Spring 2022 - HUM 331 D100

Special Topics in Asian Religious Traditions (4)

Confucian Ethics and Gender: Modern East Asia

Class Number: 7215

Delivery Method: In Person


  • Course Times + Location:

    Fr 12:30 PM – 4:20 PM

  • Exam Times + Location:

    Apr 20, 2022
    7:00 PM – 10:00 PM

  • Prerequisites:

    45 units.



Studies a specific Asian religious tradition through the cultural and historical contexts that structure religious meaning. Students may repeat this course once for further credit under a different topic. Breadth-Humanities.


Confucian Ethics and Gender in the Context of Modern East Asia

The ideas associated with Confucius (Kōngzi 孔子), known misleadingly as “Confucianism” outside East Asia, are identified more helpfully with the Rú 儒, or “literati,” of ancient through early modern China, and later, Korea and Japan. Helpfully, because Rú 儒 designates a social group and as social values, power dynamics, and politics evolve so do social groups as is reflected both in their composition and relationship to power. The essentialist European construction represented by “Confucianism,” assumes a fixed teaching stuck in the past with outdated views ill-positioned to address contemporary issues of, for example, constitutional governance and civic virtue, property rights, social welfare, mediation, and justice. Further, the “Confucian” edifice has been viewed as either irrelevant or positively harmful in the search for new ways of understanding gender and advancing the position of women in society.

We will commence with a reading of two foundational classics compiled or composed during the Warring States period of Chinese history (475-221): Analects of Confucius (Lúnyǔ 論語) and the Mencius (Mèngzi 孟子). With a basic understanding of these texts, and the ideas they contain, we will then move on to two collections of essays that situate those ideas in relation to feminist critique and social, political, economic, ecological, and educational concerns in contemporary East Asia.



  • Enhance skills in critically assessing complex arguments in academic articles.
  • Develop skills in organizing an extended paper, using sources effectively, linking claims to evidence, and forming clear logically consistent arguments.
  • Gain and demonstrate familiarity with classical Confucian views concerning political and social order, personal cultivation, and the function of ritual structures applied to human life.
  • Become familiar with some basic ideas concerning democracy, ethics, and feminist perspectives originating out of cultural insights of both East Asian and European heritage.
  • Develop an appreciation for the complexities involved in intercultural dialogue.


  • Participation 10%
  • Paper Proposal (300-500 words plus an annotated bibliography) 15%
  • Term Paper (4,000-5,000 words) 30%
  • Reflection Essay (500-750 words) 15%
  • Final Examination 30%


More than two unexcused absences will result in a 5% penalty on the final grade.

A penalty of 2% per day is applied to late assignments.

Please check assignment details on the course Canvas site.



Ames, Roger T. and Henry Rosemont Jr., trans. The Analects of Confucius: A Philosophical Translation. Toronto: Random House of Canada, 1998. ISBN-13: 978-0345434074

Lau, D.C., trans. Mencius. London: Penguin Books, (1970) reprint 2003. ISBN-13: 978-0140449716

Bell, Daniel A., Hahm Chaibong, eds. Confucianism for the Modern World. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2003. (Available online at SFU Library) ISBN-13: 978-0521527880

Li, Chenyang, ed. The Sage and the Second Sex: Confucianism, Ethics, and Gender. Chicago and La Salle: Open Court, 2000. ISBN-13: 978-0812694192


Registrar Notes:


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Teaching at SFU in spring 2022 will involve primarily in-person instruction, with safety plans in place.  Some courses will still be offered through remote methods, and if so, this will be clearly identified in the schedule of classes.  You will also know at enrollment whether remote course components will be “live” (synchronous) or at your own pace (asynchronous).

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