An­cient ideals

The World of Chinese - - Cover Story - - TAN YUNFEI (谭云飞)

While the mod­ern male ideal ranges from suc­cess­ful busi­ness­man to fam­ily guy, the epit­ome of an­cient Chi­nese mas­culin­ity was more spe­cific—a junzi (君子, “su­pe­rior man”). The term orig­i­nally de­scribed a no­ble­man—lit­er­ally, “son of a lord”— dur­ing the Western Zhou dy­nasty (1046 BCE – 771 BCE), but later de­scribed vir­tu­ous men who ful­filled Con­fu­cian obli­ga­tions.

While still one rank be­low the supreme honor of sage, an­cient junzi were the epit­ome of both high morals and tal­ent. Late Qing dy­nasty scholar Gu Hong­ming (辜鸿铭) be­lieved that the essence of Con­fu­cius's phi­los­o­phy was “the doc­trine of junzi.” A junzi pos­sesses the virtues of benev­o­lence (仁), right­eous­ness (义), pro­pri­ety (礼), knowl­edge (智), and in­tegrity (信), and fol­lows the tenets of loy­alty (忠), fil­ial piety (孝), and hon­esty (廉). In his Analects, Con­fu­cius men­tions junzi 107 times (re­fer­ring to rulers in a dozen in­stances) and its op­po­site, xi­aoren (小人, “in­fe­rior per­son”), 24 times, claim­ing “The mind of the su­pe­rior man is con­ver­sant with right­eous­ness; the mind of the mean man is con­ver­sant with gain” (君子喻于义,小人喻于利). Since the Zhou dy­nasty, stu­dents were en­cour­aged to be­come junzi by mas­ter­ing the “six arts” (六艺): rites, mu­sic, archery, char­i­o­teer­ing, cal­lig­ra­phy, and math­e­mat­ics.

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