Sunday, January 22, 2017

Confucius in 90 minutes

Confucius in 90 minutes - Paul Strathern

Confucius (Kungfutzu) lived around 600BC in North central coastal China. After his education and working in various professions, he started a successful school for bureaucrats, where he taught his philosophies of conduct and ethics. Among his students were the sons of rulers. Later in his life he traveled through China,  meeting and advising rulers of various states.

Confucianism was a philosophy that evolved out of his teachings. Though widely considered a philosopher, his teachings were practical rather than religious or metaphysical. This contrasted with the other major philosophy of the time, Taoism ("the way"), which dealt with metaphysics. Confucianism dealt with the conduct and morality of rulers, bureaucrats, and citizens . The central premise was that ordinary activities of individuals are sacred and must be conducted in an ethical manner. The central concept is "jen" - a quality of magnanimity, virtue and honesty which every individual should strive for. The goal was to produce a society of individuals who live a life of harmony and virtue.

Confucius' thoughts are mainly encapsulated in pithy sayings documented in his books of sayings - the Analects. Confucianism has other sacred texts (some predated Confucius, others were edited by his followers), called the Four books (one of which is the Analects) and the Five Classics (among which are IChing: Book of Changes, dealing with metaphysics and the cosmos as an interaction of yin and yang, the Book of Poetry, the Book of History). They are considered to broadly encapsulate Confucian thought, and have influenced Chinese culture for over two thousand years.