The term Neo-Confucianism was used in reference to the reign of Confucianism in Song dynasty. During this period of Song dynasty, Buddhism and Daoism were the most dominant religious movements in China. Renaissance of the Confucianism brought different schools of thought in regards to Chinese philosophy. Neo-Confucianism is believed to have originated from the Tang dynasty and later spread to Southern and Northern Song dynasty. Neo-Confucianism later spread to Ming, Qing and Yuan dynasties. The spread of Neo-Confucianism can explain various reactions to problems caused by Buddhist and Daoism philosophy. The development of Neo-Confucianism led to schools of thought referred to as Neo-Confucian. The two schools of thought were the principles and the heart schools of thought. The schools of thoughts assert that manifestations of the universe are a single principle that determines morality. School of principle argues that once man is able to understand the principle that puts universe together as a sense of morality, then he would be able to have an orderly family, leadership and peace.
The school of principle was mostly associated with the Southern Song dynasty and its philosophers. The School of principle argued that things exist in abstract forms which make them what they are in nature. Due to complex nature of cosmic forces, things retain their characteristics in which they combine to forms and matter in certain circumstances. This thought of principle argues that for one to understand the principle of morality, one must be able to observe the universe and human affairs the way they age (Hucker, 1975). Ming dynasty is however, associated with the school of the heart and the mind. It argues that even if the manifestations must be perceived in terms of principle, it is also important to get out of oneself to understand the precepts of the Principle. One should be able to consult his or her own heart in which the Principle is embedded. If Principle is the basis of humanity and its nature, then those who understands their hearts and mind simply understands the principle. The school of principle and heart/mind raises questions of moral relativism. If one understands his or her true nature (heart and mind) then one will be able to search for the principle within oneself rather than searching for it from the external forces. The Ming and Qing dynasties must have adopted the two schools of thought and came up with the version of Confucian philosophy. It is evident that the pro heart/ mind school of thought were part of the causes of Ming dynasty in favor of Tokugawa dynasty in Japan (Lavenson, 1969).
Song period was characterized by a rapid revival of Confucianism. Confucian teachings were significant in the family, economic and political systems in China. The revival of Confucianism which later became Neo-Confucianism emphasized on self understanding towards ones true nature to sense of morality. This self understanding was supposed to bring a peaceful society and state. Confucian teachings advocated for importance of family as one of the fundamental units in the society. It touches on respect to parents and focusing on the family interest before self interest. The teachings encouraged everyone to get married so that the descendants can be many. The continuity of the lineage to Ming and Qing dynasty is significant to ancestors since the descendants will continue to make offerings to the ancestors.
The Confucian teachings also highlights on the position of women in the society. Women who gave birth to boy child were accorded prestigious status and were liable to leave their families and get married. These mothers are supposed to be treated as ancestors by their sons and grandsons. The Chinese families had high status for the children since they were the symbol for the continuation of the family
Ming and Qing dynasty
The Ming dynasty existed in the period between 1368 and 1644. The dynasty gained power after the fall of the Mongol Yuan dynasty. The dynasty was fostered to prevent further invasion of Chinese territory by the Mongols. This was accomplished through the construction of the Great Wall of China which protected them from the Northern Mongols. The Ming dynasty ordered that the Mongol cultural practices must be abandoned; however, they revived their abandoned institutions that were set up for the study of Confucianism. The onset of sixteenth century led to the fall and decline of Ming dynasty. The decline was due to the ravaged East Coast of Asia from the attacks by pirates and smugglers. The Ming soldiers could not contain the situation which led to thousands of killings by the pirates. On realizing this, the Ming emperors retrieved to an imperial palace in Beijing. The emperors were served with information from the eunuchs who had influence over the emperors. The situation led to corruption and inefficiency of the emperors which turned to a crisis in the Ming dynasty (Lavension, 1969).
The Ming dynasty came to an end when the last emperor and the entire family took their lives. This led to the uprising of the Qing dynasty from 1644 to 1911 which was formed by the nomads, Manchu. Qing forces captured Ming, Korea and Mongolia dynasty spreading their influence to the whole of China. Ming dynasty whose occupants were mainly corrupt eunuchs was later deserted by both Confucian scholars and bureaucrats. Qing dynasty portrayed respect to their subjects by preserving their cultural identity. They discouraged marriage between the Manchu’s and the Chinese. Confucian scholars applied their Confucius knowledge to help reinstate the Qing dynasty through developing policies that ensured control of floods and irrigation projects. Confucian principles demand that a leader should provide for his subjects. Ming and Qing dynasties were ruled based on the schools of thought of principle. Its emperors were regarded as having heavenly powers and were able to bring order on earth. The operations of the emperors were left to the bureaucrats who were chosen by the emperor (Theodore, 1999).
Effects of Neo-Confucianism in Ming and Qing dynasties
Economic and Social Changes
Ming and Qing dynasties facilitated global trade in china which led to increased agricultural production and rapid population growth. Chinese family was regarded as the basic unit of the society, with father being the head of the household. This leadership structure was passed from one generation to the other with ancestors highly respected as manifested in the Confucian teachings. Families were organized into clans which were the tunnel to transmit Confucian values from the ancestors and elderly members of the society to the younger generations. In Ming and Qing dynasties, women were respected and this tightened when they gave birth to boy child. Boys were given the opportunity to go to school while girls were encouraged to get married and constitute other families. Remarriage among the widows were discouraged as this will haunt the memory of their husbands. Marriages were significant since they were meant to continue the descent or lineage of males (Hucker, 1995).
Confucian teachings led to the policies that favored agriculture. In Chinese, land was regarded as the source of livelihood. Intensive agriculture was practiced in order to curb the rising Chinese population. The Chinese economy was also boosted by the American and Japanese silver in the early 17th Century. Chinese population in East Asia grew creating pressure on the limited resources. However, the growth in population was also a major source to the entrepreneurial economy of China. Entrepreneurs relied on the massive labor force protracted from the huge population.
China also participated in the export industry. They exported silk, porcelain, and tea to the international markets. Even today, Chinese still trade in silk and porcelain in exchange of the silver from America in areas like manila. Technological innovations rose during Ming and Qing dynasties due to social and political stability that was encouraged by the emperors.
Xhu Zi views on Confucian traditions were highly supported by the Ming and Qing emperors since he was the founder of Neo-Confucianism. He brought the idea of principle of morality after gathering Buddhists philosophies and Confucian ideals. To spread his arguments, the emperors supported education in research institute for Confucius studies. Promotion of Neo-Confucianism led to growth of the popular culture in China with scenes of conflicts, horror, and excitements. The development was contrary to the teachings of Confucianism which were mostly tied to the world realities. The changes led to decline of Christianity in China; however, this was revived by the coming of the Jesuit Missionaries into China. The missionaries incorporated scholars who mastered the Confucian teachings and characters. They used European science and technology to revive Chinese hopes. Neo-Confucianism altered the Confucian teachings bringing non orderly china.
Neo-Confucianism led to a massive revolution of the sociocultural-economy of East Asia. This led to a change in information, and consequences in terms of nature of leadership, and strategy towards economic goals. It led to erosion of universal values under the Confucian teachings, socialization was based on irrationality rather than rationality, and consequences are perceived as real instead of abstract entities. Neo-colonialism also allowed learning from others refuting the traditional teachings of Confucian as outdated. Power relations were purely defined in hierarchical forms rather than making moral decision. The rise of neo-Confucianism in east Asia indicates a strong economy that revolves around the social elites rather than the poor. The economic structure of neo-colonialism has focused mainly to attaining market profits ignoring the basis of economic production and its coordination. The economic system is also encouraged at increasing the economic powers of certain communities with common ethnic background, especially the social elites, and forgetting about the welfare of other citizens.
Neo-Confucianism brought a different perception of the world to the communities of East Asia. There are societies in East Asia, particularly China, which still operates on the precepts of Confucian teaching. These communities rely on the bureaucratic system of leadership in arriving to decision making. They are against the individual rationality that is advocated for by pro Neo-Confucianism. Their operations are not based on the arrangements of the western societies who think that individual rationality is effective. East Asian socio-economic structure does not rely on the financial outcomes or the Western style of economy but are rather expected to comply with international institutions.