Since arriving in China, I’ve had the chance to see up close what multiple books I read to prepare for coming told me: that the culture here is as much infused with Confucian ideas as many societies in the West are with Platonism. The importance of showing the respect due to each person is key, and how you show respect differs depending on the relationship. Confucius described five essential relationships: ruler to ruled, father to son, husband to wife, elder brother to younger brother, and friend to friend. Just one example of this comes from an excused absence slip a student turned in, which said her father had died and she needed to “go home to show filial piety.”
There are a handful of other ways cultural differences have influenced my life and work here, both in good ways (getting help with difficult and new situations) and bad (student cheating). The class I took on Confucian philosophy has been helpful, as my memories of the material have helped me understand some of the unfamiliar behaviors I’ve observed. Similarly, other books I’ve read about the dynastic system and Mao’s significant influence have provided helpful context (Understanding China is a good resource). If you’re interested in learning more about Eastern ways of thinking, and Chinese thought in particular, check out the following works.
- Weon-Ki Yoo, “The Problem of the Sadanpujungjŏl 四端不中節 in the Four-Seven Debate,” Philosophy East & West, 2016.
- Michael Brannigan, “Organ Extraction From Executed Prisoners: Confucian Considerations,” American Journal of Bioethics, February 2010.
- David Chai, “One and Many: A Comparative Study of Plato’s Philosophy and Daoism Represented,” Journal of Chinese Philosophy, March-June 2014.
- Wilma Maki, “Dewey’s Link with Daoism: Ideals of nature, cultivation practices, and applications in lessons,” Educational Philosophy & Theory, February 2016.
- Alberto Toscano, “Mao and Manichaeism: An Episode in the Politics of Purity,” Parallax, April-June 2011.
See the Routledge APA member page for more books on Eastern thought. APA members get a 20% discount on all books.
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