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Who Is Confucius?

By Bronwyn Harris
Updated May 23, 2024
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Confucius was a Chinese philosopher who was born in 551 BCE. Confucius is a corruption of the name K'ung Fu-tzu. Although K'ung Fu-tzu was the philosopher's correct name, he has historically been referred to as Confucius in Western countries.

The religion of Confucianism derives its name from Confucius, and is based on his writings. These writings were intended to be advice for the rulers of China in the sixth century BCE, and were later studied by the followers of Confucius. In addition, his followers brought in ideas originating in Buddhism and Taoism, as Confucianism spread from China to other Asian countries, including Korea, Japan, and Vietnam.

One idea emphasized by Confucius was "beautiful conduct." He thought that if everyone in a society could achieve "beautiful conduct," or what he considered correct behavior, society could become perfect. This involved avoiding all extreme actions and emotions, being considerate to others, respecting family, and worshiping ancestors.

Confucius

Confucius may not have considered himself to have founded a religion. He was a philosopher, not a prophet, and did not emphasize spirituality, but instead certain behaviors and being a good citizen. He believed that five relationships formed the basis of a stable, happy society. These five relationships include those between ruler and subject, older brother and younger brother, father and son, husband and wife, and the relationship between two friends.

After his death, Confucius' grandson and disciples continued spreading his philosophies. Confucius is considered a great teacher, rather than a god. He is well-known for his sayings, such as "What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others," and "Respect yourself and others will respect you." Rituals which strengthen the five relationships are important to followers of his teachings.

Confucius died in 479 BCE. His hometown of Qufu became well-known after his death, and is now visited by many tourists, as well as Chinese citizens wishing to visit the nearby temples and Confucius' grave. It is unclear whether Confucius would have approved of the many temples dedicated to him, or if he would have wished for his followers to continue with his teaching, and not make him the object of veneration.

PublicPeople is dedicated to providing accurate and trustworthy information. We carefully select reputable sources and employ a rigorous fact-checking process to maintain the highest standards. To learn more about our commitment to accuracy, read our editorial process.
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Discussion Comments
By PurpleSpark — On Sep 26, 2010

Some interesting Confucius facts:

His Chinese name of “Kong Qiu” meant “Master Kong”.

He came from a warrior family. His father, Shulianghe, was a famous warrior.

His mother was his only family from the time he was three years old until she died when he was 17.

Three years after his mother died, he married his wife. Later, he abandoned his wife, even though his teachings advocated better behavior.

By sevenseas — On Sep 10, 2008

Someone said that Confucius is to the Chinese culture and history what Socrates is to the Western culture and history. Both philosophers lived before AD.

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