Confucius Analects

Start Free Trial

In the Analects, what does Confucius mean by gentleman, reciprocity, filial piety, and social roles?

Quick answer:

In the Analects, Confucius lays out the duties of a gentleman who must be a leader in every sphere, loyal, disciplined, and knowledgeable. Social order, which is essential for a peaceful society, includes reciprocity of obligations between rulers and subjects, husbands and wives, or parents and children. The stringent obligations of children towards their parents come under the heading of filial piety.

Expert Answers

An illustration of the letter 'A' in a speech bubbles

In The Analects, Confucius describes the junzi, or “gentleman,” as an idealized figure who ranks somewhat below the ultimate ideal of sheng, meaning “sage” or “wise man.” The gentleman, according to Confucius, is one fitted by his conduct to be a leader, a role that extends to every sphere from the home to the empire. He should be knowledgeable, self-disciplined, and loyal.

Reciprocity, according to Confucius, is the ideal way of conducting one’s life. Confucius talks about the proper rules of conduct for rulers and subjects, parents and children, and husbands and wives, among other groups. In all these relationships, equality is not expected, but both parties know exactly what to expect from the other.

Filial piety is one of these reciprocal relationships, addressing specifically the duties of children towards their parents. These obligations are stringent, particularly in the area of showing respect, and even the death of the parent does not release the child, since one is obliged to revere one’s ancestors.

Finally, Confucius taught that roles in society should be carefully observed in order to avoid conflict and live in peace. Peace and certainty go together, so everyone should be well aware of his or her role in society and the obligations that go with it.

See eNotes Ad-Free

Start your 48-hour free trial to get access to more than 30,000 additional guides and more than 350,000 Homework Help questions answered by our experts.

Get 48 Hours Free Access
Approved by eNotes Editorial