Education About Asia: Online Archives

Talkin’ ‘Bout My Parents’ Generation: Translating Confucian Ethics and Family Values

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In a fine recent EAA feature article, David Jones addresses the challenge of making Chinese philosophy and religion relevant to the Western imagination by charting a structured course through the Confucian Analects. (note 1) Jones’s strategy, a fairly typical one among scholars of Chinese thought, is to focus on a handful of loaded terms from the Confucian lexicon—li (ritual propriety), ren (human-heartedness), junzi (exemplary person), and yi (rightness)—explicating them within their semantic contexts and providing illustrative examples of how they function in practice. Underlying this discussion is a pair of closely related goals. On the one hand, Jones endeavors to foster in the Sinological novice a sympathetic appreciation of Confucian social ethics, a first-time insight into the “different ways . . . of thinking about our individual lives and their relation to the communities in which we participate.” (note 2) On the other hand, he casts this inquiry as part of the broader project of cross-cultural dialogue, suggesting that “the Chinese philosophical and religious tradition offers Westerners . . . an opportunity to better understand [sic] themselves and seek possible prescriptions for many of our social maladies.” (note 3) For both Jones and his acknowledged role models—Roger Ames, Henry Rosemont, Graham Parkes—there is considerable stake in this encounter, and his treatment of the Analects provides something of a case study for various levels of exploration.


1. David Jones, “Teaching/Learning Through Confucius, Navigating Our Way Through the Analects,” in Education About Asia (Fall 2000), 5, no. 2, 4–13.

2. Jones, 5

3. Jones, 5.