Sample Cultural Studies Paper on Chinese Cultural Transmission

Culture is considered a source of power and productivity, and more countries are starting to pay attention to cultural transmission. Every country seizes any opportunity to make its culture known, understood, and accepted. For a long time, China has tried to make its culture known in all parts of the world, more so among Asian countries. Confucianism was the primary way China spread its culture to the rest of the East Asia region, primarily Korea and Japan. Since Confucianism largely emphasizes ethical and humanistic philosophies that seek to promote loyalty, social hierarchy, and self-cultivation, Chinese transmission played a crucial role in enhancing societal growth and cultural development in Japan and Korea. The following critical bibliography analyses the role played by Confucianism in enhancing Chinese cultural transmission in Korea and Japan.

Chang, Peter TC. “Confucian pluralism and China’s dream of a harmonious world.” China Information 28.3 (2014): 382-404.

In this article, Chang critically diagnoses Confucian liberal traits as a prerequisite for the advancement of the Chinese quest for a harmonious world. According to Chang, decades of rapid modernizations have presented China with moral, social, and geopolitical dilemmas (382). Confucianism philosophy is co-opted by the Communist Party as a cultural force that can help in securing stability at home, as well as promoting goodwill abroad. Chang argues that the Confucian tradition exercises a form of inclusive supremacy, with diversity playing a crucial role in the philosophy’s moral endeavor (384). As a result of rapid globalization, the Confucian identity has evolved significantly, expanding its definition to force outside China. As such, an inherently multi-cultural global Confucianism is emerging, with practitioners outside the Chinese mainland becoming crucial and legitimate stakeholders of the philosophy. Han-centric views of Confucian legacies, as well as melancholic views of the world by conservatives, are chauvinistic tendencies that contradict the core ideals of Confucianism philosophy. At the very best, therefore, Confucian philosophy should embrace an inclusive and universal worldview.

Kim, Marie Seong-Hak. “Law and Custom under the Chosŏn Dynasty and Colonial Korea: A Comparative Perspective.” The Journal of Asian Studies (2007): 1067-1097.

According to Kim, the notion of custom during the Korean Choson dynasty has featured prominently in Korean scholarship in an effort to highlight the negative impact of colonialism on Korean Legal tradition (1068). Notably, a majority of Korean historians contend that Korea’s traditional customary law, during the colonial period, was distorted, eroded, and suppressed by the Japanese. However, Kim opines that a judicial norm was absent in the Korean pre-modern era. Recent discussions on whether civil law and custom existed in East Asia have left the legal history of Korea largely untouched. Correcting the distorted pictures of Korean history as painted by colonial history is an overriding task for many Korean historians (1091). Restrictive, nationalistic historiography should truly give way for a more pluralistic view of the past. Kim’s arguments are greatly intertwined with Chang’s idea of viewing cultural transmission in a pluralistic view as a way of eroding emotional baggage and promoting a harmonious view of historical and cultural development.

Chung, Kun Young, John W. Eichenseher, and Teruso Taniguchi. “Ethical perceptions of business students: Differences between East Asia and the USA and among “Confucian” cultures.” Journal of Business Ethics 79.1-2 (2008): 121-132.

In this article, the authors evaluate the significance of Confucianism in the context of business management. To get these views, the authors used results of a survey of business students from four countries, that is, the U.S., Peoples Republic of China (PRC), Republic of Korea (ROK), and Japan. In this survey, students were required to answer a series of scenarios representing potentially unethical business behaviors. With the rapid economic development of East Asian economies in the global market space, it is worthwhile to explore the differences in business ethics between the Confucian and Western cultures. Chung et al. argue that Confucianism as discussed in many western businesses and academic cultures are oversimplified. Just like all sets of cultural dimensions in many parts of the world, Confucianism is mediated by historical social experience. Broadly, Confucian values are often contracted with western values, which tend to put more emphasis on freedom and rights. On the other hand, Confucian societies are taken to put more emphasis on hierarchal relationships, social harmony, and standardized rituals. Chang et al. analyze the contingent nature of Confucianism, describing Confucianism values in Japan, China, and Korea (124). These considerations depict how the Confucianism values have spread to different parts of the world, both in the East Asian region and other parts of the world as well.

Zhang, Weiyuan. “Conceptions of lifelong learning in Confucian culture: Their impact on adult learners.” International Journal of Lifelong Education 27.5 (2008): 551-557.

According to Zhang, Confucianism was adopted as an official doctrine in the developmental stages of Chinese history (551). The author further notes that Confucian values have remained a key pillar in traditional beliefs in the Chinese and East Asian region even to the present day. For over 2000 years, Confucianism philosophy has been shared by various countries, such as China, Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, and Singapore. The philosophy of lifelong learning can be traced back to the Confucian idea that education ought to be provided to all. The philosophy, as well as practice of education in East Asian countries, has, therefore, been influenced greatly by Confucian traditions. The Confucius values stood for the idea that men from all classes of life, regardless of their ethnic or economic status, need to access education. As such, Confucianism can be considered as the earliest idea that emphasizes equal opportunity in education. These ideas have diffused across all civilizations today all over the world with all communities currently embracing the concept of education for all.

Huang, Chun-Chieh. “On the Contextual Turn in the Tokugawa Japanese Interpretation of the Confucian Classics: Types and Problems.” Dao 9.2 (2010): 211-223.

In this article, Huang discusses the ‘contextual turn’ in the interpretation of Chinese texts. As the author argues, the Book Road, which was a key element in East Asia’s cultural exchanges, was mainly for the exchange of texts. During this period, Chinese classics were carried to the Korean Peninsula or shipped directly by sea from China to Japan. As Huang further notes, while the Korean and Japanese scholars read and interpreted these Chinese classics, the intellectuals often affected those texts, either intentionally or by pure chance. The author uses ‘contextual turn’ to imply the fact that the contextuality of Confucian classics in China was tactic, almost imperceptible, and latent. However, with time, such contextuality became explicit and salient as the classics were translated in foreign lands, such as in Japan and Korea. In line with Zhang’s idea on Confucian values transmission throughout East Asia, Huang states that many Japanese and Korean Confucian borrowed values and ideas expressed in Chinese classics and translated them in the context of local political and social context. Despite the fact that the Japanese and Korean scholars interpreted the Chinese Confucian classics to suit their local political and intellectual needs, it is evident that Confucianism was critical in promoting Chinese transmission in the East Asian region, particularly Japan and Korea.

O’Dwyer, Shaun. “Confucian Democrats, Not Confucian Democracy.” DAO-A Journal Of Comparative Philosophy (2020).

A notion exists that, if democracy is to flourish in the East Asian region, then it must be done in ways that are compatible with the Confucian values and norms. However, O’Dwyer argues that a Confucianized democracy is undesirable and unlikely (210). In conjunction with the ideas promoted by Chang, O’Dwyer advances the idea of liberal democracy rather than a pure chauvinistic Confucianism that is Han-centric. O’Dwyer further notes that liberal democracy is not essentially ‘western’ as most East Asian scholars tend to argue. Additionally, it can be claimed that South Korea, Taiwan, and Japan are quite liberal democracies. Despite that cultural transmission has had a significant impact among the East Asian countries, the diverse characters of these societies support claims of cultural distinctiveness in western nations.


Throughout history, Japan and Korea have been influenced heavily by Chinese culture. Confucianism was the most important factor in enhancing the Chinese cultural transmission in the East Asian region, transferring administrative and legislative structure to Japan through Korea. Following the fall of the Chinese Empire, particularly the Western Jin in 317, a lot of refugees fled from China to the Korean Peninsula and transmitted the Chinese Culture. While China’s cultural transmission brought some aspects of the Chinese language and culture to other East Asian Countries, the universal message of Confucianism called for the integration of Confucian teachings the indigenous cultures. Chinese culture greatly influenced the Asian region and formed a basis for a region-wide culture heavily drawn from China’s way of life. These events explain why Confucius and Chinese early civilization is followed in East Asian countries, and especially Japan and Korea.