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An Analysis of Human Rights Factors in Confucian Tradition
November 06,2022   By:CSHRS
An Analysis of Human Rights Factors in Confucian Tradition 
 
HUANG Jianwu*
 
Abstract: Although there is no concept of Human Rights or Rights in the Confucian tradition, Western culture has a different understanding of people’s due status and interests. This understanding includes the emphasis on and respect for human beings, and the factors that are compatible with human rights theory and can promote its development. The Confucian concept of humans emphasizes every individual as an individual in the community, obligations, and consideration of others. Its main contents are as follows: benevolence as the core; for individuals in the community, the ideal personality of a gentleman, namely, benevolence, independence and self-improvement; in the aspect of vertical interpersonal relationship, the advocation of people-oriented and good governance (e.g., nurturing the people, educating the poor and helping the weak); in the aspect of horizontal interpersonal relations, the advocation of people as compatriots; and the respect of heaven and earth and the love for all things in relation of human and nature. These contents are of great significance to the construction of human rights in China and the world.
 
Keywords: confucianism · culture · tradition · human rights · obligation
 
From the perspective of culture, any right represents a recognition or selection of a cultural value. It cannot stand alone without the understanding and support of the broader culture. In Western languages, the term “Rights” (e.g., Jus, Droite, Rechts, Right) also contain the meaning of “correctness” and “rightness” which demonstrates cultural evaluation and support. In the Chinese language, “Quan Li” (meaning “Rights”) is a combined word, of which “Quan” originally means “sliding weights of a steelyard”, implying “weighting or balancing”1, and “Li” means “benefit”. There are some ancient books explaining the meaning of “Li” by associating it with “Yi” (meaning “Righteous or Suitable”). For example, The Book of Changes holds that “Yi (benefit) is the totality of suitable things”. In ancient books and documents of China, “Yi” is often interpreted as “suitable.”2 All of these contain the connotation of “evaluation.” Although the two characters “Quan” and “Li” were used as a combined word in ancient China, its connotation is different from the term “Rights” in modern jurisprudence and laws. Moreover, in traditional Chinese culture, the word “Quanli” often conveys despising and distaining and is considered a contrary of “Renyi” (benevolence and righteousness).3 Perhaps the term “Mingfen” (a person’s deserved status) or “Fen” (birthright) in traditional Chinese texts is close to the modern term “Rights.” According to research by scholars, the Chinese term “Quanli” was first used to refer to “Rights” in Law of Nations4 translated and published by Ding Weiliang in 1864, of which the ninth chapter of the first volume “Fa Shi Da Zhi” (General Principles) mentions the term “Mingfen Quali” (deserved status and rights). If analyzing the categories and contents of rights in different historical periods, the cultural evaluation and selection of rights will become even clearer. The meanings of those terms, in fact, tell us that rights represent a cultural phenomenon, and the juridical logic of rights is embedded in culture, so too are human rights. Today, our studies of human rights play an irreplaceable role in boosting China’s rule of law and social development and promoting the process of human civilization compared to other subjects of study. However, the issues in this field are extremely complicated. To understand and settle all kinds of disputes in the field of human rights and explore an appropriate way to advance the development of human rights, we must trace the origins of human rights through cultural research while studying legal documents on human rights.
 
I. Antecedent Explanation for Seeking Human Rights Factors in Confucian Tradition 
 
Many scholars have been engaged in seeking human rights factors in the Confucian tradition. However, there are also many who question and deny the existence of human rights thoughts or factors in Confucian culture.5 In fact, to judge whether they exist or not depends on what standards you take. The modern legal concept of “rights” didn’t exist in ancient Chinese culture, and the term never appeared in ancient Chinese legal documents. Thus, it makes sense to say that there wasn’t the modern concept of “rights” in traditional Chinese law culture. However, it is also inconvincible to say that there were no factors or awareness corresponding to the modern legal concept of “rights” in traditional Chinese law. We shouldn’t turn a blind eye to so many judicial precedents on the lawsuits in which plaintiffs claimed “a life for a life” and “a debt paid in full” throughout Chinese history before the advent of modern law in China. The plaintiffs didn’t initiate the lawsuits in the name of claiming their rights, but in pursuit of something like“justice” that ordinary people wanted the government to bring to them. For instance, it was often heard that people requested “Let justice be met”. The “justice” they wanted is just in line with the Western concepts of “correctness,” “righteousness” and “rights.”
 
The same happens to studies on human rights. In the process of research, we shouldn’t check whether the stipulations of today’s universal human rights legal documents piece by piece existed in the law and culture of ancient China, let alone the world’s human rights legal documents and the identification of various items (categorizes) of human rights are changing all the time. For example, some scholars hold that human rights have entered the third generation, and some even present the concept of fourth-generation human rights. The Chinese nation has developed a millennia-old civilization. Without the active understanding of humanity and community, how could it have stood firmly in the family of nations for thousands of years after experiencing so many ups and downs? It is necessary for us to seek evidence of the emergence and understanding of human rights in our culture. Only by doing so can we integrate the human rights cause into our national sentiment and the positive factors of our values, overcome negative factors while enabling the development of our human rights to gain support from our own cultural resources and the positive factors in our own cultural resources to be carried forward in the process of human rights development. 
 
For the purpose of facilitating discussion hereafter, several antecedent questions must be clarified: How to study human rights in traditional Chinese culture it given that there wasn’t the concept of human rights? Why choose Confucian culture as the subject of study? Has Confucian culture played a tangible role in human rights development? Besides, we should face up to the significance of Confucian culture in the dialogue between Eastern and Western civilizations. 
 
A. How to study it given that there wasn’t the concept of human rights in traditional Chinese culture
 
Typically, studies of human rights are centered around the items on the basic human rights list, such as the right to equality, the right to freedom, the right to safety, the right to private property, the right to religious freedom, etc. This thinking basically manifests the process of the Western bourgeoisie fighting against feudalism and the requirements of the social development process after the victory of the capitalist revolution, as well as Western culture’s understanding and choice of rights. It is undeniable that they contain some common values of human progress. The foundation of this commonness lies in the understanding that “a person’s due status in society depends on his or her identity as a human.” Some researchers have proposed that human rights are the due rights of everyone based on his or her human nature.6 A person’s “due rights” must derive from the understanding of his or her “due status in society” because rights in themselves mean interpersonal relations, namely, the way people treat each other. The emergence of claims for human rights and the intergenerational development of human rights are both related to how people understand people’s due status in society. Such understanding reflects universal appreciation and respect for others. 
 
The research methodology or thinking approach that retraces the connotations of the concept of human rights and then studies the conception that a person’s due status in society depends on his or her identity as a human can be called reductive thinking or reductive research. Reductive research aims to prevent or overcome the limitations of the Chinese meaning of relevant concepts, but always focuses on their original connotations. When we think about something, sometimes it happens that the core part of a concept is given particular attention for certain reasons, and other connotations and subjects that the concept is supposed to contain are neglected or concealed. Just as Tao Te Ching says, “The Dao (Way) that can be trodden is not the enduring and unchanging Dao. The name that can be named is not the enduring and unchanging name.” The topics we discuss here cannot be fully interpreted due to limits in terms of language and concepts, so we cannot call them “the enduring and unchanging Dao” (eternality). Therefore, as we talk about the “enduring and unchanging Dao” (the way to eternality) in a way that can be “trodden”, the connotations may have deviations, although the wording may be the same. For instance, the term “Fa” (law) has different connotations in ancient and modern times. Some researchers often use the term to delve into ancient and modern facts, which will become unintentionally inarticulate.7
 
Reductive research refers to tracing the original meaning of a concept when it was just coined. Following such a path, we may determine that the modern advocating of human rights shares some correlated and comparative aspects with the Confucian understanding of human status. For example, a reductive study of modern human rights practice on a person’s social status from the perspective of specific rights, if neglecting relevant terms and concepts, its natural narrative should be: I (we) deserve such a social status and such treatment. Confucianism doesn’t have the concept of human rights in Confucianism, but it has the idea and requirement for a person’s “deserved” rights. Therefore, its natural narrative is: Humans deserve such a status, and we should treat others in a due way. As for a person’s social status, both have shared concerns and connotations. 
 
The juridical logic of rights is embedded in the culture. Understanding human rights and exploring how traditional Chinese culture considered humans’ deserved status and state with reductive thinking are actually an exploration of the cultural origins of human rights and the juridical logic of human rights and other rights. Compared to research on human rights statutes and specific rights, perhaps this exploration is more conducive to figuring out the reasons behind the similarities and differences in the understanding of human rights between different nations and enabling them to seek common ground while shelving differences and promoting the progress of the human rights cause together. 
 
B. Why choose to study human rights factors from the perspective of Confucian culture
 
The Chinese civilization is a united one, but it contains diverse cultures. During the Warring States Period (475-221BC), a time when Chinese philosophies boomed, “hundred schools of thought competed with each other.” The influence of some schools of thought has even lasted to the present day. Besides, the Chinese nation is a multiethnic family, and each ethnic group has its own culture. However, over a long period of time, Confucianism has come to serve as the dominant and mainstream school of thought in China, with the depth and breadth of its influence surpassing all other philosophies. 
 
The purpose of studying Confucian tradition isn’t to remember ancient Confucian sages or retain its influence or ideals that have gone or are about to disappear, but to dig and seek the innate origins of our national culture, gain an insight into where we came from, understand the internal spirit that dominates our beliefs and habits today, and then set the right starting point for our future. Any person is under the impact of culture. The way of thinking and behavior patterns of the overwhelming majority of today’s Chinese people, in all walks of life, are influenced by the Confucian tradition. Since the May Fourth Movement of 1919, China has attached importance to introducing foreign cultures, especially Western culture represented by Europe and the United States. Nevertheless, Chinese culture hasn’t been replaced by Western culture, and neither has Chinese society. The cultural foundation of Chinese society remains different from that of Western society.
 
In particular, the two social campaigns occurring in China in recent years — poverty alleviation and the fight against COVID-19 — fully demonstrate the distinctive characteristics of Chinese culture. A number of officials went to rural areas to help poverty reduction, and countless medical workers, volunteers, and grassroots officials went in harm’s way to fight the pandemic. They displayed the spirit of helping others and serving the people, and working hard despite dangers and difficulties. From a wider perspective, we can see the Party and the government play a leading role in these campaigns and the common people make their own contributions. Both manifest the prominent feature of traditional Chinese culture, namely, a strong sense of social responsibility and obligation. It doesn’t demand something from the outside with individual rights as the core, but plays a role to the outside with obligations as the priority. That is to say, it advocates the obligation to protect everyone’s legitimate rights. This thinking enabled China to realize praiseworthy achievements in human rights development: Eradicating absolute poverty and effectively controlling the COVID-19 pandemic while protecting people’s health and normal life. Perhaps, some would argue that many dedicated to the efforts are members of the Communist Party of China (CPC) and they just follow the requirements and discipline of the Party. If so, it is even more convincing that CPC members are inheritors, practitioners and disseminators of fine traditional Chinese culture. As Mao Zedong said in On New Democracy: “A splendid old culture was created during the long period of Chinese feudal society. To study the development of this old culture, reject its feudal dross and assimilate its democratic essence is a necessary condition for developing our new national culture… China’s present new politics and new economy have developed out of her old politics and old economy, and her present new culture, too, has developed out of her old culture; therefore, we must respect our own history and must not lop it off.”8 In fact, we cannot lop off history. An ironical and alarming example is the “cultural revolution” (1966-1976), which aimed to “destroy the old and establish the new.” But actually, it was launched and implemented by leveraging traditional cultural resources, in which many negative elements of traditional culture played a role. Both positive and negative examples tell us that history cannot be lopped off, and efforts to “reject feudal dross and assimilate democratic essence” need to continue.
 
Reviewing human rights factors in Confucian tradition aims to reject dross and assimilate the essence of traditional culture. Particularly, this effort must reveal rationalities hidden under temporary cultural tides, sort out and link up the cultural connections between ancient and modern times that have been disrupted by unreasonable practices, carry forward our own excellent civilizational elements that also belong to the whole of humankind, and accelerate the development of human rights by giving full play to excellent cultural resources of both ancient and modern times. 
 
Moreover, to realize national rejuvenation, we must rely on our own excellent cultural traditions, including those of Confucianism and other genres of philosophies in Chinese history as well as the cultures of various ethnic groups. National rejuvenation would be unable to be realized without a strong cultural foundation. We shouldn’t depend on any imported culture to revive our own nation. Even if such a miracle happened, it would be only a kind of prosperity, rather than revival. Nations are defined based on their respective cultures. If it loses its own culture, a nation will not be itself anymore. More importantly, history doesn’t proceed in line with the rational logic of humans. We may deduce the future course of history with our rational logic and discuss the “due” road ahead. However, the evolution of history has always stuck to its own track. Especially, the evolution of culture has its own “due” path. We must respect the law of history.
 
C. Whether Confucian culture has practical significance for human rights development
 
Confucianism originated in the period of slave societies, and flourished and developed in the feudal period. Of course, it contains many aspects in tandem with and interactive with social development at that time. As a result, it definitely has things that are regarded as “dross” today. It is for this reason that Confucianism has long been generally criticized as an embodiment of feudalism in some academic works. However, we shouldn’t expect that we can get the right answer in the scientific studies of Confucian tradition by merely including relevant phenomena of a certain historical period into a type of social system in history (such as feudalism), just like using an algebraic formula to do mathematical exercises. 
 
In the study of social sciences, typological concepts provide a direction or method for analysis; it isn’t like a readymade trash bin or food locker, in which we will find trash or food. Many great thinkers criticized the approach of analyzing historical facts by simply using typological concepts. For example, Engels once said, “I must clarify that if we do not use materialist methodology as the guideline for historical studies but use it as an established formula to tailor various kinds of historical facts, the methodology will transform into its own opposite.”9 Max Weber once pointed out that the concept of ideal typology can be used to train the skills for ressourcement judgment in studies; it is a mental image, instead of a historical reality or “original” reality. That is to say, it isn’t a tangible specimen or a tangible schema that can be included in a certain category. Instead, it is an ideal, a defining concept that can help interpret some meaningful components of tangible empirical content. Ideal typology understands history through the concept of occurrence or particular attempts of their specific components.10 These great philosophers hold that we should study historical facts based on actual historical conditions and contents, rather than based on typological concepts. 
 
The concept of historical typology has never been an accurate steelyard to measure historical facts. Researchers of ancient Chinese history once fell into disputes on the division between the slavery period and the feudal period, which resulted in the emergence of the “three schools and five theories.”11 This just indicates that the features of historical periods and social types induced from historical facts of Europe cannot seamlessly cover Asian and Chinese societies. Typology just provides a general framework of understanding. In studies, we should have a typological direction and reductive thinking. For instance, many hold that Confucianism advocated and safeguarded the hierarchical system of slave society and feudal society. In terms of typology, this rough judgment isn’t wrong. Through delving into the history and analyzing relevant Confucian classics, we can conclude that the hierarchical system acknowledged and defended by Confucianism isn’t the abstract hierarchy summarized with European slave and feudal societies as the samples; rather, it is a fixed hereditary system based on familial bloodline. Confucianism advocates that “heaven graciously distinguishes the virtuous”12 and that the nobility of emperors, kings, dukes, and officials was bestowed on them by the people, and only the virtuous (those who held heaven-given nobility for their moral integrity) deserved such positions. Besides, according to Confucian thoughts, everyone could be sages like Yao and Shun, and morality comes from self-discipline. The system of rites eulogized and advocated by Confucianism, on the one hand, contained privileges, and on the other hand, conveyed Confucians’ expectation for constraining extravagance. If we study history in a way to restore historical scenes from the perspective of the historical process, we will find that Confucianism has its historical limitations but also contains some contents of civilizational significance.
 
Confucian tradition once experienced a meaningful convergence with world civilization in terms of human rights development, during which Confucian culture played a role in the formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. This is a typical example of Confucianism contributing to the protection and promotion of human rights in the world. In the process of drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, various cultures demonstrated contrasting and disputable understanding of human rights. At that time, Western culture had a much bigger say on this issue. Chinese representative Zhang Pengchun, then vice chairman of the Drafting Committee, put forward and interpreted Eastern propositions on human rights with the characteristics of Confucian culture to the committee.13 For instance, he suggested introducing the Confucian idea of “benevolence” and interpreted it as mutual understanding, sympathy and fairness between persons to the Drafting Committee. Eventually, his suggestion was translated as the term “conscience” included in Article 1 of the “Preamble” chapter of the Declaration, as an equivalent to “reason.”14 Zhang particularly advocated and supported the articles related to social and economic rights. He explained to Westerners that economic and social justice isn’t a modern concept, but a Confucian idea as old as 2,500 years.15 He also translated and interpreted the description of a “society of great harmony” in the chapter “Li Yun” of The Book of Rites to his Western colleagues.16 As a result, social and economic rights, which are considered as the second-generation human rights, are acknowledged in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Besides, Zhang played a vital role in resolving disputes and formulating some other articles during the drafting of the Declaration. When the reporter of the Drafting Committee briefed the draft version of the Declaration at a meeting of the UN Assembly, he particularly spoke highly of Zhang’s contributions to the drafting of the Declaration and his coordinating role in the Drafting Committee, saying that he enabled the Drafting Committee to learn more about Eastern wisdom.17
 
In fact, many of China’s social policies and systems related to improving people’s livelihood (protecting human rights), such as education, senior care, poverty alleviation, and disaster relief, also contain the genes of Confucian culture. 
 
D. The significance of Chinese culture for advancing the development of the world’s human rights cause in the dialogue between eastern and western civilizations
 
Chinese civilization, with Confucian culture as the mainstay, has its own understanding of the world, humankind, community, individual, and the relationship between human and nature. Such understanding has inseparable and important relations with the nation’s survival and development. Moreover, as part of human civilization, Chinese culture can communicate, learn from and integrate with the cultures of other nations for common development. Besides, such cultural exchanges and communication is necessary for building a community with a shared future for mankind, addressing common challenges faced by mankind, and further advancing the development of human rights. 
 
Today, the world is undergoing profound changes. The rise of China, though a peaceful rise as all can see, might be interpreted differently by other civilizations in the world. In the mid-1990s, the American scholar Samuel P. Huntington predicted in his book The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order that China would rise and cast enormous pressure on global stability in the early 21st century. He believed that China’s history, culture, tradition, size, economic vitality, and self-image all urged it to seek hegemony in East Asia. He held that considering that all big powers, such as Great Britain, France, Germany, Japan, the United States, and the Soviet Union, all sought external expansion and practiced imperialism after achieving economic leapfrog development, there is no reason that China wouldn’t do the same. In his eyes, the features of Confucian culture are as follows: The state is superior to society, and society superior to individuals; authority and hierarchy are given priority, while individual rights and interests are inferior. All of these sharply contrast with Western civilization, as represented by the United States, which advocates freedom, equity, democracy, individualism, distrust in the government, opposition against authority, and the advocation of equilibrium, competition, and human rights. Such fundamental social and cultural differences are the root reasons for conflicts. Huntington clarified that his core views lie in: In a world where diverse civilizations coexist, the viewpoint that considers Western cultural universal is wrong, immortal and dangerous. To avoid clashes, especially wars, between civilizations and maintain world peace, all countries should follow three principles: The principle of avoidance (namely, avoidance of interfering with other civilizations), the principle of common mediation, and the principle of commonality (namely, seeking and expanding common ground in values, systems, and practices).18 When observing and analyzing things, researchers will inevitably be prone to the influence of their original knowledge structure and thought framework. Based on his judgment on the features of Confucian culture and the historical evolution of the rise of big powers, Huntington concluded that the characteristics of Confucianism and Chinese society would result in China seeking hegemony. For those who have true insight into Confucian culture, they may feel that his conclusion is biased. 
 
Some Chinese scholars often use the term “soft power” when talking about China’s international influence. In fact, this is a Western term, which is particularly used in the context of describing competition or cultural conflict. Confucian culture in itself isn’t a culture advocating competition, but a culture emphasizing construction; it is a culture advocating personal improvement, interpersonal harmony, and harmonious coexistence between human and nature. Therefore, some define it as a culture of “harmony.”19 Even when rulers were concerned, Confucianism opposed hegemony but advocated that “heaven graciously distinguishes the virtuous.” The Confucian philosophy advocated rule by virtues, instead of rule by power, and believed that the virtuous deserve to rule the country, a man of nobility should pay attention to moral integrity because only a man of morality can win support from the people and only the support of the people can maintain the stability of the territory.20 The virtuous would win support from the people and make “those who are near happy and those who are far off be attracted”.21 Bai Hu Tong De, a Confucian classic of the Han Dynasty (202BC-220 AD), also uses the concept of morality to explain the legitimacy of monarchs: “An emperor should be one whose moral integrity meets the standards of heaven and earth, and a king should be one who wins wide support from the people for his benevolence”; “A virtuous king attracts people to settle in his kingdom.”22 This is how Confucianism explains the idea that “heaven graciously distinguishes the virtuous.” The core of the morality that Confucianism advocates is benevolence; That is to say, one should be tolerant, peaceful, loyal, and generous, and behave well while benefiting others. It is certainly a misconception and misjudgment that Confucian culture would lead China to seek hegemony. Just because Confucianism excessively advocated “benevolence”, “the doctrine of the mean” and“harmony” in the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC) and the Warring States Period (475-221 BC) when rulers competed for power through armed forces, Confucian figures such as Confucius and Mencius endured tremendous difficulties and traveled through various kingdoms to preach their doctrines, which few rulers accepted. 
 
In today’s world, there are differences between civilizations. Clashes between civilizations might lead to inappropriate competition and even war, which will doubtlessly bring disaster to the human rights cause. Therefore, in the big community of human beings, namely, from the perspective of building a community with a shared future for mankind, various civilizations communicate with each other and seek common ground while shelving differences are of great significance. The principle of avoidance of a clash between civilizations put forward by Huntington calls for avoiding intervention, seeking harmony through mediation, and finding common ground has positive meaning. In fact, this suggestion, that can be considered “creative”, coincides with Confucian tradition; it appears like an interpretation of Confucian ideas. The values and principles concerning interpersonal relations advocated by Confucianism, such as benevolence, tolerance, harmony, loyalty, and generosity (such as “don’t do unto others what you don’t want others do unto you”, “cultivating people” and “educating people”) are conducive to the harmonious coexistence and common development of different civilizations. Perhaps on the basis of this understanding, the British historian Arnold J. Toynbee said that since the Han Dynasty, the national sentiment of the Chinese people has been constantly directed toward cosmopolitism, and Chinese culture can help achieve world peace and unification and avoid humankind from embarking on a path of collective suicide.23 Whether this judgment is accurate remains uncertain because other civilizations also have reasonable contributions to the harmonious coexistence of human beings. However, this judgment at least tells the world, based on a historian’s cognition and wisdom, that Chinese civilization and Confucian culture play an indispensable role in promoting world peace and development as well as human rights protection.
 
II. Characteristics of Human Rights Factors in Confucian Tradition
 
Before discussing human rights factors in the Confucian tradition, it is necessary to first discuss their characteristics. Although this may go against the normal writing sequence, an early discussion on their characteristics will facilitate subsequent discussions due to the need for reductive research. 
 
A. The Confucian concept of humans refers to individuals in the community
 
In the eyes of Confucianism, people are not stand-alone individuals, but part of a community. This is the prerequisite for Confucianism to understand and discuss humans’ due status in society. Since its emergence, what Confucianism faced up to was human society in reality; it needed to respond to and address practical social, political, and ethical issues. Confucianism considers those issues are about the relations among the members of a community. This prerequisite is in sharp contrast with that of modern Western culture that understands society from the perspective of individuals. The concept of the individual in Western culture perhaps is associated with the legend of God creating humans as described in the Christian Bible: Everyone is created by God, so all are equal before God and should follow God. In the beginning, Christianity faced oppression from Roman secular power. The Christian concept of the relationship between human and God might deconstruct the structure of Roman secular power and so it attracted suppression from the Roman regime. As people became followers of God, the authority of the religion was established and society was reshaped.24 As a matter of fact, this conception provided support for the advocation of Western culture that everyone is equal and free. Although China also has the folk legend about Nuwa creating humans, Confucianism didn’t make the story part of its cultural resources, but suggests that heaven and earth nurture everything.25 Humanity originates from heaven and earth, so people share similarities. Meanwhile, every individual is born of his or her parents. Therefore, in Confucian thoughts, parents and children enjoy an unequal status in the family, and it is unimaginable that children claim individual rights or sign personal contracts with their parents. From families to countries and then to the world, all are comprised of humans. Everyone is a part of the community, and an individual in the community, instead of an individual standing alone like an atom. This is the most fundamental understanding of Confucian communitarianism on the relationships between individuals and others and between individuals and society.
 
Confucian communitarianism’s understanding of the individual and the community is in contrast with Western liberalism’ understanding of humans. In the view of theoreticians of Western liberalism, independent and equal individuals are the prerequisite for society, and society is comprised of individuals; as an atom of society, an individual can integrate or separate with society.
 
For the good of everyone, people constitute society through tangible or imaginary social contracts. Therefore, everyone has his or her own rights, and even some rights existed before society was formed. British liberalist theoretician and Enlightenment thinker John Locke said, “Men being, as has been said, by nature, all free, equal and independent, no one can be put out of this estate, and subjected to the political power of another, without his own consent. The only way whereby anyone divests himself of his natural liberty, and puts on the bonds of civil society, is by agreeing with other men to join and unite into a community for their comfortable, safe, and peaceable living one amongst another, in a secure enjoyment of their properties, and greater security against any, that are not of it.”26 Of course, this proposition and idea incurred criticisms from some Western scholars. For example, Henry Maine argued that the social contract theory is the most systematic approach to creating political, legal and theoretical errors, and the attraction of this theory mainly lies in its maneuverability in politics. He said that in a primitive social organization, the first thing we must know is that an individual doesn’t define any rights or obligations for himself; the rules he needs to abide by, first of all, come from the place where he was born, and then the mandate imposed by the head of the household in which he is a member.27 Despite the fact that they have received criticisms from various philosophers, the liberalism-based social contract theory and right theory are still embraced by many people, with their influence lasting until the present day. After all, they convey people’s aspiration for a better society, and thereby it becomes rational and logical to criticize the sins existing in human society.
 
Existence is reality, and the starting point alike. For Confucianism which takes people as individuals within a community, it would be impossible for it to imagine individuals’ independence and autonomy in the community (family at first), and society isn’t formed upon the will of people. Each and every of us, and each and every generation, has been part of society since the day of birth. Since we have already in society, should we choose to make it better or worse? Bearing this question in mind, it is easy to conclude that everyone should take the responsibility to make society better, not worse, instead of concluding that everyone should claim rights from others. Think about the historical background of the emergence of Confucianism in the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warring States Period: Driven by the desire to become a dominant overlord, rulers of vassal states at that time were eager to launch wars. Consequently, countless soldiers and generals died on the battlefields, and numerous people became homeless and struggled for subsistence. In this context, perhaps it is understandable that out of their benevolence and care for the people, Confucians called for taking up the obligations and duties to stop the chaos and restore peace, rather than demanded rights. Therefore, Confucius advocated restraining selfish desires and expected that “when the day everyone retrains his selfishness and the system of rites is restored, benevolence will prevail across the world.”28 Reducing the concepts of family, state and the world into interpersonal relations in the community, Confucianism expects rulers and ministers, fathers and sons, husbands and wives, as well as brothers and friends, to act dutifully on their own. For instance, “Li Yun” in The Book of Rites mentions the “ten things which are right”: Kindness on the part of the father, and filial duty on that of the son; gentleness on the part of the elder brother, and obedience on that of the younger;righteousness on the part of the husband, and submission on that of the wife; kindness on the part of elders, and deference on that of juniors; with benevolence on the part of the ruler, and loyalty on that of the minister.29 Just as The Great Learning reads, “As a sovereign, he rested in benevolence. As a minister, he rested in reverence. As a son, he rested in filial piety. As a father, he rested in kindness. In communication with his subjects, he rested in good faith.”30 Only this way can the world maintain peace and the people enjoy an affluent and happy life.
 
B. Duties-oriented principle
 
Confucianism attaches great importance to every individual’s responsibility and duties for society. This is the key basis of Confucian theories on state and social governance. Some scholars define this characteristic as “duties-oriented.”
 
In law, rights and duties are a pair of contrasting concepts, each with an important corresponding scope. It seems that we are on the wrong path by guiding the topic of human rights to a discussion on duties. In fact, it isn’t the case; we just change the perspective of observation and thinking. In fact, the correlation and correspondence between rights and duties, whether in terms of morality or in terms of law, is attributed to the fact that the two have shared concerns and directionalities. This article advocates reductive thinking, hoping to understand the correlation and interaction between rights and duties through their shared directionalities. Considering the inseparable relationship between rights and duties, we should understand the two concepts from the perspective of their relationship. In fact, many jurists have discussed the topic this way. For example, Bian Xin suggests that when an individual enjoys a right, that means he or she has the willingness to benefit from another person’s duty. Unless there are compulsory stipulations on such duties in law (or in society), any discussion of rights would be empty talks.31 Hans Kelsen, a representative figure in normative jurisprudence, wrote in his book General Theory of Law and State: “There is no kind of human behavior that, because of its nature, could not be made into a legal duty corresponding to a legal right. A legal right presets another’s legal duty… Ultimately, the content of the right is the performance of another’s duty.” He suggested that in the realm of empirical law, a legal right, in nature, is a legal relationship. “If the legal order determines someone’s obligated behavior, it determines the behavior of another individual simultaneously, which is usually considered that another person has the right to perform such a behavior. In this sense, each right is equal to a duty. The ‘right’ in this sense is nothing but correspondence with the duty.” Kelsen also said that talking about right without considering its relation with duty is just a technical discussion based on the narrow sense of the term “legal right.”32 Many studies on the composition of rights reveal that the subjects related to rights and duties need correlative research from different angles.33
 
Based on the thinking on the objects to which rights or duties direct, the above-quoted Confucian statements related to “duties” all show that Confucianism confirms duties are related to another person’s social status and interests in interpersonal relations. For instance, a kind father cares for his children; a filial son respects and takes good care of his parents; a loving elder brother treats his siblings well; a younger brother respects his elder brother; a righteous husband cares for his wife; an obedient wife respects her husband; the old care for the young; the young respect the old; a benevolent ruler cares for the wellbeing of the people and his ministers; a loyal minister respects and follows the ruler. From the perspective of the occurrence of rights and duties, whether such rights and duties are due or not, they both point to a status or interests acknowledged by a certain culture. In this culture, such status and interests are considered legitimate. Of course, we cannot say that all of the duties-induced statuses and interests are rights because, strictly speaking, rights must be claimable, viz., the subject of rights can demand relevant status and interests from those who bear duties. This demand should be recognized and supported in a certain culture. If what he demands is a legal right, this demand should be supported and protected by law. However, the subject of duties-induced status and interests may not necessarily have the power to make such a claim. For instance, morality requires us to help those in need, but that doesn’t mean that those in need have the right to claim or are entitled to ask others to provide help. (The elders who force young people to give up their seats on the bus just have a misconception in this regard.) Alike, without corresponding duties, the so-called rights would be merely a claim (will) for turning a certain interest into rights, rather than the rights themselves ― although they may also be called “rights” sometimes. Therefore, in the event that relevant corresponding relations are incomplete, any claim for rights or any requirement for duties is just a factor of rights. Indeed, it contains the factors of rights, namely evaluation and recognition of the legitimacy of certain social status and interests. In this sense, although Confucianism emphasizes duties in interpersonal relations and its relevant ideas are duty-oriented, they still contain the understanding of humans’ rational interests and demands for care, as well as human rights factors.
 
C. The principle of forgiveness that considers others in one’s own place 
 
The principle of “forgiveness” or “loyalty and reciprocity” is the basic methodology of Confucians to understand and handle interpersonal relations and the way they practice benevolence. It is called the “approach to benevolence”, which considers others in one’s own place, namely, having one’s own desire as the benchmark and then thinking about others the same way. Once, Zi Gong asked Confucius, “Is there one word which may serve as a rule of practice for all one’s life?” The Master said, “Is not reciprocity such a word? What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others.”34 Confucius also said, “When one cultivates to the utmost the principles of his nature, and exercises them on the principle of reciprocity, he is not far from the path. What you do not like when done to yourself, do not do to others.”35 In his annotations, Zhu Xi explained, “Doing one’s utmost is called loyalty; considering others in one’s own place is called reciprocity. What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others. That is reciprocity. Those who consider others in one’s own place are close to the Dao. Therefore, do unto on others what you want others to do unto yourself; this makes one close to the Dao. Master Zhang Zai once said, ‘Treat others in a way you treat yourself, which is the essential nature of benevolence.’ This is true!”36 Considering others in one’s own position is a practice of benevolence. Confucius once said, “Now the man of perfect virtue, wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he also seeks to enlarge others. To be able to judge others by what is nigh in ourselves — this may be called the art of virtue.”37 Confucius took the principle of reciprocity as the doctrine he persistently followed.38 The principle of reciprocity was later interpreted as “Treat with the reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that the elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated; treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that the young in the families of others shall be similarly treated.”39 For this, Zhu Xi explained, “From love for one’s own family to benevolent governance of the people, then to love for others, and love for all living beings, this is a path from people close to oneself to those far away, from things easy to do to things difficult to do.”40
 
The idea of reciprocity has been deeply implanted in the hearts of the Chinese people, which has turned into a frequently used saying — “feeling for others.” It has developed into a cultural tradition in China. It represents a method of how one sees the social status of himself and others and handles the relationship between oneself and others in interpersonal communication. If it is applied in discussions on rights and duties, the principle is translated into such an idea: If we want to enjoy certain rights, we must consider others to enjoy the same rights; if we want others to perform certain duties for us, we must perform the same duties for others. Immanuel Kant advocated the universal principle of rights: “Externally, you should act like this: Your will can be exercised freely, and in light with a universal principle, can coexist with the freedom of all others.”41 However, Kant believed that this universal principle had been converted by the reason into a postulation that cannot be further verified because it has reached the limit of the verifying capacity of the reason. That is to say, the source and foundation for the legitimacy of the universal principle are already unexplainable. A long time ago, in fact, Confucianism already discussed this principle and its source from the perspective of the nature of the mind by reference to the fundamental theory of benevolence, and it also talked about the foundation for “cultivating moral character” and “making one reasonable.” 
 
In terms of human rights theory, this principle of reciprocity has positive implications. It contains the subjective factor, namely paying attention to independent consciousness; it also contains the factor of equality, namely considering oneself and others as equal, with shared desire, demand and nature.42 If regarding this principle as the foundation of rights or duties, we’ll conclude that everyone is equal. As a principle (or method), reciprocity doesn’t target any certain individual, but is applied universally. Only in this way can we enable all people under heaven to enjoy the benefit of benevolence, if exercised this way, benevolence becomes universal. 
 
In terms of culture, the principle of reciprocity is echoed in other cultures. For instance, “The Gospel of Matthew” (Chapter 7, Section 12) in New Testament of the Bible reads, “So whatever you wish others would do to you, do also to them, for this is the Law and the Prophets.” This is the “golden rule” on interpersonal relations in Western culture. In the modern institutional design for justice, we often talk about and quote the two principles of justice put forward by John Rawls on institutional construction: One is the principle of equal liberty and the other is the principle of difference. Both principles are based on people’s inevitable choices under his imaginary “veil of ignorance.”43 The so-called “veil of ignorance,” in nature, is an application of the Confucian principle of reciprocity in practice. It requires one to change the status between the self and others constantly. Nevertheless, this is just how the principle of reciprocity was applied in a scenario of modern Western society, based on which Rawls coined the two principles of justice and made people deduce or acknowledge the two principles, which in nature are the principle of reciprocity in the name of the “veil of ignorance.” Comparisons of cultures can help us to understand the role that the Confucian principle of reciprocity plays in making a judgment on human’s reasonable status and interests as well as in promoting human rights development in modern times.
 
III. Basic Content of Human Rights Factors in Confucian Tradition
 
To study human rights with a reductive method requires focusing the concept on the due status of individuals as humans in society and the right way in which people should treat each other. If we discuss human rights factors in Confucian tradition in this dimension, the conclusion shouldn’t be just a few words, but a systematic conception that contains both “general principles” and “specific theories, “and combines an overall outline with specific items, and has relations with concepts and theories on individuals and society. For example, Confucianism suggests that a noble person should not just study for self-improvement (cultivate his own moral character), but also contribute to making the people virtuous and reasonable, and the virtuous ruler should make benevolence the foundation of his governance and benefit the people and all creatures. The relations can be roughly summarized as follows: The ruler should consider benevolence the fundamental guideline of his governance; individuals in the community should cultivate their own moral character to become virtuous gentlemen; the principle of benevolence should be applied in the vertical relationship between the ruler and his ministers, which is embodied as “regarding the people as the foundation” and “good governance”; the principle of benevolence should also be applied in the horizontal interpersonal relations, which is embodied as “universal love”; the principle of benevolence should also be applied in the relationship between human and nature, which is embodied as “love for all creatures.” “giving full play to the liberty of all creatures” and “praising the role of heaven and earth in nurturing and cultivating all creatures.” 
 
A. Benevolence as the fundamental guideline
 
From the angle of human rights, benevolence occupies a core position in Confucian thought. On the one hand, benevolence is the foundation that makes humans human, and it is a necessary component of humanity and mankind; On the other hand, benevolence is the guiding outline for dealing with interpersonal relations and the relationship between man and nature, and other specific requirements are just respective items under the outline. 
 
To argue about benevolence as an integral part of humanity, Mencius said, “There are none but have this tendency to good… The feeling of commiseration belongs to all men. The feeling of commiseration implies the principle of benevolence… Benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge are not infused into us from without. We are certainly furnished with them. And a different view is simply owing to want of reflection. Hence, it is said, ‘Seek and you will find them. Neglect and you will lose them.’”44 In his view, benevolence is embedded in everyone’s heart, so if you seek it, you will find it, unlike wealth which one should “obtain in a due way” and “depends on one’s fate to obtain.” Confucius once made a similar statement: “Is benevolence far from us? If one wants to be benevolent, benevolence will come itself.”45
 
Benevolence is manifested by what one does to others in interpersonal relations. It originates from loving one’s own parents, and then expands to the way in which one treats others. Therefore, in the heart of benevolence is love for others. Confucius once said, “Benevolence is the characteristic element of humanity, and the great exercise of it is in loving relatives.”46 Fan Chi once asked Confucius about benevolence, the Master replied, “it is to love all men.”47 Confucius interpreted “benevolence” as “loving all men”. This isn’t only true of a certain context. In fact, in Confucian views, humans occupy a paramount position among all creatures. The chapter “Great Declaration” of The Book of History says, “Heaven and earth are parents of all creatures, and humans are the wisest of all creatures.”48 The chapter “Li Yun” in The Book of Rites states: “Man is the product of the attributes of Heaven and Earth, by the interaction of the dual forces of nature, the union of the animal and intelligent souls, and the finest subtle matter of the Five Elements.”49 The prerequisite for the realization of human rights is respect for humans. Confucianism considers humans lofty and sacred. This is the important basis for its proposition of respecting and loving people.
 
Benevolence is a fundamental part of humanity, which thus shouldn’t be lost. If a man isn’t benevolent, all he does and pursues would be meaningless. For instance, Confucius once said, “If a man gives up pursuit of benevolence, how could be still practice the rules of etiquette? If a man gives up the pursuit of benevolence, how could he still practice the rules of music?”50 The Confucian rules of etiquette and music are integrated into the concept of benevolence. Chinese scholar Xu Fuguan suggests that the universal idea of Confucius is benevolence instead of propriety. The idea that Confucianism is a science of benevolence in itself has been recognized by many scholars and researchers.51
 
According to Confucian thoughts on the relationship between the idea of benevolence and the rules of state and social governance, benevolence is the outline and general principle, and all others are specific items and rules. For instance, the Confucian concept of propriety contains complicated rules and systems concerning state and social governance. In terms of their relationship, propriety is an embodiment of benevolence, and all specific rules of propriety shall demonstrate the concept of benevolence as their fundamental nature. “Li Yun” of The Book of Rites states that the rules of the ceremony are the embodied expression of what is righteous, the idea of righteousness makes the distinction between things, and serves to regulate the manifestation of benevolence, and benevolence is the root of righteousness.52 The chapter “Question of Duke Ai” of The Book of Rites records how Confucius replied to Duke Ai’s question on state governance, which elaborates the relationship more clearly: “With the ancients in their practice of governance the love of men was the great point; in their regulation of this love of men, the rules of the ceremony was the great point; in their regulation of those rules, reverence was the great point… Without loving there can be no real union; and without respect the love will not be correct. Don’t love and respect lie at the foundation of governance?”53 Indeed, don’t love and respect lie at the foundation of governance? The rhetorical question asked by Confucius proved that Confucianism regards benevolence as the foundation of governance. This also explains that when Yan Yuan asked about benevolence in the context of the gradual disintegration propriety in the Spring and Autumn Period, Confucius answered, “To subdue one’s self and return to propriety, is perfect virtue. If a man can for one day subdue himself and return to propriety, all under heaven will ascribe perfect virtue to him.”54
 
According to Confucianism, benevolence is the fundamental part of humanity as well as the basis for interpersonal relations and how humans should treat all creatures in the world. Just as Mencius said, “He is affectionate to his parents, and lovingly disposed to people generally. He is lovingly disposed to people generally, and kind to creatures.”55 Zhang Zai, an eminent Confucian scholar in the Song Dynasty (960-1279), said that “all people are my compatriots and all creatures are my companions.”56 From the perspective of human rights, the Confucian ideology of benevolence and compassion plays a positive role in guiding social relations, and fosters the awareness of respecting and caring for others. Moreover, it provided a kind of cultural force to criticize and constrain feudal despotism.
 
B. Individuals in the community
 
Family, state and the world are all comprised of individuals. As a matter of fact, Confucianism attaches great importance to individuals. However, in Confucian theories, individuals are not “individual” as an abstract concept, but specific individuals in the community. The ideal personality of individuals advocated by Confucianism is nobility. According to Confucian ideas, everyone in the community has the possibility to become a noble man, and the purpose of Confucian education is to cultivate individuals into noble men. 
 
The nobility that Confucianism advocates can be summarized as: Keeping benevolence in mind and seeking independence and self-reliance. This just echoes the statement in The Book of Changes: “As heaven maintains vigor through movement, a gentleman should constantly strive for self-perfection; as the earth’s condition is receptive devotion, a gentleman should hold the outer world with a broad mind.” Both Confucius and Mencius emphasized the noble personality interpreted as “keeping benevolence in mind and seeking independence and self-reliance.” For example, Mencius said that a virtuous scholar should“honor virtue and delight in righteousness, though poor, does not let go his righteousness; though prosperous, he does not leave his own path… When the men of antiquity realized their wishes, benefits were conferred on them to the people. If they did not realize their wishes, they cultivated their personal character, and became illustrious in the world. If poor, they attended to their own virtue in solitude; if advanced to dignity, they made the whole kingdom virtuous as well.”57 He added, “What belongs by his nature to the superior man cannot be increased by the largeness of his sphere of action, nor diminished by his dwelling in poverty and retirement – for this reason that it is determinately apportioned to him by Heaven. What belongs by his nature to the superior man is benevolence, righteousness, propriety, and knowledge. These are rooted in his heart.”58 A superior man’s pursuit of moral integrity won’t change whether he is in poverty or prosperity. When answering Zi Lu’s question about energy, Confucius said, “The superior man cultivates a friendly harmony, without being weak. He stands erect in the middle, without inclining to either side. When good principles prevail in the government of his country, he does not change from what he was in retirement. When bad principles prevail in the country, he maintains his course to death without changing.”59 The Doctrine of the Mean often talks about the independent and self-reliant spirit followed by men of nobility. For instance, “the superior man dares not but exert himself”, “the superior man can find himself in no situation in which he is not himself,”60 to name just a few. The features and requirements of the superior man that Confucianism advocates are elaborated in the chapter “Ru Xing” (Conduct of Confucians) in The Book of Rites. 
 
According to Confucian theories, a man of nobility is not born noble, but through unremitting study and self-improvement, and everyone can become a noble man as long as he is dedicated to studying and self-improvement. Just as Mencius said, “all men may be Yao and Shun.”61 Maybe one cannot make achievements as great as Yao and Shun did, but everyone can gain nobility through embracing the sage’s heart. Just as Wang Yangming interpreted, “What makes metal superior is its quality instead of its weight; what makes one a saint is his attainment of heavenly principle instead of his talent or power. Therefore, if a man is studious and pursues heavenly principle, he will become a saint… This is why I believe all men may be Yao and Shun.”62 In the 
eyes of Confucians, all men share the same heart and may become noble. Despite their different talents and capacities, all can cultivate a saint’s heart. What is important is learning for self-improvement. Confucius praised that “in ancient times, men learned with a view to their own improvement.”63 By saying so, he suggested that men should learn for self-improvement, not for the approbation of others. From this view, we can understand why The Great Learning advocates that “all men, from monarchs to common people, first of all, should give priority to self-improvement.”64
 
Every individual in the community isn’t a lone island. In Confucian thought, the cultivation of a superior man is a process of seeking self-improvement, a process of cultivating the self, regulating the family, governing the state and bringing peace to the world, and a process of attaining self-cultivation and then educating others. It reflects the unity of knowing and doing. Whether in poverty or in prosperity, a superior man should seek self-respect, self-esteem, and self-improvement, and contribute to promoting the development of others and society. Throughout history, such requirements for personality and cultivation of superior men advocated by Confucianism helped cultivate numerous people with lofty ideals. They upheld the ideals “to ordain conscience for heaven and earth, to secure life and fortune for the people, to continue lost teachings for past sages, and to establish peace for all future generations”, put into practice the spirit of “being the first to bear hardships and the last to enjoy comforts” and that “one should uphold his country’s interest with his life, he should not do things just to pursue his personal gains and he should not evade responsibilities for fear of personal loss.” They made unremitting efforts to ensure people’s wellbeing and advance the nation and country’s progress and development. Their moral integrity encouraged people to seek self-improvement and independence, and their deeds played a role in guaranteeing people’s livelihood and improving society. Both of the aforesaid two perspectives are related to modern human rights.
 
C. Vertical relations
 
Strictly speaking, “vertical relations” isn’t a widely accepted term in discussions on human rights. It is used here mainly to refer to the relationship between the state and the people (the public) in modern human rights studies. Unlike horizontal relations between common people, this relationship contains the element of power. If viewing it from the perspective of Confucian theory on community, this relationship mainly refers to that between the ruler and the people. In this regard, Confucianism developed the concepts of “regarding the people as the foundation” and “good governance,” which contains the Confucian understanding of the due status of humans (especially the people). Such concepts are worthy of attention even today.
 
1. Regarding the people as the foundation
 
Academia uses the term “Min Ben” (literally, “regarding the people as the foundation”) to summarize Confucian thought on the relationship between the state and the people and the relationship between the ruler and his ministers and people. Perhaps this derived from the statement that “the people are the root of a country; when the root is firm, the country is tranquil” 65 in “Songs of the Five Sons” in the chapter of “Speech at Gan,” part of “Xia Shu” in The Book of History. Based on lessons drawn from the past, “Songs of the Five Sons” put forward the idea that the ruler shall respect the common people and make the root firm, so as to make the country stable. In the Chinese language, “Ben” (the fundamental) is the opposite of “Mo” (the incidental). According to the “Min Ben” idea advocated by Confucianism, the people are the “foundation” for the country and the ruler. Without the people, the country would not exist; Similarly, without the people, the ruler would not exist. Mencius once said, “The people are the most important element in a nation; the spirits of the land and grain are the next; the sovereign is the lightest. Therefore to gain the peasantry is the way to become sovereign; to gain the sovereign is the way to become a prince of a state; to gain the prince of a state is the way to become a great official.”66 This thought also existed in the philosophies of other schools of thought in the pre-Qin period. For instance, in the pre-Qin classic Liu Tao (Six Strategies), which is said to be authored by Lu Wang, the teacher of King Wen of Zhou, reads, “The country belongs to no one, but to all. He who agrees with the interests of the country may gain the position of the sovereign; he who goes against the interests of the country may lose the position of sovereign. Heaven has the changes of season, and earth has a wealth of resources. He who can share all of these with others is benevolent. Only with benevolence can one win support from the people nationwide.”67 All of these propositions emphasize the importance of valuing people’s interests and suggest that only the benevolent and virtuous man who wins support of the people can gain the position of sovereign.
 
The people are the foundation of a state. Therefore, the ruler should listen to the aspirations of the people. This idea is manifested by many statements in The Book of History. For example, “Great Heaven has no partial affections; it helps only the virtuous.”68 That means one must be virtuous to become the sovereign, and heaven only helps virtuous men. “Heaven compassionates the people. What the people desire, heaven will be found to give effect to…Heaven sees as my people see; Heaven hears as my people hear.”69 That means heaven meets the aspiration of the people and judges whether the ruler is virtuous or not through what the people see and hear. Therefore, Mencius suggested that when appointing someone to office or sentencing someone to death, the ruler shall listen to the opinions of as many possible as possible around the country, instead of just a few around him, and make the final decisions after careful examination.70 The paramount status of the people in Confucian thought is closely associated with the Confucian idea of benevolence which considers humans the “heart of Heaven and Earth” and the “carriers of the virtues of Heaven and Earth.” Unlike the Christian culture in the West, Confucianism doesn’t hold that humans are created by God. However, it also has its own theory on the sanctity of humans. This determines Confucian ideas on the people’s status in the state and the world and the relationship between the people and the ruler. However, it is worth noting that the Confucian concept of “Min Ben” isn’t democracy, and the two shouldn’t be confused. Some scholars have clearly analyzed and expounded on this issue.71
 
2. Good governance
 
Good governance is also called “benevolent governance” in some Confucian classics. The theory of benevolent governance perhaps derived from Mencius’ proposition that a ruler should “put in practice a benevolent government.”72 The term “good governance” comes from the chapter “Counsels of the Great Yu” of The Book of History: “The virtue of the ruler is seen in his good governance, and that governance is seen in the nourishing of the people.”73 Confucianism suggests the ruler exercise good governance. As per the statements in “Counsels of the Great Yu” of The Book of History, the good governance that Confucianism advocates features the unity of “the rectification of the people’s virtue, the tools and other things that supply the conveniences of life, and the securing abundant means of sustentation”. If analyzing from the angle of human rights, it includes nurturing and educating the people and providing relief to the weak and the poor. 
 
3. Nurturing the people
 
Nurturing the people refers to sustaining people’s livelihood and ensuring people’s wellbeing through developing production in the fields of metal, wood, water, fire, land, and grain. Meanwhile, Confucianism opposes the ruler extorting excessive taxes and levies on the people and tyrannical government. Confucius advocated that the ruler of a state should first enrich people and then educate people, namely, “enrich them” and “teach them.”74 Mencius proposed ensuring the people have sustained properties, so that they can persistently pursue goodness. He once said that a great ruler shall regulate the livelihoods of the people, so as to make sure that, for those above them, they shall have sufficient wherewithal to serve their parents, and, for those below them, sufficient wherewithal to support their wives and children; that in good years they shall always be abundantly satisfied, and that in bad years they shall escape the danger of perishing. Let mulberry-trees be planted about the homesteads with their five mu, and persons in their fifties may be clothed with silk. In keeping fowls, pigs, dogs, and swine, let not their times of breeding be neglected, and persons in their seventies may eat meat. Let there not be taken away the time that is proper for the cultivation of the farm with its hundred mu, and the family of eight mouths that is supported by it shall not suffer from hunger. He also condemned some rulers who failed to maintain people’s livelihoods, saying that ‘above, they have not sufficient wherewithal to serve their parents, and, below, they have not sufficient wherewithal to support their wives and children’. Notwithstanding good years, their lives are continually embittered, and, in bad years, they do not escape perishing. However, in the king and princes’ kitchen there is fat meat; in their stables there are fat horses. But the people have the look of hunger, and in the wilds, there are those who have died of famine. This is leading on beasts to devour men.”75 Mencius suggested that the sovereign should pay attention to people’s livelihoods during inspection tours and the princes should do the same when reporting to the sovereign: “The sovereign visited the princes, which was called ‘A tour of Inspection’. The princes attended at the court of the sovereign, which was called ‘Giving a report of office.’ It was a custom in the spring to examine the plowing, and supply any deficiency of seed; and in autumn to examine the reaping, and assist where there was a deficiency of the crop.”76 Confucius and Mencius’ ideas on nurturing the people cast far-reaching influence on later generations. 
 
Nurturing the people also means that those with the superior status shall not scramble interests with common people. As recorded in “Fang Jin” of The Book of Rites: “The Master said, ‘The superior man does not take all the profit that he might do, but leaves some for the people.’ It is said in The Book of Poetry, “There shall be handfuls left on the ground, and ears here and there left untouched; For the benefit of the widow.” Hence, when a superior man is in office and enjoys its emoluments, he does not go in for farming; if he hunts, he does not also fish; he eats the fruits of the season, and is not eager for delicacies; if a higher official, he does not sit on sheepskins; if a lower official, he does not sit on dogskins.”77 The principle that “the superior man does not take all the profit that he might do, but leaves some for the people” requires the ruler and officials shall leave enough room for the people to earn their own livelihoods, rather than take all profits from the people and squeeze their living space. Therefore, “when a superior man is in office and enjoys its emoluments, he does not go in for farming; if he hunts, he does not also fish.” Meanwhile, officials shall not live an excessively luxurious life, and “he eats the fruits of the season, and is not eager for delicacies; if a higher official, he does not sit on sheepskins; if a lower official, he does not sit on dogskins.” Here, it quoted the poem “Grand Field” in “Xiao Ya” of The Book of Poetry and took it as an example for explanation: At that time, after harvest, people intentionally spared some ears of wheat and corn in the fields, whether it was public fields or private fields, so that widows and other poor people could gather for food. The idea of not taking all the profits but leaving some for the people exerted profound influence in the following dynasties. For instance, Dong Zhongshu of the Western Han Dynasty reiterated this proposition in the chapter “Systems” of Chun Qiu Fan Lu (Studies of Spring and Autum) and explained it from the perspective of the Way of Heaven. In the fourth month of the seventh year of the Wude reign, Emperor Gaozu of Tang issued a decree, stipulating that “those who earn salaries from the government shall not take profits from the people”.78 This decree even affected legislation in the following dynasties. It became a long-standing system in ancient China that officials were not allowed to run a business or take part-time jobs. The fundamental purpose of this system is to nurture the people by not scrambling interests from them.
 
The Confucian idea on nurturing the people isn’t implemented through “providing assistance and relief to all the people,” but through “cultivating and enlightening the people.” Besides, it called for preventing misconduct of the ruler and officials while encouraging the people to seek independence and self-reliance. In fact, this is mirrored in many measures that China has taken to eradicate absolute poverty and build a moderately prosperous society in all respects.
 
4. Educating the people 
 
Confucianism particularly advocates and values universal education. The Book of Changes calls for “paying attention to ethics and morality to make people’s behaviors meet the rules of propriety.” This has always been an ideal of Confucians. It echoes the statement in The Great Learning: “Illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the country.” It said, “The ancients who wished to illustrate illustrious virtue throughout the country, first governed well their own states. Wishing to govern well their states, they first regulated their families. Wishing to cultivate themselves, they first rectified their minds. Wishing to rectify their minds, they first sought to be sincere in their thoughts. Wishing to be sincere in their thoughts, they first extended to the utmost their knowledge. Such extension of knowledge lays in the investigation of things.”79 Of the Confucian ideals “cultivating the self, regulating the family, governing the state and bringing peace to the world,” “bring peace to the world” is actually the same as “illustrating illustrious virtue throughout the country.” Both aim to make the virtue known to all and use it to teach the people. As for how to treat the people, Confucianism proposes “enriching them” first and then “teaching them.” Confucians once advocated “enriching” and “teaching” people by “guiding them with virtue and maintaining order among them with the rules of propriety.”80 He suggested that “in teaching there should be no distinction of classes”81 and opposed “putting the people to death without having instructed them and requiring them to accomplish work one stroke without having given them a warning,” which he considered cruelty and oppression, respectively.82 When Duke Wen of Teng consulted him on state governance, Mencius replied: “Ensure the people have a livelihood and establish schools to educate them on social ethics.”83 The Great Learning holds that “all men, from monarchs to common people, first of all, should give priority to self-improvement.” Confucius advocates the rites of Zhou. According to the government system of the Zhou Dynasty, the ministers of the earth were responsible for overseeing education across the country. The Chief Minister undertook 13 kinds of educating duties, namely, teaching the rule of respect with the sacrificial ceremony, teaching the rule of modesty with the Yang ceremony, teaching the rule of fraternity with the Yin ceremony, teaching the rule of union with the musical ceremony, distinguishing people’s social statuses with rites, teaching the rule of peace with folk customs, teaching the rule of compliance with penalty, teaching the rule of compassion with declarations, teaching the rule of abstinence with relevant rules, teaching skills through secular practices, teaching the people to pursue morality and virtue through incentives in reputation and ranks, and teaching the people to make merits for the state through incentives in taxation and remuneration. Besides, “three things” were taught across the country: One is the Six Virtues — knowledge, benevolence, purity, righteousness, loyalty, and union; the second is the Six Rules of Conduct — filial piety, fraternity, harmony, marriage, responsibility, and compassion; the third is the Six Classical Arts — rites, music, archery, riding, writing, and arithmetic.84 All of these specific duties were performed by lower-ranking ministers and village officials. Today, it is impossible to verify whether these systems existed or not. Nevertheless, such records in The Rites of Zhou, as well as the educational system recorded in “Xue Ji” of The Book of Rites, bear Confucian ideals that cast far-reaching influence on later generations. Under the influence of the Confucian thoughts on education, both government-funded and private schools flourished throughout Chinese history and even developed into a lasting tradition.
 
5. Providing relief to the weak and the poor
 
Any society has its weak and poor. Confucianism calls on the ruler and the government to shoulder the responsibility of providing relief and assistance to such people. “Li Yun” of The Book of Rites describes the society of “grand union” that Confucius admired: “When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose men of talents, virtue, and ability; their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony. Thus men did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own sons. A competent provision was secured for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the young. They showed kindness and compassion to widows, orphans, childless men, and those who were disabled by disease, so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes. They accumulated articles of value, disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to keep them for their own gratification. They labored with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it only with a view to their own advantage. In this way selfish scheming was repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers, and rebellious traitors did not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was what we call the Grand Union.”85 When talking about state governance with King Xuan of Qi, Mencius said that widowers, widows, solitaries and orphans, the four classes that are the most destitute of the people, none to whom they can tell their wants, and King Wen of Zhou, in the institution of his government with its benevolent action, made them the first objects of his regard. King Xuan of Qi said that’s excellent. Mencius then asked, “Since your Majesty deems them excellent, why do you not practice them?”86 Helping the weak and the poor is a necessary requisition of the Confucian philosophy of benevolence.
 
Ensuring seniors enjoy their late years, children grow up healthily, and the wifeless, husbandless, the sick and the disabled are under good care requires joint efforts of the government and the community. As per the rites of Zhou advocated by Confucius, the chief minister of earth undertook certain legal duties to “nurturing the people in six aspects: Caring for the young, supporting the aged, invigorating the vulnerable, relieving the poor, helping the sick, and pacifying the rich.”87 As recorded in “Yue Ling” of The Book of Rites, “In the second month of spring, the son of heaven spreads his goodness across the country, and carries out his kindly promptings. He gives orders to the proper officers to distribute from his granaries and vaults, giving their contents to the poor and friendless, and to relieve the needy and destitute; and to open his treasuries and storehouses, and to help those in need all over the country... In the second of autumn, (the son of heaven) takes especial care of the decaying and old, gives them stools and staves, and distributes supplies of congee for food... In the first month of winter, (the son of heaven) shows his compassion to orphans and widows.”88 These thoughts and systems exerted far-reaching influence on following dynasties. For example, there were“ever-normal granaries” during the Han Dynasty and “charitable granaries” and “ever-normal granaries” had and the Tang Dynasty (618-907) to regulate grain prices and provide relief for the poor or during famines.89
 
D. Horizontal interpersonal relations
 
The Confucian idea on the horizontal interpersonal relations is just like Zhang Zai’s statement: “All people are my compatriots.” He said, “The Qi pervading heaven and earth forms our bodies, and the Dao guiding the operation of heaven and earth forms our spirit. All people are my compatriots and all creatures are my companions. The emperor is the son of heaven and earth, and his ministers are the assistants to the son of heaven and earth. Due to their old age, the senior need to be respected; Due to their young age, the young need to be taken good care… All the aged, the sick, the disabled, and widowers and widows of no family under heaven are like my brothers who are in dire need of help.”90 Zhang’s statement inherited Confucius’ ideas of “loving all people” and “seeking benevolence.” Confucius once explained to his disciples about his wishes: “In regard to the aged, to give them rest; in regard to friends, to show them sincerity; in regard to the young, to treat them tenderly.”91 Mencius advocated, “Treat with the reverence due to age the elders in your own family, so that the elders in the families of others shall be similarly treated; treat with the kindness due to youth the young in your own family, so that the young in the families of others shall be similarly treated.”92 Confucianism advocates treating others like treating one’s own relatives. Wang Yangming once said that those with a heart of saints see all things as the same and treat all people like their brothers. He argued that in the beginning, the hearts of all people are just like that of saints, but people later became alien from each others as their original hearts were contaminated by materialistic desire, and some even saw their own parents, children and siblings as foes. This requires us to educate them and restore purity in their hearts.93
 
The Confucian idea of seeing all people as one’s compatriots and brothers is based on the understanding of familial relations, which is then extended to a broader idea for interpersonal relations. The rules of familial ethics — “a loving elder brother treats his siblings well; a younger brother respects his elder brother; the old cares for the young; the young respects the old” — are universally applicable to interpersonal relations. Besides, such “caring and respecting” ideas are extended to others, forming the hierarchical order in interpersonal relations. Therefore, despite the idea of seeing all people as one’s compatriots and brothers, it remains hard for Confucianism to develop the idea that everyone has completely equal rights and duties. Perhaps this is a prominent difference between Confucian culture and Western culture, which is worth cautious consideration. However, we shouldn’t hastily make a judgment on which one is right or superior. In Western culture, with the concept of God as the intermediary, there is the basis for independence and equality between individuals (including between parents and children). In Confucian culture, the concept of interpersonal relations is derived from familial relations, and the community is regarded as a big family. Compared to the spirit of brotherhood with God as the intermediary in Western culture, the Confucian idea that all people under heaven are brothers is more secular and natural. The Confucian familial ethics and rules — “a loving elder brother treats his siblings well; a younger brother respects his elder brother; the old cares for the young; the young respects the old” — also bear recognition and protection of human’s reasonable status and status. For instance, they call for respecting seniors, caring for children, and helping the weak, which has positive meaning even for modern society.Meanwhile, we should notice that Western social ethics and laws do not exercise complete equality in all aspects of rights and duties, regardless of interpersonal relations. On the contrary, the social structure in reality still constitutes the foundation of legal rights and duties in some areas. For instance, family law in modern Western countries has stipulations on the sequence of different family members in terms of upbringing, fostering, supporting and inheritance. This indicates that the Christian spirit of brotherhood fails to eradicate the influence of Roman law on familial relations. The ideal interpersonal relations in the kingdom of heaven haven’t completely replaced the interpersonal relations in the secular world. Therefore, in terms of the understanding of the rational interpersonal relationship and its rational status, there is still room for traditional Confucian culture and modern Western culture for dialogue.
 
E. Relationship between man and nature
 
The modern concept of the relationship between humans and nature can be reduced to the Confucian idea on the relationship between man and other living beings created by heaven and earth. In the view of Confucianism, heaven and earth are the cradles of everything, and humankind is the heart of heaven and earth. Heaven and earth are generous and virtuous. Therefore, humans must respect heaven and earth and love all other living beings. 
 
According the chapter “Great Declaration” in The Book of History, “Heaven and Earth are the parents of all creatures; and of all creatures man is the most highly endowed… Heaven compassionates the people. What the people desire, heaven will be found to give effect to… Only heaven benefits the people.”94 In his “Chapter on the Declaration of Heaven”, Zhang Zai wrote: “Heaven is the father and earth is the mother; Just like our parents, we live in harmony with them. Therefore, the Qi pervading heaven and earth forms our bodies, and the Dao (Way) guiding the operation heaven and earth forms our spirit.”95 All of these manifest the idea of respecting nature.
 
Zhang Zai said that “things are my kind”, Mencius called on rulers to “show benevolence to the people and compassion to all creatures,” Cheng Hao suggested that “the benevolent should integrate himself into all creatures of heaven and earth, rather than stay alone,”96 and Wang Yangming held that “the benevolent should integrate with all creatures of heaven and earth; Even if a single creature suffers, that’s because I fail to put benevolence to full practice.”97 All of these statements express the Confucian idea of universal love for all creatures. This love is manifested by the behavior of exploiting natural resources at the right time and in the proper way. For instance, the chapter “Yue Ling” in The Book of Rites records the decrees and regulations issued by the king: In the first month of spring, care should be taken not to use any female cattle as sacrificial offerings; prohibitions are issued against cutting down trees; nests should not be thrown down; unformed insects should not be killed, nor creatures in the womb, nor very young creatures, nor birds just taking to the wing, nor fawns, nor should eggs be destroyed. Not until the last month of autumn is hunting in the wilderness permitted.98 Such an idea suggests that humans’ livelihoods shouldn’t hinder the reproduction and proliferation of other creatures. Compared to today’s advocation of protecting biodiversity, Wang Yangming’s statement that “Even if a single creature suffers, that’s because I fail to put benevolence to full practice” shows a greater benevolent sentiment that goes beyond utilitarianism. 
 
In Confucian views, humans are the heart of heaven and earth and the wisest of all creatures, and they need to respect heaven and earth and show compassion for all creatures and have the ability and responsibility to ensure common prosperity and sustained growth of all creatures. Just as The Doctrine of the Mean reads, It is only the individual possessed of the most entire sincerity that can exist under heaven, who can adjust the great invariable relations of mankind, establish the great fundamental virtues of humanity, and know the transforming and nurturing operations of heaven and earth.”99 Qian Mu summarized the characteristic of Chinese culture as “unity between man and heaven” and “unity between inside and outside.” He suggested that in nature, both humans and other creatures possess the sincerity of nature and should go against each other, and heaven, earth, humankind and other creatures together constitute the universe.100
 
These Confucian ideas on the relationship between humans and nature hold that humans should neither be controlled by things or try to control things, let alone try to conquer nature and the outside world. Therefore, it is unlikely that Chinese people fostered the idea that knowledge is power. In their eyes, knowledge is the understanding of the Dao, which inspires them to make full use of the strengths of everything, admire the bounties of heaven and earth, and seek harmony between man and nature. Such Confucian thoughts are crucial cultural resources for humankind to ease their high-degree tense with nature caused by their attempt to conquer nature, safeguard human development and ecological harmony, and realize environmental rights – a kind of emerging human rights.
 
IV. Conclusion: Modern Human Rights Development Should Pay Due Attention to the Rational Factors in Confucian Tradition 
 
From the perspective of human rights, Confucian culture has different understanding of humans from Western culture. Confucianism pays less attention to individuals, but considers them individuals in the community. An ideal personality should be independent and self-reliant, and one shouldn’t request or claim rights from others, but embrace benevolence in one’s own heart and take up responsibilities for the wellbeing and development of family or community members. Such duties and responsibilities conform to the reasonable interests and status of others and ensure the realization of their wellbeing and interests. Under such interpersonal relations, people can mutually confirm and guarantee the realization of each other’s reasonable status and interests. In a community comprised of such people, interpersonal relations can be expanded both vertically and horizontally. Confucian ideals and requirements such as “regarding people as the foundation” and “good governance” (including “nourishing and educating the people” and “helping the weak and the poor”) that feature vertical relations, and those featuring horizontal relations (such as “the people are my compatriots”) all convey valuing,respecting and caring for humans. Confucian ideas such as worshipping heaven and earth and care for all living beings convey how we should treat nature and live in harmony with nature. All of these are important cultural resources that modern human rights development shouldn’t and cannot ignore, especially in China. 
 
Our intention for discussing human rights factors in Confucian tradition is neither to pay homage to ancient people nor to return to the past, but to explore and demonstrate the living, vigorous things in our traditional culture and use them to support human rights development. In fact, human rights development is a matter of a nation’s development and a global issue. The common challenges mankind faces today, such as imbalanced global development, refugees, and ecologic crises, require the concerted efforts of all nations. Building and developing a community with a shared future for mankind also needs all nations to work together. Therefore, we need to explore endemic and national resources to advance the development of the global human rights cause while accelerating the development of one’s own.
 
Although the concept of human rights was first coined in Western culture, in today’s international landscape, it has become a common issue faced by all cultures (civilizations). In this context, to understand and discuss human rights, we shouldn’t pay sole attention to Western culture or understand the issue with Western culture as the standard, which will only lead to the global dialogue on human rights being just within the framework of Western culture, namely, different countries and nations discuss human rights solely based on Western theories and thinking. Such a dialogue isn’t one between different civilizations. The world’s human rights development needs all nations to contribute diverse civilizational understandings and solutions for human rights issues based on their own civilization, so as to seek common ground while putting aside differences and forging a synergic force for human rights development, just as Chinese representative Zhang Pengchun and his colleagues did in the drafting of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. 
 
Each nation must depend on its own social foundation and cultural strengths to develop and protect human rights. Each society has its own operating law, which is free of the setting of human logic. Society won’t proceed along the path set by humans dictated by rationality. In fact, rationality can only help us understand the path and direction of history. China’s development must be based on its own national conditions. To serve the 1.4 billion Chinese people who speak Chinese and are nurtured by Chinese culture is our ultimate goal. China’s history is the foundation we must firmly uphold on the way ahead; China’s social structure is the practical conditions we must rely on as we embark on a new journey. We must depend on our own cultural resources and social structure to promote human rights development; we also need to assimilate reasonable factors from other civilizations and use them based on their feasibility.
 
Confucian culture contains rich human rights factors. Those factors are important for China, and have global implications in this world where a variety of civilizations coexist. Therefore, we need to take seriously the human rights factors in Confucian tradition to push forward human rights development in China and the world at large.
 
(Translated by LIU Haile)
 
* HUANG Jianwu ( 黄建武 ), Professor at the School of Law, Sun Yat-sen University. Doctor of Laws
 
1. Grand Chinese Dictionary (compact edition) (Hubei and Sichuan: Hubei Dictionary Publishing House and Sichuan Dictionary Publishing House, 1992), 554.
 
2. Analytical Dictionary of Chinese Characters, “Li originally means ‘sharp’ such like a knife; Later, its meaning was translated into ‘benefits’. The Book of Changes says that Yi (benefit) is the totality of suitable things.”[Eastern Han Dynasty] Xu Shen, Analytical Dictionary of Chinese Characters (photocopied edition) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1963), 91; “Qian Diagram” of The Book of Changes: “Yi (benefit) is the totality of suitable things”; [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume, photocopied edition) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 15; The Doctrine of the Mean: “Yi means suitability.” [Song Dynasty] Zhu Xi, Commentaries on the Four Books, punctuated by Chen Shuguo (Changsha: Yuelu Press, 2004), 32; Bai Hu Tong De Lun (Commentaries at the Meeting of Baihu Taoist Temple): “Yi means suitability earned through decision making.” Saoye Shanfang, Compendium of the Hundred Schools of Thought (sixth volume, photocopied edition) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 2013), 269. 
 
3. For example, the chapter “To Encourage Learning” in Xun Zi says, “(A noble man) is not impacted by power and wealth and remains his ideal despite the opposition of the many.” Saoye Shanfang, Compendium of the Hundred Schools of Thought (first volume, photocopied edition) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 2013), 199. Here, “Quan Li” refers to power and wealth, saying that the moral integrity of a noble man should be free from the impact of power and wealth. Take Huan Kuan’s On Salt and Iron as another example: “The views of past officials, literati and saints are contrasting in terms of purpose and origins. Some advocated benevolence and righteousness, and others focused on power and wealth.” Saoye Shanfang, Compendium of the Hundred Schools of Thought (first volume, photocopied edition) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 2012), 617.
 
4. He Qinhua, etc., Origins of Legal Terms (first volume) (Beijing: Peking University Press, 2009), 220-221.
 
5. Meng Qingtao made an interesting summarization of the studies of those different viewpoints in his paper “Commentaries on the Human Rights Discourse in Confucianism.” The paper categorizes the academic studies on human rights in Confucianism into “existence/non-existence theory,” “history theory,” “relationship theory,” and “construction theory” and introduces the key ideas and representative works of respective theories. Meng Qingtao, “Commentaries on the Human Rights Discourse in Confucianism”, Human Rights 5 (2020). 
 
6. Li Buyun, etc., Law of Human Rights (Beijing: Higher Education Press, 2005), 10.
 
7. In ancient China, “Fa” (law) mainly referred to penalty, which corresponded to “Li” (rites), a national governance system popular in the Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) and the Spring and Autumn Period (770-476 BC), such as the “Six-Minister” system recorded in Rites of the Zhou. Afterwards, the system of “Li” was canonized or legalized. In modern times, “law” refers to all rules formulated by the state, which actually encompass various governance rules of ancient China such as “penalty”, “rites” and “statutes”. Therefore, when the term “Fa Zhi” (literally, rule of law) was concerned, ancient Chinese meant “the rule of penalty”, rather than all governance rules. Today, some researchers often confuse the connotations of “Fa” in ancient and modern times, and make comments without distinguishing the different connotations between the two.
 
8. “A National, Scientific and Mass Culture”, Chapter XV, in On New Democracy, Selected Works of Mao Zedong, vol. 2, 2nd edition (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 1991), 706-708.
 
9. Central Compilation and Translation Bureau, Selected Works of Marx and Engels, vol. 4 (Beijing: People’s Publishing House, 2012), 595.
 
10. Max Weber, Methodology of Social Sciences, Han Shuifa and Ying Qian trans. (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 2013), 45, 46 and 49.
 
11. There are “three schools and five theories” on the periodization of ancient Chinese history, namely, the school of Western Zhou feudal period, the school of Warring States feudal period, the school of Wei and Jin feudal period, the theory of Spring and Autumn feudal period, the theory of Qin feudal period, the theory of Western Han feudal period, the theory of Eastern Han feudal period, and the theory of Eastern Jin feudal period. See Xu Yihua, “Analysis of the Periodization of Ancient Chinese History”, Journal of Chinese Historical Studies 3 (2020).
 
12. “Counsels of Gao-yao” in The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 139. 
 
13. Ju Chengwei, “Confucianism’s Contribution to the World’s New Theories on Human Rights — From the Perspective of Zhang Pengchun’s Contribution to the Formulation of the Universal Declaration of Human Right”, Global Law Review 1 (2011); Sun Pinghua, “Zhang Pengchun: A World-renowned Human Rights Activist”, Human Rights 6 (2011); Huang Jianwu, “Confucian Tradition and Modern Human Rights Development — From the Perspective of Zhang Pengchun’s Contribution to the Formation of the Universal Declaration of Human Right”, Journal of Sun Yat-sen University (philosophy and social sciences) 6 (2012).
 
14. Gudmundur Alfredsson, Universal Declaration of Human Rights: A Common Standard of Achievement, edited by Asborn Eide, trans. China Human Rights Research Organization (Chengdu: Sichuan People’s Publishing House, 1999), 44; Allida M. Black and Mary Jo Blinker, Fundamental Freedoms: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, Facing History and Ourselves National Foundation, Inc. 2010, page 155.
 
15. Graig Williams, “International Human Rights and Confucianism,” 7 Asia-Pacific Journal on Human Rights and the Law 38 (2006): 43.
 
16. Mary Ann Glendon, A World Made New: Eleanor Roosevelt and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights(New York: Random House, 2001), 185.
 
17. Ibid., 165.
 
18. Samuel P. Huntington, The Clash of Civilization and the Remaking of World Order (revised edition), trans. Zhou Qi, etc. (Beijing: Xinhua Publishing House, 2010), 201, 205, 284-288, 292 and 295. 
 
19. Zhang Liwen, “The Harmonious Spirit of Chinese Culture and the 21st Century”, Academic Monthly 9 (1995).
 
20. The Great Learning, [Song Dynasty] Zhu Xi, Commentaries on the Four Books, punctuated by Chen Shuguo (Changsha: Yuelu Press, 2004), 13-14.
 
21. Chapter 13, “Zi Lu” in The Analects, Ibid., 165.
 
22. “Ce Hao” in Bai Hu Tong De, Saoye Shanfang edition, Compendium of the Hundred Schools of Thought (sixth volume) (Hangzhou: Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 2013), 575.
 
23. A.J. Toynbee and Ikeda Taisaku, Looking into the 21st Century: The Toynbee-Ikeda Dialogue, Xun Chunsheng trans. (Beijing: International Culture Publishing Company, 1985), 295.
 
24. New Testament: Matthew — The Cost of Following Jesus, Chapter 10, Section 34. Think not that I am come to send peace on earth: I came not to send peace, but a sword; Section 35: For I am come to set a man at variance against his father, and the daughter against her mother, and the daughter in law against her mother in law; Section 36: And a man’s foes shall be they of his own household; Section 37: He that loveth father or mother more than me is not worthy of me; and he that loveth son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; Section 38: and he that taketh not his cross, and followeth after me, is not worthy of me; Section 39: He that findeth his life shall lose it; and he that loseth his life for my sake shall find it. A scholar who studies the Bible explained the chapter that this is the sin on earth, and even the closest relative is not trustable. This part is quoted from Old Testament (Micah 7:6). See Craig S. Keener, The IVP Bible Background Commentary: New Testament, trans. Liu Liangshu (Beijing: Central Compilation and Translation Publishing House, 2013), 43.
 
25. “Xu Gua” in The Book of Changes: Heaven and earth existing, all things then got their existence. All things having existence, afterwards there came male and female. From the existence of male and female there came afterwards husband and wife. From husband and wife there came father and son. From father and son there came ruler and minister. From ruler and minister there came high and low. When (the distinction of) high and low had existence, afterwards came the arrangements of propriety and righteousness. See The Book of History, 96.
 
26. John Locke, Second Treatise of Government, trans. Ye Qifang and Qu Junong (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1964), 59.
 
27. Henry Maine, The Ancient Law, trans. Shen Jingyi (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1959), 174-176.
 
28. “Yan Yuan” in The Analects, The Great Learning, [Song Dynasty] Zhu Xi, Commentaries on the Four Books, punctuated by Chen Shuguo (Changsha: Yuelu Press, 2004), 150.
 
29. “Li Yun” in The Book of Rites, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (second volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1422.
 
30. The Great Learning, 8
 
31. Gerald J. Postema, “The Concept of Rights”, in Philosophy of Law, Conrad Johnson ed. (London: Macmillan Publishing Company, 1993), 450.
 
32. The words quoted from Hans Kelsen, General Theory of Law and State, Shen Zongling trans. (Beijing: Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, 1996), 84, 85-86 and 87.
 
33. Overview on academic literature related to “composition of rights”, see Huang Jianwu, “The Composition of Legal Rights and the Legal Protection of Human Rights”, Modern Law Science 4 (2008).
 
34. “Duke Ling of Wei” in The Analects, General Theory of Law and State, trans. Shen Zongling (Beijing: Encyclopedia of China Publishing House, 1996), 188.
 
35. The Doctrine of the Mean, Ibid., 27.
 
36. Ibid., 28.
 
37. “Yong Ye” in The Analects, Ibid., 104. 
 
38. “Li Ren” in The Analects: The Master said, “Shen, my doctrine is that of an all-pervading unity.” The disciple Zeng replied, “Yes.” The Master went out, and the other disciples asked, saying, “What do his words mean?”Zeng said, “The doctrine of our master is to be true to the principles of our nature and the benevolent exercise of them to others, this and nothing more.” Ibid., 81.
 
39. Ibid., 238.
 
40. Ibid., 239.
 
41. Immanuel Kant, The Philosophy of Law: An Exposition of the Fundamental Principles of Jurisprudence as the Science of Right (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1991), 41.
 
42. Just as Song Dynasty Confucian scholar Lu Jiuyuan said, “There is only one Mind — the basic Mind, the Mind of my friends, the Mind of sages of all times; The same will happen to sages to emerge in the following millennia.” [Song Dynasty] Lu Jiuyuan, Collection of Lu Jiuyuan’s Works (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 444.
 
43. John Rawls, Theory of Justice, trans. He Huaihong, etc. (Beijing: China Social Sciences Press, 1988), 11, 12, 56 and 292.
 
44. “Gao Zi I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, [Song Dynasty] Zhu Xi, Commentaries on the Four Books, punctuated by Chen Shuguo (Changsha: Yuelu Press, 2004), 359 and 362.
 
45. “Shu Er” in The Analects, Ibid., 114. 
 
46. The Doctrine of the Mean, Ibid., 32. 
 
47. “Yan Yuan” in The Analects, Ibid., 158.
 
48. “Great Declaration” in The Book of History, “Counsels of Gao-yao” in The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume)(Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 180.
 
49. “Li Yun” of The Book of Rites, “Li Yun” in The Book of Rites, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (second volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1423-1424.
 
50. The Great Learning, 70.
 
51. Xu Fuguan, History of Chinese Theories on Humanity — Pre-Qin Period (Beijing: Jiuzhou Press, 2014), 83.
 
52. “Li Yun” of The Book of Rites, “Li Yun” in The Book of Rites, 1426.
 
53. “Duke Ai Wen” of The Book of Rites, Ibid., 1611.
 
54. “Yan Yuan” in The Analects, The Great Learning, [Song Dynasty] Zhu Xi, Commentaries on the Four Books, punctuated by Chen Shuguo (Changsha: Yuelu Press, 2004), 150.
 
55. “Jin Xin I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), Ibid., 399.
 
56. [Song Dynasty] Zhang Zai, Collection of Zhang Zai’s Works (Shanghai: Zhonghua Book Company, 1978), 62.
 
57. “Jin Xin I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 386-387.
 
58. “Jin Xin I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 390.
 
59. The Doctrine of the Mean, Ibid., 25.
 
60. The Doctrine of the Mean, Ibid., 21, 28.
 
61. “Gao Zi II” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 373.
 
62. [Ming Dynasty] Wang Yangming, Complete Works of Wang Yangming (I), edited and proofread by Wu Guang, etc. (Shanghai: Shanghai Classics Publishing House, 2011), 32.
 
63. “Xian Wen” in The Analects, The Great Learning, 176.
 
64. The Great Learning, 6.
 
65. “Speech at Gan”, “Xia Shu” in The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 156.
 
66. “Jin Xin I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 404.
 
67. “Wen Shi I”, “Wen Tao” in Liu Tao (Six Strategies), in Bai Hu Tong De, Saoye Shanfang edition, Compendium of the Hundred Schools of Thought vol. 2 (Hangzhou: Zhejiang People’s Publishing House, 2013), 494.
 
68. “Charge to Zhong of Cai”, “Zhou Shu” in The Book of History, in The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 227.
 
69. “Great Declaration”, “Zhou Shu” in The Book of History, Ibid., 181.
 
70. “King Hui of Liang I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 249.
 
71. Sun Xiaochun, “An Exploration of the Origins of Confucian People-centered Thoughts”, Jilin University Journal on Social Sciences 5 (1995).
 
72. “King Hui of Liang I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 235.
 
73. “Counsels of the Great Yu”, “Yu Shu” in The Book of History, 135.
 
74. “Zi Lu” in The Analects, The Great Learning, 163.
 
75. “King Hui of Liang I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), Ibid., 232, 234, 241.
 
76. “Gao Zi II” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), Ibid., 377.
 
77. “Fang Ji” in The Book of Rites, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (second volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1621-1622.
 
78. [Song Dynasty] Sima Guang, Zi Zhi Tong Jian (Comprehensive Reference for Aid in Government), vol. 13, 2nd edition (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 2011), 6094.
 
79. The Great Learning, 6.
 
80. “Wei Zhong” in The Analects, Ibid., 61.
 
81. “Duke Ling of Wei” in The Analects, Ibid., 191.
 
82. “Yao Yue” in The Analects, Ibid., 222.
 
83. “Duke Wen of Teng I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), Ibid., 285.
 
84. “Chief Minister of Earth” in The Rites of Zhou, The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 703 and 707.
 
85. “Li Yun” of The Book of Rites, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (second volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1413-1414.
 
86. See “King Hui of Liang II” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), The Great Learning, 247.
 
87. “Chief Minister of Earth” in The Rites of Zhou, The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 706.
 
88. “Yue Ling” in The Book of Rites, Ibid., 1363 and 1373; Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (second volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1381.
 
89. [Song Dynasty] Ma Duanlin, Wen Xian Tong Kao, vol. 1 (Critical Examinations of Documents) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 2011), 601-633.
 
90. [Song Dynasty] Zhang Zai, Collection of Zhang Zai’s Works, 62. 
 
91. “Gongye Chang” in The Analects, The Great Learning, 93.
 
92. “King Hui of Liang I” in Mengzi (The Works of Mencius), Ibid., 238.
 
93. [Ming Dynasty] Wang Yangming, Complete Works of Wang Yangming (I), 61.
 
94. “Great Declaration” in The Book of History, The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 180-181.
 
95. [Song Dynasty] Zhang Zai, Collection of Zhang Zai’s Works, 62.
 
96. [Song Dynasty] Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi, Collection of Cheng Hao and Cheng Yi’s Works (first volume), 2nd edition (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 2004), 15.
 
97. [Ming Dynasty] Wang Yangming, Complete Works of Wang Yangming (I), 29.
 
98. “Yue Ling” in The Book of Rites, The Book of History, proofread and printed by [Qing Dynasty] Ruan Yuan, Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (first volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1357; Thirteen Classics with Annotations and Commentaries (second volume) (Beijing: Zhonghua Book Company, 1980), 1379.
 
99. The Doctrine of the Mean, The Great Learning, 37.
 
100. Qian Mu, An Introduction to the History of Chinese Culture, revised edition (Beijing: The Commercial Press, 1994), 224-225.
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