Confucius

Confucius

The history of Chinese civilization spans thousands of years and encompasses
countless ideas, beliefs, and societal and political doctrines. However, from a
modern standpoint one distinct perspective prevails above the rest in the manner
and degree it has influenced the development of China. For the previous 2,000
years the teachings of Confucius, and the systems of thought and behavior that
have evolved from them, have had significant effects on Chinese thought,
government institutions, literature and social customs. Confucianism has served
a primary role as a social and moral philosophy and as practiced by many,
especially in the educated upper classes, Confucianism had definite religious
dimensions. The teachings of Confucius served to unite a developing society,
binding together various aspects of civilization and culture into one coherent
body that functions under common values and attitudes. Confucius sought a type
of all encompassing unity for the world and for his people; his wisdom was
intended to serve as guide. In the Analects, a compendium of Confucian
teachings, Confucius said, Be of unwavering good faith and love learning. Be
steadfast unto death in pursuit of the good Way. Do not enter a state which is
in peril, nor reside in one in which the people have rebelled. When the Way
prevails in the world, then show yourself. When it does not, then hide. When the

Way prevails in your own state, to be poor and obscure is a disgrace; but when
the Way does not prevail in your own state, to be rich and honored is a
disgrace. (Analects 4.5) This lesson serves well as a paradigm for Confucian
thought; it shows the direction that Confucius aspired toward, and the proper
methods for the journey. Before endeavoring to understand Confucianism and its
connection with China, it is necessary to develop and understanding of China in
the pre-Confucius era, in which this philosophy evolved. The most ancient
evidence of Chinese religious and social civilization dates back to the Shang
dynasty, circa 1500 B.C.E. In this early agricultural society, there is evidence
of some of the basic fundamentals of most Chinese religious thought; the
pursuit, establishment, maintenance and enjoyment of harmony in the earthly
world. During the Zhou dynasty (1122 - 771 B.C.E.), the path initiated by the

Shang was sustained and expanded upon. The Zhou quest for harmony and order led
to the development of some extremely crucial concepts that would directly effect
the development of Confucianism. It was in this era that the notion of Tian, the
force that can be best understood as heaven, first came to light. This later led
to the conception of the idea of the Mandate of Heaven (Tian-ming) from which
rulers derived all power and sense of legitimacy, due to the accordance of their
behaviors with the norms of morality and ritual correctness. In connection with
this, the relatively stable feudal society of Zhou era was responsible for the
emergence of the tao. This principal made cosmic order and harmony possible; the
tao can be thought of as the road or path from which come perfect unity, harmony
and order. This idea played a critical role in the development of Confucianism
and dramatically affected the course of Chinese development. In the eighth
century B.C.E., the Zhou dynasty began to fall apart as barbarous tribes invaded
from the west. This led to the disintegration of Zhou rule and the creation of a
number of contending smaller states hoping to re-unify China under a new
dynasty. This serious breach in the structure of society and the disharmony that
prevailed led to new movements of thought. The sages of this time felt strong
aspirations to find solutions to the numerous problems that surrounded them. It
probably is for this reason that the six-century B.C.E. was characterized by
distinct progress in Chinese thought, and became known as the age of the hundred
philosophers. Foremost in this era, Confucius was born. Kung Fu-tzu was the
given name of the great moral philosopher and teacher, Confucius is merely a
romanized version of this. He is thought to have been born in the principality
of Lu, in what is now Shantung Province, in Northeast China. This is the only
information about Confucius that is known to be unyielding fact; almost all of
the biographical information on this man is derived from the Life of Confucius
by the historian Szema Chien. Nearly all the data contained in this book is
held to be accurate, being derived from dependable oral traditions. Confucius is
said to have embarked on his quest for knowledge, order and harmony in an effort
to dispel the conflict and dissension that existed in his time. Throughout his
life he would seek to bring about a return to the ancient values, through a
standardization of rituals, the