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Confucius (Kung Fu-Tzu)* (551-479 BC). *Family name = Kung (Kong) Personal name = Zhong-ni Kung Fu-Tzu (Kong Fu- zi ) = “Master Kung” “Confucius” = Latinization of “Kung Fu-Tzu”. Historical backdrop:Confucius ' China.

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confucius kung fu tzu 551 479 bc

Confucius (Kung Fu-Tzu)*(551-479 BC)

*Family name = Kung (Kong)

Personal name = Zhong-ni

Kung Fu-Tzu (Kong Fu-zi) = “Master Kung”

“Confucius” = Latinization of “Kung Fu-Tzu”

historical backdrop confucius china
Historical backdrop:Confucius' China

Confucius lived in the “warring states” period of China. Wandering warlords of little virtue were overthrowing legitimate kings.

He was concerned about where his society was going; leaders weren’t caring well for society. Petty wars were constantly erupting.

Society was emphasizing less education, writing, the arts. Families were in discord. Peasants were being unjustly burdened with heavy taxes to support their own life of luxury.

Confucius worked his way up through government posts until age 50. He retired in frustration and began 30 years of teaching, which he saw as transmitting old wisdom from the sage kings). He did not see it as innovation, he was renewing age old values in a spirit of conservative renewal.

the 5 chinese classics
The 5 Chinese Classics

Taoist: the oldest writings.

Source: Lao Tzu

I Ching (Book of Changes)

The Book of Rites

The Book of Poetry

The Spring & Autumn Annals

The Analects

Some add Mencius’ (a later disciple of Confucius) The Great Learning and The Doctrine of the Mean.

Believed to be edited by Confucius

Believed to be written by Confucius

Shang (1,766 - 1,122 B.C.)

Neolithic China

Oracle bones, human sacrifice, bronze works advanced.

(770 - 256 B.C.)

Chou (Zhou) (1,122 - 771 B.C.)

In the later period of Zhou dynasty, the ruler only governed the country in name with true power lying in the hands of powerful nobles. Internal conflict and power struggle intensified. Wars between the states were regular. The Eastern Zhou is chronologically divided into two subperiods-the Spring and Autumn Period and the Warriors Period.

West Chou dynasty was a Golden Age and the time of Confucius. Agricultural made great progress, tools improved. Slave Society.

Qin (Chin)– Legalism (short lived)

Chou (Zhou) decays into Warring States (475 - 221 B.C.)

(221 - 207 B.C.)

Han - Confucianism

(206 B.C. - 220 A.D.)

1000 schools

confucianism 550 bc
Confucianism (550 BC)

The Grand


Humanism: a term from the European renaissance/reformation that states that man should be the center of our view of the world (not God).

Confucianism is essentially humanistic: human relationships are the key to virtue, happiness, a good life and a good society.

Li= the rules of social order.

No li, no peace.

The mandate of heaven =

how things are meant to be.

Rulers must win the mandate of heaven. Lose it and they will fail, the kingdom will suffer and fall from power

Confucianism has a positive view of human nature. It just has to be nurtured properly. How?

1. The Rectification of Names

2. The 5 Great Relationships

3. Ritual

4. Education

1. Confucian beliefs start with human experience and immediate human relationships: family, work and station in life. The main goal in Confucian thought is to live a moral and responsible and fruitful life within this context.

2. Education: learn your past, your culture, your history, great heroes, sages.

3. Cultivate goodness and good practice. Become a Chuntzu: a good role model. Lead by example.

4 Ritual .that shows respect for ancestors and others in societal roles. “He who does not know the rites, cannot make his stand.”.

5. Don’t lead society by force or fear ; use example, ritual, and encouraging . (Ideally, we would need no laws: very optimistic).

The primary sources of Confucian philosophyConfucius claimed to derive his teachings from “the Ancients,” whose wisdom is embodied in “The Five Classics” (Wu Jing)
  • The I Jing (“Book of Changes”)
  • The Shu Jing (“Book of History”)
  • The Shih Jing (“Book of Odes” [poetry])
  • The Li Ji (“Book of Rites”)
  • The Ch’un-ch’iu (“Spring & Autumn Annals”)
major expressions of confucian philosophy after confucius
Major expressions of Confucian philosophy after Confucius
  • Analects (Lun-Yu)
  • The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong)
  • The Great Learning (Ta-hsueh)
  • The Book of Meng-Tzu

“The Four Books” (Ssu-chu)

(Mencius, 371-288 BC)


The ancient State of Lu

That’s where Confucius was born & spent most of his life.

chronology of chinese history
Chronology of Chinese History
  • c. 6000 BC: Prehistory (belief in life after death; bone divination) - legendary Hsia Dynasty (c. 1994-1500 BC)
  • c. 1500-1040 BC: Shang Dynasty (polytheism; spiritism; ancestor veneration; bone & shell divination)
  • 1040-256 BC: Zhou (Chou) Dynasty (feudal era & classical age; rise of Shang-Ti & “Mandate of Heaven;” ancestor veneration & divination practices; continued belief in spiritism; interest in life-prolongation & immortality;

8th-5th centuries BC - period of disorder; emergence of classical Chinese philosophies:Confucianism, Daoism, Mohism, Legalism, etc.) - Era of Warring States (475-221 BC)

  • 221-207 BC: Qin (Ch’in) Dynasty (“The Burning of the Books” in 213 BC) - Legalism enthroned; Confucianism attacked
chronology continued
206 BC-25 AD: Former Han Dynasty (beginnings of official state Confucianism)

25-220 AD: Later Han Dynasty (rise of Chinese Empire; imperial state religion; Confucianism established as the official philosophy of the Chinese state; the coming of Buddhism)

220-280 AD: The Three Kingdoms - Wei (220-266); Shu (221-263); Wu (222-280) (decline of Confucianism; rise of Daoism & Buddhism)

266-316 AD: Jin (Chin) Dynasty

316-589 AD: Era of North- South Division - 16 Northern Kingdoms (301-439); 5 Southern Kingdoms (317-589) (rise of Daoist religion; continued spread of Buddhism)

581-618 AD: Sui Dynasty

618-907 AD: Tang Dynasty (high point for Buddhism & Daoism; 9th century Confucian reaction against Buddhism)

Chronology, continued
chronology continued1
Chronology, continued

10th-13th centuries AD: Rise of Neo-Confucianism; spread of Chan (Zen) Buddhism

  • 907-960 AD: Five Northern Dynasties; Ten Southern Kingdoms
  • 960-1127 AD: Northern Sung (Song) Dynasty
  • 1127-1279 AD: Southern Sung (Song) Dynasty
  • 1264-1368 AD: Yuan (Mongol) Dynasty (established by Kublai Khan)

(development of popular religious sects)

  • 1368-1644 AD: Ming Dynasty(Mongols out, Chinese emperors in; Confucianismreestablished; Roman Catholicism arrives _Matteo Ricci.)

Anti-Confucian policy

chronology continued2
1644-1911 AD: Qing (Ch’ing) (Manchu) Dynasty - peak of Confucian (bureaucratic) authority; increasing influence of the West

1911-1912 AD: Chinese Revolution

Republic of China (1912-1949 [mainland]; 1945-present [Taiwan])

People’s Republic of China (Communism) (1949-present)

Chronology, continued

Confucianism outlawed and in decline. Religion only allowed if state-controlled.

central concepts in confucian thought
Central concepts in Confucian thought


Ontology & Cosmology

  • Dao (“Way”) - the Ultimate; the One; the Absolute; the underlying Power; the Source (see Text, pp. 11-12)
  • Yin/Yang - the dual expression of Dao; neither is superior to the other (see next slide)
  • The Plural World - the universe; Heaven & Earth; an ever-changing expression & blend of Yin & Yang

(Heaven is Yang in relation to Earth; and Earth is Yin in relation to Heaven; but each is, in itself, a blend of both Yin & Yang.)

yin yang
Yin & Yang

















Earth & moon

Heaven & sun

Yin & yang is not a “good vs bad” type dualism. Good is achieved when the right balance and mix is achieved between yin and yang in a given thing/situation.

a basic difference between the
"A basic difference between the

Chinese conception of yin and yang and other classical philosophical dualisms…is that whereas most dualisms are forever in conflict, yin and yang always act in harmony, and both are considered to be necessary to maintain the order of the universe." (Bilhartz 262)

anthropology human nature the human predicament
Human nature:

naturally & inherently good - need for cultivation via education

naturally social & political - development & perfection of human nature within the social & political realm

The human predicament:

suffering as a result of failure to follow the “Way of the Ancestors”

Disharmony & conflict between Heaven & Earth, between the ancestors & us; and between humans here on earth

Solution of problem of suffering: reestablish harmony

Confucian metaphysics, continued

Anthropology(Human Nature & the Human Predicament)
confucius s primary goal

Confucius’s primary goal:

order, harmony, peace, & happiness in this life here on earth

He had only a secondary interest in “transcendental” salvation, and avoided speculating about the gods, heaven, the nature of the soul and the creation of the world.

confucius axiology theory of value
Confucius’ Axiology(Theory of Value)
  • Philosophy of art (aesthetics) - the moral & political purposes of art (especially music)
  • Moral philosophy (ethics) - the center of Confucian philosophy
  • Social & political philosophy (theory of government) - the need for morally & intellectually virtuous rulers & civil servants
central themes in confucian ethical theory
The Chun-Tzu - the ideal of the Superior (self-actualized, virtuous, perfected) Person

The Chun-Tzu is an exemplification of ideal virtue, of Yi, of Ren, of Li, and of Hsiao – see following slides….

Central themes in Confucianethical theory:
Ren (jen) - virtue
    • Negative formulation: Confucius’ Silver Rule from the Analects:
    • Positive formulation: cultivation of feeling (respect, empathy, compassion, love, reciprocity ) for all humanity
yi righteousness just and appropriate conduct
Yi - righteousness, just and appropriate conduct.
  • Confucianists, believe that there is an objective, absolute, and unconditionalmoral obligation on all of us to work for universal human well-being(the common good, the general welfare, which will include one's own true good):\
li propriety proper conduct
The Rectification of Names (Zheng-ming) (proper use of language)

The Doctrine of the Mean (Zhongyong)

The Five Constant Relationships:



elder sibling-younger sibling

elder friend-younger friend


Confucian ethics, continued

Li - Propriety (proper conduct)
filial piety xiao hsiao devotion to reverence for parents family
Confucian ethics / Li, continuedFilial Piety (Xiao, Hsiao)(devotion to & reverence for parents & family)
  • The institution of the family is the foundation of a well-ordered & civilized society (grounded mainly on respect of children for parents)
  • Respect for age (experience & wisdom)
religious propriety
Tomb of Confucius, Qufu.

Religious Propriety

Confucian ethics / Li, continued

proper practice of traditional rites

(worship of God, ancestors, Heaven, Earth, spirits; funeral services & sacrifices in honor of parents)

Modern examples from Western culture:

1. Demeanor is important. Imagine a wedding were the bride and groom repeated there vows without any emotion or involvement.

2. The routine response to a sneeze “God bless you” is an example of Li. It seems trivial, but indicates concern for the person. Good habits have good effects.

Li chi , or The Book of Rites , catalogs the many rituals that make up ancient Chinese life.

wen learning the arts
The importance of culture in the creation & maintenance of a well-ordered society

Confucian ethics (& aesthetics?), continued

Wen(learning & the arts)
  • Studying & learning
  • The arts - especially music

(Confucius composed a “Book of Music” [Yueh Jing], which is sometimes referred to as a “sixth classic.”)

confucius political philosophy
Confucian axiology, continuedConfucius’ Political Philosophy
  • Te - the union of power & virtue
  • The characteristics of a good ruler (or civil servant):
    • moral goodness (virtue & propriety)
    • rationality
    • moderation
    • benevolence