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"?
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?
Do Confucians place too much emphasis on "filial piety"
is not difficult to see that the notion of the irreconcilability of
self and society is frequently predicated on an unexamined proposition
that the growth of one’s individuality necessitates a denial of one’s
sociality. ... The quest for self-cultivation in Chung-yung
is never conceived as an individual’s lonely struggle to achieve inner
peace. ... An understanding of this key issue requires first an
examination of the concept of “filial piety” (hsiao) in Chung-yung.
Commonly rendered as “reverence for
parents,” filial piety is considered by many to be the prime virtue in
Confucian ethics and the basis of its understanding of proper human
relations. ... In the Confucian tradition, the father-son relationship
is not only dyadic and hierarchic but also absolutely binding. Even in
extraordinary circumstances, a person is rarely justified in breaking
away completely from its requirements. ... [A] significant case is Chung-yung’s
choice of Shun, the legendary sage-king, as the paradigmatic example of
a filial son. According to a well-known account of Shun’s predicament,
he was surrounded by a ruthless father, an iniquitous step-mother, and
a hostile half-brother. Shun clearly demonstrate his filial love by
harmonizing his family relations under extremely difficult conditions.
But from the perspective of Chung-yung, the outstanding manifestation of Shun’s “great filiality” (ta-hsiao) was his inner strength that enabled him to become a benevolent ruler despite his personal plight. (C&C, 40-44)
For a traditional Confucian,
ancestral worship by filial sons may be taken as the microcosm of an
ideal society. Ceremonial acts in this connection symbolize desirable
behavioral patterns. To respect the old and to honor the dead is to
show special concern for the common origin of all. The old are
respected not only for their past service but also for the continual
value of their wise guidance. The dead are honored because a loving
memory of the forefathers brings forth communal identity and social
solidarity. Society so conceived is not an adversary system consisting
of pressure groups but a fiduciary community based on mutual trust.
Only in this sense was Confucius able to make the claim that if the
ruler can administer his state with rites, he will no longer have any
difficulty. (C&C, 48)
|Mencius once remarked, “Keeping one’s parents when they
are alive is not worth being described as of major importance; it is
treating them decently when they die that is worth such a description.”
... or is this truly the foundation of a harmonious society?
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. ...
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.|
If the ruler’s cultivation of his personal character is of great political significance, what does it actually entail? Chung-yung’s suggestion is as follows:
The cultivation of the person is to be accomplished through the Way,
and the cultivation of the Way is to be done through humanity. Humanity
(jen) is [the distinguishing
characteristic of] man, and the greatest application of it is in being
affectionate towards relatives. Righteousness (i)
is the principle of setting things right and proper, and the greatest
application of it is in honoring the worthy. The relative degree of
affection we ought to feel for our relatives and relative grades in the
honoring of the worthy give rise to the rules of propriety (li). (C&C, 49-51 [XX:4-5])
Is personal morality really essential for leadership?
How important is it that we trust our leaders?
What happens when Americans don't trust the president?
What 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 represent
the 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 U.S. President (generically speaking) a "real king" or a "mere hegemon"?