Empirical Studies of Contemporary Confucian Practice in Asia and Beyond

A special issue of the journal Religions has been publised devoted to “Empirical Studies of Contemporary Confucian Practice in Asia and Beyond”; for more information, see here. For three on-line papers, see below.

Published Papers:

Contemporary Business Practices of the Ru (Confucian) Ethic of “Three Guides and Five Constant Virtues (三綱五常)” in Asia and Beyond

By Bin Song(Department of Philosophy and Religion, Washington College)

Abstract: What can remain unchanged while the Ru tradition (Confucianism) is continually passed down generationally and passed on geographically to non-Chinese Asian countries and beyond? Does the answer to this question hinted by the tradition itself, viz., the ethic of Three Guides and Five Constant Virtues, still work in contemporary society? As intrigued by these fundamental questions on Ruism, scholars have debated on the nature of the ethic and its adaptability to the contemporary world. One side of scholars condemned it as an outdated, premodern ethic of power which urges unconditional obedience to hierarchy, while another side championed it as a modern ethic which aims to strengthen the autonomy of each individual in reciprocal relationships. While presenting two cases of Ru business practice, viz., Shibusawa Eiichi in Meiji Japan and Peter Drucker in the contemporary U.S., the article treats the controversial ethic as a hypothesis, and assesses it using an empirical method to reinforce views of scholars who have furnished a favorable interpretation of the ethic.


Becoming a Confucian in Contemporary Singapore: The Case of Nanyang Confucian Association

By Chang Woei Ong & Khee Heong Koh

Abstract: Using the Nanyang Confucian Association (NCA) as a case study, this paper explores the multi-faceted processes through which a segment of Singapore’s Chinese community constructs its self-identity based on an understanding of Confucianism that dismisses its religious attributes while underscoring the ethnic and cultural dimensions. Tracing the history of the association since its formation in 1914, the paper hopes to contribute to recent overseas Chinese studies on the rethinking of the notion of the Chinese diaspora within the context of the formation, circulation, and contest of a global Chinese identity by asking the following questions: Does identifying with the Confucian tradition necessarily require one to acknowledge their connection with China? Would a self-proclaimed Confucian be perceived as someone who looks to China for ethnic and cultural affiliation and thus appears less local? The authors argue that, while still acknowledging the spatial–temporal centrality of China as the origin of Confucianism and Chinese civilization, leaders of the NCA clearly intended to simultaneously position the NCA at the center of global Confucian activism. What emerges from the processes initiated by the NCA in constructing its identity is a complex overlay of history, geography, and culture that gives rise to a vision of multiple centers


“Confucianism”, an Alternative Source of Belief in Contemporary Chinese Society: An Empirical Study of the Founding of Xin 信 in a “Confucian” Company

By Lan Jiang-Fu

Abstract: Open claims to Confucian values, often associated with cultural traditionalism and a larger revival of Confucianism among the Chinese population from the 2000s onwards, have gained momentum in the world of entrepreneurs. The intensity of this phenomenon can be explained by a wide variety of motivations, among which a desire to establish a belief, a sort of xin 信 towards traditional values, has emerged from within the “Confucian” company. Based on fieldwork carried out between 2017 and 2018 at TW, a private company located in Dongguan (Guangdong), this paper aims to analyze the efforts undertaken by “Confucian” managers to use the spiritual guidance role of Confucianism. Our work is organized into three sections. First, we analyze the main modalities of proselytizing within TW. Then, based on the personal experiences of three employees of this company, we try to understand how they live the jiaohua and to what extent this “educational” experience inspired by Confucianism has allowed them to reorient themselves towards a new way of perceiving the world. Finally, by placing it in a broader context, that of contemporary Chinese society’s crisis of values, we question the role Confucianism can play in the foundation of a population’s beliefs.

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