Confucius or 孔子 (Kǒng Zǐ) is China’s most famous philosopher, poet and scholar who lived from 551 BC – 479 BC, and is best known for his writings and teachings on Chinese society, culture and everyday life. His impact on Chinese culture has been so profound that some 2,500 years later his teachings are still well known and well respected.
Like Socrates, Plato, Aristotle, and other Greek/Roman philosophers, Confucius spent his entire life trying to reconcile the social world with the natural world, looking for truths throughout that would improve society and the relationship between man and spiritual world.
The philosophy of Confucius emphasized personal and governmental morality, correctness of social relationships, justice and sincerity. These values gained prominence in China over other doctrines, such as Legalism or 法家 (fǎ jiā) and Taoism or 道家 (Dào jiā) during the Han Dynasty (206 BC – AD 220). As a result, Confucius’ thoughts have been developed into a system of philosophy known as Confucianism or 儒家 (rú jiā).
The following selections are from the Confucian Analects. Many of these chapters are on issues of morality and self-betterment. Heed these words, for they are timeless and great advice on how to live your life.
The Golden Rule:
“What you do not want done to yourself, do not do to others”. An English paraphrase would be “do unto other’s as you would want them to do unto you” which is known as the “Golden Rule”.
“When you serve your mother and father it is okay to try to correct them once in a while. But if you see that they are not going to listen to you, keep your respect for them and don’t distance yourself from them. Work without complaining.” Many of Confucius teachings focus on Filial Piety and the relationship between father, son, mother, daughter and their roles within society. A future post will discuss these views at length.
“The superior man, when resting in safety, does not forget that danger may come. When in a state of security he does not forget the possibility of ruin. When all is orderly, he does not forget that disorder may come. Thus his person is not endangered, and his States and all their clans are preserved.” To quote a biblical paraphrase: “god givith and god taketh away” or “this too shall pass”. This speaks to the impermanence of life, and draws upon Daoist notions of balance and ying/yang.
“The superior man, extensively studying all learning, and keeping himself under the restraint of the rules of propriety, may thus likewise not overstep what is right.”
“When I walk along with two others, they may serve me as my teachers. I will select their good qualities and follow them, their bad qualities and avoid them.”
“The superior man is satisfied and composed; the mean man is always full of distress.”
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