Care of the Dead

The early Chinese philosophers argued heatedly about how to care for the dead.  In this unit, three of the most distinctive views of the period are presented.  These can be treated together but also easily break apart for smaller lessons or units with other materials.

Perfect Rituals


The activity helps motivate the Confucian focus on the relationship between ritual activity (li) and ethics.

Background Information


Students (and more than a few philosophers) tend not to think of everyday social interactions as the paradigmatic realm of ethics, but for the early Confucians, small-scale social interactions were of central ethical importance.


This is best done as a group activity, but could be done as an individual or pair activity.

Early Confucianism


Early Confucianism is typically identified with the Confucian philosophers active during the period leading up to and during the Warring States era in China (6th – 3rd century BCE). The most familiar and discussed figures in this period are Confucius himself, Mengzi, and Xunzi. The period in which these philosophers lived was extraordinarily violent, chaotic, and troubling. Philosophical inquiry thus betrays an atmosphere of crisis, reflecting concerns about what had gone wrong, both politically and morally, and how it might be repaired.

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