THE ANCIENT PHILOSOPHY
Kuh, which means "can";
Ch'ang, which means "constant";
Now let us look at the teachings of Confucius:(3)
"Three years, no change in Father's tao can be called filial period." In other words, if for three years the man shows no change from the way of his father, he can be called filial. That means he is faithful to his father. To Confucius, filial piety is a basic thing: you must be faithful to your father.
Here is another saying, a famous one:
"Seventy, and follow heart what desires, not transgressing the right." That is, "When I was seventy, I followed the desire of my heart, not transgressing what is right." In other words, he reached perfection. Whatever he desired was already the will of heaven.
Someone else asked about filial piety, and the master said, ''The filial piety of today means the support of one's parents, but dogs and horses are likewise able to do something in the way of support." In other words, just offering support is not necessarily human. Without reverence, what is there to distinguish the one support from the other? So there must not just be supporting the parents, but also reverence.
"The master said, 'If a man keeps cherishing his old knowledge so as continually to be acquiring new, he may be a teacher of others.''' This is the sign of a person who really loves knowledge: he is constantly getting something new, not just peddling what is old; and thus he can teach others.
Someone asked him, "What is knowledge?" and the master said, "Shall I teach you what knowledge is? When you know a thing, hold that you know it. When you do not know a thing, allow that you do not know it. This is knowledge" – i.e., the basis of knowledge.
There are four books of Confucius' teachings, about telling the truth, being honest, loving your relatives, being obedient, and so on. In giving his teachings, Confucius was constantly quoting from the ancient books, the basic texts of ancient times. One of these was a book of poetry, like the Psalms, expressing the people's feelings – it dated back to about the time of King David the Prophet [ca. 1000 B.C.]. Another was a book of history which contained all the annals of the dynasties; another was a book of rituals; and there were a few others.
Confucius himself was a minor official, in charge of the grain in a little province. Once someone came to him and offered him a bribe, saying, "No one will know." But Confucius said, "I know, you know, heaven knows. Who doesn't know?"
In Confucius, there is also the concept of propriety, doing what is proper in every situation in society. Of course, later on this became very stereotyped in China: you always had to know exactly when to bow down and offer your hand and so forth. In that respect, it turned into a system in which emotion was not outwardly expressed much; emotions were considered very personal. But that was in the later epochs; earlier it was not like that. Confucius says that from music you can tell what the people are thinking. You can listen to the music and tell whether it is a corrupt people or a virtuous people.
(ANSWER) I don't know much about Chinese music. It sounds very profound. Just a few sounds are supposed to express some deep emotion. You have to get really used to it before you can understand it. Back in the time of Confucius, there was a whole classical tradition of music, usually with dance, connected with the royal court.
We do not know much about the early period: the Hsia and Shang dynasties. The people of that time had no connection with outside people, and the annals are very sparse. There was not much central authority; there was one king in charge, but he was a kind of figurehead. Today, this age is noted mainly for its sacrificial art: its bronzes used in sacrifices. Many of these are preserved today in the Grundage collection in the de Young Museum in San Francisco, which is one of the best collections of Chinese art. There are several basic kinds of vessels, used to hold grain, wine, etc.
generally believed then that from Confucius comes the ancient tradition: if you are faithful to Confucius you will be in harmony with ancient times. Shih Huang Ti could not stand this because he wanted himself to be the authority. Therefore he ordered that all texts be burned. This was the famous "bookburning," in which all the Confucian texts and all the ancient documents were taken out to a big bonfire and burned. There would be nothing left of ancient culture: only he would survive, and he would dictate the future of China. (That's where the name China comes from, from his dynasty-the Ch'in.) Together with all the texts, he burned the scholars or buried them alive in order to get rid of the old tradition. If his dynasty had survived, we might not have those old texts; but he died in a very short time and left no successor. A very vicious eunuch of his court tried to take over but he had no support, and finally the Han dynasty came in.
The Han dynastery lasted from 200 B.C. to 200 A.D., and is famous for its art. It is divided into two periods: the early Han and the late Han. Then came the period from 200 to 600 A.D., which was a time of petty kingdoms or warring states, just like in the West: barbarian kingdoms, all divided up, with no central government. Then from about 600 to 900 A.D. was the T'ang dynasty-another dynasty famous for its art; and from about 900 to 1200 A.D. was the Sung dynasty. After that there was an interlude from 1200 to 1300 A.D.: the Mongol dynasty. Then from 1300 to 1600 A.D. was the Ming dynasty, known for its porcelain. The last emperor of this dynasty was called Constantine. By the time he became baptized Catholic, the dynasty was lost. The last dynasty was the Manchu dynasty, from 1600 to 1900 A.D.
(QUESTION) Were there any philosophers before the time of Confucius and Lao Tzu?
(ANSWER) The early Greek philosophers were all trying to find out what the universe was made of, what was the ultimate element. They were asking abstract questions like that back then, whereas the Chinese philosophers were simply giving a teaching on life. That's one little difference. The Chinese did not speculate about where everything came from, whether fire or water was the original element. They were concerned with how we are to behave towards each other. They accepted the tradition, which went back to the remotest antiquity; and they did not ask too much about where it all comes from.