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) faith. 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 trustworthiness are two synonyms for faith (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 Through courage, we move from withdrawn shame to assertiveness.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.