Restoring Confucian values

By Dr. Henry Wong Meng Yeong | Monday July 21, 2014

We resume our series on saving Confucianism after having taken a painting break of a month. At this juncture, let us examine three questions: What is Confucianism? Why does it need to be saved? How do we go about saving it?

Confucianism is a philosophy based on the teachings of Confucius. It is not a religion, but is a code of conduct governing human relationships; relationships between parents and children, siblings, spouses, between employers and employees and friends. Whilst Christianity defines man’s relationship with the living God, Confucianism defines the foundation for inter-human relationships.

For centuries, Confucian precepts and ethical principles were transmitted from generation to generation in China and were embedded in their DNA. It even formed the basis for the imperial examinations to select court officials. These principles formed the code of conduct for the Chinese which are still practiced in countries like Korea, Japan and Taiwan. Unfortunately, Mao Tze Tung put an end to the teachings of Confucianism in China.

Like sowing good seeds, Confucius set out to establish a universal code of conduct and upright character. Many of our current problems are a result of misconduct and impropriety. Saving Confucianism will restore a world order of integrity, accountability, trust, respect, honesty, responsibility and propriety, in a world which has been corrupted by greed, entitlement, arrogance, self-centeredness and materialism. In the words of the first prime minister of India, Jawaharlal Nehru, “Failure comes only when we forget our ideals, objectives and principles”. The danger however is not in forgetting the principles but not having principles to forget.

It is best expressed by Napoleon Bonaparte: “ Great ambition is the passion of a great character. Those endowed with it may perform very good or very bad acts. All depends on the principles which direct them.”


By Confucius’ standards, the measure of a person is not determined by wealth or status, race or religion but by his character and values. In other words, he would not trust or look up to anyone because of their wealth, status, academic achievements, profession, color, nationality or religion as they have no bearing on character, values and principles. To quote the bible: “You will know them by their fruits as you will not gather grapes from thorn bushes or figs from thistles.” (Matthew 7:16)

How then do we go about saving Confucianism? The discussion continues.