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“Acquiring new knowledge by reviewing what you have learned, you are fit to be a teacher.”

“Gentlemen are in harmony without conforming, petty men echo each other without being in harmony."

“In the company of others, there is always one I can learn from, I shall pick out his merits to follow and his shortcomings to avoid.”

Introduction of Confucius

 Confucius ( 551 B.C.E.- 479 B.C.E.), was one of the famous educator, thinker and philosopher in Chinese history, whose teachings and philosophy have deeply influenced the civilization of China . Confucius’s original name was Kong Qiu, his disciples called him Master Kong (Kong Fuzi), which Western missionaries Latinized to “Confucius”.

 Personal Life. Confucius’s life, in contrast to his tremendous importance, seems starkly undramatic. He was born in 551 B.C.E. in the village of Zou (now near the city of Qufu ), in the Chinese State of Lu (now part of Shandong Province ) of an aristocratic family who had lost their wealth and position. His father, who died when Confucius was three, is said to have been a famous warrior of gigantic size and strength who was seventy years old when Confucius was conceived. He was brought up by his mother in poverty but received a good education. Tradition has it that he studied ritual with the Daoist Master Lao Dan, music with Chang Hong, and the lute with Music-master Xiang.

 Confucius is reported to have worked as a shepherd, cowherd, clerk and book-keeper when he was young. Legend has it that at the age of 50, Confucius ascended through the offices of Minister of Public Work and Minister of Justice to Prime Minister. Confucius’s political career was, however, short-lived. His loyalty to the king alienated him from the power holders of the time, and his moral rectitude did not sit well with the king’s inner circle, who enraptured the king with sensuous delight. At 56, when he realized that his superiors were uninterested in his policies, Confucius left the country in an attempt to find another feudal state to which he could render his service.

 During the next twelve years he began a long journey (or set of journeys) around the small kingdoms of Northeast and central China . At the courts of these states, he expounded his political beliefs but did not see them implemented.  Confucius returned home when he was 68. He spent his last years teaching disciples and transmitting the old wisdom via a set of texts called the Five Classics. Burdened by the loss of both his son and his favorite disciples, he died at the age of 73.

 Teachings. Confucius is known as the first teacher in China who wanted to make education broadly available and who was instrumental in establishing the art of teaching as a vocation, indeed as a way of life. He was the first person to devote his whole life to learning and teaching for the purpose of transforming and improving society. He believed that all human beings could benefit from self-cultivation. He put the greatest emphasis on the importance of study.   

 Confucius wished to be known as "a transmitter rather than as a maker," and as such he worked to revive the study of the ancient books. He was thought to be the editor or author of all the Five Classics, such as the Rites (Li Ji or Li Chi)(editor), and the Spring and Autumn Annals (Chun Qiu) (author). The Five Classics are regarded as the touch-stone of Confucian conduct and wisdom. Confucius’s teachings were later turned into a very elaborate set of rules and practices by his numerous disciples and followers who organized his teachings into the Analects ( Lunyu).  The Analects is considered the most reliable source of information about his life and teachings. The Analects form the foundation of much of subsequent Chinese speculation on the education and comportment of the ideal man, how such an individual should live his live and interact with others, and the forms of society and government in which he should participate. 

 Philosophy and Ethics.  Confucius’ principles gained wide acceptance primarily because of their basis in common Chinese tradition and belief. He championed strong familial loyalty, ancestor worship, respect of elders by their children, and the family as a basis for an ideal government. He expressed the well-known principle, "Do not do to others what you do not want done to yourself". He also looked nostalgically upon earlier days, and urged the Chinese, particularly those with political power, to model themselves on earlier examples.

 The Confucian theory of ethics as exemplified in Li (social propriety). Li is the greatest principle of living. When society lives by Li it moves smoothly.  Confucius saw the embodiment of this society in the idealized form of feudalistic government, illustrated by the Five Relationships: kindness in the father, filial piety in the son; gentility in the eldest brother, humility and respect in the younger; righteousness behavior in the husband, obedience in the wife; humane consideration in elders, deference in juniors; benevolence in rulers, loyalty in ministers and subjects. Li may also refer to the "middle way" in all things. Just as Li is the outward expression of the superior man, Ren (goodness, humaneness, love) is the inner ideal. Confucius taught that men should love one another and practice respect and courtesy. If Li and Ren were operative in a person, the end product would be the Confucian goal: the superior man.

 Confucianism. In the fourth and third centuries B.C., Mencius and Xun Zi both composed important teachings elaborating in different ways on the fundamental ideas associated with Confucius. In time, these writings, together with the Analects and other core texts came to constitute the philosophical corpus known in the West as Confucianism. Confucianism is a complex system of moral, social, political, philosophical and quasi-religious thought that has tremendous influence on the culture and history of China . After more than a thousand years, the scholar Zhu Xi created a very different interpretation of Confucianism which is now called New-Confucianism, to distinguish it from the ideas expressed in the Analects. Neo-Confucianism held sway in China and Vietnam until the 1800s.


Influence in Asia and Europe . Confucius works, words, are studied by many scholars in many Asian countries, such as Korea , Japan , Vietnam , etc., and many of those countries still hold the traditional memorial ceremony every year.  The works of Confucius were translated into European language through the agency of Jesuit scholars stationed in China .

 Descendants. Confucius's descendants were repeatedly identified and honored by successive imperial governments with titles of nobility and official posts.  Confucius’s family, the Kongs, has the longest recorded still extant pedigree in the world today. The father-to-son family tree, now in its 83rd generation, has been recorded since the death of Confucius. According to the Confucius Genealogy Compilation Committee, he has 2 million known and registered descendants, and there are an estimated 3 million in all.

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