THE WATER SYMBOL—Though this worldview is
recognized as one of the eleven main living religions, it has no standard
symbol or icon representing its belief system. Quite often, though, this
Chinese ideogram for water is utilized. It represents the 'source of life'
in Chinese philosophy.
This worldview originated with the respected Chinese
philosopher Confucius (551-479 BC) and was further devel-oped by some of his
followers, such as Mencius (372-289 BC) and Zhu Xi (1130-1200 AD). His
philosophy dealt more with ethics than religion. Confucius lived in a time when
moral standards were lacking. He advocated a return to the ancient Chinese ideal
of ethical living. He taught that rulers could be great only if they themselves
lead exemplary lives. Effective leaders must be willing to be guided by moral
principles. If they do so, their states will inevitably become prosperous and
Confucius put his theories into practice when he became the
magistrate of Zhongdu and the minister of crime for the state of Lu. His reforms
were very successful causing the prosperity of Lu to grow and greatly reducing
crime. He was dismissed, however, due to the influence of leaders in another
Chinese state who felt threatened by the increased prosperity of Lu. Confucius
then devoted himself to traveling and teaching. During his last years, he spent
most of his time writing commentaries on ancient Chinese literature.
The principles of Confucianism have been preserved in nine
ancient Chinese writings, authored by either Confucius or one of his followers:
the Five Classics and the Four Books. The Four Books (Shih Shu) impart
many of the philosophic sayings of Confucianism. They are: Analects, The Great
Learning, The Doctrine of the Mean and The Book of Mencius (one of Confucius’
most revered followers).
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