Asian civilization is always dynamic in nature and shaped from various ancient history, artifacts and books since inception.The ways of transmitting texts has been evolving since ancient times. As there is no one alive from the ancient times to tell us what really happened in the past, we have to depend on ancient texts to know the truth. We know some of the history of early Asia through the oracle bone inscriptions, but as civilizations evolved, many people, particularly sages and masters, had been introducing their principles and philosophies to the people of their time which would be brought forward to later generations.
The core values and interpretations of those artifacts have been changing ever since from time to time and people to people. In this article, I would like to express not only the versatility seen in Asian Civilization from early dates but also the effect it had on national/ regional history and identity construction through Confucius’ Analects as a core of my essay.
My analysis and critical observation also contain the knowledge from ‘Women in Analects’ and ‘ Ban Zhao ‘, which were related to connect the Asian edification and analects of early time period.
The Analects of Confucius was an eminent part of early Asian civilization as it has provided various values, beliefs, ideas and methodology to see approach, respond, and maintain a relationship with people and transcendent ideals of early Chinese society.The teachings of Confucius is mainly known to us through the records that were written by his apprentice over a time period of thirty to fifty years after his death.
During that contemporary society, warfare was at its peak and the government was in turmoil. According to the Analects, the only way to bring balance to the society, was following the hierarchy system where all people had their separate duties. It was believed that only when the “low people” served the superior and superiors in turn take care of the inferiors, that society could be balanced. He believed that the best way to lead the people was not through harsh government policies and the punishment system, that this would only develop resistance in them and have no sense of shame.
He believed that if we regulate people by means of virtue or rituals then people will feel ashamed when breaking a law, which in turn will maintain some standards. Without respect there is no value and a person with a kind heart cares about others as if they were treating a guest. This can also be defined as a cardinal relationship: where the superior holds the authority and the inferior should follow them, a kind of mutual and hierarchical obligation. Humanity was placed at the core of the virtues as explained by the Analects.For instance, a kind hearted person treats a person as if he is welcoming a guest, meaning we should not treat a person the way we are not expecting to be treated. If we follow these simple virtues then we will have no enemies in our society. But the rituals that we perform do not come from our heart, these rituals have no meaning.
From the ideas portrayed here, there are several observations that we can make about the society in which the Analects were produced. Firstly, we can say that the Analects tries to establish virtues and values, which further gives us the idea that before the Analects was produced was a period lacking in both, and further we know from studies that this period was chaotic and that’s reflected in its attempts to establish these morals Thus, to solve the problem of the society rulers started to turn to common people for ideas and this is where the Analects gained its popularity, as it taught on how to govern well, and what can be done to bring society to a balance. This thus put the women and lower classes had an inferior rank in society and were expected to serve elites or high rank people of that time.
One might think that it is sexist when to have been using “He” to represent a king or any other major personalities that I talked about in the earlier paragraphs, but the fact is that at the dates when Confucius was sharing his ideas and when the Analects was written, the position of women in that time was quite a pity. In fact from one of the Analects, we can find that a term (“nuzi”) is used to describe a female person which in other words also mean a female person of low status or concubines. Though there are a lot of debates on what the term really means but one thing is for sure that it mainly described women of low status.
Why I am saying this is because in the analects, Confucius has compared “nuzi” with “low-people”. We get the idea that these people usually have a low status in the society and are looked down towards, and furthermore “nuzi” didn’t mean any women of high social status or someones’ daughter. Low-women were often conceptualized as seducing or being plots of a notorious plot to make their way into the high social status. Elite men hardly made contact with females outside of their household. For example, Even a small instance like when Confucius nodded to “Nan Zi” from behind the curtains, he was questioned by his own students and this mere act of just meeting with a woman was enough to label a tag of “dissolute” to him.
While there are some instances, for example : The inclusion of a woman among the ranks of the ten great “ministers” of King Wu of the Zhou and Nun Zi being in an elite Position in Wey, but they are usually appointed from the royal or aristocratic lineage. Similarly, there would be lots of plots to spread rumours and slander the dignity of a Women like in the case of Nun Zi, where she is accused of having a sexual relationship with her own brother and In case of Lady Yu, who was accused of having an affair with the man whom she recommended after accusing a corrupt official named Zhou Pohu. These all interpretations of the analects of that time shows that women, in that contemporary society, were somewhat seen as inferior to men and further their participation in the activities of court were not seen as desirable to most of the elite men.
In order to understand how the Analects were a critical part of early Asian civilization can be interpreted when we connect all the dots. In his initial days he was trying to influence the ruler of that period however, his followers were literally merely present. Later on, his ideas on how to govern well, virtues were very convincing to many people and thus was able to turn normal people to his followers in sufficient quantity. Among his philosophical ideas, cardinal relationship between ruler and subject,father and son, husband and wife, elder and younger brother, and between friends was of preponderances, which still holds a deep root in the present Chinese society. For instance The Communist Party has overseen an incredible surge of wealth in China in the past 35 years through old-fashioned capitalism, and Chinese people still follow Confucius’s teachings as a spiritual or religious discipline, and even observe Confucian rituals in temples and at home.
As time went on, the Analects was not always seen as a positive reinforcement in early china. Some Qin rulers saw it as a possible catalyst for people to rise against the government, while the Analects was openly welcomed during the Han period. The ideas given by Confucius was not only followed during the Zhou period, but had a major impact in the later part of the early Chinese history as well. During the Han Period the Han government started to recruit men who were trained in the Confucius classics. Following the Confucian scholar- official system is one of the major distinctive features of imperial china. This helped in shaping the future of the present day china. In fact Han dynasty is among the top five longest ruling dynasty in the history of China. The time when the first Emperor had destroyed most of the texts related to Confucianism, some people thought that the concept of Confucianism would be lost, but by that time this concept had already been deeply rooted in the Chinese society,so much that some people could even say each line of the analects though their memory, while the other had hidden some of the texts. During the Han period, Confucianism made a comeback, but was modified. Since, the sayings of Confucius is known to us by the Analects that were recorded by his students, it is always open for reinterpretation. For instance now Han Confucians tried developing a new theory relating to cosmos, which indicated an emperor as a failure when natural disasters such as floods and earthquakes were forewarning.
When we look at another personality i.e Ban Zhao, who is often called as “female Confucius” , she gave her own version on the women . She wrote “Lessons for Women” based on Confucianism and its principles, which basically talks about the status and position of women in society and also teaches on the virtues that a women should follow. It might be a shock that though she was seen as a feminist during those time and that she fought constantly for the right of education to women, but still she talks about how an ideal women should behave and keep their master or in-laws happy by keeping women at a very low status in contemporary society, which is anti feminist. make sure you make it clear that she was not great for the status of women. Though it seems like a very harsh set of rules for a women to follow, it was still widely accepted and became one of the most commonly used texts for the education of girls in the upcoming years.
In conclusion, the dynamism of pre historical ideology and concept has been drawn together with an aspect of ‘confucius analects’. Analects give us insight on the values and history of the contemporary society at a certain time.Confucius Analects suggest that moral values,virtues and traditions were major part of the early chinese culture and also reflect the low status of women during that time.Similarly Ban Zhao introduced her own writing on teaching how a woman should behave. Though it completely degrades the social status of a women, it still got a lot of appreciation and was used to educate girls in later years. Sex segregated culture and women rarely being part of elite groups thus further suggest the views on women at that time..
Thereafter, most historians agree that nuzi primarily means women of low status, but historians struggle to find the context in which the word was used in the analect and its exact meaning from the point of Confucius. Many theories are presented to interpret the meaning of ‘nuzi’, giving the term a whole new meaning.The teaching of confucius Analects used even in later time periods, but modified to fulfill their own interest like introducing the cosmic influence to determine if the emperor is failing during the Han period.