(551—479 bc) Chinese philosopher

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(551–479 bc) (Chinese, K'ung fu-tzu, venerable master Kung)

Born in poverty in Shantung, Confucius rose to become a major administrator in his native state. In 496 bc he began a period of wandering with the intention of persuading the various rulers he came among to practise his moral doctrines. Settling once more he became the most celebrated teacher of poetry, history, and moral philosophy of Chinese history. His sayings were collected by pupils in the Lun Yü or Analects, which form the principal source for his philosophy.

Confucius lived at a time of gross civil disorder, as rival warlords shared out the power of the crumbling Chou dynasty. His philosophy is aimed at injecting moral principle into the exercise of political power: to substitute government by virtue for government by force. By cultivating humanity (jen), a person becomes great in personal and public life, and when all individuals do this, happiness will be achieved. Doing this requires observing the rules of propriety (li) embedded in social life, so Confucianism also stands for a defence of the moral significance of the extant traditional forms of social order. Li is the principle that channels respect for each other and for the world, and regulates human nature. the Way (tao) is to live within the structures of the social order. adopting the virtues appropriate to a son, mother, ruler, etc.

Subjects: Religion.

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