Posts Tagged ‘Five Cardinal Relations’

Confucianism & Religions 孔教和各宗教

Friday, March 27th, 2009

Ha, it has finally happened: a Christian told me the other day that just because Christianity values love above all doesn’t mean that love doesn’t come with obligations, and she quoted me First Corinthians Chapter 13:

哈,事情终于发生了,前几天一位基督徒告诉我,虽然基督教把爱视为至上,但是这个爱并不是没有义务和责任的。接着她就引述圣经的哥林多前书第十三章:

Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.

愛是恆久忍耐,又有恩慈;愛是不嫉妒;愛是不自誇,不張狂,不作害羞的事,不求自己的益處,不輕易發怒,不計算人的惡,不喜歡不義,只喜歡真理;凡事包容,凡事相信,凡事盼望,凡事忍耐。

Well, that’s great: in orthodox Christianity, unlike what we often see nowadays in Western society, love also implies obligations. That’s really good. So, as I’ve said before, the precepts in Di Zi Gui and Confucius’s teachings are not tied to any one religion and are compatible with any religion.

真好,正统基督教跟现代西方社会的普遍情况不同,正统基督教里爱跟义务是连在一起的。很好呵。所以,正如我已经说过一样,《弟子规》和孔子的教导不是附属某一个宗教的,可以跟任何宗教相容。

Of course, Confucius spends a lot more time and present in much greater detail the mutual obligations for the different parties than the Christian Bible does. For example, the Christian Bible doesn’t have a formal analysis on the Five Cardinal Relations of government-subject, parents-offspring, husband-wife, among siblings, and between friends. A short paragraph in First Corinthians is nothing compared to the volumes about obligations in the ancient Confucian texts. That’s why not just Chinese but everyone the world over, even Christians, need to study these precepts from the Chinese tradition.

当然,孔子比基督教的圣经花多了很多时间,把关系里的双方所互相欠下的义务解说得详细得多。例如,圣经没有正式分析政府和公民、父母和子女、丈夫和妻子、兄弟之间和朋友之间的五种“五伦”关系。哥林多前书几句话不能比得上古代孔教的许多本关于义务和责任的经典书。所以,不仅是华人而是全世界的所有人,包括了基督徒,都需要学习这些中国传统的教导。

Of course, in the modern world, the Confucian tradition cannot stand alone by itself, unchanged; it needs some adaptation and supplementation. For example, I think the Five Cardinal Relations should become the Six Cardinal Relations: we need to add that between the buyer and the seller.

当然,在现代世界里,孔教的传统不能够一成不变,孤独地站立,因为它需要一些适应和补充。例如,我认为五伦就应该变为六伦:需要加上买者和卖者的关系。

And the Confucian tradition has never pretended to address the hereafter, and so societies that practiced the Confucian tradition have long supplemented the tradition with religions like Buddhism. Though I am not knowledgeable about the practices of Chinese Muslims, I do know that they’ve been well integrated into mainstream society for centuries in Imperial China. Likewise the Chinese Jews like the Kaifeng Jews. So I don’t see why there should be any problem with compatibility and mutual supplementation with Christianity or any other major religion.

而且,孔教传统从来没有装作过可以解说来世,所以奉行孔教的社会都用例如佛教等宗教来补充孔教。我不知道中国回民风俗的详细情况,但是我知道他们在中国帝王时代好几个世纪都融入了主流社会。中国优太族好像开封犹太人等,情况也是一样。所以我认为,孔教跟基督教或其他大宗教相容和互相补充,应该没有问题。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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The Sixth Cardinal Relationship, That Between Buyer and Seller

Sunday, May 11th, 2008

Back in my blog of March 31, 2007, I said that in today’s world, we need to recognize a sixth Cardinal Relationship ( 第六伦, or 第六倫 in complicated script), that between buyer and seller. In my blog of April 5, 2007, I listed the Cardinal Obligations the two parties owe each other in this Sixth Cardinal Relationship: the buyer is obliged to pay on time and in the amounts promised for the good or service bought, and to make clear what he wants and expects. The seller is obliged to deliver the good or service on time and in the amounts and quality promised. I also said that this Cardinal Relation includes the relationship between employer and employee; the employer is the buyer and the employee is the seller. When it comes to the teacher and the student (or parent), the student (or parent) is the buyer and the teacher the seller.

Some people have commented that they don’t see why lowly buying and selling is so important that it should be elevated to a Cardinal Relationship. Doesn’t buying and selling inherently involve cheating? As for saying that the relationship between the teacher and the student is part of buying and selling, why, they say, that’s outright cheapening of a relationship held to be sacred in traditional Chinese Confucian thinking. Haven’t I heard of the old adage, “be my teacher for one day, be my father all my life” (“ 一日为师,终身为父” or “ 一日為師,終身為父” in complicated script)?

Just to refresh the reader’s memory, the other five Cardinal Relationships (五伦, or 五倫 in complicated script) are between: government and citizen (ruler and subject), parents and offspring, sibling and sibling, husband and wife, and friend and friend. Their mutual Cardinal Obligations I’ve talked about in my blogs from February 25 to April 2, 2007.

Well, I think that not only do we merely need, but also we need desperately, to recognize the relationship between buyer and seller as a Cardinal one.

For one thing, as I’ve discussed in my blog of April 5, 2007, buying and selling is truly mutual help on the grandest scale. Indeed, far from being a “cheap” act, buying and selling is the sacred act that has transformed humans from a stage when life was short, brutal and barbaric, to the stage now, when life is quite a bit more civil, enlightened and comfortable. And no, cheating is not an inherent part of buying and selling. Please see my blogs of Nov. 4 and 17, 2007 on how honesty and integrity is the only way to make money in a sustained way and on how shopping around will keep one safe from cheating. No, buying and selling is a sacred act of mutual help. Such a sacred and important act must be recognized as belonging to a Cardinal Relationship.

Second, where there is prevalent recognition of buying and selling as being honorable and respectable, where sellers and buyers are usually honest and usually don’t cheat, the society is relatively rich, and where the opposite is prevalent, the society is poor. It is not an accident; it is cause and effect. In the old days, when China has been one of the richest, if not the richest, country in the world, the attitude prevalent in society has been that one must be honest, must not be greedy, and must not cheat. In the past, Chinese businessmen have had a sterling reputation for honesty, fairness, and being true to their word. By enshrining buying and selling into a Cardinal Relationship we will contribute to the development of society and the progress of mankind.

Third, a lot of Chinese and Asians in Asia in general operate in business according to the thinking that you need to become friends first, and then you can do business. That’s why you have to go to all those drinking parties and boys’ nights out (including brothels) to do business in Asia. They often can’t just sign the contract, and on the basis of promises made and monies paid, do business with people who are not emotionally bonded except on a working, formal basis. If you are not emotionally bonded with them they just might, or actually they think that you’ll think they just might, cheat you, and they think you just might cheat them. I think that’s bad for work hours, for the health of the businessmen involved, and the whole setup discriminates against females, who can’t go on boys’ nights out the same way as males. Recognizing buying and selling as a Cardinal Relationship will correct that situation, make life much better for businessmen, and enable females to participate in Asian business in a more equal footing.

As for “be my teacher for one day, be my father all my life”, I know where that comes from: it comes from the same cultish places in traditional China where the cultish aberrations of xiao (being good to parents) come from. It’s that intellectual trend that started around 1000 C.E. to change Confucianism from a set of practical and reasonable tenets into a metaphysical cult of absolutes and excesses. Hey, listen, if it’s true that being one’s teacher for one day makes that person into one’s father for life, then what about the even older adage, from Confucius’ Analects no less (Chapter Shu Er, or 《论语:述而》/《論語:述而》), that “when I am in a group of three, there has to be someone who’s my teacher” (“ 三人行,必有我师焉” or “ 三人行,必有我師焉” in complicated script)? Then one acquires fathers every day? Maybe even several times a day? Hey, I think that making one’s teacher into one’s father is an act of luan lun ( 乱伦 / 亂倫) or mixing up of the Cardinal Relations. Yes, yes, I know they use the term luan lun to mean incest nowadays, but I am using the term in its original meaning in The Analects and other traditional Chinese writings.* So no, I don’t think I cheapen or besmirch the sacred role of teachers at all when I include teaching in the just as sacred buyer-seller, Sixth Cardinal Relationship.

Yes, time to recognize the actually sacred act of buying and selling as part of the just as sacred Cardinal Relations, with sacred Cardinal Obligations.

Feng Xin-ming, May 11, 2008, minor edits June 21, 2008
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* See Ci Hai 词海 / 辭海,Shanghai, 1989, p. 2107, under the entry 乱伦 / 亂倫.


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Repaying En- 恩 or Kindness, the Five (or Six) Cardinal Relations

Saturday, February 24th, 2007

The concept of the repayment of “en-” 恩 (- = first tone; this is my “home-made” pinyin for easy keyboarding) or in Cantonese, “yun-1″ (-1 = Cantonese first tone), is a very important one in traditional Chinese culture. “en-” means a kindness, a significant, great kindness, not just a little tip to the waiter or something like that. In traditional Chinese culture, it is very important to repay kindness. In fact, repaying “en-” is considered to be the basis of society itself.

To repay the kindness (the “en-”) bestowed one by one’s parents is the basis of “xiao” (”how-3″ in Cantonese) or “being good to parents.” Now “xiao” or being good to parents is considered in traditional Chinese society as being the basis of civil society and the most fundamental guarantee of moral conduct. So, by extension, repaying kindness or “en-”, in this case that from one’s parents, is regarded as the fundamental foundation of civil society in traditional China. Repaying of “en-” is indeed considered very important.

In traditional China, what transpires between the parties in society’s Five Cardinal Relations (wu^ lun’ 五伦 or ng-3 lueun-4 in Cantonese), is described by the term “en- yi`” 恩义 (”yun-1 yee-6″ in Cantonese). “en-”, as we already know, is kindness. Now “yi` (义)” is a bit harder to translate, as in Chinese it’s used for a lot of different things. In this context I think the correct translation is “obligation”. So what transpires between the parties in society’s Five Cardinal Relations is kindness and obligation.

To explain, the Five Cardinal Relations are those between the ruler and the subject (between government and citizen), between the father (parent) and the son (offspring), between the older and the younger brothers (siblings), between husband and wife, and between friend and friend. These comprise the most important relations in society. Of course, today we would add a sixth, that between buyer and seller, where buyer also includes the employer since he’s buying labor power, and seller includes the employee who is selling his labor power.

So, in the traditional Chinese thinking, what the parties in society’s fundamental relations do is to bestow kindness on and carry out obligations to, each other.

Feng Xin-ming


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