Who was Confucius?
Confucius was a philosopher and teacher whose ideas have had a profound effect on Chinese history and society. Born in 551 BC in the state of Lu (modern day Shandong Province), he lived during the Zhou dynasty, dying in 479 BC, aged about 72.
The Latinised name Confucius, which was first coined by 17th-century Jesuit missionaries in China, is derived from the honorific Kong Fuzi (孔夫子, literally “Master Kong”), which he is often called in Chinese. He is also often known as Kongzi (孔子).
What are the Principles of Confucianism?
Confucianism aims to bring about a harmonious society. Confucius believed in the innate goodness of mankind and in valuing people for their character rather than their wealth and power. He said that a ruler should lead through example and strong family values are integral to his vision of a smoothly running society. Education is central to the development of citizens and this education is not only academic but also moral. The most highly valued quality is ren 仁 kindness, humanity, and love. Also important is li 礼, referring to ceremonies, rituals, and how to behave appropriately. Yi 义refers to duty and righteous behaviour.
The core principles of Confucianism can be found in the Analects, or Lunyu, a collection of sayings and ideas from Confucius that were written down by his disciples after his death. Confucianism is not considered to be a religion. It has no deities, and does not concern itself with God and the afterlife.
Confucius belonged to the aristocratic Shi class but grew up in relative poverty after losing his father at the age of three. He worked as manager of the provincial granary and also as supervisor of grazing fields. His teaching career began around the age of 30. He believed that education should be available to all who wished to learn, and accepted students from all social classes. Later he travelled from province to province with his students trying to educate the various rulers, but on every occasion they failed in the end to live up to his hopes and he would move on.
Finally in 484 BC Confucius returned to his home state of Lu and devoted the rest of his life to teaching and his own studies
Saddened by the death of his son and favourite disciple, Confucius passed away in 479 BC. Not long after Confucius’ death, his hometown Qufu became a place of devotion and remembrance and remains so today.