Confucius, Kongzi, and Tian Ming

The concept of Tian (heaven) first appears with the Shang Dynasty. At first, Tian was Shang Di (Lord on High), later Shang Di turns into Tian. For them, the spiritual world was in constant conversation and flow with the human world. They believed in a reciprocal, harmonious relationship between heaven and humans. But the problem is that the Shang Di is distant from human affairs. It is on very rare occasions that humans will use divination to talk straight to Shang Di, normally they will go through their ancestral spirits to talk to him.

When one’s ancestors die, they will go into the spiritual world and become the point of contact to speak with the rest of the spiritual world. It is because of this that Li (ritual propriety) and xiao must be present at all time. You must observe the rituals properly so that the divinations will work and you may have an open channel with the spiritual world. And one must have xiao and respect the hierarchy of relationships, especially to your elders because they are the ones who will be helping you communicate and have a harmonious relationship with the spiritual world.

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If one follows proper Li and xiao there will be someone in the spiritual world who cares about you and will act in a reciprocal manner, and by respecting them and giving them the proper ritual they deserve one will be able to go through them for conversations with the spiritual world. The Shang dynasty used oracle bones for their divinations and to speak to the ancestral spirits. They kept records of the oracle bones and divinations. This gives us evidence of the writing, religion, intellect and culture of the time; but most importantly keeping records helped create a literate elite. Why? Because the scholars started studying these records and finding patterns on what was happening, who was ruling, what were the general standings when things were going well and when things weren’t to try and replicate and have some sort of understa…