Who was Confucius?

See the book Confucius: And the World he Created by Michael Schuman (2015). Many of the words and phrases below are those of Michael Schuman.

Confucius was born in China in 551 B.C. and died in 479 B.C. He was a teacher, politician and philosopher. In Asia his influence ranks with Abraham, Jesus and Buddha. He spent most of his professional life teaching – he taught the wisdom of Chinese antiquity, a timeless code of morality. He handed down the standards for human morality.

Confucianism offers a moral code to guide human behavior analogous to the Ten Commandments. All Christian virtues can be found in the Confucian text.

There are no cathedrals in China but every town of consequence boasts a Confucian temple. See the many pictures of such temples on the Internet. There is no Confucian clergy and no deity that is the focus of worship. There is no devil in Confucianism. Confucianism does not offer answers to the deep questions of human existence.

All this means that Confucianism is not a religion, but a philosophy , a way of life or an ethical teaching.

Confucius sought to instill morality in man, ensure good government, strengthen the family and bring prosperity to society. He taught that the virtuous acts of one person can change the world. Such personal virtues are the subject of a book by Michael Puett and Christine Gross-Loh titled The Path: What Chinese philosophers can teach us about The Good Life (2016). Puett is a professor of Chinese history at Harvard University and the book grew out of a course he offered in 2006 on classical Chinese ethics. The course has become the third most popular course at the university. A feature of Puett’s course is that he uses the original texts of the Chinese philosophers and no secondary materials.

Puett’s bold promise is that “This course will change your life”.

The Confucian philosophy is very hierarchical and secondary materials has led to all sorts of cruel acts, such as discrimination against women. Over many centuries his teachings have at times been twisted and distorted by political leaders. Confucius tends to be blamed for the bad times and then he tends to get credit for the good times. Currently his teachings are popular with the Chinese Communist Party.

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