One of the most famous people in ancient China was a wise philosopher named Confucius (circa 551-479 BC). He sometimes
went by the names Kong Zi though he was born - Kong Qiu - styled Zhong Ni. He was born in the village of Zou in the country
This chinese man was a well-known leader in philosophy and he also made many wise phrases and theories about the law, life,
and the government. Philosophy is a kind of a system of ideas and thoughts that talk about the human's behavior, the rules
that you should follow to make a successful life, and about the government.
In other words, it's about thoughts and theories that teach other people lessons about principles, or rules, about life
and it also teaches you a moral ( sort of like the morals that are at the end of a fable). Confucius is famous for his philosophy
because he made many wise sayings in ancient China that helped many people learn about nature, the world, and the human behavior.
He also helped the government and the emperor by teaching them lessons on how the emperor should rule his kingdom successfully.
Confucius was born in a poor family in the year 551 B.C., and he was born in the state of Lu. His original name was K'ung
Ch'iu. His father, commander of a district in Lu, died three years after Confucius was born, leaving the family in poverty;
but Confucius nevertheless received a fine education. He was married at the age of 19 and had one son and two daughters.
He worked as a keeper of a market. Then he was a farm worker who took care of parks and farm animals. When he was 20, he
worked for the governor of his district.
His mother died in 527 BC, and after a period of mourning he began his career as a teacher, usually traveling about and
instructing the small body of disciples that had gathered around him. His fame as a man of learning and character and his
reverence for Chinese ideals and customs soon spread through the principality of Lu.
Living as he did in the second half of the Zhou (Chou) dynasty (1027?-256 BC), when feudalism degenerated in China and
intrigue and vice were rampant, Confucius deplored the contemporary disorder and lack of moral standards. He came to believe
that the only remedy was to convert people once more to the principles and precepts of the sages of antiquity. He therefore
lectured to his pupils on the ancient classics.
Confucius taught in his school for many years. His theories and principles were spread throughout China by his disciples,
and soon many people learned from his wise sayings.
One of his rules said," If you governed your province well and treat your people kindly, you kingdom shall not lose any
war. If you govern selfishly to your people, you kingdom will not only lose a war, but your people will break away from your
kingdom." He had also said a wise phrase called the golden rule that is still being used as a rule today. It said,"A man should
practice what he preaches, but a man should also preach what he practices."
One day, his students and he passed a grave where they saw a women weeping at a gravestone. She told Confucius that her
husband, her husband's father, and her son were killed by a tiger. When Confucius asked her why she didn't leave such a fated
spot, she answered that in this place there was no oppressive government.
Confucius said,"Remember this, my child. An oppressive government is fiercer and more feared than a tiger." That meant
that the government in the woman's province did not rule the province well. So Confucius said that the government was more
feared than a tiger. This was one of the many events he had to give a person a lesson.
He taught the great value of the power of example. Rulers, he said, can be great only if they themselves lead exemplary
lives, and were they willing to be guided by moral principles, their states would inevitably become prosperous and happy.
Confucius had, however, no opportunity to put his theories to a public test until, at the age of 52, he was appointed magistrate
of Chung-tu, and the next year minister of crime of the state of Lu. His administration was successful; reforms were introduced,
justice was fairly dispensed, and crime was almost eliminated. So powerful did Lu become that the ruler of a neighboring state
maneuvered to secure the minister's dismissal. Confucius left his office in 496 BC, traveling about and teaching, vainly hoping
that some other prince would allow him to undertake measures of reform. In 484 BC, after a fruitless search for an ideal ruler,
he returned for the last time to Lu.
Confucius was then abandoned from his province and he wandered about China for 13 years. When Confucius was 69 years old,
he returned to Lu, his home state, and he died there 3 years after settling in Lu - 479 BC.
After Confucius died, he was buried in a grave in the city of Ch'uFu, Shandong. Today the site of his final resting place
is the beautiful K'ung Forest.
Yet, when the philosopher died, many people honored all of Confucius' work by building temples in every city in China to
honor Confucius. Since Confucius' teachings and philosophy was so advanced, it was the education for China for 2,000 years.
It is called Confucianism.
Confucius himself had a simple moral and political teaching: to love others; to honor one's parents; to do what is right
instead of what is of advantage; to practice "reciprocity," i.e. "don't do to others what you would not want yourself"; to
rule by moral example (dé) instead of by force and violence; and so forth. Confucius thought that a ruler who had to resort
to force had already failed as a ruler. "Your job is to govern, not to kill"
Confucius did not put into writing the principles of his philosophy; these were handed down only through his disciples.
The Lun Yu (Analects), a work compiled by some of his disciples, is considered the most reliable source of information
about his life and teachings. One of the historical works that he is said to have compiled and edited, the Ch'un Ch'iu (Spring
and Autumn Annals), is an annalistic account of Chinese history in the state of Lu from 722 to 481 BC. In learning he wished
to be known as a transmitter rather than as a creator, and he therefore revived the study of the ancient books. His own teachings,
together with those of his main disciples, are found in the Shih Shu (Four Books) of Confucian literature, which became the
textbooks of later Chinese generations.
- Encyclopedia Britannica
According to traditional belief, Confucius was born in 551 BCE (during the Spring and Autumn Period, at the beginning of
the Hundred Schools of Thought philosophical movement) in the city of Qufu in the Chinese State of Lu (now part of present-day
Shandong Province and culturally and geographically close to the royal mansion of Zhou). He was born into a once noble family
who had recently fled from the State of Song. His father was seventy and his mother only fifteen at his birth. His father
died when he was three and he was brought up in poverty by his mother. His social ascendancy links him to the growing class
of Shi (X), between old nobility and common people, which later became the prominent class of literati because of the cultural
and intellectual skills they shared.
As a child, he is said to have enjoyed putting ritual vases on the sacrifice table. As a young man he was a minor administrative
manager in the State of Lu and rose to the position of Justice Minister. After several years, disapproving of the politics
of his Prince, he resigned. At about age fifty, seeing no way to improve the government, he gave up his political career in
Lu, and began a twelve-year journey around China, seeking the "Way" and trying unsuccessfully to convince many different rulers
of his political beliefs and to push them into reality. When he was about sixty, he returned home and spent the last years
of his life teaching an increasing number of disciples, trying to share his experiences with them and transmit the old wisdom
via a set of books called the Five Classics.
In the Analects, where one can find the most intimate descriptions of him, Confucius presents himself as a transmitter
who invented nothing and his greatest emphasis may be on study, the Chinese character that opens the book. In this respect,
he is seen by Chinese people as the Greatest Master. Far from trying to build a systematic theory of life and society, he
wanted his disciples to think deeply for themselves and relentlessly study the outside world, mostly through the old scriptures
relating past political events (like the Annals) or past feelings of common people (like the Book of Odes).
In these times of division, chaos, and endless wars between feudal states, he wanted to restore the Mandate of Heaven that
could unify the "world" (i.e., China) and bestow peace and prosperity on the people. Therefore, Confucius is often considered
a great proponent of conservatism, but a closer look at what he proposes often shows that he used (and maybe twisted) past
institutions and rites to push a new political agenda of his own: for example, he wanted rulers to be chosen on their merits,
not their parentage. He wanted rulers who were devoted to their people. And he wanted the ruler to reach perfection himself,
thus spreading his own virtues to the people instead of imposing proper behavior with laws and rules.
One of the deepest teachings of Confucius, and one of the hardest to understand from a Western point of view, may have
been the superiority of exemplification over explicit rules of behavior. His ethics may be considered one of the greatest
virtue ethics. This kind of "indirect" way to achieve a goal is used widely in his teachings, where allusions, innuendo, and
even tautology are common ways of expressing himself.
What seems a matter of tiny importance has been long commented on and shows another of the Confucian specificities that
have to be underlined. When one knows that in his time horses were perhaps ten times more expensive than stablemen, one can
understand that, by not asking about the horses, Confucius demonstrated his greatest priority: human beings. Thus, when one
sees a little bit of the greater picture, according to many ancient or recent Eastern and Western commentators, Confucius'
teaching can be considered a noteworthy Chinese variant of humanism.
Confucius also heavily emphasized what he calls "rites and music," referring to these social conventions as two poles to
balance order and harmony. While rites, in short, show off social hierarchies, music unifies hearts in shared enjoyment. He
added that rites are not only the way to arrange sacrificial tools, and music is not only the sound of stick on bell. Both
are mutual communication between someone's humanity and his social context, both feed social relationships, like the five
prototypes: between father and son, husband and wife, prince and subject, elder and youngster, and between friends. Duties
are always balanced and if a subject must obey his ruler, he also has to tell him when he is wrong.
Confucius' teachings have been turned later into a corps de doctrine by his numerous disciples and followers. In the centuries
after his death, Mencius and Xun Zi both wrote a prominent book on these, and with time a philosophy has been elaborated,
which is known in the West as Confucianism.
Although Confucianism is often followed in a religious manner by the Chinese, argument continues over whether to refer
to it as a religion because it makes little reference to theological or spiritual matters (God(s), the afterlife, etc.).
Confucius's principles gained wide acceptance primarily because of their basis in common Chinese opinion. He championed
strong familial loyalty, ancestor worship, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives, and used
the family as a basis for an ideal government. He expressed the well-known principle, "Do not to others what you do not want
done to yourself" (the Golden Rule). He also looked nostalgically upon earlier days, and urged the Chinese, particularly the
politicians, to model themselves on earlier examples - although whether or not older rulers had governed by Confucian standards
Confucius' political thought is based upon his ethical thought. He argues that the best government is one that rules through
"rites" and people's natural morality, rather than using bribery and force. He explained this in one of the most important
analects:"If the people be led by laws, and uniformity sought to be given them by punishments, they will try to avoid the
punishment, but have no sense of shame. If they be led by virtue, and uniformity sought to be given them by the rules of propriety,
they will have the sense of shame, and moreover will become good." This "sense of shame" is somewhat an internalization of
duty, where the punishment precedes the evil action, instead of following it in the form of laws as in Legalism.
While he supported the idea of the all-powerful Emperor, probably because of the chaotic state of China at his time, his
philosophies contained a number of elements to limit the power of the rulers. He argued for according language with truth
- thus honesty was of the most paramount importance. Even in facial expression, one sought always to achieve this. In discussing
the relationship between a son and his father (or a subject and his king), he underlined the need to give due respect to superiors;
this demanded that the inferior must give advice to his superior if the superior was considered to be taking the wrong course
of action in a given situation.
This was built upon by his disciple Mencius to argue that if the king was not acting like a king, he would lose the Mandate
of Heaven and be overthrown. Therefore, tyrannicide is justified because a tyrant is more a thief than a king (but attempted
tyrannicide is not).
Confucius' philosophical school was first continued by his direct disciples and by his grandson Zisi. Mencius and Xun Zi
are his two great followers, one on each "side" of his philosophy, perhaps simply described as optimism and pessimism. They
built upon and expanded his ethico-political system.
Soon after Confucius' death, Qufu, his hometown, became a place of devotion and remembrance. It is still a major destination
for cultural tourism, and many Chinese people visit his grave and the surrounding temples. In China, there are many temples
where one can find representations of Buddha, Lao Zi and Confucius together. There are also many temples dedicated to him
which have been used for Confucianist ceremonies.
Family, Ethics, Names, References, Links
Virtue is not left to stand alone. He who practices it will have.
They must often change, who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.
It is not possible for one to teach others who cannot teach his own family.
The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.
He who merely knows right principles is not equal to him who loves them.
To be able under all circumstances to practice five things constitutes perfect virtue; these five things are gravity, generosity
of soul, sincerity, earnestness and kindness.
We don't know yet about life, how can we know about death?
Mankind differs from the animals only by a little, and most people throw that away.
If you enjoy what you do, you'll never work another day in your life.
The Master said, (the good man) does not grieve that other people do not recognize his merits. His only anxiety is lest
he should fail to recognize theirs.
Confucius Not Only Said It, He Played It on the Zither
April 28, 2000 - AP
Confucius not only said interesting things, he sang them and accompanied himself on a kind of zither.
The Smithsonian Institution's Arthur M. Sackler Gallery is opening a show Saturday of musical instruments from Confucius'
time, 2,500 years ago. A collection of his lyrics - unfortunately there are no melodies - is one of the first pieces of Chinese
literature handed down through the centuries.
"It is said that Confucius accompanied himself on a 'qin' while singing the odes of the Shi Jing, or the 'Classic of Poetry,'"
says cellist Yo-Yo Ma in a guide to the exhibit. "We don't know what Confucius' qin may have looked like, but in popular accounts
of his life, the image of the philosopher-musician became firmly established."
The qin is a kind of zither. Today's Chinese musicians still use one kind. Ma is an American of Chinese ancestry, one of
today's leading cellists playing classical western music.
Jenny F. So, the Sackler's curator of ancient Chinese art, said in an interview that some of the "odes" were just folk
songs. Confucius reportedly made a practice of dancing with his disciples every day. In his time, music was considered of
great social significance, linking rulers to subjects, parents to children.
"It is by poetry that one's mind is aroused; it is by ceremony that one's character is regulated; it is by music that one
becomes accomplished," he said.
Most of the instruments on display come from a tomb of the Marquis Yi, found by Chinese soldiers in 1977 when they were
leveling a hill as a site for a factory. The instruments are borrowed from a museum in Hubei, China. So said this is the first
time they have been displayed in a musical context.
Confucius had definite ideas about what music ought to be.
"Get rid of the tunes of Zheng," he is quoted as saying. "The tunes of Zheng are lascivious."
The Zheng area lies just to the south of Lu, Confucius' home state.
A later chronicler, who So says may have been using his imagination some, told of a Chinese king who was fond of licentious
"He assembled a large company of musicians and actors at the Shaqiu garden," says the account, "filling a pond with wine
and hanging up meats to make a forest. He caused men and women to disrobe and pursue each other through this scenery, as part
of a drinking feast lasting long into the night."
A costumed musician, Mei Min Su of the local Chinese Music Society, played more recent Chinese music for visitors before
the official opening, on a zither like one from Confucius' time. Similar performances are scheduled five days a week beginning
The marquis apparently had two sets of musicians: one for public ceremonials, which emphasized percussion instruments,
and a smaller, more intimate one with strings.
Chinese authorities considered his ceremonial set of 65 huge bronze bells too precious to leave the country. Inscriptions
on them identify the notes they produce on the Chinese five-tone scale. So far as scholars can find, it took nearly another
thousand years before actual tunes were written out, Su said.
In one chamber of the tomb archaeologists found an elaborately lacquered double coffin with the body of a middle-aged man,
presumably the marquis. Eight smaller coffins contained the skeletons of eight young women.