Confucius and his disciples

One of the most famous people in ancient China was a wise philosopher named Confucius (circa 551-479 BC). He sometimes went by the names Kong Zi though he was born – Kong Qiu – styled Zhong Ni. He was born in the village of Zou in the country of Lu. Confucius was born in a poor family in the year 551 B.C., and he was born in the state of Lu. His original name was K’ung Ch’iu. His father, commander of a district in Lu, died three years after Confucius was born, leaving the family in poverty; but Confucius nevertheless received a fine education. He was married at the age of 19 and had one son and two daughters.

When the philosopher died, many people honored all of Confucius’ work by building temples in every city in China to honor Confucius. Since Confucius’ teachings and philosophy was so advanced, it was the education for China for 2,000 years. It is called Confucianism. Confucius is famous for his philosophy because he made many wise sayings in ancient China that helped many people learn about nature, the world, and the human behavior. He also helped the government and the emperor by teaching them lessons on how the emperor should rule his kingdom successfully.

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Although Confucianism is often followed in a religious manner by the Chinese, argument continues over whether to refer to it as a religion because it makes little reference to theological or spiritual matters (God(s), the afterlife, etc.). There is some ground for saying that the real Confucius cannot be the object of recent critiques in the PRC. Both the critiques and critics are of questionable authenticity and they seem to be pulling their punches . What is clear is that these ideological pursuits mask some very serious political events over the recent past in the PRC.

The twentieth century saw the final disappearance of Confucianism as the state orthodoxy and the abolition of the Confucian education system, as well as the fierce attacks on Confucianism as the backward and conservative tradition that was responsible for all of China’s illnesses. However, in spite of such attacks, there emerged a modern New Confucianism, represented by scholars such as Hsiung Shih-li (1885-1968), Liang Su-ming (1893-1988), Fung Yu-lan (1895-1990), Ch’ien Mu (1895-1990) an d Mou Tzung-san (1909), which combines the revival of Confucian values with the transformation of its doctrines in the light of other traditions.

Contemporary Confucianism is being continued by many scholars in the west – prominent examples being Wing-tsit Chan (1901-1994), Tu Wei-ming, Cheng Chung-ying -and by those who live and study in mainland China, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Chinese communities in other countries, who take Confucianism not merely as a form of political ideology or a kind of socio-economical ethic, but primarily as a tradition of religious philosophy which is open to the modern world and to the future. In the process of adapting traditional Confucianism into the modern life, Confucian scholars have been striving to establish the healthy interaction between the Chinese tradition and other great traditions in the world, especially that of western philosophies.


Csikszentmihalyi, M. (2005). “Confucianism: An Overview”. In Encyclopedia of Religion (Vol. C, pp 1890–1905). Detroit: MacMillan Reference USA.

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