Li (Confucian)

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Li (禮 pinyin: Lǐ) is a classical Chinese word used in Confucian and post-Confucian Chinese philosophy. The English meaning is "the way things should be done."

In Li one must be aware of the way one should act and function within a society. In Li one can best cultivate their character by understanding what it entails. Li encompasses most importantly the Doctrine of the Mean, and the Five Constant Relationships.

The Doctrine of the Mean is the way in which one should make decisions in life, in which the best decision is always the middle between unworkable extremes. Taking the middle road as Confucius said would guide one to the way things should be done.

The Five Constant Relationships outline how one should act in society, being the relationships between parent and child, husband and wife, elder sibling and junior sibling, elder friend and junior friend, and ruler and subject. With these constant relationship guidelines, Li sets up a hierarchy between the two people and terms the accepted responses and actions between them.

  1. A parent is to be loving, a child obedient.
  2. An elder sibling is to be gentle, and younger siblings respectful.
  3. Husbands are to be good and fair, and wives understanding.
  4. Older friends are to be considerate, younger friends reverential.
  5. Rulers should be benevolent, and subjects loyal.

References[change | change source]

  • Ames, Roger T., Rosemont Jr., Henry (Translators). "Analects of Confucius." Ballantine Books:1998
  • Brash, Graham. "The Sayings of Confucius." Graham Brash (Pte.) Ltd Singapore: 1988
  • Confucius. "The Li Ji" Shandong Frienship Press: 2000
  • Lau, D.C. (Translator). ``Confucius: The Analects.`` The Chinese University Press:1 992
  • Nylan, Michael.`(Article) ``Li`` from ``The Encyclopedia of Confucianism`` RoutledgeCurzon: 2003
  • Qiuming, Zuo (Commentary) "Selections from Spring and Autumn Annals." Shandong Frienship Press: 2000
  • Henry Rosemont, Jr. Lecture, Brown University, 2005
  • Twitchett, Denis and Wright, Arthur F. "Confucian Personalities." Stanford University Press: 1962
  • Watson, Burton (Translator). "Basic Writings of Mo Tzu, Hsun Tzu, and Han Fei Tzu." Columbia University Press:1 963