Can Asians Think? The Wisdom of K’ung Fu Tzu

I once read a book once called, “Can Asians Think?”  In it, Singaporean statesman, “Kishore Mahbubani” reflects on the disproportionate rise of Modern European culture over its Asian counterpart. Struggling with the potency of Asian tradition and its seeming economic impotence for generations, Mahbubani calls for the East to once again emerge as a major player.

And it has happened.  As Asia continues to rise, we in the West would do well to learn more about her foundations.  One of these pillars is  K’ung Fu Tzu, who lived three generations before Alexander the Great.  Confucius, as we call him, was a sage. His moral and spiritual insights would help form the basis for much of what we know as Chinese, Korean, and Japanese culture.  The morality of Confucianism acted as a lodestar in all arenas, from schooling to reverence for family, from wise governing to selfless service.  Though the cultic practices of Confuciansism were banned in China during the cultural revolution,  Confucian values still guide much of the Asian heart.

You can find the core of Confucian wisdom in four texts and five classics:

  1. Great Learning
  2. Doctrine of the Mean
  3. Analects
  4. Mencius
  1. Poetry
  2. History
  3. Rites
  4. I-Ching
  5. Spring and Autumn Annals

Though I struggle with any form of superstition–superstition most often shackles the human spirit–we in the West must come to terms with the supernatural.  The Magi were right about the star after all.   Confucian practice, like any, can degenerate into bad stuff.  Yet, we must never sully the golden wisdom that came from K’ung Fu Tzu and his spiritual heritage.   After all, filial piety, respect for tradition, the search for harmony in relationships, and individual self-restraint all guide the moral vision of our contemporary Asian thinkers.  Can we reverentially let their wisdom relate with ours?