National Subsets: China

Moral Contours

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Historical figures

CH'I Pai-Shi
1863 - 1957
China
LITERATURE

 

One of foremost Chinese artists – calligraphy, etching, painting, poetry, seal – prolific as much in the latter half of his long life as in former. Discipline in attention to everyday detail of life conveys a luminous quality. Within changing context of conflict and revolution he conveys a sense of cultural values which is both loyal and open. In family life concubinage is an enjoyable given for all concerned.

Life

Writing/Painting

CHU HSI (Zhu Xi)
1130 - 1200
China
PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION

 

Seen by his contemporaries as a re-interpreter and apologist for the writings of and thinking of the Confucian literati tradition, his own writings came to be more authoritative in themselves than many of those of his predecessors – now the  ‘Four Books’ rather than the ‘Five Classics’. From hereon till the start of 20th century The Four Books were fundamental for civil service examinations. He was critical of Buddhist thinking which he considered to be morally destructive of personal development. Instead, he affirmed the centrality of Li within all material life – a deep reality which deserves to be pondered and sensed by individuals if they are to grow in wisdom. This is the basis for moral education.

Life

Writings

CONFUCIUS
551 - 479
China
PHILOSOPHY, RELIGION

His 17th century Latin name is better known than the K’ung Fu-tzu/Master Kung original, becoming the designator of the tradition predominant in China until 20th century and currently enjoying a resurgence. After years of extensive but relatively lowly government service, he took on instead a role as itinerant teacher, heeded for his wisdom wherever he went. He attracted disciples and it was they who gathered his teachings into the book known since as The Analects. Fundamentally he taught that striving to become fully humane persons can be achieved by serving others and society at large. This should be done in a spirit of genuine altruism, sourced and legitimated from Heaven – the Lord on high.

Life

Writings/teachings

DENG XIAOPING
1904 - 1997
China
POLITICS

 

His adopted name means ‘Little Peace'. From the age of 21 he was politically active in the Communist Party – in education and training (his own including months in Moscow), that of others (organising through the politburo), in symbolic performance (voluntarily in the ‘Long March’, compulsorily for re-education in a tractor factory), and from 1978 onwards in national leadership developing economic reform. The conviction that ‘freedom is the recognition of necessity’ and that it is vital to maintain social order for the benefit of the Chinese population as a whole prompted his authorisation of the brutal suppression of pro-democracy demonstrators in Tiananmen Square in Beijing in 1989. He is now widely revered for his role in developing ‘a socialism with Chinese characteristics’

 

Life

 

Writings

 

Video

Deng Xiaoping - 'the boss' (1 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=phsh7GmSmzs

FENG YOULAN
1895 - 1990
CHINA
PHILOSOPHY

 

Confucian philosopher who sought to interpret traditional writings and teachings in terms of his contemporary context. The first such expression was in accord with Western philosophy as represented by the approach of John Dewey (he studied in the US), subsequently it was Marxist-Leninist (he visited the Czech Republic and the USSR) and Maoist. He had a strong interest in ethics and moral development; his articulation of this reflected the context of the time.

Life

Work

 

HU SHIH
1891 - 1962
China Taiwan
PHILOSOPHY

 

Pragmatist philosopher, with beliefs deriving from Chinese tradition though complemented by Dewey. He expressed critical reservations regarding Marxism but served as an international diplomat for the government, before relocating to Taiwan. He encouraged greater exposure between vernacularly expressed everyday concerns and loftier literature and scholarship as ingredients in moral education.

 

Life

Writings

HU YAOBANG
1915 - 1989
China
POLITICS

Veteran Chinese politician from first joining the Red Army and taking part in the Long March, through service as head of the Communist Youth League to finally becoming party leader. His official standing fluctuated; he was generally perceived to be a liberal reformer.

Life

 Writings


HUNG
1814 - 1864
China
RELIGION, POLITICS

Inspiration behind the T’ai-p’ing revolutionary movement which challenged the previously long established Manchu dynasty during a 14 year period. His beliefs were a mixture of Protestant Christianity and Confucian Utopianism. These included his own status as younger brother of Jesus, equality of the sexes, shared ownership, good moral education, and rejection of opium-smoking, foot-binding, prostitution and slavery.

Life

Works

JIANG QING
1914 - 1991
China
POLITICS

 

Third wife of Mao Zedong. Zealous for his purported moral values.  A leader of the cultural Revolution 1965-9, becoming one of the hated Gang of Four. Unpopularity heightened after Mao’s death, she was accused and tried for the detention and torture of many ordinary people.

Life

Works

Video

The trial of Jiang Qing and the Gang of Four (4 mins) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=unuGt6Bq2io

LAO TZU
c. 6th century BCE
China
RELIGION, PHILOSOPHY

 

Central figure throughout the centuries of Chinese tradition, about whom little historical is known (some even question whether he actually existed) but much elaborated. A possibly older contemporary of Confucius, he is regarded as author of the Tao Te Ching and founder of Taoism. Following his criticism of contemporary moral conditions in China, it is believed that he went into exile. On one account, not only did he move to India he taught Gautama and became the Buddha himself.

Life

 Writings

LIN CHI I-HSUAN
810 - 866
cHINA
RELIGION

Though little historical is known of him, he initiated a distinctive version of the Zen strand of Buddhism which developed in both China and Japan. He is associated with the use of radically challenging prompts to induce enlightenment, including sudden shouts and slaps. He also used strikingly exaggerated language to convey his message, such as “If you meet the Buddha, kill the Buddha; if you meet the patriarch, kill the patriarch”. In other words, “don’t be daunted by the status of others, you are free to live your own humanity”.

Life

Writings

LIU SHAO-CHI
1898 - 1969
China
POLITICS

 

Long serving protagonist of Chinese Communism – from his local leadership role in workers’ movement beginning in 1922 to that of chairman of the People's Republic of China 1959-68. He was widely travelled, with linguistic skills in French and Russian, and adept in expounding political theory and translating it into practice – communism as a moral cause. With little warning, instead of becoming Mao’s successor, he was finally discredited as a counter-revolutionary. He died with this stigma, but has been subsequently rehabilitated.

Life

Writings 

MA HUA-LUNG
18?? - 1871
China
POLITICS, RELIGION

Chinese Muslim military leader and promoter of a return to radical simplicity of an Islam which has no need of mosques to pray, nor of institutional hierarchy. This was a Sufi movement known as Jahriyya.Several of his resistance battles against the Chinese army were successful, but he was finally beaten and executed and with twelve of his family

Life

Writings

MAO ZEDONG
1893 - 1976
China
POLITICS

One of the most outstanding and influential individuals of 20th century. His embrace of Marxism, giving Communism a Chinese face, had ramifications within China and way beyond. The radical challenge to inherited authority – of family, local vested interests and religions – was ruthless. The strategies he deployed were memorable  as much for symbolic potency as practical effect – the Long March, the Re-education Programme, the Five Year Plans, the ubiquitous self-portraits and statues. They linger, but shifts in Communist political thinking in recent decades are becoming more distanced from Mao. Although still contentious, the extent of the extremes to which he went in his own self-interest and promotion is becoming more systematically documented from public sources. This is most especially apparent in his reported disregard for the matter of individual human life and the scale of famine and starvation for which he had personal responsibility.

 

Life

Writings

Video

Mao Zedong speech (1 min) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HGJpbPhQ-Kw

MENCIUS/Meng Tzu
391 - 308BCE
China
PHILOSOPHY

 

Renowned as an early Confucian philosopher in whose name the book comprising his thinking and that of his disciples gained increasing prominence over several centuries – eventually becoming a central text in the annual examinations to qualify as a civil servant. The virtues of benevolence, propriety, practical wisdom and duty are engendered in human beings by T’ien/Heaven. Their pursuit, by all and especially those in positions of authority, will bring T’ien contentment to everyone’s benefit.

Life

Writings

SU SHI
1036 - 1101
China
PHILOSOPHY, POLITICS

 

Pen name Su Tung-Po. Greatly admired by his contemporaries for his painting, poetry and political initiatives.

XUECHENG, Zhang
1738 - 1801
China
LITERATURE, PHILOSOPHY

 

Zhang Xuecheng became better known in the centuries after his death than during his life, which was one one of relative poverty. He approached philosophical and political issues, including the roles and status of women with a strong sense of their historical development.

Current expertise

The Asia-Pacific Network for Moral Education, China
Contact Information:
Northeast Normal University, China
Contact Information: 18686433473
Renmin University of China, China
Contact Information:
Centre for Citizenship and Moral Education, Beijing Normal University, China
Disciplines:Moral Education, Citizenship Education, childhood, adolescence, adult, lifespan, education, philosophy/ethics, research, teaching: higher education , pedagogy, policy, applied ethics, citizenship/civics/social studies
The Education University of Hong Kong I, China
Disciplines:(school-based) curriculum development of moral education; teacher professional development, childhood, adolescence, education, sociology, research, teaching: higher education , pedagogy, policy, citizenship/civics/social studies
Contact Information:
Northeast Normal University, China
Contact Information:

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