Confucianism is an ethical and philosophical system that originated in China, but is now widely influencing Asian cultures and countries, such as mainland China, Taiwan, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam. It was developed from the teachings of Confucius. The core teaching is humanism, the belief that human beings are teachable, improvable and perfectible through personal and communal endeavour especially including self-cultivation and self-creation.

Confucianism focuses on the cultivation of virtue and maintenance of ethics, the most basic of which are ren, yi, and li. Ren is an obligation of altruism and humaneness for other individuals within a community, yi is the upholding of righteousness and the moral disposition to do good, and li is a system of norms and propriety that determines how a person should properly act within a community.

The main basis of the Confucius teachings was to seek knowledge, study, and become a better person. This explained why there core of the Temple of Literature in Hanoi, Vietnam was the temple/shrine for Confucius, and why it’s related to the other function of the place as the center for ancient education in medicine. Today when you visit the Temple of Literature, you could see a lot of local Vietnamese who believe and follow the Confucius teachings coming to pay respect or homage to the teachings of Confucius. I think one interesting thing to note is that there were debates whether one should classify Confucianism more as an ethical or philosophical thinking that is compatible with religious beliefs, as supposed to being considered as a religious belief in itself. Until I started reading and learning about this, I always thought that Confucianism is a religion. Now knowing a little more about it, it makes more sense to consider that more as a way of thinking that in some cases may evolve into what one believes to be true as an object of worship.

The photo below was taken at the inner temple inside the Temple of Literature complex. You could see a statue of Confucius prominently set in the middle where visitors could pay respect by burning an incense and place it on an urn outside the temple. This reminded me to similar practice observed in Indonesia among the Indonesian Chinese (makes sense as those folks are as much influenced by the teachings of Confucius as the Vietnamese).


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