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Confucius: The Five Great Relationships


Among the many ancient philosophers is a man by the name of Confucius born in 550 B.C. Confucius is the greatest philosopher from the East. He was the founder of an ethical and moral system based on the family, as well as the five grand relationships (Zukeran, p. 1). The five grand relationships are the center of his teachings on relationships and social roles. Confucius listed the five relationships as follows:

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The father and son relationship

In this relationship, the parties involved are united or bonded by blood. The father is superior to the son. This is because of the mere fact that the son is given birth to and raised by the father. The role of the father in this relationship is to provide to the male child until he (son) is fully grown up to be independent. Therefore, the male child is dependent on the father. When the father is old, the reverse situation occurs, and the father now becomes dependent on the male child. Confucius noted that, for this relationship to be successful the father should show kindness to his son while the son, on the other hand, should be obedient and devoted to the father (Zukeran, p. 1).

The ruler and subject relationship

The parties involved in this relationship come together through leadership, where the ruler has authority over the subject. It is, therefore, understood that the ruler is superior in this relationship while the subject is the inferior. The role of the leader according to Confucius is to guard and provide to his subjects. The rulers expect their subjects to be loyal in return. As such, the leaders should be benevolent while the subjects are to be loyal to their rulers.

The husband and wife relationship

Marriage is what brings about the relationship between these two parties. Society upholds that the husband is to marry the wife; thus, the husband becomes the superior party while the wife is the inferior party in this relationship. The husband plays a key role in providing and protecting his wife. The wife, on the other hand, takes the role of taking care of the husband by being submissive to him. However, Confucius noted that the husband must be of righteous behavior and the wife obedient for this relationship to succeed (Zukeran, p. 1).

The elderly and younger brother relationship

The two parties involved in this relationship are united by blood, as they are siblings of the same parents. The elder brother is superior while the younger brother is the inferior party in this relationship. The role of the elder brother is to act as a role model and a guide to the younger brother. The younger brother, on the other hand, plays the role of assisting and helping the elder brother with things he asks him to do. The elder brother should be gentle to the younger brother who in turn should be respectful and humble to have a close relationship.

The friend and friend relationship

Several factors could bring the two parties of this relationship together. For instance, such a relationship could arise because of physical attraction, school environment, or difficult and happy moments. In this relationship, the two have a mutual understanding such that there is neither a superior nor an inferior party. Nevertheless, the two should be loyal and respectful to each other to ensure a fruitful relationship.


It is clear that in each of the relationships, each of the parties involved has their mutual obligations and responsibilities even though, one is superior and the other is inferior. In case one party fails to fulfill the roles accorded to them, then the relationship could be terminated.

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Works Cited

Zukeran, Pat. Confucius. 2011. Web.

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