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Wednesday 26th October 2016

How to be happy

31st July 2008

Can ancient Chinese philosophy help us find happiness today? Writing in the Journal of Happiness Studies, Zhang Guoqing and Ruut Veenhoven say it can - especially Confucianism.

Classic Confucian advice appears most apt for finding happiness, they write, in part because of its insistence of the development of social and filial ties. Numerous studies document that people with strong social networks are measurably happier than their counterparts who lack such connections.

"Classic Taoist advice is second best, its strong point is that it advises us against too much social conformism and bookishness," they write. "The advice given by classic Buddhists is better not followed in modern society."

Confucianism originated around 600 B.C. in what is now eastern China (Shangdong province). Its founder, a privileged man named Confucius (551-472 B.C.), wrote The Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean. His disciples edited the Confucian Analects while Mencuius, a follower, wrote the Works of Mencius. A major topic throughout these volumes is how to live a good life.

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