What Are the Three Confucian Principles?

The three core Confucian principles are filial piety, humaneness and ritual. These values permeate Chinese culture and everyday life, and also influenced cultures of neighboring people, such as the Japanese and Koreans.

The three Confucian values of filial piety, humaneness and ritual are seen as supporting each other and civilized life in the manner of a tripod. Filial piety is considered to be the foundation of the other two.

  • Filial piety – This is respect and veneration that the junior members of society must exercise toward the senior ones. This concept applies to the veneration of dead relatives. It also means that children must respect their parents and care for them in their old age. In broader society, filial piety implies keeping social hierarchy and obeying one’s superiors.
  • Humaneness – This should be more important to a person than life itself. Humaneness is expressed as concern for other human beings and as a sense of inner dignity. Confucius’ understanding was that to be truly human, people should support each other.
  • Ritual – This does not mean an empty ritual or a rite just for show. Ritual in Confucianism means that everything should be done in the proper manner. Ritual can mean politeness and also understanding of everyone’s proper place in society.