This paper opens with a critical analysis of a paradox in contemporary educational research in and about Confucian Heritage Culture (CHC): the assumption that national boundaries coincide with those of a distinct and homogeneous culture, which consistently renders a rather homogenous set of educational phenomena, and collides against a more widely accepted discourse – culture transcends geographical frontiers and is ever evolving in character. It is claimed that this paradox is due to the fact that a thin conception of CHC competes neck-and-neck with a thick conception of it. This paper also addresses the possibility of an ad hoc education research methodology in and about CHC and its compliance issues regarding the mainstream Western research dynamics and philosophy of science. Confucian elements relevant to CHC research rationale are discussed to argue that: first, research is inextricably a moral act insofar as free actors are involved in it; second, most sui generis methodological problems attached to CHC occur in the sphere of ethics; and, third, a research methodology that takes into account phenomenographic variation could be the best suited to ease emic–etic tensions inherent to CHC-based research. Copyright © 2011 Taylor & Francis.