The Importance of Process for Understanding Gender in Confucianism

Gavrielle Rodriguez, Kenneth W. Holloway


This paper explores the nature of process in the cultivation of morality and character during the time of Confucius. The research denotes particular attention to the concept of the character of a gentleman, a phrase which is referenced throughout Confucius’ Analects. The argument is made that the phrase ‘gentleman,’ does not inherently designate characteristics which are gender specific, but in actuality characteristics which are gender neutral and can be attributable to both sexes. Furthermore, it is illustrated through Confucius’ and Mencius’ writings (Mencius was a Chinese philosopher and student of Confucian philosophy, who lived during the 4th century) that the attainment of the status of gentleman was one which was meritocratic and based upon continual self-cultivation and transformation of character. This was a dualistic process involving the recognition of one’s fallible nature and the consequent need for self-examination and self-correction. According to Confucian philosophy, a significant aspect of the cultivation of one’s character was to be found through the individual’s development of interpersonal relationships. Consequently, these interactions with others were to be viewed as a vehicle for altruism and not as a means for satisfying one’s own needs. It was believed that by this dualistic process that one could, ultimately, evoke the most impact for good upon one’s surrounding world and the government of the state.


Confucianism; Confucius; Ancient Chinese Philosophers; Historical Process; Gender

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