Confucian ethics expound the concept of li, balance between good and bad, and this balance is upheld in order to enable the production and continuation of an ethical society. This continuation of an ethical society was centered on the concepts and ceremonies concerning ancestral sacrifice, respect towards social, political, and familial institutions, and etiquette concerning the actions of one’s everyday happenings. It is important to note that li does not constitute a set of rules and can be transgressed if the goal of the offense is to produce further ethical good.
Li centers on propriety and although this proper way is studied, it is believed that to study what past sages have understood of li promotes the growth of individual virtues. Through the maturing of the individual, from the study of how the sages have understood and expressed li, the individual may also come to a greater understanding of how and when to use li. Since li is not a set of rules, but rather a guide to living between extremes, the individual must learn in what situations they must break with li to promote further ethical good. While Confucianism does promote various philosophies and ethics, it is speculated that Confucius’s teachings could have had more of a religious connotation to them that has been lost through the philosophical readings of his teachings.