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Wednesday, April 21, 2021

Influential Figures we discuss from National Geographic, Part 2

By Steve Otto

This is the second part of a series I started on an ancient history kick I’ve had lately. Not long ago I took interest in a National Geographic article called "The Most Influential Figures of Ancient History." I wrote and contrasted a few people in that article and now I decided to look at Confucius (孔子), who is listed and described in a section called “Classical Asia: China and India.”[1]

The Chapter starts with Confucius. I always looked at him the way I look as Mr. Spock from Star Trek. His planet was over run by barbarians, then some magical leader emerged and they all decided to adopt a philosophy of logic. Confucius is said of have brought civilization to China. He was born about 551 BC. According to the article he was an academian. He tried for years to enter into public service to improve it from the inside. But he found it easier to make it as an educator. He broke from the tradition that all people need education. On the other hand he believed in “education for the sake of the self.—self knowledge and self improvement.”                                           

He was born Kongqui. And unlike other famous Chinese and ancient philosophers in general, he kept part of his name, Kong, which some of his decedents use today. Confucius actually means “Master Kong.” As with many ancient Chinese philosophers, such as Lao Tzu, it contains the symbol “,” which roughly translates to sage. 

Confucius is a major philosopher in China and some near by countries. His beliefs included the idea that social harmony would naturally flows from the proper ordering of individuals in relation to one another, with the family unit as the basic block of society. He stressed the cultivation of personal qualities, such as benevolence, reciprocity and piety as essential to the formation of well-educated, conscientious individuals.

As with many famous people in history he was not that popular in his own time. But he was adopted as the state ideology by the Han dynasty in the second century BC.                                                    

In some ways China had the rise of its major philosophers about the same time as all the major philosophers of the West, such as Plato, Socrates and Aristotle. As with those in the West, they are a mixture of good and bad. But they are held up by leaders on both continents as near saints. Their ideas are treated as a bed rock foundation of both respective civilizations. It takes critical writers, as my self, to point out the faults of those people. For example, I always felt that Aristotle hung out with Alexander the Great so he could feel more important. Also Alexander used Aristotle to try and come off as an intellectual himself when he was actually a tyrant and a bully.    

While Confucius’ greatness has been restored in recent years, starting mostly with Deng Xiaoping, he was a sexist. The role he saw for women was very outdated by the time of the Chinese revolution. Chiang Ching,[2] Mao’s wife, did not like Confucius. She was a feminist and that made sense.   

Confucius also encouraged young people and students to be subservient to teachers and parents. Both Mao and Ching made rebelling against such things acceptable that during the Cultural Revolution.

It should be pointed out that many Western writers, since Mao died, have attacked him and his wife relentlessly. They try to make it look like Mao and Ching both hated the past and wanted to replace all philosophy with just themselves, as if they were such ego maniacs that Marxism and Maoism were the only philosophies they could tolerate. I should point out the Ching also hated Joseph Stalin, which most Western academics should have loved to hear.

Mao did denounce the ancient philosophers in his earliest days.[3] In his earliest writings he mostly used Stalin for foot notes and inspiration.[4] But as he got older, he began to look more closely at the earlier philosophies, such as Taoism and he saw some relevance in such people as Confucius. In his later writings he quoted Confucius as well as Mencius who was a scholar and follower of Confucius.[5] For example:

Confucius advised, “Think twice,” and Han Yu said, “A deed is accomplished through talking thoughts.” That was in ancient times….Lu Hsun said, “Read it over twice at least.”…In my opinion it does no harm to go over an important article more than ten times…before it is published.”[6]  

In recent years, Western academics and writers have tried to rewrite the history of Maoist China and they have done everything they possibly can to discredit Mao and his writings and leadership. These revisionist writers keep trying to make it look like Mao was an enemy of both Taoism and Confucius. They keep trying to present him as a simpleton and a thoughtless brute. But many of us ACTUALLY READ his works and we know better. Revisionist rely on the ignorance of most of Western society. Most people never read anything, other than a few selected quotes, so revisionist historians can say what ever they want and it just stands as fact, even though it is not.

—Ignorance is the greatest tool of the anti-communist writers!

To be continued=>

Some of this information came from Comrade Chiang Ch'ing, by Roxane Witke, 1977.

[1] "The Most Influential Figures of Ancient History," National Geographic, on display until April 30, 2021, ISSN 2160-7141 p. 48-50.

[2] Chinese names: Lao Tzu/老子,  Mao Zedong/泽东, Chiang Ching/  江青 , Mencius/孟子, Deng Xiaoping/ / 邓小.

[3] For example, Mao Tse-Tung, On New Democracy, (Peking, Foreign Language Press), 1967 (Actually written in January 1940), p. 53, 54.

[4] For example, Mao, On New Democracy, p. 9.

[5] Mao Tse-Tung, Selected Works, Oppose Stereotyped Party Writing, (Harper Colopon Books, Harper & Row Publishers, New York), 1970, p. 245.

[6] Mao, Selected Works, p. 43n, 57n. 

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