2012 New History
P. O. Box 1-44, Nankang, Taipei 11529, Taiwan, R. O. C.
02-2782-9555 # 226

Studies in Japan on the Establishment of Confucianism

as a State Religion

Watanabe Yoshihiro

Department of Chinese Literature, Daito Bunka University

Should the teachings of Confucius and his followers be called a philosophy or a religion? Given the diverse elements that Confucianism contains, this is a difficult question to which there can be no conclusive answer that would hold true for every period. We need to elucidate the historical form taken by Confucianism in each and every age. It is possible to postulate that Confucianism became the state religion during the Han Dynasty (202 BC AD 220), when its religious aspect was strong. But it is questionable whether the period in which this occurred can be attributed to the reign of the Western (Former) Han Dynasty 西漢(前漢) Emperor Wu 武帝, as described in the Han Shu (History of Western Han Dynasty) 《漢書》. For Confucianism as a political justification of the state (1) to be accepted as a concept of governance, it not only had to (2) permeate the ranks of the bureaucracy, but also (3) appear in specific seats of power, and furthermore (4) be accepted by a local elite who would welcome this form of government. If such a process is described as the creation of a Confucian state and the establishment of Confucianism as the state religion is defined as the result thereof, then the period in which this took place is to be sought in the Eastern (Latter) Han Dynasty 東漢(後漢), during the reign of the Emperor Zhang 章帝.


Keywords: Confucianism, state religion, Eastern (Latter) Han