Cultivation of Virtue: Confucian Marriage

Confucianism is one of the cornerstones of Chinese culture. Centered on the teachings of Confucius, or Master Kong, the philosophy came into being several thousand years ago and continues to be an important part of the Chinese system of values.

Partly a philosophy and partly a religion, Confucianism is essentially a system of morality, and it has become popular not only in China, but throughout East and Southeast Asia, especially in Taiwan, Korea and Japan, as well as in places with large populations of ethnic Chinese, such as Singapore. The main themes of Confucianism include loyalty, virtue, filial piety and human relationships. These ethics are achieved through obedience, study and ritual.

Regarding marriage, Confucianism has a lot to say. This system of thought takes marriage very seriously and believes that marriage is the crux of society. Because Confucianism is so concerned with basic humanity, marriage plays a huge role in the cultivation of virtue, for it is believed that marriage is an important rite in developing patience, love and, to that end, virtue.

Confucian rites are specific regarding marriage, specifically that marriages are more the bringing together of two clans than two people. Therefore, according to Confucianism, marriages are not necessarily focused on the couple, although romantic love was believed to be a happy side effect of a proper marriage.

To achieve a successful merging of two clans, marriages were historically arranged by the families, sometimes years in advance of the wedding, when the couple were only children. A matchmaker was often employed to confirm the details of the marriage, and to make sure that the couple and the families were compatible.

Since a wedding is not only the joining of two people, but two entire families, Confucianism holds that marriages can have the ultimate political power. Since the way that two clans interact can bring together or separate groups of people, marriages under Confucianism are the gateway to the political stability of a people.


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