Confucianism - Names and Etymology

Names and Etymology

Strictly speaking, there is no term in Chinese which directly corresponds to "Confucianism." Several different terms are used in different situations, several of which are of modern origin:

  • "School of the scholars" (Chinese: 儒家; pinyin: jiā)
  • "Teaching of the scholars" (Chinese: 儒教; pinyin: Rújiào)
  • "Study of the scholars" (simplified Chinese: 儒学; traditional Chinese: 儒學; pinyin: xué)
  • "Teaching of Confucius" (Chinese: 孔教; pinyin: ngjiào)
  • "Kong Family's Business" (Chinese: 孔家店; pinyin: Kǒngjiādiàn)

Three of these use the Chinese characterrú, meaning "scholar". These names do not use the name "Confucius" at all, but instead center on the figure or ideal of the Confucian scholar; however, the suffixes of jiā, jiào, and xué carry different implications as to the nature of Confucianism itself.

Rújiā contains the character jiā, which literally means "house" or "family". In this context, it is more readily construed as meaning "school of thought", since it is also used to construct the names of philosophical schools contemporary with Confucianism: for example, the Chinese names for Legalism and Mohism end in jiā.

Rújiào and Kǒngjiào contain the Chinese character jiào, the noun "teach", used in such as terms as "education", or "educator". The term, however, is notably used to construct the names of religions in Chinese: the terms for Islam, Judaism, Christianity, and other religions in Chinese all end with jiào.

Rúxué contains xué 'study'. The term is parallel to -ology in English, being used to construct the names of academic fields: the Chinese names of fields such as physics, chemistry, biology, political science, economics, and sociology all end in xué.

Read more about this topic:  Confucianism

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