wanted to be a scholar, his family was of modest means, single mother, was difficult for him to pursue his desires. He marries at 19, has children. Turning point of his life - when Confucius is 23 - his mother died. From this pint he starts reflecting, spends 3 years in mourning, lives ascetically and studies the ancient ceremonial rites. When he returned to social interaction he had a pretty profound idea of how to make piety to work in an optimal fashion. He felt he had something to contribute, to teach that will improve the social dynamics. This was a period of political period, for the big part of his life his Confucius’ teachings were neglected and ignored. He tried to access people in positions of po
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