(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.
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.
was born in answer to his parents' prayers at a sacred hill called
Ni. Confucius' surname Kong means literally an utterance of thankfulness
when prayers have been answered.
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
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.
philosophy seeks a harmonious society, not dependent on feudal or
financial merit but based on the ultimate goodness and moral equality
of all mankind.
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
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'.
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.
System of Government
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."
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
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.
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.
Analects of Confucius, a philosophical translation
Roger Ames and David Hall
up on his groundbreaking work with David Hall in Thinking
Through Confucius, Roger Ames has teamed up with
Henry Rosemont to put theory into practice, portraying Confucius
in light of his communitarian leanings. In a translation that
comes off as surprisingly relaxed and colloquial, gone are
the adherence to strict rules of propriety and righteous moralizing.
Confucius has long been the victim of a certain unwitting
Christianization, having been interpreted through the lens
of Western philosophical assumptions. Ames and Rosemont scale
away these assumptions, revealing a flexible and subtle thinker
whose ideas of how to live well in a harmonious community
have much to offer a fragmented society tied to reductive
atomism and the exclusive exaltation of the individual.
Through Confucius is probably the best examination of Confucius
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