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Hi Everyone 


to start off I have not been to China before nor interacted with much Chinese culture. However the teachings of Confucius continue to fascinate and interest me. I understand there is much debate around the status of it being a religion, and I myself am atheist/agnostic. I was hopeful there would be someone who partakes Confucian practices that I may talk to about these teachings and their significance. 

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I haven’t learned much about Confucianism or Taoism specifically but from my understanding they are mainly philosophical rather than religious. Confucianism in particular in it has a set of rules of how to conduct yourself in relation to yourself, family, society, country etc and because Chinese people believe is polytheistic and pantheistic “religion” I believe within Confucianism there are also sets of rules on how to conduct religious ceremonies, ancestor worship etc Maybe that’s the religious bit of it? 


I believe there is a saying that when you’re young to follow the philosophy of Confucius and when you’re old to follow the philosophy of Taoism which to me makes sense even though I feel like once you spend your whole life strictly following rules and etiquettes it might be hard to switch your mindset to calm down and chill. 

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I suggest you read a book called Confucius Lives Next Door, by an American reporter who lived in Japan for quite some time.  It's about how Confucianism is baked into Asian cultures.  A lot of his personal experiences were quite revealing, as he described and explained them.  Even though it's especially about Japan, much of it applies to China, Korea, Vietnam, etc. as well.


I am not sure about the current younger generations in China, but I can give you two personal examples of Confucianism at work.  These illustrate how respect for elders is simply a traditional part of Asian upbringings in ways we can't imagine in the West.  My husband grew up in China, and 1)after we got married, he always displayed respect for my mother even when she was criticizing him pretty harshly.   It wasn't like he was making an effort to be that way, it was simply part of his code of behavior.  2) When we lived in Boston, he was rearended by another driver during one of his long commutes.  My husband told me that he got out of his car hopping mad and stalked toward the other car intending to yell at him.  But the moment he saw that the other driver was an old man, all the anger melted out of him.  Instantly, without thinking.  My interpretation:  It would be pointless, or worse, to yell at an old man even if the latter was at fault.  These two examples show you Confucianism in action. 


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I second, and really admire, @Moshen's phrase "is baked into..." That describes the situation perfectly. I've never lived in mainland China, so I can't give you my opinion of Communist Party attempts to deal with the Confucian underpinnings of Chinese culture. I can't with any confidence express opinions about that.


But I know that Taiwanese and Taiwanese-descended mothers have completely co-opted the upper levels of Chinese Advanced Placement testing in the US in an attempt to get Confucian-based content into the curriculum, and hopefully into the heads of their children. They see those children growing up without the ubiquitous and all-pervasive influence of Confucian principles in the old country, and they are desperate to find a way to correct that. I don't know if they're succeeding, but they're giving the old NTU try.


And reading your original post, I chuckled at your attempts to assure everyone that Judeo-Christian concepts of religion and morality will have no bearing on your examination of whether or not Confucian principles are a religion or not, because you're an atheist/agnostic. I think Judeo-Christian ideas are as well-baked into nearly all Westerners, you and me included (and religious beliefs notwithstanding), as they are baked into a Christmas goose.


Anyway, to stop my babbling and get to your actual request, I would be hard pressed to advise you how to find a "practitioner" of Confucianism. It's just something that underpins nearly every aspect of society. Some Confucian Pooh-Bah, at some time or other, has held forth on what something means for Confucian society as a whole, and that has been absorbed into the culture or not, after appropriate discussion. But nobody to my experience talks about it, except when some action is so outrageous that basic principles have to be invoked.


Read a coupla books in English, and then see if you can wiggle your way into a seminar on concrete examples of Confucian influence on various modern societies at a local university. That ideally should include discussion of the current status of this issue in both Taiwan and on the mainland. It should also include the status of Confucian influence on the great Chinese Diaspora.


Sorry to seem so discouraging, but that's my two renminbi...



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On 6/29/2022 at 2:14 PM, TheBigZaboon said:

I think Judeo-Christian ideas are as well-baked into nearly all Westerners, you and me included (and religious beliefs notwithstanding), as they are baked into a Christmas goose.

Completely agree, and, as you and Moshen say, Confucianism is baked into Easterners, however much they might try to deny it!

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