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Confucius Essay, Research Paper

Confucius created a system of thinking called Confucianism. If only one word could be used to summarize the Chinese way of life for the last two thousand years, that word would be Confucian. No other person has had as great an effect on the life and thought of the Chinese people as Confucius. He is the most adored person in Chinese history. Confucius claimed no greatness, instead he looked to a past time that he saw as the golden age. He told one of his disciples, “I transmit but I do not create. I am sincerely fond of the ancient. I would compare myself to Old P’eng who was fond of talking about the good old days.” Confucius was a transmitter of the wisdom of the past. From his study of Chinese tradition, he gathered the teachings that would influence people throughout time to the present. Despite the fact that Confucius lived in a time of turmoil, his philosophy emphasized an ideal society filled with order and harmony.

Confucius was born in the village of Zou in the country of Lu in 55 BCE, he was a poor descendant of what used to bee a noble family. As a child, he held make-believe temple rituals; as a young adult, he earned a reputation for being fair, polite and he had a great love for learning. He travelled a lot and studied at the capital, Zhou, where he is said to have met and spoke with Lao Zi, the founder of Daoism.

When Confucius returned to Lu, he became a renowned teacher, but when he was 35, Duke Zhao of Lu led his country to war and Confucius was drafted. Duke Zhao frequently came to him for advice, but when being counselled by one of his ministers, he decided against granting land to Confucius and gradually stopped seeking his help. When other nobles began plotting against Confucius, Duke Zhao refused to intervene and Confucius returned to Lu. When he got there he realized conditions were no better than before and Confucius decided to concentrate on teaching and studying.

At age 50, he was approached by the Baron of Qi to help defend against a rebellion, but he declined. He was later made a city magistrate by the Duke of Lu and under his administration the city flourished; he was promoted many times, eventually becoming Grand Secretary of Justice(see figure3-1) and at age 56, Chief Minister of Lu. Neighbouring countries began to worry that Lu would become too powerful and so they sent messengers with gifts and dancers to distract the duke during a sacrifice holiday. When the duke abandoned his duties to receive messengers , Confucius resigned and left the country.

Confucius spent the next five years wondering China with his disciples, finding that he was rarely wanted at all royal courts and it did not take long before nobles would begin plotting to drive him out or have him killed. He was arrested once and jailed for five days and at 62 he was chased, along with his disciples, into the countryside by a group of soldiers sent by a jealous nobles, until he was able to send a messenger to the King of a nearby country, who sent his own soldiers to rescue them. Once again, Confucius was to be given land, but was denied it by another high minister. He eventually returned to Lu a t age 67. Although he was welcomed there and chose to stay, he was not offered public office again, nor did he want it. Instead he spent the rest of his years teaching and writing. He died at age 72.

More than any other human being on the face of the earth, Confucius set up a pattern of thinking followed by more people, for more generations than one can possibly imagine. No matter what religion, or no matter what form of government , East Asians and their way of thinking can in some way, be proved to have Confucian elements about them. But Confucius was no religious or political leader, nor did he want to be one. He was, in fact, an ordinary person; his family had fallen on extremely hard times when he was born. He was born into the family of Kung and was given the name Ch’iu; later in life he was called Master Kung. Kung Fu-tzu means Confucius in Latin. He turned to teaching in hope that he would change the world by changing it’s future leaders at a young age. There have been many studies of his teachings and all his students praise his talent for brilliant teaching. His students recorded his lessons and they are now known as the Analects. Confucius’ fundamental lesson is to believe that human beings can be perfect through learning.

Confucius has one very important message: if we want to achieve peace and order, we need to return to traditional values. These values are based on one concept: jen. Jen is translated as ?Humaneness’, it can also mean ?humanity’, ?goodness’ or ?virtue’. More than anything, for Confucius the ancients understood the order of heaven and earth, Confucius thought that the Chinese past should be a model for the present. Confucius had simple morals which he taught to others: :to love others; to honour one’s parents; to do what is right instead of what is of advantage and to practice reciprocity”, an example of this is ?don’t do on to others what you would not want yourself’. Confucius thought that if a ruler had to resort to force or violence, he had already failed as a ruler.

Confucius created ?The Six Relationships’ and the ?Mandate of Heaven’ in attempt of his search for an ideal society. The ?six Relationships’ or ?Six Relations’ are supposed to be how people behave socially(see figure 5-1 and figure 5-2). In each of the relationships , the one thought to be superior (i.e.- parents, husbands etc.) Has the duty to be kind and care for the inferior member (i.e.-students, wife etc.). The lesser one has the duty to obey. The only relationship that may show equality would be one between friends, unless one friend may be older than the other, it would turn into a relationship like one between a n older brother and a younger brother.

Unlike in India, where the obedience was absolute, for example, a wife is to obey her husband even if he is abusive and unfaithful, in the Six Relationships, the superior member actually has to take care of the other member.

“The Mandate of Heaven is a Chinese emperor’s right to rule.” When the ruler failed to meet his requirements, he would lose his Mandate Of Heaven , or right to rule. It would become the right and duty, of his people to overthrow him.

There are four parts to the Mandate of Heaven:

1)The Moral Order Of the Universe- to know right from wrong

2)Fate- life and death are beyond our control

3)The Right To Rule – “knowing the moral order of the universe and actually observing it make one a worthy ruler”

4)The Judgement of History- This combines the ?right to rule’ and “fate”, because the Chinese believed that if a ruler were to loose his right to rule , it would shortly be followed by the lose of power.

The Five Classics are a group of books that Confucius edited and may have helped to write, which summarize the Chinese culture in Confucius’ time. The five books that students still, to this day, study are:

The Shijing, or Book of Poetry, are a collection of three hundred poems. Some of the poems were ones that express the rituals and rites of the rulers; others are love songs and descriptions of everyday life: all the poems were meant to be sung or chanted.

The Shujing, or book of history contains documents concerning the history of China

The Chun Qiu, or Spring and Automn Annals, contains the history of Lu and covers the time period from 7222 B.C.E., two years before Confucius’ own death.

The I Ching, or Book of Changes is a fortune telling manual containg old folk tales and wisdom that is still very intresting to modern readers.

The Liji, or the Book of Rites concercs “Zhou dynasty’s bureaucratic system” and how to perform many ceremonies performed by the emperor, but also those about ancestor worship, appeals to Heaven andgovernment and household regulations and insrtuctions.

Throughout the twentieth century, Confucianism has tried to find a new role for itself . “Societies and systems have arisen that Confucius would hardly reconize.” Many of the Confucian countries have been destroyed by war and revolution.Yet Conffucianism remains a part of the lives of millions of people.

In many Pacific Rim countries, Confucian values are visible in everyday life. Respect for authority is expected. People work long hours and, in both factories and offices, the theme is cooperation between workers and managers. No manager makes a decision a decision without consulting the workers., but once a decion is made, everyone does their best to carryout. The custom of paying respect to ancestors, but not with the same rituals.

Respecting elders is not confined to families. In all these countries, teachers receive a lot of respect from their students. Children greet them with as much respect as they do their parnts and discipline is not a problem. Like the workers in the factories, studentswork long hours. “Just as past generaitons of students aspiresd to pass the imperial examinations to become a government official, the goal of virtually every student today is to pass the entrance examinations for a prestigious university”

Confucius still speaks to the modernworld with wisdom and authority. Modern people seek the same things he searched for: an orderly society: a “balance between nature and human kind”; a way of behaving with kindness, charity, honesty, and faithfulness. Confucius also thought that inorder to solve society’s problems, you must first start with yourself. These vitrues are as improtant today as they were twenty-five hundred years ago when Confucius discussed them with his disciple. Whether seen as a religion or a philosophy, Confucianism still keeps its moral strength.


1)Chai, Ch’u. Confucianism. New York: Barron’s Eduacational Series, 1973

2)Cleary, Thomas. The Essential Confucius. San Francisco: HarperSanFrancisco, 1992

3)Hoober, Thomas. Confucianism. New York: Facts on File, 1993

4) “Confucianism”, Funk and Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. 103

5) “Confucius”, Funk andf Wagnalls New Encyclopedia. 105

6) “Confucius”, The Wonderland of Knowledge.(1959 ed.) 981

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