Confucianism, the Literati, and Chinese Imperial Traditions

Membership, Community, Diversity

Where do Confucians live today? Are any estimates of numbers available?

Compared to the hundreds of millions whose cultures and ways of thinking have been profoundly influenced by Confucian teaching, people who identify themselves exclusively as Confucians are relatively few in number—six to seven million according to some estimates. In China, the ancestral home of Confucianism, very few people today think of themselves as Confucians. Many Confucian temples survived the demise of imperial rule, and the founders of the original Chinese Republic in 1911 continued to hold Confucius and the sages in the highest reverence. As a result of the Maoist revolution in 1948, however, hundreds of institutions associated with Confucian tradition were destroyed, damaged severely, or shut down. Since the Cultural Revolution, which ended with Mao’s death in 1976, some of those institutions have enjoyed a revival. Countless citizens of the People’s Republic of China revere Confucius but are not likely to call themselves Confucians. This is also true of Koreans and Japanese, a very small minority of whom will identify Confucian tradition as their principal ethico-religious affiliation.


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