BBC In Our Time - Confucius Listening Guide


This is an optional listening guide to help you understand the assigned material. Below you will find questions to consider as you listen. You can find the original audio material by clicking here. Important vocabulary is noted.

Topics covered: Confucius and the ideas of Confucianism, but also Confucianism’s relationship with Buddhism, so-called "Neo Confucianism", and modern understandings of the tradition.

You will hear reference to "Daoism" in this audio assignment - it will sometimes be mispronounced as "Taoism", with a "t" sound. This is an another Chinese way of thought Confucius did not follow.

[0:19] Introduction - What does it mean when Confucius says "study the past if you would divine the future"? Note that here the presenter calls Confucius "Kongfuqiu" - he is accidentally mixing two Chinese ways of indicating Confucius - Kong Fuzi 孔夫子 and Kong Qiu 孔丘. What does this philosophy respect?

[1:25] Who was Confucius? - What do we know about Confucius and how do we know it? Terms: "itinerant", "scribe", "nobility", "propound", and "disciple".

[2:56] Outline of Confucianism - What sort of system is "Confucianism"? (Confucianism is the English name we give to Confucius’ way of thought). Terms: "reform", "innovate", "dynasty", "reciprocity", "statesmanship", and "hierarchy".

[6:05] Government & Governance - What are keys to good government for Confucius? How were his ideas different from others in his time? Terms: "efficiency", "vassal", "premium", "curriculum", "heritage", and "elite".

[8:43] Survival - How does Confucianism survive in its earliest days? Terms: "scarlet", "anecdote", "gnomic", and "bureaucracy". What was the Confucian bureaucracy like?

[10:58] Confucianism & Buddhism - What is the difference between these two ways of thinking? Why does Buddhism displace Confucianism during this period of Chinese history (the Tang dynasty)? Terms: "regime", "imperial", "populist", "salvation", "remedy", "incarnation", "ascetic", "preach", "monastic", "monastery", "enlightenment", and "depiction".

[15:19] Neo-Confucianism - Who was Zhu Xi and how does he influence Confucianism? Terms: "retrench" and "culminate". Note that when the presenter says "Zang Zee" at 16:58 he means "Zhu Xi".

[18:53] The Book of Songs - What is this text that was so important to Confucianism? Terms: "immoral", "bawdy", "prose", "enrapture", "consort", and "righteousness".

[21:22] The Modern Age - How is Confucianism viewed in the 19th and 20th centuries? Terms: "bestow", "colonialism", "slogan", "catholic", "reciprocal", "overtly", "exert", and "autocratic".

Important English Terms

itinerant

reciprocity

statesmanship

hierarchy

efficiency

vassal

premium

curriculum

heritage

elite

scarlet

anecdote

gnomic

bureaucracy

regime

imperial

populist

salvation

remedy

incarnation

ascetic

preach

monastic

monastery

enlightenment

depiction

retrench

culminate

immoral

bawdy

prose

enrapture

consort

righteousness

bestow

colonialism

slogan

catholic

reciprocal

overtly

exert

autocratic