Chinese Artwork

Freshman (College 1st year) ・Architecture ・APA ・3 Sources

Confucius expounded a political and social philosophy machine that defines the role of a man. The ideas of Confucius core on two related areas that include social teachings and political lessons. Social factors deal with an individual`s proper behavior to his fellow guys and around the society. Political lessons contact on the art of governance and the right relationships between a ruler or governor and his subordinates. The teachings of Confucius are fantastically reflected in the ancient Chinese artwork as this article illustrates. Besides, this analysis will discuss how the Confucius teachings construct on humanities and his concept of moral rectitude. The classes of Confucius define major political and social constructions of the Chinese.

The Teachings of Confucius and their Expression in the Art of the Time Period

Confucius viewed the art of humanity and the need for education as a key to attaining proper conduct within the government and the society. In regards to his social teachings, Confucius believed that people should be more considerate and have compassion for each other. Thus, they should not treat other in ways that they would not wish to be treated. In accomplishing this, people are urged to practice self-restraint and altruism. On the other hand, much of his political teachings focused on the actions of a ruler and the art of governance. Unlike Machiavelli, who applied unethical statecraft concept in which he taught leaders how to appear when seeking the trust of people, while also engaging in stratagems and oppression, Confucius advocated for compassion and real justice on the part of both the ruler and the people being governed. He stressed that it is only by being just, would a ruler have ruling rights (Chou, Tu, & Huang, 2013).

The art of the period considered humanism as its most significant intellectual movement. Thus, Renaissance artists of the time expressed the ideals of Confucius by placing human feelings and concerns at the center of their operations. The portraits of the time also emphasized on the belief that every person is worth respect and for that reason should command every other person`s respect. Such ideas combined with increasing worldliness and intellectual curiosity made it possible for the art of the time to be more valued.

The Contributions of Confucius to the Humanities through His Concept of Moral Rectitude

The plan of Confucius and his simple view of life revealed his sincere belief that through effort, human beings have the capacity to determine and shape their destiny. Confucius had developed great faith in man and believed that they could be taught and in the process perfect their skills. He also believed that all human beings could become awe-inspiring with great knowledge and wisdom. A person`s pursuit of improving one's self became profoundly rooted in his heritage. Besides, his moral rectitude concept was viewed as part of his quest to establish the qualities of a perfect human being. Confucius was also devoted to teaching and learning. His teachings stressed on moral rectitude and self-improvement. Through his words that emphasized on the sake of oneself, it is evident that Confucius had a persistent belief in a person`s self-improvement throughout his work and life. The moral rectitude concept of Confucius was also clear in his desire to make education available to every man since he stressed that everyone could benefit from self-cultivation and learning. Confucius initiated a leaders` humanities program that paved the way for everyone's education and also redefined learning to act as both a character developer and a means of acquiring knowledge (Kudaibergenova, Edilbay, Abdigalieva, & Kumganbayev, 2015).

The Impact of the Concept of Moral Rectitude on Art

As a result of Confucius` teachings, art was viewed differently and considered to have a moral purpose. Thus, art was seen to be an achievement of people`s free will, and at the same time as act as a character of the moral act. The earliest wall paintings in China as referred by ancient Chinese texts illustrated benign sages, emperors, loyal generals, good ministers, and their evil counterparts as warnings and examples to the living. Besides, portrait painting had a pure function of depicting fewer features of a subject and more roles and character traits of persons in the society. Painters in the Courts were called upon to portray memorable and auspicious events (Kudaibergenova, Edilbay, Abdigalieva, & Kumganbayev, 2015). It was the ethical impact of Confucianism on painting. More examples of how art was used to depict the teachings of Confucian can be illustrated by discussing examples of art during the various Chinese dynasties.

Chosŏn dynasty (1392 – 1910)

At the hub of his teachings during the Chosŏn dynasty, were the moral values and ethical standards commonly known as Samgang Oryun or the “Three Bonds and Five Relationships.” Although calligraphy and ink paintings always touched upon various factors of the Confucian philosophy, the control and influence that Confucian teachings had on the visual culture of the dynasty can be easily understood in works such as the eight ideographs paintings. The art is commonly known as the Munjado (munja: character or ideograph; do: painting) and was used to decorate the man`s room (Sarangchae) of houses in Korea. The eight ideographs presented in figure 1 and that represent the highest Confucian virtues include filial piety, brotherly love, loyalty, trust, propriety, justice or righteousness, integrity or modesty, and shame or sensitivity. Since the characters are written in the same order, Hyochedo is also known as Munjado, and it represents the first characters (Kudaibergenova, Edilbay, Abdigalieva, & Kumganbayev, 2015).

Song dynasty (960-1279)

Art also played a significant role in portraying the concept of moral rectitude in the Song Dynasty. Art in the Song dynasty was mainly used for two purposes which include illustrating the rules of Confucian morals to make them more practical and as a means of challenging people to reflect on their morals and compare them with Confucian morals. The role of art was thus was extremely important and considerably connected with safeguarding the Confucians moral universe. Figure 2 shows a depiction of a Confucian-influenced art during this era.

Ming dynasty (1368-1644)

Art in the Ming dynasty can also be used to illustrate the influence of Confucianism. The painting in figure 3 depicts the scholar Tao Gu palace, and courtesan named Qin Ruolan. As observed in the art, the Ming dynasty involved pictures that contained different forms of symbolism. Nature is also an essential part of China`s art and history, and paintings of women were set in a garden to symbolize domestic space. The setting which is influenced by both philosophies of Confucian and Taoist is also known as scholar’s garden (Guo, 2015).

Yuan dynasty (1206-1370)

In the Yuan dynasty, character analogy has had a broad impact on the beautiful imagery and the artistic creation of the models of art. Throughout the history of China`s art, and as depicted in figure 4, many artists have knowingly associated certain traits with human ideals and ethics. For instance, cypresses and pines symbolize moral integrity; bamboo and orchids represent aloofness from material pursuits and politics; and vanilla is symbolic of an integrity and noble person (Guo, 2015). The below figure indicates a Confucian-inspired form of art in the Yuan dynasty.


Humanism and moral integrity is the primary aspect being driven by Confucius. According to Confucius, his primary function of education was to provide training to noblemen, which would enable them to undergo frequent social interaction as well as an unremitting self-improvement. By observing the works of art of the Choson dynasty, Song dynasty, Ming dynasty, and Yuan dynasty, it can be noted that the paintings demonstrate the degree to which the ethical codes of the Confucian ideal had permeated every inch of the early Chinese society together with its visual civilization.


Chou, M. J., Tu, Y. C., & Huang, K. P. (2013). Confucianism and character education: a Chinese view. (Journal of Social Sciences), 9(2), 59.

Guo, T. (2015). Learning the Confucian way. (New Directions for Teaching and Learning), 2015(142), 5-18.

Kudaibergenova, N. Z., Edilbay, S., Abdigalieva, G. K., & Kumganbayev, Z. Z. (2015). Confucius and Immanuel Kant: The Problem of Virtue and Morality. (Asian Social Science), 11(19), 211.

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