Some Basic Principles of Confucianism, Sa Dan Chil Chong.

After my Korean son in law heard about what I wrote yesterday, he said that in his school books, they didn’t put the five laws of Ki Ja, but in his school books here in Korea, there were principles from Confucius, or as the Koreans call him, Kongju.  Confucianism is not a religion, but a very popular philosophy in the orient. Some of the things I learned in Japan as what they considered right and wrong seem be be very similar to what my son in law learned because the Japanese and Korean societies both like Confucius. Lately, my son in law has been reading a philosophy book his dad gave him, and the four basic principles that were in his school books were written in the philosophy book his dad gave him, but he says there was also something else that was connected to those four basic principles that was not written in the book his dad gave him. He called them Chil Chong, or seven emotions.  He said the four basic principles from his books were called Sa Dan, four principles, and together, he was taught them as Sa Dan Chil Chong.  He says anyone who has graduated from Korean schools know these.

man in white thobe robe
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The four basic principles read like poetry and have wisdom to them, so it doesn’t surprise me that they have caught on.  Here they are:

  1.  The sense of concern for other is the seed of benevolence.
  2.   The sense of shame is the seed of righteousness.
  3.   The sense of deference is the seed of propriety.
  4.   The sense of right and wrong is the seed of wisdom.

First, he gave them to me in Japanese, but I can’t understand that much kanji, so he gave them to me in Korean, and some of the words in Korean were giving me trouble.  He finally found the list of the principles in English he had seen that he says makes more sense than the Korean translation.  Yes, he is a smart guy, and Korean is his first language. However, many Koreans who speak English tell me that often things make more sense when they are written in English than when they are written in Korean because Korean is so ambiguous.  I have Korean friends who are good at English who would rather read the Bible in English too.

The seven things he said were connected to these principles in his school books, the Chil Chong, are the seven emotions of mankind. Each one comes with a word that I don’t quite understand, but he gave them to me:

  1. Hee (히); Joy
  2. Noh (노); Anger
  3. Eh (에); Sadness
  4. Rac (락); Jocularity
  5. Eh (애); Love
  6. Oh (오); Hate
  7. Yok(역); Greed

I asked him if this list was just words and if it didn’t have any advice about the emotions, but he said, “no.”  They just write them in the children’s school books like that. Perhaps they are written like that to let the children understand that these things exists, and if they feel these emotions, it is normal.

sunset hands love woman
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As for the four principles listed above, before we found the more poetic inscription above, we were discussing the meaning in Korean to try to understand the principles better. I know the kanji (the Japanese Character) for “heart,” and the Japanese translation, kanji for heart was all through the principles.  These are principles to be taken inside of the person, to make them better people inside.

japanese woman holding brown hand fan
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The first one, when we discussed what was written in Korean there, it gave you the feeling that you should have compassion on people who are having trouble.  The second one, in Korean, encourages you to protect yourself by not shaming yourself.  Japan especially, but also Korea are shame societies according to experts who write the Cross Cultural Communication books.  They call America and England guilt societies.  In America and England, guilt motivates people. They don’t want to do things that are wrong because they are wrong, period!  However, in Japan and Korean, they don’t want to do those things because they don’t want to be humiliated and embarrassed in front of others.  They are both motivations that cause different societies to work.  When I was in Romania, I realized the Romanians also ran on shame.  They were always so worried about what their neighbors were going to think. I actually think there is also some of that shame in the southern part of the United States even though culture experts say Americans run on guilt. We do, but I come from a very old southern family even though I have lived all over the U.S. and the world, and I know that my mother, my aunt, and grandmother ran on shame.  The big saying was, “You don’t air your dirty laundry in public.”  They worry about me being on Facebook because they are afraid I will tell something they don’t want told.

adult birthday birthday gift box
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Back to the Confucian principles, the fourth one we discussed about the way it was written in Korean.  It was about being gracious, about being humble, and my Korean son in law got the idea that if someone offers you a gift, you don’t just reach out and take it.  If you are offered a gift in America, people say “Don’t look a gift horse in the mouth,” and we accept the gifts, but not so in the Orient.  In Japan, if someone offers you a gift you never take it the first time or the second time. You must wait for them to offer the third time, or you are considered rude.  When the Japanese finally accept the gift, they bow and profusely thank you.  I am sure this Confucian principle is what caused that Japanese custom. When I was in Romania, they had the principle of “obligatiea.”  They were afraid to accept gifts too.  If someone gave them a gift, they were scared of what that person would expect in return.  They couldn’t believe it when the Americans who came did something nice for them and didn’t except anything in return. It was a foreign concept for Romanians, but very normal for Americans. In America, we are taught to say “thank you,” but we are never told not to accept a gift unless it is a guy giving a girl an over exorbitant gift, and we know that girl must be careful of that guy because he may be trying to sleep with her. However, unless it is a case like that, we humbly, sweetly, and graciously accept and enjoy gifts.  We also have those people who get to the cash register in America when they go out to eat and one says they want to pay, and the other doesn’t want to let them.  They stand there and politely argue over who will pay. When someone would take my husband and I out to eat and want to treat us to a nice meal, my husband was always saying, “Order something cheap.”  However, the people doing the treating would be encouraging me to order a steak or some other nice thing. It was hard to figure out what to do.  In my Bible classes, I was taught that if someone wants to treat you well, let them because they feel good about themselves if they can treat someone else well, but my husband made me feel like I was taking advantage of someone if I let them treat me.  These Confucian ideas are hard principles.

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When we discussed what the last principle meant in Korean, basically we came up with the idea that Confucius was encouraging everyone to figure out the difference between right and wrong.  That is a principle everyone needs to learn, no doubt.  That is what American parents who are good parents try to teach their kids.  I learned teaching my kids Bible really helped with this.  I took my kids to Bible class and read the Bible with them at home and made sure they understood what they read.  However, here in Korea, I have learned that usually the teachers are supposed to teach the kids the difference between right and wrong because the parents aren’t going to teach them.  In Nigeria, I learned the uncles must teach the kids the difference between right and wrong, and the parents are not expected to teach them.  Each culture is slightly different.  In America, it is the job of the grandparents to spoil the kids, but in Korea it is the job of the parents to spoil the kids.  I actually think it is better for the parents to teach the kids the difference between right and wrong because the kids usually know the parents love them, but if the kid doesn’t understand, it can cause conflict.  Constructive criticism usually comes better from people we know love us.  Teachers don’t know the kids well enough, but that is who teaches them in Korea.  When my kids were small, older people at church said to me, “You are the adult in this situation. You know, and they don’t. If you love them, you will teach them before they get themselves in trouble somewhere else.”

girls on desk looking at notebook
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These are principles taught to children when they are in school in Korea. They come from Confucius.  Perhaps in ancient times, Ki Ja’s five laws were in their school books, but somewhere a long the line, those five laws were replaced with four basic principles from Confucius.  If you sit down and think about the four principles, they make a lot of sense.  Since the teachers rather than the parents are supposed to teach the kids how to act, I understand these being in their school books.  As for my Korean son in law, he was actually very lucky.  Besides the school system trying to teach him, he had a very good father. His father is a professor of Philosophy and Han Moon (the Korean style Chinese characters), and a preacher.  His dad took him with him everywhere he went and had him sit in on his classes.  His dad taught him the difference between right and wrong, and he did a really good job. My son in law thinks the sun rises and sets in his dad and that there is not a smarter man in the world, and his dad thinks my Korean son in law is a piece of gold too.  My son in law admires his dad so much he think he will never be able to come up to what his dad can do. We all need a dad we admire that much, but if the Koreans don’t have one, they have the Confucian principles taught to them in school and by their teachers.







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