What Are the Five Key Relationships According to Confucius?

Confucius' Five Bonds cover the relationships between a father and a son, an older brother and a younger brother, a husband and wife, an elder and a youth, and a ruler and his subjects. Confucius also outlines which qualities each person in the relationship should display. He taught that harmony would exist in society if all five attitudes are displayed.

Confucius says that a father must display love and kindness toward his son, while the son should display obedience and reverence toward his father. Confucius says that the husband in a marriage should behave righteously to merit humility and a respectful obedience from his wife. An elder should show consideration toward those younger than him, while a youth must display deference toward those older than him. These three relationships reflect Confucius' doctrine that the father in a family is the most important figure in a household.

An older brother should be gentle with his younger brother, and the younger brother must display humility and respect toward his older brother. This reflects Confucius' teaching that the oldest son is next in line to hold authority in the house following the death of a father. Confucius also taught that a ruler has a duty to show benevolence toward his subjects and that the subjects should in turn show loyalty toward their ruler.