On Being Confucians? Confucius, Confucian Traditions, and the Modern Chinese Society


  • Hang Lin




After a century of its retreat from political and social stages in East Asia, Confucianism eventually found its revival together with the economic industrialization in the region. The awakening consciousness of the traditional Confucian values leads to a reconsideration of their implication on a modern society. Certainly China has experienced massive social and cultural transformations during the last century, an era marked with rapid adoption of Western norms and ideas. In the mean time, Chinese cultural heritages have never been totally cut and the Chinese people and the Chinese society today are still considerably shaped by China’s unique past and its traditional cultural identity, especially by the Confucian traditions. Despite the disruptive scholarly debates on the actual relevance of Confucianism and modernization, there are precious elements within the Confucian values which provide the relevance of Confucianism to the future, such as an ethic of responsibility and the understanding of the humanistic meaning of life. This paper endeavors to explore and discuss various aspects of the relationship between the old Confucian traditions and the modern Chinese cultural identity, including Confucianism as a way of life, Chinese understanding of morality and value relationships, and recent Confucian influence on Chinese politics. On the base of this examination, considerations will be given to demonstrate that Confucian teachings did not perished but are still relevant in modern China. A proper appreciation of these values can help to better comprehend Chinese contemporary society and Chinese cultural identity.