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Confucius (Kong Fuzi) 551-479 BC

Confucius (Kong Fu Zi), a humble man from poor beginnings, became so influential that his teachings inspired a philosophy, a religion, and a way of life that has lasted until today. From his basic "sayings" in The Analects, or discussions, there developed a philosophy, a social system and a political system which was based on harmony, tolerance, and merit

At the age of fifty, when Duke Ding of Lu was on the throne of Lu, Confucius' talents were recognized and he was appointed Minister of Public Works and then Minister of Crime. It seemed that Confucius’dream of a position of influence in government had come true. But Confucius apparently offended members of the Lu nobility and he was forced to leave office and go into exile. He returned to Lu in 484 BCE and spent the remainder of his life teaching, putting in order the Book of Songs, the Book of Documents, and other ancient classics.

He gathered students around him and taught the basics of what is today called Confucianism. He taught decorous, courtly behavior, duty to rulers, parents, and older brothers. He taught that you should not do to others, what you would not want done to yourself.

Confucian philosophy seeks a harmonious society, not dependent on feudal or financial merit but based on the ultimate goodness and moral equality of all mankind. The heart of the Confucian teaching is 'morality'. Rin is the key. Rin means the qualities of benevolence, humanity and love. It is the duty of governments, parents and teachers to cultivate Rin in all its aspects.  Also important is Li, meaning rituals, ceremonies and how to behave. Then there is Yi, meaning duty or righteous behavior. There is also Chi, which means wisdom, derived from both history and experience. Another virtue is Chung, meaning reciprocity: 'Do not do unto others what you would not have them do unto you'. Many consider Confucianism to be a religion also. Confucianism is not a clear-cut belief in the same way as Christianity, Islam or Judaism. It does not answer questions about God and the afterlife. But there are the religious principles of Tien and Tao, Heaven and the Way. It is tolerant of the other faiths of China, Taoism and Buddhism.

Confucius said it best "...those who preside over the people should cherish the dearest aims and give the most correct lessons, honoring the requirements of humanity by loving the people as their sons; then the people will use their utmost efforts to please their superiors." Analects

Children owed a duty of obedience to their fathers, and men to their rulers. But this was a reciprocal obligation. The father had a responsibility to his children, and the ruler to his subjects. He must put their interests first.

The Confucian formula is 'sageliness within, kingliness without'. Each person should be both a 'sage', achieving equilibrium and content by meditation, and a 'king' in the management of public affairs.

After the fall of imperial China, Confucianism lost much of its power. But in spite of pressures from the west, and the communist government in China, it continues to be a important force, not only in China, but also in Japan and other parts of Asia.


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