Posts Tagged ‘love’

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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Chinese People and the Expression of Love
华人和爱的表示

Saturday, May 31st, 2008

One of the criticisms leveled by Westerners and, far more vehemently, by Westernized Chinese, at Chinese people in general is that they don’t “show love”. In fact, this theme is enlarged upon in a very unflattering manner in more than one novel written by Chinese-Americans about Chinese-Americans. The gist of the criticism is that traditional Chinese culture doesn’t value love and that therefore Chinese people are cold and incapable of feeling love.

西方人对华人的批评之一,就是华人“不表示爱”,而西化的华人对一般华人这批评更尤为激烈。事实上,美籍华人写的、关于美籍华人的小说,非常不赞扬地提及华人怎样不表示爱的,不只一本。批评的中心是,华人传统文化不重视爱,所以华人冷酷,没有能力感觉爱。

Sigh, that is not so! Traditional Chinese culture does value love, and Chinese people are capable of feeling love! It’s just that first, traditional Chinese culture considers obligations, which are objective and are defined by the objectively existing relationship, to come before love, a subjective feeling, and second, because of the foregoing, Chinese people don’t need to express love in the very demonstrative ways that Westerners express it. Traditional Chinese culture makes Chinese people secure in that should one day the subjective feeling of love towards them not be felt by the other party in the relationship, that doesn’t mean the relationship will come crashing to an end. The relationship continues as long as one continues to fulfill one’s relationship-defined obligations.

唉,并非如此!华人传统文化确实重视爱,华人也有能力感觉爱!只不过是:第一,华人传统文化认为客观的、由客观存在的关系而规定的义务为先,爱这个主观的感觉为后,第二,正因如此,华人不需要像西方人那样,用很富于表达性的方法来表示爱。华人传统文化让华人们很放心,如果跟他们有关系的对方,有一天对他们不感觉爱,关系并不会因此就突然完蛋。只要坚持完成自己由关系所规定的义务,关系就会延持下去。

Thus one expresses love by fulfilling one’s obligations with all one’s heart and soul. In traditional Chinese culture, in the novels, plays, and stories, what is sung in praise to is the behavior of fulfilling one’s obligations with all one’s heart and soul regardless of difficulty or sacrifice, while the subjective feeling of love is included in and expressed by the objective behavior. Traditional Chinese culture puts objective behavior first and subjective feeling second.

因此,爱是用全心全力完成自己的义务来表示的。华人传统文化里,小说、戏剧、故事等歌颂的,就是这种不管困难或牺牲多大都用全心全力来完成义务的行为,而爱这主观的感觉,是包含和表现于行为之中的。华人传统文化把客观的行为放在前,把主观的感觉放在后。

Therefore, Chinese don’t need to always say “I love you”, to always kiss and embrace in front of others, like Westerners do. On the contrary, Chinese feel that such things are creepy, like they are phony, part of an act. Chinese people fulfill their obligations and duties every day with whole heart and soul, with an attitude that’s both reverent and joyful, and such is their expression of love.

因此,华人不需要好像西方人那样,常说着“我爱你”,常在人家面前接吻、拥抱。相反地,华人觉得这些东西肉麻,好像是假的、演戏般的。华人们带着恭谨喜悦的心情,聚尽全心全力来完成每天的义务、责任,这就是他们爱的表示。

So, yes, in traditional Chinese culture love is important, indeed very important; it’s just that love is not supreme, not important above all else, the way Western culture has it. Traditional Chinese culture puts love in its proper place.

所以,爱在华人传统文化里的确重要,而且很重要,只不过,爱不是至上的,不是好像西方文化那样,比任何事情都更为重要的。传统的华人文化把爱放在适当的地位。

It’s not just traditional Chinese culture that’s like this; traditional Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese cultures are also like this, in a word, all the Asian cultures that have revered Confucius are like this.

不仅华人的传统文化如此,韩国、日本、越南的传统文化也如此,总之,亚洲文化凡是曾敬奉过孔子的都如此。

Feng Xin-ming 冯欣明


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In-laws

Wednesday, April 30th, 2008

Well, as soon as I talk about “brothers are like one’s own limbs”, I am presented with that cynical Chinese saying: “Brothers are like one’s limbs; spouses are like mere clothes ( 兄弟如手足,夫妇如衣服).” Yes, I’ve heard it before, from mistaken Chinese women criticizing traditional Chinese culture.

Why, that saying is downright untrue: traditional Chinese culture never denigrates the relationship between husband and wife to be mere clothes! At every wedding, the traditional Chinese wish is “to grow old with white hair together, to forever unite the hearts as one ( 白头皆老,永结同心).” So what are these people talking about?

Well, actually, they then say, the problem is that with the advocacy of family closeness in traditional Chinese culture, while the men have deep feelings for even their brothers there are no comparable feelings for the wives. This, it is said, proves that women must always engage in a bitter rivalry with their husbands’ relatives for affection and devotion. It’s either the wife or the in-laws, there’s no having both.

Ah, so that’s the problem! Tsk, tsk, tsk, when looked at from the viewpoint of traditional, Confucian ideology, how foolish for a woman to set herself up against her own in-laws! It is very foolish to view relations among people as a zero-sum game: if one loves his brothers the more, one must love his wife the less, and vice versa. Only fools live their lives as zero-sum games. No, the matter should be viewed this way instead: how much better for one’s husband if he has not only his wife’s love, but also that of his brothers!

True, true, back in the old days some (not all!) in-laws had been bad to the wives. But that happened not when the core Confucian principles were being followed, it happened when they were being violated! It is in accordance with the core Confucian principles for husband and wife to love each other deeply; it is a deviancy from the same principles for husbands to have “no feelings” for their wives.

From the point of view of the core Confucian principle of Cardinal Obligations being supreme, there is no conflict of interest between a wife and her in-laws. Her husband owes her the obligation of building a life together, just as she owes him the same obligation in return. He and his brothers mutually owe each other the obligation of mutual help and mutual support, and that can only be in line with the wife’s interest of building a good life together with her husband! The fact is that, far from having a fundamental conflict of interest, a woman and her in-laws have a fundamental convergence of interest. That’s why both the negative saying about in-laws and the negative attitude towards in-laws, as foolish as both are cynical, should be completely discarded.

Feng Xin-ming


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Marriage & the Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the Supremacy of Love

Monday, April 16th, 2007

(Please also see my paper on my website “The Traditional Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. The West’s Supremacy of Love”)

This inconstancy in the subjective feeling called love is especially problematic in the relationship between spouses. In the Western tradition, the love that is supposed to exist between spouses is a romantic love. One is supposed to be “in love with,” that is, feel a deep romantic love for, one’s spouse. After all, that is supposed to be why one has married one’s spouse in the first place. When a Westerner or a Westernized person, which is most of the planet these days, no longer feels romantic love for his or her spouse, he or she feels extremely tormented. He or she is not supposed to not feel romantic love for the spouse, and in fact, if he or she “no longer loves” the spouse, he or she is supposed to either somehow make himself or herself “fall in love again” with the spouse, or quit the relationship. Otherwise, according to Western thinking, it is “dishonest” and “not honorable” to stay in a marriage “devoid of love.”

Thus in the Western or Westernized marriage, people are always trying to keep and cultivate the other party’s love. People are fearful that they might lose the other party’s love. There is insecurity, and whether the relationship lasts is not within one’s control. “What if he/she meets someone else and falls in love?” When someone of the opposite sex comes around one’s spouse, one gets all flustered and anxious - anyone could be a predator. One must always try to “show love,” to “keep the love going,” to “stay in love with each other.” All this anxiety and striving to please and “hang onto” one’s spouse invariably results in resentment.

In the Chinese tradition, however, one can be secure that the relationship holds as long as one stays in the relationship. There is no need to be fearful about losing the other party to some “wilting of love.” As long as one is the other’s spouse, the other person owes one obligations. Of course, one owes the other person reciprocal obligations. As long as the spousal obligations are carried out, that is, as long as they cooperate to build a life together and respect each other, there should be harmony and love. And unlike whether one can keep one’s spouse “in love with” oneself, which is not entirely within one’s control, whether one carries out one’s obligations is entirely within one’s control.

True, adverse conditions can make it difficult, but it is still within one’s control to try to carry out one’s obligations despite such conditions. In fact, in traditional Chinese literature the recurring theme is how heroes and heroines, movingly, carry out or try to carry out Cardinal Obligations despite impossible circumstances.

Therefore, in the Chinese tradition, there is a lot more security and a lot more relaxed enjoyment in marriage.

Feng Xin-ming


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The Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the West’s Supremacy of Love

Friday, April 13th, 2007

(Please also see my paper on my website “The Traditional Chinese Supremacy of Relationship-Defined Obligations vs. the West’s Supremacy of Love”)

Traditional Chinese morality calls for obligations and duties to be rendered to persons not because of any feelings of love toward them, though feelings are important, but because of their relation to us, such as parents, spouses, offspring, siblings, relatives, and so forth. This is regardless of how much or how little love we may feel toward them. In the (traditional) Chinese tradition, relationship-defined obligations, like the Cardinal Obligations, are supreme. Not love. This sounds harsh, but it’s not. In fact, this is far better for the growth and development of true love, and we’ll see why.

In the Western tradition, love is supreme. Love is the supreme value that is put above all else. The problem with love being supreme is that love is a subjective feeling, and can change from time to time, especially when the going gets tough. In life, there will always be times when the going gets tough. Outside circumstances can turn adverse, people make mistakes, and life is full of misunderstandings. For long term relationships, such as family or spouse, there will always be a time when all looks black, when there seems to be no hope, or when anger takes precedence over all else. During those times one might not be able to feel a positive feeling, let alone love, towards the other party. Of course, eventually the hard times will be over, so if in the interim the parties have persisted and carried on fulfilling their obligations towards each other, feelings will change again and love will return. In the Western world, however, long before that stage is reached, one will say, “I don’t love this person any more; why am I still with him/her?” And then one picks up and leaves one’s spouse, or, if it’s a parent or sibling, one cuts off all contact.

In the (traditional) Chinese tradition, however, the relationship-defined Cardinal Obligations are supreme. Relationships exist objectively and are not subject to subjective feelings. Whether someone is one’s parent, or sibling, or spouse is objectively determined, and doesn’t change no matter what one’s feelings are towards that person. Therefore, during the hard times, each party in the relationship continues to carry out the obligations toward the other party, regardless of feeling.

The wonderful thing in this is that when the two parties in a relationship carry out their obligations toward each other, positive feelings will appear and grow. It is something that is independent of subjective will. And then after the hard times are over, love returns and this love is stronger and deeper than ever. It now is a love that has been tested and is rooted in overcoming common adversity and misunderstanding. It is a love that has been nurtured by self-sacrifice, magnanimity, faith and humility on the part of both parties. It is a truer, more mature love. Happy indeed are those who can enjoy this far deeper, far truer love! And it will be thanks to the Chinese tradition of putting the relationship-defined obligations, instead of love, above all else.

Paradoxical, but life is like that. If one wants something, by pursuing that something as a supreme priority above all else one may not get that thing, especially if it shouldn’t be a supreme priority in the first place. Instead, by pursuing the proper things in their proper priorities one will not only get that something, but also get it better.

Feng Xin-ming


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