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analects Chagnon Debate

Confucian Doctrine in Modern Society
Robert Bruce’s article titled “The Return to Confucius?” asserts that Confucianism may be the answer to Asian economic strife. However, he fails to draw a clear link between economic prosperity and Confucianism, instead leaving the reader to hypothesize using the information given in the article, and, in our case, the Analects.
I believe the message he is trying to convey is that a nation living in harmony is an economically prosperous one. This he supports with references to imperial China such as Matteo Ricci who, as Bruce states, “brought a vision of harmony, equality, scholarship and education, which the Enlightenment of Europe regarded with awe and admiration.” What Bruce neglects to mention is that China had little exposure to the Western world at that point in history and was not greatly influenced by Western culture until relatively recently.
China’s bloody entrance into the global economy finally came in the form of the Opium War and consequently, foreign spheres of influence. The British and French spheres in particular provided a catalyst to the Westernization of China. Confucian ideals were repressed and ridiculed along with any other unique aspect of Chinese culture. The economy once based firmly on the ideals Bruce writes about was crushed by the brute force of capitalism.
As Bruce so kindly points out, the Communist Revolution in China followed soon after, and, while it had little support from Europe, Mao and Stalin became close and they prospered from one another for a time. China was also forced into a system spawned by a far more Western train of thought than it was accustomed to – a system that, more often than not, was at war with Confucianism rather than utilizing it. Bruce implies that China and several surrounding countries are now basking in their own Confucianism and it is yielding enormous economic dividends. Yet again, Bruce fails to point out that there have been entire generations raised on an anti-Confucian doctrine. Though Chinese culture may yet have remnants of Confucianism so ingrained in it that no dictator, no matter how brutal, could stamp out, many Chinese don’t and, in all likelihood, won’t accept many of K’ung Fu-tzu’s ideas and teachings. The propaganda of the Cultural Revolution won’t soon be erased.
Even if Confucianism was observed as it once was in imperial China, an economy based upon Confucian ethics would be short lived. As stated in Bruce’s article, capitalism is now being encouraged in the People’s Republic, and capitalism is clearly not conducive to Confucianism or communism, which is one of the few political systems in which an ideal form of Confucianism could thrive. Capitalism awards greed (was that a little too blunt Mr. Cherin? … hehehe), thus a capitalist economic system operating under Confucianism is very easily abused and therefore leaves little room for human error.
A capitalist force – the USA, currently dominates the global economy. This affects the theory Bruce puts forward in his article in two very important ways. First, it creates a situation in which a less powerful, “communist” nation such as China has an infinitesimal chance at success in the global market unless it allows room for capitalism, and, second, unless the Confucian Revolution (you like that one? – I’m a poet and I’m going to make sure everyone knows it) is a world wide phenomenon, it cannot be successful in the long term because capitalism will eradicate it, and even if it is, it is would be highly unstable due to the aforementioned reasons. This makes Confucianism and economic prosperity well-nigh mutually exclusive.
It seems as though the connection that Robert Bruce tells of between Confucianism and Asia’s newfound economic success is either fictitious or ephemeral. Bruce’s article is in desperate need of a logical justification of the claim he puts forth, without it, the theory is easily torn down, and the article itself sounds weak. It appears as though a stable economic system with Confucianism at its base could exist only while two things are occurring simultaneously – the economic system in place is in accordance with Confucian ideals, and this system is universal. If one of these components is not present I don’t believe economic prosperity under Confucianism is possible, ... more

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East Asian Civilization
The Civil Service Examination System of Imperial China served as a qualification system for scholars who wanted to become officials in the Chinese government.  Many young men spent their entire lives studying the Four Books, the Five Classics, and memorizing Chinese characters in order to attempt to pass these examinations.  The book, Chinas Examination Hell, written by Ichisada Miyazaki and translated by Conrad Schirokauer, describes the lengthy, and often rigorous process of taking Civil Service Examinations.  
The book begins by giving an account of how a young boy prepares for the examinations, learning his first Chinese characters at the age of three.  Girls could not take the Civil Service Examinations, and from birth were treated in a way such that they would learn to be submissive.  Boys began their formal education at age seven.  From that point on, they spent every moment memorizing the Four Books, which included the Analects, Mencius, the Great Learning, and the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Five Classics, which included the Book of Changes, the Book of Documents, the Book of Poetry, the Book of Rites, and the Tso Chuan.  Young men had the opportunity to take their first Civil Service Examination around the age of fourteen or fifteen, and particularly bright males would most likely continue taking different levels of examinations for the rest of their lives.  
Also described in the book are the hardships endured by both the candidates for examination and the examiners themselves.  The test-taking compounds were not very conductive to rational thinking, as each man was assigned a small, door-less cubicle in which he had to spend three days and two nights at a time.  The examiners, by the end of an examination session, had thousands of papers needing to be graded.  As a result, even the smallest mistake, such as a stain on the paper or a misprinted character would lead to failure of the examination.  The book describes in detail how the Chinese believed in, and in some cases relied on, supernatural intervention in passing the examinations.  There are many accounts throughout the book telling about candidates and examiners alike being visited by ghosts, and dreaming about the King of the Dead and the King of Heaven.  It was believed that if a candidate was virtuous and performed good deeds, he would be rewarded by passing the Civil Service Examinations.  Conversely, if a candidate did not have a good moral character, he would fail the examinations, regardless of the quality of his work.  
This book is extremely well organized, although somewhat monotonous.  The authors meticulous attention to the order in which the examinations were taken, the kinds of questions asked during each examination, and which public official was responsible for administering each examination was informative and interesting.  It was also extremely repetitive.  This book is meant to be an accurate description of the historical significance and the exact process of Chinese Civil Service Examinations.  The author attained that goal, however the book would have been more interesting had he presented the material in a less meticulous fashion.  
The authors accounts of supernatural intervention in the Civil Service Examinations provided interesting insight into an otherwise rather tiresome book.  The stories of hardship and perseverance suffered by both candidates and examiners gave the book the feel of something more than just historical documentation of the facts.  
On the whole, the book was a very interesting description of life, for men at least, in Imperial China.  It showed the discipline and obedience to authority that a man had to practice in order to gain respect and authority.  The Civil Service Examinations were administered until about fourteen hundred years ago.  The system ensured the literacy and competence of public officials, because all public officials had to pass the examinations.  This book provided an apt description of the importance of Civil Service examinations in Imperial China.  
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