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THINGS TO DO BEFORE YOU DIE - CONFUCIANISM
The story of Confucianism does not really begin with Confucius, nor was Confucius the founder of Confucianism in the same way that Buddha was the founder of Buddhism. Rather, Confucius considered himself a transmitter who consciously tried to retrieve the meaning of the past by breathing vitality into seemingly outmoded rituals. Confucius' love of antiquity was motivated by his strong desire to understand why certain rituals, such as the ancestral cult, reverence for Heaven, and mourning ceremonies, had survived for centuries. He had faith in the cumulative power of culture. Confucius' sense of history was so strong that he saw himself as a conservationist responsible for the continuity of the cultural values and the social norms that had worked so well for the civilization of the Chou dynasty.
THINGS TO DO
The practice of polytheism and the cult of ancestor worship have given rise to many festivals, which are celebrated throughout the year with the performance of a variety of rites and rituals. Many of these rites and rituals are non-Buddhist in character, but because of the identification of the Chinese population with the Buddhist religion, Non-Chinese and many Chinese themselves think that these rites and rituals performed during Chinese festivals are Buddhist in origin. In ancient times in China, whenever an event arose for the people to meet socially, a festival was held during which relatives, friends and neighbours could intermingle and indulge in some enjoyment and merry-making. However, in so doing, they did not forget their dead ancestors and the deities who had bestowed upon them certain favours that enabled them to participate in the festivities. Thus, it came about that certain religious practices were observed in the form of thanksgiving, or to honour certain warriors and outstanding statesmen who had been deified for the distinguished services they had rendered to the community or the nation. When Buddhism was introduced in China, it was readily accepted by the people because it did not interfere with their traditions and customs. The people continued to freely celebrate the festivals they had been doing for a long time, and a few other festivals were added after they became Buddhists.
Confucius proclaimed that one must follow certain cardinal virtues, such as love, righteousness, propriety, and wisdom, in a social context of duties and obligations, voicing his highest principle in what is probably the earliest formulation we have of the Golden Rule, some five centuries before Christ and Rabbi Hillel: “Do not do unto others what you would not have them do to you.” For Confucius, this applied especially to what he termed the Five Relationships, or Wu-lun: between ruler and subject, husband and wife, father and son, elder and younger brothers, and older and younger friends. This equation called for the respect and obedience of subjects, wives, sons, and younger brothers in return for benevolence and support on the part of rulers, husbands, fathers, and elders. Despite the male dominant language, K'ung's formula was radical for its day in that it called for an unprecedented reciprocal kindness and benevolence on the part of the more socially empowered group which should be followed in their lifetime. Over time, however, Confucianism became mired in an artificial construct of rituals, standards of conduct, and hierarchies of precedence which should be carried in their life to attain a spiritual death. As in almost all other religions, reformers arose along the way who attempted to free up the tradition and return it to its underlying vision of freedom and fairness.
The T'ai-shen (spirit of the fetus) protects the expectant woman and deals harshly with anyone who harasses the mother to be. A special procedure is followed when the placenta is disposed of. The mother is given a special diet and is allowed rest for a month after delivery. The mother's family of origin supplies all the items required by the baby on the first, fourth and twelfth monthly anniversary of the birth. This is an utmost duty to of a parent to be done to their daughter in the period of their life before death.
This life passage is no longer being celebrated, except in traditional families. It takes the form of a group meal in which the young adult is served chicken. Those days it is considered as a life passage for each one has to cross a stage of maturity before death during which this ceremony is performed.
MarriageA person is said to be a complete man only after he performs a set of cardinal duties to his family members before his death and one such way in which he can bestow his duties is through marriage. This is performed in six stages,
ProposalThe couple exchanges the eight characters: the year, month, day and hour of each of their births. If any unpropitious event occurs within the bride-to-be's family during the next three days, then the woman is believed to have rejected the proposal.
EngagementAfter the wedding day is chosen, the bride announces the wedding with invitations and a gift of cookies made in the shape of the moon.
DowryThis is carried to the groom's home in a solemn procession. The bride-price is then sent to the bride by the groom’s parents. Gifts by the groom to the bride, equal in value to the dowry, are sent to her.
ProcessionThe groom visits the bride's home and brings her back to his place, with much fanfare.
Marriage and ReceptionThe couple recites their vows, toast each other with wine, and then take center stage at a banquet.
Morning afterThe bride serves breakfast to the groom's parents, who then reciprocate.
At death, the relatives cry out aloud to inform the neighbors. The family starts mourning and puts on clothes made of a coarse material. The corpse is washed and placed in a coffin. Mourners bring incense and money to offset the cost of the funeral. Food and significant objects of the deceased are placed into the coffin. A Buddhist or Taoist priest (or even a Christian minister) performs the burial ritual. Friends and family follow the coffin to the cemetery, along with a willow branch which symbolizes the soul of the person who has died. The latter is carried back to the family altar where it is used to "install" the spirit of the deceased. Liturgies are performed on the 7th, 9th, 49th day after the burial and on the first and third anniversaries of the death.
Loyalty was also an extension of one's duties to friends, family, and spouse. Loyalty to one's family came first, then to one's spouse, then to one's ruler, and lastly to one's friends. Loyalty was considered one of the greater human virtues. Confucius also realized that loyalty and filial piety can potentially conflict. It is always believed that through loyalty a person can witness a painless death.