The discussion about human rights is widening in the range of issues and in the depth of arguments. The code of human rights is summarized in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights ratified by the United Nations in 1948. It has been further elaborated in two international Agreements on civil and politcal rights in 1966. In principles these international statements are landmarks in the promotion of humanity for any country or nation in today's world. In reality, however, countries in East and West have understood, interpreted, legitimated, and actualized human rights in quite different ways and degrees of depth. But if the Declaration of Human Rights by the United Nations should be effectively applied in every country, in different cultures, then two things seem to be imperative: a proper understanding and a corresponding legalization of human rights in the particular life-context of each country. This international conference intends to contribute to the understanding and promotion of human rights.
Asian and African countries are becoming more and more aware of the burning issue of human rights. For China (understood in the wider sense of Mainland China and Taiwan) the question of human rights is most relevant both, because China is one of the nations which signed the Declaration of Human Rights (the Chinese language belongs to the five representative languages besides English, French, Russian and Spanish), and because of the actual situation of human rights in China.
The purpose of this paper is a rather humble one, it tries to see whether CLASSICAL CONFUCIANISM (as contained in the thoughts of Confucius and the two promoters of Confucianism, Mencius and Hsuntze, as well as in the critical stance of Motze) could possibly serve as foundation for the promotion of human rights in chinese society.
It is impossible to understand the concept of human rights without probing deeply into Western cultural history. Such a study will enable us to see more clearly the possibilities of different approaches to human rights, inspired by the insights of other cultural context with their existential needs.
The main content of human rights can be summed up in three basic concepts, namely FREEDOM, EQUALITY and PARTICIPATION. These three concepts evoke the well known TRIAS of the French Revolution: "liberte, egalite et fraternite", which are explained in the Declaration des droits de l'homme et du citoyen. Its catalogue of human rights has a close similarity to the Virginia Bill of Rights of 1726. (The question whether the French Declaration took the Virginia Bill of Rights as model with some modifications in the area of political and religious rights, calling them natural and irrevocable human rights, as G. Jellinek claimed, or whether the French Declaration has been born independently in the spiritual climate of Europe, thus not needing a long tour via North America, this question is interesting, yet secondary in our discourse, because in historical perspective the issue of human rights did not begin with the two delcarations, but traces its roots back to the early times of Western culture, more precisely, to the tradition of STOIC PHILOSOPHY AND CHRISTIANITY. Stoic philosophy has influenced Roman legal thought. Christianity has become the underlying matrix of Western culture, originating from the religious experiences as described and expressed in the Bible. Both, Stoic philosophy and Roman legal thought, have flown into Christianity. Thus we can assert that CHRISTIAN HUMANISM is the key to the understanding and legitimation of the concept of human rights in Western culture.
According to Christian humanism man is created in the image of God (Gen 1,26-27), therefore every human person enjoys intrinsically EQUAL DIGNITY. The concept of natural law can also help us to understand the dignity of human beings within the range of created order, but the deeper foundation of the concept of human rights lies in the acknowledgment of the fundamental value placed in the very heart and reason of every human being. Each human person has his (her) own unique and absolute moral value before God. Human dignity and human rights belong together. According to the OT doing justice to fellow human beings is a echo of what GOD HIMSELF has done and is doing for men. Just and righteous men are those who advocate and protect the powerless (widows, orphans, strangers and the poor): "He (God) has showed you, oh man, what is good; and what does the Lord require of you but to do justice, and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God?" (Micah 6,8). The sense of humanity, that one should realized compassion and love for others, originates in the experience of God's unconditional compassion. God's revelation climaxes in the GOD-MAN JESUS CHRIST. Luke 4, 14-30 describes Jesus, the Messiah, on the side of the victims of injustice: He liberates them, thus proclaiming and actualizing the KINGDOM OF GOD, the reign of absolute equality and justice. St. Paul defines this universal and definitive humanity for everyone with his famous words: "There are no more distinctions between Jew and Greek, slave and free, male and female, but all of you are one in Christ Jesus" (Gal 3,28).
We are facing now the question how Christian humanism can legitimate human rights, in other words, Christian humanism (the new humanity in Christ with its proper life-style) is related to humanism in general. The Catholic Church, according to M. Thiel, sees the basic of that correspondence in the "lieu intime", "lieu etroit" of all human persons because the HOLY SPIRIT is dwelling there and is animating from there the defense of human rights. The Holy spirit acts when and where He (She) may (John 3,8). It is for this reason that Vatican II acknowledges the value of other religions and cultures. At this point some theologians critically ask: If such a transcultural and transreligious correspondence exists, why does the Biblical message go unheard by so many? Some are asking even further: How do we understand the correlation between HUMAN AUTONOMY and THEONOMY? If man determines human rights by him (her) self disregarding the question how God maintains His rights, then we can speak of "identification". If man, however, acknowledges some space for God's rights, then we can call the correlation between human autonomy and theonomy "concordance".
In fact, the Bible is concerned with humanity and its salvation in the fulness of life. It does not spell out details of human rights. Thus, the bible offers a ground (more precisely) the ground of understanding and legitimation for human rihgts. It does not rule out, however, other possible foundations for human rights as long as they are truly human. How two and more foundations for human rights can be reconciled with one another, that is a question of ocumenism (in the wider sense). In short: A HUMANISTIC WORLDVIEW UNDER THE GUIDANCE OF THE HOLY SPIRIT CAN OFFER A GENERALLY ACCEPTABLE FOUNDATION FOR THE UNDERSTANDING AND LEGITIMATION OF HUMAN RIGHTS. SUCH A HUMANISM IS PARTLY IDENTICAL WITH AND PARTLY DIFFERENT FROM CHRISTIAN HUMANISM.
Classical Confucianism holds the equality of all human beings and the equal possibility of becoming a perfect man. there are, however, also differences: "All men are alike in nature but become different through practice" (Analects 7:12). What is this human nature? How do men become different? The answers given by MENCIUS and HSUNTZE are different, but they help us to understand CONFUCIAN HUNMANISM, especially in showing the task on every human person to BECOME A PERFECT MAN who combines dignity with righteousness in a perfect way.
1. According to MENCIUS human nature is something ordained by Heaven at man's birth. Therefore all men are - in ontological perspective - equal and according to their nature essentially good. Mencius recalled the thoughts of the Book of Songs (Shih Ching) : "Heaven in producing mankind, gave them their various faculties and relations with their specific laws. These are the invariable rules of nature for all to hold, and all love this admirable virtue". He commented: "We may thus see that every faculty and relation must have its law and since these are invariavle rules for all to hold, they consequently love this admirable virtue". The concept of NATURAL LAW in the thoughts of Mencius is similar to that in Christian thought as John C.H. Wu summarized his study about "Mencius' Philosophy of Human Nature and Natural Law", saying: "1. Norms are not man-made; 2. Each being is endowed with a nature; 3. These essential tendencies are expansive and dynamic and demanding further development and fulfilment; 4. In view of distracting forces, there is need of a rational direction of these tendencies toward their natural end; 5. The attainment of the end is recognized as the one thing necessary for man, that is, the realization of his humanity to the fullest extent, which is at the same time the way to do the will of Heaven".
According to Mencius man's nature is naturally good just as water naturally flows downward: "There is no man without this good nature, neither is there water that does not flow downward" (Mencius VI, A:2,2). In the dialogue between Kaotze and Mencius, we can detect the difference between human nature and the nature of animals or things: "Kaotze said: 'That, which at birth is so, is what is called nature'. Mencius asked him: 'Is that, which at birth is so, to be called nature just as white is called white?' The reply was: 'Yes'. Mencius continued: 'Is the white of a white feather like the white of the snow? And is the white of white snow like the white of white jade?' Kaotze replied: 'Yes'. 'Very well', persued Mencius. 'Is the nature (hsing) of a dog like the nature (hsing) of an ox? And is the nature of an ox like the nature of a man?'" (Mencius VI, A:3,1/3).
The dialogue points out that the quality like white is essentially the same, that NATURE (hsing), however, is different. Mencius did not deny that man shares many natural tendencies with other animals, tendencies which belong to man's lower nature. But he affirmed also that human nature is able to distinguish between noble and inferior values and that human nature has the natural tendency to follow that which is good. That is the reason why men are the same in nature, and why some are great and some are small: "Those who follow that part of themselves which is small are small men" (Mencius VI, A: 15,1). The natural faculty of distinciton between great and small, good and evil (evil means: lower nature, existing at the cost of great nature) is the HEART. The power to choose is the WILL (vital spirit). These two are the very CONSTITUTIVE ELEMENTS of human nature, they should be cherished and nourished. They lead man: "Humanheartedness (jen) is the mind of man; righteousness (i) is man's path" (Mencius VI, A: 11,1). Along with these two virtues, two other virtues come along: Propriety (li) and prudence (chih). The function of prudence is to know humanheartedness (jen) and righteousness (i) and not to depart from them. The function of propriety (li) is to order and to adorn these two things (cf. Mencius IV. A:27,2).
The substantial core of humanheartedness, according to Mencius, is: "All men have a mind that cannot bear to see the suffereings of others". This is the compassion which Mencius depicts by using an interesting illustration: "Now, when men suddently observe a child about to tumble into a well, everyone of them will experience a sense of alarm and sympathy" (Mencius II, A: 6,3). They will act to protect the child from falling, not because to make friendship with the child's parents, or to seek reputation from their neighbors and friends or to avoid the cries of the child. They act because every human being should do what human nature simply demands from him (her). This MORAL IMPERATIVE lies in the NATURE OF HUMAN BEINGS. If man does not follow this imperative, he (she) loses the feeling of compassion, does not feel shame and dislike (righteousness), reverence and respect (propriety) and lacks judgment about right and wrong (wisdom). In short, man loses the sense of morality and intellectual honesty, which are constitutive elements of human nature.
Mencius's compassion could be relevant for the protection of humanity, and thus also for human rights. It helps us to identify with the poor and the oppressed, and commands us to do something for them. The Chinese bishops Conference of Taiwan has issued a Pastoral Letter on the problem of foreign workers. In it the Bishops speak of a sense of compassion in the modern context. They place themselves into the situation of the foreign workers and recognize their misery: Most of them come to Taiwan on a Tourist visa. After the visa expires they become illegal residents and are deprived of protection. Because of this illegal status the employer has an easy hand to impose on them a low salary, unreasonable working conditions and subtle oppression which are an insult to their human dignity. De facto the foreign workers (there are about twenty to thirty thousand in Taiwan) confess that they are put to hard labor which most local workers do not want to take up. The Bishops try in their Pastoral Letter to detect the true reasons of the reality of foreign workers, often covered up by various kinds of ideological justifications. Actually, the Bishops say, foreign workers are a common phenomenon in industrialized countries. The basic source of this situation are the UNEQUAL DEGREE OF DEVELOPMENT IN DIFFERENT COUNTRIES, then the manipulations of multinational companies, the imbalance between needs, goods on the market, and avaiblable manpower, as well as natural disasters, racial conflicts, political corruption, the pressure of war etc...
After describing this serious social problem and its various reasons the Bishops express their willingness to collaborate with the Governemnt of R.O.C and with all persons of good will, "so that a solution may be found that is humanitarian, reasonable, and at the same time respectful of the law". As we can see the call for human rights bases itself not only on Christian humanism, but at the same time on the Chinese spirit of compassion: "We must sympathize with the foreign workers in our midst in the generous spirit of 'within the four seas we are all Brother".
Mencius does not say that man is born perfect, but he does maintain that man is able to become perfect and that the capacity to become a fully developed human personality is rooted in human nature. Thus every human being is capable of becoming a sage (the ideal type of mankind), but man can also lose out in the normal dynamism of human nature and thus ruin human life, both through personal neglect of the cultivation of the heart as well as through the bad influence of the environment. The importance of the environment for human conduct led Mencius to the assertion that the Government plays an important role in the country's life. Many Chinese scholars love to illustrate this point with a magnificent parable of Mencius: "The trees of the Ox Mountain were once beautiful. Being situated, however, in the suburbs of a large city, they were hown down with axes and hatchets. How could retain their beauty? Still, through the growth from their vegetative life day and night, and through the nourishing influence of the rain and dew, they were not without buds and sprouts sprang up. But then came the cattle and goats, and browsed upon them. This is why they appear so bare and stripped. When people see their bare appearance, they tend to think that there was no wood from the beginning. But is it due to the original nature of the mountain? Similarly, it cannot be said that there is no love and justice in human nature. But the way, in which a man loses his proper goodness of mind and heart, is just like the way in which these trees were made bare by axes and hatchets. Hacked at day after day, how can they retain their excellence? Still there is some growth between day and night, and in the peaceful air of the morning the mind feels to a certain degree the inclinations and aversions which belong also to human nature, but that feeling is very feeble. But then human nature is fettered and destroyed by what man does during the day. This fettering continues day after day. The restorative influence of the night is not sufficient to preserve the original goodness of man's nature; and when the still small voice of conscience is smothered, human nature is scarcely distinguishable from that of irrational animals. When people see that man is like an irrational animal, they tend to think that from the beginning man has had no capacities for the good. But in reality man has this capacity by reason of his nature". (Mencius VI, A:8,2).
Reading this beautiful parable we can see how Mencius himself experienced the influence of his environment. the legend has it that the mother of Mencius changed her residence many times until she found a proper environment for her son. The modern term of 'sinful situation' and 'sinful structure' might be a useful help for understanding the idea that human nature can be harmed by external causes. This is the reason why Mencius on the one hand promotes the idea of an 'ideal king', and on the other hand criticises vehemently feudal lords (Pa Wang). The ideal kings are those who act in accord with the law of Heaven. Thus, kingship and offices are instituted not as ends in themselves, but as means to the end, the way of Heaven. In other words, all laws and policies are to be ordained to the aim of the fullest realisation of the capacity of human nature. In this context Mencius offers an interesting scale of importance for one's country: "In a country the noblest element is the people, next come the protecting spirits of the land and finally, the lightest on the scale of values is the ruler". (Mencius VII, B:14,1).
Because the root of the empire is in the state, the root of the state in the family, and the root of the family in the individual human being, therefore the ideal kingship should begin with winning the people over through compassion: "The ancient kings had this compassionate mind, hence they had a compassionate government. When a compassionate government is run with a compassionate mind, then to bring the world peace and order is as easy as turning one's palm" (Mencius II, A: 6,2). A compassionate government cannot bear to witness the sufferings of human beings, likewise it does not involve itself in any kind of violence causing harm for people. On the contrary, a compassionate government ensures support for human life, guarantees economic security and especially establishes organisations for the education of people, so that they are able to 'nourish their living' and 'to bury their dead'. "This nourishing of the living and burying of the dead without any dissatisfaction marks the beginning of the KINGLY WAW (wang tao).
The opposite type of the kingly way is the FEUDAL LORD. Mencius siad to King Hsuan of Ch'i: "When the prince regards his ministers as his hands and feet, his ministers regard their prince as their belly and heart. When he regards them as his dogs and horses, they regard him as any other man of the State. When he regards them as the ground or the grass, they regard him as a robber and an enemy" (Mencius IV, B: 31,1). If a ruler does not act on behalf of the people, then people will not delight in obeying him. He can dominate people only through violence. In that case, he should not be called a ruler, because he has lost that which makes him a ruler. He has become a feudal leader (pa tao). Mencius is not afraid of criticising feudal leaders. There is no difference in violence between the killing of a man with the sword or with governmental measures. The government of feudal leaders exists at the expense of human lives, thus it should be condemned. Mencius said to King Huei of Liang: "Now in your stall there are fat beasts, in your stables there are fat horses. But your poeple have the look of hunger, and in the fields lie the bodies of men who died of hunger. This is feeding beasts with human beings. When beasts devour one another, men detest them for doing so. A king is supposed to be the parent of the people, but when his governmental measures lead to the fattening of the beasts at the expense of human lives, what kind of parent is such a king !" (Mencius I, A: 4,4).
The critical voice of Mencius does become very actual, if 'horses' and 'beasts' are replaced by modern weapons and national security. How many dictatorial governments enlarge their budgets for buying weapons or maintaining wars in their own interest, but at the cost of people's lives.
Mencius' philosophy can be called an ontological humanism. He stresses the essential goodness of human nature. Man has the moral duty to develop the four ideal tendencies. and yet, there is a certain gap between theory and practice, between individual and society. If the moral principle are put into practice, then very difficult situation can arise. E.g. when the interests of one's family (supported by solidarity with the family and filial piety) come in conflict with the interest of the State or of other families. In those situations private revenges, preference of one's own family over the Sate will create troubles for public order and peace.
It is precisely at this point that another great thinker in the Confucian Tradition enters the stage and offers some new ideas in order to solve the riddles left unresolved by Mencius.
2. HSUNTZE claimed to be an authentic interpreter of Confucian thought. He has been considered as the rival of Mencius. Although both are following the teaching of Confucius and do believe that human beings can become perfect men, there are clear differences between them. MENCIUS firmly holds that human nature has its origin in the mandate of Heaven and is thus by necessary consequence good at its very root. HSUNTZE considers man as the highest being on earth. Although man originates from Heaven and Earth, but Heaven and Earth have - according to Hsuntze's secularized way of thinking - no personal knowledge. Therefore man has to make perfect the knowledge of Heaven and Earth. Hsuntze teaches that HUMAN NATURE IS EVIL, i.e. human nature has strong drives towards evil, the two strongest ones being ENVY and CUPIDITY. Man's goodness comes from social restraints and curbing of envy and cupidity. Thus, man becomes a perfect man, when he follows the rules of proper conduct (li).
Following the Confucian doctrine of equality of all human beings in their original nature, Hsuntze teaches: Heaven and Earth give birth to all, but "disorder and violence are within man himself". He explains: Man at his birth loves profit. This tendency propells him for strife, avarice and envy. The result is disorder. Disorder consists in confused ideas, wrong judgments and violent actions. On the one hand all men are equal in the tendency towards evil, but on the other hand also equal in the the ability to become a sage. Hsuntze gives a detailed explanation: Since birth man has FIVE ORGANS with which he (she) reacts to external things. Man has also FEELINGS of like and dislike, pleasure and anger, sorrow and joy. And most important, man has been endowed with the HEART (mind). It occupies the cavity in the very center of the human being, exercising control over the five organs. It becomes evident, that the training of the heart is a crucial matter for Hsuntze. Where is the foundation for the control-function of the heart? Hsuntze sees it in the RULE OF PROPER CONDUCT (li) which is capable of transforming human nature. "'Any man in the street can become (sage-king) yu'. what does this ancient saying mean? I say that Yu became sage-king Yu because he practiced humanity, righteousness, law and correct principles. This shows that these can be known and practiced".
The bridge between man's evil nature and his efforts at selfcultivation is based on two legs: At the inside there is the HEART (mind), and at the outside the SAGE. The heart seems to have a source of strong will to acquire what man has not in his nature: "The heart is the ruler of the body and the master of its god-like intelligence. It gives commands, but it is not subject to them". Thus the heart has the function of distinguishing and commanding. However, the heart is not always right. Hsuntze therefore says: "If a man has no teacher or way, his heart is just like his mouth or belly".
In short, the heart has only the capacity to distinguish and to follow the goodness which is outside of man, namely in PROPRIETY (li). Man cannot live without propriety. A state without propriety cannot attain peace and order.
Here we would like to ask Hsuntze: If the heart has the function of distinguishing and commanding to follow the rules of proper conduct (li), why do you claim that human nature from the outset tends towards evil? Hsuntze most likely would answer: My point is: The source of moral perfection lays in the achievement of the state of being a sage-king, which means the realisation of PROPRIETY (li). If you want to become like the ancient kings and you are striving for humanheartedness (jen) and righteousness (i), then the rule of proper conduct (li) is the very road by which you must travel. Li provides two important things: First, it prevents confusion of relationships between the individual and society and helps to avoid social disorder, and secondly, it liberates the individual, the family, the country, the government and the king. LI IN THIS SENSE MEANS THE MORAL DOMINATOR OF AN IDEAL SOCIAL SYSTEM which keeps all people, despite their different status and ranks, in a harmoniously balanced order.
What is, after all, the origin of li? Hsuntze's answer seems to be rather PRAGMATIC and NON-METAPHYSICAL: Man are born with natural desires which cause confusion in the mind, make man's conduct violent, and end finally in social disorder. The SAGES HATED DISORDER, THEREFORE THEY ESTABLISHED THE RULES OF PROPER CONDUCT AND OF RIGHTEOUSNESS: "Man's nature is evil. Therefore the sages of antiquity, knowing that man's nature is evil, that it is unbalanced and incorrect, that it is violent, disorderly and undisciplined, established the authority of rulers to govern the people, set forth clearly propriety and righteousness to transform them, and made punishments severe to restrain them, so that all will result in good order and be in accord with goodness".
That means in a nutshell this: The ultimate foundation for Li - according to Hsuntze - is found in ANCIENT TRADITION and not in a metaphysical principle.
The society of Taiwan is changing rapidly from an originally agricultural society to a rather highly sophisticated industrialized society with all the accompanying features, as experienced by other countries in similar social and cultural shifts: The formerly poor ones want also to become rich; the temptation for gambling in various forms is mounting; social crimes come along with the changes; child-abuse, especially in the form of child-prostitution (some estimate a number as high as hundred thousand), most tragic in a culture where filial piety is considered as one of the most sacred values; under-age employment and many other well-known phenomena. The cry for help is expressed by those who have made human rights their own cause: "When our children are sold like animals, crying in a dark corner of Huahsi-street (popular red light district in traditional Taipei), tortured by gangster, forced to endure fifty and more violent customers daily, possessing no personal freedom, will we feel confortable? Never!"
Freedom never exists at the cost of the freedom of others. Non-freedom is the enemy of freedom. These evil tendencies - according to Hsuntze - should be curbed and put in order. He says: "To rescue people from misfortune and eliminate calamity, there is nothing like making social distinctions clear and forming a social organization. If the strong coerce the weak, the intelligent terrorize the stupid, and the people who are subjects rebell against their superiors; if this be the case, then the aged and weak will suffer the misfortune of losing their subsistence, and the strong will suffer the calamity of division and strife".
Li in this case has its own authority to provide order. Let us suppose that a government abides by Li with its own undisputable authority. There is obviously the danger that the established government might misuse its mandate to protect or promote its own ideology at the expense of human rights. RECENT HISTORY OF MAINLAND CHINA, including especially the darkest years of the Cultural Revolution (1966 - 76), tells its own story of violations of human rights.
Taiwan with its unique history and political set-up does belong to those countries where the issue of human rights is still in the coming. The KMT-Government has propelled the small island from an agricultural state into a modern industrialized National Security State. The costs for such a 'miracle' are high, human rights are one of the most often violated areas. It is good to remember that Taiwan lived from 1949 till 1987 under martial law.
On the one hand there is obious progress in the field of awareness about human rights. In the hope of more human and democratic rights, thirty three prominent intellectuals from Mainland China gave clear support to the petition of the leading Mainland dissident Fang Li-chih for the release of all political prisoners, including Wei ching-shen. This was in February 13, 1989. Shortly after, this petition was also strongly supported by fifty six scholars from Hongkong, USA and other countries, as well as by thirty two scholars from Taiwain.
On the other hand, Tibet is again put under martial law (at least the time of the composition of this paper on April 11, 1989). Taiwan has no more martial law, but a kind of National Security Law places ultimate authority into the hands of a very special entity, a combination of Government Officials (e.g. the President of R.O.C), KMT (ruling party), Military and Police. In the name of National Security some violations of human rights appear justified in the range of criteria of persons in decision-making positions. One of the more recent happenings is the forced deportation of Fr. Neil Magill, missionary priest of the Society of St. Columban. With the support of his religious community and of the Local Bishop of the diocesese of Hsinchu he engaged fullheartedly in the world of workers. He established the 'New Life' Workers Center where he tried to extend loving care to workers, to conscienticize them, to give them the chance for further adult education. He was suddenly, seven days before the termination of his residence certificate, deported by police force on March 17, 1989. Actually, his deportation has become an important mile-stone in the process of wakening up to the challenge of human rights, within the Catholic community in Taiwan.
Hsuntze was aware of these issues in the sense that he followed Confucius' idea of the distinction between the 'sage-king' and the 'feudal lord'. The head of the government - according to Hsuntze - must be a sage. In discusssing the distinction between a 'true king' and a 'feudal leader' (pa) Hsuntze explains the reasons why a leader of the government, supposed to be a 'sage', gradually becomes a 'feudal lord': "...because they did not have a just doctrine of government; they were not sublime, they were not very attentive; and they did not satisfy the people's minds".
Like Confucius and Mencius also Hsuntze mentions some historical examples for either type of government. Let the Duke of Chou stand for the ideal types of 'sage-kings'. On the other side we see five contra-figures, examples of the type of 'feudal lord', namely the Duke Han of Ch'i, Duke Mu of Ch'in, Duke Hsiang of Sung, Duke Wen of Chin, and King Chuang of Ch'u.
It is not easy in our time to find a government which would fully realize the ideal type of Hsuntze. WE find too often situations where governmental establishments do cover up their various actions with colourful ideological clothes. The right government discovers abuses of its citizens; and the citizens, in turn, have the duty to point out violaitons of human rights by the governments.
3. The challenge of MOTZE touches a weak point in the Confucian tradition. Let us shortly summarize this tradition in order to clearly see the precise point where MOTZE enters the stage of philosophical and humanitarian discourse:
In the analects of Confucius the term 'humanheartedness' (jen) appears 104 times in 58 chapters; 'propriety' (li) is mentioned 74 times. Without going into a detailed and still much disputed explanation of the Chinese characters we are interested here in the relevant question of the relationship between JEN and LI, i.e. between the internal and external dimensions of human existence, because the understanding and interpretation of this relationship has an important impact on the question of the foundation of human rights.
We have seen that Mencius stresses more the goodness of human nature from within, because it is given by Heaven. Out of this inner goodness man acts in compassion towards other human beings. Hsuntze, in turn, has stressed the defacto-tendency in human nature towards evil, therefore man needs a strong force to control his many wicked tendencies, he calles it LI.
A careful study - along the lines of modern hermeneutics - reveals that Mencius and Hsuntze do not necessarily contradict each other. They understand themselves as standing in the same mainstream of Chinese culture and thought, called Confucianism (ju). They do approach the same human reality from different angles. Actually, Confucius himself seemed to strike a remarkable balance between the two aspects, saying: "Do not look (on JEN) unless it is in accordance with LI, do not listen unless it is in accordance with LI, do not speak unless it is in accordance with LI, do not move unless it is in accordance with LI" (Analects, 12,1). JEN is the central dynamism, but it cannot and should not act without LI.
This typical sense of equilibrium and harmony in the thought of Confucius finds an echo in the 'Doctrine of the Mean', where the concepts and ideals of sincerity (ch'eng) and harmony (he) are developed in detail.
These ideals are indeed beautiful. Chinese people - at least most of them - are proud of this tradition. But, do these ideals work in reality, do they come down to the earthy level of human life with all its ups and downs, due to human limitations, good heartedness and weakness?
At this point MOTZE raises his critical finger with vehemence, not because the thoughts would be wrong, but because of their INADEQUATE PRACTICE. Huai-Nantze relates: "Motze studied the profession of the Confucianists (ju) and accepted the arts of Confucius. But he considered that the Rites (LI) (of the Confucian School) were troublesome and displeasing; its stress on elaborate funerals was wealth-consuming and impoverished the people, and the practice of lengthy mourning periods did harm to the living human beings and harm to human affairs. Thereupon he turned his back on the Chou Dynasty practices and made use of the methods of government of the Hsia Dynasty.
The most striking difference between confucianism and MOTZE is the question of HUMAN RELATIONSHIPS. In principle there should not be an essential difference between the altruism of Confucius: "Do not do to others what you do not want them to do to you" (Analects, 15, 23) and the UNIVERSAL LOVE of MOTZE. But in practice Confucianists stress love with distinctions. MOTZE criticizes this kind of doctrine and calls it 'partial love'. In strong contraposition MOTZE propagates universal love.
Motze describes the situation where 'partial love' rules as follows: "At present feudal lords know only to love their own states and not those of others. Therefore they do not hesitate to mobilize their states to attack others. Heads of families know only to love their own families and not those of others. Therefore they do not hesitate to mobilize their families to usurp others. And individuals know only their own persons and not those of others. Therefore they do not hesitate to mobilize their own persons to injure others".
On the contrary, if the doctrine of universal love is practiced, then there are no wars between states, because each country regards the others as their own. Families will live in peace and harmony, because they regard other people's families as their own. The strong will not overcome the weak, the many will oppress the few; the rich will not insult the poor, the honored will not despise the humble. In short: "...because of universal love, all the calamities, usurpations, hatred and animosity in the world may be prevented from arising".
This magnificent idea was indeed a breakthrough, a revolution in Chinese traditional thinking. It is an UTOPIA, but a fundamentally sound one. It inspires also today many persons to stand up in defense of human rights. MOTZE knew that the practice of universal love is not an easy thing, but he proclaimed his message of universal love which abolishes all distinctions of degrees in human dignity and establishes a solid ground on which all human beings can meet in mutual respect and care.
Confucianists, like Mencius, have misunderstood MOTZE, as if he would deny the specific character of certain relationships like e.g. the one between father and son. He was also misinterpreted as if he would be an utilitarian. Both accusations do not justice to MOTZE's real intentions and ideals: Universal love can embrace specific (partial loves); universal love, though, does not aim at one's own benefit, as MOTZE's life exemplifies with lucidity. He did not hesitate to walk ten days and ten nights in order to dissuade a ruler from launching war. He himself got not profit from it. Profit - according to MOTZE - was not the MOTIVE, but rather the consequence of the practive of universal love.
We have begun our reflections with a look at the roots of the concept of 'human rights'. We found these roots in the origins of Western-Christian culture: Biblical faith and Greco-Roman philosophy.
The conviction, that one single tradition cannot possibly contain all the relevant thinking on 'human rights', encourages us to probe into one essential stream of Chinese thought, Confucianism. We discovered a broad basis for human rights in the thoughts of MENCIUS, HSUNTZE and finally - as a critical challenge - in the universal ideal of MOTZE.
It is interesting to observe that the two approaches of MENCIUS and HSUNTZE do not exclude each other, on the contrary we found them mutually inclusive as two different approaches to the one human reality. Actually, also the approach of MOTZE should not be considered as a denial of the two forms of thought in MENCIUS and HSUNTZE, but rather as a third and very important complementary aspect of the one foundation of human rights.
CONFUCIANISM - we did not deal with Taoism nor with Buddhism - offers a solid foundation for a reality which is called in our time 'human rights'.
At the same time it has become obvious that the humanism of Confucianism also needs new and fresh input from other currents of thought, especially from the side of Christianity.
Rev Vu Kim Chinh, Professor of Fujen Catholic University, Taiwan
Last Updated February 20,1997 by Steven Proulx