- Born: 552 BCE
- Died: 479 BCE
- Other Names: 孔子 (Kǒng Zǐ / Koushi, "Master Kǒng"), 孔夫子 (Kǒng Fūzǐ, "Our Master Kǒng")
- Chinese/Japanese: 孔丘 (Kǒng Qiū / Kou kyuu)
Kǒng Qiū, or Kǒng Zǐ (lit. "Master Kǒng"), commonly known in English as Confucius, was a philosopher of ancient China. His teachings, collected into the Analects of Confucius, along with the various forms of Confucianism and Neo-Confucianism they have inspired, have historically formed the core of political philosophy and moral education throughout East Asia.
Originally from Qufu in the state of Lu in what is today Shandong province, Confucius likely came from a well-to-do family, since he is known to have been educated in writing, music, and rites. His father died when Confucius was quite young. He is said to have pursued a career as a statesman, ultimately resigning when he found the task conflicted with his personal beliefs. He then traveled widely, accumulating followers and disciples, who after his death assembled his teachings into the Analects.
His teachings are wide-ranging, but can generally be said to be of a humanistic, or human-focused, nature. Confucius does not speak much about death, the spirit world, or the cosmos, but focuses on philosophies of upright behavior in everyday life and in actual society, through the theoretical example of the jūnzi (君子, J: kunshi), the proper gentleman. Among his teachings, he emphasized correct behavior in accordance to one's relationships, writing that fathers & sons, rulers & subjects, husbands & wives, brothers, and friends should each treat one another accordingly.
He also emphasized the use of moral force, or virtue (徳, C: dé, J: toku), and the power of setting an example, as a means for achieving order, over the use of violence or various methods of coercion. Three of the chief elements of moral uprightness, according to Confucius, were filial devotion, i.e. obedience to one's parents and ancestors (孝, C: xiào, J: kô or kyô), humanity or humaneness (仁, C: rén, J: jin or nin), and decorum or etiquette (礼, C: lǐ, J: rei).
- Main article: Confucianism
Confucianism was violently suppressed under the First Emperor of Qin (c. 210s BCE), but was revived and made the official state philosophy of the Han Dynasty in 139 BCE. In the centuries which followed, a number of Confucian temples were built. Emperor Taizong of Tang (r. 626-649) later ordered that temples to Confucius be constructed in every major city in the empire.
The Confucian Temple and Cemetery, and Kong Family House, in Qufu are today registered UNESCO World Heritage Sites. Though today managed by the local government (i.e. as public institutions), they were until at least the 1920s still held and managed as the private property of the Kong family - Confucius' lineal descendants - and the mansion in particular was open only to visitors with a formal introduction or invitation.
- Pamphlet available at Kume Confucian temple, Matsuyama Park, Naha, Okinawa, published by Kume Sôseikai.
- "Confucius and the Analects," Sources of Chinese Tradition, 41-63.
- The name "Confucius" was likely coined by Jesuit missionaries in 16th century China, who Latinized names in order to elevate certain scholars into an equivalence with the greats of Classical Greece & Rome. Other names Latinized in this way include Mencius (from Mengzi) and Swedish botanist Linnaeus (from Carl von Linné).
- Albert Craig, The Heritage of Chinese Civilization, Third Edition, Prentice Hall (2011), 15-18.
- James Flath, "Managing Historical Capital in Shandong: Museum, Monument, and Memory in Provincial China," The Public Historian 24:2 (2002), 45.