My Ru Pedagogy (I): The Discipline of Body

Ruism (Confucianism) is a comprehensive way of life. To be a Ru, you cannot only be good at reading, arguing, and writing, but also doing and practicing. Think about the “six-art” curriculum  in Confucius’ school: ritual, music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and applied math. From the very first beginning of their school, Ru must have done a lot of things during the process of learning. In order to manifest this holistic spirit of cultivation and education, I have students demonstrate their favorite body practices, and explain them using Ruist philosophy in my 2018 Fall course of “Introduction to Confucianism/Ruism” at Washington College. Here are some examples. 

Patrick plays flute to explain why one wrong note in one melody could be the right one in another. Therefore, no emotion is inherently wrong, and the thrust of good human life is to express each emotion in its due measure, as it is taught by the Ruist text of  “Centrality and Ordinariness” (Zhong Yong).

Patrick’s Explanation of the “Due Measure” of each note in a harmony.

Patrick has a full performance of a beautiful melody. And he furthermore explains that this practice is particularly good for him to cultivate the Ruist virtues of ritual-propriety (禮, li) and harmony (和, he). 

Sometimes, you can close your eyes, let the notes flow themselves, and you are really in a meditative mood at this moment. Patrick says this helps him a good sleep, to re-gather the “night-energy” mentioned by Mencius. 

Stell chooses to play the art of Poi. (Frankly, I never knew this before!) He does a fantastic explanation on how the practice can embody the Ruist idea of li (理, pattern-principle)! You can see he draws charts on the whiteboard to explain there are natural patterns for the movements of the Poi and human body. What a performer does is to recognize and reconnect to these pattern-principles so as to make the entire person merge into the art-performing activity, and from that, merge into the surrounding natural energy, which he called “Tian” (天, heaven). How Ruist this is!

Stell also has a mind-blowing performance of “colorful Poi” in the dark, with his chosen music!

Bethy chooses to draw pictures on the whiteboard. She says she began to do this from 3 years old, and it ever since became the most effective way for her to recharge during busy times of the day, and then re-engage the ordinary world. She mainly uses  Xunzi’s idea of learning to illustrate why this is connected to Ruism. Finding the right teacher, learning in a community, and knowing the history of art, all of these lead to how she perfects herself through perfecting her drawing. Isn’t it beautiful?

Jenny is a double major in Chemistry and Philosophy. She is one of the most brilliant students in the class, and it seems she naturally grasps all those key Ruist concepts. What is more amazing is that she seems to have been practicing Ruism for a long time even before she learns anything about it. She demonstrates how she did “everyday positive quiet-sitting” (her own title of it) and used journal writing to remain focused, mindful, and positive everyday. 

Jenny is quiet-sitting
Jenny’s journal page. 

I told Jenny that Journal-writing is a powerful way of self-cultivation which is very popular among Ru practitioners, from ancient times to today. We didn’t discuss this topic in the class, and Jenny just broaches it by herself!

So, these are all the great examples of body demonstration which we conducted in our course today! I am so proud of these students and feel extremely happy!

Bin Song. 12/04/2018