Confucianism: what does the philosophy of Confucius teach us?

The purpose of Confucianism is to recover the harmony of society, through the development of certain virtues and respect for the social hierarchy. Is it a religion or a philosophy of life?

Last update: 24 September, 2022

Confucianism, also called noise (school of scholars) or Confucianism, it is a philosophical and religious doctrine that emphasizes the development of individual virtues to achieve a stable society and government. It was promoted by the thinker Confucius in the 5th century BC. c.

Its purpose was to transform and recover society, through the teachings of ancient precepts and respect for social hierarchies. Let’s see what the current consists of.

Who was Confucius?

Confucius’ real name was Kong Kio. He was born in the Chinese State of Lu, in the year 551 a. c.within a noble family.

In middle age he held some important positions. Among them, Minister of Justice of the Federal State of Lu, where he preached the precepts that he considered necessary to achieve a stable government and was famous for applying reforms in the field of justice.

Upon leaving office, he traveled the country in search of authorities sensitive to his teachings. Back to his land, founded a private school to train royal councilorswhere it is said that he had about 3000 disciples from all social strata.

Since then, he has been called kong-fuzi, which means “Master Kong”. It should be noted that the name Confucius will be the Latinized version that reaches us today.

After his death in 479 a. C., his followers spread his teachings in books such as the anaclets and praised him as wise. His doctrine spread in China for two millennia and his value system was linked to the political system of the empire until 1911.

Chinese culture has strong roots in the teachings of Confucius and Taoism.


Origin of Confucianism

Confucianism collects religious beliefs and practices dating back to the eighteenth century BC. C. However, towards the VI century a. C., the thinker Confucius, worried about the crisis in which China was, took up the teachings of the ancient sages as a code for moral, religious, social and political life.

That is why Confucius did not consider himself as a founder, but as a preacher of the message he had received from his ancestors. For him, the reestablishment of the old precepts and respect for social hierarchies were essential for China to recover the harmony it had lost during the Warring States.

Shortly after starting his job, Confucius gained numerous followers and systematized what would later be known as confucianism. However, the dissemination of this knowledge had its resistance. In fact, it was persecuted in the times of the first empire and refuted by the Taoist school.

Later, when the Han dynasty ascended in the 3rd century BC. C., Confucianism was vindicated and recognized as the official state religion. Since then, it has occupied an important place in the configuration of the traditional Chinese way of life and value system.

Characteristics of Confucianism

Confucianism is not a religion like Christianity or Islam, since it is not made up of dogmas, but of behavioral guidelines to achieve perfect government and social harmony. That is why it is usually considered a political philosophy and a way of life.

Social hierarchy to achieve harmony

Confucianism believes in a harmonic cosmos, whose order is dictated by Heaven (tian), a superior power that ordered the universe in a hierarchical manner and divided it among those with strength of yin (the nobles) and those with strength of yang (the vile). At the top of this hierarchy is the emperor, the “son of Heaven,” who mediates with men to enforce the heavenly will.

The next level is represented by the father of the family, who is the yin about his wife and children. Therefore, the son owes respect and obedience to his parents, and the wife to her husband. Hence, it is considered a patriarchal religion.

For this current, human beings, as part of the cosmos, must respect the order arranged. Any attempt to alter it could cause serious disturbances.

moral perfection

Likewise, society must be organized according to a social-moral hierarchy. Consequently, the positions of greater responsibility, such as that of a governor, should be occupied by people with a higher degree of moral perfection.

However, the degree of moral perfection is not linked to the origin of a person, but to the level of internalization and development that he has achieved in the 5 Confucian principles: Ren (humanity), yi (rectitude), li (ritual), zhi (wisdom) and xin (honesty).



The 5 Principles of Confucianism

For Confucianism, only those people who possess and practice these principles can become junzithat is, in “respectable persons” or “superior men”:

  • Ren: encourages to develop love for others and, consequently, to act with altruism and empathy.
  • Yi: It drives people to do what is right and just at all times.
  • Li: preaches good behavior and good manners.
  • zhi: encourages people to expand their knowledge. Only those with knowledge and good judgment would be able to act with righteousness and wisdom.
  • Xin: encourages people to act without deception.
The movement has oscillated between philosophy and religion. It even has temples scattered throughout China and the rest of the Far East.

Confucianism in the Present

Confucianism is a doctrine that is very present in Chinese society. In fact, it is estimated that 42% of this population practices the traditional religion of the country, which is a mixture of Confucianism, Buddhism and Taoism.

In addition, the virtues that Master Kong preached are still present in Chinese society. For example, filial piety and respect for ancestors remain important.

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