Archive for the ‘Chinese philosophy’ Category

Confucius: Who was he?

February 5, 2009

Confucius (kənfy`shəs), Chinese K’ung Ch’iu or K’ung Fu-tzu [Master K’ung], c.551–479? B.C., Chinese sage. Positive evidence concerning the life of Confucius is scanty; modern scholars base their accounts largely on the Analects, a collection of sayings and short dialogues apparently collected by his disciples, and discard most of the later legends. Confucius was born in the feudal state of Lu, in modern Shandong prov. Distressed by the constant warfare between the Chinese states and by the venality and tyranny of the rulers, he urged a system of morality and statecraft that would preserve peace and provide people with stable and just government. He gathered about him a number of disciples, some occupying high positions, although Confucius himself was at most granted an insignificant sinecure, possibly because of his extremely outspoken manner toward his superiors. From about his 55th to his 65th year he journeyed to several neighboring states, but he was never able to induce any ruler to grant him high office so that he might introduce his reforms. Later tradition depicts Confucius as a man who made special study of ancient books, in an effort to restore an older social order. It is said that he was a minister of state and the author, editor, or compiler of the Wu Ching [five classics] (see Chinese literature Chinese literature, the literature of ancient and modern China.

Early Writing and Literature

It is not known when the current system of writing Chinese first developed. The oldest written records date from about 1400 B.C.

Confucius (551-479 BC)

Chinese sage whose name is given to the ethical system of Confucianism. He placed emphasis on moral order and observance of the established patriarchal family and social relationships of authority, obedience, and mutual respect. His emphasis on tradition and ethics attracted a growing number of pupils during his lifetime. The Analects of Confucius, a compilation of his teachings, was published after his death.

Confucius was born in Lu, in what is now the province of Shangdong, and his early years were spent in poverty. Married at the age of 19, he worked as a minor official, then as a teacher. In 517 there was an uprising in Lu, and Confucius spent the next year or two in the adjoining state of Ch’i. As a teacher he was able to place many of his pupils in government posts but a powerful position eluded him. Only in his fifties was he given an office, but he soon resigned because of the lack of power it conveyed. Then for 14 years he wandered from state to state looking for a ruler who could give him a post where he could put into practice his ideas for relieving suffering among the poor. At the age of 67 he returned to Lu and devoted himself to teaching. At his death five years later he was buried with great pomp, and his grave outside Qufu has remained a centre of pilgrimage. Within 300 years of his death, his teaching was adopted by the Chinese state.