When a man is asked to write an article on Confucianism, his immediate question is: “Which Confucianism? Now, of course, it is genetically true of every religion that it has many aspects. Always there is the distinction between the religion of the “fundamentalist” and the religion of the “liberal”: always there is the contrast between the lofty but nebulous creed of the philosopher and the workaday faith of the plain man. Yet of no religion is this more true than of Confucianism, which at certain levels ceases altogether to be a religion in any sense of the word. Instead, it becomes at once an ethical system and a pattern of life. Curiously enough, this tendency, which might at first seem to be its weakness, has proved to be its strength in old age; for in the twentieth century, with the collapse of the organized Confucian cult, Confucianism still persists. It survives not only as a deliberately chosen way of life, but even more as an unselfconscious, pervasive attitude of mind, which is, by one of the ironies of history, more common now in the Western world than in the Eastern. Therefore, among the world’s religions, the study of Confucianism is still valid, though today there are no sacrifices or incense burned before the tablets or statue of the sage K’ung Ch’iu, better known to the West by his honorific title of “K’ung the Maestro,” K’ung Fu-Tzu, early Latinized as Confucius.


This collapse of the cult has a certain appropriateness. Confucius was no Confucianist, and would certainly have deplored such virtual deification. It is doubly appropriate that there is nowadays a renewed interest on all sides in Confucius the man, for ...

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