Empirical Studies of Contemporary Confucian Practice in Asia and Beyond

A special issue of Religions (ISSN 2077-1444).

Deadline for manuscript submissions: closed (1 November 2021) | Viewed by 23772

Special Issue Editor


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Guest Editor
Department of Religious Studies, Duke University, Durham, NC 27708, USA
Interests: social scientific study of religions; contemporary Confucianism; Confucian rituals; transnational Confucian practice; production of religious knowledge; religious identity; religion and politics; urbanity and religion

Special Issue Information

Dear Colleagues,

Confucianism has taken a strong hold in East Asia for millennia, with diverse legacies in China, Korea, and Japan. Its influence extends from religious life to cultural norms, from economic ethics to the practice of politics. Confucianism has also had significant impacts in Southeast Asia, especially in Vietnam, Singapore, Indonesia, and Malaysia. The 21st century is now witnessing the flourishing of Confucianism as a religious tradition in other parts of the world, notably in the United States, from the lived experience of generations of Chinese-Americans embracing their Confucian heritage through familial ethics, to the emergence of the professionalization of young Confucian religious leaders in urban centers such as Boston and Chicago.

Much valuable work has been done on the rich history of Confucianism, cumulating in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Confucianism. Moreover, exciting comparative thinking can be found in philosophical discussions of diverse Confucian traditions, with the “Boston Confucians” such as Robert Neville comparing Confucian ethics with Christian theology, and pioneering comparative scholars such as P. J. Ivanhoe exploring the “three streams” of Confucian philosophical traditions in East Asia.

This special issue aims to open discussion on a hitherto less examined yet vital aspect of Confucian studies: empirical studies of Confucianism as lived religious traditions in different parts of the world. These diverse national and transnational expressions of Confucianisms as religious and ritual traditions are leaving their vivid imprints on global modernity. For empirical scholars of religion such as sociologists,  anthropologists, and political scientists, the following questions are of primary importance:  How do we analyze the conditions under which Confucianism as a religion might develop in the global context? What are the characteristics of different Confucianisms in world communities today?

This Special Issue of Religions seeks to address any and all issues bearing on the empirical knowledge of lived Confucian experiences globally. We envision contributions that will address the following areas and themes:

  • Contemporary practices of Confucianisms globally, in Asia, as well as in other parts of the world, such as in North America, the Pacific Rim, Europe, and Africa;
  • The Chinese diaspora, race and ethnicity, and Confucian practices;
  • The politics of Confucian religious identity today;
  • Confucian practices and capitalism;
  • Confucian practices and Neo-liberalism;
  • Multiple developments of Confucian ritual practices;
  • Comparative studies of Confucian ancestral rituals;
  • Confucian experiences of death and dying;
  • Confucian practices and digital modernity.

Being fundamentally interdisciplinary in conception, we expect these papers to open the field to wider discussions of the emerging global Confucianisms in the 21st century. Prospective contributors please inquire with an abstract under 300 words by January 1, 2021 (The paper submission deadline is August 15, 2021). You can reach the guest editor at [email protected].

Dr. Anna Sun
Guest Editor

Manuscript Submission Information

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Submitted manuscripts should not have been published previously, nor be under consideration for publication elsewhere (except conference proceedings papers). All manuscripts are thoroughly refereed through a double-blind peer-review process. A guide for authors and other relevant information for submission of manuscripts is available on the Instructions for Authors page. Religions is an international peer-reviewed open access monthly journal published by MDPI.

Please visit the Instructions for Authors page before submitting a manuscript. The Article Processing Charge (APC) for publication in this open access journal is 1800 CHF (Swiss Francs). Submitted papers should be well formatted and use good English. Authors may use MDPI's English editing service prior to publication or during author revisions.

Keywords

  • empirical studies of Confucianism
  • confucian ritual practice
  • religion and politics
  • politics of religious identities
  • historical production of religious knowledge
  • religious activism
  • race, ethnicity, and religion
  • transnational practices

Published Papers (8 papers)

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Research

14 pages, 11398 KiB  
Article
Confucianism for Kids: Early Childhood Employments of Confucianism in Taipei and Tokyo
by Kiri Paramore
Religions 2022, 13(4), 328; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040328 - 06 Apr 2022
Viewed by 1563
Abstract
This article focuses on two examples of Confucian early childhood education in contemporary Taiwan and Japan. Based on fieldwork conducted by the author in 2015, it contrasts the use of Confucianism in a grass-roots community early childhood educational setting in suburban Taipei with [...] Read more.
This article focuses on two examples of Confucian early childhood education in contemporary Taiwan and Japan. Based on fieldwork conducted by the author in 2015, it contrasts the use of Confucianism in a grass-roots community early childhood educational setting in suburban Taipei with attempts to create elite Confucian “kids’ seminars” in central Tokyo. The study reveals the roles of gender, elitism, religious plurality, and modern early childhood pedagogy in the contrasting ways Confucianism manifests in these urban Taiwanese and Japanese settings. In doing so, it looks to contribute to wider discussions about the roles of modernity and tradition in contemporary religious revival in East Asia. Full article
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18 pages, 428 KiB  
Article
Way-Making: Portability and Practice amid Protestantization in American Confucianism
by Lawrence A. Whitney
Religions 2022, 13(4), 291; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13040291 - 28 Mar 2022
Viewed by 2028
Abstract
While the study of Confucianism has been ongoing in the United States for quite some time, the idea of its viability in the American context is quite recent. Even more recent are experimental attempts to practice Confucianism in the U.S. This article chronicles [...] Read more.
While the study of Confucianism has been ongoing in the United States for quite some time, the idea of its viability in the American context is quite recent. Even more recent are experimental attempts to practice Confucianism in the U.S. This article chronicles several such attempts and considers what demographic data there are, and their frameworks of measurement, of Confucianism in the U.S. It focuses on a case study of debates and conversations about what it means for Confucianism to be “portable” among a small but committed second generation of Boston Confucians. From quiet-sitting meditation, to textual studies and interpretation, to ritual veneration of Confucius and ancestors, this article is one of the first empirical studies of Confucianism as a lived tradition in the United States. It situates these practices, and descriptions, discussions, and debates about them by their enactors, in the context of the Protestantized religious landscape in the U.S. It also considers how Confucianism has registered in unexpected ways in the U.S. context amidst the COVID-19 pandemic. Confucianism in the U.S. emerges as a form of way-making, irreducible to the categories of philosophy or religion, that both reflects and transforms its inheritance of Confucianism from East Asia. Full article
18 pages, 326 KiB  
Article
Individual Self, Sage Discourse, and Parental Authority: Why Do Confucian Students Reject Further Confucian Studies as Their Educational Future?
by Canglong Wang
Religions 2022, 13(2), 154; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13020154 - 10 Feb 2022
Cited by 4 | Viewed by 1800
Abstract
Throughout the twenty-first century, Confucian education has rapidly expanded among the grassroots in China. This study focuses on the most influential style of Confucian education, dujing (classics reading) education, and on a very understudied group, the students, in the Confucian education system. Using [...] Read more.
Throughout the twenty-first century, Confucian education has rapidly expanded among the grassroots in China. This study focuses on the most influential style of Confucian education, dujing (classics reading) education, and on a very understudied group, the students, in the Confucian education system. Using data collected at a Confucian school, this study aims to elucidate dujing students’ genuine thoughts and feelings toward their plans for future education. The findings suggest that dujing students exhibit an individualistic outlook, which is characterized by their personal aspirations, self-determination, independence, and self-pursuit, as well as a reluctance to pursue further Confucian studies. Their self-identity is further strengthened by resistance to the authoritarian discourse circulating in the domain of dujing education and by a shifting relationship with imposed parental expectations. This study argues that the development of Confucian individualism in students’ dujing experience must be understood within the broader social contexts shaping Chinese individualisms and subjectivities. Full article
14 pages, 231 KiB  
Article
Confucian Identification, Ancestral Beliefs, and Ancestral Rituals in Korea
by Jibum Kim, Jae-Mahn Shim and Sori Kim
Religions 2022, 13(1), 43; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010043 - 01 Jan 2022
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 4126
Abstract
Since Koreans do not consider Confucianism to be part of religion, conventional religious identification questions cannot accurately capture the number of Confucians in Korea. Using the Korean General Social Survey and other data sources, we aim to describe the identification, beliefs, and practices [...] Read more.
Since Koreans do not consider Confucianism to be part of religion, conventional religious identification questions cannot accurately capture the number of Confucians in Korea. Using the Korean General Social Survey and other data sources, we aim to describe the identification, beliefs, and practices related to Confucianism, especially ancestral rituals, and to examine whether these beliefs and practices differ across religious groups. Contrasted with 0.2% of the adult population identifying their religion as Confucianism in the 2015 Korean Census, 51% considered themselves as Confucians when asked, “(Regardless of your religious affiliation) do you consider yourself a Confucian?” If we consider those who think that rites for deceased family members are Confucian, the proportion was 44%. Considering those who conduct ancestral rites at a gravesite as Confucians, the proportion was 86%, but was only 70% when we count those who perform ancestral rites at home as Confucians. We also found substantial differences among religious groups. In general, Buddhists were most likely and Protestants were least likely to identify with Confucianism, believe in the power of ancestors, and perform ancestral rites. Perhaps most telling is the result of religious none falling in the middle between Buddhists and Protestants in terms of identification, beliefs, and rituals of Confucianism. The differences of religious groups appear to reflect religious syncretism and the exclusivity of religion. It is overstating to declare a revival of Confucianism, but it is reasonable to say that Confucianism is not a dying tradition in Korean society. Full article
14 pages, 342 KiB  
Article
The Confucian Moral Community of the Clan Association in the Chinese Diaspora: A Case Study of the Lung Kong Tin Yee Association
by Yong Chen
Religions 2022, 13(1), 30; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel13010030 - 29 Dec 2021
Viewed by 1577
Abstract
Using the Lung Kong Association as a case study, this article explores the cultural and socio-religious significance of the clan association in overseas Chinese societies. It argues that the Chinese diaspora has continually endeavored to utilize Confucian resources, via the clan association, to [...] Read more.
Using the Lung Kong Association as a case study, this article explores the cultural and socio-religious significance of the clan association in overseas Chinese societies. It argues that the Chinese diaspora has continually endeavored to utilize Confucian resources, via the clan association, to construct a “moral community” for the facilitation of their internal solidarity and external identity. Full article
24 pages, 1071 KiB  
Article
Contemporary Business Practices of the Ru (Confucian) Ethic of “Three Guides and Five Constant Virtues (三綱五常)” in Asia and Beyond
by Bin Song
Religions 2021, 12(10), 895; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100895 - 18 Oct 2021
Cited by 1 | Viewed by 3747
Abstract
What can remain unchanged while the Ru tradition (Confucianism) is continually passed down generationally and passed on geographically to non-Chinese Asian countries and beyond? Does the answer to this question hinted by the tradition itself, viz., the ethic of Three Guides and Five [...] Read more.
What can remain unchanged while the Ru tradition (Confucianism) is continually passed down generationally and passed on geographically to non-Chinese Asian countries and beyond? Does the answer to this question hinted by the tradition itself, viz., the ethic of Three Guides and Five Constant Virtues, still work in contemporary society? As intrigued by these fundamental questions on Ruism, scholars have debated on the nature of the ethic and its adaptability to the contemporary world. One side of scholars condemned it as an outdated, premodern ethic of power which urges unconditional obedience to hierarchy, while another side championed it as a modern ethic which aims to strengthen the autonomy of each individual in reciprocal relationships. While presenting two cases of Ru business practice, viz., Shibusawa Eiichi in Meiji Japan and Peter Drucker in the contemporary U.S., the article treats the controversial ethic as a hypothesis, and assesses it using an empirical method to reinforce views of scholars who have furnished a favorable interpretation of the ethic. Full article
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15 pages, 537 KiB  
Article
Becoming a Confucian in Contemporary Singapore: The Case of Nanyang Confucian Association
by Chang Woei Ong and Khee Heong Koh
Religions 2021, 12(10), 854; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100854 - 11 Oct 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 2862
Abstract
Using the Nanyang Confucian Association (NCA) as a case study, this paper explores the multi-faceted processes through which a segment of Singapore’s Chinese community constructs its self-identity based on an understanding of Confucianism that dismisses its religious attributes while underscoring the ethnic and [...] Read more.
Using the Nanyang Confucian Association (NCA) as a case study, this paper explores the multi-faceted processes through which a segment of Singapore’s Chinese community constructs its self-identity based on an understanding of Confucianism that dismisses its religious attributes while underscoring the ethnic and cultural dimensions. Tracing the history of the association since its formation in 1914, the paper hopes to contribute to recent overseas Chinese studies on the rethinking of the notion of the Chinese diaspora within the context of the formation, circulation, and contest of a global Chinese identity by asking the following questions: Does identifying with the Confucian tradition necessarily require one to acknowledge their connection with China? Would a self-proclaimed Confucian be perceived as someone who looks to China for ethnic and cultural affiliation and thus appears less local? The authors argue that, while still acknowledging the spatial–temporal centrality of China as the origin of Confucianism and Chinese civilization, leaders of the NCA clearly intended to simultaneously position the NCA at the center of global Confucian activism. What emerges from the processes initiated by the NCA in constructing its identity is a complex overlay of history, geography, and culture that gives rise to a vision of multiple centers. Full article
16 pages, 501 KiB  
Article
“Confucianism”, an Alternative Source of Belief in Contemporary Chinese Society: An Empirical Study of the Founding of Xin 信 in a “Confucian” Company
by Lan Jiang-Fu
Religions 2021, 12(10), 819; https://doi.org/10.3390/rel12100819 - 30 Sep 2021
Cited by 2 | Viewed by 3571
Abstract
Open claims to Confucian values, often associated with cultural traditionalism and a larger revival of Confucianism among the Chinese population from the 2000s onwards, have gained momentum in the world of entrepreneurs. The intensity of this phenomenon can be explained by a wide [...] Read more.
Open claims to Confucian values, often associated with cultural traditionalism and a larger revival of Confucianism among the Chinese population from the 2000s onwards, have gained momentum in the world of entrepreneurs. The intensity of this phenomenon can be explained by a wide variety of motivations, among which a desire to establish a belief, a sort of xin 信 towards traditional values, has emerged from within the “Confucian” company. Based on fieldwork carried out between 2017 and 2018 at TW, a private company located in Dongguan (Guangdong), this paper aims to analyze the efforts undertaken by “Confucian” managers to use the spiritual guidance role of Confucianism. Our work is organized into three sections. First, we analyze the main modalities of proselytizing within TW. Then, based on the personal experiences of three employees of this company, we try to understand how they live the jiaohua and to what extent this “educational” experience inspired by Confucianism has allowed them to reorient themselves towards a new way of perceiving the world. Finally, by placing it in a broader context, that of contemporary Chinese society’s crisis of values, we question the role Confucianism can play in the foundation of a population’s beliefs. Full article
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