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Varieties of Religious InventionFounders and Their Functions in History$
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Patrick Gray

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199359714

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: September 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359714.001.0001

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When the Founder Is Not a Creator

When the Founder Is Not a Creator

Confucius and Confucianism Reconsidered

Chapter:
(p.62) 3 When the Founder Is Not a Creator
Source:
Varieties of Religious Invention
Author(s):

Liang Cai

Publisher:
Oxford University Press
DOI:10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199359714.003.0004

How did a failure in the political realm become a founder of the ru tradition that both existed before him and was once shared by all the elite? Scholars have puzzled over this phenomenon for centuries. Lionel Jensen contends that there was no such thing as Confucianism until Jesuits in the sixteenth century and Chinese scholars in the early twentieth century created it. This chapter argues that although Jensen is correct that the process of interpreting a tradition can be the very process of creating a tradition, he overlooks the transformation of Confucius wrought by Confucius’s immediate disciples and scholars in the Qin-Han empires (4th–2nd century BCE). This chapter demonstrates the ways in which the versatile tradition of ru allows scholars throughout history to transform Confucianism into a school of thought, a political agenda, a philosophical tradition, and a religion.

Keywords:   Confucius, ru, Confucianism, Lionel Jensen, Qin-Han empires

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