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孔子(Kǒngzǐ, Confucius) was one of the greatest thinkers in the world. During time of chaos and war, he set new standards in politics, morality and philosophy. He became a statesman in China of 6 century BCE, and created the social foundations of modern civilized China. Here is a brief summary of his life.
春秋时代 Chūnqiū shídài – The Spring and Autumn Period
The Spring and Autumn Period is one of the Zhou Dynasty’s eras. It covers the time between 771 BCE to 476 BCE (公元前Gōngyuán qián). The Zhou Dynasty (周朝Zhōu cháo) wasn’t unified, but composed of small states; each state struggles to survive, each state desires to become stronger and unbeatable. Although they were all Chinese, peace didn’t prevail in the 周朝. During the approximately 300 years of 春秋时代, many small states slowly coalesced through conquest. Those wars and political changes stirred up vast discussions and philosophies. This was the time of the ‟One Hundred Schools of Thought” – an era of great cultural and intellectual expansion in China. Among them are the famous Legalism, Taoism and Confucianism.
You can watch the Zhou Dynasty in a nutshell here:
孔丘 Kǒng qiū – Kong Qiu: Confucius family and given name
One of those many small states of 周朝was the state of Lu (鲁国). Confucius was born there in the year 551 BCE, by the name 孔丘 (Kǒng qiū), in 鲁国. His father (父亲Fùqīn) died when he was only three years old, and his mother (母亲Mǔqīn) raised him in poverty. In spite of his background, 孔丘 became a respectable teacher and received a position as town mayor. His belief in morality and righteousness proved to be a political success, and he was soon appointed to the position of Minister of Law in鲁国. 孔丘excelled at strategy, and in 498 BCE proceeded to the rule of Minister of the Interior of 鲁国.
鲁国 Lǔ guó – The state of Lu
At that time鲁国 was ruled by the duke. Under the duke were three aristocratic families. 孔丘 desired to unite the state and strengthen the authority of the duke. He then made himself some enemies from inside (among the three families) and outside (among the neighboring states who afraid the power 鲁国 will gain from the consolidation). 孔丘 decided to resign his position and to leave his country.
孔夫子Kǒng fūzǐ – Master Kong
孔丘 began a long journey among the different states of 周朝. His devoted弟子 (Dìzǐ, disciples) came along. Since becoming a teacher, they followed him, writing down his wisdom, and helping him with his political work. They didn’t call him 孔丘, but master: 夫子 (Fūzǐ). And after his resignation, they weren’t the only ones. His reputation preceded him. When entering the different states to teach and spread his beliefs, people of all countries honored him with the title Master Kong: 孔夫子(Kǒng fūzǐ) and in short 孔子 (Kǒngzǐ) .
回国 Huíguó – Return to one’s motherland
After 13 years of exile, 孔子 ended his years of wandering and 回国了. He passed away in the year 479 BCE, at the age of 73, in 鲁国. His philosophy is an essential part of Chinese culture and daily life until present days. Check out some of his sayings here.
孔子Kǒngzǐ = Confucius
春秋时代Chūnqiū shídài = The Spring and Autumn Period
周朝Zhōu cháo = Zhou Dynasty
Also: 周代Zhōu dài
公元前Gōngyuán qián = Before Common Era
孔丘 Kǒng qiū = Confucius family and given name
鲁国Lǔ guó = The state of Lu
父亲Fùqīn = Father
母亲Mǔqīn = Mother
孔夫子Kǒng fūzǐ = Master Kong
弟子 Dìzǐ = Disciples
夫子 Fūzǐ = Master
回国Huíguó = Return to one’s motherland