Chinese Studies Forum: Lecture 4 | The View of Life and Death in Confucian Culture
On the morning of April 20, 2019, the 4th session of IIAS Chinese Studies, “The View of Life and Death in Confucian Culture”, was held at Conference Room 205 of the Central Main Building of Tsinghua University. It was hosted by Prof. Liu Dong from the Institute of Chinese Studies, Tsinghua University.
Prof. Liu believed that in the philosophical thinking on the issue of death, an extremely important question is: Whether you look at death from the perspective of life or life from the perspective of death, and the former reveals the positive attitude. Because only in this way, can you see the destruction of the individual as your own self-renewal from the perspective of the subject of the class, and then find the immortal things in your life from the perspective of the subject of the individual. Of course, this strong will and vitality of the subject can never be obtained from a fragile “person” and it must rise to the realm of “big self” in philosophy.
Because of the finiteness of individual human life, it is determined that everyone must face the limit of death, and because of the self-knowledge of human beings as a life body, it can never exceed the limit of the end of life body, which makes Confucianism encounter the greatest challenge, that is, the answer and treatment of the severe “death” question. All religious or dogmatic worldviews are more exposed to the ruptures and deviations between knowledge and beliefs, and are more trapped in such ruptures and deviations, but they are easier to settle the “life and death” problem encountered by mankind.
During the session, Professor Liu cited the evidences from “The Analects of Confucianism: Advanced Eleventh”, “The Analects of Confucianism: Weizheng No. 2”, “Similarities and Differences between Confucianism and Buddhism”, “Book of Rites – Tan Gong Shang”, “Liezi – Tianrui”, “The Religiousness of Confucianism from Confucianism Itself”and “The Outline of Philosophy”, expounding the Confucian understanding of life and death in detail. He further citied Western works such as “The Wall” and “People Are Going to Die” to introduce Western philosophers’ views on life and death.
Professor Liu pointed out that the Confucian view of life and death originated from the intellectual background of pre-Qin rationalism, which believed only “knowledge”, “recognition” or “common sense” is the most important. Therefore, to clarify the limitations of one’s own knowledge is what it should be in rationalism. In the conflicts of civilizations that are always at odds with each other, and sometimes quite violent, Chinese Confucianism can bring advanced solutions. In all known civilization models, only it creates the most peaceful and rational “view of life and death” that is sensible and humanistic. Finally, Prof. Liu concluded that when we carefully refer to the views of Confucius thousands of years ago and the knowledge of scientists who have undergone enlightenment, we can deeply understand the original Confucianism that the concept of “seeing death from life” was originally the logical result of pre-Qin rationalism. In fact, in the conflicts of civilizations that are always at odds with each other, and sometimes quite violent, Chinese Confucianism can bring advanced solutions. In all known civilization models, only it creates the most peaceful and rational “view of life and death” that is sensible and humanistic.
No matter how advanced science and technology are, this will be the threshold that every individual life must face. Because of this, the longer human history can extend in the future, the more power of Confucianism, which comes from reason itself, will grow, which is long lasting, strong and convincing.