Confucius Essay, Research Paper
Who is Confucius? To some he may appear as a joke. However, Confucius,
in reality, was not a laughingstock. He was a man who strived to bring
peace and happiness to a world ravaged by crime and war. Confucius ” did
not look for paradise in the next world ” like other religions but
rather he was more concerned with achieving happiness in one’s own
A respected Chinese philosopher, Confucius, or “Kung Fu Tzu,” began as
a teacher, stressing the importance of self-discipline and generosity.
He thought the gentlemen, or “Chun Tzu” was the key to a good social
life. Although “Chun Tzu” was a title reserved for princes, Confucius
expanded its meaning to include anyone of “good moral character.” He
believed that these people were rulers and that others would be
encouraged to follow in their example. He believed in treating others
with respect and in turn, they would reciprocate that respect. This
could be linked to what came to be referred to by Confucius as the
“golden rule” – Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.
More philosophical than religious, his teachings act more as a guide
for self-improvement. It is based upon these teachings for a better self
and an improved government that led to the concept of Confucianism.
Confucius took an angle with his teachings that was moral, political
and ethical. He felt that if there was righteousness in the heart that
it would to beauty in the character, which would lead to harmony in the
home and then order in the nation. Finally, if there were total order in
the nation, order would create peace in the world. Confucius believed
that rule should be through morality and not violence or force.
He believed that the center of relationships was the self and it forms
from interactions with others. His goal was to become more human and
this served as the basis for forming strong relationships.
The teachings of Confucius contain many values. The most important
value is jen. This virtue deals with love and humaneness towards others.
This is the highest Confucian value. An early form of this is hsiao,
which is honoring your parents. Other staples of Confucian thinking
include Li and Yi.
Li is respect towards ritual practices. Confucius believed that
combining it with jen would help to improve social standards.
Yi is responsibility towards others. Yi represents the strong bonds and
commitments that are formed out of friendship.
The supreme deity of Confucianism is called T’ien. Although translated
to mean Heaven, T’ien appears to be more of a god in charge of
maintaining moral order. The path to T’ien is called the Tao, or way.
The Tao is composed of the struggle for balance of two opposite forces:
the yin and the yang. The yin and yang bring about change through
manipulating five material elements. The five material agents, water,
metal, fire, earth, and wood, alternate with each other through a cycle.
It is the yin and yang’s control over these elements that brings about
change through the universe and make up the Tao.
Confucianism also extends its belief to certain ritualistic practices.
For instance, birth is a major event. While the woman is carrying the
child, she is prohibited from doing anything physically strenuous. From
the moment of conception to the day of birth the mother is believed to
be guarded by a spirit called the Tai’shen. After the child is born, she
continues her rest period for another month. After the first month of
the child’s life, they are named in a special naming ceremony.
The act of marriage takes place in six stages. The first stage involves
matching the horoscopes of the bride and groom. The second stage is the
wedding announcement. The third stage is the exchange of the dowry. In
the fourth stage, the groom escorts the bride from her home. In the
fifth stage, vows are exchange. In the final stage of the marriage
ceremony, the bride makes breakfast for her in-laws.
In death, people must continue to be treated with honor and respect.
The death rites are usually performed by a priest of another religion.
Once the dead is laid to rest it is very important to maintain the
gravesite. If the spirit world is unhappy then this can have
repercussions on the physical world.
The beliefs and teachings of Confucianism were documented into
scripture. Confucian scripture consists of four books and five classics.
The four books are:
? The Lun Yu (Analects) -This book contains many saying of Confucius
? The Chung Yung
? The Ta Hsueh
? The Meng Tzu
The five classics of Confucianism are:
? Shu Ching – Classic of History
? Shih Ching – Classic of Odes, consisting of poems and songs
? I Ching – Classic of Changes
? Ch’un Ch’iu – History of Confucius’ home province of Lu
? Li Ching – Classic of Rites
Confucianism became the accepted state ideology and orthodoxy under the
Han Dynasty (206 BC – 220 AD). Emperor Wu (140 – 87 BC) wanted to use
Confucius’ doctrine to guide and maintain law and order, but
Confucianism soon came to extend far beyond that. Books and lectures
about Confucius’ moral principles and responsibilities began to spread
across China. Duty to people and the state were emphasized. Confucian
works “formed the basis of civil service examinations” (Confucian
Schools of Thought, Confucianism).
Confucians were divided into at least eight schools of thought with
each claiming to be the true teaching of Confucius after his death.
These schools differed in respect to rituals, sacrifices, and sacred
dress. Eventually, two major schools of thought would form. Mencius (372
- 289 BC) would bring the first.
Mencius believed that “humanity was the innate virtue of men” (Eber
29). He believed that a person’s innate goodness “can become depraved
through one’s own destructive effort or through contact with an evil
environment” (Confucian Schools of Thought, Confucianism). Mencius took
Confucius’ beliefs about relationships with people and equated them with
society. He saw righteousness as a social standard that helped determine
and shape a person’s conduct. For a person to have humanity and
righteousness, society must exhibit it, but society must in turn get it
from the people. He is also responsible for writing one of the four
books: The Meng Tzu.
The second school was brought about by Hsun-Tzu. Hsun-Tzu disagreed
with Mencius. He believed that people naturally possess an evil nature
but it can be corrected through moral education. For Hsun-Tzu the answer
to morality lied within rituals and ceremonies (Eber 35). Hsun-Tzu
thought that rituals would help establish social guidelines that would
lead people to moral goodness.
After the Han Dynasty came to an end, Taoism and Buddhism started to
emerge and Confucianism became less prominent. Confucianism would not
rise in popularity again until the Tang Dynasty (618 – 907 AD). During
this period, a new form of Confucianism would appear, known as
Neo-Confucianism. It fused together beliefs of Confucianism, Taoism, and
The influence of Confucianism can still be seen today in many Chinese
festivals. One such festival is the Duan Wu Yjie, or the Dragon Boat
Festival. The festival is in honor of a Chinese patriot and
Confucianist, Qu Yuan.
Qu Yuan was born around 340 BC, in a time known as The Warring States.
He was a nobleman in the kingdom of Chu, so he had the privilege of
being educated from youth. Word of his intellect eventually spread to
King Huai and he was appointed to his court in his twenties.
Qu Yuan felt that the state of Qin possessed the largest threat to the
state of Chu so at his suggestion, the six-nation alliance was formed.
In Chu Qu Yuan learned of the people’s disdain with the aristocracy so
he attempted to suggest to King Huai to attract better people to the
court. Before he could succeed, the court convinced the king that Qu
Yuan was arrogant and was not showing him the proper respect so Qu Yuan
was dismissed from his court post.
With Qu Yuan away, the king of Qin tricked King Huai into coming under
the ruse of peace talks. Once there, King Huai was imprisoned in the Qin
court and died three years.
Qu Yuan went on to wander around aimlessly through life, moving from
place to place, watching helplessly as the Qin began to take over his
home. To see his people suffering made him so distraught that over time
he withered away becoming frail and old. Left with nowhere to turn, Qu
Yuan ended his own life by jumping in the Mi Luo River.
Once news of his death spread, the people began an exhaustive, but
unsuccessful, search for his body in the river. Realizing that they
would not find it, they threw rice wrapped in leaves into the river so
that the fish would not disturb him.
Today, on the fifth of May in the Lunar month, people make rice wrapped
in leaves and race boats to honor Qu Yuan.
Despite the celebration of lavish festivals, however, it is believed
that Confucianism will never again be formally practiced in China. It
has succumbed to a communist government that has no place for it.
Religions of the World CD-ROM- Mentorom Multimedia – 1995
The World Book Multimedia Encyclopedia 1997