Influences of Confucianism, Legalism and Buddhism


Influencesof Confucianism, Legalism and Buddhism

Influencesof Confucianism, Legalism and Buddhism

TheChinese empires and the society have been influenced by manyhistorical philosophies and religious factors. Among the maininfluences of the Chinese society are Confucianism, Legalism andBuddhism. While each of them influenced the Chinese empiresdifferently, their impact has lasted on the philosophy and theChinese societies from the historical times to date. Ebrey (2009)argues that the impact is because of the influence of the Chineseideology that determined their political, social and economicdecisions. This paper will explore these influences and how thespecifics of the ideologies have impacted on the governments andsociety of the Chinese societies. Moreover, this paper will explorethe balances that were struck between these ideologies and hencesuggest the most impactful ideology.

TheInfluence of Confucianism

Confucianismis an ideology that is deeply rooted in the teachings of Confucius,one of the most famous Chinese scholars. According to Ebrey (2009),the ideology is structured in a set of principles that guided themoral development of people and consequently order in the society. Inaddition, the application of these guidelines in the society became away of creating a harmonious social and political society in theChinese dynasties. This is because Confucianism led to thedevelopment of a society that respected the ideals of a just andcohesive society. The Chinese societies followed Confucianism as areligious belief, even though the ideology was no a pure religion buta set of thoughts. The set of thought therefore related to the peoplewho received the teachings of the religious scholar.

Theother main contribution of Confucianism is the political set ups anddevelopment of Chinese culture. In the Tang dynasty, Confucianismbecause a significant influence over their political decisions andstructure of their societies (Wolfram,2005). Along with Buddhism andTaoism, Confucianism was adopted in the tang societies asNeo-Confucianism. By promoting human responsiveness to the factorsaffecting the society, Confucianism contributed to the formation ofhumane government with friendly policies in the Chinese kingdoms.Confucianism was the foundation of the political structures that hadsignificant social reforms and took care of their people. A goodexample is the Song Dynasty that took care of the social welfare ofthe people. According to Wolfram(2005), the government in theSong Dynasty provided humanistic services like health than any otherdynasty before. This was as a result of the ideology created byConfucianism that was adopted in the previous Tang Dynasty.

TheInfluence of Legalism

Legalismsignificantly influenced the Chinese empires by promoting the aspectsof centralized political structures in terms of governance. Theprimary focus of Legalism is the keep absolute powers at the centeras vested in the leader in charge. This ideology promoted thecentralization of authority around the man in charge of the kingdomby ensuring that he makes almost all the decisions regarding theempire. An example of this influence on the governance of Chineseempires is the government of a Legalists like Han Fei Zi. He had ahighly centralized governance and believed that strict rules wereneeded to promote order (Ebrey, 2009). He adopted extreme Legalismsince he also believed that human nature was an unruly nature thatneeded taming.

Legalismalso influenced the type of departments and political structures wereput in place to control the empires. Most state departments werestrictly controlled by the legalists because they did not trust theirgenerals and government officers (Ebrey, 2009). As a result, thesociety was tightly held at the center of the government and humanismwas not given a chance to thrive. Consequently, many societies lostthe social aspects to the political derive by leaders to controlthem. This influence of legalism is exemplified in the Emperor&nbspQinShi Huangdi who led an infamousdraconian&nbspQinstate where the emperor and his ministers ruled ruthlessly(Ebrey, 2009). Thiswas similar to the legalism trend as seen in the reign ShangYang, one of the most known Chinese legalists.

TheInfluence of Buddhism&nbsp

Fromas early as the first century, Buddhism influenced the Chinesesocieties through the introduction of new concepts and doctrines. Asa&nbspnontheisticreligion, Buddhism is perhaps one of the most influential set ofbeliefs and practices in the historical Chinese empires and societies(Ebrey, 2009). Buddhismprovided an explanation to the Chinese empires about the unexplainedaspects of life. By focusing on giving of answers throughenlightenment, Buddhism provided the Chinese with a reason for thepredicaments or the circumstances they faced. For instance, Buddhismgave people a religious explanation of the suffering they enduredunder some Chinese empires. This made it easy for the Chinesedynasties to govern their subject and influence their actions awayfrom revolt and promoted loyalty.

Buddhismalso introduced religious elements in the social and cultural life ofthe societies in the Chinese empires. Many buildings were influencedby Buddhism while religious sacred objects were introduced into theChinese culture through the religion. For instance, the ChineseJintaiTemple that was built in Zhuhai,&nbspGuangdongattests to the influence of Buddhism to the Chinese buildings andreligious practice (Ebrey, 2009).At thesame time, the Chinese leaders were influenced to follow the idealsof Buddhism in their governance structure. This led to thedevelopment of Han-Chinese Buddhism as an influence in the Chinesemedicine, philosophy, politics, material culture and literature.

Balancingthe Ideologies

Theadoption of these ideologies was moderated by a balance of theirinfluence to the Chinese societies across all the empires. Accordingto Ebrey (2009),each of the ideologies influenced the Chinese societies to the extentthat it would be acceptable by the members of the society and to theextent it would be used to justify the social-economic structure.While legalism was adopted to centralize power within it, the aspectsof Buddhism were applied by the leaders to provide comfort to theoppressed subjects.

Thebalance of the application was also struck to guide the members ofthe society towards uniting with the leadership of the day. Religiousleaders were vocal in uniting people while at the same time promotingthe political interests of the empires they served in(Wolfram,2005). Therefore,the religious aspects of these ideologies were used for the benefitof both the leaders of the empires and give hope to citizens.

Ofthe three ideologies, Confucianismis theideology with the deepest impact on the Chinese societies across theempires. This is because Confucianismwas considered to be both a religion and a philosophy for the Chinesesocieties (Ebrey, 2009). Therefore, Confucianism influenced both themorality of people and the religious commitments of the society.However, the ideology promoted a sense of superiority of the humanconduct over the religious beliefs. This made Confucianism to have adeep impact over the political ideologies of the philosophies in mostof the Chinese empires. Consequently, Confucianism has lasted to be astrong ideology that has influenced the Chinese values and ethicalprinciples. This pushed its impact beyond the historical relevance inthe Chinese empires to current times.


Ebrey,P.B. (2009). ChineseCivilization: A Sourcebook, 2nd Ed.New York: Simon and Schuster

Wolfram,E. (2005).&nbspAHistory of China.New York: Cosimo Publishing