China’s two major indigenous theological and philosophical traditions, Confucianism and Daoism, originated around the same time in the sixth century in what are now the adjacent eastern Chinese counties of Shandong and Henan, respectively (Matthyssen, 2021). Both traditions have saturated Chinese society for about 2,500 years. Both Daoism and Confucius had a founding, although in the case of Daoism, the identity of Laozi (had served in the sixth century) is exceedingly enigmatic, and much of his traditional biography is almost certainly fantasy. According to a widely circulated but implausible story, Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, once met Laozi, who was not pleased (Lewin & Ergas, 2018). However, their respective traditions share similar ideals (about humanity, the ruler, society, heaven, and the world) and have influenced one another.
The Confucianism sacred texts were formalized by Zhu Xi, who referred to them simply as the Four Books: the Confucius Analects, the Doctrine of the Mean, the Mencius Book, and The Great Learning (Matthyssen, 2021). Confucianism focuses on ancestor worshiping and human-centered ethics to maintain a peaceful life. The Chuang-Tzu and the Tao-te Ching are the two most essential ancient books for Daoism. The Tao-te Ching text is considered the earliest and most widespread Taoist. The Tao-te Ching text is Daoism’s most important text. According to tradition, Lao-tzu wrote these texts. The Tao Te Ching text is the earliest Taoist work, while the Chuang-tzu gives a more comprehensive and complete description of Taoist beliefs (Matthyssen, 2021). Although Taoism originated in China, its primary texts have attracted followers from all across the world.
According to Lewin and Ergas (2018), Confucianism and Daoism emerged as philosophical belief systems and ways of living. Unlike Confucianism, though, Daoism developed into a self-aware structure with a coherent theory, institutional leadership, and cultic practices. Since religious Daoism’s beliefs eventually deviated from the ideology from which they emerged, later scholars started to differentiate between the religious and philosophical versions of Daoism, with some people seeing the latter as a strange adulteration or misinterpretation of the earlier ideology. Most current scholars today accept the religious and intellectual readings of Daoism as enriching and actively impacting each other, distancing themselves from that critical viewpoint as simple (Matthyssen, 2021). Furthermore, whereas Daoism encompasses existence and what is spontaneous and natural in human existence, to the point of denouncing most of China’s advanced civilization, morality, and learning, Confucianism views human social structures such as the school, family, community, and nation as critical for life to flourishing and morality to excel, since they are the only domain in which those accomplishments, like Confucius, envisioned them, are possible.
Lewin and Ergas (2018) indicate that Daoism evolved into a democratic ideology that sought spontaneity and naturalness. Confucians were opposed by Daoists, who believed that an individual should not follow social teachings. According to the latter, human beings need to want spontaneous and natural behavior. Daoism likewise emphasizes people’s inherent equality and the urge to return to their natural form. Daoist believers had their own priesthood, temples, and holy writings. In China, their saints were revered and worshipped. The power of military and political relations was rejected by Daoism (Lewin & Ergas, 2018). It was unimportant to them to keep up with international events. They despised egoism and aggressive economic society. They wanted to get away from the wrath and violence. Daoists were on the lookout for life’s natural flow. It was a real-life application of the discipline.
Confucianism has distinct perspectives on ordinary life and the role of community. Adherence to values and norms is one of its primary themes. Individual’s relationships should conform to a set of obligations and responsibilities. Each individual should be aware of and confident in his or her particular role. People who conduct responsibly can help to develop and reform society. Only by exploring the surrounding world can one become intelligent. An attitude of openness improves a person’s character while education brings real concepts and opinions. A well-educated and smart person benefits his family (Matthyssen, 2021). Families, in turn, control the government. Only when there is unity in families can the world achieve peace.
Matthyssen, M. (2021). The Daoist Sage Fool and the Confucian Learned Man. In Ignorance is Bliss: The Chinese Art of Not Knowing (pp. 17-72). Palgrave Macmillan, Cham.
Lewin, D., & Ergas, O. (2018). Eastern philosophies of education: Buddhist, Hindu, Daoist, and Confucian readings of Plato’s cave. In International handbook of philosophy of education (pp. 479-497). Springer, Cham.