essay about confucianism

Friday Essay: an introduction to Confucius, his ideas and their lasting relevance

essay about confucianism

Senior Lecturer in Chinese Studies, The University of Western Australia

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The man widely known in the English language as Confucius was born around 551 BCE in today’s southern Shandong Province. Confucius is the phonic translation of the Chinese word Kong fuzi 孔夫子, in which Kong 孔 was his surname and fuzi is an honorific for learned men.

Widely credited for creating the system of thought we now call Confucianism, this learned man insisted he was “not a maker but a transmitter”, merely “believing in and loving the ancients”. In this, Confucius could be seen as acting modestly and humbly, virtues he thought of highly.

Or, as Kang Youwei — a leading reformer in modern China has argued — Confucius tactically framed his revolutionary ideas as lost ancient virtues so his arguments would be met with fewer criticisms and less hostility.

Confucius looked nothing like the great sage in his own time as he is widely known in ours. To his contemporaries, he was perhaps foremost an unemployed political adviser who wandered around different fiefdoms for some years, attempting to sell his political ideas to different rulers — but never able to strike a deal.

It seems Confucius would have preferred to live half a millennium earlier, when China — according to him — was united under benevolent, competent and virtuous rulers at the dawn of the Zhou dynasty. By his own time, China had become a divided land with hundreds of small fiefdoms, often ruled by greedy, cruel or mediocre lords frequently at war.

But this frustrated scholar’s ideas have profoundly shaped politics and ethics in and beyond China ever since his death in 479 BCE. The greatest and the most influential Chinese thinker, his concept of filial piety, remains highly valued among young people in China , despite rapid changes in the country’s demography.

Despite some doubts as to whether many Chinese people take his ideas seriously, the ideas of Confucius remain directly and closely relevant to contemporary China.

This situation perhaps is comparable to Christianity in Australia. Although institutional participation is in constant decline, Christian values and narratives remain influential on Australian politics and vital social matters .

The danger today is in Confucianism being considered the single reason behind China’s success or failure. The British author Martin Jacques, for example, recently asserted Confucianism was the “biggest single reason” for East Asia’s success in the handling of the COVID-19 pandemic, without giving any explanation or justification.

If Confucius were alive, he would probably not hesitate to call out this solitary root of triumph or disaster as being lazy, incorrect and unwise.

Political structure and mutual responsibilities

Confucius wanted to restore good political order by persuading rulers to reestablish moral standards, exemplify appropriate social relations, perform time-honoured rituals and provide social welfare.

essay about confucianism

He worked hard to promote his ideas but won few supporters. Almost every ruler saw punishment and military force as shortcuts to greater power.

It was not until 350 years later during the reign of the Emperor Wu of Han that Confucianism was installed as China’s state ideology.

But this state-sanctioned version of Confucianism was not an honest revitalisation of Confucius’ ideas. Instead, it absorbed many elements from rival schools of thought, notably legalism , which emerged in the latter half of China’s Warring States period (453–221 BCE). Legalism argued efficient governance relies on impersonal laws and regulations — rather than moral principles and rites.

Like most great thinkers of the Axial Age between the 8th and 3rd century BCE, Confucius did not believe everyone was created equal.

Similar to Plato (born over 100 years later), Confucius believed the ideal society followed a hierarchy. When asked by Duke Jing of Qi about government, Confucius famously replied:

let the ruler be a ruler; the minister, a minister; the father, a father; the son, a son.

However it would be a superficial reading of Confucius to believe he called for unconditional obedience to rulers or superiors. Confucius advised a disciple “not to deceive the ruler but to stand up to them”.

Confucius believed the legitimacy of a regime fundamentally relies on the confidence of the people. A ruler should tirelessly work hard and “lead by example”.

Like in a family, a good son listens to his father, and a good father wins respect not by imposing force or seniority but by offering heartfelt love, support, guidance and care.

In other words, Confucius saw a mutual relationship between the ruler and the ruled.

Love and respect for social harmony

To Confucius, the appropriate relations between family members are not merely metaphors for ideal political orders, but the basic fabrics of a harmonious society.

An essential family value in Confucius’ ideas is xiao 孝, or filial piety, a concept explained in at least 15 different ways in the Analects, a collection of the words from Confucius and his followers.

Read more: Can Ne Zha, the Chinese superhero with $1b at the box office, teach us how to raise good kids?

Depending on the context, Confucius defined filial piety as respecting parents, as “never diverging” from parents, as not letting parents feel unnecessary anxiety, as serving parents with etiquette when they are alive, and as burying and commemorating parents with propriety after they pass away.

Confucius expected rulers to exemplify good family values. When Ji Kang Zi, the powerful prime minister of Confucius’ home state of Lu asked for advice on keeping people loyal to the realm, Confucius responded by asking the ruler to demonstrate filial piety and benignity ( ci 慈).

essay about confucianism

Confucius viewed moral and ethical principles not merely as personal matters, but as social assets. He profoundly believed social harmony ultimately relies on virtuous citizens rather than sophisticated institutions.

In the ideas of Confucius, the most important moral principle is ren 仁, a concept that can hardly be translated into English without losing some of its meaning.

Like filial piety, ren is manifested in the love and respect one has for others. But ren is not restricted among family members and does not rely on blood or kinship. Ren guides people to follow their conscience. People with ren have strong compassion and empathy towards others.

Translators arguing for a single English equivalent for ren have attempted to interpret the concept as “benevolence”, “humanity”, “humanness” and “goodness”, none of which quite capture the full significance of the term.

The challenge in translating ren is not a linguistic one. Although the concept appears more than 100 times in the Analects, Confucius did not give one neat definition. Instead, he explained the term in many different ways.

As summarised by China historian Daniel Gardner , Confucius defined ren as:

to love others, to subdue the self and return to ritual propriety, to be respectful, tolerant, trustworthy, diligent, and kind, to be possessed of courage, to be free from worry, or to be resolute and firm.

Instead of searching for an explicit definition of ren , it is perhaps wise to view the concept as an ideal type of the highest and ultimate virtue Confucius believed good people should pursue.

Relevance in contemporary China

Confucius’ thinking hs had a profound impact on almost every great Chinese thinker since. Based upon his ideas, Mencius (372–289 BCE) and Xunzi (c310–c235 BCE) developed different schools of thought within the system of Confucianism.

Arguing against these ideas, Mohism (4th century BCE), Daoism (4th century BCE), Legalism (3rd century BCE) and many other influential systems of thought emerged in the 400 years after Confucius’ time, going on to shape many aspects of the Chinese civilisation in the last two millennia.

Modern China has a complicated relationship with Confucius and his ideas.

Since the early 20th century, many intellectuals influenced by western thought started denouncing Confucianism as the reason for China’s national humiliations since the first Opium War (1839-42).

Confucius received fierce criticism from both liberals and Marxists .

Hu Shih , a leader of China’s New Culture Movement in the 1910s and 1920s and an alumnus of Columbia University , advocated overthrowing the “House of Confucius”.

Mao Zedong, the founder of the People’s Republic of China, also repeatedly denounced Confucius and Confucianism. Between 1973 and 1975, Mao devoted the last political campaign in his life against Confucianism.

Read more: To make sense of modern China, you simply can't ignore Marxism

Despite these fierce criticisms and harsh persecutions, Confucius’ ideas remain in the minds and hearts of many Chinese people, both in and outside China.

One prominent example is PC Chang , another Chinese alumnus of Columbia University, who was instrumental in drafting the Universal Declaration of Human Rights , proclaimed by the United Nations General Assembly in Paris on December 10 1948. Thanks to Chang’s efforts , the spirit of some most essential Confucian ideas, such as ren , was deeply embedded in the Declaration.

essay about confucianism

Today, many Chinese parents, as well as the Chinese state, are keen children be provided a more Confucian education .

In 2004, the Chinese government named its initiative of promoting language and culture overseas after Confucius, and its leadership has been enthusiastically embracing Confucius’ lessons to consolidate their legitimacy and ruling in the 21st century.

Read more: Explainer: what are Confucius Institutes and do they teach Chinese propaganda?

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Confucianism is one of the most influential religious philosophies in the history of China, and it has existed for over 2,500 years. It is concerned with inner virtue, morality, and respect for the community and its values.

Religion, Social Studies, Ancient Civilizations

Confucian Philosopher Mencius

Confucianism is an ancient Chinese belief system, which focuses on the importance of personal ethics and morality. Whether it is only or a philosophy or also a religion is debated.

Photograph by Historica Graphica Collection/Heritage Images/Getty Images, taken from Myths and Legends of China

Confucianism is an ancient Chinese belief system, which focuses on the importance of personal ethics and morality. Whether it is only or a philosophy or also a religion is debated.

Confucianism is a philosophy and belief system from ancient China, which laid the foundation for much of Chinese culture. Confucius was a philosopher and teacher who lived from 551 to 479 B.C.E. His thoughts on ethics , good behavior, and moral character were written down by his disciples in several books, the most important being the Lunyu . Confucianism believes in ancestor worship and human-centered virtues for living a peaceful life. The golden rule of Confucianism is “Do not do unto others what you would not want others to do unto you.” There is debate over if Confucianism is a religion. Confucianism is best understood as an ethical guide to life and living with strong character. Yet, Confucianism also began as a revival of an earlier religious tradition. There are no Confucian gods, and Confucius himself is worshipped as a spirit rather than a god. However, there are temples of Confucianism , which are places where important community and civic rituals happen. This debate remains unresolved and many people refer to Confucianism as both a religion and a philosophy. The main idea of Confucianism is the importance of having a good moral character, which can then affect the world around that person through the idea of “cosmic harmony.” If the emperor has moral perfection, his rule will be peaceful and benevolent. Natural disasters and conflict are the result of straying from the ancient teachings. This moral character is achieved through the virtue of ren, or “humanity,” which leads to more virtuous behaviours, such as respect, altruism , and humility. Confucius believed in the importance of education in order to create this virtuous character. He thought that people are essentially good yet may have strayed from the appropriate forms of conduct. Rituals in Confucianism were designed to bring about this respectful attitude and create a sense of community within a group. The idea of “ filial piety ,” or devotion to family, is key to Confucius thought. This devotion can take the form of ancestor worship, submission to parental authority, or the use of family metaphors, such as “son of heaven,” to describe the emperor and his government. The family was the most important group for Confucian ethics , and devotion to family could only strengthen the society surrounding it. While Confucius gave his name to Confucianism , he was not the first person to discuss many of the important concepts in Confucianism . Rather, he can be understood as someone concerned with the preservation of traditional Chinese knowledge from earlier thinkers. After Confucius’ death, several of his disciples compiled his wisdom and carried on his work. The most famous of these disciples were Mencius and Xunzi, both of whom developed Confucian thought further. Confucianism remains one of the most influential philosophies in China. During the Han Dynasty, emperor Wu Di (reigned 141–87 B.C.E.) made Confucianism the official state ideology. During this time, Confucius schools were established to teach Confucian ethics . Confucianism existed alongside Buddhism and Taoism for several centuries as one of the most important Chinese religions. In the Song Dynasty (960–1279 C.E.) the influence from Buddhism and Taoism brought about “Neo- Confucianism ,” which combined ideas from all three religions. However, in the Qing dynasty (1644–1912 C.E.), many scholars looked for a return to the older ideas of Confucianism , prompting a Confucian revival.

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Confucius (551-479 BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought. His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects , form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his live and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. Fung Yu-lan, one of the great 20 th century authorities on the history of Chinese thought, compares Confucius' influence in Chinese history with that of Socrates in the West.

1. Confucius' Life

2. confucius' social philosophy, 3. confucius' political philosophy, 4. confucius and education, bibliography, other internet resources, related entries.

The sources for Confucius' life are later and do not carefully separate fiction and fact. Thus it is wise to regard much of what is known of him as legendary. Many of the legends surrounding Confucius at the end of the 2 nd century BCE were included by the Han dynasty court historian, Sima Qian (145-c.85 BCE), in his well-known and often-quoted Records of the Grand Historian ( Shiji ). This collection of tales opens by identifying Confucius' ancestors as members of the Royal State of Song. It notes as well that his great grandfather, fleeing the turmoil in his native Song, had moved to Lu, somewhere near the present town of Qufu in southeastern Shandong, where the family became impoverished. Confucius is described, by Sima Qian and other sources, as having endured a poverty-stricken and humiliating youth and been forced, upon reaching manhood, to undertake such petty jobs as accounting and caring for livestock. Sima Qian's account includes the tale of how Confucius was born in answer to his parents' prayers at a sacred hill ( qiu ) called Ni. Confucius' surname Kong (which means literally an utterance of thankfulness when prayers have been answered), his tabooed given name Qiu , and his social name Zhongni , all appear connected to the miraculous circumstances of his birth. This casts doubt, then, on Confucius' royal genealogy as found in Sima Qian. Similarly, Confucius' recorded age at death, ‘seventy-two,’ is a ‘magic number’ with far-reaching significance in early Chinese literature. We do not know how Confucius himself was educated, but tradition has it that he studied ritual with the Daoist Master Lao Dan, music with Chang Hong, and the lute with Music-master Xiang. In his middle age Confucius is supposed to have gathered about him a group of disciples whom he taught and also to have devoted himself to political matters in Lu. The number of Confucius' disciples has been greatly exaggerated, with Sima Qian and other sources claiming that there were as many as three thousand of them. Sima Qian goes on to say that, “Those who, in their own person, became conversant with the Six Disciplines [taught by Confucius], numbered seventy-two.” The 4 th century BCE Mencius and some other early works give their number as seventy. Perhaps seventy or seventy-two were a maximum, though both of these numbers are suspicious given Confucius' supposed age at death.

At the age of fifty, when Duke Ding of Lu was on the throne, Confucius' talents were recognized and he was appointed Minister of Public Works and then Minister of Crime. But Confucius apparently offended members of the Lu nobility who were vying with Duke Ding for power (or was it the duke himself that Confucius had rubbed the wrong way?) and he was subsequently forced to leave office and go into exile. As in other ancient cultures, exile and suffering are common themes in the lives of the heroes of the early Chinese tradition. In the company of his disciples, Confucius left Lu and traveled in the states of Wei, Song, Chen, Cai, and Chu, purportedly looking for a ruler who might employ him but meeting instead with indifference and, occasionally, severe hardship and danger. Several of these episodes, as preserved in the Records of the Grand Historian , appear to be little more than prose retellings of songs found in the ancient Chinese Book of Songs , Confucius' life is thus rendered a re-enactment of the suffering and alienation of the personas of the poems.

In any case, by most traditional accounts, Confucius returned to Lu in 484 BCE and spent the remainder of his life teaching, putting in order the Book of Songs , the Book of Documents , and other ancient classics, as well as editing the Spring and Autumn Annals , the court chronicle of Lu. Sima Qian's account also provides background on Confucius' connection to the early canonical texts on ritual and on music (the latter of which was lost at an early date). Sima Qian claims, moreover, that, “In his later years, Confucius delighted in the Yi ”—the famous, some might say infamous, divination manual popular to this day in China and in the West. The Analects passage which appears to corroborate Sima Qian's claim seems corrupt and hence unreliable on this point. Confucius' traditional association with these works led them and related texts to be revered as the “Confucian Classics” and made Confucius himself the spiritual ancestor of later teachers, historians, moral philosophers, literary scholars, and countless others whose lives and works figure prominently in Chinese intellectual history.

Our best source for understanding Confucius and his thought is the Analects . But the Analects is a problematic and controversial work, having been compiled in variant versions long after Confucius's death by disciples or the disciples of disciples. Some have argued that, because of the text's inconsistencies and incompatibilities of thought, there is much in the Analects that is non-Confucian and should be discarded as a basis for understanding the thought of Confucius. Benjamin Schwartz cautions us against such radical measures.

While textual criticism based on rigorous philological and historic analysis is crucial, and while the later sections [of the Analects] do contain late materials, the type of textual criticism that is based on considerations of alleged logical inconsistencies and incompatibilities of thought must be viewed with great suspicion. . . . While none of us comes to such an enterprise without deep-laid assumptions about necessary logical relations and compatibilities, we should at least hold before ourselves the constant injunction to mistrust all our unexamined preconceptions on these matters when dealing with comparative thought. ( The World of Thought in Ancient China , p. 61)

Book X of the Analects consists of personal observations of how Confucius comported himself as a thinker, teacher, and official. Some have argued that these passages were originally more general prescriptions on how a gentleman should dress and behave that were relabeled as descriptions of Confucius. Traditionally, Book X has been regarded as providing an intimate portrait of Confucius and has been read as a biographical sketch. The following passages provide a few examples.

Confucius, at home in his native village, was simple and unassuming in manner, as though he did not trust himself to speak. But when in the ancestral temple or at Court he speaks readily, though always choosing his words with due caution. ( Lunyu 10.1) When at court conversing with the officers of a lower grade, he is friendly, though straightforward; when conversing with officers of a higher grade, he is restrained but precise. When the ruler is present he is wary, but not cramped. ( Lunyu 10.2) On entering the Palace Gate he seems to contract his body, as though there were not sufficient room to admit him. If he halts, it must never be in the middle of the gate, nor in going through does he ever tread on the threshold. ( Lunyu 10.4) When fasting in preparation for sacrifice he must wear the Bright Robe, and it must be of linen. He must change his food and also the place where he commonly sits. He does not object to his rice being thoroughly cleaned, nor to his meat being finely minced. ( Lunyu 10.7, 10.8) When sending a messenger to enquire after someone in another country, he bows himself twice while seeing the messenger off. ( Lunyu 10.15) In bed he avoided lying in the posture of a corpse … On meeting anyone in deep mourning he must bow across the bar of his chariot. ( Lunyu 10.24, 10.25)

Analects passages such as these made Confucius the model of courtliness and personal decorum for countless generations of Chinese officials.

By the 4 th century BCE, Confucius was recognized as a unique figure, a sage who was ignored but should have been recognized and become a king. At the end of the 4 th century, Mencius says of Confucius: “Ever since man came into this world, there has never been one greater than Confucius.” And in two passages Mencius implies that Confucius was one of the great sage kings who, according to his reckoning, arises every five hundred years. Confucius also figures prominently as the subject of anecdotes and the teacher of wisdom in the writing of Xunzi, a third century BCE follower of Confucius' teachings. Indeed chapters twenty-eight to thirty of the Xunzi , which some have argued were not the work of Xunzi but compilations by his disciples, look like an alternative, and considerably briefer, version of the Analects .

Confucius and his followers also inspired considerable criticism from other thinkers. The authors of the Zhuangzi took particular delight in parodying Confucius and the teachings conventionally associated with him. But Confucius' reputation was so great that even the Zhuangzi appropriates him to give voice to Daoist teachings.

Confucius' teachings and his conversations and exchanges with his disciples are recorded in the Lunyu or Analects , a collection that probably achieved something like its present form around the second century BCE. While Confucius believes that people live their lives within parameters firmly established by Heaven—which, often, for him means both a purposeful Supreme Being as well as ‘nature’ and its fixed cycles and patterns—he argues that men are responsible for their actions and especially for their treatment of others. We can do little or nothing to alter our fated span of existence but we determine what we accomplish and what we are remembered for.

Confucius represented his teachings as lessons transmitted from antiquity. He claimed that he was “a transmitter and not a maker” and that all he did reflected his “reliance on and love for the ancients.” ( Lunyu 7.1) Confucius pointed especially to the precedents established during the height of the royal Zhou (roughly the first half of the first millennium, BCE). Such justifications for one's ideas may have already been conventional in Confucius' day. Certainly his claim that there were antique precedents for his ideology had a tremendous influence on subsequent thinkers many of whom imitated these gestures. But we should not regard the contents of the Analects as consisting of old ideas. Much of what Confucius taught appears to have been original to him and to have represented a radical departure from the ideas and practices of his day.

Confucius also claimed that he enjoyed a special and privileged relationship with Heaven and that, by the age of fifty, he had come to understand what Heaven had mandated for him and for mankind. ( Lunyu 2.4). Confucius was also careful to instruct his followers that they should never neglect the offerings due Heaven. ( Lunyu 3.13) Some scholars have seen a contradiction between Confucius' reverence for Heaven and what they believe to be his skepticism with regard to the existence of ‘the spirits.’ But the Analects passages that reveal Confucius's attitudes toward spiritual forces ( Lunyu 3.12, 6.20, and 11.11) do not suggest that he was skeptical. Rather they show that Confucius revered and respected the spirits, thought that they should be worshipped with utmost sincerity, and taught that serving the spirits was a far more difficult and complicated matter than serving mere mortals.

Confucius' social philosophy largely revolves around the concept of ren , “compassion” or “loving others.” Cultivating or practicing such concern for others involved deprecating oneself. This meant being sure to avoid artful speech or an ingratiating manner that would create a false impression and lead to self-aggrandizement. ( Lunyu 1.3) Those who have cultivated ren are, on the contrary, “simple in manner and slow of speech.” ( Lunyu 13.27). For Confucius, such concern for others is demonstrated through the practice of forms of the Golden Rule: “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others;” “Since you yourself desire standing then help others achieve it, since you yourself desire success then help others attain it.” ( Lunyu 12.2, 6.30). He regards devotion to parents and older siblings as the most basic form of promoting the interests of others before one's own and teaches that such altruism can be accomplished only by those who have learned self-discipline.

Learning self-restraint involves studying and mastering li , the ritual forms and rules of propriety through which one expresses respect for superiors and enacts his role in society in such a way that he himself is worthy of respect and admiration. A concern for propriety should inform everything that one says and does:

Look at nothing in defiance of ritual, listen to nothing in defiance of ritual, speak of nothing in defiance or ritual, never stir hand or foot in defiance of ritual. ( Lunyu 12.1)

Subjecting oneself to ritual does not, however, mean suppressing one's desires but instead learning how to reconcile one's own desires with the needs of one's family and community. Confucius and many of his followers teach that it is by experiencing desires that we learn the value of social strictures that make an ordered society possible (See Lunyu 2.4.). Nor does Confucius' emphasis on ritual mean that he was a punctilious ceremonialist who thought that the rites of worship and of social exchange had to be practiced correctly at all costs. Confucius taught, on the contrary, that if one did not possess a keen sense of the well-being and interests of others his ceremonial manners signified nothing. ( Lunyu 3.3). Equally important was Confucius' insistence that the rites not be regarded as mere forms, but that they be practiced with complete devotion and sincerity. “He [i.e., Confucius] sacrificed to the dead as if they were present. He sacrificed to the spirits as if the spirits were present. The Master said, ‘I consider my not being present at the sacrifice as though there were no sacrifice.’” ( Lunyu 3.12)

While ritual forms often have to do with the more narrow relations of family and clan, ren , however, is to be practiced broadly and informs one's interactions with all people. Confucius warns those in power that they should not oppress or take for granted even the lowliest of their subjects. “You may rob the Three Armies of their commander, but you cannot deprive the humblest peasant of his opinion.” ( Lunyu 9.26) Confucius regards loving others as a calling and a mission for which one should be ready to die ( Lunyu 15.9).

Confucius' political philosophy is also rooted in his belief that a ruler should learn self-discipline, should govern his subjects by his own example, and should treat them with love and concern. “If the people be led by laws, and uniformity among them be sought by punishments, they will try to escape punishment and have no sense of shame. If they are led by virtue, and uniformity sought among them through the practice of ritual propriety, they will possess a sense of shame and come to you of their own accord.” ( Lunyu 2.3; see also 13.6.) It seems apparent that in his own day, however, advocates of more legalistic methods were winning a large following among the ruling elite. Thus Confucius' warning about the ill consequences of promulgating law codes should not be interpreted as an attempt to prevent their adoption but instead as his lament that his ideas about the moral suasion of the ruler were not proving popular.

Most troubling to Confucius was his perception that the political institutions of his day had completely broken down. He attributed this collapse to the fact that those who wielded power as well as those who occupied subordinate positions did so by making claim to titles for which they were not worthy. When asked by a ruler of the large state of Qi, Lu's neighbor on the Shandong peninsula, about the principles of good government, Confucius is reported to have replied: “Good government consists in the ruler being a ruler, the minister being a minister, the father being a father, and the son being a son.” ( Lunyu 12.11) If I claim for myself a title and attempt to participate in the various hierarchical relationships to which I would be entitled by virtue of that title, then I should live up to the meaning of the title that I claim for myself. Confucius' analysis of the lack of connection between actualities and their names and the need to correct such circumstances is usually referred to as Confucius' theory of zhengming . Elsewhere in the Analects , Confucius says to his disciple Zilu that the first thing he would do in undertaking the administration of a state is zhengming . ( Lunyu 13.3). Xunzi composed an entire essay entitled Zhengming . But for Xunzi the term referred to the proper use of language and how one should go about inventing new terms that were suitable to the age. For Confucius, zhengming does not seem to refer to the ‘rectification of names’ (this is the way the term is most often translated by scholars of the Analects ), but instead to rectifying behavior of people so that it exactly corresponds to the language with which they identify and describe themselves. Confucius believed that this sort of rectification had to begin at the very top of the government, because it was at the top that the discrepancy between names and actualities had originated. If the ruler's behavior is rectified then the people beneath him will follow suit. In a conversation with Ji Kangzi (who had usurped power in Lu), Confucius advised: “If your desire is for good, the people will be good. The moral character of the ruler is the wind; the moral character of those beneath him is the grass. When the wind blows, the grass bends.” ( Lunyu 12.19)

For Confucius, what characterized superior rulership was the possession of de or ‘virtue.’ Conceived of as a kind of moral power that allows one to win a following without recourse to physical force, such ‘virtue’ also enabled the ruler to maintain good order in his state without troubling himself and by relying on loyal and effective deputies. Confucius claimed that, “He who governs by means of his virtue is, to use an analogy, like the pole-star: it remains in its place while all the lesser stars do homage to it.” ( Lunyu 2.1) The way to maintain and cultivate such royal ‘virtue’ was through the practice and enactment of li or ‘rituals’—the ceremonies that defined and punctuated the lives of the ancient Chinese aristocracy. These ceremonies encompassed: the sacrificial rites performed at ancestral temples to express humility and thankfulness; the ceremonies of enfeoffment, toasting, and gift exchange that bound together the aristocracy into a complex web of obligation and indebtedness; and the acts of politeness and decorum—such things as bowing and yielding—that identified their performers as gentlemen. In an influential study, Herbert Fingarette argues that the performance of these various ceremonies, when done correctly and sincerely, involves a ‘magical’ quality that underlies the efficacy of royal ‘virtue’ in accomplishing the aims of the ruler.

A hallmark of Confucius' thought is his emphasis on education and study. He disparages those who have faith in natural understanding or intuition and argues that the only real understanding of a subject comes from long and careful study. Study, for Confucius, means finding a good teacher and imitating his words and deeds. A good teacher is someone older who is familiar with the ways of the past and the practices of the ancients. (See Lunyu 7.22) While he sometimes warns against excessive reflection and meditation, Confucius' position appears to be a middle course between studying and reflecting on what one has learned. “He who learns but does not think is lost. He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.” ( Lunyu 2.15) Confucius, himself, is credited by the tradition with having taught altogether three thousand students, though only seventy are said to have truly mastered the arts he cherished. Confucius is willing to teach anyone, whatever their social standing, as long as they are eager and tireless. He taught his students morality, proper speech, government, and the refined arts. While he also emphasizes the “Six Arts” -- ritual, music, archery, chariot-riding, calligraphy, and computation -- it is clear that he regards morality the most important subject. Confucius' pedagogical methods are striking. He never discourses at length on a subject. Instead he poses questions, cites passages from the classics, or uses apt analogies, and waits for his students to arrive at the right answers. “I only instruct the eager and enlighten the fervent. If I hold up one corner and a student cannot come back to me with the other three, I do not go on with the lesson.” ( Lunyu 7.8).

Confucius' goal is to create gentlemen who carry themselves with grace, speak correctly, and demonstrate integrity in all things. His strong dislike of the sycophantic “petty men,” whose clever talk and pretentious manner win them an audience, is reflected in numerous Lunyu passages. Confucius finds himself in an age in which values are out of joint. Actions and behavior no longer correspond to the labels originally attached to them. “Rulers do not rule and subjects do not serve,” he observes. ( Lunyu 12.11; cf. also 13.3) This means that words and titles no longer mean what they once did. Moral education is important to Confucius because it is the means by which one can rectify this situation and restore meaning to language and values to society. He believes that the most important lessons for obtaining such a moral education are to be found in the canonical Book of Songs , because many of its poems are both beautiful and good. Thus Confucius places the text first in his curriculum and frequently quotes and explains its lines of verse. For this reason, the Lunyu is also an important source for Confucius' understanding of the role poetry and art more generally play in the moral education of gentlemen as well as in the reformation of society. Recent archaeological discoveries in China of previously lost ancient manuscripts reveal other aspects of Confucius's reverence for the Book of Songs and its importance in moral education. These manuscripts show that Confucius had found in the canonical text valuable lessons on how to cultivate moral qualities in oneself as well as how to comport oneself humanely and responsibly in public.

  • Ames, R. & Hall, D., 1987, Thinking Through Confucius , Albany, SUNY Press.
  • Brooks, E. & A., 1998, The Original Analects , New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Creel, H., 1949, Confucius , Harper.
  • Fingarette, H., 1972, The Secular as Sacred , Harper.
  • Knoblock, J., 1988, 1990, 1994, Xunzi : A Translation and Study of the Complete Works (Three Volumes), Stanford University Press.
  • Lau, D. C., 1979, Confucius: The Analects , Harmondsworth: Penguin.
  • Nivison, D., 1996, The Ways of Confucianism , Open Court.
  • Riegel, J., 1997, "Eros, Introversion, and the Beginnings of Shijing Commentary," Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 57.1, 143-177.
  • Schwartz, B., 1985, The World of Thought in Ancient China , Cambridge: Harvard University Press.
  • Waley, A., 1938, The Analects of Confucius , New York: Vintage Books.
  • Wilson, T. A., 2002, On Sacred Grounds: Culture, Society, and the Formation of the Cult of Confucius , Cambrdige: Harvard University Asia Center.
  • Yang, Bojun, 1958, Lunyu yizhu , Beijing: Zhonghua shuju.
  • German Website with Various Links to Sites and Materials on Confucius and Confucianism , maintained by Erling Weinrich
  • Online English Translation of the Analects , the Internet Classics Archive (MIT)
  • Bibliography of Chinese Philosophy , maintained by Bryan Van Norden (Vassar College)

-->Confucianism --> | Laozi | Mencius | Mohism | Taoism | Xunzi | Zhuangzi

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The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism

The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism

The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism

Jennifer Oldstone-Moore is Professor Emerita of Religion and East Asian Studies at Wittenberg University in Springfield, Ohio. Her books include Confucianism (Oxford, 2002) and Understanding Taoism (Watkins, 2011).

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A vast and complex tradition foundational to East Asian civilizations, Confucianism continues to be a cultural force of global significance. The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism is a collection of 38 essays that explore the variety, complexity, and richness of Confucianism over time and across regions. These essays are written to be of value to the educated public while presenting new scholarship and fresh perspectives from leading scholars in Confucian studies. Using a range of critical approaches, the volume is divided into four parts. Confucianism presents unique problems to study and interpretation, and Part I offers three essays exploring the history and criticism of East Asian and Western constructions of the tradition. Part II considers Confucianism’s development within the Chinese context, centering on historical moments, key figures, and formative texts. The third part analyzes the development, impact, and reach of Confucianism in Japan, Korea, Vietnam, Singapore, Malaysia, Indonesia, and “Boston Confucianism.” The final part offers topical studies of the impact of Confucianism in culture, politics and government, social structures, and ideology, exploring topics as wide-ranging as family, social structure, gender, visual and literary arts, government, ethics, religion, and ritual. Expansive in scope and sophisticated in approach, the Oxford Handbook of Confucianism presents a superb resource for study of this ancient, and still vibrant tradition.

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Confucianism in Chinese Society in the First Two Decades of the 21st Century

Profile image of Sébastien BILLIOUD

The Cambridge History of Confucianism, ed. Kiri Paramore (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, forthcoming)

This chapter will be published in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Confucianism edited by Kiri Paramore (forthcoming 2022 or 2023). This ahead of print version has been uploaded on with the authorization of the publisher.

Related Papers

Sébastien BILLIOUD

essay about confucianism

Aknur Adilkhan

Despite representing one of the largest economies on the world arena, China has been facing numbers of social and political problems on the domestic front. Issues, such as human rights violations, corruption and inequality, remain to be major public concerns for the country. Currently, China is ranked 84th in the World Happiness Report that measures the level of well-being in a country based on GDP per capita, freedom, life expectancy, etc. This reasonably demonstrates the general social climate in China that has been frequently set as an agenda for public discourse. Such social unrest in the country is often attributed to the post-Mao moral crisis. In this essay, I will first look at the historical processes that inhibited the spiritual development of the Chinese populations. Afterwards, I will move on to discuss the relevance of Confucianism in the modern China by arguing that its ideology, to a certain extent, can act as a moral platform for the Chinese community, and thereby, help it to overcome the threat of moral degeneration.

The Wiley-Blackwell Companion to Chinese Religions

keith knapp

Pablo Cadahia Veira

Beginning in the 1980s, a very important development for Confucianism took place in the People’s Republic of China: in what was known as the Culture Fever, many experts on Confucianism who lived outside of mainland China, such as Tu Weiming, were invited by prestigious universities of continental China to give lectures on Confucianism. This fact increased the interest of mainland Chinese scholars in this ancient philosophy, and its study flourished in academia. However, the boom of Confucianism also spread to the PRC’s authorities, who abandoned their distrust of the Master of Lu, and found inspiration in some of his teachings. Moreover, this Confucian boom also spread to the areas of education and society. This phenomenon has been called the “Confucian revival”, and it has become stronger than ever in the present century. Having a huge interest in Confucianism, I decided to research the Confucian revival of the 21st century to show how the revival has changed, and how we can perceive elements of this system of thought in contemporary China. Therefore, this master’s thesis is the result of an investigation of the comeback of Confucianism in mainland Chinese society in this century. The topic of this research will be divided into the areas of politics, academia, and education and society, which I consider to be the realms where the Confucian revival is most visible.

Jana Rosker

The present issue of The Journal of Asian Studies is dedicated to problems linked to the specific features of Chinese Modernization, as viewed through the lens of Modern Confucianism.

paper published in: Is the 21st Century the Age of Asia? ed. J. Marszałek-Kawa, Toruń 2012, pp. 20-41

Mateusz Stępień

China Review International

Mary I Bockover

I will analyse how Kang Youwei, Liang Qichao and Zhang Taiyan, re-evaluated, reinterpreted and reformulated Confucianism in search of its political use value and modern application so as to serve the interests of reform, revolution, nationalist movement and transforming China into a modern nation in the late 19th and 20th Century. I will argue that their arguments, reflections and questioning on Confucianism not only revealed the underlying assumptions of their discourse on Confucianism but had a profound effect on the changing meaning of Confucianism, religion, culture, tradition and modernity in modern China.


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Best History Essay Examples

Confucianism essay sample.

610 words | 3 page(s)

Many experts note that Confucianism is seen as a system that intended to regulate philosophical and social order, being something beyond important than the religion. Primarily, it aimed to regulate the value system of an average citizen of China, set the cultural and the religious foundations and only then transcend these values into the institutions by creating an ideal state. Mostly, the doctrine that emerged during the times of the Chinese Empire has been preserved until these days. The origin of Scripture by Master K’ung comprised the certain aspects still relevant these days. For instance, the concept of righteousness originated in the doctrine and was actively popularized by the rulers of China until the 20th century. A lot of important aspects that arose from the Confucianism go beyond the pure philosophy and religion and focus on the importance of growing as a thoughtful and caring individual who will serve the society. Ultimately, when Confucianism was no longer relevant to the Communist regimes, some of the values have shifted due to the association of Confucianism to the Empire.

The overarching aim of Confucianism was the creation of the state based on the value system.

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Since Confucianism was one of the earliest traditional beliefs, it was undoubtedly a predecessor of the non-Confucianism. The early believers of Confucianism had a firm conviction in the male-dominated world, and their value system revolved around the understanding of the values, primarily cherished by men. Ethical and moral dimensions were conveyed in the idea of filial conduct. Later, when Non-Confucianism substituted the beliefs of Confucianism, it is still pertinent in the mentality of the Chinese citizens. Among the rest of religions, the preaching of Confucius remains more than relevant these days, as the historical tradition that lasted for over two thousand years, continued a significant influence on the mentality of the citizens. The key domains preserved their meaning and the concepts listed provide relevant guidelines until these days, even though the Communist regime cherished different rules of the game and did not necessarily agree with everything that was previously indoctrinated by the theology. Comparing to other religions, the concept of humanism that originated in Western Europe the decades later had its roots in East Asian religion – in Confucianism. As the focus shifted to cherishing the collective good, Confucianism did not provide the principles for the collective behavior. To some extent, the notions embedded in humanism aimed to create an ideal state, where the individualist values would be cherished and cultivated.

The academic narrative asserts that Confucianism as such did not derive from However, as the time flew, these beliefs have shifted, and non-Confucianism became the ideology preached by the Communist power. The liberalization of the social expectations and the change of political structure resulted in the creation of the different values and beliefs. One of the main effects of the non-Confucianism was the loss of the mental aspects that Chinese citizens adhered to throughout the centuries. Instead of the values of righteousness and the common good, the focus of the state and its obligations to the citizens became a social priority in China. Thereby, the amount of Confucianism became partially lost. Moreover, the religious ideology of the region stood for the promotion of atheism instead of the support of values that were respected before. Naturally, Confucianism with its spiritual focus was forced to fade away.

To sum up, Confucianism aimed to regulate the value system which would bring the new way of understanding how the state and the institutions should function and where humanism will prevail. Under the ‘ideal state,’ the strong institutions based on the moral beliefs would facilitate the regulation of the social order.

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The Zhou Dynasty: a Crucible of Chinese Civilization

This essay about the Zhou Dynasty examines its significant role in shaping Chinese civilization from roughly 1046 to 256 BC. It discusses the dynasty’s key contributions, including the introduction of the Mandate of Heaven, which infused Chinese rulership with a moral and revocable right to govern. The essay also explores the implementation of a feudal system, which, while initially successful in managing a vast territory, eventually led to fragmentation and the era of the Warring States. Additionally, the Zhou period is highlighted as a cultural golden age, advancing literature, arts, and the philosophical richness of the “Hundred Schools of Thought” spearheaded by figures like Confucius. These cultural and political innovations of the Zhou Dynasty are shown to have a lasting impact on subsequent generations, shaping administrative practices and philosophical discourse in China for centuries.

How it works

When we talk about ancient dynasties that have left an indelible mark on their cultures, China’s Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) is a standout. This wasn’t just a time of kings and conquests, but a pivotal era that fundamentally shaped the philosophical, political, and cultural contours of Chinese civilization. The Zhou Dynasty’s reach extended beyond its time, influencing countless generations with its innovative governance and rich intellectual blossoming.

Let’s start with one of its greatest political innovations: the Mandate of Heaven.

This wasn’t just another divine right to rule; it was a revolutionary idea that introduced accountability to Chinese rulership. According to this doctrine, heaven blessed emperors with the right to rule, but there was a catch—it was based on their ability to govern wisely and justly. Failure meant potential revocation of this divine endorsement, providing a check on the emperor’s power, unlike the absolute divine rights claimed by rulers in other ancient civilizations. This concept was pivotal when the Zhou leaders used it to justify their overthrow of the Shang Dynasty, and it echoed through history as a moral groundwork for challenging despotic rule.

The Zhou period also saw the introduction of a feudal system, where the king’s authority was decentralized, distributed among trusted nobles who managed various regions. This system initially helped manage the expanded territories that the dynasty acquired but eventually led to its own set of challenges. As these feudal states grew in power, their rulers less frequently looked to the central authority, setting the stage for the era of the Warring States that followed the dynasty’s decline. The weakening of centralized power reflected a broader theme in the dynasty’s history—the tension between central authority and local power, a dynamic that has played out in many cultures throughout history.

Culturally, the Zhou Dynasty was a golden age. The period saw significant advancements in literature and the arts. The evolution of Chinese script during this time, moving from the oracle bone script of the Shang Dynasty to a more standardized form, was crucial for administrative and creative expression. Literary achievements included works like the “Book of Songs,” an anthology that provides a window into the life and values of the Zhou people, covering themes from political affairs to personal emotions.

Philosophically, the Zhou era was nothing short of transformative. The latter part of this dynasty, known as the Eastern Zhou, was characterized by the “Hundred Schools of Thought,” an intellectual flourishing that saw the rise of major philosophical frameworks such as Confucianism, Taoism, and Legalism. These were not merely academic exercises; they were deeply practical philosophies that aimed to answer pressing questions about ethics, governance, and human nature. Confucius, perhaps the most renowned philosopher from this period, taught principles of ethics and leadership that emphasized moral rectitude and societal harmony. His teachings would permeate Chinese thought and governance for millennia.

Despite these cultural booms, the Zhou Dynasty faced continuous internal strife and external pressures, which eventually culminated in its fragmentation and the rise of regional powers that fought relentlessly for dominance in what is known as the Warring States period. However, the legacy of the Zhou did not simply fade away. The political theories, philosophical thought, and cultural achievements of the Zhou era deeply influenced subsequent Chinese dynasties. The administrative practices, the emphasis on moral governance, and the intellectual pursuits initiated during the Zhou continued to be revered and adapted through successive generations.

Reflecting on the Zhou Dynasty today, it’s clear that this wasn’t just another sequence of rulers; it was a crucible in which much of Chinese civilization was forged. From introducing crucial political doctrines that promoted a form of governance accountable to moral standards, to fostering a renaissance of philosophical and cultural expression, the Zhou Dynasty offers profound lessons on how a society’s formative periods can cast long shadows, influencing the course of its future. In many ways, the story of the Zhou Dynasty is a narrative about how the seeds of ideas planted in the past can flourish and shape the ethos of a nation long after their originators have passed on the torch.


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84 Confucius Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

🏆 best confucius topic ideas & essay examples, 🔎 good research topics about confucius, ✍ interesting topics to write about confucius, ❓ questions about confucius.

  • Confucian Gentleman: Characteristics of Junzi (a Noble Man) The reading in the Quran that touches on Heaven, Hell, and Death is a complex through a straightforward recitation to understand the passage of reading.
  • Confucius, Plato, and Aristotle: Views on Society In the video, it is highlighted that both Plato and Confucius shared a commitment to reason and the value of the state.
  • Comparing and Contrasting the Confucius Ideas With Ancient Greek Thinkers As far as the body and the soul interacted, Plato also commented on the things that the soul could be influenced by the work or the actions of the body.
  • Confucius and Jesus Christ Among them, Jesus Christ and Confucius have become some of the most prominent figures in the history of the world. The purpose of this is essay is to compare the lives and the teachings of […]
  • How Is Mencius Theory Different Than Confucius? In this regard, people would not be the means for the mandate of heaven path and not the ends. In Confucianism, you would be wrong to rebel if you are not the Son of Heaven.
  • Comparison Between Confucius and Han Feizi Apart from the fact that he said Confucianism was responsible for the wars that were beleaguering the country; he also was extremely critical of morals and societal rotting that he witnessed.
  • Philosophy of Confucius Compared to That of Buddhism This due to the fact that only the aspect of ethics in the Buddhist philosophy can be significantly likened to the Confucian philosophy.
  • The Analects of Confucius Everyone, including the leaders was under the umbrella of proper morals, which he said, was the linen from which the peace of the country was to be made.
  • Confucius: Life, Teachings, and Legacy According to him, moral virtue is the only means of ensuring that there is order in the society. His mother thus played the role of the father in bringing up Confucius and it is through […]
  • Individual From a World Civilization Biographical Analysis: Confucius This paper aims to analyze the life and teachings of Confucius, as well as his significant impact on the history of China and the whole world.
  • Ideal Person According to Confucius, LI Philosophy The Chinese people have over the years grown in loyalty to their leaders and respect for the elders in the society.
  • The Art of Being Human: Confucius’ Beliefs In my evaluation of the quote “Real knowledge is to know the extent of one’s ignorance,” I would say that it expresses very profound and useful things to be aware of.
  • The Relationships of Confucius’ Writings and the Articles in the ILRC List This implies that in institutions of learning character should be improved so as not only to attain the self-importance of an individual but for the ethical good of the general public.
  • Confucius’ and Laozi’s Time: Political Chaos Confucius’ principal intention is to ask people to abide by the law and wants the rulers to be the persons of virtue and character.
  • Asian History: The Analects of Great Chinese Thinker and Philosopher Confucius This principle idea of humaneness has lead followers of Confucius to come to the conclusion that in order to enjoy the benevolence of others, it is essential for the same to be initiated by them.
  • Nobility and Civility: Dhammapada and Confucius View It is good to be in the company of such noble men and do what they say and to follow them.
  • “Confucius Lives Next Door” by T. Reid The purpose of this paper is to give an overview of the most important concepts discussed in the book and then to elaborate on possible ways of applying these ideas to American society as a […]
  • Lao-Tzu’s and Confucius’ Ideas on Leadership The ideas of leadership and the responsibilities of those who decide to assume such roles have come to the attention of people many centuries ago.
  • Rousseau’s vs. Confucius’ Freedom Concept Similarly, the sovereignty of a distinctive group expresses the wholeness of its free will, but not a part of the group.
  • The Analects of Confucius: Shaping Japanese Society In conclusion, it is possible to note that Confucian ideas had a significant impact on development of the Japanese society in the 8th century.
  • Confucius Philosophy: His Life and Though Tian is one of the most important concepts in his teachings, and it symbolizes heaven. This story is about a disciple of Confucius asking Daoists for help that was later reported to the teacher.
  • Lao Zi and Confucius Philosophy Relationship The person of inferior virtue is viewed as one who seeks virtue in order to attain it. The concept of Ren is one that Confucius seems to dwell on in order to achieve virtue.
  • Confucius’ Teachings of the Basis Systems – Philosophy The teachings of Confucius form the basis of many political and social systems in China. In addition, the readings point out the fact that the teachings of Confucius have withstood the test of time several […]
  • Confucius and His Philosophy Contrary to the expectations of the Chinese people, this situation disenfranchised Confucius up to the point of leaving his government post.
  • Effective Reasons to Support the Idea of Confucius Classrooms Confucius Classrooms are characterized by many positive and powerful aspects that help to promote such schools in future: people are eager to learn different cultures and have a chance to study them from original sources […]
  • Life and Times of the Father of Confucianism
  • Comparison between the Philosophies of Confucius and Socrates
  • Comparison of the Confucius Analects and the Hebrew Testament
  • Comparison of the Difference and Similarities of Confucius and Socrates on Religion
  • Comparison of the Teachings of Mencius and Confucius
  • Affirmative Action Confucius, Buddhism And Taoism
  • Analyzing The Analects: Confucius’s Philosophy on Propriety, Religion, and Politics
  • Analysis of the Remains of Confucius Philosophy in the Chinese People
  • Can Confucius Influence Our Lives Today?
  • Compare and Contrast The Writings of Confucius Hammurabi and The Book of the Dead
  • Comparison of Jesus and Confucius
  • Differences Between The Views Of Cicero And Confucius
  • Does the Confucius institute impact international travel to China?
  • How Is Justice Manifested In Society According To Confucius?
  • How is Mencius theory different than Confucius?
  • Biography of Confucius a Respectful Philosopher in the Chinese History
  • Look at the Influence of Confucius and Chuang Tzu on Ancient China
  • Analysis of Confucius as a Humanist, Unlike Machiavelli
  • Analysis of the Contrasting of the Opposing Viewpoints of how Confucius and Hammurabi Viewed Government and Authority
  • Lives of Confucius and Guatama Siddhartha
  • Aristotle And Confucius Maintained An Ethical Position On
  • Beliefs and Description of Confucius of China
  • Ch’en Tu-hsiu: The Way of Confucius and Modern Life
  • Confucius And The Culture Of East Asian Countries
  • Confucius Lives Next Door: What Living in the East Teaches Us About Living in the West?
  • Confucius Was A Mere Preserver And Transmitter Of Tradition, While Muhammad Was An Innovator. Discuss The Validity Or Otherwise Of This Statement
  • Ethics Between Confucius And Aristotle
  • Wisdom Confucius Real World
  • Who Is Confucius in Simple Words?
  • What Is Your Favorite Confucius Quote?
  • What Is the Difference Between Confucius and Plato?
  • What Ethical Positions Did Confucius Adhere To?
  • Which Principles of Confucius Do You Know and Agree With?
  • How Do Confucian Ideas Influence Society Today?
  • What Did Confucius Believe Be the Most Important Relationship?
  • What Is Common and Different Between Confucius and Daoism?
  • What Are the Major Ideas of Confucius?
  • What Type of Government Did Confucius Support?
  • What Is the Influence of Confucius on the Culture of the Far East?
  • What Are Confucius’ Ideas About Trade?
  • What Was the Main Concept of Confucius’s Teachings?
  • What Are the Thoughts of Confucius About State Management?
  • What Were the Common Characteristics of Confucianism, Daoism, and Buddhism?
  • What Life Lessons From Confucius Have You Discovered for Yourself?
  • What Is the Place of Confucius in the Culture of East Asian Countries?
  • Which of the Followers of the Confucian Religion Do You Know?
  • How Important Are the Teachings of Confucius for the West Side of the World?
  • What Is Human Nature According to Confucius?
  • How Can You Analyze Confucius’ “The Analects”?
  • Does the Confucius Institute Impact International Travel to China?
  • What Is Confucianism in Eastern Philosophy?
  • What Was Confucius Point of View on Life and Leadership?
  • What Are the Philosophical Differences Between Confucius and Mencius?
  • What Interesting Facts From the Life of Confucius Do You Know?
  • What Is the Holy Book of Confucianism Called?
  • What Are the Basic Values of Confucianism?
  • What Is the Most Important Virtue According to Confucius?
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IvyPanda. (2024, March 2). 84 Confucius Essay Topic Ideas & Examples.

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IvyPanda . "84 Confucius Essay Topic Ideas & Examples." March 2, 2024.

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    Confucius. At different times in Chinese history, Confucius (trad. 551-479 BCE) has been portrayed as a teacher, advisor, editor, philosopher, reformer, and prophet. The name Confucius, a Latinized combination of the surname Kong 孔 with an honorific suffix "Master" ( fuzi 夫子), has also come to be used as a global metonym for ...

  5. Philosophy: What is Confucianism?

    Essay. Confucianism is an ethical, philosophical, and political ideology that is common in Asian communities. It is based on the teachings of Confucius who is rated among the greatest Chinese philosophers. After its founding, the system was embraced as an ethical and political system to govern people's lives.

  6. Confucianism

    Confucianism. Confucianism is often characterized as a system of social and ethical philosophy rather than a religion. In fact, Confucianism built on an ancient religious foundation to establish the social values, institutions, and transcendent ideals of traditional Chinese society. It was what sociologist Robert Bellah called a "civil religion ...

  7. Confucianism

    Definition. Confucianism is a philosophy developed in 6th-century BCE China, which is considered by some a secular-humanist belief system, by some a religion, and by others a social code. The broad range of subjects touched on by Confucianism lends itself to all three of these interpretations depending on which aspects one focuses on.

  8. Confucius and His Philosophy

    Confucius, the founder of Confucianism, was a Chinese philosopher who lived between 551 B.C. and 479 B.C. He founded the school of thought, Confucian, which made much revolutionaries in the political and social arena of the Chinese people. Indeed, Confucius was a revolutionary leader who sought to liberate people from extremist Chinese leaders.

  9. Confucius

    Confucius (551-479 BCE), according to Chinese tradition, was a thinker, political figure, educator, and founder of the Ru School of Chinese thought. His teachings, preserved in the Lunyu or Analects, form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his live and interact with others, and the forms ...

  10. The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism

    The Oxford Handbook of Confucianism is a collection of 38 essays that explore the variety, complexity, and richness of Confucianism over time and across regions. These essays are written to be of value to the educated public while presenting new scholarship and fresh perspectives from leading scholars in Confucian studies. Using a range of ...

  11. Confucianism System

    Confucianism System Essay. Scholars refer to Confucianism as a system of thought based on the teachings of Confucius, who lived from 551 to 479 B.C.E. Confucius had a significant influence on the life and thought of China more than any other person in Chinese history. He had titles like Sage of All Time and First Teacher (Molloy 11).

  12. PDF An introduction to Confucianism

    An inscribed portrait of Confucius travelling around to teach, supposedly painted by Wu Daozi, a famous painter in the Tang Dynasty (618-906) frontispiece. (Located between pages 138 and 139) The statue of Confucius at the main hall of the Temple of Con-fucius, Qufu, the home town of Confucius.

  13. Confucianism

    Confucianism - Analects, Philosophy, Ethics: The Lunyu (Analects), the most-revered sacred scripture in the Confucian tradition, was probably compiled by the succeeding generations of Confucius's disciples. Based primarily on the Master's sayings, preserved in both oral and written transmissions, it captures the Confucian spirit in form and content in the same way that the Platonic ...

  14. Essay about Confucianism

    Confucianism. Confucianism is an East Asian philosophy built up by a Chinese philosopher, Confucius (K'ung Fu-tzu), in the 6th - 5th century BCE. It's a philosophy based on human morals and relationships. To really understand Confucianism, how it originated and what parts of history contributed towards its development, you have to look into ...

  15. Confucianism Essay

    Confucianism Essay. Confucianism is a system of thought based on the teachings of a Chinese man named Kung Fuzi. Which is latinaized as Confucius, he lived from 551 to 479 b.c.e. Confucius claimed that he was not original and neither were his teachings, but believed himself to be a "creative transmitter of wisdom from the past".

  16. Confucianism in Chinese Society in the First Two Decades of the 21st

    This chapter will be published in the forthcoming Cambridge History of Confucianism edited by Kiri Paramore (forthcoming 2022 or 2023). ... Related Papers "The Hidden Tradition: Confucianism and Its Metamorphoses in Modern and Contemporary China," in Vincent Goossaert, Jan Kiely and John Lagerwey (eds), Modern Chinese Religion II (1850-2015 ...

  17. Reflection on Confucianism

    Introduction. Confucianism is considered as one of the philosophies that were developed in the ancient times yet it still asserts a significant influence on the contemporary society (Liu 2006, 47). One of the authors who have written widely on Confucianism is Yao. In his presentation of Confucianism, Yao (2005, 17) makes attempts to link the ...

  18. Confucianism Essay

    Confucianism Essay Sample. Many experts note that Confucianism is seen as a system that intended to regulate philosophical and social order, being something beyond important than the religion. Primarily, it aimed to regulate the value system of an average citizen of China, set the cultural and the religious foundations and only then transcend ...

  19. Confucianism Essay

    Essay on Confucianism. Confucianism A philosopher named Confucius founded Confucianism in China 2,500 years ago. Confucianism is a system of ethical behavior and social responsibility that became the great traditions of the East.1 It played an important role in the evolution in Chinese culture over the centuries.

  20. Unit 3 Essay Confucianism, Daoism, Legalism

    Confucius felt the need to create a philosophy called Confucianism, to help the overall ethics, intelligence, status, and hierarchy in society. The philosophy of Confucianism is defined as "an ethic of moral uprightness, social order, and filial responsibility" (The Philosophers of the Warring States).

  21. 121 Confucianism Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

    The thesis statement of the discussion is that Confucianism is useful in cultivating and instilling good morals in individuals and in so doing contributes to harmonious co-existence of people in society. Analogies for Daosism: Self-Construction and the Attempt to Reach the Enlightenment in Comparison to Confucianism.

  22. The Zhou Dynasty: A Crucible of Chinese Civilization

    Essay Example: When we talk about ancient dynasties that have left an indelible mark on their cultures, China's Zhou Dynasty (1046-256 BC) is a standout. ... Confucius, perhaps the most renowned philosopher from this period, taught principles of ethics and leadership that emphasized moral rectitude and societal harmony. His teachings would ...

  23. Visiting Europe, Xi Jinping brings up an old grievance

    Today the eight-storey edifice, with a statue of Confucius in front, makes a bold architectural statement of China's soft power in a dreary-looking district (and, Chinese nationalists would be ...

  24. Confucian Ethics

    Confucian Ethics Essay. Confucianism is a philosophical movement that started from the teachings of a famous Chinese philosopher, Confucius. Some people argue that Confucian was not a philosopher, but rather, a religious leader (Taylor 8). His works span through several disciplines, including morality, humanity, rationality, and ethics.

  25. 84 Confucius Essay Topic Ideas & Examples

    The Analects of Confucius. Everyone, including the leaders was under the umbrella of proper morals, which he said, was the linen from which the peace of the country was to be made. Confucius: Life, Teachings, and Legacy. According to him, moral virtue is the only means of ensuring that there is order in the society.