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The East Is A Promotion

By       Message Thorsten Pattberg       (Page 2 of 4 pages) Become a premium member to see this article and all articles as one long page.     Permalink

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Next, look at European education. It isn't completed yet, but Europe tilts toward unification of its fragmented systems, just as China unified its examination system beginning from the Han Dynasty over 2,200 years ago. The Bologna Accords from 1999 will result in better assessment and thus the promotion of ability, not birth right, as the major mechanism by which the governments should promote individuals into the civil services.

This is new educational terrain for Europe. France in the past had its exclusive club, the grandes e'coles of the rich and powerful; and Germany always had its rigid three-tier school system, comparable to India's caste system. Generally speaking, in Europe the upper class and the rest never met in education in a life time.


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This is very different in East-Asia where the Confucian love for learning is all-pervasive. That's one of the reasons why China is a full-fledged "Wenming". What's a Wenming?


Wenming is often translated as "civilization," but that is misleading. As Gu Zhengkun, the professor of world literature at Peking University, explained: Wenming describes a high level of ethics and gentleness of a people (in Japanese: Bunmei), while the English word "civilization" has Greek-Hellenic origin and derives from a city people's mastery over materials and technology. Think about architecture.

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The Confucian tradition, according to Professor Tu Weiming of Harvard University, holds that all human beings have the potential to become sages or "shengren". This is a bit like the Eastern notion that all humans have a Buddha-nature. This coming of new archetypes of wisdom will open up very attractive ways for personal growth and self-cultivation for the confused and disoriented New Europeans.

The Return of the shengren


Sages are very different from philosophers; they embrace the critical spirit of learning and mastering from within society, embrace social harmony, and thus cultivate a holistic world view. Over the course of millennia, the Middle Kingdom produced tens of thousands of shengren, junzi, shiren, and sixiangjia. These are untranslatable. Maybe New Europe will see them as sages, gentlemen, scholars and historians.


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Next, I noticed the rise of filial piety or "Xiao" in Europe. Europe in the past was notoriously detached from both its elderly and its offspring. Parents were not obliged to pay toward their children's education, and the young were encouraged to "break" with the old. The result was young people taken care of by national governments (instead of their families), and grandparents left in the solitude of some nursery home. This is very different in China, where the family bond is holy.


This brings us to the greater nature of Confucian humanism, namely the Confucian family value system. As Professor Gu explains: China is a society based on family values, while Europe is a society based on interest groups.

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Dr. Thorsten J. Pattberg (裴德思 Pei Desi) is a German philosopher and cultural critic.

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