Confucianism - Meritocracy


In teaching, there should be no distinction of classes. (Analects XV, 39)

The main basis of his teachings was to seek knowledge, study, and become a better person.

Although Confucius claimed that he never invented anything but was only transmitting ancient knowledge (see Analects VII, 1), he did produce a number of new ideas. Many European and American admirers such as Voltaire and H. G. Creel point to the revolutionary idea of replacing nobility of blood with nobility of virtue. Jūnzǐ (君子, lit. "lord's child"), which originally signified the younger, non-inheriting, offspring of a noble, became, in Confucius' work, an epithet having much the same meaning and evolution as the English "gentleman". A virtuous plebeian who cultivates his qualities can be a "gentleman", while a shameless son of the king is only a "small man". That he admitted students of different classes as disciples is a clear demonstration that he fought against the feudal structures that defined pre-imperial Chinese society.

Another new idea, that of meritocracy, led to the introduction of the Imperial examination system in China. This system allowed anyone who passed an examination to become a government officer, a position which would bring wealth and honour to the whole family. The Chinese Imperial examination system seems to have been started in 165 BC, when certain candidates for public office were called to the Chinese capital for examination of their moral excellence by the emperor. Over the following centuries the system grew until finally almost anyone who wished to become an official had to prove his worth by passing written government examinations.

His achievement was the setting up of a school that produced statesmen with a strong sense of patriotism and duty, known as Rujia (Chinese: 儒家; pinyin: Rújiā). During the Warring States Period and the early Han Dynasty, China grew greatly and the need arose for a solid and centralized cadre of government officers able to read and write administrative papers. As a result, Confucianism was promoted by the emperor and the men its doctrines produced became an effective counter to the remaining feudal aristocrats who threatened the unity of the imperial state.

During the Han Dynasty, Confucianism developed from an ethical system into a political ideology used to legitimize the rule of the political elites. Most Chinese emperors used a mix of Legalism and Confucianism as their ruling doctrine, often with the latter embellishing the former. The practice of using the Confucian meritocracy to justify political actions continues in countries in the Sinosphere, including post-economic liberalization People's Republic of China, Chiang Kai-Shek's Republic of China, and modern Singapore.

Read more about this topic:  Confucianism

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