CONFUCIANISM, although spoken of with Buddhism and Taoism as one of the “Three Teachings,” or three major religions of China, can hardly be defined as a religion in the precise way in which we can define Mahayana Buddhism or Roman Catholic Christianity. It has neither creed nor priesthood, nor any worship beyond what Confucius found already established in his day. The commemorative service, performed by local officials throughout China in spring and autumn in the red-walled shrines known as “Confucian temples” is not worship of the sage, but a civil rite in his honor, quite compatible with the profession of another religion. Indeed, when a few centuries after his death veneration approached to worship, and women began offering prayers to Confucius for children, the practice was stopped (A. D. 472) by imperial edict, as something superstitious and unbecoming. Confucianism may be said to have a bible in the nine canonical books associated with the sage’s name; but it claims for them no divine revelation, nor other inspiration than such as speaks for itself from their pages. What these books yield to one who would define Confucianism is a conception of enlightened living, a social ideal which entails some allegiance to an old national religion blending nature worship and ancestor worship. One might say that the essence of Confucianism is a type of “eligible” life, the regimen of which includes a worship only indirectly Confucian, much as Stoicism among the Romans included as a matter of principle some adherence to the established worship.

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