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Confucius was born 551 BC in Ch'u-fu, state of Lu (Now
Shantung province in China). He was originally named KUung
ChUiu but his title was Latinized when his teachings were
introduced to the West by Catholic missionaries in the
early 17th century. He is said to be Chinas most famous and
important, teacher, philosopher, and political theorists
and his teachings have influenced the civilizations of all
eastern Asia.
While little is know about his early life it is believed
his family was of the impoverished nobility and he was
orphaned at a early age, grew up poor and was largely self
educated. While he was always searching for a greater
enlightenment, learning was not his greatest priority, he
focused much of his interest in the political and social
problems of the time. He was born during the downfall of
the Chou dynasty and much of the country was in turmoil.
Confucius is said to be the foremost teacher of China, he
spent a large part of his life directly teaching a small
group of disciples. He once said, "In education there are
no class distinctions", which demonstrated his belief in
the equality and educability of all men. Confucius often
downplayed his own importance in his philosophical
teaching, he called himself "a transmitter and not an
innovator", when actually he was a very revolutionary
thinker who shaped much of eastern thought to this day. To
define Confucianism would be to define the ideal social
ethic in China and many surrounding countries. Emphasis is
stressed on the four cardinal virtues, jen, yi, li and
chih. Jen is benevolence, love and human heartedness. It
was believed that everyone had good inside and kindness to
all things and all those around you was part of making you
a complete person. Yi is righteousness, this is the obeying
moral obligations, to live in harmony with everything
around you and stay free of guilt or sin. Li is
benevolence, which is to have a kindly disposition, promote
the welfare of others and display goodwill to your fellow
man. Chih is wisdom, which means that a person must strive
for knowledge and understanding of the world around them.
These are the rules that were needed to be followed help
make a more complete and civilized person. Most of the
direct quotes of Confucius are found in the Lun-yu or
Analects of Confucius, which is a collection of journals
and notes on sayings and activities of Confucius, which was
kept by his diciples. Confucius said, "It is by poetry that
oneUs mind is aroused; it is by ceremonials that oneUs
character is regulated; it is by music that one becomes
accomplished." Some of Confucius'more famous sayings would
have to be, "Within the four seas, all men are brothers,"
"Wishing to be established oneself he assists others to be
established; Wishing to be successful oneself he assists
others to be successful," and of course, "Do not do to
others what one does not wish to be done unto." 
Many of Confucius'sayings show the strength that he felt
backed up his philosophical teachings. One example is, "The
commander of a great army may be carried off, but the will
of a common man cannot be taken from him." Or, "The
superior man is always calm and at ease; the inferior man
is always worried and full of distress. The superior man
understands what is right; the inferior man understands
what is profitable. The superior man makes demands on
himself; the inferior man makes demands on others." Toward
the end of his life Confucius said, "At 15, I set my heart
on learning. At 30, I was firmly established. At 40, I had
no more doubts. At 50, I knew the will of Heaven. At 60, I
was ready to listen to it. At 70, I could follow my heartUs
desires without transgressing what was right."
Confucianism seems to search out or expose the good of
people. It tries to stress order and harmony between all
things. It explains that all men are extremely similar and
it is only our habits and customs that make people
different. It speaks of family and how this harmony with
the world must start at home, then be carried out into
society. By promoting good a person is not only improving
their life but those around them, and through cooperation
and tolerance for that which you may be opposed to you are
making the world a better place. So in short Confucianism
seems to be saying that by following the cardinal virtues a
person is making there own life more complete and useful
while improving the lives of those around them.
Like Socrates, Confucius sets many important guidelines for
all philosophical study and understanding. It should be
understood that both Confucius and Socrates, two of the
greatest thinkers of all time, existed around the same time
in history and had extremely similar philosophical beliefs,
yet were on opposite sides of the world in extremely
different cultures and had no connection or knowledge of
the others culture. This may be evidence that their beliefs
about human nature, education and the ideal society are the
most correct to date or at least the best starting points
for study. Both philosophers believed that knowledge was
the key to becoming the most complete person, so they may
both have agreed that their own philosophies should be
studied and developed rather than simply accepted.
Confucius seems to be a stand out philosopher for two
reasons, firstly he is probably the most well respected and
fully accepted philosophers in history. Books he wrote or
edited have formed the basic curriculum of Chinese
education for more than two thousand years. Secondly
Confucius is one of the most open-minded philosophers, his
goals were to use what create order and harmony amongst all
things by using all the knowledge the world could offer.
Confucius is one historical figure that can never be
studied enough and his teachings will be useful and
important for generations and generations to come.
Works Cited
Chinese Mythology, Anthony Christie. Hamlyn Publishing
Group Limited, London. Copyright 1968.
Encyclopedia Americana, (Confucius)Grolier Incorporated,
Danbury Conn.. Copyright 1995 Edition.
Lands and Peoples, Volume 2. (China)Grolier Incorporated,
Danbury Conn.. Copyright 1991.


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