大成至聖先師孔老夫子 Great Accomplishment, Holy and Exalted Teacher, Kong the Elder (Confucius)
Kong Qiu (September 28, 551 BC – April 11, 479 BC), with the courtesy name Zhongni and the honorific title Kongzi or Kongfuzi, was a philosopher and educator in the late Spring and Autumn period of the Eastern Zhou dynasty in China. He was born in the Zouyi village of Lu state, and his ancestors were noble families of the Song state, descendants of the Shang dynasty. Kong Qiu held important positions in the Lu government before leaving and traveling to other states for fourteen years. He was eventually welcomed back by the Lu Ai Gong and granted the title of Guolao, or “Ni Fu. Afterwards, Confucius began to edit the book “Spring and Autumn Annals”, acting as if he were a king despite not holding that position, and was known as “Su Wang (素王)”. As the founder and key representative of Confucianism, he is regarded as the “Supreme Sage” among the Four Sages of Confucianism. He advocated the virtues of benevolence, righteousness, propriety, wisdom, and faithfulness, and his teachings were recorded in the Analects, one of the most important Confucian classics. His ideas have had a profound impact on neighbouring regions such as the Korean Peninsula, Ryukyu, Japan, Vietnam, Southeast Asia, and overseas Chinese communities, which are collectively referred to as the Confucian cultural sphere.
名號與稱呼 Name and Title
During his lifetime, Confucius was praised as the “Divinely Ordained Sage” and the “Wooden Bell from Heaven.” During the Western Han dynasty, Dong Zhongshu proposed the policy of “solely honoring Confucianism,” and Emperor Wu of Han implemented it. Later rulers or followers of Confucianism successively honored Confucius as a saint, the Sage of Literature, the Sage of Sages, the Greatest Sage and Foremost Teacher, the Grand Master of Perfect Enlightenment, and the Exemplar for Ten Thousand Ages. In Taoism, he is referred to as the Taiji Supreme, Lord of the Mysterious Nine Abysses, Ruler of Culture, Emperor of Enlightenment, and the Great Teacher of Flourishing Scholars. Under the influence of the imperial court, Confucius’ status in folk society became increasingly elevated, and eventually, he was deified as the god of wisdom.
家系與出生 Family Lineage and Birth
Main article: Main article: Family lineage of Confucius and Confucius’ birthdate
Confucius was born in the state of Lu. His distant ancestor was a member of the royal family of the Shang dynasty. After The Battle of Muye, Confucius’ ancestors were enfeoffed to the state of Song.
Confucius’ ancestry can be traced back to Emperor Di Yi (帝乙) of the Shang dynasty, who was his 16th great-grandfather. His 15th great-grandfather was Song Gong Zhong (宋公仲), the second ruler of the State of Song. Kong’s 12th great-grandfather was Song Qian Min Gong (宋前閔公), and his 11th great-grandfather gave up his position to his younger brother, who became Song Li Gong (宋厲公) and appointed Kong’s ancestor as a high official. Kong’s 7th great-grandfather, Kong Fu Jia (孔父嘉), was a great minister of the State of Song but was killed during a palace coup. To avoid disaster, Kong Fu Jia’s son, Mu Jin Fu (木金父), fled to the town of Zou in the State of Lu and settled there as a high official.
Shuliang He, Confucius’ father, served as a nobleman in Zouyi, located in Changping County of Lu State. He had nine daughters with his first wife, but he longed for a son. He took a concubine and had a son named Meng Pi, who was handicapped. At the age of 72, he married for the third time to Yan Zhengzai, who was 18 years old. However, their marriage was considered an illicit union since it did not follow the rites. Confucius was born to them around the 22nd year of Lu Xiang Gong (551 BC). In order to have a son, Yan Zhengzai secretly went to Mount Ni to worship the deity there and pray for a child, which is why she named him Qiu with the courtesy name Zhongni.
According to legend, Confucius was born with a depression on the top of his head, which is why he was given the name “Qiu,” meaning “mound” or “hill.” Tang Dynasty scholar Sima Zhen explained that “圩頂” referred to a depression on the head, making Confucius’ head resemble an inverted house with a low center and high sides. Qing Dynasty scholar Chen Li also subscribed to this theory, stating that “孔子首形象邱，四方高，中下，故名丘焉” (Confucius’ head resembled a mound with high sides and a lower center, hence his name Qiu). In his book “A Brief Biography of Confucius,” historian Qian Mu also endorsed this explanation.
It is believed that Confucius was 9 feet 6 inches tall, with his height being measured differently depending on the period in which it was recorded. According to the Spring and Autumn period of Lu’s measurement system, his height should be around 186 centimeters, while during the Warring States period, it was estimated to be around 221.76 centimeters. Regardless of the system, he was nicknamed “the tall one” due to inheriting his height from his father. This was evident in the praise given by Meng Xianzi in “The Annals of Lu,” where Confucius’ father was commended for his ability to lift the city gate, likening him to the powerful man described in the Classic of Poetry.
早年教育 Early Childhood Education
Confucius’ early life was extremely difficult. He once said, “In my youth, I was poor and therefore able to do many lowly tasks.”
At the age of three, Confucius’ father, Shuliang He, passed away and was buried on Fangshan in the eastern part of the State of Lu. However, his mother did not disclose the location of the grave to him. Confucius was raised to adulthood by Yan, who had immigrated to Queli, Qufu.
Confucius, in his childhood, used to arrange ritual vessels (俎豆) used in sacrifices, and practiced performing rituals, as if playing a game.
At the age of 17, Confucius’ mother passed away, and he wished to bury his parents together. To find his father’s burial place, he halted his mother’s funeral procession at the crossroads of Wufu Street（五父之衢）and inquired of passer-by. A neighbour revealed the location of Shuliang He’s grave, and Confucius was finally able to bury his parents together near Fangshan. The following year, while mourning his mother, he was reprimanded and denied entry to a feast hosted by the Jisun family’s, although scholars have since cast doubt on this incident.
When Confucius was 19 years old, he worked for the Jisun clan, a noble family in the State of Lu, as a minor official in charge of clerical duties, appointments of officials, agriculture, and management of granaries and livestock. He married Qiguan Shi, a woman from Song, who gave birth to their son, Kong Li (also known as Boyu), the following year. Lu Zhao Gong sent li (鯉) as a congratulatory gift, and they named the child Kong Li. However, Kong Li died before Confucius, leaving behind a posthumous son, Kong Ji (also known as Zisi).
At the age of 23, Confucius began teaching and accepting students in rural areas, including Yan You (father of Yan Hui), Zeng Dian (father of Zeng Shen), and Ran Geng. In the 17th year of Lu Zhao Gong’s reign, Emperor Tan Zi of Tan visited Lu. Being learned and talented, Confucius, who was 27 years old at that time, went to see him out of admiration. Han Yu wrote in his essay “Shi Shuo (師說)” that “Confucius studied under Tan Zi.” Additionally, Confucius sought knowledge from Lao Zi on rituals, learned to play the drum from Shi Xiang Zi (師襄子), and inquired about music from Chang Hong (萇弘).
At around the age of 30, some of Confucius’ first batch of disciples came to him. Since then, Confucius had been engaged in the education industry, accepting a large number of students. It is said that he had 3,000 disciples and 72 wise students. He advocated teaching without discrimination and teaching according to the individual’s abilities, which made him a pioneer and representative of private teaching and academic decentralization at that time. Therefore, later generations respectfully refer to him as the “model teacher for all ages” and the “supreme sage and first teacher.”
適齊 Arrival in the state of Qi
At the age of 35, when Lu Zhao Gong was defeated by the Three Huan (Sanhuan Ji, Shusun Ji, and Mengsun Ji), and fled to the State of Qi, Confucius left Lu and went to Qi to serve as a retainer for the nobleman Gao Zhao Zi. Confucius once talked about music with the Qi Tai Shi (齊太師), and was so enchanted by the beautiful melodies of the Shao music that he forgot the taste of meat. Qi Jing Gong asked Confucius about politics. Confucius answered, “The ruler should behave like a ruler, the subject should behave like a subject, the father should behave like a father, and the son should behave like a son.” Jing Gong said, “Good! If the ruler does not behave like a ruler, the subject does not behave like a subject, the father does not behave like a father, and the son does not behave like a son, even if there is food, can I eat it?” On another occasion, Jing Gong asked Confucius about governing, and Confucius replied, “Governing is about frugality.” Jing Gong wanted to appoint Confucius as the Ni Xi Tian Dai Fu(尼谿田大夫), but was dissuaded by Qi Prime Minister Yan Ying, who believed that Confucius would disturb the culture of Qi. Later, when Jing Gong learned that someone was plotting against Confucius, he had no choice but to dismiss Confucius, who then returned to Lu and continued to teach and lecture.
初仕魯國 First Career in the State of Lu
In the ninth year of Duke Ding of Lu, at the age of 51, Confucius started his official career in the State of Lu. He was initially appointed as the Minister of Zhongdu (present-day Wenshang County, Shandong Province), and later, after one year, he became the Sikong (司空) of the Jisun clan. He was then further promoted to the position of Da Sikou (魯國大司寇) of Lu, during which he also served as an acting prime minister.
In the tenth year of Duke Ding of Lu, Duke Ding of Lu and Duke Jing of Qi met in Jiagu. Confucius successfully persuaded Qi to return Wenyang and other places occupied by Lu.
In the thirteenth year of Duke Ding of Lu, Confucius planned and implemented a political and military action called the “Destruction of the Three Dukes” in an effort to reduce the power of the three major families. His goal was to re-establish the authority of the Duke of Lu. He first attacked the Shusun family, then the Jisun family. However, he failed to besiege the Chengyi of the Mengsun family, and ultimately failed in his campaign.
In the fourteenth year of Duke Ding of Lu, Confucius executed Shao Zhengmao who had caused chaos in politics in Lu. However, some believe that the Shao Zhengmao incident was fabricated by later scholars influenced by Legalist thought.
As the state of Lu under Confucius’ rule was quite prosperous, it aroused the fear of the Qi people. Li Hao, a great official of Qi, designed to send a female musician to Lu so that Duke Ding of Lu would not interfere with the government, and made it difficult to bridge the moral and policy differences between Confucius and Duke Ding of Lu, Ji Huanzi and others.
周遊列國 Traveling around the country
After leaving the state of Lu, Confucius led his disciples to travel around the country, moving to Wei, Cao, Song, Zheng, Chen, Cai, Ye, and Chu, but they were not reappointed. During this period, in Kuang, Song, and Pu, Confucius and his disciples were trapped and in danger many times.
- 留衛期間 Period of staying in Wei
When Confucius arrived in Wei, on his way to Chen, he passed by the city of Kuang. He pointed to the gap outside the city and said, “Once upon a time, when I entered this city, I entered through that gap. Because Confucius was tall, he was misunderstood by the Kuang people as the Yang Hu of Lu and was arrested. Zi Lu was furious and prepared to fight, but was stopped by Confucius. During this journey, Confucius and his disciple Yan Hui became separated, and Confucius thought that Yan Hui had died.
The Duke of Wei provided Confucius with the same salary he had received while serving in Lu. After living in Wei for a while, he was criticized and left the country.
After staying in Pucheng for a few months, Confucius returned to Wei. Queen Nan Zi was very eager to meet him and sent people to force him to visit her. Confucius had to comply, but he faced her with his face turned towards the north, bowing and scraping, without daring to look at her. Nan Zi also offered him a second bow behind the curtains. Zi Lu was dissatisfied after learning that Nan Zi had met with Confucius, but Confucius understood it, and swore to Zi Lu to the heavens, saying “If I have done something wrong, let heaven sentence me!” A few months later, the Duke of Wei Ling and his wife Nanzi rode together with Confucius in second place and the rest of the officials behind them, waving and parading through the city. Confucius was ashamed of this, and when he was asked by Yan what the shame was, he exclaimed, “I have never met anyone who is more virtuous than lustful! Then he left the state of Wei.
- 過宋之危 Danger of passing through the Song country
After Confucius arrived in Song Country, he and his students studied ethics under a large tree. Song Minister Huan Qi wanted to kill Confucius and remove the tree. His students planned to leave quickly, but Confucius said, “As long as heaven has given me virtue, so what can Huan Bu Buang do to me?”
- 相失於鄭 Lost in Zheng
When Confucius was in the country of Zheng, he was separated from his disciples and stood alone at the east gate of the outer circuit. Someone told Zi Gong that there was a man at the east gate who had a forehead like Yao, a neck like Gao Yao, and shoulders like Zichan, and his legs were three inches shorter than Yu’s, but he was in such a mess that he looked like a “mourning dog”. The disciple finally found Confucius and told him this, Confucius smiled and said, “Comparing me to those religious figures is secondary. But comparing me to a ‘mourning dog’ is truly accurate and correct!”
- 受困陳蔡 Trapped in Chen and Chai Country
In the thirty-first year of King Jing of Zhou (the sixth year of Duke Liao of Lu, 489 B.C.), when Wu invaded Chen and Chu invaded Cai, King Zhao of Chu sent someone to invite Confucius to join him, and Confucius set out immediately. The minister of Chen and Chai were afraid that Confucius would be used by Chu, they besieged Confucius in the wilderness of Chen and Cai, where he and his followers were unable to move, and was deprived of food for seven days. Many of his disciples fell ill. Many of his disciples were unhappy, but Confucius continued to speak and recite. Later, he sent Zi Gong to Chu, and King Zhao of Chu raised his teachers to welcome Confucius. During Confucius’ stay in Chu, King Zhao wanted to grant him 700 miles of land, but the magistrate, Zi Xi, dissuaded him on the grounds that Confucius’ men were talented and if he received the land, he would threaten the rule of Chu.
晚年 Later life
After wandering for fourteen years, in the year before Year 484 BC, Confucius was welcomed back to the state of Lu by Ji Kangzi as a senior citizen, but he was not appointed by the Duke of Lu. During this time, Confucius focused on education and organizing ancient books. In 483 BC, Confucius’s son Kong Li died before his father. In 481 BC, Yan Hui died before him. Confucius expressed his feelings by saying “The disciples who followed me before and suffered hardships between the states of Chen and Cai are no longer with me. In the summer of the 14th year of the Duke of Liao’s reign, when Chen Heng of Qi killed his king, Confucius fasted and bathed for three days and pleaded with the Duke of Lu to invade Qi. Emperor Lu told him to ‘ask about it from the Jisun family’. Later, Confucius requested military assistance from Ji Kang Zi, but was rejected. Confucius died on March 9, 479 B.C. (March 9 in the sixteenth year of the Duke of Lu’s reign, March 9 in the Julian calendar, March 4 in the Gregorian calendar, February 11 in the summer calendar) at the age of 73 (71 years old, 73 years old in virtual age). He was buried on the bank of the Si River, north of Qufu City. His disciples served him for three years, and Zi Gong guarded his tomb for six years.
When looking back on his life, Confucius said, “At fifteen I set my mind to study, at thirty I was able to stand in the world, at forty I was no longer confused about things, at fifty I knew what could not be dictated by human hands and was happy to know what to do, at sixty I was able to listen to all kinds of different opinions, and at seventy I could do as I pleased, take what I wanted, but not go beyond the rules.”
思想方面 Aspects of thought
「仁」的人生哲學 The philosophical aspect of life with the concept of benevolence
Confucius would speak about “benevolence” to different disciples and at different times, and teach according to their abilities. Generally speaking, Confucius’ “ren” is just the word “loyalty and forgiveness” as Zeng Zi said. Confucius also said, “A person who is strong, resolute, simple, and careful with his words is close to benevolence.” And “Those who are flowery and pretentious are rarely benevolent.” This is telling us that “benevolence” means being sincere and down-to-earth, not boasting, not telling lies, and going against the right path.
When Zi Gong asked Confucius, “If a person can give general benefits to the people and help them live well, how would you describe them? Can you say that they have the virtue of benevolence?” Confucius replied, “This is not just the virtue of benevolence. It is likely the virtue of a sage! Yao and Shun might be difficult to excel at! A person with the virtue of benevolence desires to establish himself and also desires to establish others. He desires to have everything run smoothly and also desires to make everything run smoothly for others. To extend oneself to others and consider them as oneself is a way to practice the virtue of benevolence.”Confucius told Zigong that he did not need to be high-minded in practicing benevolence, but to start from himself and then extend himself to others.
Xuansun Shi was overly ambitious, and Confucius believed that his personality may have inclined towards extremism. Therefore, Confucius told Xuansun Shi that there were five ways to practice kindness: “With respect, generosity, honesty, diligence, and charity. If you are respectful, you will not invite insults; if you are generous, you will be supported by the people; if you are honest, you will be appointed by others; if you are diligent and sensitive, you will achieve merit; and if you are merciful, you will be able to call on people.” Confucius told his students to practice benevolence by being “strict with oneself and generous with others. The way to practice benevolence is to be strict in one’s own cultivation, respectful and generous to others, and generous to others.
Yan Yuan was an exemplary student among the disciples of Confucius. Confucius once praised him, ‘his heart never leaves benevolence for a long time.’ Confucius only wanted him to use “etiquette” to further discipline himself. (Yan Yuan asked for advice on how to practice benevolence.) Confucius said, “To be able to restrain and restrain one’s selfish desires and return one’s behavior to the requirements of propriety is the practice of benevolence. Once a person has done so, then the people of the world will praise him as a benevolent person. To do benevolent things is to rely entirely on oneself; so how can one rely on others?” Yan Yuan said, “I hope to point out some specific actions to follow.” Confucius said, “Do not look at what is not according to propriety, do not listen to what is not according to propriety, do not say what is not according to propriety, and do not do what is not according to propriety.” Yan Yuan said, “Although I am not intelligent enough, but please allow me to practice what you have said.”
Ran Yong, who had excellent moral character and was talented in political affairs. He served as the minister of Ji Family. When he asked him about benevolence, Confucius said, “To go out is like going to meet a distinguished guest, and to serve the people is like going to undertake a great ritual. Do not impose on others what you do not want. There is no complaint when you work in a state, nor when you work in the fief of a great minister. Confucius’ answer is more on the political side. Confucius told Ran Yong that the way to practice benevolence is to treat people with respect and make them love you generously, so that the public will have no grudge against you, it is to practice benevolent governance.
Sima Niu talked a lot and was impatient. When he asked Confucius what benevolence was, Confucius told him, “A benevolent man is always careful in his speech,” revealing the importance of careful speech.
When Zigong asked about “benevolence”, Confucius told him the importance of “helping benevolence with friends” by using a metaphor: “If a worker wants to be good at his job, he must first sharpen his tools. To live in this country, one must serve the virtuous among the minister and befriend the benevolent among the scholars.
Confucius also warned us in earnest: “Whenever you encounter a matter of benevolence and justice, you must do it quickly. Even in the face of their own teachers, there is no need to be humble. Confucius also admonished us, “Never do anything to the detriment of benevolence out of greed for life and death, but only to preserve it through courageous sacrifice. And “How does a gentleman make his reputation? A gentleman does not deviate from benevolence even in a short time like eating a meal. This is true when he is in a state of uncertainty and urgency, and it is also true when he is in exile and confusion.
「禮」的社會秩序 The social order of propriety
Ritual means “temperance”, The Song and Ming Confucianism also interpreted it as “reason”. In the Preface of Sima Qian – Taishigong, there is: “Rites to temper people, music to develop harmony.
我們來看孔子對於禮的闡釋：Let’s look at Confucius’ interpretation of propriety:
The Analects of Confucius – Taibo: ” Confucius said: ‘If you are respectful but not courteous, you will be tired and weary; if you are cautious and careful but not courteous, you will be timid and fearful; if you are brave but not courteous, you will be reckless and disorderly; if you are outspoken but not courteous, you will be sharp and harsh.
Courtesy, too, is “true feeling,” and those in positions of authority must serve as an example to the people. Therefore, Confucius goes on to say:
“If a leader can truly love his relatives, then the people will revere benevolence and love; if a leader can truly love the old, then the people will not be indifferent and heartless.
Courtesy, is not wasteful, but the flow of true feelings; rather frugal and simple, not extravagant and exaggerated:
In the Analects, in the section about the “Eight Rows of Dancers,” Lin Fang asked about the essence of propriety. Confucius said, “Your question is of great significance. As for propriety, it is better to be simple and frugal rather than pursue external extravagance. As for mourning, it is better to truly feel sorrow in one’s heart than to focus only on the formalities of the ceremony.”
In the Analects, Yang Huo recorded that Confucius said, ‘Is the term “li” (rites/propriety) only referring to the ritual vessels such as jade and silk? Is the term “yue” (music) only referring to musical instruments such as bells and drums?
Propriety is the respect for all things in heaven and earth. By asking about the principles of propriety, one can express their reverence for heaven and earth.
In the Analects, in the section about the “Eight Rows of Dancers,” talking about when Confucius entered the temple, he asked detailed questions about every matter he encountered. Someone said, “Who says that the son of a great official of Zuoyi knows manners? When he entered the temple, he asked people about everything.” When Confucius heard this, he said, “This is exactly what propriety is.
君子與小人 gentlemen and petty people
Although gentlemen and petty people are distinguished by their status and position, Confucius did not believe that this was the only difference. The more important distinction lies in one’s self-cultivation and state of mind. Confucius had many explanations for this, such as his saying “The gentleman is moderate, the petty person is extreme.” Moderation (“not leaning to one side or the other, without excess or deficiency”) is the highest level of self-cultivation and also a method that has rich and profound connotations. Confucius also proposed that “The gentleman should dress properly, not look askance, and be dignified enough to awe people. Isn’t this being awe-inspiring without being ferocious?” This shows that dressing properly is an important matter for a gentleman. In the past century, many people have opposed moderation, probably because they have misunderstood it as the behavior of a hypocrite who goes along with the crowd and has no principles. In fact, this is exactly what Confucius hated the most. He said, “Those who follow the wishes of their village are people who destroy morality.” He believed that if one cannot achieve moderation, being bold and resolute is the next best state, as “Those who are bold have a spirit of enterprise, while those who are resolute refuse to do what they know is wrong.”
Confucius also said,
A gentleman knows great righteousness, but a petty man knows only small profits.
A gentleman learns cultural knowledge extensively and then uses propriety to restrain himself, so he will not deviate from the right path.
If a person is too rustic and lacks literary skills, he or she will look vulgar; if a person is too literary and not rustic enough, he or she will look frivolous. Only when rusticity and literary talent are combined in a good way can one be called a gentleman.”
A gentleman is honest and magnanimous, with an open mind, while a petty person is petty and calculates gains and losses, full of worries and fears.
A gentleman does not seek to eat to fullness; does not seek comfort in living; is diligent and quick in work, but cautious in speech; approaches those who have morality and knowledge to learn from them, corrects their own shortcomings, and can be considered a good learner.
The way of a gentleman has three aspects: A person of benevolence and virtue does not worry; a person of intelligence and wisdom is not perplexed; a person of courage is not afraid.
A gentleman will not recommend someone merely because their speech is eloquent, nor will they disregard the well-intentioned advice of someone with a poor moral character.
A gentleman is calm and composed without arrogance or rudeness, while a petty person is arrogant and rude without calmness or composure.
A person of noble character, even if impoverished, can still adhere to high moral principles, while a person of low character, once impoverished, will behave recklessly!
Virtuous people broaden their social circle with the right way, but do not collude with each other. People with low character collude with each other but do not care about morality.
A gentleman seeks harmony without compromising his principles, while a petty person seeks complete agreement without regard for coordination.
A ruler should act like a ruler, a subject should act like a subject, a father should act like a father, and a son should act like a son.
教育方面 In the aspect of education
Confucius advocated prioritizing moral education, and then developing a comprehensive approach of “pursuing the Way, grounding oneself in virtue, relying on benevolence, and enjoying the rites of music, archery, charioteering, calligraphy, and mathematics.” “Young people should be filial to their parents, respect their teachers and elders, be diligent and trustworthy, show love to others, and associate with benevolent and ambitious individuals. Only by easily achieving these things can one engage in theoretical research.”
有教無類：人都有受教育的權利 Education without discrimination: Everyone has the right to education.
因材施教：了解學生根據不同的人與個性，進行洽如其分的教導「不憤不啟 不悱不發。舉一隅不以三隅反 則不復也。」
Teach according to the student’s aptitude: Understand the student’s background and personality, and provide tailored teaching. ‘If the student cannot understand even after trying hard, do not try to enlighten them. If the student understands but cannot express themselves clearly, do not try to inspire them.
Seek truth from facts: ‘Knowing what you know, and knowing what you don’t know, that’s real wisdom.
Unity of knowledge and practice: ‘Learning without thinking leads to confusion; thinking without learning results in being detached from reality and perplexed.'”
Applying knowledge to practice: craftsmen of all trades should spend their whole day completing their assigned tasks in the workshop, while a noble person should spend their entire life learning to achieve the ultimate goal of realizing the way.”
哲學方面 philosophy aspect
Confucius advocated the doctrine of the Mean, which means taking the middle course, balancing extremes, avoiding one-sidedness, and striving for harmony. He emphasized the importance of moderation and self-restraint, saying “Happiness is not without limits, and sorrow is not without relief,” and that one should be gentle yet serious, dignified yet peaceful, and imposing yet not fierce.
Expediency: Confucius emphasized the importance of maintaining balance, but not becoming stubborn and inflexible. He stressed the need to be adaptable, saying, ‘You may be able to follow ritual with someone, but you may not be able to be flexible with them.’ ‘If you cannot find someone who behaves according to the doctrine of the Mean, you should only associate with those who are brave and self-disciplined. Brave people strive for progress, while self-disciplined people do not engage in bad behavior.’ Brave people are aggressive and self-disciplined people are honest, and neither engage in wrongdoing.
政治方面 political aspect
Governance: Confucius recalled Duke Zhou and wanted to follow the Zhou Li, hoping that “if the politics of Qi can be reformed, it can reach the level of Lu; if Lu can be reformed, it can reach the realm of conforming to the great way.” He advocated the governance of virtue and ritual, using ritual and music to educate and govern the country, and placing political laws and penalties in a secondary position. He followed the way of Yao and Shun, and emulated the system of King Wen and King Wu of Zhou.
Confucius defended the system of well-field land distribution during the Western Zhou Dynasty and opposed Jikangzi’s taxation based on land, demonstrating a conservative position in economics.
宗教觀 religious views
Confucius leaned toward agnosticism or rationalism [source needed]. He studied the ancestral worship rites in the temple as a social etiquette, but was not very involved in religion. His most famous saying on this topic is, “Confucius does not talk about strange things, violence, overpowering people, rebellions, or ghosts.” Other sayings include, “What has Heaven said? Heaven does not speak, yet the four seasons continue to cycle and all living things continue to grow. What has Heaven said?” “He treats ghosts and spirits with solemnity but keeps them at a distance.” “If you cannot serve people well, how can you serve ghosts and spirits?” Therefore, it is generally believed that Confucius believed in “perhaps there are ghosts and spirits,” but he placed more emphasis on reality and believed that “there is no need to discuss ghosts and spirits.”
However, Confucius did not deny the existence of heavenly deities. Confucius once said, “The virtues of the spirits and gods are truly immense! Though they cannot be seen or heard, they are reflected in all things and people cannot do without them.” From “If a person offends heaven, he has nowhere to pray to.”, and “My character is bestowed by Heaven; what can Huan Tui do to me?”, it can be inferred that he was a believer in predestination. From “Without understanding the mandate of Heaven, it is impossible to become a junzi,” it can be seen that Confucius believed in the mandate of Heaven and may have believed in the existence of a “personality heaven.”
There is also an explanation that Confucius was almost an atheist . The so-called ‘offending Heaven’ just means ‘committing a heinous crime’, and does not refer to offending God. ‘My character is given to me by Heaven, how can Huan Tui harm me!’ means only that ‘I am just and must prevail’. The so-called ‘mandate of Heaven’ just means ‘a lofty mission’: ‘The virtues of ghosts and gods are truly great!’ is to tell his disciples the meaning of sacrifices. Confucius refused to discuss ghosts and gods many times in the Analects, which may be close to atheism, but due to the factors of the times, Confucius was not willing to state it directly.
主要成就 Major Achievements
In the Spring and Autumn period when Confucius lived, the political system based on blood kinship clans in the Western Zhou society had collapsed and disintegrated. Some people began to contemplate issues related to the will of heaven, human life, and world order. The cultural and educational opportunities that were previously monopolized by the aristocracy were gradually spreading to the general population. Confucius was one of the representative figures of this era and pioneered the study of various schools of thought in the Warring States period. The main works to understand his own thoughts include “Book of Changes”, “Spring and Autumn Annals”, “Classic of Filial Piety”, and “Analects”.
為政之道 The principles of ruling
Rectifying names is Confucius’s most important political proposition. We can thoroughly understand the meaning of Confucius’s “rectifying names” from the following story:
When Confucius visited the state of Wei for the third time, a major incident occurred. Previously, the Duke of Wei had favored his wife Lady Nanzi and wanted to pass the title to her illegitimate son. The legitimate heir, Kuai Kui, attempted to assassinate Lady Nanzi in order to keep the title. Unfortunately, the assassination plan failed, and the Duke of Wei became furious upon learning of the plot, intending to kill Kuai Kui. Kuai Kui fled to the state of Jin, and the Duke of Wei declared war on Jin. When the Duke of Wei wanted to consult Confucius about military strategy, Confucius said, “I have heard about the rituals and ceremonies, but I have never learned about the use of force in war.” The next day, Confucius left Wei with deep sorrow. After the Duke of Wei died, Kuai Kui’s son succeeded to the title and became Duke Chu of Wei. However, at the same time, Kuai Kui returned to Wei under the escort of Jin’s army, and father and son became enemies in their struggle for power. Confucius was deeply saddened by this. One day, Zilu asked Confucius, “If the ruler of Wei asked you to govern the state, what would you start with?” Confucius repeatedly said to Zilu, “If names are not correct, language will not be in accordance with the truth of things. If language is not in accordance with the truth of things, affairs cannot be carried on to success. When affairs cannot be carried on to success, proprieties and music will not flourish. When proprieties and music do not flourish, punishments will not be properly awarded. When punishments are not properly awarded, the people do not know how to move hand or foot.
The purpose of “zhengming” is to maintain a well-ordered society, so that people have certain norms to follow, and not to live in an unpredictable state. Many people believe that Confucius hoped to restore the rites and music of the Western Zhou dynasty, while others believe that he was advocating a new world order in the name of restoration.
立信，對於孔子而言，不僅是個人的美德，而且是一個基本的政治原則。子貢請教為政的要點，孔子說：「足食，足兵，民信之矣。」而其中最重要的是第三點，他說：「自古皆有死，民無信不立。」Integrity is not only a personal virtue for Confucius, but also a fundamental political principle. When Zigong asked for the key points of governance, Confucius said, ‘Adequate food supply, adequate military preparation, and the trust of the people in the government.’ The most important among them is the third point, and he said, ‘Since ancient times, no one can escape death, but if a country cannot gain the trust of the people, it will be difficult for the country to stand firmly.
In terms of moral governance, Confucius believed that “by using moral education to guide the people and using ritual to unify their behavior and speech, the people will not only have a sense of shame but also follow the rules.” Confucius served as the chief magistrate in charge of punishments, and he knew well the immediate effects of severe penalties. However, he deeply felt the hidden danger in society that “the common people only seek to avoid punishment and loss of reputation, but have lost their sense of integrity.” Therefore, he advocated using moral ethics to educate the people, thoroughly purifying their hearts, and stimulating their innate goodness, which is the correct way to govern the world and benefit the people.
教育理念與教學實況 Educational philosophy and teaching practices
Confucius had four teaching subjects: literature, conduct, loyalty, and honesty. Literature refers to ancient texts such as poetry, books, rituals, and music. Conduct refers to moral behavior, loyalty refers to giving one’s all, and honesty refers to being truthful and not deceitful. Confucius highly valued ancient texts, especially poetry, rituals, and music. He believed that these three subjects were essential for developing one’s character. In the Analects, he said, “We begin with the study of poetry, we establish ourselves on the basis of the rites, and we complete our education with music.” Poetry can inspire people to do good or evil, rituals can guide people in their actions, and music can cultivate one’s character. It is worth noting that Confucius praised the Book of Poetry in this way: “Why don’t you learn poetry? Learning poetry can arouse your passion, improve your observation skills, unite the people, and express your dissatisfaction. It can serve your parents and rulers, and you can also learn the names of birds, beasts, trees, and plants.
He never found learning tedious nor teaching tiresome, and this made Confucius the ‘Great Accomplished and Saintly Teacher’ of China. He advocated ‘teaching without discrimination’, and had as many as three thousand disciples. From what can be gleaned from The Analects, he only taught the answers to problems encountered in everyday life, and expounded on the necessary conditions for getting along with others. His teachings were reasonable and plain, easy to understand and practice. When applied to oneself, self-cultivation is achieved; when applied to the family, harmony is attained; when applied to the country, good governance is realized; when applied to the world, peace is achieved.
三千弟子和七十二位精通六藝的弟子 Three thousand disciples and seventy-two disciples proficient in the six arts
According to “Records of the Grand Historian,” Confucius had 3,000 disciples, among whom 72 were proficient in the six arts and were known as the “72 wise men.” Confucius also had 10 outstanding disciples, known as the “Ten Philosopher Disciples of Confucius.
The following Chinese sentence can be translated to English as: “Among them, the outstanding ones in terms of moral character are Yan Hui, Min Sun, Ran Geng, and Ran Yong.
在言語方面出眾的有：宰予（宰我）、端木賜（子貢）。In terms of speech, the outstanding ones are: Zaiyu (Zai Wo), Duanmu Ci (Zi Gong).In terms of speech, the outstanding ones are: Zaiyu (Zai Wo), Duanmu Ci (Zi Gong).
In terms of literature, the outstanding ones are: Yanyan (Zi You), Boshang (Zi Xia).
In terms of political affairs, the outstanding ones are: Ranqiu (Ran You), Zhongyou (Zi Lu).
In addition to the Ten Philosophers, those who are outstanding in literature include Zhuansun Shi (Zi Zhang), Zeng Shen (Zi Yu), Dantai Mieming (Zi Yu), Yuan Xian (Zi Si), Gongye Chang (Zi Chang), Fan Xu (Fan Chi), You Ruo (Zi You), Gongxi Chi (Zi Hua).
After Confucius’s death, “the disciples of the seventy sons scattered and traveled to various feudal lords. Some became teachers, officials, and ministers, while others became friends, educators, and gentlemen.” In this way, the aristocratic monopoly of the hereditary system of officials was broken in politics, creating conditions for the autocratic monarch to freely appoint and dismiss officials from all classes.
整理編修古籍 Compiling and editing ancient texts
According to legend, Confucius wrote the historical book “Spring and Autumn Annals” (Mencius, Teng Wen Gong Xia: “Confucius wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals and the treacherous ministers and rebellious sons were afraid”), which contains profound meanings and embodies his political ideals. (It is generally believed that “Spring and Autumn Annals” is a work of Confucius, who edited the primitive historical materials of the state of Lu and incorporated his political ideals, but a few scholars believe that “Spring and Autumn Annals” was not compiled by Confucius.) The period recorded in the book (722 BC to 481 BC) is known as the Spring and Autumn Period.
The disciples of Confucius and their successors compiled his teachings into the book “The Analects,” which is the main source for studying Confucius’ thoughts. Confucius’ ideas are also recorded in the Han Dynasty’s “Book of Rites,” which includes “The Great Learning” and “The Doctrine of the Mean,” among others. Another book, “The Sayings of Confucius’ Family,” also documents the Confucian school of thought, though it has traditionally been considered to be mostly fabricated, but has gained increasing attention from scholars in recent years.
During the Southern Song dynasty, Zhu Xi combined the Analects of Confucius, the two chapters “The Great Learning” and “The Doctrine of the Mean” from the Book of Rites, and the Book of Mencius, which reflects the ideas of Confucian philosopher Mengzi, to create the “Collected Annotations on the Four Books”, also known as the Four Books.
The “Four Books and Five Classics” refer to the core classics of Confucianism, which include the “Four Books”: Analects, Doctrine of the Mean, Great Learning, and Mencius, as well as the “Five Classics”: Book of Odes, Book of Documents, Book of Rites, Book of Changes, and Spring and Autumn Annals. The lost “Classic of Music” on the basic views of Confucianism on music has been discovered. The Guodian bamboo slips, originally named “Xing Zi Ming Chu”, discuss music in the first half of the chapter.
Confucius edited poetry and literature, established ritual and music, praised the Zhou Yi, and wrote the Spring and Autumn Annals.
After Confucius, his teachings were passed down in an unbroken line of seven generations until the ninth generation, where there were three brothers, Kong Fū, Kong Teng, and Kong Shu. The descendants of Confucius have followed the ancestral instructions of “passing down poetry and rites” and have made great achievements in literature, classics, and other fields. In the Ming and Qing dynasties, they were even supported by the emperor and became known as the “number one family in the world.”
祭孔 Confucius worship ceremony
The worship of Confucius by successive emperors and kings began with Han Gaozu. According to the “Annals of Emperor Gaozu” in the Book of Han, when passing through the state of Lu, a grand sacrificial ceremony was held using valuable sacrificial offerings such as cattle and sheep to pay homage to Confucius. The practice of schools worshiping Confucius began in the Ming dynasty. According to the “Rites and Ceremonies Record” in the Book of Later Han, in the second year of Yongping reign, the elderly were cared for and fed in the Pi Yong Temple, while counties and prefectures held drinking and worship ceremonies in schools, paying homage to the Holy Teacher Duke Zhou and Confucius. “The Comprehensive Examination of Literature” states that in the second year of the Zhenguan reign, the worship of Duke Zhou was discontinued, and Confucius was elevated to the position of First Holy Sage. Since the Han dynasty, although Confucius’ teachings were already revered throughout the country, and temples were established for worship, it was not initially intended to create a religion by Confucius himself. Nor was it only one or two emperors or scholars using Confucius’ teachings to deceive the people, but rather, the establishment of Confucianism gradually evolved and deepened due to the increasing number of followers and increasing worship, taking on a religious nature over time.
In order to commemorate Confucius, many Confucian temples have been built around the world to hold Confucius worship activities. Since 1952, Confucius’s birthday has been designated as Teacher’s Day in Taiwan. In mainland China, after the reform and opening up, with the revival of Chinese culture, the worship of Confucius has become popular.
孔府、孔廟、孔林 Kong Family Residence, Temple of Confucius, Cemetery of Confucius.
The “Three Confucian Sites” in Qufu, Shandong, China, which include the Temple of Confucius, the Mansion of Confucius, and the Cemetery of Confucius, are symbols of China’s commemoration of Confucius and the promotion of Confucianism throughout history. The Temple of Confucius was first built in 478 BC and has been used for worship for over 2,400 years without interruption. It is the longest-used temple in China and one of the most famous ancient architectural complexes still in existence. The Cemetery of Confucius is the burial site of Confucius and has been used for over 2,400 years, making it not only the longest-used family cemetery in China but also in the world. Confucius’ direct descendant held an inherited noble title for over 2,100 years, making it the oldest aristocratic family in China. The Mansion of Confucius, the residence of Confucius’ descendants, is the largest and best-preserved existing complex combining government offices and private residences in China. The “Three Confucian Sites” have been included in the UNESCO World Heritage List.
歷代追封追謚 Posthumous titles conferred by successive dynasties
The emperors of successive dynasties, to demonstrate their respect for Confucius, continued to posthumously confer titles on him.