Confucius remains one of the most important philosophers in the history of the whole world, and also one of those who exerted the greatest influence on Western thought, especially Christianity (surprise?). Although Confucius himself reportedly did not write, his ideas were collected by his students and passed on to the world in various forms. I will present here a short biography of Confucius, including some tasty curiosities, fun facts, and funny quotes.
His thoughts were extremely universal and acquired a completely timeless meaning. He studied human nature and developed several virtues that were necessary for the smooth functioning of the entire society.
The main subject of Confucius' deliberations was the everyday life of people and the stability of society.
In his opinion, there are five basic virtues:
the rule of law,
These virtues, in turn, are realized in five duties or fundamental social relations:
between a ruler and an official,
father and son,
older and younger brothers,
husband and wife
and between friends.
According to him, the morality of the individual and the fundamental role of the family are the foundation and guarantee of the stability of the entire state. Education also plays a large role in shaping the social order, embracing the mind and aspects of the heart and spirit.
Filial piety (Chinese: 孝, xiào) was one of the most underlined virtues. This is the virtue of exhibiting the proper love and respect for one's parents, elders, and ancestors.
When did Confucius live?
Confucius lived in 551 - 479 BCE during the period of Zhou dynasty. Having lasted 789 years, the Zhou dynasty was the longest dynastic regime in Chinese history. The era in which he lived (722-479 BCE) is known as the Spring and Autumn period. The name derives from the annals, recorded each spring and autumn during these years, of significant events in his home state of Lu.
The original name of Confucius was Kong Fu-Tzu (meaning Master Kong), but in Latin, it became "Confucius." He was born in a small Chinese village in Lu County called Shan-tong in Shandong province.
He was the child of his father's second marriage. The father Kong was over 60 at the time of Confucius' birth and died when Confucius was 3 years old.
The father already had nine daughters from his first marriage, but he did not want to die without a son. So he made a deal with a poor widower who gave him his youngest daughter. The future mother of Confucius was only 13 years old at the time.
The family of Confucius' father belonged to a very noble, though impoverished, lineage. His ancestors were the half-brothers of the last Shang emperor and a relative to a Shung Prince.
However, the controversial nature of the father's second marriage condemned the mother of the future philosopher and Confucius himself to a life cut off from the family. The death of Confucius' father left his mother in enormous financial difficulties. However, she managed to provide the boy with an excellent education, which was certainly helped by the fact that from an early age, he showed a great willingness to learn.
Apparently, from an early age, Confucius was a great lover of books and at a very young age, he was able to celebrate the complex rituals of his time by himself. It is also said that he was not particularly handsome because he had a rather large head.
His original name was Qiu (丘), meaning "hill", possibly because of the bulging forehead, according to Chinese belief, signifying intelligence. He was also called Zhongni (仲尼). He spent his childhood in Qufu near Yanzhou, where from an early age he had to earn money for himself and his mother through physical work.
At 15, he started studying, which he paid for with hard work. Initially skilled in archery only, he was an overseer of sheep and oxen.
At the age of 19, he got married and started a clerk career. He became famous as an extremely learned man. He was successively the head of the granaries, the overseer of princely fields, and people who looked after the sacrificial animals.
Little is known about the son of Confucius. In turn, the philosopher's grandson was one of the great figures of Confucianism. His name was Kong Ji.
In 530 BC he founded a school where writing, rules of behavior, and basic knowledge were taught. After the outbreak of the rebellion in the state of Lu, he had to flee to the neighboring state of Qi. Upon his return to Lu, he became the steward of the next ruler, and later his close advisor.
He started repairing the state by reforming the burdensome tax system (he was an advocate of low taxes). He demanded that leadership be entrusted to "noble and learned people", regardless of their origin.
From 498 B.C.E. his students began to occupy the highest positions in the government. About 497 B.C.E. introduced a policy of tearing down walls in the cities of rebellious families, which resulted in a great deal of revolt and forced him to leave the principality.
As a result, for several years he wandered around neighboring countries in the company of several students, applying for a position with various rulers. And since he did not understand any of them, he was often starving.
In 483 BC returned to Lu and contented himself with being a teacher. He probably did not gather many disciples during his lifetime, although some Confucian sources exaggerate their number to 3,000. According to legend, when he died, his disciples mourned for 3 years, and the most faithful, Zigong, spent 6 years on the master's tomb, repeating:
"From the beginning of mankind until today there has been no man equal to Confucius"
He was buried in Qufu, where his grave is to this day. There is a forest that covers an area more than 8 kilometers in diameter, which according to legend has grown from several trees planted by Confucius' disciples in honor of his memory.
Teachings of Confucius
Confucianism in its original version was not a religion, but an ethical system, a science of how to be a good, socially valuable person. Confucius himself was suspicious of religion, seeing it as a dangerous superstition. When he was close to death, he would not allow anyone to pray for him. He captivated people with his honesty, integrity, and teaching enthusiasm.
Confucius argued that the moral sense of man is equivalent to the cosmic order of nature. In his teaching, he did not refer to supernatural forces at all, as the only one of the authors of great doctrines did not claim that it came from any divine source or inspiration unavailable to other people.
He was a traditionalist who guarded the broadly understood tradition. He taught impeccable manners and usefulness to the state and society.
He believed that each name implied something that makes up the essence of the thing to which the name refers. So things should be in harmony with this ideal being. So the reality should correspond to the name that defines it. Each name describing social relations gives rise to specific duties and responsibilities. Ruler, minister, father, and son - persons bearing these names must fulfill the obligations arising from the name.
Confucius often taught about the ren (humanitarian) man who has many virtues intertwined. Then humanity can be understood as a perfect virtue. In the daily practice of humanity, concern for others must be reflected. It is to him that the famous saying belongs:
"Do not do to others what you do not want for yourself" ("Dialogues" XII, 2)
From the idea of righteousness and the rule of law, Confucius derived the principle of action without reward, because every person has duties that must be fulfilled.
The value of actions does not lie in the effect but in the inner effort undertaken. One should act in the fulfillment of duties, and the results should be entrusted to the will of Heaven, fate, and destiny (ming).
To understand ming is to understand the inevitability of the world and therefore not to pay attention to external failures or successes, but to act and fulfill one's duties. The effect of doing so is happiness because we are free from anxiety about the success of our actions and from fear of failure.
Filial piety is central to Confucian role ethics. The Confucian Classic of Filial Piety thought to be written around the late Warring States-Qin-Han period, has historically been the authoritative source of the Confucian tenet of filial piety. This book is a dialogue between Confucius and his student Zengzi and explains how to set up a good society using the principle of filial piety. The time immediately following Confucius's life was a formative period in China's intellectual history and his ideas gained prominence during the famous Warring States period.
Two centuries later, when the Qin state conquered all of China, Confucian thought was put to a severe test. However, it survived criticism and despite the fact that Qin State Prime Minister Li Si had many Confucian scholars killed and their books burned, then flourished with even greater strength.
In summary, Confucianism was a system that emphasized the importance of hard work, loyalty, sacrifice, learning, and social order. For a thousand years, Chinese students at the beginning of each morning raised their hands in respect to Confucius. And the children recited the sentences of Confucius until they were permanently recorded in their memory.
Confucius became one of the most important people in Chinese history. In the 2nd century b.c.e. Confucianism was recognized in China as a state ideology. From the Han Dynasty onward, the practice of mourning rites came to be seen as the cornerstone of filial piety and was strictly practiced and enforced. This was a period of unrest, and the state promoted the practice of long-term mourning to reestablish its authority. Approx. 175 CE Confucius' maxims were carved on stone tablets and he was honored with the title of the Great Sage Teacher.
In 555, an imperial decree was issued ordering the construction of a temple in honor of the philosopher in each city that was the seat of the district authorities. In 637 his images began to be placed in schools.
During the reign of the Tang dynasty, the title of Supreme Master (665), the honorary royal title (739), and the title of First Saint (1013) was added to the above-mentioned title of Great Sage Teacher. So, as with the stories of other eminent teachers, his teachings were not well understood by the people or, to put it mildly, developed in a direction that the Master himself would not have wanted.
Another important event in the history of building his cult was the awarding of an honorary imperial title during the reign of the Song dynasty (1048). The reign of the Yuan and Ming dynasties brought him to be proclaimed the Great Teacher of the Nation and the Most Perfect, Most Pervasive, Most Venerable Teacher.
More than 70 of his direct students, including his only grandson, Zisi, continued the Confucian tradition and have become eminent Chinese scholars. They are credited with editing the most important books that make up the so-called "Confucian Classics":
The "Confucian Pentateuch" (to which also belongs the famous "Book of Changes", the Yijing) and
The "Confucian Four Books" (of which also "Book of Mengzi" belongs).
Until 1905, the set of these works was the basis of civil service examinations for candidates for state service in China.
During the Song dynasty, a scholar by the name of Zhu Xi (1130-1200 CE) infused the ideas of Daoism and Buddhism into Confucianism. Although Zhu Xi's ideas were largely ignored during his lifetime, they became the new orthodox view of what Confucian texts actually meant not long after his death. Modern historians view Zhu Xi's way of thinking as neo-Confucianism, which is rather different from traditional Confucianism. Neo-Confucianism had a significant influence in East Asian countries, namely China, Japan, Korea, and Vietnam until the 19th century.
Confucius - interesting fun facts and curiosities
Confucius' influence was so great that it was also reflected in Chinese cuisine. It is no coincidence that these dishes are prepared according to the balance of the five main flavors, and their food is associated with a specific label and philosophy. It is the most diverse and surprising cuisine in the world. The basic flavors are sweet, salty, sour, bitter, and spicy. And every real Chinese dish you try is surely a combination of these five flavors.
According to the Chinese government, there are currently over 2 million descendants of Confucius in the world. Only in the province of Shandong, in the east of China, where Confucius came from, more than 2 million people are called Kong, which - according to the Confucius Data Collection Committee - guarantees that they are descendants of this thinker. The latest data is the result of 10 years of work and is "the most complete and systematic compilation of Confucius' genealogy," said Kong Deyogn, who founded the committee and is a descendant of a 77th-generation philosopher. The first list was compiled in 1937 and it included 600 thousand. male Confucius descendants. The current one also includes women and Chinese living abroad.
The regime of China created the Confucius Peace Prize, which is the equivalent of the world Nobel Peace Prize. Among the winners of the Chinese Confucius Prize are such "peaceful individuals" as Vladimir Putin (2010) and Fidel Castro (2014). Again, this is probably not what Confucius meant ...
Confucius - funny quotes, sayings
At this point, it is worth mentioning one more important book that Confucius did not write himself, but it contains his thoughts. These are the famous "Confucian Dialogues", which contain a collection of golden thoughts, aphorisms, and parables of the great philosopher.
This book consists of 20 chapters and 473 verses and was most likely created by the second generation of Confucius's disciples. Although "The Confucian Dialogues" seems to be a disorganized book, there is one thing that holds it together. This is the previously mentioned concept of "ren". The word "ren" appears over a hundred times in this book. Why does this matter? When Confucius was asked to explain this concept simply during his lifetime, he replied: "to love people."
So let's reach for the wisdom of both the mind and the heart and learn the most interesting, funny quotes from Confucius:
Are you asking me why am I buying rice and flowers? I buy rice to survive and flowers to have enough to live for.
A carpenter who wants to do a job well must first sharpen his tools.
Ah, music, the sacred tongue of God! I hear thee calling and I come.
A journey of a thousand miles begins with one step.
A noble man tries to make others good. The simpleton does the opposite.
A noble man does not make promises, but does more than he has promised.
A noble man is guided by justice. Little man - by benefit.
And remember, no matter where you go, there you are.
Anyone can find the switch after the lights are on.
Better a diamond with a flaw than a pebble without.
Better not to start than to start not to finish.
Choose the profession you like and you will never be tired.
Do not impose on others what you yourself do not desire.
Don’t complain about the snow on your neighbor’s roof when your own doorstep is unclean.
Don't complain that it's hard for you going to the top.
Don't shoot the fly with the catapult.
Everything has beauty, but not everyone sees it.
First there must be order and harmony within your own mind. Then this order will spread to your family, then to the community, and finally to your entire kingdom. Only then can you have peace and harmony.
Forget injuries, never forget kindnesses.
Good people strengthen themselves ceaselessly.
He who conquers himself is the mightiest warrior.
He who learns but does not think, is lost! He who thinks but does not learn is in great danger.
If you think in terms of a year, plant a seed; if in terms of ten years, plant trees; if in terms of 100 years, teach the people.
I hear and I forget. I see and I remember. I do and I understand.
In a country well governed, poverty is something to be ashamed of. In a country badly governed, wealth is something to be ashamed of.
In the past, people learned for themselves, today they do it for show.
It does not matter how slowly you go as long as you do not stop.
It is easy to hate and it is difficult to love. This is how the whole scheme of things works. All good things are difficult to achieve, and bad things are very easy to get.
It is not courageous to know what is right but not to do it.
It is useless to learn but not to think, and it is dangerous to think but learn nothing
Learn avidly. Question it repeatedly. Analyze it carefully. Then put what you have learned into practice intelligently.
Learning without thought is labor lost; thought without learning is perilous.
Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated.
Never give a sword to a man who can't dance.
No doctor can be a good doctor if he has not been ill himself.
Only the wisest and stupidest of men never change.
Roads were made for journeys, not destinations.
Silence is a true friend who never betrays.
Straight-forwardness, without the rules of propriety, becomes rudeness.
Success depends upon previous preparation, and without such preparation there is sure to be failure.
There are many flowers on the tree of good intentions, but few fruits.
The expectations of life depend upon diligence; the mechanic that would perfect his work must first sharpen his tools.
The man who asks a question is a fool for a minute, the man who does not ask is a fool for life.
The true gentleman does not preach what he practices till he has practiced what he preaches.
The superior man is modest in his speech but exceeds in his actions.
The superior man thinks always of virtue; the common man thinks of comfort.
The virtue of a leader is like the wind; the virtue of the common people is like the grass. When the wind blows over the grass it will surely bend.
The way you cut your meat reflects the way you live.
The will to win, the desire to succeed, the urge to reach your full potential… these are the keys that will unlock the door to personal excellence.
There are three methods to gaining wisdom. The first is reflection, which is the highest. The second is limitation, which is the easiest. The third is experience, which is the bitterest.
There is nothing more visible than what is secret, and nothing more manifest than what is minute.
Those who cannot forgive others break the bridge over which they themselves must pass.
Three things cannot long be hidden: the sun, the moon, and the truth.
To be wealthy and honored in an unjust society is a disgrace.
To be wronged is nothing unless you continue to remember it.
To practice five things under all circumstances constitutes perfect virtue; these five are gravity, generosity of soul, sincerity, earnestness, and kindness.
To see and listen to the wicked is already the beginning of wickedness.
To understand yourself is the key to wisdom.
We should feel sorrow, but not sink under its oppression.
When death comes, the bird sings sadly and the man speaks good words.
When it is obvious that the goals cannot be reached, don't adjust the goals, adjust the action steps.
Wherever you go, go with all your heart.
Without knowing the power of words, it is impossible to get to know people.
You cannot open a book without learning something.
You are what you think.
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