In Confucian thought, human nature is innately good, but can be corrupted
when people step outside of their proper roles. When people in authority abuse
their power, or when subjects disrespect their superiors or try to usurp other
people’s roles, relationships, and society, break down. In the Confucian view,
many of today’s social problems stem from this breakdown and the resulting
confusion and chaos.
In order to live the ideal life, it is necessary to fulfill one’s role
within family and the community, and propriety in social relationships is just
as important as duty to family. All relationships are modeled on the concept of
filial piety: everyone should be treated with respectful reverence. Confucius
said that relationships should be based on reciprocity and loyalty. For
instance, a child is obligated to obey the parents, but the parents are also
obligated to show kindness to the child.
Confucianism sees all human interactions in terms of five basic
relationships: father-son, husband-wife, elder brother-younger brother,
ruler-subject, and older friend-younger friend. In each, both parties have an
obligation, and by living up to this obligation, they help maintain balance and
harmony in their relationships and in society.