“Confucius Lives Next Door” by T.R. Reid


The world is characterized by different faiths and beliefs that are guided by specific norms, principles, and notions. Human beings from a given society or nation can study other cultural beliefs in an attempt to identify various best practices that can be adopted to improve their lives or experiences. The act of borrowing other people’s values and traditions can result in collective or personal edification (Wang 213). This book review begins by examining the unique tenets and attitudes of Confucianism experienced by Reid in Japan. The analysis also describes the major lessons that can be borrowed from Reid’s experience to improve people’s social experiences.

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Analysis of Reid’s Experiences and Observations

The book “Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West” is a memoir by T. R. Reid. He describes his observations after living in Japan for around five years. One of the outstanding arguments is that the success of different Asian economies is attributable to the concepts and ethical values taught by Confucius. The 5 virtues supported by Confucianism are evident in the memoir. These include jen, yi, li, chih, and hsin. Jen supports or focuses on charity and humanity (Hong and Howes, 43). Yi refers to uprightness or honesty. The third one, li, means appropriate manners or politeness. Chih promotes moral wisdom. Hsin is the virtue of integrity. These virtues can be embraced by people who want to lead better lives and support the welfare of their respective communities.

The author also observed various relations that were taken seriously in Japan. These include husband-wife, friend-friend, ruler-subject, father-son, and elder-young (Reid, 42). The major attitudes supported by Confucius include benevolence, righteous behavior, obedience, defense in juniors, filial piety, loyalty, and courtesy. These attitudes are necessary because they can guide people to support the above five relations. The law of reciprocity guides individuals to treat others with love and respect. This is a maxim whereby people act to maximize other people’s happiness and experience.

The doctrine of rectification is embraced to promote social harmony. This kind of harmony will emerge when stable relationships are promoted in society. The doctrine of the mean (or Zhongyong) promotes three behaviors that can encourage people to live harmoniously. These include leniency, sincerity, and self-watchfulness (Reid, 132). These principles empower people to embrace the idea of self-cultivation and question their lives. Leniency is embraced to understand and tolerate others. Sincerity is a powerful principle that guides people to connect efficiently with others.

Lessons from the Confucian Experience

Reid’s experiences and observations can be copied by people who want to transform their lives or societies. The reader is educated about the unique attributes of the Confucian thought. The faith encourages its followers to consider specific maxims that can make their lives meaningful and encourage them to support other people’s welfare. For instance, the law of reciprocity emerges as a golden rule in Japanese society. This law supports appropriate behaviors whereby “people do what they would expect others to do to them” (Smith 92). The maxim promotes positive behaviors such as respect and empathy. The author treats this law as a moral commitment that can be applied unilaterally in different communities. The practice can guide human beings to do what is good without expecting any form of reward or payment. These aspects can be borrowed by Americans who want to improve their social experiences.

The inimitable virtues of Confucianism present meaningful lessons that can guide more people to improve themselves. The practice can eventually result in personal edification. It is acknowledgeable that these virtues guide individuals to transform their philosophies of life and eventually become better persons (Epley 891). Benevolence and humaneness are virtues that guide persons to empower others. Righteousness is a principle that can guide people to treat others as brothers and sisters. Integrity heartens individuals to promote what is right without affecting the welfare of others. These insights can make significant differences in different American societies.

When people consider these lessons, it will be easier for them to promote the concept of utilitarianism. This means that they will not promote specific actions that can result in harm or unhappiness. People should be ready to establish meaningful relationships guided by the attitudes outlined in the book. This tactic can be embraced by people to establish societies characterized by love, respect, honesty, and humility (Smith 78). The success of Japan can be attributed to the ideas and lessons associated with Confucian thought. This fact explains why the ideology or faith is followed by many people across the continent.

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Striking Aspects of the Book

This text by Reid offers numerous ideas that are guided by his observations in Japan. What comes out clearly to the reader is that the information is intended to influence the behaviors and social practices of more individuals in the west (Hong and Howes 56). From a personal perspective, the most outstanding aspect of the book is the use of various strategies and concepts to support the concept of social harmony. In the United States, individualism has remained the defining principle in every society. For instance, Americans use various resources, ideas, and knowledge to pursue their personal objectives while at the same time ignoring the welfare of the surrounding society.

In the book, Reid offers a detailed approach that can be considered by more people in western civilizations to promote the idea of group harmony. Using the maxims, values, and principles associated with Confucianism, the author manages to explain how social harmony is a strength defining Asian countries such as Japan. The reader realizes that societies that promote group harmony will eventually become stable and victorious. This happens to be the case because people in such communities do not engage in selfish pursuits or activities that can affect the welfare of others (Shen 6). The application of these teachings in Asian communities has led to reduced levels of crime, drug abuse, and inequality. This understanding can be embraced to deal with social evils such as insecurity and eventually promote positive interpersonal relationships.


Although the impacts of Confucianism in Japan might be a debatable subject, the outstanding fact is that the nation has managed to establish good schools, safe streets, admirable personal interactions, and stable families. These lessons can, therefore, inform social relationships in American society. With the current wave of globalization, different societies can borrow ideas from other regions in an attempt to empower their respective members. In order to achieve this goal, members of the public should be ready to study and follow these teachings by Confucius (Epley 887). The practice will deliver positive outcomes and make more societies safe and successful.

Works Cited

Epley, Kelly M. “Care Ethics and Confucianism: Caring through Li.” Hypatia – A Journal of Feminist Philosophy, vol. 30, no. 4, 2015, pp. 881-896.

Hong, Shaohua, and Andrew Howes. “Parents’ Experience with Early Childhood Education.” Open Journal of Social Sciences, vol. 2, no. 1, 2014, pp. 39-49.

Reid, Thomas R. Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West. Vintage, 2008.

Shen, Vincent. “Introduction: Classical Confucianism in Historical and Comparative Text.” Dao Companion to Classical Confucian Philosophy, vol. 3, no. 1, 2013, pp. 1-19.

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Smith, Huston. The World’s Religions: Completely Revised and Updated Edition of The Religions of Man. 50th Anniversary ed., HarperCollins, 2009.

Wang, Yuan-kang. “Explaining the Tribute System: Power, Confucianism, and War in Medieval East Asia.” Journal of East Asian Studies, vol. 13, no. 1, 2013, pp. 207-232.

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