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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
En Lin Wei <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 31 May 2000 12:09:37 PDT
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Ezra Pound discussion list of the University of Maine <[log in to unmask]>
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Peter Bi wrote:
>How do you get a conclusion that "virtually ALL serious Chinese
>intellectuals were rejecting it" ?
>I, as many people in the mailing list know, am a Chinese and like Confucius
>very much.
I appreciate the fact that you like Confucius very much.  I “like
Confucius,” in the sense that I enjoy reading and studying the Analects.
However, it is one thing to say “I like Confucius,” and another to say “I
like CONFUCIANISM” or to say, “I am a Confucian.”  Could you say in
precisely what sense you like or enjoy Confucius?

The statement that I made was about Confucian-"ISM" --- as a political and
social ideology--- and not so much about Confucius the person, as a thinker,
scholar, and philosopher.

My exact words concerned

>how [Pound] celebrated Confucianism (at a time when virtually ALL serious
>Chinese intellectuals
>were rejecting it, in hopes of creating a more just, less authoritarian

Would you not agree that there is something of an historical irony in the
fact that Pound embraced Confucius so wholeheatedly when he did?  During the
1910’s, 20’s, 30’s, and 40’s, Pound spent an tremendous amount of effort
trying to propogate “Confucian” ideas in the West, in English and in
Italian.  Yet at the same time, in China  (as a result of the May 4th
movement, and as result of the Republican Revolution of 1911), Confucianism
--the official doctrine of Chinese government for centuries-- was collapsing
on all fronts.

[If you are interested, I outline this process in relation ot Pounds thought
in some detail at


in the last part of the essay called “The Cantos collapse”  ]

Speaking of the new social movements which sprung up in China during this
time, one noted  Japanese scholar  of Confucianism puts it this way:

  One would have expected that within all these move-
  ments the issue of Confucius itself would have been
  an important point of contention.  Opposition to
  Confucius, however, and to Confucianism, lost its
  earlier significance in the broad ideological struggle
  of these movements.  (Shimada, 141).

You probably know that Confucianism in China, as a required course of study,
as a mainstay of intellectual thought no longer has a dominant position.  As
far as the Chinese intellectual, scholar, poet, student, or government
official is concerned [in China], Confucianism as a doctrine is dead.
Confucius himself is considered no more important than Kant or Plato; in the
Chinese  canon he is just another zhuzi, one among the many philosphers of
antiquity; and according to many, Confucius is considered one of the
thinkers who has done the most damage to China.

Peter Bi also said,
>By the way, I believe Confucius is an idea of living, not a theory.  How
>intellectuals viewed represent only their personal views.

There are as many ways to view Confucius as there are human beings.  Perhaps
I should amend my statement this way:

The vast majority of Chinese intellectuals living in China, from 1911
onwards, have rejected Confucianism as a doctrine, as a system of thought,
and as a way of life.  The have rejected the doctrine and the dogma, and
have criticized and worked out the reasons why Confucianism has not
benefited China, and why it has helped keep China backward and primitive, in
the political, social, and ideological spheres.

Clearly there are some positive tenets in Confucius’ thought which are
universal: “Do not do to others what you would not wish them to do to you,”
for instance.  But Confucius has largely been rejected because of 1)  His
total disdain of women, 2)  His extreme committment to the practice of
outmoded rituals, and 3) His strong belief in hierarchies, absolute
obedience, feudal systems of social organization, etc.
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