Confucius and Politics

Politics is common to all cultures; every section of the world has some semblance to a political system. Like many other civilizations at the time, ancient China was ruled feudally. Through Confucius’s large role in Chinese society, his doctrines greatly influenced kings, as Confucians believe that a strong sense of virtue through benevolence and li are of utmost importance to rule. Furthermore, a ruler must adhere to the proper way and make decisions based on the rites (Dongfang et al). Thus, kings were strongly bound to music. To be benevolent, one must enjoy music both for its own beauty and its coexistence with ceremony, the most important part of li (Analects). These doctrines can easily be compared to largely individualistic America. Though we certainly have societal norms, it is much more difficult to pinpoint guidelines followed strictly by political figures. Confucian China and America thus create an interesting dichotomy.


Kongzi Duyi:

Guqin played for a Chinese TV station

Both of these songs are played on the guqin, a seven-string instrument related to the zither. In ancient China, this was referred to as just the “qin”, and it is mentioned a few times throughout the Analects. The first song is called “Kongzi Duyi”, and is traditionally associated with Confucius (Confucius’s real name is Kongzi). Music like this would traditionally be played at a ceremony or in a temple to help orchestrate the proceedings; without the sounds, the ceremony would not be complete. This could also be played for enjoyment, as Confucius deems both ceremonial music and music for entertainment important.

Bian zhong: Bells used in temples and for ceremonies

Bian zhong



Confucius, and D. C. Lau. The Analects (Lun Yü). Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1979. Print.

Dongfang, Shou, Hongcheng Ling, and Deyuan Huang. “Separation of Politics and Morality: A Commentary on “Analects of Confucius”” Frontiers of Philosophy in China (2006): 401-17. JSTOR. Web. 20 Mar. 2013. .

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