Top 10 Facts & Teachings of Confucius-Chinese Philosopher

Confucius is a legendary name in the history of China. He was a great philosopher, thinker and not only influenced Chinese but also Korean, Japanese and Vietnamese at the same time. His life span was of 72 years, i.e., from 551 BC to 479 BC. He began by teaching a group of students in a small class but the students used to spread all that he taught them throughout the state and the country and therefore, the number of his disciples grew. He became the founder of Confucianism, which is a religion followed majorly in China.

[10] Names

On his birth, he was named “Kong Qiu”. In Chinese most of the people call him “Kongzi” which means “Master Kong”. “Zhongni” was his courtesy name. Many people also like to refer to him as “Kong Fuzi” which again means “Master Kong”. This name helped to derive his name in Latin and was called as “Confucius” in the 16th century. But he received his first posthumous name in 1 AD as “Laudably Declarable Lord Ni”. Then later in the year 1530, he was popularly declared “The Extremely Sage Departed Teacher”. There were other names given to him over time like “Great Sage”, “First Teacher”, etc. in Analects, he is simply referred to as “The Master”.

[9] Birth and Family

His family is considered as descendants of Shang Kings who were priests. He was born in Zou, Lu state in the early 551 BCE. His father was in Lu Military as an officer named as Kong He and also as Shuliang He. Confucius’s father died when he was just 3 years old and therefore, his upbringing was done by mother alone in poverty. When he turned 19, he married Qi Guan who gave birth to their first child, Kong Li a year after the marriage. He abandoned both his wife and child to develop his theories and ideologies. His mother died when he was 23 years old and his son died in 482 BC.

[8] Career as a Politician

By the year 501BC, Confucius had gained a social popularity and respect of masses. He had a reputation of his in the society which was a result of his teachings. So when the Shu family of “Minister of War” was seized, he was chosen to be the governor of a town and later promoted to “Minister of Crime”. Among the aristocrats, fights were initiated and Confucius and his disciples guided them. He wanted to build a centralized government in Lu state. But later, he gave up his thought of the violent war. His practical foresight, his insight in human character and political abilities all were appreciated during these wars. But after a while, these wars grew and he failed to have the ideal country he wished. His enemies within the state grew in number and the major one being Viscount Ji Huan.

[7] Leaving the state

The power of his enemy Viscount Ji Huan forced him to leave his homeland in 497 BC and he never returned before Viscount’s death. Also, the neighbouring state Qi didn’t like that Lu state was growing and becoming powerful under the influence and presence of Confucius in their government. They developed a strategy to involve the Duke of Lu in pleasure activities and this resulted in no work for 3 days by Duke. That time he decided to leave the country out of disappointment and waited for the correct time to leave the state as well as his post. After leaving the state, he travelled the small kingdoms in Central and north-east China.

[6] Returning back

After travelling through Song, Chen, Cai, Chu and other central China, he returned to Lu during the 482 BC when he was about 68. After he returned he was welcomed nicely, but there is no record that he was again offered his position back. There is less information about his last days but it seems that he was devoting almost all the time in teaching and preaching. Till his remaining lifetime, he had a large number of students or followers or disciples who promoted the wisdom and its need by a set of books which became popular as the Five Classics.

[5] Philosophy

Chinese have always believed that Confucius is a religion and followed it like one. But the argument still remains unsolved that whether it is a religion or not. The philosophy of Confucius includes truth about afterlife, Heaven and its elements. Though there is no mention of some of the matters related to spirituality it often sheds light on the thoughts of one’s soul and its nature. He always desired that his disciples become masters and value the old classics and thoroughly study them. This, according to Confucius would help them to relate the present moral problems to the political events occurred in the past and recorded in the classics. Confucius calls himself a “transmitter” and believes he invented nothing. The past guided him.

[4] Ethics and Teachings

Confucius deeply taught that one’s exemplification is superior to the rules of one’s behaviour. He taught that knowledge of rules is not only sufficient morally but one should build concentration on self-cultivation, work to attain a skilled judgement and emulate as moral exemplars. His words always needed examination if one wants to understand them completely. He was an excellent example of human excellence and teachings were the best examples of humanism. Popular sayings of Confucius include “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.”

[3] Death

His son died in 482 BC and his disciple and that too the favourite one, Yen Hui, died in 481 BC. In the following year, another favourite follower, Tzu-Lu died in a battle. These losses got heavy on him; and in 479 BC, at the age of 72, he died and was buried in the city Ch’uFu in Shandong in Kong Lin Cemetery. The tomb is still present there in his memory near banks of the river Sishui having an axe-like shape.

[2] Disciples and followers

Zuo Zhuan has a record of about half of the followers of Confucius. In the book “Analects” it mentions 22 names of his disciples and the “Mencius” has a list of 24 names. But actually, he had a lot of disciples whose number is a large one. His disciples were mainly from Lu state and some from the neighbouring states. His favourite student was Yen Hui who was born in Song state in a noble family. His death was a big loss to him. Other followers include Tzu Lu, Sima Niu, Zigong and Zilu.

[1] Major Works

This man wrote and edited many traditional classics in Chinese language. He rearranged the “Book of Odes” and also edited and revised the “Book of Documents”. The book named “Spring and Autumn Annals”, which is a historical book of 12 Dukes was also compiled by him. His beliefs in politics and morality were compiled by his students and named as Lunyu. This book was translated into English later on and was titled as “The Analects of Confucius”.


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