Posts Tagged ‘obligations’

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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Traditional Chinese Culture is Liberating and Empowering – 3

Sunday, February 3rd, 2008

In the relationship between parents and offspring, again traditional Chinese culture is liberating and empowering.

True, true, I know that a lot of people nowadays mistakenly think that traditional Chinese culture is oppressive, despotic, and downright abusive when it comes to parents and offspring, and almost all the modern Chinese novelists and playwrights portray it thus – why, just turn on the TV and watch a Chinese soap opera and you’ll see how horrible “feudalism” is – but that’s all nonsense and distortion. Since the 1900’s many Chinese intellectuals have seized upon aberrations and deviants in traditional Chinese society – now which society doesn’t have aberrations and deviants – and portray them as being representative. Some of these intellectuals even wildly distort and misrepresent Chinese culture. The sad thing is that, being weak, backward and poor, Chinese civilization hasn’t been able to speak up for itself. Today, with the Chinese Cultural Renaissance beginning, that’s going to change…

At any rate, the reason that traditional Chinese culture liberates and empowers in the parent-offspring relationship is that with the always-reciprocal relationship-defined obligations being supreme instead of some subjective feeling called love, one doesn’t have to worry about the fickleness of emotions. As in marriage, one doesn’t have to panic over what to do, or whether one is doing the right thing. The obligations are clear and well defined both on the parents’ end and on the offspring’s end. The parents’ obligations are to raise and educate the offspring to the best extent possible. The offspring’s obligations are to cooperate with this raising and educating, to strive to do his or her best in conduct and career, to help the parents, and to support and care for the parents when they are old and infirm.

The criteria for whether obligations are carried out or not are objective and verifiable, and are not some subjective “feeling” inside people’s head called “love”. With objective relationship-defined obligations, it isn’t hard to substantiate whether a parent is, say, raising and educating the offspring, while with love, it is hard to get inside someone’s head and confirm that there is or there is not love there. Sometimes even the person himself or herself is confused: hence the perennial question: do I love him, or do I love him not? And if we go according to the modern Western paradigm of “love” being supreme, one comes to this question: if I don’t love my parents, should I have anything to do with them? With traditional Chinese culture, one is liberated from the groundless insecurities over the existence of “love,” and the horribly mistaken conclusions to which these insecurities lead.

Actually, those positive feelings of deep attachment to and profound willingness to do things for someone, feelings that are generally considered to constitute love, arise anyways, naturally, in both parties, in the course of their fulfilling the always-reciprocal relationship-defined obligations day in, day out. It is not necessary to “cultivate love” and curry favor with one’s offspring or one’s parents; it is only necessary to carry out one’s obligations, faithfully, every day.

Feng Xin-ming


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En- Yi` 恩义 or Kindness and Obligations, and the Modern World

Sunday, March 4th, 2007

The traditional Chinese emphasis on the repayment of “en`” 恩 (”yun-1″ in Cantonese), is completely compatible with modern society. Some people think that human society is a dog-eat-dog world, or is a world of the law of the jungle, but they cannot be more wrong. The fundamental feature of human society is actually mutual help.

An extraterrestrial visitor will find the massive and intricate amount of mutual help in human society simply amazing. Millions upon millions of people go to their jobs at set hours and perform their tasks more or less to order, day after day, providing goods and services to help other people. These producers then go regularly to yet other people, like the grocer, the hairdresser, the doctor, and so forth, and receive help in the form of needed goods and services, just so much and no more, with little or no fighting, scrambling, or whining. Everything is very orderly, yet there is no one controlling or directing all this traffic!

This is mutual help; this is what human society at heart is all about. The more humans advance, the more society becomes intertwined, and the more complex and intricate becomes mutual help. In fact, progress in a society can be defined as the development of more complex, more intricate, and more thorough-going mutual help: the mutual help we see in a modern city is far more complex and intricate than the mutual help we see in a primitive hunter-gatherer tribe.

So when you repay “en” or kindness, you are helping those who have helped you. In turn, those whom you help turn around and help you again. This is also mutual help and what human society is all about. The Chinese emphasis on the repayment of “en” or kindness encourages the development of mutual help, and is therefore, not only compatible with modern society, but is also a great boon to its advancement.

Feng Xin-ming


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恩义 En- Yi` or Kindness and Obligations

Monday, February 26th, 2007

Indeed, if you look at all the traditional Chinese romantic accounts about husband and wife, the most important operative term is not love (爱 ai` or oi-3 in Cantonese), but “en- yi` (恩义)”, or kindness and obligations. Sometimes the term used is “en` ai`” (恩爱 “yun-1 oi-3″ in Cantonese), which means “kindness and love”. Sex between the spouses is considered the mutual bestowing of “en`”–Chinese in the old days don’t have that Western hang-up about sex as being some dark carnal act, unless adultery is involved.

In fact, in traditional China, if you want to really insult someone, if you want to really say that someone is a low-life scum, you call him “wang` en- fu` yi`” (忘恩负义 “mong-4 yun-1 foo-6 yee-6″ in Cantonese), or “forgetting kindness and reneging on obligations.”

There is a story in the historical novel “Three Kingdoms” where one of the arch villains, a powerful official, gets saved from certain death by the novel’s heroes. At the time they don’t know that he is the villain who will wreak death and destruction on China; they only know that they are saving a high government official. Once the arch villain hears, however, that the leader of the heroes is just one of the ordinary folk and not some high official, the villain becomes very arrogant to the head hero and shoos him from the room. On hearing this, one of our heroes bellows, “this guy forgets kindness and reneges on obligations!” Then he pulls out his sword and starts to charge into the room to kill the villian. Of course, his leader stops him; still, the novelist comments in a verse at the end of the chapter, “Would that we have more straight people like this hero, and go after all the obligation-reneging people in the world!”

Feng Xin-ming


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