It cannot be denied that a country’s philosophy plays a big part in its method, direction and time of progressing as a nation. It is important to note as well that these ideologies shaped not only countries as a whole, but also their citizens and their livelihoods.
The given principle holds true for the history of ancient China and its influence on the modern China we see today. Chan (1901) states in his book that Confucius (551-479 B.C.) can truly be said to have molded Chinese civilization in general [through his teachings and his ideologies]. While there are many textbooks today that explain the background of Confucianism, it is difficult to find one that definitively explains a particular aspect of its history: how it initially failed to be adopted by China before it claimed the renowned success the world knows today. While history cannot provide the true events that led up to Confucianism’s failure at this point, it does provide several contexts and reliable references that help in explaining the phenomenon. Given this, I believe that Confucianism’s early failure can be attributed to several factors such as the conflict between China’s ancient philosophies and Confucianism, the culture practiced in ancient China, as well as the perceived inconsistencies presented in the Analects of Confucius. This paper will elaborate on these three aspects of China’s history and relate them with the early history of Confucianism to explain the failures it faced before becoming widely accepted.
The first aspect that led up to Confucianism’s initial failure is the conflict present between China’s ancient philosophies and Confucianism. While Confucianism revolved around humanism and the qualities of a good government, Schwartz (1985) states that China’s ideologies mostly revolved around divination before and during the Shang Dynasty (1600BC-1046BCE) before Confucianism was present in the Chou, Chin and Han dynasty. Smith (1961) further elaborates on this by explaining the relevance of the Oracle Bones to the present knowledge of the Shang Dynasty and its religious practices, particularly the elaborate funeral sites that denoted a system of religious and social customs. He states:
Given the link between the two [Oracle Bones and Religion], it was believed that the passing of a king meant the transition of that king to the realm of the primeval ancestor, which can be thought of as an "ascent" into the "heavens," though these words should be understood with caution. Additionally, the primeval ancestor was associated with guardianship and fecundity. (…) The ancestors and the primeval ancestor, therefore and in these ways, had an active interest in the lands they originally oversaw.
This explains that Confucius, in his time, was challenging a religion that allowed rulers to claim a right of worship through a lineage that was inaccessible to common people. He challenged the definition of nobility to be a matter of character, and not a matter of blood (Chan,...