Confucianism (Ch. rujia or ruxue) could be described as a philosophical, ethical, political and even religious doctrine that can be traced back more than two millennia and has had tremendous impact on the social and cultural development in China as well as in East Asia at large, e.g. in Korea, Japan and Vietnam. Its teachings are therefore an invaluable key to these cultures, not least the Chinese, or as the scholar and activist Liang Qichao put it almost a century ago: “Confucianism does not equate with the whole of Chinese culture, but if you take Confucianism away, I am afraid not much else will remain.”

Roughly half of the course will be used to introduce Confucianism’s main notions and thus to read selected parts of its ‘Four Books’, i.e. The Confucian Analects (Lunyu), Mencius (Mengzi), Centrality and Commonality (Zhongyong) and The Great Learning (Daxue), in order to familiarize students with its central theories, ideas and values. This part will also include some discussion of the main critics of Confucianism in ancient times, i.e. Daoism, Mohism and Legalism, and consider the writings of Xunzi. After looking briefly into Han Confucianism we shall move to the Confucian ‘renaissance’ during the Middle Ages, namely the variously called ‘Neo-Confucianism’, ‘Song-Ming Confucianism’ or ‘Li-Learning’ (lixue), which was both a response to and a partial merger with Daoism and Buddhism. Some discussion of the development of Confucianism elsewhere in East Asia will be provided in this part of the course. Finally, we shall briefly address Confucian influences in neighbouring countries and the kind of Confucianism that has been emerging after the mid-19th century, is still very much active and generally seeks to respond to the demands of ‘modernization’ introduced by the Western powers.

The language of instruction is English, and students are expected to participate actively in class and be prepared to undertake a considerable amount of reading on topics, issues and thinking that may be both challenging and unconventional. Students are further offered the option to submit an essay of 4 ECTS additional to the course requirements and thus finish with a total of 10 ECTS.