The teaching of Confucianism
The main teaching of Confucius is jen, which literally means "two persons." Jen is concerned with human relationships and with the virtue of the superior or noble person. Jen is associated with loyalty (zhong), referring basically to loyalty to one's own heart and conscience, rather than to a narrower political loyalty. Jen also refers to affection and love. The great Confucian thinker Mencius (371–289 B.C.E.) said, "The human being of jen loves others." However, jen should be guided by yi (righteousness), and a superior person must know how to love others and when not to love others. The Confucian interpretation of jen as universal love differs from that of Mo-tzu (fifth century B.C.E.), who advocated a love for all without distinction. The followers of Confucius emphasize the need of discernment, of making distinctions, and they reserve for parents and kin a special love. Familial relations provide a model for social behavior by which people should respect their own elders, as well as other's elders, and be kind to their own children and juniors, as well as those of others. This is the reason for the strong sense of solidarity not only in the Chinese family, but also in Confucian social organizations among overseas Chinese communities.
Ritual is an important part of Confucius's teachings as well, and Confucianism is also known as the ritual religion (li-jiao). Confucian teachings have helped keep alive an older cult of veneration for ancestors and the worship of heaven. This was a formal cult practiced by China's imperial rulers, who regarded themselves as the keepers of "Heaven's Mandate" of government, and were considered to be "High Priests," mediators between the human order and the divine order.
Before the twentieth century, the calendar of official sacrifices was determined by the Board of Astronomy according to established divinatory procedures and was published well in advance by the Ministry of Rites (li-Pu). During the last dynasty (Q'ing, 1644–1912), the Ministry of Rites performed the same functions as they did during the Han dynasty (206 B.C.E.–220 C.E.). The Ministry's most important responsibilities were educational, but it also kept records of all ceremonies the emperor attended, of the descendants of Confucius, and of Buddhist, Daoist, medical, and astronomical officials. All cases of filial piety, righteousness, and loyalty were reported to the emperor for rewards.