Reciprocity / The Five Relationships

Excerpt from the Analects:

Zi Gong asked: "Is there any one word that can serve as a principle for the conduct of life?" Confucius said: "Perhaps the word 'reciprocity': Do not do to others what you would not want others to do to you."1

Robert Oxnam
President Emeritus, Asia Society

The importance of reciprocity, and the mutual responsibility of one person for another, is essential to understanding the five basic human relations suggested by Confucius.

Irene Bloom
Wm. Theodore and Fanny Brett de Bary
and the Class of 1941 Collegiate
Professor in Asian Humanities
Columbia University

Very prominent in the Confucian tradition is the idea of the five relationships between, if you take it according to Mencius, parent and child, minister and ruler, husband and wife, older and younger brother, friend and friend.

The order of the five relationships is taken from that given by Confucius' most famous follower, the philosopher Mencius (active 372-289 B.C.E.) whose conversations were recorded in the book Mencius (see The Classics).

Those five relationships and the fact of human relatedness are of crucial importance in the Confucian tradition.

Wm. Theodore de Bary
Special Service Professor Emeritus
Columbia University

In the first four cases, you're talking about differentiated statuses.

Now, the point is not to necessarily confirm or reinforce the status difference but to understand what it is that establishes a responsibility between those two pairs in the relationship.

1. Sources of Chinese Tradition, Wm. Theodore de Bary, ed. (New York: Columbia University Press, 1960), Analects XV:23