6. THE ARCHETYPE OF HISTORY IN THE CONFUCIAN ECUMENE

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ABSTRACT

Cultures are constituted by binary oppositions: the absolute and the relative; the perfect and the imperfect; the stable and the unstable. Many of the world's cultures have looked to revealed religion to discover the absolute: that which transcends the human, the intellect, and space and time. by positing a God who is omniscient and omnipotent, they conceive of an eternal and absolute that continues to exist in an immutable state.

In such cultures new perspectives for reinterpreting the past are continually propounded. This allows history to be rewritten and re-rewritten. history simply becomes a method for becoming conscious of the past.

By contrast, many east Asian cultures have not developed such a concept of revealed religion. For them, history itself constitutes an absolute, something on which one can rely. History in East Asia is endowed with a normative function, a source of authority that does not permit easy rewriting.

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