Confucianism Summed up in Three Hundred Words

This is a very concise summary of Confucius and his thoughts. This is not meant to be comprehensive, but the core ideas of Confucianism are presented here.

1. Who is Confucius?

A spiritual leader and teacher born 2500 years ago, Confucius is recognized as a culturally symbolic figure of Chinese thinking. He was the founder of the School of the Literati, but there is no record of his own writing. His teachings were preserved and compiled into Analects by his disciples. Confucius, which is the latinized form of his name, is known in China as Kong Zi.

2. The Core Tenets of Confucianism

Confucianism has two pillars in its teachings:

  • Family ethics Since parents give life to their children and raise them, the children are indebted to their parents and should treat the parents with submission and gratitude. The primary virtue of the children is to be obedient and to respect the absolute parental authority.
  • Political philosophy On the basis of its family ethnics, Confucius developed his political philosophy — the subjects owe absolute loyalty to the emperor; each one in the society should fulfill his or her duties associated with their social roles. In this way, an orderly society is created.

Confucius expected the ruler to “rule by moral force”, but he didn’t say what to do if the ruler chose to be immoral.

3. Its Influence on Chinese Society

His political philosophy was an important factor in maintaining an ultra-stable agricultural society in China. An ideal society is established, if everyone carries out the responsibilities designated by his social roles. This idea has been echoed by the Chinese government in its recent initiative to build a “harmonious society”.

His teachings on ethics shaped the Chinese national character. Members in both the family and the society are expected to treat each other with benevolence and civility. The idea of a gentleman, who should continuously pursue self-cultivation and self-elevation in order to serve his family and country, explains the emphasis on education in Chinese culture.

4. A Summary in Confucius’ Own Words

  • On government There is government, when the emperor is emperor, and the minister is minister; when the father is father, and the son is son.
  • On social harmony What you do not desire for yourself, do not do to others.

2 Replies to “Confucianism Summed up in Three Hundred Words”

  1. I visited a “Confucian Temple” in QuanZhou last week. I wondered if it is/was authentic. Is/was Confucius associated with temple “worship”?

  2. Hi Sharon,

    Thank you for visiting my site and leaving a comment.

    I think people worship Confucius as a great spiritual master, not as a deity. Parents visit the his temple with their kids to commemorate him as the “master of all teachers”, and tell their kids to study hard.

    It just occurred to me that it is actually a shrine, not a temple. Like the the temple of the national hero Yue Fei, it is a memorial.

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