Shengren – Chapter 4.13 – Chang’s Book

One of the best summaries of Confucian thought to be found is A Life of Confucius by Chang Chi-yun and his translator, Shih Chao-yin. Mr. Chang published his 113 pages pamphlet in Taipei in 1957 and it went into almost total obscurity, yet it is probably one of the best Confucius biographies in the world. It has no reference section or index, but commands powerful language and unsurpassed clarity. According to Chang and Shih, ‘the basic concepts of Confucianism consist of the twin principle of the expression of human nature and the perfectibility of the human personality.’ That’s basically it. In their concise study of Confucianism the authors spare us God, saints, Heaven, and religion. Here’s the junzi, I think flawlessly defined: ‘He who possesses the fundamental virtues of wisdom, kindliness and courage is a gentleman.’ Yes, Mr. Chang mentions ‘philosophy,’ but he carefully avoids calling Confucius a philosopher. Instead, he calls Confucius what he really was: ‘a Thinker’ (in Chinese: 思想家 sixiangjia), and, on another occasion: ‘the sagest of sages.’[1] Chang and Shih—being ethnic and cultural Chinese—were very well aware that the rujia or ‘Confucianists” were talking about ‘emperors, kings and sages,’[2] and not about what European imperialists wished the sages had talked about: Christian saints, philosophers, God and creationism.

[1] Chang, 1957, pp. 3, 26, 86

[2] Ibid., p. 3

Pattberg, Thorsten (2011), Shengren – Above Philosophy and Beyond Religion, LoD Press, New York

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