Confucius’ Philosophy – Chinese Philosophy

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Head and shoulders of a Chinese man with a fancy red and black hat and a very long black mustache: Confucius

What was Confucius’ philosophy?

Confucius’ philosophy

Confucius was a philosopher in ancient China, about 500 BC. That was about the same time as Buddhism was getting going in India and a little before Socrates in Greece. It was after Lao Tzu developed Taoism.

Taoism in ancient China
Buddhism in India
Greek philosophy

Confucius’ philosophy was that people could achieve peace by doing their duty, and cooperating with society. If people rebelled, and everyone tried to do his or her own thing, then the world would be full of fighting and unhappiness.

Life of Confucius
Chinese philosophy
More ancient China articles

Doing your duty

So people should obey the law, and do what the emperor and government officials told them to do. Also, people should do their duty to their parents and take good care of their children, and people should do their duty to their ancestors and to the gods.

Chinese ancestor worship
What was going on in 500 BC?


Mr. Zoller’s great video about Confucius

The government’s duty to the people

At the same time, the government should do its duty to the people, and not abuse them or ask too much of them. The emperor should be cooperative and helpful to the people, just as the people were helpful and cooperative to him.

Government in ancient China

Because Confucius wanted to make government officials behave better, the Chinese government did not like him while he was alive. But after Confucius died, later emperors of China did use many of his ideas. Of course they mainly liked the idea that people should obey the government, and they weren’t so interested in the idea that the government should help the people!

Sun Tzu’s Art of War

Here’s an example of a story people told about Confucius:

Chinese painting of a group of men talking under a tree

Zhou Wenju’s painting, “A Literary Gathering,” from the Song Dynasty (1100s AD)

Zi Lu, they say, asked Confucius, “When we hear a good idea, should we start to do it right away?” Confucius told him no. “First, you should always ask someone with more experience.”

Later on, Ran You asked Confucius the same question. But this time Confucius said, “Yes, of course you should do it right away.”

There was another student who had heard both of these conversations and was very confused. He asked Confucius why he had answered the same question in two different ways?

“Ran You has a hard time making a decision,” Confucius said. “So I encouraged him to be bolder. Zi Lu sometimes decides things too quickly. So I reminded him to be careful. Naturally different people should get different answers. ”

More about Confucius’ life

Bibliography and further reading about Confucius:

Life of Confucius
Taoism
Buddhism
Chinese Philosophy
Ancient China
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By |2018-10-05T05:45:00+00:00June 7th, 2017|China, Philosophy|0 Comments
Cite this page: Carr, K.E. Confucius’ Philosophy – Chinese Philosophy. Quatr.us Study Guides, June 7, 2017. Web. October 22, 2018.

About the Author:

Dr. Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram, Pinterest, or Facebook, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.

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