Who Am I? Confucian Themes in Contemporary Society

Eastern philosophy stems from the cultivation of the virtuous person with a special emphasis on the balance between culture and nature. So, if the West relies on Socrates for communicating significant truths, the East calls on Confucius. Confucius was a teacher, philosopher and political figure who is most known for his popular aphorisms and concerns on the importance of social order and interaction; all of which are preserved in the Analects.

Figure 1 Emaze

The Analects is a composition of exegetical doctrine that can be broken down into mere sayings and ideas used to help guide one’s motives, actions and thoughts.
The most identifiable (and admittingly least compelling) attribution we can make of the analects to contemporary society can be found in fortune cookies. Both fortune cookies and horoscopes, which are more widely used, are a part of the Barnum Effect. This is a psychological occurrence in which applied accuracy classifications are given to people. The classifications claim to be specific, but are, in fact, vague and attributed to a variety of people.


This spectacle of pop culture emerged as early as 1930, and continues to play a major role in decision making for many people. So how can teachers use this in the classroom?
Students are always looking for an opportunity to define themselves. Whether this is through extra-curriculars or identifying with characters in a book, students are drawn to a narrative that seemingly encapsulates their own life.

Figure 2 Pinterest

As educators, you have an opportunity to use this to your advantage and have students conduct an introspective analysis on themselves. Direct your students to the Free Personality Test. Based on Isabel Briggs Myers’ and Carl Jung’s personality type theory, the test will offer an extremely descriptive outline of one’s personality.

At the end of the test, students can view fictional characters that maintain the same traits. This is when they will be able to research the character given to them, and eventually workup to writing a comparative analysis essay. Here is an example for further instruction:


  • My personality type is INTJ
  • My most comparable fictional character is Gandalf the Grey from Lord of the Rings
  • I would then research Gandalf and make comparisons that I see between him and myself


End Review.

You might also enjoy:
The Hunchback of Notre-Dame by Victor Hugo
In Pop Culture:
Freaky Friday [movie]

Works Cited:
Confucius. “Analects.” The Norton Anthology of World Literature, edited by Martin Puchner, 3rd ed., W. W. Norton & Company Ltd., Inc., 2014, pp. 1421.

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