Reciprocity

 

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孔夫子 Kong Fuzi’s lasting legacy in not only Chinese but global culture is his deep commitment to civil society.

Whilst his ideas about the correct relations between mothers and children, emperors and subjects, fathers and sons, certainly date the time he lived in, the underlying concept of social cohesion based on individual respect and social harmony is as important today as it was 2500 years ago.

It’s easy to dismiss Confucian thought as a dated legacy of a bygone era. It’s much harder to search for eternal truths masked by prevailing attitudes during the time he lived.

Sure, his concept of filial piety echoed with patriarchal attitudes. But let’s consider the time – 500 years BC. England at the time was populated by tribal groups ruled by chieftains, often at war with each other – the Iron Age.

Wikipedia has a list of philosophers alive at a similar time – but I don’t recognize many of them, do you? Plato came almost a hundred years after Confucius and Aristotle, another hundred years again.

Confucius’ most famous book, the Analects, was not actually written by the Master. Instead, it is a collection of his teachings, recalled by his disciple Mengzi, Mencius.

 

Confucius was asked, if there is one word that was important in guiding one’s life.

His answer…..

 

Reciprocity and the “Golden Rule

Zigong asked, “Is there one word that one can act upon throughout the course of one’s life?”  The Master said, “Reciprocity (shu)—what you would not want for yourself, do not do to others.” [15:23]