Review of Xinzhong Yao's Book Introduction to Confucianism Essay

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In Introduction to Confucianism, Xinzhong Yao strives to convey a balanced understanding of the Chinese / East Asian tradition of Confucius as it has evolved over the last 2500 years from ancient times to contemporary relevance, from the classics into practice and all within a single book. Yao aims to distinguish his presentation of the subject matter from previous introductions that have taken a more historical approach. He writes for a western audience and for students who are assumed new to Confucianism while also appearing to address his peers and anticipated critics. He draws from his experience of teaching Confucianism in a university setting and includes excerpts of academic articles that he has previously published. His…show more content…
There is no consensus among Confucians regarding the meaning and function of Heaven, and explaining the concepts of religion, immortality and evil for example, require Yao to act as a bridge between the east and west. Overall, he does a good job at explaining these definitions. From the outside, Yao exposes these ideas as resistant to the western constraints of categorization. When viewed from the inside within the Confucian Way, the 'contradictions' that the western eye may observe do not present a problem.

Yao's detailed explanation of Harmony as the most important virtue added to my understanding but also presented me with some challenges. Confucianism has no clear distinction between Heaven and humanity and the relationship between Heaven and humans is perceived through The Way of Harmony. Harmony is indeed a central theme within Confucianism and on all levels of relationships and society (individual, familial, governmental, and spiritual). Some of the traditional ideas concerning the roles of women and children and the obligations of people in the name of 'harmony' were particularly unsettling for me.

Yao navigates through this messy territory by trying to stick to his 'double investigation'. At times, he seems to lean towards a defense or rationalization of the ways Confucianism has been misused. Still, he does acknowledge the role of Confucianism in contributing to these applications, but only

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