Introduction to Confucianism

Introduction to Confucianism


Monday, 6:30 – 8:30 PM
January 10 – February 28 (No class on 1/17 MLK & 2/21 Presidents Day)
6 sessions (12 hours)
$420 member/ $460 non-member
(plus a $30 non-refundable registration fee)
* This course will be taught in English.

Course Description

Confucianism is centrally concerned with questions about how we ought to live: what goes into a worthwhile life, how to weigh duties toward family, what kinds of qualities a person should have or avoid having, how we should treat other people (and ourselves), and what makes us happy. This virtual course will introduce ethical issues raised by some of the most influential texts in Confucius’s Analects (Lunyu), a collection of the sage’s sayings. It will use Chinese thought in the context of contemporary American life to help students find their place in the world and create a positive society and flourishing life.

We will learn Confucian core values including: ren (仁, benevolence), xiao (孝, finial piety), xue (学, learning), zhi (直, uprightness), xin (信, trustworthiness) and he (和, harmony). We will be looking at some passages of the Analects, examining their arguments, and putting them into conversation with allies and critics. historical and contemporary, East and West. Among general questions to be considered are: How is Confucianism in China related to tension between tradition and modernism? Which aspects of Confucianism are culture bound and which are universally applicable?

By the end of the course the students will be expected to have attained and demonstrated a satisfactory level of competence in understanding:

  • the distinctive teachings and practices of Confucianism.
  • the basic characteristics of Confucianism as distinguished from Western and other Asian traditions.
  • the relevance of Confucianism today.
  • Enhanced recognition of cultural differences between China and western societies and their roots in Confucianism.

Classes will be engaging and interactive. Lecture will be integrated with PowerPoint presentation, video showing, and storytelling. Questions and discussions are encouraged—the success of class will depend in part on students’ involvement. One great thing about this class is that students are going to be coming from various backgrounds and have different bodies of knowledge and experience to bring to the table.


Recommended Textbook:

Zu-yan Chen. Confucius: Eternal Sage. San Francisco: Long River Press, 2013. Available on This book is recommended, but not required. Handouts will be distributed.

Zu-yan Chen

Zu-yan CHEN is a Professor of Chinese Language and Literature at Binghamton University, State University of New York. He holds the rank of SUNY Distinguished Teaching Professor. An expert in Confucianism and Confucian ethics, Chen is the author of seven books and many articles spanning the fields of Chinese literature, history, philosophy, and language pedagogy, including Confucius: Eternal Sage and Confucius’s Analects: An Advanced Reader of Chinese Language and Culture.

6:30 PM - 8:30 PM
Instructor: Zu-yan Chen