First of all, Confucianism is a Western-imposed misnomer. We prefer to be called, “Ruists.” Let’s start with The Five Virtues. 仁义礼智信
The Five Virtues are (1) humanity, (2) appropriate-assertiveness, (3) propriety, (4) wisdom, and (5) trustworthiness. Humanity (Jen) is the first virtue, and its beginning is compassion. Mencius asserted that one would rescue a child that had fallen in a well out of compassion, not the desire to advance in society. The Chinese character for Jen is a person standing next to the number two, symbolizing a person in society—a simple four-stroke character. The last virtue is faith (hsin), meaning the completion of the other four virtues. Integrity and faith are two synonyms for trustworthiness (hsin). The Chinese character is a person standing next to “word.”
The beginning of appropriate-assertiveness (i) is shame. Through courage, we move from withdrawn shame to assertiveness. This concept is usually translated as “righteousness.” David Nivison introduced the more accurate translation as “appropriate-assertiveness.” The beginning of propriety (li) is deference. The beginning of wisdom (chih) is distinguishing right from wrong.
Here are two more observations on the development of virtues. “Goodness without a love of learning leads to simple-mindedness,” according to Confucius. Confucius wrote, “Straightforwardness without propriety is rudeness.”
Let’s examine propriety according to the concepts of pattern-principle and vital force—an original contribution of mine. If we don’t exhibit enough pattern-principle in our expression of propriety, we are rude. On the other hand, if we don’t show enough vital force, then we’re boring. Through appropriate-assertiveness, we add to propriety.