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what dynasty did confucius live in

what dynasty did confucius live in

what dynasty did confucius live in

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Confucius (/kənˈfjʃəs/ kən-FEW-shəs; Chinese: 孔夫子; pinyin: Kǒng Fūzǐ, “Master Kǒng”; or commonly 孔子Kǒngzǐc. 551–479 BCE) was a Chinese philosopher, poet and politician of the Spring and Autumn period who was traditionally considered the paragon of Chinese sages. Confucius’s teachings and philosophy formed the basis of East Asian culture and society, and continues to remain influential across China and East Asia as of today.

His philosophical teachings, called Confucianism, emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice, kindness, and sincerity. Confucianism was part of the Chinese social fabric and way of life; to Confucians, everyday life was the arena of religion. His followers competed successfully with many other schools during the Hundred Schools of Thought era, only to be suppressed in favor of the Legalists during the Qin dynasty. Following the victory of Han over Chu after the collapse of Qin, Confucius’s thoughts received official sanction in the new government. During the Tang and Song dynasties, Confucianism developed into a system known in the West as Neo-Confucianism, and later as New Confucianism.


Confucius is traditionally credited with having authored or edited many of the Chinese classic texts, including all of the Five Classics, but modern scholars are cautious of attributing specific assertions to Confucius himself. Aphorisms concerning his teachings were compiled in the Analects, but only many years after his death.

Confucius’s principles have commonality with Chinese tradition and belief. With filial piety, he championed strong family loyalty, ancestor veneration, and respect of elders by their children and of husbands by their wives, recommending family as a basis for ideal government. He espoused the well-known principle “Do not do unto others what you do not want done to yourself”, the Golden Rule.


The name “Confucius” is a Latinization of the Mandarin Chinese Kǒng Fūzǐ (孔夫子, “Master Kong”), and was coined in the late 16th century by the early Jesuit missionaries to China. Confucius’s family name (xìng: 姓) was OC:*‍kʰˤoŋʔmod. Kǒng and his given name (míng:名) was OC:*‍[k]ʷʰəmod. Qiū. His “courtesy name”, a capping (guan: 冠) given at his coming of age ceremony, and by which he would have been known to all but his older family members, was 仲尼OC:*‍N-‍truŋ-‍s nr[əj]mod. Zhòngní, the “Zhòng” indicating that he was the second son in his family.

what dynasty did confucius live in
what dynasty did confucius live in

Who Was Confucius?

Confucius, also known as Kong Qiu or K’ung Fu-tzu, was a Chinese philosopher, teacher and political figure. His teachings, preserved in the Analects, focused on creating ethical models of family and public interaction and setting educational standards. After his death, Confucius became the official imperial philosophy of China, which was extremely influential during the Han, Tang and Song dynasties.

Early Life and Family

Confucius was born probably in 551 B.C. (lunar calendar) in present-day Qufu, Shandong Province, China.

Little is known of Confucius’ childhood. Records of the Historian, written by Ssu-ma Chi’en (born 145 B.C.; died 86 B.C.) offers the most detailed account of Confucius’ life. However, some contemporary historians are skeptical as to the record’s accuracy, regarding it as myth, not fact.

According to Records of the Historian, Confucius was born into a royal family of the Chou Dynasty. Other accounts describe him as being born into poverty. What is undisputed about Confucius’ life is that he existed during a time of ideological crisis in China.


The Kongs of Lu were common gentlemen (shi) with none of the hereditary entitlements their ancestors had once enjoyed in Song. The common gentlemen of the late Zhou dynasty could boast of their employability in the army or in any administrative position—because they were educated in the six arts of ritual (see below Teachings of Confucius), music, archery, charioteering, writing, and arithmetic—but in the social hierarchy of the time they were just a notch higher than the common folk. Confucius’s father, Shu-liang He, had been a warrior and served as a district steward in Lu, but he was already an old man when Confucius was born. A previous marriage had given him nine daughters and a clubfooted son, and so it was with Confucius that he was finally granted a healthy heir. But Shu-liang He died soon after Confucius’s birth, leaving his young widow to fend for herself.

Confucius was candid about his family background. He said that, because he was “poor and from a lowly station,” he could not enter government service as easily as young men from prominent families and so had to become “skilled in many menial things” (Analects [Lunyu], 9:6). He found employment first with the Jisun clan, a hereditary family whose principal members had for many decades served as chief counselors to the rulers of Lu. A series of modest positions with the Jisuns—as keeper of granaries and livestock and as district officer in the family’s feudal domain—led to more important appointments in the Lu government, first as minister of works and then as minister of crime.

498 BCE

Records of the time suggest that, as minister of crime, Confucius was effective in handling problems of law and order but was even more impressive in diplomatic assignments. He always made sure that the ruler and his mission were well prepared for the unexpected and for situations that might put them in harm’s way; he also knew how to advise them to bring a difficult negotiation to a successful conclusion. Yet he held his office for only a few years.

His resignation was the result of a protracted struggle with the hereditary families—which, for generations, had been trying to wrestle power away from the legitimate rulers of Lu. Confucius found the actions of the families transgressive and their ritual indiscretions objectionable, and he was willing to fight by fair means or foul to have the power of the ruler restored. A major clash took place in 498 BCE. A plan to steer the families toward self-ruin backfired. The heads of the families suspected Confucius, and so he had no choice but to leave his position and his home.

what dynasty did confucius live in
what dynasty did confucius live in


Confucianism is the worldview on politics, education and ethics taught by Confucius and his followers in the fifth and sixth centuries B.C. Although Confucianism is not an organized religion, it does provide rules for thinking and living that focus on love for humanity, worship of ancestors, respect for elders, self-discipline and conformity to rituals.

As of the fourth century B.C., Confucius was regarded as a sage who had deserved greater recognition in his time. By the second century B.C., during China’s first Han Dynasty, his ideas became the foundation of the state ideology. Today Confucius is widely considered one of the most influential teachers in Chinese history. The philosophies are still followed by many people living in China today and has influenced thinking in Japan, Korea and Vietnam.

Confucius’ Beliefs, Philosophy and Teachings

During the sixth century B.C., competing Chinese states undermined the authority of the Chou Empire, which had held supreme rule for over 500 years. Traditional Chinese principles began to deteriorate, resulting in a period of moral decline. Confucius recognized an opportunity — and an obligation — to reinforce the societal values of compassion and tradition.

The Golden Rule

Confucius’ social philosophy was based primarily on the principle of “ren” or “loving others” while exercising self-discipline. He believed that ren could be put into action using the Golden Rule, “What you do not wish for yourself, do not do to others.” (Lunyu 12.2, 6.30).

Historical Background & Career in Lu

Shortly after its founding, the Zhou Dynasty decentralized the Chinese government by sending lords, loyal to the king, to establish their own states throughout the vast territory. This policy worked well at first, but eventually, the states grew more powerful than the king. And the old loyalties were forgotten. By c. 771 BCE, the Zhou Dynasty was already weakened almost to the point of irrelevancy. When barbarian invasions forced the government to move east for better defense. This was the end of the so-called Western Zhou period (1046-771 BCE). And the beginning of the Eastern Zhou period (771-256 BCE) which corresponds to the Spring. And Autumn Period and early Warring States Period during which Confucius lived and taught.

Confucius was born in September 551 BCE in the village of Qufu. State of Lu (Shandong Province), the son of a military commander named Kong He who was of noble descent. Confucius’ birth name was Kong Qui. But he would later be addressed as Master Kong (Kong Fuzi) which was Latinized by 16th-century CE Christian missionaries to Confucius. His father died when he was three years old. And the resultant loss of income led to a life of poverty. He later attended school while working various jobs to support himself. And his mother until she died when he was around 23 years old. By this time, he was already married and had at least one son and possibly two daughters.

what dynasty did confucius live in
what dynasty did confucius live in

Six Arts

He had been provided with basic education, as defined by the Zhou Dynasty, in the Six Arts. Rites, Music, Archery, Charioteering, Calligraphy, and Mathematics. But had taken it upon himself to improve on his knowledge in all of these through private study. Scholar Forrest E. Baird notes, “possessed of a deep love of learning by age fifteen. Confucius became one of the best-educated men of the day by his mid-twenties” (284). Married, and with a family to support, Confucius took the qualifying exam for government work as a teacher. And, as Baird notes, pursued his goal of a meaningful life in a worthy profession:

Confucius taught and also was involved in government at the local level. At one point serving as magistrate (or governor) of his town under the administration of the Duke of Lu. A political struggle among three of the leading families. And the Duke of Lu’s personal failings caused Confucius to lose interest in his work in Lu. He had attempted to teach the ruling class that they could live happier, more fulfilling lives by observing right conduct. In accordance with a moral code which would result in effective and just government. But the upper class was not interested in following his advice. He resigned from his position and left the state of Lu to try making converts elsewhere.

Schools of thought

This was a chaotic era in which the states fought each other for supremacy. And many of the long-established aspects of government, including bureaucratic positions, lost cohesion. Administrators, advisers, scholars, and teachers who once held government posts, found themselves jobless. And so established their own schools based on their personal philosophies. Some of these were actual schools in which students would enroll. And attend classes while others were more “schools of thought” or movements. But, collectively, their efforts to attract students to their system while discrediting others’ would later become known. As the time of the Hundred Schools of Thought.

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