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The movement produced reformers, philanthropists, dedicated teachers and officials, and social philosophers from the eleventh through the nineteenth centuries.The idealist wing of Confucianism had a religious character.Its ideals were transcendent, not in the sense that they were otherworldly (the Confucians were not interested in a far-off heavenly realm), but in the sense of the transcendent ideal -- perfection.
It was a lifetime commitment to character building carving and polishing the stone of one's character until it was a lustrous gem. It generated a high ideal for family interaction: members were to treat each other with love, respect, and consideration for the needs of all.
Master Kong described his own lifetime: At fifteen, I set my heart on learning. It prescribed a lofty ideal for the state: the ruler was to be a father to his people and look after their basic needs.
He interpreted these not as sacrifices asking for the blessings of the gods, but as ceremonies performed by human agents and embodying the civilized and cultured patterns of behavior developed through generations of human wisdom.
They embodied, for him, the ethical core of Chinese society.
The Chinese character literally represents the relationship between "two persons," or co-humanity -- the potential to live together humanely rather than scrapping like birds or beasts.
Ren keeps ritual forms from becoming hollow; a ritual performed with ren has not only form, but ethical content; it nurtures the inner character of the person, furthers his/her ethical maturation.Based on these premises, the essay then discusses the major propositions of political realism: the purpose of central authority is to provide the multitude with the benefits of order and to reward the ruler; the benefits of order warrant the commission of cruel deeds, also called the reason of state in the West; legal and extra-legal actions are the means by which the central authority imposes order and counters contingency; punishment is the primary means to make the laws prevail.The essay closes with considering the question of whether a fully implemented realist order could put an end to historical change.It required officials to criticize their rulers and refuse to serve the corrupt.This inner and idealist wing spawned a Confucian reformation known in the West as Neo-Confucianism.Everyday life is so familiar that we do not take its moral content seriously.We are each a friend to someone, or a parent, or certainly the child of a parent.Thus one side of Confucianism was the affirmation of accepted values and norms of behavior in primary social institutions and basic human relationships.All human relationships involved a set of defined roles and mutual obligations; each participant should understand and conform to his/her proper role.The dominant view of the day, espoused by Realists and Legalists, was that strict law and statecraft were the bases of sound policy.Confucius, however, believed that the basis lay in Zhou religion, in its rituals (li).