Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Confucianism Overview." Faithology.com. Faithology, 6 March 2013. Web. 19 June 2013.
Elacqua, J., et. al. (2013, Mar 6). Confucianism Overview. Faithology.
Elacqua, Joseph, et. al. "Confucianism Overview" Faithology, LLC. Last modified March 6, 2013.
Faithology, LLC, 2012. (Accessed Jun 19, 2013).. Confucianism Overview.
- Last Updated: March 6, 2013
- Originally Published: July 18, 2012
Confucianism is a philosophy comprised of the teachings of Confucius, who lived around 551-479 BCE. Confucius originally sought to become a government official, wandering from region to region within China, attempting to find an office in need of his philosophy on government. Unable to enter office, he instead became a wandering teacher, expounding his political philosophy to his students. Though no written works survive by Confucius’s own hand, his followers have been credited with collecting his teachings in a book called the. However, this text may not have reached its final form until the 1st century BCE.
The Analects describe several virtues that Confucius taught were important for the ruler of China and Chinese society in general. The virtue he is most often remembered for is that of, the belief that sons should respect and be faithful to their fathers.
The Five Main Confucian Virtues: The main way to become a person of moral quality is through cultivation of five main Confucian virtues:
- , Justice
- Self-cultivation: Self-cultivation is stressed in Confucianism. Great significance is placed on the ability of each individual to learn, to become educated, and to eventually become a moral and upstanding person.
- Filial Piety: Another popular Confucian belief is that of filial piety. At its core, this concept teaches that one’s body is a gift from his or her parents and it should thus be spared from harm whenever possible. Filial piety includes service to one’s parents as well as one’s ruler. It also states that one should strive to become established in the world and glorify his or her parents when doing so.
- Confucius established this around 551-479 BCE.
- Confucianism was expanded by Mencius (c. 372-289 BCE) and other later scholars.
- In 213 BCE, the First Emperor of China is said to have ordered the burning of all literature—Confucian texts included—unrelated to medicine, divination, agriculture, and the history and government of his own dynasty.
- The following year, in 212 BCE, the First Emperor is recorded to have had more than 460 primarily Confucian scholars slaughtered due to their public criticism of his well-known cruelty.
- Zhu Xi (1130-1200 CE) alters the Confucian , raising the Analects and three other texts to the status of canon. These texts become known as the “Four Books.”
- Despite experiencing various periods of decline and revival, Confucianism remained extremely influential within the realm of Chinese politics from its conception up until the of Chinese Communism in 1949.
The Five Classics and the Four Books of China
Important to not only Confucianism, but to all Chinese religions, is a collection of texts commonly referred to as the "Five Classics". These texts, which are said to have been composed during Chinese antiquity, are often thought to have been compiled, edited, or otherwise commented on by Confucius.
The conventional English titles of the Five Classics are:
- The Classic of the Rites
- The Spring and Autumn Annals
Each of these texts has a prominent place in Chinese history, and several of them are utilized throughout a handful of different religions in East Asia.
During the Song dynasty (960-1279 CE), Zhu Xi created a collection of Confucian canonical texts. This collection is called the "Four Books."
- The Mencius, named after its author, and the Analects are the two most prominent of the Four Books.
- The other two, not technically “books,” are actually two chapters of the Liji: "Daxue" and "Zhongyong".