Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

Religious Beliefs

Is there a Confucian or CIT creed?

Neither Confucianism as such nor CIT have ever formulated a specific creedal statement to which all members are expected to confess their allegiance. If asked to summarize his or her religious beliefs, a devout and well-informed Chinese man or woman of a century or two ago would likely have included a number of basic elements relating to Confucianism and CIT. Divine Heaven rules all things through a “mandate” made known to a “Son of Heaven” called the emperor. The emperor in turn governs all earthly affairs by enacting that mandate, whose hallmark is justice and equity. It is the emperor’s duty to make timely and appropriate offerings to Heaven and Earth to insure the felicitous coordination of all cosmic events for the benefit of humankind. Confucius, as one of the Sages, represents a revered tradition of practical wisdom to which a sincere emperor subscribes. All good subjects, too, will acknowledge the Sage and those of his stature and will venerate them along with their own ancestors. All of this, they might add, fits into the larger picture of the ultimate harmony represented by the balance of all things under the power of the Dao, which is manifest in Heaven and Earth.


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