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Cultural and religious traditions in China: The influence of Confucianism on suicide prevention 

Cultural and religious traditions in China: The influence of Confucianism on suicide prevention
Chapter:
Cultural and religious traditions in China: The influence of Confucianism on suicide prevention
Author(s):

Wu Fei

DOI:
10.1093/med/9780198570059.003.0003
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date: 17 August 2019

In this chapter, we examine ideas about suicide in Confucianism and Taoism in China. In Confucianism, suicide is thought of as an acceptable way to protect one’s dignity and virtue: in late imperial China, suicide was required for intellectuals who had survived their emperor and for women who had been raped. Nevertheless, most Confucian intellectuals do not consider suicide the best way to pursue human virtue. Although Qu Yuan—the great poet and the person responsible for the most famous suicide in Chinese history—is often praised for his loyalty and virtues, he is also criticised for being narrow-minded. According to the Taoist teachings of Zhuangzi, one should not be too concerned about worldly affairs, including life and death. Although the two cultural religious traditions are apparently different, there are similarities in their ideas about a good life and suicide. Examining ideas on life and death found in Confucianism and Taoism will provide a deeper cultural understanding of possible underlying motives for committing suicide. This knowledge can contribute to more effective suicide prevention.

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