Segments in this Video

East Meets West Personified (01:20)


Splitting his time between Beijing University and Harvard, Tu Wei-Ming argues that Confucius' humanist ideas are relevant for addressing modern ethical problems. Moyers provides a brief biography of the Confucian scholar.

Relevance of Ancient Religions (02:19)

Wei-Ming sees world faiths as elevating humans from daily life. He cites the contradiction between an emerging interdependent global consciousness and a movement pulling us back to our roots.

On Being Confucian (02:40)

Wei-Ming's spiritual practice assumes that each person is fated to belong to a certain place, family, ethnicity, etc. It is more a scholarly tradition than a "member" religion. Confucianism is inherent in Chinese culture.

Learning to be Human (01:17)

Wei-Ming envisions Confucianism as a faith in the perfectibility of the human condition through collective self-effort. He cites a series of concentric circles: the self is at the center, then family, community, state, world and beyond.

Encouraging Empathy (01:28)

Confucianism believes people should constantly strive to improve themselves, becoming more sympathetic and open to others as well as gaining rational knowledge. They should forge connections to other humans and the natural world.

Modernization's Effects on Eastern Thought (02:41)

Wei-Ming believes the Western mentality of power-seeking individualism has influenced all world values, including Confucian scholars—and pushed humanity to the brink of destruction by harming the ecosystem.

Retaining Spirituality (01:18)

Confucian traditions of social interaction and education have continued to flourish despite Western capitalist influences on Chinese culture.

Reconciling Confucianism with Communism (01:29)

Wei-Ming addresses how the negative, authoritarian aspects of the Chinese tradition have been used to legitimize China's brutal regime.

Contradictions within Confucianism (02:23)

Wei-Ming discusses how the hierarchical 3 bounds are being challenged by modern thought. The tradition also features 5 human relationships of mutual benefit.

From Cultural Philosophy to Political Practice (01:48)

Practice Certain aspects of Confucian thought are used for ideological control in China. Wei-Ming sees contradictory forces in the tradition between respecting authority and moralizing politics.

Tiananmen Massacre (01:45)

Students who mobilized against the Chinese regime didn't evoke Western ideas of democracy and freedom—they considered themselves as representing the peoples' interest against a corrupt government: a Confucian way of thought.

Consciousness of Duty (01:09)

The dark side of Confucianism is revealed in the pressure to obey authority. Individuals in Chinese society have to prove themselves worthy of acceptance through their actions—rather than the idea of universal human rights.

A Fusion of World Views (02:55)

Wei-Ming believes Western democratic ideas and Eastern Confucianist philosophy have to meet in the middle for China to entertain democratization. He calls for drawing from non-Western faiths to form a humanistic vision for the 21st century.

Credits: A Confucian Life in America: Tu Wei-ming (01:36)

Credits: A Confucian Life in America: Tu Wei-ming

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A Confucian Life in America: Tu Wei-ming

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Whether lecturing at Beijing University or in his classroom at Harvard University, Tu Wei-ming personifies the meeting of East and West. A student of modern thought and very much a modern man himself, his roots run back to Confucius, the philosopher of ancient China. To anyone who thinks Confucianism quaint or irrelevant, Tu Wei-ming argues that the humanism of the old sage can help us sort out some contemporary ethical problems. In his view, the ways in which the humanistic philosophy of the East meshes with Western technology and democratic values tell us much about the future of China and industrial East Asia, and about our survival on an endangered planet. He returns to China regularly to lecture on Confucian thought. In this program with Bill Moyers, Tu Wei-ming discusses the relevance of Confucian philosophy to our times. (30 minutes)

Length: 28 minutes

Item#: BVL5005

ISBN: 978-1-4213-5232-9

Copyright date: ©1990

Closed Captioned

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