Constructing an American Confucianism (Asia Times)

BEIJING – There ruminates a discussion, from East to West, as to how the perfect American Confucianism ought to be constructed. Should it be transplanted from China; or implanted from within America?

There are two possible sinotypes: One is “Chinese-American Confucianism” and the other is “American-Chinese Confucianism”. Obviously, a blending is possible, possibly even desirable, but let us ponder a bit longer on those two extremes:

Chinese-American Confucianism means that Chinese language elements slowly sink into American society. American-Chinese Confucianism, on the other hand, refers to English words taking on Chinese meanings.

The difference between those two modes – or directions – of Western Sinification, if you will, is considerable, and their advantages and disadvantages must be addressed.

Chinese-American Confucianism feels exotic and unique, because an entire set of new terminologies, categories, and taxonomies will be imported from China to the US. At the same time, however, it may also feel intrusive and alien to the establishment.

American-Chinese Confucianism has literally skinned itself from its Chinese form and body-snatched English words as vehicle for entering Western thought. The words all sound familiar to the ear at first; however, the superimposed Confucian spiritualism may just feel otiose.

The two modes of American Confucianism are well represented, I think, in the main writings of two of the greatest contemporary American Sinologists and their schools:

Roger T Ames from the University of Hawaii favors Chinese-American Confucianism. He introduces Confucianism to America by importing Chinese key terminologies. For instance, the true name of the Chinese tradition isn’t “Confucianism,” but is “rujia“, meaning a school of literati. Or, “Tianxia” (all under heaven) is very different from our biblical “Heaven,” and so on.  [READ FULL TEXT AT ASIA TIMES]

Ethnic Chinese scholars of “Chinese studies” in the United States tend to switch, and switch eagerly, to the English language to explain Chinese meanings, while Western scholars seem overtly keen on adopting at least some Chinese loanwords. Both groups embody an example of mutual learning that should be followed by national governments.