Friday, August 17, 2012


The Peace Weekly, in its feature article on Confucianism, mentions that the various religions of Korea, in an attempt to promote better understanding of each others beliefs, are having what are called "Stays" for two or three days at their places of worship. Many in Korea, including many Catholics, do not think of Confucianism as a religion; for them it's part of the traditional culture. To get a first hand account of the Confucian experience, a bishop, president of the Religious Peace Conference of Korea, along with members of the Conference, visited the Confucian Scholars Cultural Center this past month.

They heard a lecture on Confucius (BC 531-479), which explained the basic teachings of Confucianism, emphasizing the importance of being fully human and loving toward one another. The Chinese character ( 仁 ) expresses this well: a person relating with two others. How Confucians and Christians view this relationship, however, is different.  For Christians, love includes loving one's enemies. Confucians would reserve love for those who have treated them well, and would  treat their enemies according to the rules of justice.The lecturer also noted that familial obligations are serious matters in Confucianism, and that life belongs not only to the individual but to ones parents and ancestors as well.

Catholics no longer have a problem with observing in the home the Confucian rituals for ancestors. But at the introduction of Catholicism in Korea, there had been a great deal of conflict, with Catholics being persecuted for not following the rites. The controversy was settled in 1939, when Pius Xll announced that the Confucian rites  are not superstition or idol worship but a cultural tradition.

A particularly interesting and important element of Confucian etiquette, a form of politeness the Koreans have been brought up with, is the ritual bowing. In the rites and in meeting people and for different occasions, there are different ways of bowing, and also a difference in the way women and men bow. The Peace Weekly noted that before Confucianism became the traditional culture and discipline of the country, it was a religion, though today not as well known as a religion,

Deeply interested in how to live properly in the present moment, Confucianism says nothing of the next life or of God,

How many Koreans are Confucians? There is no way of knowing. There are no rites of acceptance, they don't register their followers, and they have no clergy or religious; anyone who follows the teachings of Confucius can be considered a  Confucian. Their rites are held in Hyanggyos, the Confucian temples--there are 234 in the country--on the days of the new and full moon.

The scholar representing the Confucians wanted those who were "staying" at the Confucian Scholars Cultural Center, to see and appreciate Confucianism less as a culture and more as a religion.

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