Religion forms a fundamental part of a community. One of the major religions in China is Confucianism founded by Kung Fu-tse, a Chinese sage. The name ‘Confucius’ is the Latin name for Kung Fu-tse. Confucianism not only exists in China but has also in Korea and Japan. Additionally, nearly 26,000 people in North America strongly belief in Confucianism. Research has shown that the religion has more than six million followers around the globe. Unlike other World religions, followers of Confucianism believe neither in the existence of a supreme being nor in life after death. Owing to this, many people argue that it is not a religion since the two are the main characteristics of most of the other religions. This paper seeks to give a detailed account of the religion with specific interest on its founder as well as its other significant aspects.
Historians believe that Confucius (Kung Fu-tse) was the founder of Confucianism. They gave them the credit because he gave Confucianism beliefs a concrete structure. Most of the Confucianism beliefs and principles existed in even before the rise of the Zhou dynasty in 1122 BC long before Confucius was born (Yung, 1961, p.82). Although he met many challenges during his lifetime, he became an icon in the religious as well as philosophical history of China.
Confucius was born around 551 BC in Luyhan village, which is part of Qufu city currently known as the Shadong province. To his parents, Confucius was an answer to prayers they had made at the sacred hill known as Ni. He came from a humble background. From his childhood, he knew that he needed to learn a lot to acquire the knowledge essential for bringing change in his community. At the age of fifteen, he started learning the Way. At the age of twenty-two Confucius began his own school. His students were a major part of his life as he would impart the knowledge that he acquired to them. According to Weiming, he taught six disciplines namely history, government, music, poetry, propriety and divination (1985, p. 40). Importantly, he did not have any form of discrimination against his students as he treated all of them equally despite of their varying social status. At the age of nineteen, he married and fathered a son. However, he divorced at the age of twenty-three. Besides teaching, Confucius pursued a political career, which he intended to use as a platform for imparting morality in the society.
Historians believe that at the age of fifty Confucius had already joined politics. He held a ministerial position in the Ministry of Public Works. He also served as a minister of Justice under the office of the Prime Minister (Yu, 2005, p. 63). However, his political ambitions were shuttered when he was forced to leave the public office at the age of fifty-five. Scholars argue that the contemporary leaders were afraid of Confucius’ integrity as well as candor to allow him to hold any position that involved exercise of power. Following his resignation, in the company of his disciples, he spent the next twelve years wandering in other parts of the world searching for a political position to no avail. During this period, he faced many hardships including being jailed at some point. Eventually, he went back home. Upon his return, he got a position as the legal advisor to the Duke of Ai. Besides being an advisor, he continued teaching his students whose numbers were growing from one year to the other.
As aforementioned, Confucius played a pivotal role in the establishment as well as the continuity of Confucianism. He purposed to bring a solution to the many problems that he saw in the world that he lived. He emphasized on the political theory. This theory states that a legitimate ruler derives his/her authority from the heaven’s command and he is solely responsible for his subject’s well being. It also holds that the ruler is responsible for the peace and order in the empire. Owing to the fact that this theory was in line with the feudal ruling in Ancient China, the rulers embraced Confucianism as a major school of thought.
He was also instrumental in the propagation of the Confucianism philosophy. He pursued perfection, truth, kindness as well as an ideal society throughout his life. By so doing, he portrayed a good example to most of his followers as far as Confucianism philosophy is concerned. The philosophy seeks a peaceful or rather harmonious society, which is not dependent on financial or feudal merit (Weiming, 1985, p. 75). A society based on not only ultimate goodness but also moral equality of all humanity.
His teachings were also fundamental to the existence of the religion. Concerning human behavior, he taught his followers the five basics that he believed were the core aspects for a harmonious society. He taught them to be always considerate to other people irrespective of their social status. He also taught them to uphold respect for their ancestors and to strive for harmony besides balancing all things in life. His students were to avoid extremes in not only behavior but also in emotions. Additionally, he taught them if anyone wanted to live in peace and harmony then they had to be in contact with the spiritual forces of the universe inclusive of nature. Among his teachings were also five basic virtues, which are sobriety, trustworthiness, righteousness, wisdom and kindness. Besides his teachings, he also dedicated some of his time in editing some of the Confucian books. He edited the Book of History, Book of Songs, Book of Rites as well as the Spring and Autumn Annals. Additionally, he wrote the preface for the Book of Changes. He also reinforced the golden and silver rules, which emphasize on humaneness in the society. By the time he died, at the age of 73, he had 3,000 followers and 72 disciples.
The followers of Confucius do not believe in the existence of god. Owing to this fact, many people dismiss its religiosity and regard it as a way of thinking. However, Confucius perceived heaven as a kind of a god, which shows that there is more to Confucianism than just a code of behavior. Before his death, Confucius’ followers did not worship him in any way but after his death, they built temples in his owner. They also worship him in the temple.
Unlike other religions, Confucianism does not have any special days but have rituals. The sole purpose of the rituals is to honor their ancestors. The rituals can take place at any time of the year. However, the Confucius day, September 23-Confucius birthday is an important day in Confucianism. The followers of Confucianism celebrate this day to honor their leader besides offering tribute to their teachers. In Confucianism, there is no special clothing (Yu, 2005, p. 53). However, during special events they might wear robes, which resemble Buddhist robes.
There are nine important texts in Confucianism, which include four books and five classics. One of the books is the Analects of Confucius ( Lun Yu) which comprises of the sayings and teachings of Confucius. His students compiled it after his death. The others include Doctrine of the Mean (Chung Yung), The Great Learning (Ta Hsueh) and the Meng Tzu. The Meng Tzu comprises of writings of one of Confucius disciples. Among the classics is the Classic of History (Shu Ching) which comprises of speeches and writings of ancient Chinese rulers and the Classic of Odes (Shi Ching) which has three hundred songs and poems. The Classic of Changes (I Ching) contains a description of the Confucianism divinatory system including the sixty-four hexagrams. The Spring and Autumn Annals (Ch’un Ch’iu) form part of the classics and gives a history of Lu from 722-484 BC. The Classic of Rites (Li Ching) is the fifth classic, which comprises of a group of three books centering on the rites of propriety.
Confucianism was named after the name of its founder, Confucius. He was one of the Chinese sages and played a major role in structuring the religion’s belief system. He had political ambitions, which he hoped to use as the platform for bringing change regarding morality in the society. However, his political career was not successful. However, his passion for teaching played a pivotal role in bringing up a group of people who believed in his approach to life-his students. They helped him establish as well as propagate the religion in China and other countries such as Korea, Japan and the Northern part of America. For instance, in strengthening their faith, his students built temples after his death that became their place of worship.
Weiming, T. (1985). Confucian Thought : Selfhood as Creative Transformation. Albang: Sunn
Yu, A.C. (2005). State of Religion in China: Historical and Textural Perceptions. Chicago: Open
Yung, C.K. (1961). Religion in Chinese Society: A Study of Contemporary Social Functions of
Religion and Some of their Historical Factors. Berkeley: University of California Press.
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