* Born: 551 B.C.
* Birthplace: Lu, China (now Shandong province)
* Died: 479 B.C.
* Best Known As: Chinese sage
Also Known As: Kong Fu-Zi
Confucius was a teacher, scholar and minor political official whose commentary on Chinese literary classics developed into
a pragmatic philosophy for daily life. Not strictly religious, the teachings of Confucius were a utilitarian approach to social
harmony and defined moral obligations between individuals and social systems. After his death his pupils collected notes on
his sayings and doings and recorded them as the Analects. This compilation was added to over the years, and many sayings attributed
to him are probably only loosely based on his teachings. His approach was formalized into a political and religious system
during the Han Dynasty in the early part of the third century. It was embraced by subsequent generations and was the "state
religion" of China until the latter part of the 20th century. In recent years critics have condemned Confucianism, characterizing
its reliance on tradition as an impediment to modernization.
"Confucius" is the Latin rendering of his Chinese name, Kong Fu-Zi, which is sometimes also spelled as Kung Fu-Zi, K'ung-fu-tze,
Confucianism and Taoism
The Chinese people have three main traditions in their history- Confucianism, Taoism, and Buddhism. I am going to be talking
about Confucianism and Taoism. Both of these date back to the Sixth Century B.C. The traditional founder of Taoism is Confucius
and Laozi. On top of many other things Confucius was a very influential speaker. Throughout time, his teachings, and preaching
developed into a religion. He spoke to a wide variety of people.
Daoist tend to look back to Laozi as their founder. Over centuries, Taoism was transformed from a small religion, very conservative,
into a loosely organized religion.
During the Second Century B.C., a ruler named Han had the most part in it. A large number of religious groups rose from this
because of the social and political disorder.
One of these groups named the Yellow Turbans in eastern China., fought Han in 184 B.C. This led to a civil war. Han lost authority
and power, and his generals became warlords. Then, in Western China, a group known as the Way of the Celestial Masters came
From the Second Century B.C., Taoists and others believed it was possible to find an elixir which would make them immortal.
An elixir is a sweetened alcoholic medicinal preparation, but back in ancient philosophy it was thought to be for changing
base metals into gold, or for prolonging life. Research flourished because of this belief. But the chief ingredient, cinnabar,
was found to be poisonous. Many imperial deaths ensued from this.
But this was not the only way to achieve immortality back in ancient times. Another belief said that a man would have to acquire
108 women to get granted 10,000 years of life.
For more than 2,000 years ,Chinese, Japananese, and Korean people have lived in cultures that were greatly influenced by the
thoughts of Confucius. Confucius saw himself as an ordinary man doing a good deed for a diverse group of cultures. He taught
his fellow human beings moral behavior and good family relationships. He thought that they are the key to a well ordered society.
People valued his opinions and teachings very much and followed them in every day life. Confucius himself avoided talking
about religion, but at the same time recognized the importance of worshipping his ancestors. He believed that he was not guided
by religion, but by a higher power called heaven.
Confucius lived at a time when China was changing. A lot of the traditions that everyone had lived by were long gone and they
had moved on to new things, but not Confucius, he still believed in the traditions of old and still preached them. Most of
the traditions had been written down and would later be the center of Confucius's teachings. Proceeding Confucius's death
his followers preserved his thoughts and ideas for the next three centuries to come.
Confucius had some followers that preached his works, too. Among these, were Mencius and Xunzi. They spread Confucius's ideas
while at the same time elaborating on them. Mencius studied Confucian's understanding of mortality. He believe that seeds
of goodness were in everyone, but at the same time there had to be developed properly. On the other hand, Xunzi believe that
everyone was not good and that everyone didn't practice good behavior. He believed that they needed Confucius to guide them
with his teachings.
Confucianism and Taoism were a very big and important part of the ancient world and there traditions.
Originator Of This Philosophical/Ethical Code
Confucianism is something of a derivative. As a matter of fact, Confucius insisted on close adherence to Tao. However, he
was pragmatic and concerned with the existential problems of man, hence he deals less with generalities and more with the
practical matters of daily and personal relationships. The essence of his system of relationships is fivefold, and fundamental
to his social order: ruler and subject; father and son; husband and wife; older brother and younger brother; older friend
and younger friend.
The ideal of conduct, ordering all human relationships and resulting in an ideal social structure and harmony is: li. A famous
Confucian maxim is: "Never do to others, what you would not like them to do to you." (Golden Rule ?) His disciples later on
developed ten attitudes that are to govern the five relationships: love in father and filial piety in the son; gentility in
the oldest brother and humility and respect in the younger; righteous behavior in the husband and obedience in the wife; humane
consideration in elders and deference in juniors; benevolence in rulers and loyalty in subjects.
Confucius did not claim to be the originator of this philosophical/ethical code. Some of the ideas he claims to have derived
from classical writings, but he codified them and illuminated them with his own insights and principles. Thus developed one
the great and most durable ethical and social edifices in recorded time. It shaped Chinese thought and character.
Founder:Confucius - (this is the Latin version of his name); since he was Chinese, his real name was K'ung Fu-tzu, which means
"Grand Master K'ung".
Headquarters: China is where it originated, but it is all over East Asia.
Beliefs and Practices:
1. All humanity is good and always striving to be better, be loyal and live upright.
2. The focus is on comprehensive truths rather than logic. They feel the more comprehensive the closer it is to the truth.
3. Confucianists put an emphasis on sympathizing over others when they are suffering. They are always searching for a higher
sense of sympathy for people.
4. This belief system also entails the belief that the ultimate personal harmony in life are the relationships one has with:
ruler to subject, parent to child, husband to wife, older to younger, and friend to friend. Nothing to do with a relationship
with God. No relationship unless it is within human existence.
5. They do believe in a heaven, they call it T'ien, but that it is silent.
Sacred Texts: Analects- a collection of sayings from Confucius and some of his disciples.
The Great Learning- used to be part of the Li Chi but it was separated. Designed to be an educational tool for gentlemen.
First text to be studied by Chinese school boys.
The Doctrine of the Mean- Used to be part of the Li Chi also. Philosophical thoughts of Confucius focusing on the relationship
between human nature and moral order of the world.
The Book of Mencius- a collection of sayings of early Confucian thinkers. It's trying to reach a more rounded system of philosophy.
Li Chi- Confucian Classic. It has a bunch of ethical philosophies from Confucius. Also called, The Book of Rites.
Other important works are:
I-Ching (The Book of Changes)
Shi (The Book of Poetry and Songs)
Shu (The Book of Documents)
Chun-Chiu (The Book of Spring and Autumn)
551-479 B.C.- Confucius life timeline
1122-897 B.C.- The Duke of Chou established "The Ritual-Music Culture" for the dynasty in China (which Confucius desperately
tried to keep going during the fighting).
124 B.C.- Imperial Academy was established and they formed the Confucius Code of Conduct for education.
A.D. 960-1368- Neo-Confucianism was formed after Confucius himself was long gone. This integrated Buddhism in with Confucianism.
Professor, Grand Valley State University School of Social Work
Confucianism is a philosophy of a way of life, although mny people also consider it a religion. The tradition derives its
name from Kung Fu Tzu,or Confucius (551-479 BCE), who is renowned as a philosopher and educator.
He is less known for his roles as a researcher, statesman, social planner,social innovator, and advocate. Confucius was a
generalist with a universal vision. The philosophical method he developed offers a means to transform individuals, families,
communities, and nations into a
harmonious international society.
The overall goal of Confucianism is to educate people to be
self-motivated, self-controlled and able to assume responsibilities; it has the dual aims of cultivating the individual self
and contributing to the attainment of an ideal, harmonious society. Confucius based his method
on the assumption that lawlessness and social problems result from the combination of unenlightened individuals and a social
structure without norms.
The Confucian system is based on several principles:
1. In the beginning, there is nothing.
2. The Great Ultimate (Tao) exists in the *I* (change).
The Great Ultimate is the cause of change and generates the two primary forms: the Great "Yang" (a great energy) and its counterforce,
the Great "Yin" (a passive form). "Yang" and "Yin" symbolize the energy within any system of counterforces: positive and negative,
day and night, male and female, rational and intuitive. "Yang" and "Yin" are complementary; in their interaction, everything
-- from quanta to galaxies -- comes to be.
Everything that exists -- all systems -- coexist in an interdependent network with all other systems.
3. The dynamic tension between "Yin" and "Yang" forces results in an endless process of change -- of production and reproduction
and the transformation of energy. This is a natural order, an order in which we can see basic moral values. Human nature is
inherently good. If a human
being goes along with the Great Ultimate and engages in rigorous self-discipline, that person will discover the real self
(the nature of "Tao") and enjoy the principle of change. And since all systems exist in an interdependent network, one who
knows this truth also cares.
4. There are four principles of change:
a. Change is easy.
b. Change is a transforming process due to the dynamics between "Yin" and "Yang." Any change in either part ("Yin" or
"Yang") will lead to a
change in the system and related systems. This process has its own cycle of expansion and contraction.
c. Change carries with it the notion of changelessness; that there is change is a fact that is itself unchanging.
d. The best transformation promotes the growth and development of the individual and the whole simultaneously -- it strives
for excellence for all systems in the network.
5. Any search for change should consider the following:
a. The status of the object in the interdependent network -- that is, what is the system and what are this object's role,
position, rights and duties in the system?
b. Timing within the interrelated network -- that is, is this the right time to initiate change?
c. The mean position, or the Golden Path, in the interrelated network situation; the mean position is regarded as the
most strategic position from which one can deal with change. "Tao" (Truth) exists in the mean
d. The respondence of "Yin" and "Yang" forces -- that is, are the counterforces willing to dialogue or compromise?
e. The integration between the parts and the whole -- that is, the system in its economic, political and cultural realms.
6. There is an interconnected network of individual existence, and this pattern of interdependent relationships exists
in all levels of systems, from individual, through family and state, to the whole world. The whole is dependent upon the harmonious
integration of all the parts,
or subsystems, while the parts require the nurture of the whole. The ultimate unit within this framework is the universe itself.
Self is a here-and-now link in a chain of existence stretching both into the past and into a future to be shaped by the way
an individual performs his or
her roles in daily life. One's humanity is achieved only with and through others.
Individual and social transformations are based on self-cultivation, the personal effort to search for truth and to become
a life-giving person. Searching for and finding the truth will lead to originality, the creative
ability to solve problems, and development. The process will also enable individuals and systems to be life-giving and life-sharing
-- to possess a "Jen" (love) personality. Wisdom, love and courage are inseparable concepts.
7. Organizational effectiveness and efficiency are reached when systematically interconnected individuals or subsystems
find the truth --
and stay with it. Existence consists of the interconnected whole. Methods that assume and take account of connections work
better than methods that focus on isolated elements. Organizational effectiveness can be improvedthrough a rearrangement of
the relationships between the parts and the whole.
In other words, a balanced and harmonious development within theinterdependent network is the most beneficial state for all.
Self-actualizing and collective goals should always be integrated.
These principles of Confucian social transformation are drawn primarily from *I Ching,* The Great Learning,* *Confucian Analects*
and *The Doctrine of The Mean*. In contemporary terms, Confucianism can be defined
as a school of social transformation that is research oriented and that employs a multidimensional, crosscultural, and comprehensive
approach that is applicable to both micro and macro systems. It is a way of life -- or an art of living -- that aims to synchronize
the systems of the universe to achieve both individual and collective fulfillment.
Two major schools of Neo-Confucianism eventually emerged: the rationalists, who emphasized the inner world (philosophy), and
the idealists, who emphasized practical learning in the outer world (social science). The leading exponent of the rationalists
was Chu Hsi (1033-1107 CE) and that of the idealists was Wang Yang-Ming (1472-1529 CE). The rationalists held that reason
is inherent in nature and that the mind and reason are not the same thing. The idealists held that reason is not to be sought
from without; it is nothing other than the mind itself. In ethical application, the rationalists considered the flesh to be
a stumbling block to the soul. The idealists, on the other hand, considered the flesh to be as the soul makes it. Neo-Confucianism
in Korea was led by Lee T'oegye
(1501-1570), who taught a philosophy of inner life and moral subjectivity.
Confucianism is a strong influence in China, Korea, Japan, and the countries of Southeast Asia as well as among people of
Far Eastern descent living around the world. Western people are able to appreciate Confucianism through international contacts
and through its literature.
Yet postindustrial social change has led to human crisis in socialnetworks. Postindustrial Confucians today are carrying the
vision forward by applying the Confucian model of social transformation to reach the goal of a Great Harmonious Society. The
effects of this are seen in
volunteerism, social support, social care, and the self-help movement.
In *Great Learning,* Confucius prescribed seven steps in a
general strategy of social transformation to achieve the ideal society.
1. The investigation of things (variables). Find out the way things are and how they are related.
2. The completion of knowledge. Find out why things are the way they are; that is, why the dependent variable was related
to other variables. This is the reality of things, the truth, "Tao." And since everything exists in an inter-related network,
discovering this truth empowers a person to transform his or her attitude.
3. The sincerity of thought. One should be sincere in wanting to change or to set goals that are a commitment to excellence
and the truth, "Tao", which is the source of self-motivation, the root of self-actualization and the cornerstone of adequate
I-Thou and I-Thing relationships. The most complete sincerity is the ability to foreknow.
4. The rectifying of the heart. The motivation for change must be the right one, good for the self as well as for the
whole. It is a cultivation aimed at virtue, a moral self achieved through the intuitive integration of "Jen" (humanity, benevolence,
perfect virtue, compassion, and love), "Yi" (righteousness), "Li" (politeness, respect), and wisdom (from steps 1, 2 & 3).
Only such a self has real freedom -- from evil, and to have moral courage and the ability to be good.
5. The cultivation of the person. There must be life-long integration between the "knowledge self" (steps 1 & 2) and
the "moral self" (steps 3 &
4) through self-discipline (education) and self-improvement. This is the key to helping self and others.
6. The regulation of the family. One should use self- discipline within the family by honoring parents, respecting and
caring for siblings, and loving children. One should understand the weaknesses of those one
likes and appreciate the strength of those one dislikes to avoid prejudice and disharmony in the family.
7. The governance of the state. The state must provide public education, set policies to care for vulnerable people,
root policies in public opinions, appoint and elect capable and moral persons as public officials, and apply management principles
based on the mean and the
Golden Path. This sort of public administration should lead to the harmonious state.
The practice of these seven steps is a self-cultivated discipline that seeks the truth, "Tao," as the practitioner enacts
individual and social changes for an improved and more harmonious world. The most persistent form of the Confucian worldview
sees the person as an integral part of a cosmos dominated by nature. Contentment and material success come only through acceptance
of the rightness of the person adjusting himself or herself to the greater natural world to which that person belongs.
Under the impetus of a contemporary revitalization of Confucianism, Confucian ethics has become an important force for initiating
social transformation and economic change in much of eastern Asia, including China, Japan, Hong Kong, Korea, Singapore and
Confucius described the ideal welfare state in *Li Chi* (*The Book of Rites*) as follows:
"When the Grand course was pursued, a public and common spirit ruled all under the sky; they chose people of talents,
virtue, and ability;their words were sincere, and what they cultivated was harmony.
"Thus people did not love their parents only, nor treat as children only their own. An effective provision was secured
for the aged till their death, employment for the able-bodied, and the means of growing up to the
"They showed kindness and compassion to widows/ers, orphans, childless people, and those who were disabled by disease,
so that they were all sufficiently maintained. Males had their proper work, and females had their homes.
"(They accumulated) articles (of value), disliking that they should be thrown away upon the ground, but not wishing to
keep them for their own gratification.
"(They labored) with their strength, disliking that it should not be exerted, but not exerting it (only) with a view
to their own advantage.
"In this way (selfish) scheming was repressed and found no development. Robbers, filchers and rebellious traitors did
not show themselves, and hence the outer doors remained open, and were not shut. This was (the period of) what we call the
Chinese, Korean and Japanese philosophical systems have each synthesedelements from several traditions. The Chinese came in
contact with Indian thought, in the form of Buddhism, around the first century CE. This event,
comparable to the spread of Christianity in the West, was marked by three characteristics in particular:
First, the translation of the Buddhist "sutras "stimulated Chinese philosophers and led them to interpret the teachings
of the Buddha in the light of their own philosophies. The impact of this study led to the
establishment of the Hua-yen and Tien-tai schools of Buddhism in China and the Kegon school in Japan.
Second, under the influence of their familiar, pragmatic Confucian ways of thought, the Chinese creatively responded
most to the practical aspects of Buddhism's spiritual discipline, which the Chinese called
"Ch'an "(meditation). The "Ch'an" philosophy was eventually adopted by Japan around 1200 CE under the Japanese term Zen. Zen
is thus a well-integrated blend of mystical Buddhism of India, the natural philosophy of Taoism, and the pragmatism of the
Third, traditional Chinese scholars, both Confucian and Taoist, felt that their cultural foundation had been shaken by
the challenge of Buddhism. They reexamined their own philosophies and worked out a way to apply the *I-Ching* -- and thus
"Yin-Yang" theory -- to integrate Buddhism into a new Chinese culture. The *I-Ching,* or *Book of Changes,* describes a universal
ontology, the processes by which things evolve, principles of
change, and guidelines for choosing among alternatives of change. This ancient book of omens and advice is the oldest of the
Chinese classics. Confucius used it as an important text in instructing in methods of personal and social transformation.
Different interpretations of the *I-Ching* demonstrate how Buddhism, Taoism, and traditional Confucianism were blended into
the Neo-Confucianism that profoundly affected the premodern Chinese, Korean, Japanese, and Vietnamese dynasties. These include
Cheng Yi (1050), *I-Ching, the Tao of Organization;* Chih-hsu Ou-i (1599-1655),
*The Buddhist I-Ching;* and Liu I-ming (1796),
*The TaoistI-Ching: I-Ching Mandalas, A Program of Study for the Book of Changes,*translated by Cleary. Under the influence
of the *I-Ching* the Chinese areequipped with a "both-and" mentality that seems to integrate religious
diversity with less difficulty than the "either-or" tendency of Westernmentality.
The Chinese Neo-Confucian school's synthesis of Confucianism, Buddhism, and Taoism culminated in the philosophy of Chu Hsi
(1033-1107 CE), one of
the greatest of all Chinese thinkers. It guides people to learn the truth (Tao) in order to solve problems, which leads one
in turn to be harmonious with Tao, or truth (unification), the core of Confucianism and Taoism.
Both Confucianism and Taoism share the same ontology from the *I-Ching,* while Buddhism also came to use *I-Ching* to interpret
Buddhist thought. The three philosophies use different approaches, however, to reach the unification with Tao/Brahman. Confucians
emphasize a rational approach,
Taoists focus on an intuitive approach and Buddhists favor a psychological approach. Confucianism favors education and the
intellectual approach, while Taoism tends to look down on education in favor of intuitive insight into Nature. Buddhists are
interested in changing human perception and
thus stress detachment; each tends to participate in world affairs accordingly.
Huang Te-Hui (1644-1661 CE) of the Ching Dynasty integrated the three main belief systems of Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism
to form the Hsien-Tien-Tao. I-Kuan-Tao (Integrated Tao) evolved from the Hsien-Tien-Tao. Chang Tien-Jan was recognized as
a master of I-Kuan-Tao in 1930. Various I-Kuan-Tao groups moved to Taiwan in 1946 and 1947, and
today, I-Kuan-Tao priests preach an integrated religion drawn from Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, Christian, and Islamic canons.
The concept of oneness of all religions is the major theme, and its mission is to integrate all religions into one.
This group was among the first in contemporary society to start interfaith dialogue and interfaith integration. However, many
people in Taiwan viewed the I-Kuan-Tao religion as a heresy, and it was banned for many years by
the government. Since being granted official recognition in 1987, I-Kuan-Tao of Taiwan has expanded internationally. It now
has organizations in South Korea, Japan, Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines, Australia, the United
States, Canada, Brazil and Paraguay.
Building on the successful integration of Buddhism into Neo-Confucianism, many contemporary Confucians have issued a challenge
for another religious integration among Buddhism, Christianity, Confucianism, Islam and Taoism.
For this to come about, more Asians need to read the *Bible* and the *Qur'an,* and more Westerners need to know about the
*I-Ching* and the *Qur'an.* Such a global dialogue would certainly help facilitate a new understanding of religions.
Some of the web graphics and backgrounds:
Some of the Written information from: