Confucius was a Chinese philosopher and politician of the Spring and Autumn period. He is traditionally considered the epitome of Chinese sages, and his teachings and philosophy underpin East Asian culture and society and remain influential across China and East Asia to this day. He is considered one of the most influential thinkers in human history, particularly on matters such as ethics, politics, and education. He lived in China during the 5th century BC, and his ideas and teachings have profoundly impacted Chinese society and culture for over two thousand years.
Confucius worked as a teacher and political advisor throughout his life and developed a philosophical system that emphasised moral values such as honesty, respect for elders, and social order.
Confucius believed that individuals should strive to cultivate virtue and wisdom and stressed the importance of education to achieve this goal. He believed people could attain wisdom through study and self-reflection and encouraged his students to seek knowledge and understanding.
One of the key aspects of Confucius’ philosophy was the concept of ren or humaneness. Ren referred to the qualities of compassion, kindness, and empathy, and Confucius believed that individuals should strive to cultivate these qualities in themselves and others. He also emphasised the importance of li, proper behaviour, and social etiquette to maintain social order and harmony.
Confucius’ teachings were compiled into a text known as the Analects, which contains his sayings and teachings on a wide range of topics. The Analects became one of the most important texts in Chinese philosophy and culture, and Confucius himself became a revered figure in Chinese history.
China is a culture with a continuous history of more than five thousand years and is the oldest continuous culture in the world. Today, Confucianism remains an important philosophical and cultural tradition in China and other parts of East Asia. Confucius’ ideas continue to influence Chinese society and culture, particularly in the areas of education, ethics, and politics.
Caption: Pages from Confucius Sinarum Philosophus (“Confucius, the Philosopher of the Chinese”), an annotated Latin translation of three of the “Four Books” of Qing Confucianism by Prospero Intorcetta, Philip Couplet, Rougemont, and Herdtrich (Paris, 1687). On the left is a portrait of Confucius in a Confucian temple, surrounded by the spirit tablets of the Four Assessors and the Twelve Wise Ones. Many of the characters on the tablets are gibberish—the unidentifiable remaining four disciples are Ziruo (子若), Boniu (伯牛), Ziyou (子有), and Zhuzi (朱子)—and there are an unexplained further two tablets as well. The image of Confucius was later used as the model of the engraving in Du Halde’s Description of China. The right page reads “The Life of Confucius, Prince/First of the Chinese Philosophers”.
Attribution: Prospero Intorcetta, Philippe Couplet, et al., Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:LifeAndWorksOfConfucius1687.jpg
The name “Confucius” is a Latinised form of the Mandarin Chinese Kǒng Fūzǐ, “Master Kong”) and was coined in the late 16th century by the early Jesuit missionaries to China. Confucius’s clan name was Kong, and his given name was Qiu. His “courtesy name“, a capping given at his coming of age ceremony and by which he would have been known to all but his older family members, was Zhongni, the “Zhòng”, indicating that he was the second son in his family.
Confucius’ Personal Life
It is important to note that much of what we know about Confucius comes from historical records and texts, and some details may be uncertain or disputed. With that caveat, here are some details about Confucius’ personal life:
- Confucius was born on 28th September 551 BC in the state of Lu, in what is now part of Shandong province, China. His father, Kong He (or Shuliang He), was an elderly commandant of the local Lu garrison, and his mother came from a noble family. Confucius’ family was not wealthy, and he reportedly had to work as a labourer in his youth to help support them.
- He was married at a young age and had one son and two daughters. He reportedly had a difficult relationship with his wife, and some sources suggest he divorced her along the way.
- Later in life, Confucius took on several female students, which was relatively uncommon in ancient China.
- Confucius was a teacher and political advisor for much of his life. He held various government positions in Lu and other states but was not always successful in his efforts to bring about political reform.
- After he died, Confucius’ descendants continued his teachings and established a school of thought known as Confucianism.
Family and Education
Confucius’ father, Kong, died when Confucius was only three years old, and Confucius was raised by his mother, Yan Zhengzai, in poverty. His mother later died at less than 40 years of age. At age 19, Confucius married Lady Qiguan, and a year later, the couple had their first child, their son Kong Li Qiguan and later had two daughters, one of whom is thought to have died as a child, and one was named Kong Jiao.
Confucius was born into the class of Shi between the aristocracy and the common people. He is said to have worked in various government jobs during his early 20s and as a bookkeeper and a caretaker of sheep and horses, using the proceeds to give his mother a proper burial. When his mother died, the 23-year-old Confucius is said to have mourned for three years, as was the ancestor veneration tradition at that time.
While the above details provide context about Confucius’ life, it’s important to remember that his teachings and philosophy are what made him such a significant figure in history.
The Analects, also known as the Analects of Confucius, is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to Confucius and his disciples. The word means “Selected Sayings“ is also known as the Analects of Confucius, the Sayings of Confucius, or the Lun Yu. It is one of the most important texts in Chinese philosophy and Confucianism, and it has influenced Chinese culture and society for over two thousand years.
After his death, Confucius’ disciples and followers compiled the Analects and set out his teachings on various topics, including ethics, morality, politics, education, and social relationships. The Analects consist of over 500 individual sayings and passages, organised thematically into 20 chapters.
The importance of personal morality, social order, and respect for authority are strongly emphasised. Confucius believed that individuals should strive to cultivate virtue and wisdom through self-discipline, study, and reflection, and he stressed the importance of education to achieve this goal.
The Analects also emphasise the importance of relationships, particularly family relationships, and the concept of ren, or humaneness. Ren refers to the qualities of compassion, kindness, and empathy, and Confucius believed that individuals should strive to cultivate these qualities in themselves and others.
The Analects have been studied and interpreted in many different ways over the centuries, and they continue to be an important source of inspiration and guidance for people around the world. The book list at the end of my paper includes several books about the Analects.
Confucius and Ethics
In his teachings on ethics, Confucius emphasised the value of personal exemplification over strict adherence to rules of behaviour. He believed that genuine moral development came from cultivating one’s character and internalising moral principles rather than simply following external rules. To this end, Confucius stressed the importance of self-cultivation, encouraging individuals to strive for virtues such as benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness, which required not just knowledge but also practical experience and good judgment in real-world situations.
The Confucian theory of ethics revolves around cultivating moral character through self-discipline, education, and emulation of moral exemplars. Central to Confucian ethics is ren, or humaneness, accentuating moral qualities such as compassion, kindness, and empathy. Confucian ethics also stresses the importance of fulfilling one’s duties and responsibilities within personal relationships, including filial piety and social roles and positions. Proper conduct and social etiquette, known as li, are also crucial for maintaining social harmony and order.
Education, particularly moral education, is another critical aspect of Confucian ethics. Confucius believed that individuals should seek knowledge and understanding through study and self-reflection, as education was a means of achieving personal development and social progress.
At the core of Confucian ethics is the concept of ren, which refers to moral qualities such as compassion, kindness, and empathy. Confucian ethics places great importance on personal relationships, particularly within the family, and fulfilling one’s duties and responsibilities within those relationships. Ultimately, he believed that cultivating personal virtues and promoting good governance were the keys to achieving a just and harmonious society, and he saw the two as inseparable.
His moral teachings emphasised self-cultivation, emulation of moral exemplars, and the attainment of skilled judgment rather than knowledge of rules. Confucian ethics may, therefore, be considered a type of virtue ethics. His teachings rarely rely on reasoned argument, and ethical ideals and methods are conveyed indirectly, through allusion, innuendo, and even tautology.
Confucius and Politics
Confucius based his political philosophy on his ethical beliefs. Confucius believed cultivating virtues such as compassion, respect, and honesty was essential for building a just and harmonious society. Confucius advocated for good governance and moral leadership as being necessary for society’s well-being.
Confucius stressed that leaders should serve the people and lead by example, cultivating virtue in themselves and their subjects. While social hierarchy was important for maintaining order, Confucius believed individuals had a responsibility to challenge unjust authority and promote social reform.
Confucius sought to restore the Mandate of Heaven, which could unify society and bring peace and prosperity to the people. He saw personal virtues and good governance as inseparable, believing that only by cultivating personal virtues could society become just and harmonious.
In his teachings on ethics, Confucius regarded the value of personal exemplification over strict adherence to rules of behaviour. He believed that genuine moral development came from cultivating one’s character and internalising moral principles rather than simply following external rules. To this end, Confucius stressed the importance of self-cultivation, encouraging individuals to strive for virtues such as benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness, which required not just knowledge but also practical experience and good judgment in real-world situations.
Caption: A brief flow chart depicting the flow of auctoritas in the transfer of the Mandate of Heaven at the transition of dynastic cycles.
Attribution: NWO403, CC BY-SA 4.0 <https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/4.0>, via Wikimedia Commons
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The Confucian theory of ethics revolves around cultivating moral character through self-discipline, education, and emulation of moral exemplars.
Central to Confucian ethics is the concept of ren, or humaneness, which has moral qualities such as compassion, kindness, and empathy.
Confucian ethics also stresses the importance of fulfilling one’s duties and responsibilities within personal relationships, including filial piety and social roles and positions. Proper conduct and social etiquette, known as li, are also crucial for maintaining social harmony and order.
Education, particularly moral education, is another critical aspect of Confucian ethics. Confucius believed that individuals should seek knowledge and understanding through study and self-reflection, as education was a means of achieving personal development and social progress.
Confucianism is the philosophical and ethical system founded by Confucius (Kong Qiu), the Chinese teacher and philosopher who lived between 551 and 479 BC. The system originated in China and profoundly influenced East Asian societies, particularly China, Korea, Japan, and Vietnam, where it has been adapted and modified to suit local contexts and circumstances.
At its core, Confucianism underscores the importance of moral values such as kindness, respect, and empathy and the need for social order and harmony. At its centre, Confucianism teaches that the ultimate goal of human life is to attain moral excellence and personal virtue, which can be achieved through self-discipline, study, and reflection. It emphasises the importance of cultivating one’s character and personal relationships, particularly within the family and society, and respecting one’s elders and figures of authority.
Confucianism also emphasises the importance of education to achieve personal and social progress and stresses the importance of moral education. One of the central tenets of Confucianism is the concept of Ren or humaneness, which has been mentioned several times above. Ren refers to the qualities of compassion, kindness, and empathy, and Confucius believed that individuals should strive to cultivate these qualities in themselves and others, citing the importance of li, or proper behaviour and social etiquette, to maintain social order and harmony.
Although Confucianism is often followed in a religious manner by the Chinese, many argue that its values are secular and that it is, therefore, less a religion than a secular morality. Proponents argue, however, that despite the secular nature of Confucianism’s teachings, it is based on a worldview that is itself religious.
Summary of Main Points about Confucius and his Teachings
- Confucius held that the ultimate aim of human existence was achieving moral excellence and personal virtue, which he asserted could be accomplished through cultivating one’s character through self-discipline, study, and reflection.
- Confucius stressed the crucial role of good governance and social harmony in ensuring society’s well-being, stating that leaders must set an example by cultivating virtue in themselves and their subjects.
- Confucius placed great importance on the institution of family and upheld the value of filial piety, recognizing that strong family bonds were necessary for social stability and moral development.
- Confucius saw the significance of ritual and ceremony in upholding social values and maintaining order, believing they played an essential role in reinforcing social norms.
- Confucius endorsed the importance of equilibrium and harmony in all aspects of life, urging individuals to balance their own needs with the needs of others, their desires with their responsibilities, and their inner selves with the external world.
- Confucius highlighted the significance of education, especially moral education, which he believed was crucial to personal development and social progress.
- Confucius maintained that individuals should have a sense of duty and responsibility towards others, particularly those in positions of power and that leaders should be selfless and work for the greater good.
- Confucius recognised the importance of social hierarchy for maintaining order but also encouraged individuals to challenge unjust authority and promote social reform.
- Confucius contended that personal transformation was a prerequisite for social transformation and that individuals must cultivate their own moral character before attempting to change the world.
- Although Confucianism is often associated with conservatism and traditionalism, Confucius believed that tradition and innovation could coexist and individuals should adapt their behaviour and practices to changing circumstances.
- Confucius stressed the importance of humility and self-awareness, encouraging individuals to be conscious of their flaws and limitations and to seek self-improvement through self-reflection and self-criticism.
Confucius thought the best way to cultivate the levels of mastery described above was to study diligently and practice continuously until the virtues of the master became second nature. Confucius’ teachings on education and ethics continue to be influential in contemporary China, and Confucianism remains an important philosophical and cultural tradition in East Asia. Confucian values such as filial piety, respect for authority, and the importance of education continue to be taught and promoted in Chinese society today.
Confucius’ teachings on ethics and morality have been influential not only in China but also in other parts of the world. His ideas have been studied and adapted by scholars and philosophers in many countries, and they continue to have relevance for contemporary debates on ethics and moral philosophy. His teachings have also impacted the arts, particularly literature and music. Many works of Chinese literature and music are infused with Confucian themes and ideas, and Confucianism has significantly influenced the development of traditional Chinese culture.
There are many other schools of Confucian thought, each with its own interpretation of Confucius’ ideas and teachings. His legacy continues to be felt in many areas of Chinese society today, particularly in matters of education, politics, and social values. His ideas continue to be studied and debated by scholars and thinkers, and they remain an important part of Chinese culture and heritage. Confucius’ teachings have been interpreted and adapted in many different ways over the centuries to suit different contexts and circumstances, and they continue to be a source of inspiration and guidance for many people today.
Confucius’ Golden Rule
Caption: The Golden Rule, as described in numerous world religions
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Confucius’ Golden Rule, also known as the Analects, is a central tenet of Confucianism. The Golden Rule is often summarised as “Do not do unto others what you do not want done unto yourself.” In addition to its influence in China, the Golden Rule has profoundly impacted Western thought and ethics. It is often cited as a core principle of many religions and ethical systems, including Christianity, Judaism, Islam, and secular humanism.
Confucius believed that the key to a just and harmonious society was treating others with respect, empathy, and kindness. He believed that individuals should strive to cultivate these qualities in themselves and extend them to others, including family members, friends, and even strangers.
The maxim may appear as a positive or negative injunction governing conduct:
- Treat others as you would like others to treat you (positive or directive form).
- Do not treat others in ways that you would not like to be treated (negative or prohibitive form).
- What you wish upon others, you wish upon yourself (empathetic or responsive form).
The idea dates at least to the early Confucian times (551–479 BC), according to Rushworth Kidder, who identifies the concept appearing prominently in Buddhism, Christianity, Hinduism, Islam, Judaism, Taoism, Zoroastrianism, and “the rest of the world’s major religions.”
The Golden Rule is not only a moral principle but also a practical guide for social behaviour. It encourages individuals to consider the impact of their actions on others and to act in a way that promotes the common good. It also emphasises the importance of reciprocity or the idea that one’s treatment of others should be based on how one would want to be treated oneself.
The Golden Rule has been influential in shaping Chinese society and culture. It has informed the development of traditional Chinese ethics, including the concept of “ren,” or humaneness, which stresses the importance of empathy, compassion, and kindness in human relationships. It has also been a guiding principle for Chinese diplomacy and international relations, informing China’s approach to foreign policy and relations with other nations.
Confucianism has had a significant impact on Chinese culture and society, particularly in the areas of education, ethics, and politics. Confucian values such as filial piety, respect for authority, and the importance of education continue to be taught and promoted in Chinese society today.
The Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy describes Confucianism as “the philosophical system developed from the teachings of the Chinese philosopher Confucius, who was considered by many to be the model for the perfect person. Confucianism is based on the belief that human beings are fundamentally good and that social harmony results from people’s natural inclination to do what is right, follow tradition, and observe proper rituals.”
The BBC’s Religion & Ethics section defines Confucianism as (paraphrased) “a system of thought and behaviour originating in ancient China. Variously described as tradition, a philosophy, a religion, a humanistic or rationalistic religion, a way of governing, or simply a way of life, it developed from what was later called the Hundred Schools of Thought from the teachings of Confucius.”
Confucius believed that the values of earlier periods, which had sustained Chinese Society, had been abandoned, and he took on the responsibility for bringing them back, seeing it as his mission to restore the moral and social order that had once flourished. His philosophical teachings, Confucianism, stressed personal and governmental morality, the correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity.
His followers competed with many other schools during the Hundred Schools of Thought era, only to be suppressed in favour of the Legalists during the Qin dynasty. After the collapse of Qin and the victory of Han over Chu, Confucius’s thoughts received official sanction from the new government. During the Tang and Song dynasties, Confucianism developed into a system known in the West as Neo-Confucianism, and later as New Confucianism. Confucianism was part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life; to Confucians, everyday life was the arena of religion.
Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts, including all of the Five Classics, but modern scholars are cautious of attributing specific assertions to Confucius himself. At least some of the texts and philosophies he taught were already ancient. Aphorisms concerning his teachings were compiled in the Analects, but only many years after his death.
Confucius’s principles have a commonality with Chinese tradition and belief. With filial piety (a set of moral norms, values, and practices of respect and caring for one’s parents), he championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives, recommending family as a basis for ideal government. He espoused the Silver Rule, “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself.”
Criticism and Controversy
Confucianism has been the subject of criticism and controversy, particularly in the areas of gender equality and political freedom. Some critics argue that Confucianism reinforces patriarchal values and inhibits individual liberty and choice, while others say it can be adapted and reinterpreted to suit contemporary values and needs. Despite these negative perspectives, Confucius was not opposed to change and innovation. He believed that tradition and innovation could coexist and that individuals should adapt their behaviour and practices to suit changing circumstances.
Many published texts discuss the criticisms and controversies surrounding Confucianism and offer a more balanced view of its strengths and weaknesses. A selection is provided below:
- “Confucianism and Human Rights” by William Theodore de Bary – This book explores the relationship between Confucianism and human rights and examines the criticisms that have been levelled against Confucianism in this regard.
- “The Confucian Conception of Gender” by Chenyang Li – This book explores the Confucian conception of gender, the criticisms that have been levelled against it, and how Confucianism has been adapted to address modern gender issues.
- “Confucian Political Ethics” by Daniel A. Bell – This book examines the strengths and weaknesses of Confucian political ethics and explores the ongoing debates surrounding its relevance in modern times.
- “Confucianism and Contemporary Issues” edited by Kim-Chong Chong and Sor-hoon Tan – This book is a collection of essays that examine the relevance of Confucianism to contemporary issues such as democracy, human rights, and globalisation and discuss the criticisms and controversies surrounding its application in modern times.
These texts offer a nuanced and balanced view of Confucianism and provide insight into ongoing debates and discussions surrounding its relevance in modern times.
Caption: Painting of Confucius, circa 1770.
Attribution: See page for author, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
Page URL: https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Konfuzius-1770.jpg
King or Emperor of China?
It has been asked why Confucius was never crowned as King or Emperor of China.
Confucius was not crowned the King or Emperor of China because China was not a single nation during his lifetime. Instead, he lived during a period of political fragmentation known as the Spring and Autumn period and the subsequent Warring States period, in which various states fought for supremacy.
Despite this political fragmentation, Confucius was a prominent thinker and educator who served as an advisor and educator to rulers and officials of various states. He did not aspire to be a ruler himself but devoted his life to teaching and spreading his philosophy of ethical and moral principles, which he believed could help guide rulers and officials in governing the state and society.
Confucius’ teachings had a profound impact on Chinese culture and society, helping shape the ethical and moral values of the Chinese people and influencing the development of Chinese philosophy, politics, and education for centuries to come. Although he did not hold any official position in the government, his influence was felt throughout China and beyond.
Caption: Portrait by Qiu Ying (1494–1552), Ming Dynasty
Attribution: 仇英, Public domain, via Wikimedia Commons
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- “Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.”
- “They must often change who would be constant in happiness or wisdom.”
- “What the superior man seeks is in himself; what the small man seeks is in others.”
- “In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.”
- “It does not matter how slowly you go so long as you do not stop.”
- “When anger rises, think of the consequences.”
- “When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don’t adjust the goals; adjust the action steps.”
- “Faced with what is right, to leave it undone shows a lack of courage.”
- “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.”
- “To see what is right, and not to do it, is want of courage or of principle.”
- “Fine words and an insinuating appearance are seldom associated with true virtue.”
- “Before you embark on a journey of revenge, dig two graves.”
- “Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation, there is sure to be failure.”
- “Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.”
- “Men’s natures are alike, it is their habits that carry them far apart.”
- “Our greatest glory is not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”
- “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance.”
- “Hold faithfulness and sincerity as first principles.”
- “I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.”
- “Respect yourself, and others will respect you.”
- “Silence is a true friend who never betrays.”
- “The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security, he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.”
- “The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.”
- “Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.”
- “Study the past if you would define the future.”
- “Wheresoever you go, go with all your heart.”
- “Wisdom, compassion, and courage are the three universally recognized moral qualities of men.”
- “Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.”
- “Have no friends not equal to yourself.”
- “He who exercises government by means of his virtue may be compared to the north polar star, which keeps its place and all the stars turn towards it.”
- “He who learns but does not think is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.”
- “He who speaks without modesty will find it difficult to make his words good.”
- “Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.”
- “A superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.”
- “Be not ashamed of mistakes and thus make them crimes.”
- “The more man meditates upon good thoughts, the better will be his world and the world at large.”
- “The superior man understands what is right; the inferior man understands what will sell.”
- “By nature, men are nearly alike; by practice, they get to be wide apart.”
- “He who will not economize will have to agonize.”
- “When we see men of a contrary character, we should turn inwards and examine ourselves.”
- “He with whom neither slander that gradually soaks into the mind, nor statements that startle like a wound in the flesh, are successful may be called intelligent indeed.”
- “If I am walking with two other men, each of them will serve as my teacher. I will pick out the good points of the one and imitate them, and the bad points of the other and correct them in myself.”
- “Choose a job you love, and you will never have to work a day in your life.”
- “If you look into your own heart, and you find nothing wrong there, what is there to worry about? What is there to fear?”
- “Ignorance is the night of the mind, but a night without moon and star.”
- “It is easy to hate, and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve, and bad things are very easy to get.”
- “Without feelings of respect, what is there to distinguish men from beasts?”
Caption: Map showing the journey of Confucius to various states between 497 BC and 484 BC
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Sources and Further Reading
- The Complete Confucius: The Analects, The Doctrine Of The Mean, and The Great Learning, by Nicholas Tamblyn Paperback 9 Dec. 2016, independently published, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Complete-Confucius-Analects-Doctrine-Introduction/dp/1519096933/
- The Analects: (Macmillan Collector’s Library, 330), Hardcover, by Confucius (Author), David Hinton (Translator) 7 July 2022, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Analects-Macmillan-Collectors-Library-330/dp/152908010X/
- Confucius: And the World He Created, Hardcover, by Michael Schuman (Author) 19 Mar. 2015, published by Basic Books, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confucius-World-Created-Michael-Schuman/dp/046502551X/
- The Conduct of Life or the Universal Order of Confucius, Paperback, by Ku Hung Ming (Author) 10 Sept. 2010, published by Kessinger Books, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Conduct-Life-Universal-Order-Confucius/dp/1162972637/
- Confucius: The Golden Rule, Hardcover, by Russell Freedman (Author), Frederic Clement (Illustrator) 1 Sept. 2002, published by: Arthur Levine, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confucius-Golden-Rule-Russell-Freedman/dp/0439139570/
- The Authentic Confucius: A Life of Thought and Politics, by Chin, Ann-ping (2007), published by Scribner, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Authentic-Confucius-Life-Thought-Politics/dp/0743246187/
- The House of Confucius, Hardcover, by DeMao Kong (Author), Lan Ke (Author), Frances Wood (Editor, Translator), R. Roberts (Translator) 1 Jan. 1988, published by Hodder & Stoughton, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/House-Confucius-DeMao-Kong/dp/0340412798/
- Lives of Confucius: Civilization’s Greatest Sage through the Ages, by Michael Nylan and Thomas A. Wilson (2010), published by Harmony Books, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Lives-Confucius-Civilizations-Greatest-Through/dp/0385510691/
- Confucius and the Analects: New Essays, by Bryan Van Norden, Bryan (2002), published by Oxford University Press, available at: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Confucius-Analects-Essays-Norden-2002-01-03/dp/B01F9QMDT0
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End Notes and Explanations
- Source: Compiled from research using information at the sources stated throughout the text, together with information provided by machine-generated artificial intelligence at: bing.com [chat] and https://chat.openai.com ↑
- Explanation: By the 5th century BC, the Eastern Zhou had declined, and the vassal states continued on their own paths of development. In the Yellow River region, the states of Qi, Lu, Jin, Song and Qin fought for supremacy, while the states of Chu, Wu and Yue in the Yangtze River region gradually gained power. These states became influential, though the King of Zhou was still viewed as the nominal supreme ruler. This chaotic time was called the Spring and Autumn Period. Source: http://wiki.china.org.cn/index.php?title=Spring_and_Autumn_Period ↑
- Source: “The Life and Significance of Confucius”. www.sjsu.edu. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Explanation: Ren (meaning “co-humanity” or “humaneness”) is the Confucian virtue denoting the good quality of a virtuous human when being altruistic. Ren is exemplified by a normal adult’s protective feelings for children. It is considered the outward expression of Confucian ideals. Yan Hui, one of the Four Sages, once asked his master to describe the rules of ren. Confucius replied, “One should see nothing improper, hear nothing improper, say nothing improper, do nothing improper.” Confucius also defined ren in the following way: “wishing to be established himself, seeks also to establish others; wishing to be enlarged himself, he seeks also to enlarge others.” Confucius also said, “Ren is not far off; he who seeks it has already found it.” Ren is close to man and never leaves him. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ren_(philosophy) ↑
- Explanation: Li is a classical Chinese word which is commonly used in Chinese philosophy, particularly within Confucianism. Li does not encompass a definitive object but rather a somewhat abstract idea and, as such, is translated in a number of different ways. Wing-tsit Chan explains that li originally meant “a religious sacrifice, but has come to mean ceremony, ritual, decorum, rules of propriety, good form, good custom, etc., and has even been equated with natural law.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Li_(Confucianism) ↑
- Explanation: The Analects, also known as the Analects of Confucius, is a collection of sayings and ideas attributed to Confucius and his disciples. It is one of the most important texts in Chinese philosophy and Confucianism, and it has had a profound influence on Chinese culture and society for over two thousand years. ↑
- Source: Nivison, David Shepherd (1999). “The Classical Philosophical Writings – Confucius”. In Loewe, Michael; Shaughnessy, Edward (eds.). The Cambridge History of Ancient China. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. pp. 752–759. ISBN 978-0-521-47030-8. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Source: Hunter, Michael (2017). p. 50. Confucius Beyond the Analects. BRILL. ISBN 978-9-004-33902-6. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Sources: (i) Nivison 1999, p. 752., and (ii) Wilkinson 2015, p. 133. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Source: Legge, James (1887), “Confucius“, Encyclopaedia Britannica, 9th ed., Vol. VI, pp. 258–265. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Source: Huang, Yong (2013). Confucius: A Guide for the Perplexed. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-4411-9653-8. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Explanation: The Six Arts formed the basis of education in ancient Chinese culture. These were made and practised by the Confucians. During the Zhou dynasty (1122–256 BCE), students were required to master the “liù yì” (Six Arts): Rites, Music, Archery, Chariotry or Equestrianism, Calligraphy and Mathematics. The Six Arts were practised by scholars and existed before Confucius, but became a part of Confucian philosophy. The Six Arts were practised by the 72 disciples of Confucius. Sources: Zhidong Hao (1 February 2012). Intellectuals at a Crossroads: The Changing Politics of China’s Knowledge Workers. SUNY Press. pp. 37–. ISBN 978-0-7914-8757-0. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Six_Arts ↑
- Sources: (i) Huang, Yong (2013). P. 4. Confucius: A Guide for the Perplexed. A&C Black. ISBN 978-1-4411-9653-8., and (ii) Burgan, Michael (2008). Confucius: Chinese Philosopher and Teacher. Capstone. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-7565-3832-3. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Source: Burgan, Michael (2008). Confucius: Chinese Philosopher and Teacher. Capstone. p. 23. ISBN 978-0-7565-3832-3. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Confucius ↑
- Source: Van Norden, Bryan (2002). Confucius and the Analects: New Essays. New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 978-0195350821. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Analects ↑
- Explanation: The Mandate of Heaven (Chinese: pinyin: Tiānmìng; Wade–Giles: T’ien-ming; lit. ‘Heaven’s command’) is a Chinese political philosophy that was used in ancient and imperial China to legitimize the rule of the King or Emperor of China. According to this doctrine, heaven (天, Tian) bestows its mandate on a just ruler of China (the “Son of Heaven“). If a ruler was overthrown, this was interpreted as an indication that the ruler was unworthy and had lost the mandate. It was also a common belief that natural disasters such as famine and flood were divine retributions bearing signs of Heaven’s displeasure with the ruler, so there would often be revolts following major disasters as the people saw these calamities as signs that the Mandate of Heaven had been withdrawn. The Mandate of Heaven does not require a legitimate ruler to be of noble birth, depending instead on how well that person can rule. Chinese dynasties such as the Han and Ming were founded by men of common origins, but they were seen as having succeeded because they had gained the Mandate of Heaven. Retaining the mandate is contingent on the just and able performance of the rulers and their heirs. The corollary to the concept of the Mandate of Heaven was the right of rebellion against an unjust ruler. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mandate_of_Heaven ↑
- Source: Berger, Peter (15th February 2012). “Is Confucianism a Religion?”. The American Interest.↑
- Source: The Legacy of Confucius, Medium, at: https://christopher-kirby.medium.com/series-on-the-history-of-chinese-philosophy-pt-7-the-legacy-of-confucius-a7d687df8abf ↑
- Source: Antony Flew, ed. (1979). “golden rule”. A Dictionary of Philosophy. London: Pan Books in association with The MacMillan Press. p. 134. ISBN 978-0-330-48730-6. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule ↑
- Source: W.A. Spooner, “The Golden Rule,” in James Hastings, ed. Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics, Vol. 6 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1914) pp. 310–12, quoted in Rushworth M. Kidder, How Good People Make Tough Choices: Resolving the Dilemmas of Ethical Living, Harper, New York, 2003. ISBN 0-688-17590-2. p. 159. Cited at: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Golden_Rule ↑
- See: https://plato.stanford.edu/entries/confucius/ ↑
- Explanation: Neo-Confucianism is the name commonly applied to the revival of the various strands of Confucian philosophy and political culture that began in the middle of the 9th century and reached new levels of intellectual and social creativity in the 11th century in the Northern Song Dynasty. The first phase of the revival of the Confucian tradition was completed by the great philosopher Zhu Xi (1130-1200) and became the benchmark for all future Confucian intellectual discourse and social theory. Read more at: https://iep.utm.edu/neo-confucian-philosophy/ ↑
- Source: Confucianism – World History Encyclopedia, at: https://www.worldhistory.org/Confucianism/ ↑
- Source: https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/ancient-medieval/zhou-qin-han-china/a/the-philosophers-of-the-warring-states ↑
- Explanation: An aphorism (from Greek aphorismos, denoting ‘delimitation’, ‘distinction’, and ‘definition’) is a concise, terse, laconic, or memorable expression of a general truth or principle. Aphorisms are often handed down by tradition from generation to generation. ↑
- Explanation: The Warring States period (pinyin: Zhànguó Shídài) was an era in ancient Chinese history characterized by warfare, as well as bureaucratic and military reforms and consolidation. It followed the Spring and Autumn period and concluded with the Qin wars of conquest that saw the annexation of all other contender states, which ultimately led to the Qin state‘s victory in 221 BC as the first unified Chinese empire, under the Qin dynasty.
Although different scholars point toward different dates ranging from 481 BC to 403 BC as the true beginning of the Warring States, Sima Qian‘s choice of 475 BC is the most often cited. The Warring States era also overlaps with the second half of the Eastern Zhou period, though the Chinese sovereign, known as the king of Zhou, ruled merely as a figurehead. The “Warring States period” derives its name from the Record of the Warring States, a work compiled early in the Han dynasty. Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Warring_States_period ↑
- Source and Acknowledgement: Khurana, Simran. “47 Confucius Quotes That Still Ring True Today.” ThoughtCo, 5th April 2023, at: https://www.thoughtco.com/best-confucius-quotes-2833291. ↑