CONFUCIUS can mean many different things to different people. A demigod, some believe, similar to the great mythological sages who are said to have ruled ancient China, is the best way to describe him. Others see him as a social and political reformer who helped to organise Chinese society into the form that we are familiar with today. Confucius is revered as a model of a great teacher and master by many people. And still more regard him as China's most venerable philosopher and writer, a man of unsurpassed wisdom and eloquence who has influenced generations of Chinese people.
Confucius was born on September 26, 551 BC, in the city of Chufu in the Chinese state of Lu. His philosophy and writings have profoundly influenced the life philosophy of East Asia, including China, at different times and in different fields. Confucius was a principled philosopher. He believed that the basic foundation of education was ethics. This ancient Chinese philosopher died in 479 BC.
|China in the Spring and Autumn Period, 770-476 BCE|
Confucius referred to himself as a "transmitter, not a maker, believing in and loving the ancients" in his Analects of Confucius. The man regarded himself as a conduit, a man who gathered and synthesised China's wisdom before presenting it in a structured format that could be applied to everyday life. Indeed, when it comes to Chinese culture, it is nearly impossible to separate philosophy from art, religion from social structure, and vice versa..
It is believed that Confucius was responsible for weaving all of these elements into one cohesive fabric of beliefs. Most scholars agree that this fabric has remained strong throughout China's history, despite the social and political upheavals that have occurred. In addition to China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam all have Confucian beliefs that are fundamental to their cultures. There has been debate about whether Confucianism—and its cousin tradition, Daoism—is a religion or a philosophical system, particularly in the Western world. It's possible that they're both correct in their assessment. When it comes to subjects that are often separated from one another in Western culture, Eastern traditions encourage a more integrated approach.
Throughout ancient Chinese thought, concepts of the divine are so deeply ingrained that they can be found in every one of Confucius' teachings, including his earliest works. According to the Dao, or the way, the reason for acting ethically and righteously comes from the ineffable laws of the universe.
THE LIFE OF CONFUCIUS
Much of what we know about Confucius' life and teachings comes from his Analects (Lunyu), or teachings, which were written down after his death by his disciples and then modified over the course of several centuries. The Confucius depicted in the Analects is a cautious, courtly gentleman who is deeply concerned with filial piety, honour, and integrity, as well as with the well-being of his family. These characteristics, along with study and self-reflection, he believed, rather than rank or power, were the true hallmarks of noblesse oblige.
Simply being human was the cardinal virtue in Confucius's worldview, according to him. Confucius was born in 551 BCE in the state of Lu, in what is now the city of Qufu, Shandong Province, to a social class known as shieducated but often impoverished members of the lower aristocracy. Confucius was educated but often impoverished because he came from a poor family. The name "Confucius" is a Latinized version of Kong Fuzi, also known as K'ung Futzu, which literally translates as "great master Kong"–Kong being Confucius' surname–and means "great master Kong."
|The entrance to Confucius's Grave|
He lived during the Eastern Zhou dynasty's Spring and Autumn period (770-476 BCE), during which he was a member of the Spring and Autumn period. Confucius' father died when he was three years old, leaving him without a father. After growing up in well-educated poverty, he worked menial jobs, got married at nineteen, and then secluded himself for three years to study and reflect after his mother died. He began by studying the ancients, and as he shared his teachings, he quickly gathered a following of followers.
Confucius was finally appointed to a government position, that of minister of crime, and he took advantage of the opportunity to enact political reforms. Over the course of more than a decade, he visited neighbouring states before returning to his home state of Lu, where he is laid to rest today.
Confucius died in 479 BCE, according to historical records. He summarised his own life as follows: "I was fifteen years old and had a strong desire to learn everything I could. I remained firm even though I was thirty years old. I had no doubts about it when I was forty years old. At the age of fifty, I was well-versed in the laws of Heaven. My ear was a docile organ for the reception of truth when I was sixty years old. At seventy, I was able to do whatever I wanted without straying too far from the path of righteousness."