What is a “Fiduciary Community”?
Tu Weiming: A fiduciary community … is a society of
of a mere aggregate of individuals. In such a society, the goal
the people is not only to live in peace but also to aid each other in
exhortation as they cultivate their own personal characters. (C&C,
- Do we live in a
society of “mutual trust,” or are we merely “an aggregate of individuals”?
- What does this tell
us about our assumptions with regard to “human nature”?
I. Personal Transformation
The fact that the way of the profound
can, on the one hand, be manifested in the lives of ordinary people
on the other, be hidden from the sages is verifiable by common
We all, to a certain extent, practice the ordinary virtues of serving
parents, taking care of our children, or helping our friends. Few
do all these things regularly and conscientiously. Still fewer
to integrate their daily lives with their quests for
self-knowledge. It is indeed rare to find those who act to establish long-lasting
by giving a general structure of meaning to their everyday
And it is almost impossible to imagine that a single person, by a
process of self-realization in the context of ordinary
can creatively transform the existing world and formulate an ultimate
of existence which is powerful and pervasive enough to become a
characteristic of human heritage. (C&C, 32)
The Profound Person
Do you think that
this approach to self-cultivation is uniquely “Confucian,” or is it a
model that might be adapted to any system of morality — whether religious or secular?
II. Political Transformation
The goal of politics is not only to
and order in a society but also to establish a fiduciary community
moral persuasion. The function of politics then is centered on
education. In our ordinary use of the term, we also can consider
politics a branch of moral philosophy, dealing with the ethical
and duties of governments. But the Confucian concept of politics
as rectification involves many aspects of ethicoreligious thought that
are not usually associated with the political arena.
The Obligations of
Of primary importance
is the fact that
of rectification is originally aimed not so much at the people as at
ruler himself. The idea is that the ruler, for the sake of his
must engage in the rectification of his personal character. ...
A person who is incapable of caring for
relatives can hardly be expected to understand universal love in a real
experiential sense. Being “affectionate toward relatives” is
taken as the “greatest application” of humanity, because it indicates
immediate extension of one’s inner morality. According to this
of thinking, whether the ruler’s cultivation of his personal character
is sincere can best be judged by his relationship with those who are
to him. (C&C, 49-51)
of the ruler, far from being his private affair, is thought to be a
characteristic of his leadership. He must realize that what he
in private is not only symbolically significant but has a direct
on his ability to lead, for the kind of people he can attract depends,
in large measure, upon his personal character. Without the
of qualified personnel, the conduct of government, unlike the growth of
plants, will be slow and stagnant. The ruler’s moral integrity is
therefore an indispensable condition for good government. ...|
personal morality really essential for leadership?
important is it that we trust our leaders?
happens when Americans don’t trust the president?
happens when the world doesn’t trust
the United States?
the ruler cultivates his personal life,
the Way will
be established. If he honors the worthy, he will not be
perplexed. If he is affectionate to his relatives, there will be no grumbling
his uncles and brothers. If he respects the great ministers, he
not be deceived. If he identifies himself with the welfare of the
whole body of officers, then the officers will repay him heavily for
courtesies. If he treats the common people as his own children,
the masses will exhort one another [to do good]. If he attracts
various artisans, there will be sufficiency of wealth and resources in
the country. If he shows tenderness to strangers from far
people from all quarters of the world will flock to him. And if
extends kindly and awesome influence over the feudal lords, then the
will stand in awe of him. (C&C, 59 [XX:13])
perspective hopelessly naive or does it representthe foundation of a
strong sociopolitical order?
III. Global Transformation
During the Warring States, a number of
engaged in continuous warfare in the struggle to survive and/or win
dominance over the Chinese world. Based on this early Chinese
Tu Wei-ming writes:
Broader Implications of the Fiduciary Community
is not enough for the ruler to
as a chain of commands extending throughout the country. The most
he can achieve by that is to ensure his hegemonic authority for a
period of time. He can certainly evoke a sense of fear among the
feudal lords by sheer force, but if he does so, his influence is
to areas in which he can directly exercise his political and military
power. The ruler who is a real king (wang), rather than a mere hegemon
(pa), must cultivate a holistic vision of politics, penetrating
deeply into all levels of human-relatedness. Only then will the
stand in awe of him. (C&C, 60)
How is this
relevant to the contemporary “global” context?
- Is the President of the United States (generically speaking) a “real king” or a “mere hegemon”?