Main Ideas of Confucianism


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Let’s Not Paint it Black

Imagine a bright, meandering river cutting through a dense, luscious growth of trees, bushes, and plants of the like. While I closed my eyes and transported myself to this beautiful place, the only colors I see are a majestic blue and a royal green. Blue and green are beautiful colors. In the Western world, they are great decorating colors and they symbolize nature and life. But in Eastern cultures, they have a deeper meaning. Blues and greens symbolize the afterlife. Whether that life be nirvana, paradise, or the land of the immortals, these two colors are closely associated with this other world. Though the religions may differ and the artistic principles are fairly diverse, the usage of blues and greens is used widely throughout the Eastern culture to represent a form of paradise.

Taoism and Confucianism are both very influential philosophies during the T’ang Dynasty. While the Taoist culture is focused more on living in the moment and seeing life and the divine purpose in everything, the Confucian philosophy focuses on the relationships with those around you and with having a certain control of the world around you. They both emphasize nature and the importance of it in everyday life. This philosophy plays an integral role in the poetry of the time period. Wang Wei, Tu Fu, and Li Po are all influential poets during this dynasty who all incorporated nature into their poems. Not only would they mention nature, but nature was the metaphor, analogy, or really the focus of a majority of their poems. Artists also made nature the focus of their paintings. The large part of the paintings during the most of China’s history were of mountain scenes that depicted an accurate scene of common Chinese topography.

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The Northern Song was a time in China that was dominated by the Mongols and heavily influenced by Taoist beliefs. During this time period, Wang Ximeng painted a hand scroll entitled A Thousand Miles of Rivers and Mountains that combined the beauty of nature and the thought of a paradise to create an image that depicts an almost transcendent scene. The thirty-two foot long and seventeen inch tall scroll refers to water throughout the entirety of the painting. Pastel blue and green alludes to a land of the immortals while the hidden details of small bridges and communities play throughout the painting. Ximeng used detail and color to create dimension that was otherwise not used in the time periods art. In a lot of the pieces of art, there was no dimension to it. Only the front would be portrayed and there would be a silence in the space that made up the background. The details and the colors provided a depth and an almost three dimensional painting that you could feel like you were a part of it. While I feel connected to the painting, those who believe in those Taoist and Confucian philosophies see a deeper meaning within it. Their belief of an afterlife includes a paradise scene that includes water and luscious foliage. This other-wordly scene uses the same greens and blues that Ximeng used. All in all, Ximeng effectively used the shades of blue and green to portray a “heavenly” feel through his art.

Emerald hills and flowing waters. Paints a pretty good picture in your brain, huh? At least that’s what I’m sure Li Po was trying to do when he wrote Dialogue in the Mountains during the T’ang Dynasty. This short poem encompasses everything that I have discussed and puts it all together in an impressive six lines. “You ask me why I lodge in these emerald hills; I laugh, don’t answer- my heart is at peace. Peach blossoms and flowing waters go off to mysterious dark, And there is another world, not of mortal men” (Po, Li). He starts with discussing his location using an emerald shade to describe the nirvana-like setting. The flowing waters wander off to a place that is for those who have passed through this life and are assuredly hanging out in a place that is more magnificent than we can imagine. It refers to a place removed from the toils and troubles from this world. I imagine the river flowing to a lush and fruitful garden with a lazy river and water feature included in it. I’m sure that if we could see this place of no “mortal man” that there would be an immeasurable amount of blue and green hues.

In a small community in Jerusalem, over the Foundation stone which is an integral part of Muslim, Christian, and Jewish religions, stands one of the oldest and most important pieces of Islamic architecture: The Dome of the Rock. Around the outside of the octagonal structure, the calligraphy and painting also references the aquatic element of the Islamic cultures vision of paradise. The bright blue paint and accents of green place an image of a luscious and wet environment that would be an ideal place to spend the rest of your life in. The Dome of the Rock exceeds all four criteria that the Islamic culture placed on their artwork. It is beautiful with it’s flowing script and top notch color palette, it is astonishing with the attention to detail and intricacy of each level, It is symmetrical to the eye by the use of a dome and an octagonal building form, and finally, every element combines to be a harmonious and unified piece of art. Nine and a half inch square tiles which are embedded in mortar create an amazing canvas for the elaborate designs in the beautiful blue, white, green, yellow, and reflect the sunlight brilliantly. With all four of these principles and the artistic construction combined, a paradisiacal building was erected that is still known today as one of the most influential structures and a must-see landmark in Jerusalem.

Across many cultures, a legion of borders, and through a myriad of times, shades of green and shades of blue have referenced an afterlife of some sort. In Chinese Taoism and Confucianism, it refers to a kind of heaven that is chased after. In the Islamic culture, it applies to a nirvana that people kill for. Culture and religion combine to create beautiful pieces of art. Whether the art be a historic building, a poet’s work, or a hand scroll, blue and green add an element that people of all ages and races connect with. The correlation has repeated through history, will not end any time soon, and is sure to last through our Earthly life and into the next.

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