Confucius and Confucianism



 Confucius was believed to have been born in 551 BC., in the state 
of Lu, known today as the Shandong province. His parents, who died 
while he was a child, named him Kong Qui. Confucius was derived from 
the Latin word Kongfuzi which means Great Master Kong. Confucius was 
the most influential and respected philosopher in Chinese history. 
His ideas were the single strongest influence on Chinese society from 
around 100 BC. to the AD. 1900's. The Chinese government made his 
ideas the official state philosophy and many nearby countries honored 
his beliefs. 
 Confucius wanted to gain the position as an adviser to a wise 
ruler, but he failed. He hoped to do this in order to be able to
employ his ideas for reforming society. If it wasn't for the 
disciples of Confucius his teachings would have never been spread 
around China, and he would have never been made known. His teachings 
were never written down by him, but his conversations and sayings were 
written down by his disciples in the analects.


 Confucianism was the single most important thing in Chinese life. 
It affected everything in China; education, government, and
attitudes toward behavior in public and private life. Confucianism is 
not a religion, but it is more a philosophy and a guide to morality 
and good government. At the time Confucius was born, China was in a 
constant state of war, and rapid political change altered the 
structure of Chinese society so much that people no longer respected 
the established behavioral guidelines. Confucius stated that the ideal
person was one of good moral character. The ideal person was also 
truly reverent in worship and sincerely respected his father and his 
ruler. He was expected to think for himself, guided by definite rules 
of conduct. As Confucius said, he was expected to take "as much 
trouble to discover what was right as lesser men take to discover what 
will pay". Confucius believed that this type of behavior by rulers 
had a greater effect on the people than did laws or codes of
punishment. So when these types of people were rulers, their moral 
example would inspire the people to lead good lives.
 Confucius died sometime around 479 B.C., and his philosophy was 
not very well known. If it weren't for his disciples his ideas would 
probably still be unknown. Confucius never wrote anything down 
himself; his disciples wrote all of his sayings down in a collection
of books called the Analects. These contain all that modern day man 
knows about Confucius.
 There existed two important Confucian philosophers-Mencius 
(390-305 BC) and Xunzi (mid 200's B.C.). They held beliefs similar 
to Confucius but they were somewhat different. Mencius's viewpoint 
was that people were born good, and that they had to "preserve the 
natural compassion of the heart". Xunzi opposed this by saying that 
people could be good and live peacefully only if their minds were 
shaped by education and conduct. Both of these ideas parallel 
Confucius', in that they both state that people can be good. 
 Confucianism was concerned primarily with the needs of society,
and unlike Buddhism and Taoism, not the ability for a person to live 
in harmony with nature. Beginning in the 200's B.C. Buddhism and 
Taoism began to affect and reshape the standards of Confucianism, and 
things such as nature came into play. Around A.D. 200 to 600, there 
was a rapid decline in the Confucian Beliefs in China. This was 
partly because Confucianism now had to compete with Buddhism and 
Taoism, which were developed around this time. These religions
were to Confucianism as night is to day, in other words, they were 
exact opposites. Buddhism and Taoism were largely concerned with the 
meaning of suffering and death, while Confucianism largely ignored 
 The revival of Confucianism began around the 600's and was fully 
revived by the 700's. In the 1100's, there was a movement lead by 
Zhu-Xi called the Neo-Confucianism movement. He developed a branch of 
this movement known as the rational-wing, it dealt with the study of 
Li, the relationship between humans and nature. Another branch was 
called the intuitional-wing and it dealt mostly with enlightenment by 
a combination of meditation and moral action. In the 1900's there 
was a clash between Confucianism and Western beliefs such as 
Communism. For many years after the Communist change in China, the 
Government greatly opposed Confucianism because it tended to look into 
the past rather than to the future. However, all government opposition 
ended in 1977. 


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