Confucius — Great Philosopher and the Founder of Confucianism
Kong Qiu (551 BC — 479 BC), the honorific name Zhongni, was respected as Confucius, Kongzi, or Master Kong.
Confucius was a great philosopher that founded Confucianism and a benevolent educationist that brought education from nobles to civilians.
Portrait of Confucius, By Artist Qiu Ying (about 1497 — 1552).
Confucius' Poor and Hard-Working Early Life
As a descendant of the royal of the Shang Dynasty (1600 BC — 1046 BC), his noble family name didn't provide him with a wealthy and comfortable life.
Confucius was born in the State of Lu, one of the regimes in the east of China during the Spring and Autumn Period (770 BC — 476 BC).
Because his mother was a low-status concubine, and his father passed away when he was little, Confucius lived a poverty life in his childhood and did farm work for nobles to support his family.
But he never stopped studying.
After growing up, he did some official work, got married, and had a son, like most people.
Bronze Wine Container (Lei) of the Spring and Autumn Period — Confucius Museum in Qufu
Great Educationist and Excellent Politician
In his mid-20s, Confucius opened a private school and started teaching there.
He was a pioneer that brought education from noble to civilians and believed everyone is teachable.
Gradually, Confucius gained a respectable reputation and over three thousand students, rich and poor, noble and humble.
He had visited another state for a short while, but most of the time, he was teaching and compiling books with his students.
In his 50s, Confucius was assigned a political position and soon got promoted several times.
In the next few years, he did an excellent job as a politician, who brought civilians better lives but also displeased the ruling class, including the Lord of Lu State.
Afterward, 54-year-old Confucius was forced to resign and started to travel to other states, hoping to find another lord to implement his ideology.
Unappreciated Confucius and His Legendary Travels
In the next 14 years, Confucius led his students, traveled to over a dozen states, and tried introducing his ideology to feudal lords.
However, this was the Spring and Autumn Period, when several Chinese states kept competing and fighting over hegemony and power. Therefore, his benevolence theory seemed not appealing.
Confucius was respected by some lords but was sometimes considered a threat to powerful local aristocrats.
During his trips, he had suffered rejections, robberies, starvation, and some life-and-death moments.
Still, he had never found a benevolent lord who appreciated his political ideology.
Later, one of his students became an influential official of Lu State and suggested that the new Lord of Lu welcome Confucius back.
Unearthed Jade Dragons (Yu Jue) of the Spring and Autumn Period— Nanyang Antique Archaeology Institute (Photo by Dongmaiying)
Legacy of Confucius
Confucius then ended his traveling and returned to his hometown when his beloved wife passed away.
However, soon after his return, his beloved only son and favorite disciples all died shortly after his return.
Those beloved ones' death heavily grief Confucius, who afterward paid attention to editing and writing books, most of which became masterpieces of Confucianism in Chinese culture.
A few years later, he passed away in his hometown, old and sick.
A temple was then built to commemorate him, which was expanded and rebuilt several times in the following centuries.
Today, the ancient Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu are important World Heritage Sites.
Temple and Cemetery of Confucius and the Kong Family Mansion in Qufu
Confucius grew up in poverty but had the most honorable moral standards and ambition.
He had suffered countless disappointments and adversities but never gave up on his dream.
He had witnessed numberless cruel slaughters and wars, but the main essence concept of his ideology was benevolence.
In 134 BC, Emperor Wu of Han respected Confucianism as the dominant ideology. Since then, Confucius has been awarded as a saint and honorable king by many successive emperors in history.
And as one of the greatest Chinese philosophers, his ideas have been studied, developed, and inherited for thousands of years.
Debris (Xi Ping Shi Jing) of Official Confucianism Classics Carved on Stone (175 — 183) — National Museum of China (Photo by Ayelie)
Main Beliefs of Confucius
Everyone has the right to be educated.
Confucius was the first person in the history of China who started private schools and lectures. Since then, education was no longer the privilege of royal and noble families.
Education methodology should be different, based on individuals.
Every student could be taught well, as long as pedagogy is good enough and proper. Enlightenment is essential, and it’s never too late to learn.
The essential teaching subject is moral cultivation, which includes benevolence and loyalty.
Six Arts (Liu Yi) of Confucianism and Aristocratic Education in Ancient China
Adhering to a strict hierarchy and decent etiquette are the essence of a well-organized kingdom.
Monarchs should apply benevolence ideology, in which they prioritize civilians' interests.
Ministers and generals should be loyal, intelligent, and brave, while civilians stay diligent and behave with virtue.
Ordinary people should be decent, honest, and do their jobs diligently, while accomplished and intelligent people should participate in politics.
Ritual Bronze Tripod (Ding) of the Western Zhou Dynasty — Shandong Museum (Photo by Dongmaiying)
People are born good, and the postnatal environment may change their behaviors and concepts.
Therefore, enlightening, inspiring, and maintaining human beings’ kind nature is the solid foundation of a stable and harmonious society.
Decent people should put loyalty, filial piety, and faith before financial benefits and follow the doctrine of the mean.
Tiger Shaped Jade Decoration (Yu Yuan) of the Spring and Autumn Period — Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art (Photo by Dongmaiying)
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